Sunday, June 17, 2012

(Yet Another) Response To "An Open Letter To India's Graduating Clases"

A response to:

Dear Employer:

You are not only an Indian company/Bank/Consulting Firm/MNC/PSU; You are also a KPO, a BPO, an IT company, an FMCG company, a Startup, a Social Enterprise, looking for bright, energetic individuals to swell your ranks.

You are not the givers of our paychecks. Your customers are. You not only give us the brand names we covet, you also need us to propagate those brands among all your stakeholders.

Your definition of open-mindedness and enthusiasm in a graduate is that they should do what you want them to, no questions asked.

You want the ASM to tour risky areas in order to push sales with recalcitrant distributors. You set up a system which forces them to manipulate data, primaries and secondaries, undercutting and so on just so that you don't fire the gun which you hold to their heads at the end of every month.

You want the fresher to work on the presentation at Sunday night to cover up for your tardiness so that you can impress your client on Monday morning.

You maintain half the strength you should in your investment banks so that freshers work their asses off till 3 AM on some arcane models and archaic regulations, so that you can deliver your uber cool pitch to some unwilling hapless promoter to get him interested in a deal which won't benefit him in the least.

You are the corporate which thinks freshers come with fringe benefits, such as getting your coffee and cigarettes and photocopying your daughter's homework.Thats how they did it in your day.

Your talk till the cows come home about professionalism, meritocracy and performance based progress. Yet you indulge in politics, bitching and backbiting and favouritism.No fresher comes with all these things ingrained. You have developed a system which makes him imbibe it the hard way.

You produce verbose, jargon oriented rhetoric about frameworks and skill sets and value drivers to impress your clients by confusing them into oblivion, and then complain when freshers try to project themselves as being capable of producing such junk.

You ensure that you "benchmark compensation" and use the "bell curve" to keep employees just below what they deserve. Then you complain when they leave for somewhere with better pay.

In short, as the typical Indian employer so often does, you blame the freshers and make convenient assumptions which reinforce your own prejudices, absolving you of the need for any introspection on your part, as to what it is that you need to do.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

27 Things I Have Learnt As I Turn 27...

1) Quantification is a belief. Numbers lull us into a false sense of precision. The real trick is figuring out what lies behind those numbers.

2) The Digital age is spoiling us into thinking everything is seamless, instantaneous and customizable. Many important things aren't like that.

3) Some categories of people whom we hate - politicians, bosses, policemen, cab drivers - are more or less like us, with a disproportionate ability to impact our lives because of the positions they are in. Hence the hatred.

4) It is a waste of energy to try making optimal decisions. Picking an option which meets all your criteria and which you are reasonably sure you won't regret is, a good thing to do, rather than trying to figure out the best one all the time.

5) There are no good or bad decisions. What matters is the willingness and acceptance to live with their consequences.

6) Being clear-cut, on the whole, is beneficial.

7) The more you understand people, the more you will be misunderstood.

8) Managing life's risks and our perceptions of them is a tough job. A state of perennially heightened alertness wears you down. At the same time, complete ignorance can be fatal.

9) You will act with indignant righteousness at some points of time, and grovel for mercy at others.

10) Sympathy needs to be prioritized.

11) Deviations from routine are painful because we have preset expectations about the future. We don't take things as they come.

12) At times one may start anticipating things so much that the actual happening of those events goes unfelt.

13) People are short-term. Most people just want to move forward to capture the next available gap that they see in front of them. And there's nothing right or wrong about it, that's just the way they are.

14) Beliefs that people are being vindictive towards you or are deliberately making your life miserable, are overstated most of the time. More often than not, things happen to work that way randomly.

15) The ability to anticipate all future possibilities is bounded. Hence, it is better to simply leave a cushion for the unknown - to accept that unforeseen things will happen.

16) We possess a remarkable ability to exaggerate the importance of our own decisions in shaping our lives. That is not to say that we don't have any control or choices, just that we may be overestimating their impact. 

17) Money is important, but it can rarely be an end in itself. It is needed as an enabler or hygiene factor for pursuing other ends, and in this it is important.

18) Goals need not necessarily be defined as end points. In fact, goals are better defined as processes, a template for how you want to lead your life.

19) It is easy to be dismissive of the idiosyncrasies of others, but difficult to acknowledge one's own.

20) People are afraid of exercising judgment and discretion. Many would prefer mathematical rules to make their decisions for them.

21) Life exists in shades of grey.

22) Getting people to commit time, money or attention for something is extremely difficult.

23) Search engines and all the other tools can destroy our ability to expand our horizons if we are not careful. They are all based on more of the same; Highlighting similar stuff; Making the popular even more popular. Which search engine tells you "No dude, you already tried pizza the last time, this time around try sushi"?

24) We are incredibly inconsistent

25) While some people can have an overriding passion in life which they want to dedicate themselves to, for most of us its difficult. Its better to figure out a few things which interest us, then see which of them interest other people who would be willing to pay us for it. Or, we pursue what we want to, without bothering about what we are getting for it.

26) Relationships change. People aren't always around. They all have their tracks to run on.

27) Don’t live life, before you have lived it. Wait for it to pan out, to flow. Your time will come. Welcome it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Cost of Information

To use a cliche, the world is changing rapidly. Really rapidly.

Or put another way, the granularity, detail and depth of information that we have about the world has expanded manifold, creating the perception of rapid change.

I don't know if it's just me, but the cornucopia of data, news and soundbytes with which we can bombard ourselves these days is mind-numbingly enormous. Some big changes, and several smaller ones, in the wide realm of technology, have enabled this. Gadgets, websites, software - you name it. 

Our methods of seeking and sharing information are increasingly customized, push-driven and self-reinforcing. The modern juxtaposition of technology and information allows us to freeze our preferences, prejudices and judgmental shortcuts with alarming rapidity.

Our reliance on systems has increased to levels where slight deviations from our routine (or the expected path) cause us severe heartburn.

At the same time, too much information is being churned out, much of it increasingly useless. Information, at such levels of accumulation, seems to have negative returns to scale.

Additional information crowds out the mind without adding anything of value to comprehension, enjoyment or decision-making. More information actually impairs them, affecting judgement and making us feel helpless.

Worse, prioritizing the flow of information itself becomes a challenge. 

The mind seems to have reached its natural limit in its ability to process, retain and make sense of information. The analytical reasoner is bound to wear himself out, trying to comprehend all of it.

We are in the age of the information treadmill, running just to stay in the same place. The pace of information flow leaves no time to stand still; Comprehending and understanding it takes up all of our time & energy. And unless we learn to actively cut down on our information consumption, we shall continue to be slaves to the flow.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Misery Marketing

An oft stated mantra of marketing in the Indian context is "Jo dikhega, woh bikega" (That which is seen, will sell)

No one knows this better than the beggars on Mumbai's streets. (In the interests of political correctness, perhaps I should use something which sounds better - how about Livelihood-challenged?)

The regulars learn their lessons fast and quick, for the city is ruthless at weeding out the inefficient, be it billionaire or destitute.

Wounds are not covered or stowed away discreetly. They hit you in the eye, in your face, bared for display; Just the right amount of gore to stimulate your lachrymal glands (C'mon sonny, show me some more of that burnt skin, that deformed stump where an arm should have been; I want value for my money)

Facial expressions assume the most gruesome proportions (Look at you, you worthless India shining types sitting in your AC vehicles while I dehydrate in the hot sun outside. Inequality's increasing. Yep. Ask me.)

Then there are, of course, the ladies with babies (Much better if its a baby girl, goes down well on my FB status you know; Affirmative action always gets the likes)

Go for the open window vehicles first. Bikes? Yes. Autorickshaws? Hell yes. BMW with closed windows? Forget it.

Trigger my impulses, as I make my "purchase" decision.

Old and disabled? Give.
Child? (depends - but its all a racket, you know, there are these dadas who teach them to beg..)
Eunuch? (Uhhh...How intimidating is he...she...whatever...)
Glazed eyes? (Uh-oh! Drug addict, only food, no cash)
Arbit stuff seller? (Give, at least hes not really begging)
Car wiper (Ditto, but fast: Don't want him to spoil the windshield)

Signal about to turn green; Quickly now; If its fated he will get it...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Confessions of a Serial PJ Cracker...

PJs. The most under-rated of God's Creations.

Some believe that PJs are a contemptible form of indulgence, a crude titillation for under-evolved senses of humour.

I beg to differ.

Creating a sublime PJ requires the dexterity of an artist, an eye for opportunity, a proclivity for semantic gymnastics that few can aspire to or achieve.

No word, event, situation, news or remark passes the PJ cracker by without scrutiny.

A PJ cracker is a humour entrepreneur, always excited by opportunity, by combinations, looking beyond the obvious to see what can be...

And then springs forth the perfect PJ, enrapturing all in its wake;In one climactic moment of epiphany, when the entire gathering of unwilling listeners stands stunned at the spectacle that just unfolded.

No autographs, please.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


The rickety fan was making that irritating sound again.

The first occupant in the room stopped knitting, looked up, and sighed deeply.

"We must do something about that fan, mustn't we, my dear?" she said

The second occupant of the room, seated in her lap, purred softly.

"That's right, I knew you would agree with me. You be a good boy while I go and look for someone to repair it"

Saying so, the old lady got up from her rocking chair. With great difficulty, as her weak 82 year-old knees struggled to bear her weight.

Hobbling unsteadily, she picked up her shawl and put on her shoes. And of course, the walking stick, her other significant, though inanimate, companion.

She stepped out of the room. The weather outside could have been marvelous, but fell short; There was something subtly wrong, as if the perfect day had changed its mind suddenly and decided to throw a tantrum.

She saw him again. He was holding that girl by her wrist.

"Why don't you come with me, darling and I will show you what the good life is all about..."

"Let me go" the poor girl pleaded, nearly in tears.

The man laughed cruelly in reply.

She peered through her spectacles, struggling to make out the two people, one forcing, the other forced, in front of her.

"Young man, it will be better if you let go of her" she spoke sternly

He looked at her with disdain.

"I suppose you will stop me, you old hag?" He sneered.

She didn't reply

All of a sudden, there was a loud bang. The man looked with horror as his shirt turned crimson. He fell, coughing, as the look of surprise froze on his visage. His eyes remained open.

The girl ran away, screaming and sobbing.

She came back inside and plonked herself back on the rocking chair.

"I couldn't find anyone to repair the fan, dear" She sighed.

She started knitting again, picking up where she had left off.

There seemed to be a flurry of activity outside. The wail of sirens could be heard.

"We seem to have visitors" she remarked, as she petted his head.

He looked at her, thumping his tail in assent. The rocking chair moved back and forth.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The cellphone rang. It was eerie, in the dark room, as the the bright lights of the phone flashed. Unknown calling, the display displayed. There was something predatory about the ring, as if it were a hound baying for the blood of its potential prey, as if it would ensnare anyone who answered its call. At the same time he felt fascinated by it, experiencing the primeval urge to touch something which may be dangerous. Beads of sweat accumulated on his forehead. He buried himself deeper into the quilt.