31 July, 2008

The Lawyer

This is about a friend. She is one of the brightest and funniest people I have met - a budding writer, a human rights lawyer and a child at heart.

I met her in London, where she was on a scholarship (of course!) to do a one year post graduate course in Law and Literature. I did not know that these two things could be or needed to be taught together. I still have limited ideas on the subject. This was the cool thing about knowing her - she came from a very different background. She thought differently and had a different approach to life. All my friends were mainstream professionals - engineers, MBAs, bankers and the odd CA. Most, if not all of us were in it for the money, more or less. It was nice to get to know someone who cared enough about things to devote time in it. Someone who read things and then went there to help. She had lived and worked and taught in refugee camps (At the same point in time, I was in a campus about 4 kilometers away with nothing much to do). She had lent a hand when dams were to be stopped from flooding villages. Her job after law school was with a firm which worked on gender and sexuality issues. Someone just posted a comment about how we live in our shells and tend to forget how bad things can be. This one was different. She always wanted to be in the thick of things.
She was the kind who could give a 20minute rem on Freud (very contextual, because I used to live in a house right opposite Freud's home) and make it quite interesting with examples and subtexts. She taught me words like poco (which is short for postcolonialism) and new words which were used in poco literature. For some reason, she used to think, rather strongly believe, that I am (or people like me were) homophobic(s) (I really wish there was a milder word for this).  I had never thought on those lines, nor do I think I am one, but still, it remained quite a discussion point for us.
What were the things we had in common - interest in lots of food and lots to drink, making merry and chatting about all and sundry  Other common traits - laziness and chaos. Trust her to miss a lecture (she used to have about 2 in a week) because of all kinds of reasons. Chaos - this one was worrying sometimes and she did surpass me. Missing deadlines, rocketing phone bills, dropping things.. She had this knack of finding things which did not belong to her (like she once found a cheque which she then returned after locating the owner).

Here's to the lawyer chick. Happy Belated Birthday. 

28 July, 2008

Life and times at L 326

I work at Envigo and love it, though I will be accused of being biased. There are about 12 more people here - the number keeps changing (increasing) though this month is the first month this number has not changed till now. They may not share my opinion, but chances are, that they will.
There are a few simple things which make Envigo a good office -
 - work timings are not emphasized, work is
 - there are clear and mutually agreed upon appraisal documents
 - client work is rotated amongst the team and across functions
 - there is ownership of performance - both good and bad
 - analysis is emphasized upon, reporting is only an enabler
 - the food is good and there is beer once a month
There will be some profit sharing, once there are some profits to be shared.
More than an advertisement for a job, this post is a snapshot of the way things are here, in what will be referred  later (if there is one) as the "early days."
What are the things which need to change -
 - Documentation of a few processes needs to be improved
 - Mind numbing carelessness by the promoter has to be tamed
 - A good agency person needs to be hired - we can learn a lot from such a person
 - We need to move into better premises

24 July, 2008


A large part of my day was spent as below:
  1. Gurgaon Sector 43 to Sarita Vihar - 31 km - 2 hours
  2. Sarita Vihar to Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon - 40 km - 1 hour, 10 minutes
  3. Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon to South City 1 - 10 km - 1 hour, 30 minutes
It is sad because Gurgaon is a new city - it did not have 50% of its currently built up areas 10 years ago. All of Gurgaon is planned - there are broad rectangles of land cut across by roads. The growth was probably not expected. But how could they miss out on public transport? That is not a recent invention.
Every one has to have a car. Last week, I went for a walk with my parents just outside the gated community we live in. We stepped out to buy ice cream. I realised that it was the first time I was crossing a road on foot in Gurgaon. I also realised why. The traffic is incessant and there are no pedestrian friendly features. So, we have city which has a zillion plots worth about a million times more... did we forget that people will live in it? Some, at least. It is a city meant for the double-income-no-kids, I-spend-half-my-time-in-the-US IT/ITES family who have one car per person and are supported by an army of servants.
But surely not every one can own a car... how will they manage?
Is that even a question we need to ask? Is that a question any one asked? If you travel across Gurgaon at rush hour, you wont be blamed for thinking that no one did remotely think of asking this question. Large parts of Gurgaon were developed not by the perennially blundering government agencies - HUDA divided the land into sectors, but the sectors were developed by dynamic companies like DLF (remember the largest IPO ever in 2007! now trading at a 30% discount to the issue price) and Unitech. There are no provisions for buses or taxis inside the colonies. No body really misses these provisions, because there are no buses.
Why does any of this happen? Why does not any one seem to care?
The rich get richer and do not really care about anything. Every couple of days, they complain about the country going to the dogs while staring into their single malt. The educated middle classes are breathlessly emulating the rich. They spend more and save less. And since there are about 200 million of us, the average Indian family looks quite bling and sits happily every time there is a power cut or a traffic jam.
What happens to the not-so-rich?Caste and religion decide that there is someone who will stand up for you, so what if the issues are economic or welfare oriented in nature. No wonder the parliament touches new lows only now.
Democracy ... of the people, for the people and by the people.
We can only get what we can come up with! Someone should have thought about this earlier!

Have a look at the below - Omar Abdullah (from the NC) making the Left (who is now in bed with the Right) squirm!

17 July, 2008

A good day

Today was a good day overall. Good days for me mean two things -
- things falling into place
- being able to realise it
Most of the day was part 1 from above and this blog is a way of cementing part 2.
So what were the things which went right today -
  1. Woke up somewhat late, but was able to leave early by getting ready quickly, less traffic on the way to work, was able to sleep during the ride into work and reached office by 10
  2. Did a lot of work - finished some long pending work, called up potential clients, tackled a few small issues for the team and for one of my clients
  3. Billable work started for a new client (thanks to a 15 page NDA, I can not tell you which one) - From the time you meet a client, getting to the getting paid bit is a long way. It involves meeting them over and over again, making them understand how we might be able to help them, draft a contract, negotiate over points, get a signoff from them, wait for them to get a signoff from their bosses, start billing, raise an invoice, chase up with accounts and finally opening a letter to see a cheque inside. Start to finish can take anywhere between a few weeks (god bless such clients) and a year! however, once billing starts with a new client (as in, the meter on how much work we do for a client project starts) usually means a lot of pain is over.
  4. Emails from old colleagues is always nice. I spent almost 4 years of my life at a new place - and a large fraction of the total number of people I knew in London was due to my work place. Now that I am in Delhi again, it is nice to get emails from them.
  5. Chit chat with friends all day - AR was sending mails at the rate of 5 an hour which is always fun
  6. At about 6, thanks to facebook, I was part of a plan to go to a nice lounge/bar with two friends. I had been thinking that my social life was testing new lows this week and this plan hit the spot. What I also liked about the plan was that it started early and had the potential to end early and seemed harmless enough. I panicked for a bit at the fact that I had signed up for a singles night, but then realised that this was Delhi and such a plan would mean 15 men and 2 women. Since I was going in with two women, I already was on talking terms with them and my worries of having no one to talk to were put to rest. There was surprisingly less traffic and I was a few minutes early to pick up my friends. Thankfully, they were ready to go and we were at the place on time.
  7. So the singles night out turned out as expected - 3w + 8m. What was nice was that even the men, except for Pappu (about whom I will soon), were nice people, and they were ok to hang out with. All of them had interesting jobs, interesting lives and were also great for conversation. Soon, the group had managed to locate common friends and acquaintances and the drinks were flowing.
  8. It is always nice to spend time with YS. I have known her for so long now and she is the same - chilled out, no hangups, great sense of humour, lots of stories to swap and a common list of people about whom I can bitch about to her.
  9. SS as well is really nice. She can hold her own, no matter the audience. Like she spoke for a bit to Pappu, who had also come for the singles night. He was the kind of guy who gives Delhi a bad name. Rich and showing it, somewhere between little and no class (depends upon how charitable you are feeling), no respect for anyone, loud mouthed. Of course, very rich, with a few acres of prime land in his name with a few factories sitting on them.
  10. Post-Pappu (he left quite soon) and post-dinner, on the way back, we realised how much we all felt about Pappu (Especially SS, who politely bore the brunt of his attack) and we talked about him for quite a while. Such cut and dried real life caricatures are very useful in making friends and getting to know people - you get to know what the others noticed about him, which gives you an insight into how they think and what they are made of...
  11. Finally, as I dropped my fabulous company and was driving back alone, I was happy to note that there were no police checks, which can be a pain after three glasses of wine.
  12. As I came back home and switched on the TV, Forrest Gump was on. It was the part where Gump walks out after getting decorated with the medal of honour and walks in to an anti war demo. he is asked to give a speech at the end of which he says his name and gets to meet his all time love Jenny again. I like this movie a lot.
As I write this (late night and then early next morning), I am thankful to the powers to be...
I think that as most of us are busy climbing mountains, it is good to sit back every once in a while to enjoy the view. You might not be at the highest point yet, but you are high enough to get a good view most of the time.

15 July, 2008

Country Living and taking it easy...

The first reaction my father had when I told him about my plans to leave my current job, move back to India and set up a small online marketing agency of my own was some thing on the lines of - we better come to the UK once before you leave.

My father has always supported me. I have tried very hard not to take it for granted, but sometimes I do. I think that is why now, that I am running my own business, I am somewhat less scared than I should be.

During college placements, my father was not even bothered. My mama was in the hospital just before my placements and that had kept the entire family occupied and the first conversation I had with my father about my job was after getting an offer from Novell.

At IIMA, I realised a few months before the placements started, that my chances of getting a job I liked were slim. I would not get interviews with Indian finance companies (not that getting an interview would help too much), I did not want to work in FMCG (aka sales and marketing roles) or do BD and project management in IT firms.
What were left were three possible openings:
  1. TAS - One of the general management roles available on campus
  2. Crisil - Good backdoor into the financial sector
  3. Pharma companies with openings in Strategy etc
In short, it was a long shot.
I told my father all this and also said that I really did not want to take up a role I did not like. He took about 2 seconds in saying that it did not matter and that I should come to Delhi without a job if that is what it was.
I would like to take some credit for getting a job I liked on campus, but the fact that my father was ok with me not having a job out of campus did have quite an impact on reducing overall stress levels.
Anyhow, my parents came to London and spent two weeks with me. It was nice. The house was huge. They traveled all over London and we went to Oxford. Thanks to someone we know, we also drove all over the west of London. We went to Windsor and Eton and took narrow roads and tramped around all over the countryside. It was just amazing. Papa and I both decided that buying a house in the west of London is something one should aspire towards... Thanks to this trip, I also understood why so many of my colleagues spent hours commuting from their homes out in the country to their workplace, while I used to secretly gloat about my 22 minute commute from West hampstead into Aldersgate. There would be very few things which would make me want to live anywhere else.
I have done six months in India now - I always wonder how things would have been different if I moved back earlier. Would I be better off in my personal life? Would my business take off in a similar manner? Am I better off in moving back when I did, or should I have stayed on for a few more months/years? Should I have moved back earlier? I hate such unending option generating decision trees. RSH (ex batchmate, ex flatmate, ex colleague) used to be very good at this. It used to drive me insane. RSH did move back to India. And then moved back to London.

09 July, 2008

India - Long time, no see

There is a new series called ‘Kahani mahabharat ki” on TV.

“Kahani” has a few extra a’s and e’s to use the great power of numerology to make mythological serials popular in India. I was looking forward to seeing this fantastic story again on TV. I have seen the earlier one and quite liked it – the story and the characters makes normal actors look better)

The spellings put me off. The tired look on the actors turned me off. The background music was tiring.

The cameraman is on E, because he is never tired in showing zoom ins from weird angles. Again and again. The script seems to have been written by some panwallahs in their spare time. Overall, this team of unimaginable collective talent seems to have succeeded in converting the Mahabharat into what seems to me like a saas bahu drama in costumes. Maybe that is what they intended.

There is a show on radio called “Tu sabki Baja” on a radio channel which encourages people to “Bajate raho”. I remember getting slapped for much milder language while in school.

Looking around, I think I grew up in a different country.

I grew up in the 80s. (Some people tell me that the process is not over yet).
I grew up in an India where an evening out did not mean drinking. It meant going out for a “picture” with parents, then having south Indian or Chinese food and coming back home with a kulfi. Even into college, it meant a movie, dinner, conversation and a walk. Maybe I was just very uncool and did not know about it.

Entertainment was one channel and a VCR. Mahabharat and Ramayan meant finishing everything before 9 on a Sunday, which happened on its own as you woke up at 7
Actually, a TV producer today needs all the help getting Mahabharat to work on TV (hence the extra a’s and e’s).

I wonder if my kids will not understand me. I don’t think they will like me too much. On a positive note, I think I understand my parents a bit better with every passing day. I think I am still growing up.

08 July, 2008

Field Marshals and something else...

Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw passed away a few days ago. I read about it in the TOI (see below) and also was pleased to note that the economist wrote an endearing eulogy for him. I had read a bit about his temperament and was not too surprised to read about his retorts to Madam Gandhi (about whom I have a lot to say, but will not, given the recent case of Gandhi versus Vaid, I will keep my opinions to myself)

It also gave me the opportunity to read a bit more about him and about the only other Field Marshall the Indian army has had - Field Marshall Cariappa - who was at the helm of the armed forces during 1947. Reading about him, I felt that he was quite important in the mindset with which the Indian army was born with (in 1947) and developed it. The army prides itself (again very little data) for its secular credentials and a little part of it flows down directly from Cariappa.

Cariappa, after retiring from the Army, was made the Indian high commissioner to Australia. He was not very keen about this, but Nehruji insisted. As a result, he found his way into Canberra's high society. I do not think anyone could really handle him - a war veteran who had fought for the British and had been instrumental in stalling the Japanese (Which in turn helped keep Australia safe), highly learned and well versed in poetry and philosophy, while at the same time, with a tendency to speak his mind (a somewhat unnecessary skill for a diplomat). He travelled all over Australia and soon knew a lot more about Australia than many native(?) Australians. Australia had a white only immigration policy at that time (which is quite a laugh now, given that the Aussie government now is prepared to spend Australian tax payer dollars into attracting indians into settling there - highly skilled ofcourse). What angered him as a soldier was that with a white only policy, Italians and Germans (countries which Australia fought against in WWII) were welcome to settle in Australia, while Indians, who had fought on the same side as the Australians were not.
I am not sure why I am talking about him - have meandered from Maneckshaw but reading about this time and some stories about Maneckshaw and Cariappa were fascinating.
I dream of a day when the demand for Indian work permits outstrips its supply.
Or you could just walk in into the country via Bangladesh!
Topic change.
Dramatic topic change.
I noted some very interesting things on Google analytics.
It made me happy.
Because of that, I need to bring this up as well - I might have talked about this earlier on this blog - that for me, a large part of companionship is about having a witness to my life and for me to bear witness to someone else's.