Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Psychic Cat

A cat named Oscar is reported to have the “psychic” ability to sense within hours when someone is about to die at a nursing home in Rhode Island. The cat, apparently, visits the residents of the nursing home regularly, but when it curls up near a particular patient’s bed, the hospital staff and the doctors know that it’s time for them to let the patient’s family know about the impending death.

The doctors at the nursing home acknowledge this unique phenomenon, but refuse to attribute it to psychic powers. Instead, they claim that there must be some biochemical explanation for the cat to be able to detect signals that humans can’t. More details available here.

This episode reminds me of all the horror flicks on TV where the witch/ wizard/ tantrik/ messiah is usually shown to be surrounded by cats because of their ability to sense the supernatural and communicate with a world that is beyond the human realm. In many ways, this cat episode is actually scary because it has blurred the fine line that separates the real world from the world of horror movies.

On a more scientific note, if cats can really communicate with the supernatural forces, then maybe there is a tremendous opportunity for a science or technology to decipher this unique feline ability and translate it into signals or warnings that can help the human world.

The spiritual connotation to this episode cannot be discounted either. The propagators of the “Karma” theory will find new fillip to their argument that the soul is an ethereal entity that is over and above the mortal body. The fact that a cat can sense death could be interpreted as a sighting of the soul (the supernatural) that is about to leave the body (the natural). Innumerable experiments have been conducted in the past to prove the existence of the soul, although nothing conclusive has yet been found. This could trigger the debate all over again.

It’s amazing how a tiny little cat in one corner of the world can potentially impact the way the world thinks. It sure is a weird world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Indian Idle

It’s funny the things I do to appear busy at work. Not that anybody cares what I do. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if someone notices because anyways I am going to be evaluated on my sales targets, and not on my utilization levels. But yet, that 6 and half year stint in a delivery role has affected me much more than I give it credit for.

Whenever somebody walks past my cubicle, I feel guilty about not doing any “work”, and immediately open some sales presentation and start staring at it blindly. A couple of minutes later, I am back to my browsing ways when sanity returns to tell me that I don’t have to show to anyone that I am working. But this episode has been repeating so many times over the past couple of weeks that I am sure most of my colleagues have branded me the "Indian Idle".

It’s not that I am not trying to work. I am. I have read through tomes of collaterals, and presentations. I have met quite a few people within the organization to understand the practices, and continue to set up meetings with more. I was also on a 3 day residential training program, where I was one of the most active and vociferous participants. In between all this, I was also running around to get my travel documents in place. So clearly, I have done all that I could to earn my pay package, although it doesn’t seem all that obvious.

And that’s not all. I have even interviewed with a professor from Penn State for his Organizational Theory research paper on MindTree. The interview experience was quite interesting. The professor, after promising confidentiality and seeking my consent, recorded the interview for future consumption. The content of the interview was a colorful mix of my take on the organization’s strategy, about what it has done right and what it can do better, and how it should position itself for the future. Of course, all this heavy duty content was carefully packaged in a good bit of b-school jargon, although not with any intention to show-off but purely in the interest of conciseness and brevity. At the end of it, he also spoke to me about ISB and the faculty that came to teach our batch. All in all, it felt good to talk to a B-school professor again, and hopefully, I convinced him enough to accept the offer to teach at ISB the next time ISB approaches him.

Coming back to the original topic of this post, I know I am definitely under-worked, and thanks to my “utilization” oriented conditioning, I can’t help feeling guilty about it. But it is also true that I have been over-worked several times in my career, but never over-compensated. Considering the overall picture, I guess I can afford to sleep peacefully with the knowledge that, although I may not be generating any operating revenues right away, I am a “real option” for the future.

Till such time that the organization exercises this real option, I might as well enjoy my charmed life. I love "Options Thinking".

Monday, July 23, 2007

Crossing another milestone. Grudgingly.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I would read Archie comics and think, “Someday, I’m gonna be doing the exact same things”. I was really looking forward to the teenage years, and all the rebellion and fun that came along. One fine day, I woke up and found myself having grown past the teens, without really passing through it. The rebellious streak, the fun and frolic, the dangerous lifestyle- I never saw that in my teens.

As I was struggling to come to terms with the situation, I started empathizing with the “20 something” characters, usually portrayed as a combination of a career-oriented professional and a social butterfly. For a brief while, I thought I was living that character. But, something always seemed amiss. The experience was good, but it never seemed complete. The proverbial “20 somethings” were always more successful, had better social skills, were in more interesting professions etc.

By the time I decided that my life needed a serious revamp, I was almost running on empty tank. My membership in the exclusive “20 something” club had almost expired. But mentally, I wouldn’t give up, or give in. I would invariably relate to every youth story, be it in the movies or the books. I would always count myself in the “20 something” club, as one of its most ardent and active members. I desperately tried to hold on to it, but it simply kept slipping away.

In a couple of days’ time, my membership will come up for review. Unfortunately for me, there is no policy of renewal. As I count my last couple of days among the elite company, I reminisce some of the most memorable days of my youth. I am also trying to come to terms with the fact that in a country that boasts of a majority youth population, I will be relegated to the minority.

The spirit is definitely willing, but the flesh is surely weaker. And it shows. Of course, in my defense, age is, afterall, a question of mind over matter.
As long as I don’t mind, it shouldn’t matter.
On that happy note, signing off.

18 till I Die, Gonna be 18 till I Die,
Feels so good, to be alive, 18 till I Die,
Someday I’ll be 18, going on 65,
18 till I Die, Gonna be 18 till I Die

God bless Bryan Adams for giving me my song. Amen.

B-school Interview Tips

Location: Interview Room at ISB, Hyderabad
Scene: Top IT MNC (Firm X) conducting placement interviews
Characters: Top honcho (code name Wolf) from Strategy Consulting Division at Firm X, prospective candidate (code name Leo)

Wolf: Good Morning Leo, I see you have a very impressive CV
Leo: Good Morning, and thanks
Wolf: First up, let me clarify that we don’t really do pure-play strategy consulting. We only do the IT strategy. So don’t expect us to do what a McK or BCG would do.
Leo: (thinking to himself “tell me something I don’t know”) Yes, I understand
Wolf: Leo, I see you have worked with Firm X before you came to B-school. And you have been there longer than I have. That’s good to know

Leo: (Beaming with pride) Well, yes. I have had a really good stint at Firm X, and look forward to getting back real soon.
Wolf: Well, since you’re an ex-employee, I won’t have to explain how we work as an organization. That’s good. But at the same time, I can’t sell you the organization as I would for other candidates because you know us too well. That’s not too good.
Leo: (confused and muttering to himself “WTF”)
Wolf: I don’t think an interview is needed here. Let me quickly make you an offer. I am willing to pay you Rs.## per annum. How does that sound?
Leo: (Too shocked to respond) Umm, was that per annum? Or are you sure?
Wolf: Since you are an ex-employee, I wanted to give you a better deal. So yes, it is per annum. You must be surprised!
Leo: (Slowly recovering from the shock) Well, I am surprised, yes. Shocked, however, would be a more apt word.
Wolf: (muttering to himself)
Leo: My peers in the organization, even without an MBA, are earning more than what you just offered me. If I had simply stayed back, I am sure I would have got an offer higher than Rs.##
Wolf: (Clearly offended at Leo’s impudence) Well, your past experience doesn’t really match the job that you have applied for. So I don’t see why I should pay you any more that what I offered.
Leo: Well, the MBA is exactly intended for that. So that I could get into different roles than what I was previously doing. Anyways, during the PPT, the minimum salary announced was higher than what you just offered. And that was for a fresher.
Wolf: (Irritated and agitated) Whoever did that PPT has no idea about my division. He can say what he wants, but this is my offer. For someone with no ERP experience, I don’t see why I should pay you for your experience.
Leo: Because I haven’t applied for the role of an ERP Consultant. That interview is happening in the adjacent room. This was supposed to be for Strategy Consulting, and I am here for you to interview me on my Strategy Consulting skills. So why don’t you go ahead and interview me instead?
Wolf: I don’t need to interview you. I know there are dozens of people who have worked in companies like TCS, Wipro, Infy etc who’d give an arm and more to work with us, just to get the Firm X brand on the CVs.
Leo: Well, all I can say is, all the best to you.
Wolf: So what’s your final decision?
Leo: Thanks but no thanks.
Wolf: Wait, let me add an extra 1 lakh joining bonus. Now, you can’t refuse.
Leo: I am flattered, but I don’t want to keep you from those “dozens of eager people”. So the answer is NO.
Wolf: Alright, I know I will loose a few good guys, but I am ok with it because I know there are a lot of people out there waiting to join us. And it’s still early in the day.
Leo: Goodbye

Moral of the story: Loyalty is for the dogs. Especially in IT.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Kind Of Intelligence Do You Have?

I took the quiz and found that my intelligence type doesnt suit the job I have taken up. Time for a career change?

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.

An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.

You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.

A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Sonu Nigam Vs Subhash K Jha

I have always been an ardent advocate of free press. And consequently, I have always loathed the fact that all our so-called top media houses use their well-entrenched network to promote their affiliates (for want of a better word), and vilify their opposition. Some of our most revered newspapers are believed to be unofficial mouthpieces of various political parties. With the advent of 24/7 news channels, the use of media as a tool to promote one's self has only increased several folds. Amidst all these developments, the neutral observer has been left in the dark. The dream of Free and Fair Press seems to remain just that. A dream.

On another tangent, the power of “free press” has been conveniently abused by certain journalists to the extent that they even resort to threatening their victims of a public vilification if the victims don’t comply with their demands. In many ways, this is tantamount to the extortion business that the D-company and the likes have been running for so long, except that the impending damages in this case are more social than physical.

The recent incident of popular singer Sonu Nigam openly accusing reputed film journalist Subhash K Jha of harassment is a classic case in point. Sonu accused Jha of using national press to vilify and criticize him for not complying with Jha’s “homosexual” overtures. Read the whole letter here and here.

Subhash Jha is a very well known journalist in the film industry, and claims to have close personal equations with several top Bollywood personalities, most notably the Bacchan clan, including Aishwarya Rai Bacchan who he cites as his favorite in several of his columns. He is known to promote the people that he personally is friends with, and lambaste everyone else. Among his hate list are top stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan etc. He is also widely believed to wield significant clout in the industry, and is therefore, considered to be a “Godfather” for budding heroines and, more specifically, heroes.

Sonu claims to have saved the various lewd SMSs that Jha had sent him, expressing his love for the singer, and has appealed to the national media house that employs Jha’s services to take appropriate action against the vengeful scribe. The choice of words in the letter seemed really crafty, where Sonu has carefully ensured that he doesn’t distance his homosexual fans but at the same time he has put his point across that he is not one among them.

As I googled a bit more, I found that Jha is not new to controversies. He was recently found guilty by a film forum of plagiarizing an interview with Quentin Tarantino from a non-commercial blog without giving due credit to the original publisher. When caught, Jha responded with an abusive letter mentioning that he did not know that the interview was published previously on the blog. Interestingly, he didn’t mention where he got the interview transcript from if he didn’t look it up from the blog whose owner actually conducted the interview. Read the entire episode here and here.

To further add credibility to Sonu’s allegations, several other members from the film fraternity have also come out with statements against Jha. Music director Ismail Darbar, who is known to shoot his mouth indiscreetly, called Jha a “third rate journalist” while singer Abhijeet has also come out in open support of Sonu.

It will be interesting to watch how this episode pans out in the days to come. Jha is believed to be considering filing a defamation suit against Sonu, and has even questioned Sonu’s audacity in writing such a letter to him. Interestingly, just a couple of years ago, Jha was known to wax eloquent about Sonu Nigam’s singing and, believe it or not, his acting prowess. Such unabashed praise for Sonu’s acting skills is a dead giveaway about Jha’s ulterior motives. And when Sonu didn’t reciprocate, Jha became a smitten lover, and started to use his pen to abuse the same Sonu that he almost revered till then.

With such irresponsible journalists ruling the roost, freedom of press might seem a very dangerous tool. It gives these power-hungry scribes the right to abuse anyone without any consequences. As it is, our country’s press is run mostly by political parties. If several such incidents occur repeatedly, even the fictitious perception of free press might be revoked.
To ensure such an eventuality does not occur, the online blogger communities and forums should come together actively, and ensure that press, while being free, is also regulated, not by a government body or by an act of law, but by the people who consume the news themselves.

Monday, July 16, 2007

An ode to a friend

This little poem is inspired by a close friend who is currently trying to shake off some old debris, and looking to settle down at last. If he ever reads this, I am sure he'll know it was for him.

The Casanova

He walks with a swagger, and smiles with a pout,
He wants you to know what it’s really all about,
He shows you all his messages, and makes you read his mails,
He tries to talk in riddles, but gives away his trails.

He calls you at odd times, and begs you to help arrest the damage,
When the women in his life, start to suggest marriage,
All he wants to do, is have a little fun,
But before he even knows it, his life is on the run.

The girls have got his number, they’ve wisened up to his game,
He knows his time is over, that things won’t ever be the same,
He’s looking for your help, to get rid of the grime,
Trying to absolve himself, although guilty of the crime.

He wants to start afresh now, and find the perfect wife,
He is counting on the family, to help resurrect his life,
A girl that isn’t too bright, but doesn’t look bad,
One that hasn’t been through the kind of life he’s had.

Any suggestions on how I can help this good friend would be very welcome :)

The Resurrection

I am back!
After a really long time, I am attempting to write again. My last post was way back in December last year. Since then, I have tried writing a couple of articles, but decided not to post them on the blog due to certain privacy needs.
Anyways, here is a quick update on how life has shaped up since December 2006.

  • Got placed at MindTree Consulting in Feb 2007. The placement week at ISB was “interesting”. I have a lot that I want to write about regarding the placement season, but will refrain from elaborating in the interest of the school.
  • Graduated from ISB in April 2007, and drove back to Bangalore. Embarked on a Himalayan Expedition with a group of ISBians, and spent a good 2 weeks in the Delhi-Punjab-Himachal Pradesh-UP belt. The high-point of the trip was the trek up the Himalayas, including an overnight camp in a cold valley amidst the beautiful snow capped mountains. We also indulged in a lot of adventure sports such as skiing, rock climbing, rappling, river crossing, Paragliding, Whitewater rafting etc. But nothing compares to the adventure of being separated from the group, and lost in the midst of the Himalayas. Whew, that was all the adventure and fun that I can digest for a while!
  • After returning to Bangalore, spent a good 45 days discovering myself, and just chilling at home. Surprisingly, all my friends claim to have been bored with all the free time on their hands while I always seem to have so much to do and so little free time, despite having almost 2 whole months between graduating and joining work.
  • Joined MindTree on June 4th, and was put through a fairly rigorous Business Analyst Bootcamp. Made more presentations in 3 weeks than I did during my year at ISB. Was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I was in addressing audiences. Surely, I have changed.
  • Right now, I am close to being jobless, waiting for my travel documentation to come through before I can assume my position in the assigned territory. And start delivering. Business Development is a whole new ball game, and I am betting on me to make it a successful career. Any takers?

Hopefully, from now on, I will be more regular with the blogging bit. And have something more interesting to write about than a boring account of my life’s insipid happenings.

Till then, ciao!