Sunday 27 April 2014

No Private Apologies For Public Insults

It was a big occasion meeting. Everyone, officers to managers to executives, from North & East India was attending - our division's new President (& country head) was to address the group and present his thoughts. Let's call him Mr. President.

Expectedly, meeting was long and presentation was boring (Mr. President was new to the division, not to the company - thus, "expectedly"). He couldn't connect with his audience and lack of interactivity made the entire experience further difficult to sit through. Some were yawning in full view, others were trying to hide it. 

Mr. President had to accept and announce - "yes, yawning is contagious! I will wrap up quickly before I too catch the yawn-bug".

What followed was more bizarre than the presentation itself...Mr. President sat himself down and asked the group to give him feedback on his presentation. He also stated that since the same presentation was to be made to South & West teams a week later - it would only benefit him to know how he can improve. Bizarrely, he started asking each individual - "tell me, Mr. No-good, what did you think of my presentation?", starting with the first guy sitting on his left.

On being suddenly asked, Mr. No-good not only had to face 60-70 pair of eyes, but also think on his feet to say something (anything) meaningful to Mr. President - to not come across as his name suggested. His best thoughts about the presentation were simple three words, "it was nice"...having said all that he could, Mr. No-good sat down and took a deep breath (of relief) as Mr. President moved on to the next person.

I was seated sixteenth, not by any design - just. Apart from two / three critiques on the content, all of the fifteen before me went ahead and told Mr. President how good the presentation was (or just what they thought Mr. President wanted to hear). 

As my turn was approaching, my mind was racing and debating whether I should be honest or maintain the tone of feedback being given. My turn came and I couldn't keep it under wraps - apparently I was fuming more at a**-lickers than the sub-standard presentation from Mr. President. This 'fuming' got misdirected at Mr. President's presentation and an honest opinion of the presentation came out.

It was an out-of-body experience, I could see myself - taking apart Mr. President's best effort and I could see the shock & disbelief in everyone else's eyes. I wrapped up my comments stating that my views were purely to help Mr. President present better in his down-South visit, following week.

Mr. President heard me out, as did everyone present in that room that evening, and moved to Ms. Seventeenth. From here on, asking for feedback was a mere formality and not a single critical point came. We all were thanked for our valuable time and feedback - the meeting was adjourned...and I knew, I had dug a BIG hole for me to be buried in. Question on my mind was - will it be an execution?

As people started walking back - there was just one topic being discussed...what possessed Mr. What-does-he-think-of-himself (i.e. me)to say what he said. I was almost sure there will be a wager out sooner-than-later, regarding my future with the company. My heart was sinking by now...I could have put some of my own money on an 'early departure'.

As I reached my work station, before I could sit - I was called in by Mr. President's 2-i-c. My heart sank further and I felt 'early departure' should be changed to 'immediate departure'.

I sat down in Mr. 2-i-c's office, his unblinking and stern eyes were looking straight into mine. I realised that I had nothing more to say (had said enough 30 minutes ago) - thus it was better to let Mr. 2-i-c start the verbal proceedings of this meeting. After what seemed like a few minutes Mr. 2-i-c spoke and gave me a pearl of wisdom...and that was that! 

Soon after, I was back at my work station...left pondering over my decision to provide honest feedback and in the manner in which it was given. The pearl of wisdom shared was profoundly apt for my action, taught me a lesson without punishment and has since become part of my system:

"There are no private apologies for public insults"

Sunday 20 April 2014

Why can't we be ourselves?

Why is it difficult to accept what is different...
Is something wrong with 'different' or actually with us?

Why is it important to follow the norms...
Is making our own path really that big a task?

Why being part of a group gives a feeling of security...
Is walking alone, on my own, really scary & rough?

Why do we find comfort in the known...
Is comfort that we are seeking, or simply acceptance from others?

Why do we make associations based on faked-similarities...
Is it that we are not comfortable in our own skin?

Why is it easier to ostracize than to embrace...
Is it human nature or some archaic societal practice?

Why is it a tussle between me and 'them'...
Is 'their' way the only path to walk?

Why coexistance is such a challenge...
Is it that, deep-down, we all want to divide & rule?

Why does the fear of killing one another not set in...
Is this not over-confidence, which will bring us down?

Why can we not live happily ever after...
Is it time we accepted man is man's worst enemy?

Why can we not just snap out of hypnotic control on our mind...
Is it because we are more afraid of reality than the make-believe?


Saturday 19 April 2014

Dim Future for Hindi Language?

Speaking 'good' English has been a sign of a smart & educated individual - someone who is well read as well. In recent past, the pressure has shifted from young adults on to the really young ones - to not only know their mother tongue, but also be able to converse in English. For parents it has become a matter of pride, ego and social superiority - "how well does your few-years-old-kid converse in English?".

I think kids are capable of picking up multiple languages - thus I am not writing about their pressures. I think there is a different scenario arising because of this social change. With English language incorrectly becoming synonymous with being a literate - with professional confidence and success being linked to understanding and command on English (specifically in India) - it is not a surprise that parents started emphasising on their kids, the need to improve English speaking. 

In my view, preference given to English in almost all spheres of life in India definitely sets back other Indian languages. However, there is a greater threat to Hindi in particular. I have observed that parents from non-Hindi speaking part of India, still want their kids to know their mother tongue. Also, I have observed there is a greater bonding felt by non-Hindi speaking people in conversing in their mother-tongue, when they meet anyone who can converse in 'their' language. Sadly, this isn't the case with Hindi - almost as if Hindi speaking is lowering class of the speaker.

I will be honest, I am not comfortable reading Hindi, writing will be a bigger challenge and I am certain that I am not unique or part of a minority. While I can converse in Hindi, I am definitely still better-off using English as I can hardly talk for 5 minutes without going back to using a word or more of English. This shall only become worse with kids who are still learning what they are taught. Who / what will teach them Hindi...what kind of Hindi will they pick up...will it become a language that they would know - just to speak with house maid or will it be a language looked up on with respect?

When in 1988, Tezaab came out - the famous Madhuri Dixit song taught a bit of numbers in Hindi (ek, do, teen...) - but now there isn't much to look forward to from Bollywood / TV for children to learn a language. As it is - Bollywood rarely focuses on pure is a combination of Hindi / Urdu / Punjabi (now)... Having said that - I believe, until such time that Bollywood continues to make Hindi movies, there will be people who will understand the language. 

This brings me to the core issue - language's survival is linked to its development and growth, which will not happen if it loses favour of masses. If Hindi has to remain the language of choice for a few and a language of entertainment for masses - I am certain its future is dim!

Wednesday 16 April 2014


During my recent holiday in Egypt, a couple of things happened that sparked the base thought for this post. The Egyptologist (a senior / more educated version of guide) who was taking us through Cairo used this term, which I will explain subsequently and second, I read 'The Way Of The Knife' - a book with catch phrase "the untold story of USA's secret war".

Let me start with the book: I picked it up because everything about the book made it seem to be an exciting read. I have seen many movies based on the (in)famous C.I.A and about the almost unending, American war on terror - but this was the first book that promised a true-behind-the-scene-account of all that Hollywood so richly glorifies.

The book delivered on one thing definitely, it was a pacy & at times even exciting read. Every bit of it was possibly just as good as a spy thriller should be - rather, it was better because it was talking of real people, real scenarios and real outcomes. Author did try to unmask the American hypocrisy of increasing violence in order to ensure world peace. But as I read through, even though I was enjoying reading it, I couldn't help feeling an empty-ness in author's efforts to show the American administration as a villain.

Throughout the book, there are anecdotes of how the C.I.A, the C.T.C, the J.S.O.C and many similar agencies worked, mostly independently, to kill US of A's times, even at the cost of a 'few' civilian lives. These 'few' innocent lives lost in the war on terror have been mentioned, but not deeply enough for the reader to feel any pain.

Message that got across was simple: you fuck with the US of A; US of A will fuck you, your family & friends, your country...even your religion!

Thus - much like Hollywood movies, where US of A is a super power and the only country worthy of saving planet earth - whether it is humans attacking it or mighty aliens...The Way Of The Knife also leaves its readers feeling that US of A is a country not to be messed is definitely a country with means and the will to go to any extent to get what it wants. Well, to be fair to the author - Americans did get into Pakistan and kill OBL - didn't they?

Allow me to connect this with the Egyptologist that I mentioned at start of this post. As one can imagine, a typical guide would tell stories - embellishing them to make them sound larger than life. That is not much of a problem for any guide in Egypt - because the monuments' age, size and preservation - all are larger than life. But the Egyptologist in Cairo was different. In his view - a lot of ancient Egypt's life is still undiscovered and thus not understood. Not only that, he had a rather different take on why ancient Egyptian kings built big and many structures - "propaganda".

Admittedly, this came as a surprise - but the Egyptologist expanded his opinion (which he said would be agreed by less than 1 in 10 Egyptologists) - he explained all temples / tombs that we see today, were supposed to be a post-death gift that the kings / queens gave to themselves. But, in his opinion, since these structures were built while the king / queen was still alive - these buildings served the purpose of one-up-man-ship over previous kings / queens. The tall and plenty self statues were designed for future generations to remember the kings / queens of past as strong and beautiful (even if the king wasn't as strong or the queen as beautiful). Thus - in his opinion, until more is discovered and understood about that era, he saw it as simple propaganda.

Before reaching Cairo, I had already finished reading the book. There were mixed feelings about the book - whether the author delivered a blow on the US of A by exposing their hypocrisy or announced to the world that US of A is not to be messed was only after the Egyptologist's use and explanation of this word - propaganda, that I could form a firm opinion about the book.

'The Way Of The Knife' - is every bit of American propaganda of modern times, to win one-up-man-ship against other super powers and their secret introduce rest of the world with the American prowess and in the end - to actually make non-American readers question: does anyone in my country have balls? 

Build Pyramids that last 5000 years or kill your enemy, be inhuman and mask it as 'for world peace' - two of the best forms of propaganda I say!

Friday 11 April 2014

Egypt: A Land of History & Wonder

After nearly three years of wanting, planning, almost booking twice before - Tina and I finally visited Egypt (in March '14). The build-up of expectations from 'holiday-in-Egypt', over all this time, was weighing upon us when we finally started from home. We didn't know how will it all unfold, we were skeptical - especially given the continued reports of political unrest and violence there. Now that we are back - we know tourism has quite unnecessarily and most unfortunately suffered due to all the negative media coverage Egypt has received in last 12-15 months.

Egypt is a complete holiday destination, something that rather came as a surprise to me. For me, the excitement of seeing the pyramids and ticking off another 'Wonder of the World' was big enough & almost the only attraction in this country. I couldn't have been more inaccurate in judging reasons to visit Egypt.

Every travel agent that we spoke with offered us a 7 day package, offered same things - with the only difference being in hotels offered. We went ahead, planned and booked this holiday on our own...spent 10 days instead - but we still couldn't do everything and see everything that must be done & seen. I think one needs 3 weeks to do justice and experience everything offered in Egypt.

From its chaotic cities to the tranquil Nile, from relaxed beaches to the adventurous deep sea diving in Red Sea...from structures dating back to 4000+ years, to the 20th century technology that helped preserve temples of Abu Simbel (read about it here)...from man made marvels to breath-taking natural corals...Egypt is truly a land of history & wonder.

PS: For select few pictures, from the hundreds that we took - please click here.