Sunday, November 30, 2008

26/11: Beyond the statistics...

My mind is now nothing but a quagmire of emotions. Revenge tempered with a feeling of mercy, anger allayed by peace, sadness battling with a worn-out happiness that it is all over, growing insecurity versus a heave of relief for the moment named ‘now’. Contradictions galore. But, for the first time, an edition of the ‘Times of India’ set me thinking. For once, publicity seems not the choice of the paper, and the opinions and the comments within its folds have content, to the extent of spurring off a few thoughts within me, that I think deserve an echoing. This article is a spontaneous elaboration and hence a representation of the feeling of many an Indian. Hence, it is only proper that editing need not hinder the flow of thoughts.

This is for those politicians who tried to gain leverage by flaunting the regional flavour, till-date. It required people from the whole of INDIA, read INDIA (that’s our country’s name, just in case you forgot it while hyperventilating over issues of regionalism), to control the situation. The NSG commandos who rushed in were natives of states as distant and geographically spread out as Haryana, Bihar and Kerala. Now, these people might have been dumb enough to think beyond the states. They could have simply resisted, saying, “But we do not have permission from the local leader there, to set foot on Mumbai soil.” They didn’t. That could be because they have this virtue called patriotism (what does that mean to you, anyway?!) burning within them, full-throttle. I am not quoting your name here, sir (I am sceptical as to whether you deserve that title), but petty politicians like you will live counting votes, and die counting votes. It’s a waste of a life if you can’t feel for your country. It’s mere existence. Routine pumping of blood within your heart, coupled with synchronized functioning of all biological systems. You may have your men, money and muscle power. It takes only a bullet to murder, we know, but it takes a lot to think before pulling the trigger. Peace and a longing for it. There is nothing more shameful than having to eat one’s own words in front of a nation. My heart goes out to the gullible millions who will still pay heed to your parochial advice.

Arm the police personnel with better equipments. C K Prahalad’s “Bottom of the Pyramid” theory is not only for the FMCG sector and related industries. It is for everyone, to take a cue from. Ignore the basics at your own peril. Continue buying Sukhois, and do push to purchase even better fighter aircrafts. Purchase an aircraft-carrier more, yes, but please do spare a thought for the “bottom of the pyramid” officials. Arm them better. The days of the pistol are long gone...

This is for the people. Please stop blaming the police personnel, and the commandos. I overheard a group of friends cynically ridiculing the police personnel and the commandos shown on TV. Comments varied from their physical stature to their not taking guard right after getting out of the van. Please remember that they have had their share of training and previous experience, however small. They know better than you and I do. Give specialists the respect they deserve. It is not as part of leisure that they come armed with minimal equipment, barge into a warzone, and risk their lives to save ours. It’s all so plain and obvious when you sit in the cosy cocoons of comfort at home, and criticize people literally working their heads off at Ground Zero. Dare to at least imagine being one of them.

Coastguards... The country needs to work on that, for it now seems the easiest way anyone can intrude into the country.

Please stop praising the “resilience” and the people’s ability to “get back to business”. THIS IS NOT OUT OF ONE’S VOLITION, BUT RATHER OUT OF COMPULSION. COMPULSION TO EARN, SUSTAIN AND SURVIVE. The Mumbai floods did see people exhibiting resilience, but continuing to work amidst blasts and attacks is a necessity. It’s HELPLESSNESS. It’s LACK OF AN ALTERNATIVE.

To conclude, I salute the Personnel who have laid down Their lives for the country, fighting, killing and capturing terrorists. The united resolve to fight terror, if any, can manifest only through brave Officers like You, Sirs.

“Thanks a million, our lives are in your hands” is all we can say to the thousands of personnel involved in restoring peace in the city. We residents are but people of words. We are incapable of anything more than standing by you, Sirs.

The Tricolour will continue to fly high.

Unconquered dreams (the true and peaceful ones) shall reach their desired end.

The Taj will be rebuilt...


Friday, November 14, 2008

IT, ITES and the Iron Man

The "Iron Man" refers not to the relatively new Hollywood movie, or to Sardar Vallabhai Patel, or to Ozzy Osbourne's song. Rather, it speaks about 'The Man with the Iron'. The 'Iron' being the heavy cast-iron box of yesteryears with burning coal in it, used to press clothes, and the 'Iron Man' being its operator without whom life would never have been the same in residential colonies, for he is the first facilitator of every official meeting.

Come to think of it. If our shirt stays wrinkled, where then arises the question of going to work?!

Normally, society today doesn't pause to think of such people, for time doesn't allow it to, and if it does, thought doesn't allow it to. If both do, most of society consciously ignores such people, for interacting with them affects and reduces this quality called 'Social Status'.

To illustrate this further, let's sample a bit of a conversation I happened to hear. Let's name the customer a Socially Over-conscious Person (SOP), and the Iron Man as IM.

SOP: Marches towards IM, a dozen (markedly expensive) clothes in hand, and yells a standing instruction:
Description: The above words were purposely typed in block letters, for that's how offensive SOP sounded. Instructions in every sentence flavoured with impoliteness, restricting IM's right to move around, imposing conditions on paying him for his work, and always slamming an IMPOSSIBLE deadline. To top it all, inherent dissatisfaction with the quality of work he did.

IM: "Sir, it is Sunday today, and I already have many clothes marked URGENT. It may take three hours, sir."

A rude stamp of the foot, and a ruder last-glance at IM, which meant to say, "A person so low in the society speaking to me like that, and I am supposed to tolerate it!! I will show him who I am."

SOP was a Project Manager in the IT sector. The purpose of explicitly quoting the designation and the sector is not to belittle either. It's for a purpose which will gain clarity as the story progresses.

I was a silent witness to the above incident, for I was at the nearby tea-shack. I went home and the same evening, my roommate and I marched to IM's shop with our clothes. We told him we would collect one pair that night (while returning from dinner), and the rest later. We had dinner, and realising that we did not have drinking water in store, bought a couple of Bisleri bottles. We were soon back at IM's shop, where we were told to wait, for he was not yet done. My friend went back to our house, and I took a seat on one of those cement sacks filled with rags, placed by the side of the shop.

The first pair of formal pants had a glossy surface, was manufactured by one of the leading brands in the country and WAS expensive, MRP-wise. I had purchased it at a 50% discount, though, for it was bought during stock-taking season, and moreover, I was to attend a string of Group Discussions and Interviews, to secure admission for an MBA.

IM spoke to me in a gruff voice, and looked at me with scorn written all over his face. I was quite conscious of this, but decided that mum's the word, till he spoke. He did, though, and flung more of scorn at me. The entire conversation has been written in English, for universality's sake.

IM: "Expensive pair of trousers, aint it?"
Me: "Not really, I bought it at half the price, from a discount sale. I wouldn't have dreamt of buying it at MRP."
IM: "And what's that in your hand? You people drink only bottled water? Won't you people use tap water that the municipality provides?"
Me: "We usually buy 20 litre water bottles from the nearby Kirana (Hindi for a departmental store). The Kirana was closed today, and our work schedule does not allow us to boil tap water and wait for it to cool, hence the mineral water!"
IM: "Aha!! So you work in software too, don't you?"

I now understood him. Anyone who wore seemingly expensive trousers and drank mineral water was an SOP, for IM! I had to clear this misconception, and though I didn't usually pick up arguments with people, I was adamant on debating out this one.

I continued the conversation. I said, "I saw what happened today morning. But not everyone who drinks mineral water ought to behave like an SOP. Moreover, drinking from a Bisleri bottle once never means that our motor pumps mineral water to the overhead tank!"

"I know and understand that there exist people within this very colony, who feel that earning money is the be all and end all of life. For them, you may connect glossy pants and mineral water to sheer arrogance, and ignorance of everything simple and cheap. By including us in the same category, you are only inviting more of the customer's wrath. This neighbourhood has around fifty people of our age group, and if your aim is to test the level of arrogance of every software employee, I am afraid you are digging your own grave. All I can assure you is that not EVERYONE is as angry and arrogant as that lone customer you met this morning."

Our pal realised his mistake, but the crux of the matter lies elsewhere. "Spending power" is a boon that the IT & ITES sector has bestowed on this age group of people. Fat paychecks unheard of in the past suddenly became a reality, for a generation that had barely completed its graduation. This sudden spurt of income caused a macroeconomic upward shift of purchasing power that enabled people to indulge more in luxuries. On the flip side, it ushered in arrogance. The I-have-money-means-I-am-lord-of-the-world attitude. The Associate Software Engineer quarrels with the Team Lead, because of his arrogance. His thought reads, "I graduated from this reputed institute, and this company has recruited me for what I am. With so high an IQ, I can't possibly let someone boss over me, even if he is the Team Lead." The latter being as arrogant, if not more, thinks, "Yesterday's kid, now a toddler, with all of half-an-year of work experience, dares to point a finger at me!" This arrogance reaches permanence, and is exhibited as and when the opportunity arises, or the need to create one does. The waiter at the hotel, the IM, the watchman at the office gate, etc. are but victims of such behaviour.

The consequence is this: the common man scoffs at any person who is dressed in glossy pants, and/or carries bottled water with him. The common man has started ignoring and/or hating the IT employee. When I talk to auto drivers, they look surprised that someone working in the IT sector actually talked to them! We people in the IT sector are now looked down upon as people who "know the price of everything and the value of nothing", to borrow Oscar Wilde's quote, though he used it in a slightly different context.

Someone recently expanded IT-ITES as:
Inconsiderate Techies - Immensely Talented at Exhibiting Surliness!!