Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stars on Earth

I watched Taare Zameen Par today at Sigma.
The movie is just fantastic, and I think it's the best Hindi movie I have watched all year. Aamir Khan is such a genius.
If ClusterMaps down there isn't lying and all you people from all those countries do really visit here, then please go watch this movie. It's in Hindi but if you require subtitles I am sure you'll find a copy with those too.
I hope Aamir takes this movie to the Oscars.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Growing Divide

I just got back from lunch at the Terminal. Today being Saturday, it’s normal to see campus teeming with people but of a different kind. Today you’ll find older men and women and really young children too. Saturday is the day that employees bring their families to visit this beautiful and sprawling campus with its seven food courts, lush green lawns and towering innovatively-designed buildings, the software development blocks or SDBs. It’s a pleasant sight. Children run ahead of their parents, making full use of the vast open space free of traffic, while the parents amble behind, taking in the sights and sounds of the place that their other halves call home for most part of the week.

This campus being the signature office and global headquarters of the company, there is constant construction activity here. Although the construction and the people working there are seldom seen on the main parts of the campus, every once in a while they are seen enjoying a walk on the campus in the evenings. Like today. As I was returning from Terminal, I witnessed something that pierced right through my day dream, and creating this urge to let out my thoughts here. I saw the family of an employee, well dressed and all made up, little son bounding back and forth on the walking track. And watching them, were a father and son, sitting in the corner, near where the construction site is cordoned off with green net. The man was obviously a construction worker, the boy his son. They watched as the young family stood to admire the Terminal, the front-loading-washing-machine building, the Coffee Day… The boy would have been no older than the little kid running around his parents on the walkway, in his new tee shirt and shoes. The other boy, in stark contrast, wore old and dirty clothes and was barefoot.

As the two families, in sharp contrast with each other, came within the same line of my vision, I was reminded painfully of the increasing social divide in this country. I was wishing just moments ago, that I had thought to invite my own family over for the weekend to visit the campus, and that one picture brought me jerkily out of my reverie. To me, this company is a reminder of what India has become today, of the growing economic power and the waves that it is creating in the global playground. It is an edifice of India’s favorite success story, of what dreams can achieve and of how ordinary mortals can affect a change so drastic. But today it became a reminder of how companies like these are doing little to bridge the gap between the two extremes of Indian society. As IT makes more money, the techies are raking in the cash, and cities like Bangalore become more expensive to live in. The poor pay the price for this. As our standard of living goes up, their standard of living does not see a commensurate increase and as a result they remain where they are, what little money they have losing its value with each passing day. India’s greatest employer is IT and ITES, both fields requiring an educated workforce. They compensate for their increasing demand for resources by recruiting large numbers of people from campuses across the country.

Unfortunately, rural India is not seeing an increase in primary or secondary education and therefore the IT success story bypasses that stratum of society completely. The few who do manage to make it to BPOs in the cities do so with immense hardships and sacrifices. Young parents of rural India hope for a better future for their offspring, one that is different from their own and does not involve doing menial labour to earn a living. How long will it be before their dreams turn to reality? Consider even the poor living in India’s metros. Most of them still do not go to school. The few who do, cannot afford the fees to study beyond class 10 or 12 and therefore drop out, joining their parents at their jobs as house-cleaners and cooks. I am not denigrating labour here, but I wish every child had access to education so that he could at least have a chance at a better future, one that a lot of urban Indians are enjoying today.

I wish corporate India could take the onus of education in villages, at least as an investment for their future workforce. With CSR gaining the kind of importance it has, I wish each company could “adopt” a village and take responsibility of primary and secondary education there by building schools or sponsoring education for families or helping schools build facilities that would keep children engaged. I read somewhere that the biggest issue plaguing rural schools is the lack of teachers because of poor wages. If companies could pump in funds to schools so that they may pay their staff better, it could help make the functioning of these schools a lot better. In Chennai, Sneham, the CSR arm of the Chennai office works in these areas by helping schools with infrastructure such as toilets and furniture. I am sure there are other such organizations. Perhaps giving them more publicity through the media would make people aware of ways in which they can help bridge the social divide.

Friday, December 28, 2007

In The Run Up To New Year

This is going to be the first new year's eve that I am NOT going to look forward to.
You guessed right, I am going to rant, so click off if you're having too much fun and don't want to have to deal with one whiner right now.

Back to the new year's eve that I am not looking forward to. I am alone, away from family, in a god forsaken part of India's happening city. I am working on new year's eve AND on new year's day. I am going to be running around getting a million different papers in order before I fly out. And believe me, running around here sounds like a great work out at first, but loses the novelty soon enough - I am not making this one up. I have been running from one end of this sprawling campus to the other all day and my head is pounding and I can't even will my feet to take me to Terminal for dinner! And after all this running around, I still have not got any of the documents I was promised. Am I pissed or what!

This weekend I'm going to be here on campus, trying to wrap up my applications. I still have one very important essay to write from scratch, for my top college preference. I'm hating myself for getting into this state - had I begun earlier I'd be paying credit card bills for all college applications. I've just done two of them so far and I have my most important ones coming up next week. So basically this weekend is going to be spent in front of a dell desktop tap-tapping away to oblivion. I don't know about you but my life sure is happening!

With seemingly million things to do before next Thursday and feeling the need to be in more than one place at a give time, I'll be really fortunate if I get out of this place in one piece and more so if I make it to my flight on Friday night with all my papers and luggage intact. I'll squeeze in one more post later about this flight thing that I'm suddenly talking about. Beginning yesterday I seem to have been overloaded with information that makes very little sense. Thankfully I've made copious notes ( or so I think) so I'm going to pore over them as bedside reading tonight so that I can make some sense out of them.

Basically this new year's is going to suck big time. I probably won't even know when it comes and goes. And I'll probably be ultra cranky too. I'm already getting there.

Of all the months for this to happen, why in god's name did it have to be the holiday season?????

As I was pondering on the labels to put for this post, I put in experiences too. And I got to thinking how I would justify this post as an experience. Well turns out it is. It's going to mark the beginning of a year that is going to change my life completely, in so many more ways than I can foresee now. This party's just getting started!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


After watching all corporate events at the company via webcast over the last year and half, I finally got to watch one event live at location last night. The Awards for Excellence were held here at the Bangalore campus (as always) last night and I had been looking forward to watching the event live for some time now. And what do you know, I was not one bit disappointed!

This year our special guests were a noted journalist and news show anchor from CNBC (SB) who was present here for the event and Sunita Williams via telecon! Now you can see why I was all excited! Of course one of my favorite personalities from the company, the proprietor of the flat world concept (FlatWorld), was here too and I always look forward to what he has to say.

The weather was as amazing as always. Chill, windy (coming from down south, this kind of weather tends to get me high!) and with a slight drizzle every now and then. Not everyone would agree with this being awesome weather but it didn’t dampen anybody’s enthusiasm and the crowd only increased as the event progressed. There were employees after a day of work, sitting with Coffee Day mobile coffees in hand, wrapped in their shawls and sweaters, or like me, zipped up in jackets. Since it was an awards ceremony, there were the customary men and women in ultra formals – these were the award winners, all decked up for the moment before the flash bulbs posing with SB and FlatWorld; these pictures will then sit smartly atop the glass shelves in their cabins at work, ensconced in weather proof frames. There were also the families of the award winners: young wives and toddlers, old parents, dressed in warm wear and clapping enthusiastically when their children went on stage to receive their awards.

I’ve never been too much of a fan of SB’s. I guess it’s because an ex-teamie of mine would go on and on about her – he is a big fan- and so I just got too sick of hearing about her to actually think about whether I was a fan or no. Of course, I like the way she does the news. But that’s it. But given my background, I have deep respect for women achievers, especially those in fields where there are many different levels of the glass ceiling that one has to breach before straddling a position of authority. And therefore, yesterday I realized that I would have to admire SB for her determination, if nothing else, that came through in her succinctly worded speech. She spoke about the lessons she had learnt as a journalist, in the industry for a decade. She was articulate, confident, humble and most of all, willing to share her experiences. Although her speech did remind me a bit about a business school essay, but that’s probably because I’m so saturated!

Sunita Williams was once again, not a disappointment. With all the newsprint and media attention she has been garnering in recent times, there is very little about her that we do not know. Yet the company had done a good job of picking the questions that would be posed for her to answer. These questions were submitted by employees on an internal forum and about ten questions were handpicked among those. Although we could not see Sunita, we could hear her smile and laughter as she graciously answered all the questions and participated in a little friendly banter with the hostess, a popular radio jockey from Bangalore.

Soon it was time for the event to wrap up. The guests would be whisked off to their hotels in the speedy and silent golf carts that will course through the many routes between the OAT and the main gate of the campus, and the OAT would wear its habitual deserted look once more. People all dispersed a little earlier to dig into the buffet that was arranged for them. I had to make do with paid dosas from the Terminal because I don’t belong to either centers so my name was not on the food coupon list! Ah, the travails of being a temp-transferee!

The only disappointment of the evening was FlatWorld. Despite the name and the connotation, I always enjoy his speeches. He has lots to say and he says it well. He’s got the stage presence too – yes I’m a fan! So what? Unfortunately he decided to introduce SB and remain a mute spectator for the most part. Too bad! The last time I watched FlatWorld live, during training at The Campus, I was completely bowled over by his presence there. I even got to take a picture with him!!!

But that couldn’t take away from the fact that I was watching yesterday’s event live at Bangalore! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bench revisited

Just because I'm from IT, it doesn't mean I am going to talk about that eagerly anticipated period in one's career in IT, the time when you are not required to clock more than six hours a day and your responsibilities involve ensuring that every chain mail or forward that you receive in your email inbox is religiously forwarded out to countless other people. So no, this is not about that.

This is about a tradition from training days at "The Campus" where the gang used to sit on these wooden benches under the trees near the hostels. They were also smoking zones, so it suited most members fine. It was shady, and there was just enough room for the entire junta to sit and talk crap for hours. Real crap. Stuff ranging from Rajnikanth's so called greatness to brands of underwear ( I swear only some members of the gang participated in that last one).

After training, I moved to a different city on transfer and the benches here were smoking zones only. Which meant that if you went there, you had to have a cigarrette... Actually you'd be lucky just to find a place to sit! So recently, I had the opportunity to "put bench" again, here in Bangalore. Even the weather was like training times - a nip in the breeze that was blowing through the sprawling campus, enough to keep my jacket zipped all the way to the chin. What was different was that this time it was just two of us. And a bag of soggy MacDs and more soggy french fries! We discussed stuff again, not crap this time of course.

I was reminded of how much our lives have changed, some for the better and some that are so different from earlier times, younger days. Now, there was too much to discuss and none of it was crap. I felt a little sad about that. But it's ok. I like to think that the crap belongs to days gone by. The here and the now are the most important, especially for both of us who were there at the bench next to the Terminal. I can see that we're all on separate tracks now... some converge some diverge but all essentially remain unique.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What else can go wrong??

Based on personal experience, here are somethings that can go wrong in the bschool application process:

So you've written the essays for your applications, and you're feeling all proud of your work. So what do you want to do next? You want to show your essay the light of the day. It's really important to get your essays reviewed by the right people. A lot of people will offer to review it for you. Still more will agree when you approach them to review. It is your call on who you want to pick. There is lot of gyaan on the net about the right kind of people to pick to review your essays. So I am not going to repeat that. But I will warn that there is a chance that none of your reviewers will get back to you with their inputs. Your printouts/emails will be languishing in their shelf/mailbox and you'll never hear from them. I found my saviour in two people, thankfully, one who patiently reviewed my essays ( and will continue to do so) and the other who I approached right at the last minute when I was desperately in need of another reviewer. This second person was the last person I would have thought to ask. Just goes to show that you can find help in the most unexpected places.

Essays are really not too much of a battle. The real battle is the recommendations. Again, there is enough gyaan on the net about whom to pick as recommenders and that titles don't work blah blah blah. It is most important to heed that advice. It is even more important to make sure you give your evaluators enough time to fill this stuff. If you looked at the questions you would know that they do not require too much thinking. One hour tops. If your evaluator had good things to say about you, then he/she will not have to dig right into the recesses of his/her brain to get them out. People who read this blog and know the screw ups that happened in my recommendations will know what I am talking about. So here is where choosing the right evaluators comes into the picture. Choose someone who can manage his/her time well enough to not give you excuses a week before your deadline about how they were caught up in work - this after being nominated 2 months in advance. Choose someone who really knows what to write for you. It doesn't matter if he/she has written recommendations for other people. You still have to evaluate if this person has the right skills ( viz communication, thinking) to give you a recommendation. Remember that it can make or break your application. I know it has broken at least one of mine.

Dont wait till the last deadline. There is a possibility that you might get transferred. Or go onsite. Or have a sudden upheaval at the workplace that ruins your state of mind and saps you of motivation. Or all of the above. I know you're thinking, " Man, I'm so screwed if this happens!" Well it does. Trust me.

At the end of all of this, if you still manage to get your applications in on time, then you'd better have strong prayers. Because after all the screw ups, it will dawn on you that you cannot go through this again, and that you'd rather get out of your current situation than have to stick around another year or two and give Wharton a go, because you'd have more work experience or you'd have got your promotion or you'd have international experience or all of the above.

For having warned you, please send out a prayer for me so that I may get through a college of my preference and not have to go through this crap again.


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