Monthly Archives: June 2009

Something that crosses you on a mundane weekday


Sometimes when people say they’ve had an epiphany, I always thought it was one of those things where if you pretended you had one long enough, you included, everyone around you would believe it.

It’s like being optimistic or even being happy. At least in the beginning you have to fake it. Pretend all is well and slowly things start to look different and you realise that all that was standing in your way was the way you looked at the situation. But no, that wasn’t my epiphany.

At work, I needed to interact with different trainers across India and the world, for one particular requirement of ours. So I went through trainers and more trainers and then some more. I got good at quickly gauging whether or not they would fit what we were looking for.

Then dawned this day. I had no idea how much my thinking was going to change after that. A gentlemen from Holland (Mr M) was down in Mumbai to promote his company’s newly opened India division, and was coming to meet us.

Our meeting was, as such, uneventful. My boss was stuck on how their price wouldn’t suit us at all and Mr M kept insisting price was secondary, if the solution matched what we wanted.

Mr M and my boss only had 30 minutes each and everyone had other agendas, in different corners of the city. It was a hot, hot blazing day of May in Mumbai. Just as I thought we were wrapping up the meeting, he turned to look at me.

And asked my boss, what was the biggest problem he faced in course of his work. My boss had a pat reply, getting people efficient and well-versed in their jobs.

“So how do you remedy that?,” asked Mr M.

“Well, I try and bring the people I want up to the mark I want. I constantly try to improve them,” said my boss.

In my head, I play out our various conversations where he constantly gave me stuff I did not want to do (or could not do and knew it, rather) and suffered grandly. I never understood why would he do that. Make me do stuff am not good at and then point out how I was not doing it properly. I know!

Then came Mr M’s rationale: Why do we obscure things with so many qualitie and its quantifiers? Why are so determined to make every employee identical to the next one? He mentioned many fleeting terms like KRAs and other numbers, all of which, according to his company’s philosophy, tried to make all employees identical to each other, in traits, skills and levels.

Why, was all he asked.

And I could almost see a halo around his head by this time.

Why, indeed. I had never stopped to think, assuming someone in the entire chain knew why the company wanted an almost identical workforce.

He went to talk about philosophies that they used in their coaching. This is a primarily OD-focused company and they were the first I came across who did not have ‘ready-made modules that could be customised’.

Mr M spoke about how companyies need to move past these ‘narrow’ ways of engaging and improving the employee. They need to help employees first improve their existing skills, use them to the fullest and then perhaps start with ‘improvement areas’.

Companies need to break out of the KRA mould, in order to be a great company. It would help companies much more if it learned how to inspire completely unique individuals to achieve the same company goal and vision. He said. I am paraphrasing.

That, to me, made perfect sense. So quickly. That I did not understand why companies could not see it. Why my company could not see it.

As years go by, I have come to realise March-April-May are typically wrought for me. I don’t remember a single apppraisal  going well. And it cannot all be the company’s fault, much as I would want to believe that. If I  study patterns, I have always quit my jobs in this period itself, some with another job in hand, some without.

I have always gone through them either defensively or offensively, but never stopped to think, am I conveying what I need to and want to do? Or stopped to think, why I am not doing this particular task well? I never justified what I was saying and always assumed appraisals would go bad.

This year, too, as expected they did not go well. But this time I was prepared. I had my reasons, achievements listed. I even had my list of complaints that I had raised from time to time, but weren’t addressed, with me.

I don’t know if it went better or not but I know that in a huff, I did not immediately start looking for a job. I conveyed my displeasure without losing my bearing.

Because every time I started to get upset, I would think of Mr M and his smiling face saying, how no one could truly be like another. And that was the best part of employees.

On an embarassing note, when Mr M was leaving, I almost refused to let his hand go. I was almost certain I wanted to walk out with him then and become his pretend baggage and go back to Dutch land and just listen to him talk. And yes, of course, get paid for it.

Why I believe there is a god


And no capital G please.

An uncle of mine, many years ago, entertained some scientists from abroad as part of his job. As they were leaving, when asked what they would remember most about India. Their answer, among other things, was that they were going back believing in god. Why, asked my uncle. Once we came here and saw how things work and how such few people work but so much actually gets done. There has to be a god, else this would never work.

That line stayed with me for a long time. And these days, I often catch myself saying how is this even possible? Things I see in the paper, observe elsewhere, small things like stray dogs searching for water on scorching days or public transport drivers not killing anyone in the face of such unorganised mayhem or traffic police and the sheer impatience in the world and how my mother is still holidng on to  27 year old grudge and so on…

The entire Naxal movement, as an example.  I of course don’t know much about it, and it is largely based only on what I have read, which, I am certain, is one-sided. But I see the anarchy, the one-sidedness of news reports, read stories of how they conduct their own trials and have their own judicial and other civil systems in place, see the violence happening rt now in bengal and wonder if they even care that the country can see them on television, in this anarchy. How oppressed (this could be a wrong word) they must be to come to the point of not caring. There is so much that we don’t know, and don’t bother to find out. But India still moves forward, they say.

The north east, the state of Kashmir, other conflict-ridden states. the perennial and perpetual conflict there. One story occassionally leaks ‘out’ and the rest of India gets outraged. But what about their daily struggles? We don’t even hear about them. Journalists who go there come back with stories of constant oppression, rapes, humiliations and that’s just the beginning and at the hands of Indian soldiers. And we still move one.. progress even. Not in the least bothered.

It’s on every level — nationally where governments make or break on cash; on on a state level where a seven year old girls turn up dead and people fall over trying to hush it up; Or on a city level where four-day weekends are more important that coming out to elect your new government. Or on a  surburb level where I am yet to see any road ever without any kind of digging happening — gas, phone, concreting, metro — for the last at least 10 years in Andheri, Mumbai. Or on a mohalla level, where an illegal temple has taken over one entire exit in my lane, and today boasts of a permanent structure for the temple, quarters to stay, and illegal electricity and water, which I am sure I am paying for.

Every day there is at least one story in one paper of some woman somewhere in India getting raped, molested or killed. One being reported for many others that are not. But we still have blinders on or are ruing that India lost out in the T20 World Cup. Stories of political murders, briberies, fudging of reports, granting accessibility to more slums, giving ministeries to non-performing party members — all are important stories but nothing moves us into moving off our collective butts. Crimes unpunished; undertrials whose lives are spent waiting; goons who claim to govern; rapidly depleting water tables and resources, increasing emissions, growing intolerance; accepting intolerance; when did we become so apathetic?

Just as I struggle to come out of this miasma and shake off this helpless-nes; I come across this paragraph in an article:

Indians have the political freedoms; now they need economic ones. The government needs to do less, so that its people can do more. India now has the consensus it needs. There is something noble about the faith and support millions of Indians continue to pose in their politicians. It is time they earned that trust, so that India can demonstrate that democracy and development are not mutually exclusive.

May be there is power somewhere else in the universe who helps us, because we certainly aren’t helping ourselves.