Monday, June 28, 2010

DNA Owes an Apology to Shashi Tharoor


Now we live in the age of live news, live news analysis so on and so forth. Most of the time news presented by the news channel and newspaper are far from truth. They will quote “unidentified source” or “close aid” or something like that to give authenticity to the news. Here is a perfect example of such news.
Daily News & Analysis (DNA) was one the first paper that broke the news about the possible engagement of former Union Minister and MP from Trivandrum Dr Shashi Tharoor with Sunanda Puskar. DNA wrote on May 18th (emphasis added)
A source from the resort said, “The engagement date is fixed. While some of the guests will be checking in early, considering it is the weekend, others are expected on the day of the do. However, the entire hotel has been blocked for Saturday and Sunday (June 26 and 27), for it is going to be a big affair. There will be no access into the hotel for any person who is not on the guest list. We are yet to receive the guest list and it will be handed over to us only by June 23 or 24.
Intelligence sources, however, say that at least a dozen former cabinet colleagues are expected to attend the engagement. Tharoor and Pushkar are expected to be in town a day or two prior to the big day.
Shashi is reportedly getting engaged to entrepreneur Sunanda Pushkar at al uxury resort on the outskirts of Bangalore on June 27 this year. However, the hotel has denied about such an event taking place.
The source adds, “Shashi and Sunanda might change the venue as the media is expected to be present there since the news has leaked out. A venue abroad was also being considered but that has been scrapped because most of the couple’s friends would not be able to make it. Sunanda wants to let the public know about the engagement while Shashi wants to keep it outside the media glare. The photographs, however, will be given out to the media in a manner that both are comfortable with. The date of the engagement has not changed because informal invites have already been sent out to a lot of people.
June 27th has gone and there is no news about their engagement. If the news report of DNA was true Dr Tharoor and Sunanda should have got engaged by June 27th. Have you heard of news about their engagement? Doesn’t DNA owe an apology to Dr Shashi Tharoor for publishing false news?

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Desi Managers – Specimen on their Own

[These thoughts about desi managers in US were formulated in me during the 10 years of my stay in US. I am in no way generalizing anything here but if you have worked with a desi manager please share your experience to make this discussion more complete.]
Few months back I wrote a blog post about Desi Professors and how they make the life of Indian students miserable. The desi managers are never behind desi professors in harassing the desis working for them. Here is a hypothetical example of how life will be under a desi manager. I have made up this story but as you read through you can identify well with this if you have ever worked with a desi manager.
The scenario – our Desi Manager “H” goes to the client place on Monday morning and the client tells him that they need a “three feet line drawn on a sheet of paper “by Friday morning. H comes out of the meeting and immediately calls this desi guy Y who works for him.
H: Hey, I am just out of meeting with the client and I have another meeting with the client on Thursday morning. We have lot of work to be done before that. Come to my office in another 30 minutes.
Y: Sure H.
After 30 minutes Mr. Y goes to the manager’s cabin
H: Good Morning, Have your seat
Y: Thank You H
H: I think we have a lot of work to do. The client wants a “three feet line drawn on a sheet of paper” and I have a meeting with client on Thursday morning.
Y: But H, you want me to work on the other thing whose deadline is Wednesday morning. Can I start working on this after that?
H: This is totally unacceptable. I gave you the other work on Friday evening and now it is Monday morning and you have not done that yet? You have whole of Saturday and Sunday to do it.
Y: I had some family emergency and could not work on week end.
H: That is your problem. Can I tell the client that you had a family emergency? I want to see both by tomorrow morning. I don’t want to hear any excuses nor explanations.
Y: H, there is lot of work to be done on the other project. I may not get time to work on this one.
H:  That is your problem. When did your problem become my problem?
Y: I will try.
H: No trying baba… I want to see everything by 8 AM tomorrow.
Y: OK H.
This poor chap spends the whole night working on both the projects simultaneously. He comes to work early and does the finishing touch to it. By 8.15 am he is in front of his manager’s office. Manager on seeing him looks at his watch
H: You are already late by 15 minutes; you never finish anything on time.
Y: I was done with it last night itself but found some mistake this morning and was correcting it.
H: What have I told you earlier, “No explanations No excuses”. Anyway keep it here. I will go through it when I get a chance.
Now Y goes to H’s office in the afternoon to ask him if he had a chance to look at what he did.
Y: H, did you have a chance to go through what I did? If you could give me your comments I could work on it.
H: What do you think about me? I just have your stuff to take care off? You were late to finish the work this morning and now you want me to correct it in a fly. That is not going to happen. Come back tomorrow morning.
Y goes back to his cubicle dejected thinking why H urged him to finish everything by today morning if he was not going to check that till next day morning.
Wednesday morning Y comes to his cubicle at 8 am and he gets a phone call from H.
H: Can you please come to my office
Y: Sure
Y now goes to his manager’s office.
H: I think I am being too nice to you guys. Looks like we need to talk, can you please close the door. What you have given me is a piece of crap and for this you took a day?
Y: I had to finish the other work you gave me also and that is why I took so much time.
H: I asked you to draw a three feet line. Who asked you to draw it straight?
Y: I assumed it may be a straight line.
H: What happens when you assume? You make an “ASS” of “U” and “ME”. Now where are the dimensions for this line?
Y: I will mark those dimensions and get back to you.
H: How many years are you working on this project? You should be knowing this by now. I need not have to tell you all these things. Go and get it fixed ASAP.
He fixes all that Mr. H told him and goes back to his boss.
H: Why did you use a yellow paper to draw the line?
Y: You never told me the kind of paper I should draw on.
H: So are you now accusing me of lying to you? When I say I want you to draw a line three feet long you should understand all those. Two strikes mister and one more you are out, remember that.
Y leaves H’s office and makes all those changes and gives him the final version by Thursday evening. After the meeting was over on Friday morning Y was eager to know what the client’s impression was about his work.
Y: Did the client have any comments on the work I did?
H: You are always curious. I am not going to tell. Curiosity kills the cat.
After 3 months, H calls Y again and tells him that client wants a line four feet long. Y takes the old drawing which he did 3 months back extents it by one foot and shows it to H. H is all furious.
H: Did I ask you to draw this line in white paper? Did I ask you to draw this line inclined at an angle? I think I am not communicating well with you.
Y: This was what we did previously. So H, What exactly do you want?
H: That is for you to figure out. I don’t want you to ask questions to me. I only need answers and that too in another one hour.
Y comes out of H’s office totally confused about what his boss needs are in this project. He goes back to his cubicle mystified as to what he has to do to figure out what exactly his desi manager wants. He knows his plight will be same till he has such a manager. He starts working “assuming” so many things knowing very well the consequence of what happens when he “assumes”. Life moves on….
Again I am not generalizing any thing with this example. I know and have worked with desi managers who are really nice. At the same time I have come across and heard stories of lots of desi managers who are real pain to work with. Those who have worked with them will understand fully what I am talking about…
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Over-exploitation of the Poor – Reason for the Rise of Maoist Movement in India

While travelling from Hyderabad to Vellore in train we talked to this train attendant in our coach. Deepa and I talked for over ninety minutes to this guy hailing from Jharkhand. I started the talk with that guy to test my Hindi speaking skills but soon the talk went into some serious discussion about how the poor people like him are exploited everywhere in India.
I forgot the name of this guy but let us call him Mr. Yadav. His job is to maintain the AC coach clean and also provide bed sheets and pillows to all the passengers for the entire journey from New Delhi to Tirupati (around 35 hours at a stretch). Mr. Yadav is working in this train for last one year. He was telling us how people like him are exploited by the private contractors like his boss. Here is his story.
The train halts at Tirupati for 24 hours before it starts it onward journey from Tirupati to New Delhi. People like Yadav are not provided any accommodation in Tirupati and are forced to spend the time in the train when the AC is switched off in this heat for 24 hours when the train halts in Tirupati. Mr. Yadav was telling us that Indian Railways gives the contractor Rs 6,500 as salary for each attendant like him but the contractor gives him only Rs 100 per day he works. So if the train is halting in Tirupati for a day this poor chap is not paid. So finally he makes around Rs 1500 to Rs 1700 with which he has to support a family of four back in Jharkhand. The worst part – he is responsible for the sheets and pillows in all the seats. If one passenger decides to take the pillow with him the contractor reduces the price of the pillow from this guy’s salary. He was telling that every month he ends up paying around Rs 500 for the missing pillows and sheets as he has no power to check the bags of the passenger even if he knows one of the passengers has taken a bed sheet or pillow cover. So at the end of the day Mr. Yadav is making close to Rs 1200 each month. He was asking us with that salary how he can support his family back home?
Mr. Yadav was from a place close to Ranchi, a place where Maoists have a great hold. I asked him about the Maoist and his replies were very candid. Before joining the Indian Railways, he was working in a mine and half of the salary he earned every day has to be given to local politicians. He was telling me that the same was the fate of all poor people in that region. Maoist has stepped in to help these over-exploited people and now protect them. He was telling me that Maoist give between 50,000 rupees and 1,00,000 rupees to the family of poor girls during their marriage. Mr. Yadav was telling us that local villagers support Maoist to the core because they are fighting for their cause and no way would local population support government efforts to eradicate Maoists. All those people who were exploiting the poor till now have to pay a hefty tax to these Maoists on a monthly basis that forms the revenue for the Maoist.
Throughout the talk with Mr. Yadav I could feel a sense of grudge towards the rich and politicians who have taken advantage of them for ages. With this sense of frustration I won’t be surprised if Mr. Yadav one day joins Maoist movement and fights against the rich and powerful whom he believe has deprived him and his fellow brothers a decent living.
Talking to Mr. Yadav reiterated my belief – the long term solution of Maoist insurgency in North India can only be contained effectively by over all development of that region and not through the use of force. Hope the various state governments and Union Government under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh understand this and solve this problem forever by overall development of the region rather than using the force that will only bring misery to people who are already leading a miserable life.
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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Real Power of Communication Revolution in India

Who told latest advances in the field of communication are only for the rich and middle class people? After being back in India, I have seen quiet a few examples with my own eyes how phenomenal communication revolution happening in India has helped the poor.
We wanted to have a maid servant in our new quarters at Vellore daily for couple of hours. We told the security officer at our quarters of our need and he promised us that he will find someone by next day and send her to us. The very next day a maid came and we told her what all we wanted her to do daily and what time we want her to come.
The maid agreed to all those and before she left she told us “If you need my help any other time please give me a call in my cell phone. My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX”. To my amusement she told the digits of the phone number in English. Here is a lady who has never gone to school and never had any formal education in English giving her cell phone number to us in English. Out of my curiosity I asked her in Tamil “How come you know your phone number in English?” She replied “Sir, I work in many places where the people don’t know Tamil. I have to give my cell phone number to those people also. So I learned my cell phone number in English”.
To understand if the cell phone has really helped her I asked her “Has the cell phone really helped you?” She was quick to respond “Yes sir, I have work everyday, thanks to cell phone. I have given my number to a lot of people and if some work comes – say cleaning the house after a big party they will call me in the cell phone. Earlier no such work came my way. There are days I work three or four different places after receiving a call on my cell phone. Since incoming calls are free I don’t pay much to maintain the cell phone but get lots of work. Whoever discovered this is God to me!”
This lady symbolizes the changing India – India where an invisible revolution is happening due to the advances in communication technologies. This lady is not alone – I have seen fisherwomen, small scale vegetable sellers, cab drivers to name a few – all benefiting from the use of cell phones in India. Hoping that, with the use of technology, more and more people living below the poverty line and lower middle class will get themselves elevated to middle class in India.
Photo Courtesy Click Here

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Back In India!!!!

The process we set forth almost a year back is nearing completion – we are back to India for good. My wife and I will be joining Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) as Assistant Professor and Associate Professor on 8th of June thus starting a new innings of our life.
One thing I want keep going the same way after shifting my base to India – blog with same intensity. Hopefully I can do that. It has been a hectic one month and I rarely got any time even to come online. I may be posting scarcely for few more days till I settle in VIT. Hoping that you readers will give me the same support for my blog as you used to give me earlier….
Till next post Good Bye…..

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