Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The politics of solution design

In the book "Watching the English," Kate Fox describes the English behavior. They are apologetic and non-confrontational. Without spelling it out explicitly, she paints a picture of a group of people who is indirect in their speech. So when the Englishman opened his mouth to clarify an open point, I couldn't help notice the directness in it. The direct approach also translated into unintentional humor. Who can say no to humor? This quality is absent from life these days.

I happened to be in a room where a group of professionals was discussing the flaws in solution design. I was completely out of my depth. By the time I realized the original agenda had been hijacked with a technical discussion, I was too deep in the rabbit hole to retreat. They had multiple servers drawn on the drawing board. There were lines to demarcate the network into the core, DMZ for demilitarized zone and the external world. I used to frown upon the word DMZ as it was yet another instance of glorifying mundane work. With the events that unfurled over the weekend and the world reeling from the recent cyber attacks, I have come to the conclusion that our world has changed drastically. White collar workplace is equivalent to a war zone. I am awake from slumber. 

The servers were spread all over the place and were not communicating successfully to each other. The objective was to troubleshoot. During the discussion, the design had changed twice. When the manager evaluated the second change, he was confused.

Manager: *authoritatively* I understand the initial design and also the first change.

Englishman: *nods*

Manager: *with a gradual fall in confidence* The second change is confusing. It almost looks like the initial design.

Englishman: *looks sympathetically*

Manager: *confused* So is it redesign or rearchitecting? How do I call it?

Englishman: *with a straight face* Politics.

That was a direct answer. Some of the decisions are made for the political reasons. There are no technological reasons.

Photo Courtesy: Paul White

Friday, May 5, 2017

Tell the truth

A colleague revealed. "I try to speak the truth to everyone. So I don't have to remember what I told someone." The catch phrase was "try to." He was telling the truth again. At the workplace, there are times when we hide the truth. When we engage in such subterfuge, we are tread very close to a dark territory. I don't encourage such behavior, but I am also powerless to prevent it too. As a result, I become a silent partner in such activities. A few days back, I was in such a situation.

Everyone complaints about endless meetings at the workplace. This fact is evident when you try to book a conference room. Finding one during the peak hours is tough. The wise ones use the cafe for meetings. You can grab a coffee and a table. It is a huddle in the industry parlance. Sometimes, we see an empty conference room and occupy it. I call it squatting. It is similar to the Occupy movement with a slight difference. When someone turns up claiming they had booked the room, I apologize and move on, with the hope of occupying another conference room.

Now I would like to link back to the situation that I described before. I was meeting up with a colleague. As the floor was noisy, we just walked into an empty conference room. While the discussion was halfway through, a person turned up claiming the rights to use the room. My friend got up and muttered. "I don't know. These rooms are getting double booked. There is some problem with the software". He walked out. A perplexed me followed suit. I looked at my friend questioningly after we were out of sight from the rightful owner of the room. My friend winked.

It was a lie. First of all, the room booking has evolved by leaps and bounds over the years. The double booking is in the past. There was no need to invent an implausible explanation. Why do we have to lie? Secondly, all of us struggle with this simple issue. Coming out with the truth will only make the other person empathize with us. There is a fact we overlook all the time. Small lies add up to big ones. Do we want to be known as a big fat liar?

Photo Courtesy: Alexa LaSpisa

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The impulsive sceptic

England and weather always seem to be at loggerheads. The weather does injustice to the beautiful countryside. When the weather god smiles at England, it reveals a gorgeous sky and picturesque landscape. If you are surprised by the statement, then you may multiply it tenfold to imagine mine, and I found it through experience, not from written word or spoken word. This strange paradox forms the misfortune that has befallen on the England's natural beauty. 

Today is one of those days when the sun is shining, and all kinds of summer dresses are on display. Good weather is directly proportional to a happy mood. As a result, I was in high spirits when I walked into the meeting. I was one of the early bird. An Englishman joined me shorted. As we waited for others to join, I couldn't help comment. "A beautiful day. Isn't it?" After I had uttered these words, I felt proud. For once, I thought I had nailed the icebreaker. This time, luck was on my side. There are many other times where there was no luck, and I prefer amnesia to the aftermath. 

There was no visible change on the Englishman's composure. His lips moved and formed the following sentence. "Well... if it lasts..." I waited for eyebrows to raise, a shrug, a flick... I waited for what seems to be an eternity. But there was no such thing from an Englishman. I can't understand this strange phenomenon. Why do they have to skeptical about everything? Why can't they just see a small slice of happiness or good weather, in this case, acknowledge it and move forward? Is it a sin in this part of the world to be happy?

Picture Courtesy: Ruth Ellison

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pappettan tells us about a 50-pound note

It is turbulent times these days. Empathy and compassion are hard to find. I was with Pappettan when we ran into a friend of ours. He looked devastated. He had a squabble with someone, and there was a war of words. I am not sure who was this someone and who finally won the argument. But our friend seemed tired and wounded.

Pappettan: *in a cheerful tone* Cheer up, dear friend.

Our friend: *still hurt* You didn't hear the accusations. How can he say it?

Pappettan: *nods and continues* Those are only words.

Our friend: *sad* Those words were sharper than a knife.

Pappettan: *adopts his saintly stance* Always a remember a 50-pound note.

Our friend: *puzzled* What about it?

Pappettan: *in a calm tone* You may get it fresh from the bank. You may get it crumpled on the street. But the value is still 50-pound.

Our friend: *thinking*

Pappettan: *continues* The same 50-pound note may change hands. For one person, that might be only thing for survival. For another, it might be added security in the bank.

Our friend: *a bit puzzled* That is true.

Pappettan: *smiling* You are the 50-pound note. In whatever shape, your value is the same. It doesn't matter what others think.

Photo Courtesy: Images Money

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fahrenheit Email

My heart starts beating fast whenever I look at my Inbox. I am unable to fathom how I reached this stage. There are tons of messages which I haven't read. I have tried a few techniques - bottom-up, top-down, today's emails, this week's emails. Every time, I attack it with renewed vigor. The number of unprocessed emails goes down. But before long, I am back to where I started. How does this happen? My stubbornness prevents me from accepting defeat. During an informal chat with my friend, I realized where I was going wrong. It was always staring in my face. Sometimes it is a herculean task to recognize the obvious. 

My friend had attended an interview. During the interview, he was present with a simulated scenario. He has come back from a long weekend. There have a couple of incidents which has gradually escalated. Now everybody is on a war footing, an expression preferred by my friend to convey the urgency. I am against this usage because people who have not seen any form of combat mouths this phrase. The interviewer presents a simulated Outlook client and asks to sort out his emails. At this point, I was impressed with the ingenuity of the interview process. In the modern workplace, Outlook client is a tool. There is no better way to judge a professional by how he manages his emails.

I know you will be wondering about how my friend fared. He performed well and cleared the interview. Now that is past us, let us turn back to the important lesson of the day. There has to be a strategy to deal with emails. Most of are caught up in the email maze is because we don't have a strategy. We talk about strategies in a lot of contexts but never related to email. My friend fared well because he understood this point. He dedicated the first five minutes to devise a strategy. Then he started tackling the emails. He didn't get to Inbox Zero. But he was able to demonstrate his abilities which are what counts at the end of the day.

I took a leaf out of my friend's experience. I worked out a system. I categorized the emails based on hierarchies. The hierarchical structure was very simple. There are two levels above me, and there are two levels below. My boss and his boss constitutes the two levels above me. My team and their team are the two levels above me. Then there are my peers. In total, there are five levels. Based on the categorization, I created five search folders named L-2, L-1, L0, L+1, L+2. The next is the tricky part. How do I prioritize these levels? I decided to keep it simple. I will focus on two levels that immediately above and below me. So I scanned constantly for L-1 and L+1. Some of the activities from L-1 converted to actions for L0 and L+1. At L+1, I had to ensure nothing mutated into an issue. I still have a truckload of emails, but my stress levels have reduced.

There is also another way to have a fresh start. This approach is easy to adopt when all attempts to Inbox Zero fails. We can declare Email Bankruptcy. This process is similar to financial bankruptcy. Though both the approaches take courage, declaring email bankruptcy is a much simpler process. If you are interested, Michael Hyatt has guidelines on how to declare bankruptcy and start fresh

Photo Courtesy: Clint Lalonde 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Movie Review: The Great Father

The Great Father is the debut feature film of Haneef Adeni. The movies capture our attention because of two things. Mammootty wears a lot of stylish costumes and sports a long beard. It is the season of beards. The beard and the clothes are looking good on Mammootty. The neatly cut trailer also adds to the curiosity factor associated with the movie. When all the above adds up, we are expectantly waiting for what Haneef has to offer.

The Great Father is a worthwhile movie to watch primarily because of the glimpses of promise shown by the director. It is a tremendous responsibility to direct Mammootty. At some point, you are forced to play to the gallery which in this case is the fanbase. The trailer promises a thriller, and the movie starts as a thriller. After the first five minutes, the movie concentrates on the mishap that falls on the family of David Ninan played by Mammootty. The tragedy deals with a difficult to palate yet commonly prevalent mental disease. Haneef shows courage in dealing with a taboo subject. At the same time, he sensitively handles the theme. It walks a tightrope, but Haneef balances it very well.

Haneef portrays the travails of a family suddenly thrust into a crisis. Before the crisis, they lead a happy life. The tragedy changes the comfortable atmosphere. The dad, the mom, and the daughter struggle to come out sane. During this part of the story, Haneef brilliantly places the camera in front of the various actors and let them emote. He can extract the best performances from all his actors. After this point, the movie transforms itself into a full-fledged thriller. The dad decides to take the law into his hand. If you look at the recent movies by Mammootty, the action scenes tend to repetitive. Haneef brilliantly avoids these repetitive scenes by showing the aftermath. There is still adrenaline and goose bumps aplenty.

Overall, the movie tackles a difficult subject. Although it is a touted as a small movie, there are a lot of familiar faces and has good production values. Haneef shows his brilliance at many places, but he is constricted by the larger than the life image of his hero. Arya as Andrews Eapen sticks out like a sore thumb. So is the case with Malavika Mohan. I am really looking forward to the next movie by the same director. The next movie will be the real test by the fire. As for the Great Father, it is a thriller with quite a bit of drama thrown in. The topic is disturbing even though the treatment is sensitive. Forget the hype and see the movie. It is interesting to see Mammootty emote as a father in the first half.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Embrace the differences

Ever since the Brexit vote, there has been uncertainties and discomfort. First, nobody could believe the need for isolation. Then there was this complicated process of divorce from the European Union. Now, there is a question of snap general election. What is the need for it? Is it another way of shirking responsibility? Is it a clever decision to gain majority? I understand the need for majority. You see this phenomenon play out at workplace too.

Every one complains about long meetings without producing any tangible outcome. Have you contemplated on the why? We get into a meeting to have a consensus and it is not easy to arrive at one when they are differing views. As we become increasingly busy, our reserves of energy and patience are easily depleted. Hence we dread long winded discussion about the pros and cons. We prefer to hear ayes instead of nays. It is easier to get ayes from a like-minded group.

Though I do not possess infinite supplies of energy, I do not denouce clash of opinions. In fact, I encourage it. The different viewpoints add the much needed drama in our life. We may always steer differences into consensus always. But that is not the reason to fear differences. On the contrary, it is all the more reasons to embrace it. The age of healthy debate is dying at workplace. The fear of security is bringing silence. The irritation of discussion is leading to ousters.

Recently, I heard a discussion between two friends. They had come out of an unpleasant meeting and comparing notes. One of them was praising the other. The leader was suggesting impractical solutions. The first friend showed him the cons of the approach. So the second friend was praising his bold approach. The rest of the people were silent and the first friend was the only courageous person to voice his opinion. Once the second friend finished his praises, the first friend said. "I am the only one giving unpleasant news to the leader. This may be the reason I am moved into a different team."

We cannot change others. But we can change ourselves. When someone gives you a different viewpoint, listen to their view. Try to understand why they are saying so. Don't be afraid for a debate in your life. Who doesn't like a good drama? Without drama, it is a mundane boring life.

Photo Courtesy: Rodrigo Soldon

Is Paris burning?

Is Paris burning? It is the title of the non-fiction book written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. Although the topic of the book is the liberation of Paris during World War II, I am forced to think about the title considering what is happening in Paris in the past two years. Two days back, there was a shooting on Champs-Élysées. The shooting is one of the several instances of violence in Paris in the previous two years.

I have spent two and a half years in Paris. I hated the city first and fell in love with the city. I always found the city to be peaceful. The city brings smile to your face and it does make you smile from inside. To think it to be city beseiged with violence is not a pleasant thought. But why? Paris is such a beautiful city. Why would anyone want scar the city with violence and terror?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Aspirations and Preparations

The magnitude of the job is sinking in for him. The headline caught my attention. White House correspondent Maggie Haberman is talking about Donald Trump. I find it hard to believe. He has run a business and should surely have an idea about the future. But it is not this statement that I want to address. All of us have aspirations. We want better roles and bigger pay packages. While we endlessly strive for these, do we ask ourselves the simple question? Are we ready for what we have asked?

We often see the benefits but not the hardships. The benefits may justify the costs. Often the costs are overlooked. So we fumble in the new role. The lack of help and absence of a guiding hand makes things worse. As a result, we feel increasingly lonely. Having ambition is a good thing. But not readying yourself for what we aspire for is a bad thing. The wise has always told us. Be careful about what you wish. The worst is not that you will be disappointed. Instead, you get what you wanted. But you are ill-equipped to do what you wished for.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Redundant. We hear this term often in our daily lives. There are no layoffs. People are no longer fired but made redundant. A layer of misdirection takes the distaste away. If you are not affected, the distractive method works on you. The misery of affected cannot be distracted by misdirection. The announcement of snap general elections has kicked off efforts to appease the public in the UK. Yesterday, Corbyn and May were showering insults at each other.

Today, Corbyn wants to take on the cosy cartel. I understand the enthusiasm to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the poor. As a result, Corbyn wants a fair system. But why is he using the term "cosy cartel"? Aren't cartels formed because of shared interests? Isn't it akin to cozying up?

I wanted to find out what is used to describe two words appearing side by side but meaning the same thing. I was surprised to find redundancy as the term. It also means that I have forgotten the actual meaning of the word and has started associated it with something else. If you go through such usages, you will also be surprised to find that you may already be using them in your daily conversations. Have a good laugh at your mistakes and change.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Photos: A bridge in Stourhead

The Bridge on River Kwai
A Bridge Too Far
The Girl on the Bridge
The Bridges of Madison County
The Lover on the Bridge

The last one is a lousy translation of a French title which is romantic and musical in the original. You might have already understood these are all names of famous movies. It doesn't take long for one to realize the common denominator, the bridge. What is behind our fascination towards bridges? To be honest, I can't recall any books which have this word in the title. I can recollect the names of the movies or even iconic photographs. 

A structure over an obstacle is defined as a bridge in a simplistic way. A bridge is about problem-solving. The bridge plays a significant role in romance. We read about lovers meeting on a bridge. We anticipate the kiss between lovers on a bridge. There are men who goes down on their knees to propose on a bridge. There are bridges where people get married too. If you are surprised, then you haven't heard about Stourhead. Situated at the source of River Stour in Wiltshire, there is a bridge, a mansion and a whole lot of things in Stourhead.

The bridge is one of beautiful sights to be seen here. The bridge is there not for connectivity between two sides but for adding beauty to the place. From the bridge, you can see the Palladian mansion. You can take breathtaking pictures of the bridge at any time of the day. Even a lazily composed shot ends up being a beautiful one. There are other things to do at Stourhead. You can walk around the estate. There is a nice little restaurant over here too.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Pappettan moves in

At work, you perform various roles. Usually, you play a role for a brief period and then move on to another position. The lesser blessed ones have to carry out multiple functions at the same time. There comes a time when you have to hand over your responsibilities to another person as part of moving on. If you are fortunate, the handover happens when there is no relevance for the role. If you are unfortunate, it happens during the peak of the project because of constraints. These limitations can be anything from a contractual end, a new project that is awaiting to you, conflicts with another team member, etc. Recently, I watched Pappettan moving into a new role.

Pappettan is one of the unfortunate ones. The project was not progressing the way the right way. The manager in charge wanted to move to a new role. Pappettan came in to take charge. I was present when the manager in charge made the announcement to a broader audience.

Manager in Charge: *seriously* There is a new member in this meeting. Pappettan. Pappettan will take up my responsibility.

All heads turn to Pappettan. Pappettan gives everyone an acknowledging nod and a great smile.

Manager in Charge: *continues* There are multiple reasons for the extension. So my plans to join elsewhere were temporarily halted.

Everyone is confused at this point.

Manager in Charge: *keeping a straight face* I looked around to find a suitable person. But I couldn't find anyone ignorant to say "Yes."

The audience reacts in various ways - nervous smiles, laughter, tension.

Manager in Charge: *hitting the final nail* Finally, I found Pappettan. He will be replacing me.

There is a sudden silence.

Pappettan: *smiles and introduces himself* Consider me as an upgrade. A better and newer version of Manager in Charge.

I quickly looked away to hide my smile. There was a sudden wave of laughter and small talk in the crowd.

Photo Courtesy: TripNotice.com

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sell it, dear

We are all salesmen. It seems to be the new mantra. A few months back, a friend of mine was coerced by his boss to don the hat of a salesman. But my friend resisted and his boss metamorphosed into a guru imparting wisdom on how we are all salesmen. Not only it is part of the job but also a necessary trait for progressing in the career. My friend was always involved in the execution phase. In common parlance of the IT industry, he is a delivery guy and not a sales guy. When someone is not interested in doing a particular type of job, what is the point in forcing him to do so against his will? Despite chanting the famous adage about riding a horse into water and inability to make it drink it, we often try to do the opposite.

Recently, there has been changes in the ownership of the local dry cleaners. It is under new management. They have kept the previous staff who were primarily senior women. Most of them have a kind and melancholic look on their face. They bring back memories of home. They also make you think that your clothes are in the right hands. With the new management, there have been changes. There are additional services like key cutting and shoe repairs. When I took my suit for dry cleaning last time, the kind old lady at the counter asked me. Would you like to go for our premium service?

Of course, I was confused. The dry cleaners were already giving me a good price. If I dropped my suit today, I could always pick it up the next day. As far as I am concerned, it was premium service. So I asked her if she could explain. They will iron the pockets of the pants and the waistbands. They will be using a better hanger and covering the clothes with a better cover. The explanation did not help me at all. I was unhappy to find they are not doing a thorough job all this time. I have many hangers in my house.  The cover is always a pain to throw away. Although these questions were playing out in my mind, the kind old lady could quickly read mine. Suddenly, her face reflected discomfort. She suggested the way out. Probably, you don't need it.

The flushed out face of the old lady kept coming back to my mind long after I had dropped my suit. I was perplexed, and she was uncomfortable. Why was she uncomfortable? There was the only one explanation. She didn't want to do the peddling. Then why was she doing it? There is only one explanation. The new management intends to increase the price without invoking anger in the existing clientele. What better way than to use the existing workforce to do the job for them? It is a brilliant solution. Where is the new management failing? They are not training their staff for donning different hats. Unless their workforce is comfortable with selling, there is no point in forcing them to do so.

Unfortunately, asking someone to do something without providing the adequate support or training has become commonplace. Even while we drive to get the numbers up, we forget the basics. People are built differently. Their interest and aspirations are different. When the interest, aspirations and the skills do not match, people will do a sloppy job. If you are the management, you should set people for success and not for failure.

Photo Courtesy: Todd Lappin

Friday, March 31, 2017

Poking nose into other people's business

Why do we poke our nose into other people's business? Despite being taught and always reminded on minding our own business, we can't resist the urge to meddle in another person's affairs. If we go down the memory lane, we might have instances where this meddling has resulted in results both good and bad. I can tell you an instance where a young friend dipped her nose into a friend's lunch box. I am talking figuratively. 

It is customary for great teams to have lunch together. Having lunch together means it 's hard to resist looking at what other person is eating. So my young friend noticed a lack of pattern in what her friend was bringing. Her friend was always bringing curd rice for lunch. Now you may be curd rice fanatic who can extol the virtues of this particular dish. You may also go into nuances of making this dish. Your speech is falling on deaf ears. For me, it is just rice mixed with curd.

The lack of pattern in her friend's lunchbox greatly disturbed my young friend. After a few days, she couldn't resist herself. So she asked her friend the reason for the curd rice. There may have been elements of of persuasion before which her friend confessed. Her friend's wife packs the lunch. As his wife is busy with household chores, the friend doesn't feel it right to register his dislike of the packed lunch.

At this point, I became tensed. There was a reason for this. I know my young friend. She is an idealist. So I second guessed how she would have reacted and I wasn't wrong. She was angry at her friend. According to her, he has to tell her the truth. He works hard, and he needs proper nutrition. So he should request for a bit of variety in lunch. She expressed the same to him. My heart sank when the narrative reached this point. I was afraid to ask what happened. My mind always conjures up adverse consequences. So I could only visualize domestic discord and discontentment no matter how I played it out in my head.

Sometimes, it is better to discuss things over. The couple might have discussed it.  As per my young friend, the curd rice was gone from the lunch box after she had a talk with her friend. I strongly believe open discussions are good. While you may take my blog as inspiration, please use your instincts and knowledge to assess a situation. This way, you have a fruitful discussion. If you do not evaluate the situation carefully, you may end up like one of my other friends. He openly discussed the new attire bought by his wife. According to him, it didn't suit her. Well, that is a story which I don't want to complete.

Photo Courtesy: Kirstie Warner

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Good food, Bad food. Tomayto, Tomahto

McDonalds. There is a lot written about the effects of fast food. As they try to make the food tastier and irresistible, there are more claims and studies on the detrimental effects on health. The Golden Arches is an easily recognizable symbol and probably a reviled one too. I am neutral to hate and the associated propaganda to this corporation. But a recent trip to one of the outskirts of Manchester is affecting my judgment particularly in a time when my timeline is filled with messages espousing the healthier food habits.

Manchester is a big city. I have not visited the city. I happen to spend a lot of time in Manchester outskirts these days. As a result, I was in the neighborhood of Stockport yesterday. If you look at Wikipedia, it is one of the large towns of Manchester. It may have rich historical significance. But it is a tiny town in reality. By the time you accelerate to 30 mph, you have left the city. I may be exaggerating, but I think you get the drift. I was hungry all of a sudden. There was not a restaurant in sight although I was near the railway station. There was a Sainsburys Local. There were numerous Indian and Chinese restaurants. None of them were open. I look at the time. It was only 8 pm.

After a bit of exploration, I found the famous golden arches. There was a magical sentence written under the arches. Open 24 hours. Because of my hunger, the food tasted delicious. Sometimes, it is the availability that matters. You may have the money, but there might not be a shop or restaurant to buy anything. Now tell me, how can I blame someone who is always there for me? Why do we dub the arches as the villain always?

Photo Courtesy: Mike Mozart

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Movie Review: No Escape

When was the last time Owen Wilson running to save his life? On screen, Owen Wilson may have enacted this drama many times. I can only remember one interesting movie with this theme. Behind Enemy Lines. Teaming up with Gene Hackman, the film, depicting the escape of a young flight officer from the enemy territory, turned out to be a good action movie. In this film too, Owen Wilson is trapped in a similar situation. Jack Dwyer played by Owen Wilson lands in an unnamed Asian country referred casually as the fourth world. He is accompanied by his family who has been uprooted from Texas to the unnamed Asian country after Jack's latest venture goes belly up. But the misfortune is following Jack as there is a coup in the country and the rebels are killing all westerners.

John Erick Dowdle, who directs and also co-writes this drama, focuses on the helplessness of people trapped in challenging situations. The protagonists are in an unknown country where the culture and language are different. They do not know whom to trust. How do you keep oneself alive in such situation? Instead of focusing on action, the director concentrates on the human emotions. We also see the extent to which a man can change to keep his family alive. We see a family united under stress and how they come out of all of this in one piece. They may be scarred, but they are alive. They do get outside help in the form of Pierce Brosnan in a short role. This role is a caricature of the Western evil which is now sorry for creating the mess. We might not have any sympathy towards this character. But he definitely will make us smirk.

At the end of the day, it is Owen Wilson and Lake Bell as Jack's wife who stands out. Owen Wilson is not in his goofy avatar. We get to see the serious side of the actor in here. Overall it is a good watch when you want to see a predictable movie with decent acting.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The search for a hero

I was always fascinated by people who keep their cool under extreme duress. I am speaking about people who may seem ordinary but displays leadership by providing the right guidance in complicated scenarios. The world might be disintegrating around them, but they keep their head high and heart strong. According to me, such a person is a hero. We may think it is easy to find heroes. To tell you the truth, it is a rare species. Every leader has a flaw. Unfortunately, the most common fault of leaders is their inability to control their anger. Hence most of the leaders we come across get automatically disqualified from the title of a hero. In my constant quest for extraordinary people, I came across a hero. But there was a surprise in store for me in the interaction with the hero.

The hero is an acquaintance. He was handling multiple initiatives which were giving him quite a bit of trouble. By observing the buzzing movement around him for updates, you will be able to guess the magnitude of his pain. On one such day where the pain levels were high, I found him sipping a cold beverage, that too a non-alcoholic one. On seeing him enjoying the drink, I enquired unable to contain my curiosity. "How can you be so cool?" But the hero's response disappointed me. I didn't get an answer. Instead, I received a warm smile from him. A few days later, the hero tracked me down. I was surprised to find him. I was even more surprised when he brought up our previous interaction as part of the conversation. "I didn't understand your question. That is why I was not able to respond". I was not sure where this was leading. So I waited. "Another person asked me the same question. That is when it dawned on me. Stress does not show on my face. It may be a bad thing because then people think I am not serious. But I am glad. The unfortunate part is that I can't see my face when I am confronting trouble. I can only feel my heart beating faster. I might not be panicking, but I am worried."

I was puzzled. Here is a man who qualifies to be called a hero. But he doesn't realize it himself. While this thought consumed my mind, the hero spoke again. "I wish I could see myself during such situations. I always admired people who kept a cool head while confronting problems. I never thought I was one such person." The final statement reminded me of all the great quests and their ending. What you search is closer than you think it is. In the hero's case, it was closer to home.

Picture Courtesy: Lovro67

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Things to do on the work anniversary of your colleague

I am turning another year old at my workplace. As I turn grayer at work, I realize there is a lot of company in this matter. All of them are getting congratulatory emails on the completion of the milestone. As I brace myself with anxiety and anticipation for a similar email, I can't help wonder. Why do congratulate someone on their work anniversary?

Take a good look around your workplace. There is always demand for doing more with less. It has always been there. When we think we had squeezed the most to attain this objective, there is yet another demand to perform a miracle. While we try to get the best out of ourselves, there is the sword of Damocles. It is in the form of machines. They are rising. Or did I miss it entirely? Have the machines taken over? These are minor when compared to other challenges. As you age in the organization, the wisdom you have gained acts as a deterrent. The wisdom tells you not to jump to conclusions. This characteristic is interpreted as risk aversion.

With all these worrying facts, it is easy to give up anytime. If a person has stayed on for another year, it means that he has stayed on despite the challenges. Giving up is easier than staying on. So you should not be showering him congratulations. You should be thanking him. So the next time you compose a congratulatory email, please think it through clearly. Try to find something nice about interaction with the person and thank him for that. If you can't remember a beautiful thing, then keep it simple with a thank you. Smileys are acceptable and a perfect ruse for covering up your ordinariness of the relation.

Picture Courtesy: chriscom

Monday, February 27, 2017

Books: Rebirth

The title Rebirth applies to the spiritual reincarnation of the protagonist. This theme always incites our curiosity. Who is not fascinated by the superhuman effort to bounce back from the rock bottom? If this factor is not enough to attract us to this book, then the protagonist is an American of Indian origin undertaking a 1000-year-old pilgrimage in Spain. It is as if India doesn't have enough of gods and pilgrimages that this person has to find all his way to Spain with rapidly diminishing bank balance. There is something unmistakably wrong with the whole picture. After this point, I had to know why.

One has to walk through the road known was Camino de Santiago leading to Santiago de Compostela, a shrine of St James in Spain. This pilgrimage dates back 1000 years. Countless pilgrims have walked this path. But we walk this road with Amit. Amit's dad had recently passed away. He has many unresolved issues with his dad. He has a closed mind and hence experiencing problems in his love life. While taking the road, we come across who has their crosses to bear. Camino brings them peace and reconciliation. Amit comes across various acts of kindness. He learns to let go of the fears and anguish. He sees the transformation of ordinary food into a filling one just with company and laughter.  

Kamal Ravikant is the author of this book. I am reading him for the first time. Though the chapters have the title of days, it is possible to divide the book logically into three parts. The three sections align with Camino - Life, Death, and Rebirth. When analyzing the three sections, the first one is excellent. During this part, Kamal sets the stage. We are waiting with bated breath. During the second part, Amit's companion teaches him important lesson of life. This part drags after a while. The final section comes too fast. The author has good points. According to the author, it is not the wound but how it has healed that makes you what you are. Finally, not loving hurts more than loving. While good lessons of life, we have to wait too long for the story to end. 

There are other good books available under the section feel-good and self-help. Instead of the book, I suggest you walk the Camino. It might lead to a better story, for you.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Friends with colleagues

While discussing the corrective steps for a friend's project, I noticed a shade of sorrow on his face. The schedule of the project was a long one, and they were just warming up. So I didn't understand the cause for concern. Your planning may go wrong, and that is the reason for a retrospective. I continued to cheer him up, and then he confessed. "I am too friendly with the team. I have entangled my professional and personal life. Now, I am suffering".

On hearing this, I felt more sorrowful than my friend. There aren't any rules in any book saying you can't be friends with your colleagues. I have a lot of friends from the workplace.  There are cases of people leaving the organization because it has become big and there is no personal touch anymore. I admonished my friend. "You are harsh to yourself." Developing friendships at work helps to reduce stress at the workplace. That is my stand in summary.

While you ponder my point, here is the other side of the problem. Yesterday, I was trying to reach a colleague. After sending a couple of texts and a few calls later, I was not sure what to do. As there was a fire breathing dragon who was chasing me, I needed the help of this person to counter the danger. In my defense, I had used all my powerful spells without any success.  It was Friday evening. All this time, I was trying to reach his work phone. This fact dawned on me Saturday morning.  So what did I do? I messaged him on Facebook. An hour later, he was attending an important meeting.

As for me, I am not sure if any of my colleagues are going to send me invites over Facebook to connect. Neither am I sure about their joy in accepting my invites.  I might have crossed to the dark side entirely. But that is me. As the wise, there is a good side and a bad side for anything.

Picture Courtesy: tomvdh1

Friday, February 10, 2017

The CoCa factor

A few days back, I found a group of my colleagues huddled around a laptop. They were staring at an email. When governments are increasingly becoming protectionist and isolationists, the workplaces are adopting an opposite approach. They are embracing inclusion and cultural tolerance. As a result, we cannot take emails at their face value but have to apply the cultural background of the person who wrote the email. I have stared at emails trying to fathom the intricacies of the mind of the sender. 

I checked the email. It was a response to an issue. The sender has suggested a few steps. After the completion of these proposed steps, he called everyone for a CoCa. Now, what is this CoCa? This question was haunting the caucus that formed around the laptop. Does this have a specific meaning in the sender's native tongue? Did he misspell cocoa? Is he proposing coffee? The coffee is a good idea. But there is a large landmass separating the sender, and the receiver after discounting the immigration formalities will pose as a deterrent.

The jury might be out on the question of which one is better - a single brain, or the collective brain. But in this particular case, the collective brain won the argument. Someone pointed out. CoCa stands for Conference Call.

Photo Courtesy: GraceOda

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pappettan explains the mystery of vanishing managers

A few weeks earlier, I bumped into an old acquaintance. I was with Pappettan when this chance meeting took place. Although I was happy to see my friend, he did not reciprocate the feeling. I was pretty sure it has nothing to do with me. I suspected the circumstance and hence pursued my line of inquiry.

Me: *concerned* What happened? You don't look happy!

My friend: *apologetic* I am sorry. It is this situation at my workplace which makes me unhappy.

Me: *cautiously* All of us has a bad story to tell about the workplace. *after a brief pause* If talking helps, we are ready to reason. *thereby making Pappettan also a partner in crime*

My friend: *with sadness and frustration* I have been associated with a project for almost two years. In this period, I had three managers. Everyone vanishes in a short time.

On hearing this, I turned silent and sympathetic. When your boss changes frequently, then there is less chance of advancing in the career. As I couldn't think any appropriate comment to energize my desolate friend, I decided not to open my mouth. That is when Pappettan decided to intervene.

Pappettan: *with a smile* I don't see any reason for you to worry.

My friend: *confused*

Pappettan: *still smiling* It is your boss who should be worrying.

My friend: * more confused*

Pappettan: *imparts wisdom calmly* They are the ones who is getting replaced. They should be afraid to be your boss.

Picture Courtesy: K2D2vaca
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