Thursday, May 29, 2008

Attrition among new recruits...

The points that I mention here are from what I have seen in the real world corporate dynamics, heard about experiences from friends and few from the learnings and readings from various articles, journals and blogposts. The reasons that I mention below are mostly centered around those who have spent their time and energy in the industry (mostly IT/Tech/Tech Services/Engineering) from a range of one year to say four years after their graduation from an engineering school or a technical institute. Even few of the points apply to those who don a much higher number of years experience hat.

Attrition is a growing concern for almost all the firms across various sectors in different corners of the world but today the pain is felt more in India. This bruise gets highlighted more in an Indian context because as the economy is growing, the engines who are partners in this ride also need to deliver, but because of employee attrition few initiatives are put on the back burner. The HR managers are having a tough time finding a suitable replacement with required experience and ability, to fill up the vacancies created on account of exit of key employees.

Here in my post, I share few of my views as to why employees, especially new joinees leave the firm, a little after the embryonic stage of their job career cycle.

1. Company and personal goals clash: Many of the smart recruits in many firms these days are hired through campus placements in engineering schools during the pre-final year days. Placement talks are like major branding shows and each of the hiring firms tries to outshine others in the fray by attractive presentations in diverse formats. Company goals and visions are put forward to candidates and these tastes like the best recipes to whiz one's career. The message that is sent is: 'With the company's goals, all measures are taken for an employee's personal development also'. I am not denying the fact that there are companies who do orchestrate company's goals and employees' personal goals but the number is less. Come to the work place, the real world is not that rose-cheeked after one understands the underlying factors. This is completely out of phase, of WYWPIWYG assurance (what-you-were-promised-is-what-you-get). In short most of the cases of attrition thrive on the thread that firms place their priorities ahead of employees' goals, without understanding the employees' basic aspirations resulting in friction.
Although their HR depts claim that they have systems which ensure a smooth induction, training and deployment onto projects that isn't quite the case for everyone.
The full story is here.

2. Incorrect picture painted in campus placement talks: Many global firms work under different legal entities but under one global brand umbrella in India. To make things clear, lets take a fictitious firm 'Remain Connected Corp', which has under it many legal entities such as 'Remain Connected R&D Center', 'Remain Connected Software Services Center', 'Remain Connected Consulting Team', 'Remain Connected Technologies', etc. In most campus placements, 'Remain Connected' would go as a single team for hiring but the offer letters are delivered by the different entities under its canopy. To a campus recruit, who is not aware of all these internal corporate crosswords everything appears to be the same. But after working in the industry for a year or two, when s/he realizes that s/he was offered a cozen pill, looking for opportunities elsewhere is the most pragmatic option. So my practical suggestion to all the campus recruits, dig deep below the surface and ask questions to the HR manager of the hiring firm, talk to friends/seniors/relatives who understand under the skin of the scenario before you finally accept any job offers.

3. Opportunities available: The present economy has opened up the doors of opportunities. If a person is skilled, smart and is a store house of ideas, s/he is like an appetizing cake, waiting for the market to react. Present day progressive forward looking youth aspire to see their career advancement as well as improvement in his net earnings in the shortest possible time. Demand for smart talent is always there, so when an individual doesn't find his/her present place of work to offer a hastening atmosphere, there are other avenues to explore may be in another firm, a start-up or a similar place.
Thanks to his own ambition, and to the Indian outsourcing boom, he escaped. He gained admission to the best engineering school in India, then landed a job that he could hardly have dreamed of as a child: writing software for Oracle, the U.S. technology giant.

"I fell in love," he said, recalling his first visit to Oracle's campus in Bangalore.

But Jain's zest eventually fizzled under the repetitive rigors of the Indian back office. So he did what a parade of burned-out functionaries in Bangalore have begun doing: He quit outsourcing to create his own start-up - in his case, designing cellphone software that blocks calls from telemarketers.

4. Change in mindset, among individuals and society: Gone are the days, when one stuck to a job even though it was not satisfying, solely on grounds of monetary benefits. The present generation wants money, no doubt about that, but it's just not money, it has to be enwrapped with stimulating job assignments and responsibilities. More often than not, the most heard verdict of a majority of individuals is.
Besides, they soon learn, the job is not really about programming at all... One such dude sums up the average IT career path on a Pagalguy forum:

There is not much of a ladder is S/W industry as such. For most life is quite typical. One or two years in a company. Then a chance to go onsite and see some money. Then back home. Another 2 years and then one becomes an analyst and after 5-6 years, a manager. And your engineering branch is the last thing that would matter here.
Even parents and family members, do not evaluate much when they realize that their children are not very happy with their professions and wish to pursue something that is completely out-of-the-box and divergent to their present occupations. These parents stand as pillars supporting their individuals realize their dreams. I know of few people who have left their regular 9 to 5 jobs in tech firms to work full-time for a NGO, to practice as a full time photographer, to run a restaurant, etc. The attrition resulting from this is miniscule but it does happen, more so with individuals who realize that they had boarded an in-correct ship that would never reach the destinations they had sculpted in their mind.

5. Not much liking towards big names as before: Today grandiloquent brands in job market do not draw as much awe as it used to few years back. Big names are subtly occupying increasingly lower positions in a candidate's priority list. Individuals are perfectly fine working with small and mid tier firms because it's a known fact that sometimes the biggies cannot match the salaries offered by successful second-rung companies which functions to an extent on a start up blueprint. More so many big firms have even withdrawn ESOPs, which were the main draw a few years ago. In contrast smaller companies are able to offer profit-sharing plans, interesting projects and more responsibility at an early stage in the candidate's career. This is like a ready made dish for a candidate working in a big firm shrouded with global policies, indefinite processes, layers of politics, and most important lack of visibility in a big crowd.Rashmi Bansal makes a cogent post here.
In just 3 short years, the world has changed. When I wrote this column for in June 2004, it was still a big deal to join one of the Big Five. Except, perhaps at an IIT.

With the rising aspirations of fresh grads the same jobs have lost their sheen. The net has to be spread wider and wider, to tier 2 and tier 3 colleges, which would not be on the recruitment map at all a couple of years ago.

At a lesser known college it is a matter of pride that 'Infosys picked up 6 students'. The feeling is that of having 'arrived'.

But next year when 60 join, and then 100, the same 'we are being recruited like alu and pyaaz' feeling sets in.
Bottom line is: 'Aapne kaam se maatlab raakho, yeh big brand maain rakha kya hai'.

6. Higher studies plan: A sizeable number of campus recruits move to the U.S. or other countries to pursue higher studies and explore more attractive career opportunities after working in the industry for a year or two after their graduation. They form a small pool of the attrition camp. Few go abroad for their Masters degree, few for their PhDs and few others stretch their stay in India to apply later for an MBA program. It's not that foreign lands are the only destinations, these days many prefer to go for a Masters program in the IISc, IITs, NITs, or even BITS in the engineering and tech stream and to the coveted IIMs and other top ranked B-Schools after clearing the CAT in the domain of business management. Even ISB with its global tag in business education along with many other private schools in India partnered with other western schools of Business Management is an irresistible destination for many who wish to put their lives on a fast track road. Every year just before the admission season, many managers wait dumbfounded to see how many of the ambitious wickets would fall.

7. Relationship between manager and employee: A smart manager is one who can understand the aspirations of his/her employee and can harness the true capabilities and potentialities to the last drop, brusquely pointing the areas of improvement among the team members. Now that appears as a picturesque and cheeky definition never to be realized in reality because most the IT related work in India is service and maintenance oriented, which in turn is purely dependent on margins and numbers. But more often than ever, a manager can't do justice to both numbers and fulfilling aspirations and finds him/her self in a Catch-22 situation. For some inflammation or misunderstanding arising at work, involving the manager and employee, mostly the bosses chalk up the tension to a personality clash. There is a tendency, according to management experts, to think that personality is the cause of organizational discord rather than perhaps an effect of it.
Ben Dattner, an associate at Dattner Consulting executive coaching firm, believes that personality conflict might be a symptom of a larger organizational issue. "When I work with my clients, I often try to get them to see how it is not just a conflict between two people. I try to get them to see that it is also potentially a conflict between two visions, two agendas, two constituencies or two visions for the future."
The most practiced remedy in this case by young employees is to nip off the problem at its root, just leave the job and find a place that suits to one's personal liking in most aspects. Quite a number of exits happen in many firms because of the above mentioned reason.

8. Team one works for: Fresh out of engineering schools, many graduates have a swelled head for being a product from a top school in India. This is very much human and expected behavioral pattern that this crowd aspires to be a part of best of the available work/assignments in any organization in the initial days of his/her career. But since most of the IT industry in India is doused in services and maintenance layer of the entire business cycle as stated in Point. 7, easy to follow processes are defined to streamline the execution segment with élan and efficiency. After doing the same work in repetitive cycles, it's no rocket science and even a normal graduate can tackle that in the most cost effective way without necessitating the presence of smart engineers who demand higher pay checks for the same job.

This air of exclusivity and clannishness lingers in the minds of many for the initial first two years. Unfortunately if they happen to belong to a team that is of a different clan/tribe than their's in many vistas, they connect with their friends and settle in zones that match their bandwidth. A sizeable number of exits in many firms fall under this category.

As I mentioned here, the points stated above are my personal views and are collected from various sources. This is definitely not intended on any organization, firm, group or for that matter anybody and everybody. This is an open post and if someone is willing to share more views on this topic, do blog and tag back, write and share your views.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Window with many views...

The mini-bus comes to sudden stop and I along with few of my colleagues board the bus, which would ply to my destination which is about 5 kms from where I reside. The day has just started and it's 8:30A.M. and the roads are already gridlocked. Congested roadways mean we spend hell lot of hours in traffic. Some newspaper reporter or township planning consultant would equate the lost hours in traffic to the surpassing loss of fuel, not to mention environmental damage, etc. In fact each one of us would have read endless stories on these topics, the infrastructure problems, few resolutions floated by citizen forums to curb this menace, being well aware that governmental action takes years to mature.

I am not going to repeat those chronicles again. This is my personal view from what I have seen, most of the people who quetch about traffic issues are master preachers. This should be done, doing things in that way would make the traffic flow seamlessly but those are the very same people who break the traffic rules, take a left turn when the small hoarding right in front says, 'No Left'. The same set of people who profess, that there is lot of pollution in the environment, are generally the ones who proudly own more than one vehicle which are fuel guzzlers and this is rigidly coupled with the environment contamination issues. You know this, I know this and we all know this. So let's leave the chapter closed here.

What I like, the most during my short long commute by bus is the colors, the multifariousness, the disparities that I see. The society, the changing dynamics of the economy, the emotions in action are the dominant players in this movie called 'The Race'.

Driving in city traffic does not involve a great deal of concentration because we are going through a route that we have traversed before at least more than 10 times and our minds are sort of automated to the flurry of external factors. But is it as smooth as it sounds in my words here? Definitely No.

Road rage and the sudden proliferation of irrational drivers are the prime traffic tremor creators. I feel that keeping aside the infrastructure shortcomings, most traffic jams aren't the result of an accident or a breakdown. The best place to show a child the dynamics of chain reaction is a busy traffic jam. I guess you are laughing now, or saying that I have gone crazy but tell me the truth have you encountered, this or not.

A driver reacts to another driver, more out of ego, disrespect for others, and non-acceptance of one's own fault than anything else. Imagine you are fiddling with the music player in your car, and unknowingly you get close to car in front, hit the brakes, but it's a bit too late. This small mistake can make a queue of vehicles for miles and one gets to hear, the blaring sounds of horns from vehicles. Now if the two people who were involved, in minor mishap would have behaved with a small pinch of maturity, by bringing both the cars aside from the main path and then got into an argument or verbal tussle, then the traffic would have coursed smoothly. A single erratic vehicle can trigger feedback effects that push the entire system into state of stand stillness often denying passage for emergency passengers on the road such as a loaded cab plying to the airport, an ambulance transporting a patient to a specialized hospital in another corner of the city, etc.

How can you be on the road and miss the ubiquitous auto rickshaws. Often known for charging more than the accepted rates, I can see from my bus, an auto rickshaw driver bargaining with a lady, with one hand bent down with the laptop bag and the other carrying the lunch box, rushing to her workplace. 'Madam, traffic jam, madam one and half'. The lady finally agrees and the three wheeled speed demon snakes its way through bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Suddenly my eyes catch glimpse of some of the most adept multi-taskers and acrobats. True to the punch line of Hutch Telecom Services, which goes as 'Wherever you go our network follows', I find many people on bikes and on cars uttering, blabbing and talking on their mobile hand sets, completely oblivious of the outside cacophony. I also get to see benign material side of India's growing economy. After more decades of socialist deprivation, when consumer goods were so limited, today I see the latest models in gadgets right from my bus window. Laptops with plug in data cards for connectivity to the internet even when in transit, Blackberries synced with office e-mail box pumping in messages, iPhones, iPods playing music are no longer scenes restricted to the western world. I see these panoramas amidst traffic.

Earlier seen only on weekends, now seven days a week is their new schedule. I am referring to eunuchs in their usual makeup and sari. Clapping their hands and tapping the closed windows of the cars/jeeps if they are closed asking for money is a usual sight. Those in bikes and auto rickshaws pass on a one or two rupee coin to the eunuchs, immediately to avoid being hassled. Today one- or two-rupee coin has lost its value in general and the eunuchs at times turn aggressive when the amount tendered to them is less than five rupees.

I see, a long 'Q' of cars with the stickers of the various MNC firms on the rear glass, generally on one corner. Few small kids tap the rolled up windows asking for a rupee, probably that would buy them few peanuts or half cup of tea. Suddenly few bikes driven by handsome boys carrying their helmets, their stylish girl friends as pillion riders, dressed in thin sweaters over tights, short boots, high heeled boots, scarves tied snappily around their necks zip-zap-zoom past my bus. Just then I lift my head to see, a new billboard, sporting the flamboyant Vijay Mallaya and it has a catchy punch line 'King of Good Times'.

Right next to the billboard stands, a mother bony thin in physical built and carries a child in a thick blanket wrapped around her waist. The matted hair of the child has a dull look and the mother stares at another lady sitting inside an air conditioned car pampering her may be five year old kid with fresh fruits for breakfast.

You, I and everyone else feel good that India is in on a rapid economic transformation ride but for few, life seems very much the same.

Took this one in a traffic Jam

The mother with her kid now shifts towards the new shopping arcade, hoping that someone would give her an amount that would feed her and her kid for the day. But no luck as the city's rich and nouveau either had spent their money buying Parisian lingerie, Swarovski crystals, FCUK apparels, flat-screen TVs, Virgin mobiles, Calvin Klein jeans, DVD players, digi-cams, and more and more and more or they are just not bothered.

My mind has been wandering across these various boulevards, intermittently flipping through the pages of 'In Spite of the Gods', tapping the window pane of the bus, suddenly to realize that the vehicle has come to a stop and its time for me to enter a classy office corridor.

Now this one is an interesting news that I read recently as to how the Royal Thai Traffic Police, trained 145 of its officers in basic midwifery. The reasons were to help newborn kids needing some help when stuck in the traffic, with their parents and to assist pregnant ladies deliver in traffic. The full story is here.

So next time onwards, don't crib when you are stuck in the traffic. Keep your eyes open and I can assure you a wide kaleidoscope of human emotions, expressions and behavioral patterns to view.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: The picture was taken in Mumbai when stuck in a traffic jam.)

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Someone egged...

I read about this news on the web.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was recently forced to duck for cover under a barrage of (three) eggs during a speech he was giving at a Hungarian University. Apparently, the disgruntled egg-tosser was angry with Ballmer for "stealing billions in Hungarian taxpayer money," which he demanded that Ballmer give back "right now".
The video is below:

Unlike his team-mate, Bill Gates, who was smashed with a cream pie on his face, a decade ago, Ballmer was attacked with eggs when addressing a group of business and technology students at Budapest's Corvinus University. I am not judging this incident from a civic behaviour lens, or display of in-appropriate mannerism for the CEO of one of the world's biggest firms. That's for the various judges to do.

My analysis giving due respect to both the attacker and the attacked is as follows.

To the attacker: Man, don't you know that today the world is overcast by food crisis and you wasted two or three eggs.

guys i think hungarian university should conduct the target throwing tests he missed badly at short distance with more than two throws how sad.

In this regard, I have two options for you to improve your accuracy in hitting the target.

a. Join, the on the field net practise sessions with the Australian and South African cricket teams and even if you throw something from say 80 metres, you would still hit the bull's eye. You know that a game of dart, won't help you in this case because the distance is less.

b. I repeat again, loss of two/three eggs meant someone in some part of the world was deprived of a fluffy omelette. Instead other options worth exploring could have been throwing chairs, microphones and other items. The attacked in that scenario would either hide under desks or escape from the scene for protection. If you feel this is blithering, do check the live action in the video below.

To the attacked: Full points to you for standing for the firm, Microsoft of which you are the CEO. I break up the word Microsoft into two components: 'micro' and 'soft'. I strongly believe that, Ballmer you really epitomise and typify the two broken up words. Note that I am just breaking the word, nothing more nothing less.

Don't you think the physiological reaction of Ballmer to the stimulus within a 'micro' second was a sooper dooper example of micro-split-second-reflex. Someone attacks a person and the attacked takes a 'micro' second to find a safe shelter behind a table.

Fine then things settle in a while, then the attacked displays the 'soft' corner of his/her personality even after the assault. That's something brilliant.

Ballmer says, "Well, that was a friendly interruption" at the end of it, and within a few seconds is back to his speech.

From what I even learnt from my news reading, later in the day, he also accepted an honorary fellowship from the university. This exhibits the 'softer' side of his persona.

Do you agree with me or you don't?

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sunfeast World 10K maadi run...

For a moment forget the regular kvetching that one hears in various sources of news and media regarding Bangalore's woeful infrastructure issues. Keeping aside all these daily resentments, everyone rushed to the Kanteerva Stadium on a bright Sunday morning.

Kanteerava Stadium

But what for? To be a part of the Sunfeast World 10K run, this is an international annual event, and was organized in India for the first time. The Sunfeast World 10k was touted as the richest 10k runs with total prize money of 150,000 USD up for grabs.

The event comprised of six races: World 10K Elite Men, World 10K Elite Women, Senior Citizens run (4 KM), Wheelchair event (4 KM), Open 10K Run and Majja Run (5.7 KM). Since the event was slotted between 6AM and 10:30AM, the city police authorities had made punctilious plans for minimal diversion of traffic during the four-hour marathon which saw active participation of around 20,000 people.

Namma Bengaluru

When I reached the spot around 7:30AM, preparations were in full swing for the Senior Citizens run which saw an impressive crowd of 700 plus participants. Most of senior citizens were aged above 60 but the energy and the exuberance that they displayed, quashed the roar of helicopters circling the stadium. Harmony, an NGO organized the senior citizens run. Each of the participants was given a T-shirt by Harmony and once they were dressed, there was a wave of uniformity at the starting point, very similar to a sight when children assemble in schools for morning prayer before classes commence. The highlight of this race was the high energy level of the senior citizens making them feel as if they were still in their teens. Jokes were cracked, few laughs were shared and there was an infectious air of camaraderie among these people who came not only from Bangalore but also from different parts of India.

Harmony Walk

Oprah Winfrey once said running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it. This was the kind of perseverance exhibited by a group of steel-willed people. Braving the heat and the dust, the handicapped persons maneuvered their wheel chairs, reflecting the true spirit of participation.


Suddenly the action shifted to inside the stadium because the World 10K Elite Men/Women had entered the final stage. In a closely contested run, Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea bagged the 1,50,000 US Dollar Sunfeast World 10K title by completing the marathon in 27:51 seconds just three seconds ahead of his rival Moses Kipsiro of Uganda. The women’s section witnessed the rarest of rare photo finishes in any 10k run, with both Grace Momanyi of Kenya and Elevan Abeylegesse of Turkey, declared joint winners. The complete results can be seen here..

The final lap

There was cut throat competition in the Open 10K run which had large groups of amateur runners, trying their level best to live up to their own expectations. Few ran, few jogged and rest others just walked in the spirit of sport.

Namma Bengaluru, Rocks !!!

Everyone was indeed up and running. It was a place where the east met the west while running.

Where east meets west

The most delightful aspect was to see each one run irrespective of caste, creed, color, religion, sex, age, language, region, etc.

Bangalore Sneaker Lovers

There was one single motive to be a part of the excitement and ebullience.

Even those in pram had fun time

The Majja Run as the name signifies (majja means fun) merriment was the epicenter of frolic and liveliness. Though the distance to be covered for this particular race was only 5.7 kms, what separated this one from the others were the variety and the diversity. There were runners turning up in varied costumes with powerful messages, banners and placards.

Bums of the Saddle

Few celebrities like Dino Morea, Rahul Bose, Charu Sharma and Vijay Amritraj had the crowd screeching as they made their appearance for the Majja Run. Everything here resembled a mini-carnival and fancy dress competition. Girls with different attention-getting dresses very much like the Indianized version of IPL cheerleaders attire.

Indiatimes Team

Someone even put on special clothes to appear princely, like the mighty Tipu Sultan.

Maharaja Ke Jai Ho !!!

The one that surpassed every other costume in terms of ingenuity and colorations was the Ravana attire. Like a bee gets attracted towards nectar, participants were pulled in towards this individual dressed as Ravana to take a few snaps in the midst of the race.

Neo-age Ravana

There were lots of groups and voluntary associations such as Parikrma, Harmony and others who all came under one umbrella 'Bangalore Cares'. This aggroup participated in the race for a number of causes such as children welfare, greener and pollution free Bangalore, togetherness, etc.

DHL : Shape a Child's Future

Team Parikrma: Sports for All

How can an event of such extensive magnitude and variety happen without the support from corporate and business sponsors and advertisers? Well of course there were some sponsors from a wide spectrum. DHL was the logistics partner and it participated in big numbers, with few of the team members having flown from Mumbai. To name a few, Nike was the running partner, Kingfisher, the airline partner, Radio Mirchi as the radio partner, Manipal Cure and Care, as the medical and health partner, etc who passionately supported the cause and diversity of the World 10K experience. CNBC-TV18 was media partner and it brought the event live to millions of Indians on that day, to the television sets from 7AM onwards, along with a potpourri of other coverages and programmes related to this the event.

CNBC Awaaz

Reporting Center for the World

All is all it was a well organized event that got equally receptive reactions from all those who participated for this run. This race put Bangalore in the map of conducting with dynamism and zings a global marathon. More so, it was a testimony to the fact that multiple goals can be achieved through sports and citizen's active participation and above all how sports are a social leveler.

Cheering Bangalore

In this huge ocean of human beings, I could see some human faces which pulled my attention like a magnet pulls pieces of iron. There was this elderly woman selling ground nuts who was a bit perplexed to see a sea of people just running, a very new site from what sees in her day to day life.

Why are all these people running ?

This man was also confused to see this sudden wave of sneaker lovers on an otherwise traffic struck road.


But one of the most satisfying moment in this entire event running with my camera was to capture this bubbly toddler, who had come with her dad and brother (if you can see, the young brother is just hidden from the father) to be a part of this race. She was giving poses which to me meant, 'Daddy isn't allowing me to run or crawl this year, well next year I would be there to tip toe with other people'. That's a smart and emotionally charged expression, so I and my fellow Bangaloreans would wait for you, sunshine girl, till we meet again.

Daddy I want to run too :)

The rest of the pictures are in this album. Naama Bengaluru rocks as always.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Who was she?...

Was Sa happy or was he chasing the rat race? Run, run and run and the road keeps extending. He doesn’t have a definite answer to this query but all he could say is that he was following a pattern, a pre-set societal blueprint. Every morning when he woke up, he used to think about the milestone that he had planned to reach, and late at night when he hit the bed, he used to do a catharsis of how close or how far he was from that destination.

Now if some sensible person asked Sa what he was after, he would struggle for a befitting reply, but all that mattered at that moment, clear like a crystal was to make it big, real big in life. He felt this 'real big' word was a bit deceptive. 'Real big' is like a mirage, the more nearer one goes, the farther the view range extends. Still there is a stage in life, when all these dichotomies just don’t matter much and there is one thing creeping in the mind. That one thing is some goal about which he knew but then again he didn't know.

Time passed by and the so did, Sa in his journey. He worked very hard, learned every trick in the trade. Soon he was walking, talking and behaving like one of those in the business circles, the 'in', 'with it' crowd. Everything he did was always pointed towards getting what he wanted, measured, calculated and assessed. It's not that success was his partner all the time, even the numerous lessons in failure alongside, made him worked harder. His career needle was accelerating northwards, with muddiness still sitting like a couch potato within him. He made lots of friends, who were always there in times of celebration and festivity but couldn't count on any when there was dark cloud over his ceiling.

The badges and emblems of worldly success were slowly getting into his bag. Everyday at around midnight, when he opened the door of the apartment, he was sure that he was getting one step closer to his target. He was not afraid of the loneliness that awaited him as he knew it was only for half a night, and then as morning drew close, he felt energized hoping that in a few hours he would be in his kingdom, with his rules of governance.

And then she came, to use a cliché, like a breath of fresh air after long gap. She was everything that he was not, she stood for everything that he did not, she believed in everything that he did not, she did everything that he did not.

She reminded Sa of the senior professor, who had assigned him with a bagful of responsibilities about a decade ago while he was an intern. Polite, poised, well-behaved, never loosing temper, accommodating, in short humility personified. These are a few commonalities that they shared, but there was a lot more to this remarkable woman. It was kind of a scenario in which one feels overloaded with words to express but you just can’t express. Heart in heart, there is a sudden flood of phrases, similar to the kind when water gushes when the dam gates are opened. She seemed too good to be real. Did he mention she was good? Maybe he was using that word because he was short of words as to how to describe her. Yes, she was good in the sense that she was good in what she believed in, stood for or did. And perhaps that was what made him like her, though he often found her beliefs unearthly, her attitudes and values outdated. Sa could not but admire the way she stood for them and acted on them and, yes, she was really good in that. She stood for 'what you preach is what you practice'.

Sa having come across a host of personalities in his work-circle somehow found her to be unreal. She did not behave like the people he interacted with or dealt with in his day-to-day life, and that really made him comfortable on the surface and uncomfortable in the interior.

She made all his years of bookish experience and knowledge feel like useless, though that was never her intention. That’s how Sa felt it, all acquired skills were just bi-sected and looked upon in a different angle. He was trained to always read between the lines, to study the body language, to know what a person really meant. He always tried to study the expression in the eyes, as they normally did not lie. He also developed the skill that enabled him to see through the veils of words spoken and signals sent. He was trained to differentiate between a genuine smile and a fake one. He learnt to gauge the degree of warmth in a person.

Did any book teach him that, nah nah never.

Everybody around Sa was an actor. Yes, they did show emotions, but everything was calculative. Every smile was calculated every tear was accounted for, every hug executed to enhance relationships, every handshake to convey messages. He was with everyone, but did not belong to anyone. Every relationship had its own value and place in the larger scheme of things and served some purpose or the other and always acted as a mean. Sa was not apologetic about this because everybody did it. That’s the way, life is modeled after in today’s age. Rather, that’s the only way Sa had seen the world so far.

And as Sa said at the very beginning, was he happy? Still no clues about that.

But, she changed all that. He tried to read between the lines, study the body language and always noticed for the eye movements; few were positive hits but every time he failed, he failed miserably. This irritated him, frustrated and angered him; Sa felt he was losing the edge, the ability to get through the veils of people, and that really was a scary thought. So, he tried harder since he never accepted defeat, he was not a loser. But, he failed time and again. But there are times in life, when even the taste of defeat brings comfort.

Her actions always matched the words she spoke, her smile was always genuine, and her hug was always full of warmth. But, how could this be true? How could a person live without pretending or shamming?

From the day she started living with him, his world turned upside down. He returned home early, yes it had become a home, it was not a house bordered by concrete walls anymore. Now, when he inserted the key, he knew there was someone to attend to him. He knew she genuinely cared for him. Her relationship was free flowing, because Sa was the end as well as the starting point for her. Her love for him was unconditional and unselfish and it did not have any ulterior motive, she loved him for what he was.

She cooked all his favorite dishes; she knew what he wants, when. She nurses him when he is ill, she takes him in her arms when he wants to cry (most often in the railway stations and airports before the final departure call) so that Sa feels secure. After so many years, he can laugh and cry when he wants to, not when others expect him to.

Sa is no longer a restless soul anymore. He doesn’t wake up everyday to run and remain ahead of the crowd. Yes, he still enjoys his work, but it is no more the centre point of his existence. There is a big world to explore, just that someone needs to provide one with the right lens to checkout the right colors. He does no longer want to achieve 'it' or reach 'there'. And yes, he is very happy, and this happiness is not a superficial, non-penetrating and deep, vacant feeling like it was earlier. Now his happiness does not need a measuring rod, is not linked to the things Sa is doing or achieving. This makes his new found happiness, complete, composite, stress-free and devoid of any pressure or worries. Yes, it is for real.

And, this has become possible because of her. Sa wonders how he managed all these years without her, after he left for his graduation school. He regrets not having her with him for so long. But, he is glad that he has her now and he wants to make up for all the lost time. He wants to tell her how much he loves her, how essential and integral she is to his existence, how meaningful she has made his life, and Sa wants to thank her for all the things she has done and keeps doing for him, for all the love she has given him, for the care and concern she has shown him and, most importantly, for always being there for him whenever he needs her.

That night after dinner, when she came and sat beside Sa, all he could do was look into her eyes and say, 'Maa, I love you.'

She took him in her arms, patted his back and said, 'Stupid, you need not say that. I know you love me.'
Happy Mother's Day.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: The pic in this post is by David Zimmerly, an anthropologist and world traveler.)

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Learnt this and still more to learn...

Let's go back a bit to the +2 days when solving problems in physics was something that was really interesting and challenging at the same time. Cracking problems from books in Physics by Halliday-Resnick-Walker and Sears-Zemansky was absorbing and engrossing. For instance, solving problems on topics such as velocity, acceleration, momentum was fascinating but when it came to relative velocity, I have seen many students get a bit jittery. Reason for this is that both my subject and object of reference are in motion. Even initially, I used to have problems, but once I grasped the concepts well, I realized that its nothing difficult but an extension of the solving problems related to velocity.

But why am I talking about relative velocity out of the blues?

Though the link is not that straight forward, I scribbled the above part to draw an analogy.

Think when was the last time, you took an awesome picture using a camera. I can smell something here. When the composition was still, you managed to capture the frame, pretty decently to your personal satisfaction. Now when you tried to photograph any moving subject, you were disappointed with your results. Either the picture was blurred or something was faulty that you didn't like.

Can motion pictures be clicked with ease? I feel, yes.

All one needs to do is to understand the shutter speed and aperture adjustment in the camera. I know of a simple technique called panning, which I learnt recently and with this, you can accurately get the output as the one you would have conceived in your mind.

Without getting into too much of technicals, I would say that the aperture adjustment would control the amount of light entering the camera and the shutter speed would control the duration of time the light is exposed. For panning, I would need a slow speed, may be 1/15 second or slower. To take pics of moving subjects, you may opt for a fast shutter speed to freeze the subject. If the selected shutter speed happens to be faster than the subject speed, the final output that you would get would be static and the pictorial element of motion would be missing.

A recommended technique is to select a slower speed and follow the subject along as you take the photograph. This is essentially what panning is all about. There is no rocket science in this and all it needs is a bit of creativity and imagination and then your pictures are just perfect.

Panning Technique

In panning outputs, the main subject is sharp against a blurred background. The idea is very simple, just follow the subject when it passes in front of you and keep continuing doing that as you press the click button on your camera and then even after the shot is taken. It's like the inertia.

Which one is still ?

How do I do it? Just keep your feet firm and still, and then rotate the top half of your body as you chase your subject. Before doing that, you should have pre-focused your camera, with all the necessary settings at a reference point where your subject will pass through. A darker background is always preferred and adds to the output. Like the relative velocity analogy, in this case, once you are comfortable with the shutter speed and apertures in the camera settings, and add to it a pinch of one's imagination, panning becomes an easy nut to crack.

Learning Panning

In all the three pics that you see above, the shutter speed was set at about 1/15 seconds.

More on panning here. Try this and it's really addictive, don't you feel so? Hey, and don't forget to share your pictures, so that even I can learn more.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Lost in the Woods @ Parambikulam...

Two days and the distance that I had to cover was close to 50 kms, trekking thorough one of the best biodiversity hotspots in India. Can I do this or I can't, a cloud of incertitude eclipsed my mind. With this dubiety kicking in mind, I boarded the bus a late Friday night after the day’s work hoping that the weekend would end up with some exciting experiences.

The next day morning, I woke up as the bus stopped in search of the correct route when we reached Pollachi. While we were motoring along the road planked on both sides by trees, I could see big billboards of Jayalalita and Karunanidhi which confirmed my curiosity that we were in Tamil Nadu.

But we were going for trek in the forests of Parambikulam which is in Kerala. The puzzle got resolved when I learnt that the only entrance to this wildlife sanctuary is through the Anamalai Wildlife sanctuary which is in Tamil Nadu. We paid all the necessary fees at the check post to get into the sanctuary and the sky appeared a bit cloudy that day.

Clouds of Blossoms

Along with few others, I was going to start my trek which is commonly known by the name 'Tramway Trek'. There is a little bit of history to this which says...

The tramway was set up in 1905 under the visionary of Maharaja of Cochin Sri. Rama Varma to transport Cochin teak from Parambikulam to Chalakkudy. From there it could be exported to the rest of the world thorough the Cochin Harbour. The total stretch of this tramway is close to 49.5 miles running through the thick forest, crossing many rivers and the time taken to cover this distance was 9 hours. It was around 1953 that this tramway was stopped for a number of reasons.

All that remains today are the remnants in the form of rails, bridges, wagons, etc. A couple of years back as a befitting tribute to the centenary of the Cochin State Forest Tramway, an eco-friendly trekking plan was launched along the tumbled down tramway route. The foot trail along this rail trail will give an opportunity to see the remainders of bygone days of the transport system, besides seeing hundreds of birds and animals including tiger, elephant, sambhar, spotted deer, sloth bear, porcupine etc.

This is one of the best managed wildlife sanctuaries in India.

Welcome !!!

The bus took all the trekkers near the gate of the Parambikulam Dam, which was the starting point of our trek. From the bus, what we saw were a pleasure to eyes, peacocks dancing in the woods and spotted deer milling around.

Inseparable Cousins

The route offered some fresh sites that made me indulge in fantasy as if someone was using the river water bed as a mirror to teach the basics of reflection.

Mirror Image

The trek started at around 10AM and by now the sun was shining bright and smart. The entire trek course was along the river and it was amazingly beautiful.

Like the River Flowing

Since, the initial trek path is flat and regular, I was looking for some excitement and it was just the right time that our guide showed us a herd of elephants near the river bank. After drinking water and cleaning themselves, the elephants moved towards the trek route and this was an ultimate moment of excitement. These colossal creatures were just 60 meters away from the group. We were all lying on the forest’s leaves carpeted floor like soldiers in a war field and I positioned my camera lying down to get a perfect composition. People wearing white shirts and caps immediately put on something non-white because elephants react aggressively to white color. We were resting on the forest floor with pin drop silence, except for the sound of the birds chirping in the woods and the crackling sound that one gets when walking over a bed of dry leaves till the gang of elephants and calves (total number was around 15) passed by.

Mama and baby

It was 11:30 AM by then. Our guide told us that, we could catch some more wild actions since this was the time when a bunch of tigers would plunge into the river for some coolness. Hope ran high, but we couldn’t trace them. But we spotted few crews of deer and sambhar, but these species being a sensitive lot, vanished when they encountered a foreign element in their territory.

The gang reached a small tribal colony in the midst of the forest at around 1:30 in the noon for a small break after having trekked for around 10kms. The entranceway to the tribal colony was a bridge across the Kuriakutty River. The bridge though not in operation, still stands intact and the rail line snakes through some thrilling landscape.

Do you know my story ?

Lunch was served to us by the tribal people, which comprised of simple rice, sambar and cabbage fry dished out in dry leaf plates. The food provided the much needed energy and the journey started again. The dry forest was slowly given way to dense evergreen forests.

Green is the Color

En route, we traced many birds such as grey hornbills, the great pied hornbills, etc. Also I found some snake's outer skin, hanging from the branch of a tree.


As I was trekking through this abode of greenery, a lot of emotions swam through my mind. And one needs to be in such a secluded place to feel vulnerable to the wild, exhilarated, beatified, commoved, expectant, anticipative, disappointed and happy at the same time. There was exquisite greenery all around with no presence of human beings and I was walking alone with music on my ears courtesy my iPod. It just appeared that the road ahead was never ending.

Keep walking !!!

It was around 5 PM in that we reached the endpoint of day one trekking. The night stay was in an anti poaching camp at Muthuvarachal right next to the flowing river at an elevated altitude. Just imagine the excitement, when someone is there in the dense forest, with the only source of light as either the moon-light or the candle light. Insects creaking and mosquitos' bombinating to attack were the only sounds that one could hear. Even though this camp was at a raised tract, surrounded by trenches, there were still chances of tracing some wild animals in the pitch dark.

Candle in the Wind

We had dinner, which was boiled rice and legumes again courtesy, our tribal friends. We woke early in the morning the next day at around 6 AM and set out for a walk. The jungle was fresh with the earthy smells of the morning. Strolling through the luxuriant vegetation, we saw some pugmarks of a leopard and marks left when the prey was dragged over the dampish soul.

Footprints of tiger

We returned from our morning jaunt and had our breakfast at around 9AM. Then we started for our return journey which lacked verve and we planned to trek till lunch time. As I trekked I could see lots of 'manchans' (tree-top houses) but the most interesting finding was a bird studying center in the heart of the forest. This unit is built in the honor of late Dr. Salim Ali, a renowned ornithologist who had found more than 100 species of birds, traveling on the tram way route.

I saw a wide variety of insects, frogs and other creatures during my return journey. It was around 2PM that, we all had lunch in the same tribal colony, where we had food the previous day. Since we were drained out of energy, our guide asked us to take the Tempo traveler else it wouldn't have been possible for us to leave the forest by 6PM.

As the vehicle was traversing through the bends and the curves of Western Ghats, the scene of the Parambikulam dam was breathtaking from a higher altitude. The next break point was to see the largest and the oldest (as it is close to 450 years now) teak tree in the world, Kannimara Teak. Parambikulam was once home to some of South India’s finest stands of teak but most of these are now replaced by teak plantations, which cover around 9000 hectares of forest land.


We saw a couple of monkeys, lion-tailed macaques, Indian Gaurs too from the Tempo traveler. By now it was 6PM and the return journey to Bangalore started. We made a couple of stops on the way back for dinner and for having tea from road side stalls and before we could realize, we were back in the concrete jungle by 4:30 AM.

Since I was tired, I took some rest before the grumbling and groaning Monday work started, unwilling to let go of the endearing and striking Sunday. Monday, I had a business meeting in the Taj Hotel at Bangalore, and then when I was having lunch there in the neatly manicured gardens, it just reminded me, how life changes suddenly. Just 24 hours ago, I was in the woods having food in a tribal colony and now I am in a restaurant, with a great assortment of cuisines.

Well that's how life is. Take it as it comes.

The remaining pictures of the trek are here in this album.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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