Thursday, December 30, 2010

'Little' people speak!

I went to shop at Spencers hypermarket this weekend. I took all the items that were there in my list (I am so organized you see...:-)), to my surprise onions were selling at Rs. 46 per kg.
I really like the billing counters at Spencers, reminds me of the Star India Bazaar of Ahmedabad - it is probably because of the resemblance to ‘Ahmedabad’ that I like this too :-)

While at the counter, when my turn came after a few others in the queue before me, I observed the guy who was billing, he seemed to be working like a machine following a pre-entered program in his brain. I felt like he is saying:

"I am the guy who stands here for more than 10 hours to just enter the items you have bought, take the right amount from you and give you back what I owe you."

"I expose the barcode to the machine to scan, or you have a tough time analyzing whether you paid the right amount for what all you bought."

"I may not know how much to give you back when you pay me Rs. 1000 for your bill of Rs. 873, of course my machine doesn’t let me make a mistake, I know how to count the amount that I pay you, I can add, I can’t subtract!"

"I may now know what the keys on my keyboard mean, apart from the numeric keys, the enter key and sometimes a few more like space."

“But I am the king of this place, I run the show.”

“The more you buy, the tougher it is for me, the more boring it is for me.”

“The more customers come in, the more taxing it becomes for me, the less rest I get to take, the less relaxing time I have.”

“The different kinds of payment methods you use for your ease, the more complex it becomes for me."

“They encourage you to buy more, they encourage more customers to come in, they introduce various payment methods for your own ease - all of these are problematic for me.”

“But, if I don’t stand on the counter to bill your goods, would you ever come in again? The more comfort I create for you at this last stage of your buying cycle, the more you are motivated to come back in the store and buy more from the store.”

“What would you do without me!!! Ha ha ha...”

Visit Thank God for little people too, inspiring.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Zangooraaaaaah! WHAT...A...SHOW!

I saw sign boards of ‘Kingdom of Dreams’ a few months ago on the roads and wondered what it was! As always, I thought it was just a hype for some ordinary set-up. I never bothered to know what it was. When I joined Google, I heard my colleague discuss about the same while discussing an offsite visit. I heard such discussions a couple of more times over the breakfast and lunch too and now I was inquisitive to know what this ‘Kingdom of Dreams’ was. I asked this colleague of mine and she didn’t seem to be so excited about the entire experience she had over there, and the description of the place didn’t sensitize me much too for a visit to the place.

It so happened one day that we passed by the place, and saw this HUGE structure towards our left on our way. We discussed among ourselves what it was, within no time, our quest had its own answer - it was ‘Kingdom of Dreams’. That was it, our curiosity of what it was and what would be there inside that HUGE structure grew manifold. Guess what! The next day my friend called up and said his company was organizing a visit to the ‘Kingdom of Dreams’ and he invited us for that. We readily agreed since we were longing to go and see the place by now! Well, to be very frank, we enjoyed the visit because of the entertainment activities that my friend’s company organized, but were not so impressed by the place as such, though we appreciated the idea and more than that, the effort that went into making such a place. While just roaming around the campus, we saw another unit which was looking like some theatre inside or so. When asked, the security guards said, ‘it is a theatre and there is a live play which is shown everyday’. Oh! That was totally not interesting enough for us, especially when the guards told us that the ticket amounts range between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 6,000.

Thanks to this company that I work with, we had the holiday party organized to this place, which included the visit to the eating joints called Culture Gully (the place where my friend’s office visit was organized), and this theatre play also - it is called ‘Zangoora!’.

Okay, it took a while after we got seated in the gallery in the auditorium, exclusively booked for our company. I didn’t have many expectations about this play. As I heard all over, it was called the India’s biggest bollywood musical. I thought it would be boring, and something like a bollywood movie story and so on. It started finally, and the first instance of the music along with the scene with all the decor and the props that came up in the first glance, were TRULY AMAZING! I had not seen such a ‘live’ animation ever! The story was of course bollywood and not much we could not predict. But the way it was done was just OUTSTANDING! The timing of each of the settings, the music and the songs, the old songs played were significantly high as a % of the songs played which reminds me that Old is Gold indeed! Songs like ‘mehbooba’ (Sholay, 1975), ‘laila main laila’ (Qurbaani, 1980), ‘chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko’ (Yaadon ki Baarat, 1973), and much more. The live dance which had unbelievable immense energy, the number of times and scenes changed and the timing with which the sets changed, was amazing! The animations, the synchronization of the live acts with the pictures and the effects that were created hence, were extremely spectacular!!! It had many things without which the play could have been done. Putting unusual genuine perfect efforts to do things without which the task can be done, I understand, is what is called strategy and this is what makes the task “extra”ordinary and shows a long term impact, normally not immediate, I believe wholeheartedly. Acting in movies which are shot & edited, having a lot of takes and re-takes is quite easy. Doing such an act which is an entire movie, live on the stage, with no editing, no retakes, with amazing perfection in all respects, definitely needs immense preparation & Zangoora is a collection of all this.

Well, there was no advertising about the actors, and the act too. But there are topshots involved, including some renowned music directors, singers, some good actors and so on. I would leave it to you to find out the details.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

It is a race...and all run!

I was traveling in this metro train to the railway station to catch a train for trip sometime during early November this year, the trip didn’t happen because of the train delays that day, well...that is a different story.
I was so tired and had all the plans to take a quick 30 minute long nap while my metro train travel. I got to sit from the time I boarded the train and after I set up my luggage and all, I was all set for my nap. It felt really good when I closed my eyes for a while. Soon after 3 or 4 stations , about 10 minutes into the journey, I heard some words ‘IIT Rourkee’, ‘civil engineering’, ‘tuition’, ‘board exams’, ‘physics’, ‘p-block elements’, ‘periodic table’ etc. which interrupted my sleep. I saw in a little haze in front of me, two school-going boys standing and chatting all this. They were not very well dressed, but the uniform showed they were from a good school, one of the boys had a batch which read ‘School Captain’. And while I overheard their conversation, I came to know that he was a topper in the Chemistry subject. The world for them seemed to revolving around preparation for the engineering entrance exams and seemed to be ending on becoming an engineer. “Oh GOD! Not again”, I thought. But this is the reality, it was because it had been a while since I heard or saw such things around that I was shocked more.

I met this boy a few years back who was preparing for engineering, and this conversation reminded me of him too. I went to their place during Diwali time and this boy came from his IIT coaching weekly exam. I am very much fascinated with the subject called Mathematics and I love solving sums related to integration especially, there is something in it! So, I took his question paper and started seeing it and it seemed quite familiar and nice to me. I wanted to talk to this boy, and wanted to ask him about how he answered the questions and about his aspirations and so on, this boy was just not speaking, I saw a strange kind of a fear in his eyes which looked up from the floor just once during the 1 hour I sat in their home. Talking to his parents, it felt like their world is just the boy, and his engineering and absolutely nothing else. They had extreme dreams around him joining one of prestigious engineering colleges in India, and it felt like life would end if he didn’t get into one such college in one such course!!!

I thought of myself, ‘What are we doing to this boy! Does he really want to do all this? Is he capable of doing this? What if he doesn’t clear the entrance? I was afraid to even think of that option, and I prayed that he clears it somehow (seriously!). What if he clears the entrance but is not able to cope up with the actual course! Why is he pushed into this shell and refusing to come out of it now and see the world without the IIT or the engineering!”

I felt like asking him to just try giving up all this once, and ask him what he wants to do. The thing about becoming an engineer had been totally ingrained into him so much for probably many years now that he probably never got time to think of his own interests and what he actually wants to become! He doesn’t know himself! He is very much away from his own self . It feels like just because everybody is running, we run too. The entire education system seems to have become a routine machine, the course content is practically not possible to be covered in the time frame given, in any grade of our system. Many of us adults would fail in a proper conceptual test for basic concepts, I bet! I am forced to recollect movies like ‘3 idiots’ and ‘taare zameen par’ when I see such things.

I feel like saying to all, ‘please stop, stop, stop running the race, and pause for a while, and think, take time to talk to yourself, and recognize your own self.’ But to whom should I tell, to how many can I tell! The winners are not the ones who run the race of the masses, they are the others :-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is this India?

I went to the JLN (Jawahar Lal Nehru) stadium to watch the Athletics events of the Common Wealth Games, 2010 held in New Delhi. Yes, the same games, which were doubtful to happen, which almost created a huge shame for our country.

It took hours to enter the stadium and I was thinking of coming back home, every moment till I got into the stadium. No proper ticketing counter, mandatory to take a printed ticket even after booking online, standing in the queue for hours, total chaos at the counter, fights across the counter on the people coming in between the queue, policemen waiting to take out their frustration on the public and what not!, And all this resulting in a major disinterest for watching the matches any more. I didn’t know if I would be able to see the events inside, and even if I was able to get in, didn’t know how much time I would be able to spend there given that we had a specific end-time for the events that day.
But when I saw the stadium from the ticket counter once more, I felt if I have come there after a long tiring journey, it makes sense to put in all the efforts to get in and see the stadium, if not the events, at least. Finally, after a hour or so at the ticket counter, we got our tickets and got a chance to get into the stadium. Since it was late, there was little rush on the way at the security checks and others. Slowly, we moved towards the entry of the stadium. Our seats section was just at the place where we entered the purview of the stadium but we misread the ticket and that’s how we got a chance to actually take a round trip of the entire stadium from outside. While I was going round the way, I heard noises which I only heard in the television till then. The roars of the public was just as it is in the television and at some instances, the roars were so loud that I could relate a India-Pakistan final cricket match enthusiasm. It was feeling so good, now I wanted to enter the stadium.

I took the staircase of the section where I was supposed to be seated, and a ramp after that and still a small staircase further. There were about 15 steps in the last leap of my way into the stadium. I took them one by one…each extra step I took, the roar of the crowd got louder to my ears. The last step I took, and I see a BRIGHT lighted lush green oval-shaped area surrounded by maroon area with white partitions vertically across it. It was an AMAZING feeling seeing it. It took me a while to figure out that there are many events happening simultaneously and when I realized that I could locate the players. Then my attention moved to the cameras around, I had never seen such a view before, and the announcements happening, and the notice boards updating the events, and the scores, and so on, and the medal ceremony of the events that have happened etc. I stared at all these for a while each, to get a feel of them and I knew, I would write a blog on that :-)

Soon, the 400 mts race for females was starting and there was an Indian participant in that. The names were being announced and the moment the Indian name was announced, there was a huge roar around the stadium, and it took me a while to absorb and believe that the crowd is us! The race started and the Indian participant was about 3rd when it just started, and each second, she went on picking up the pace and from then, with her, along her path of the race, moved the roar too in the stadium. 200 mts now and she was the second. Just a few seconds later, she came towards the place where we were sitting and fortunately it was about 1/4th away from the end point of the race. While she was coming towards us, she was almost close to the first one in the race, and within a second, she crossed her and became the first one. With every hundredth second during that second of her crossing the threshold, the roar increased in decibels, and it was a unanimous enthusiasm that was coming out of the crowd, louder, and louder, and even louder, and I am sure it must have contributed to the first-comer Indian by reducing her time for completion by at least a few hundredths of a second.

I wondered, ‘Is this the same frustrated crowd of our country!’

‘Is this the same India which doesn’t even bother to help the fellow-beings!’

‘Is this the same India which doesn’t care of the dirty streets that we walk on!’

‘Is this the same India which has so many disparities among one another!’

The answer is, Yes, it was the same India, enjoying together, at its. It was the same crowd which was encouraging together to make our country proud. It was the same crowd that had struggled badly for hours together, to get into the stadium, to enjoy this moment of pride. I recollected all the cricket matches in which India performed amazingly, and was thinking what would have been the crowd’s live roar during those matches.

True, it is our country that is a classic example of many colours and shades of colours put together. But sad is that, the crowd & the environment was very different just after the exit from the stadium :(

Sunday, October 3, 2010

When you start your career…10 years late!

It was 20th September, 1999 when I had joined my first job. When I tell anyone that I have so many years of experience, people are generally astonished! I just smile. But it is not so much fun when I look back the path that I had left behind to reach where I am now. I sometimes wish my path could have been different…but when I also feel ‘if I were not that, I would not have been this’. Still, TEN years, is not at all a joke, especially when your resume had to discount most of it! But the fact that one has come a long way to reach here almost start a career afresh, is definitely commendable.

You have spent so many years working, have gone through a lot of ups and downs, been a top performer in every work that you have done, and so you have learnt more than anyone around you everywhere till now, and moved forward, leaving everyone around, behind. The advantage of this fruitful learning is that you understand almost everything that is happening around you – starting from empathizing with the staff and the security to visualizing what the CEO must be going through in a current situation. You have the confidence to take up utmost manual/operational to utmost strategic initiatives. You are able to use many of the skills that you have acquired all through your journey, in whatever you are doing, linking and using random things to simplify the tasks that you have in hand, & this simply builds a lot of enthusiasm. Your cab driver discusses his situation with you and you know what he is going through, see a news piece about 100% FDI debate in retail sector and you can understand the core of it, you see the book ‘Good to great’ in the library and you are able to talk about it. It is definitely a lot of fun and belongingness, and I should admit, especially if the company is Google ☺

But there are challenges, mainly since you are able to grasp just about everything and learn new things so fast. You are on the look out for a new thing all the time, and it is a little challenging to have a boss when you have been your own boss for a long time. Thankfully, Google doesn’t give me the opportunity to feel there is someone bossing me, nor does it fill my enthusiasm so fast that I am on a constant look out for new things all the while. It is damn amazing to be a part of this company and the kind of things that this company does and at a scale it does is simply unimaginable!
So, when you are starting a career 10 years late, its fine, if the company is Google ☺. And you can take a deep breath on this big achievement of yours after such a struggle and hard work, and say to yourself “☺”.