Thursday, January 21, 2016

Living With The Ants

♫ Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond  

It is just another evening. I am lying on the mattress and reading Kafka on The Shore. The plot is mysterious and things are getting more trippy with each passing chapter.  In the background , some random song is playing on my phone. My eyes notice some ants  moving about haphazardly on the floor. In fact, this is not the first time I have noticed the same. I had never bothered to give it a second thought. The following lyrics are floating in the air.

♫ You were caught in the crossfire of childhood and stardom, blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr,and shine 

I recognize the song "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" playing on the phone. As I pay more attention to the lyrics I already know, I find that I am distracted. I make two observations about the scattered ants on the floor. What if the ants are fighting some sort of war ? Are these ants mesmerized by Pink Floyd ? What if one of those ants knows the lines from Pink Floyd ? 

Several possibilities and questions were hovering in my mind. 

1. Ants are supposed to be going in a line. They aren't. Have they lost the discipline?
2. Ants are supposed to stay indoors during winters and enjoy the food they have collected in the summer. Is there no food now ? Have they become greedy? Have they become like humans?  I suddenly feel like writing something about the moment and the thought.

♫ You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond. 

Of course, winters are a joke in Chennai. Maybe they are adapting to climate change these days. I also realize hat I haven't swept the room since a month. Several lines of Floyd blend in the air and make the chaos look more poetic and philosophical. These ants now resemble the crowds seen in T-Nagar before a festival weekend. The long instrumental pieces between the lyrics  makes you feel impatient . But it is perfect for this evening. I lose track of the lyrics and the music as I type. Till I reach this line. By now the song had changed. 


♫ Hello,
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone at home? 

I recall telling my boss how I liked to stay alone. Had I become comfortably numb ? The thought distracts from my writing again,  I wonder if I have written the actual truth. Are the descriptions given so far accurate ?  I turn back and look at the floor . It is empty. Then I look at the wall and the corner where they usually disappear from my sight. Miraculously they are gone. I can't see even a single ant on the floor or the wall .
It is strange and fantastic.  

♫ I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb. 

Isn't it just strange and fantastic. Just like Floyd.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Corporate Dictionary

Words that will help you write a killer office mail or give a superb presentation

When the steam puffing out of your nose, but you still want to look polite. Ideal word you should use in place of a swear word like son of a bitch , bugger, motherfucker etc. The only word that could have a begging, authoritative or even patronising intonation
Kindly do so and so activity

I hope you understood this, you dumbfuck. Or maybe to just show off that the mail could be understood by an plebian and the regret one must feel if the person didn't.
Thanks for your understaning

This is the most common word used to imply to someone that their boss will be informed about your non cooperation if the task is not done.
Expecting your support to finish so and so activity

Picking up from the previous definition, escalaltion is the corporate version of complaining to class teacher for small issues in primary school. If you think people grow mature after 18 think again
So and so activity is not happening, we need to escalate

War- Footing
This is one of my favorites. When you are about to get a promotion and you just need to close that little doubt, you should just mention somewhere that you will be doing some task on war footing. It sounds so combative, brave and shows your commitment to the organisation
This plan has been made ona war footing

This is a lovely word. Even astrologers use this to predict events. In a similar way, corporate world predicts when things will happen after deliberations which are intense and often finish before somebody grabs another person's collar
Please align with so and so team to finsih so and so activity

To make sure that delays in projects can be updated on a regular basis a timeline is of paramount importance
As per agreed timeline this was  supposed to happen but..

Bonus words :

Review meeting
This is an event where people tell each other about things they qalready know just to sit in an AC room where they can decide the temperature of the room and drink packaged drinking water at the company's expense.

MOM (Minutes of the Meeting)
Anything you say in meetings has to be vague enough and have enough ifs and buts so that you beat around the bush, push the ball in another guys court , take credit or collectivise a failure in an opportunistic manner

FYIP (For Your Info Please)
For your info would have been enough , but please is added to make sure that arrogance factor is disguised to the outside word. Basically it is a IDGAF.

To be continued....

Friday, April 10, 2015

Getting back to First Principles

The current dispensation at the center is rightly pursuing the goal of encouraging manufacturing sectors to put India on the map of global trade and commerce. This is great news as value addition of raw materials will earn more income for the country. Demanding too much from one fledgling government is unfair. Yet, here is how a populous nation like India has to think differently in order to meet the basic needs of it populace if not its "aspirations."

Whenever I see Elon musk talk about how he came up with Tesla, SpaceX , PayPal he always speaks about going back to the fundamentals of Physics. He is 21st century’s leading entrepreneur and technological mind. Surprisingly he has an undergraduate degree in Physics. Of course one might attribute his success in business to a Wharton degree. But he always speaks how each of his businesses were based on first principles which he believed in. In his interview to Kevin Rose , he said the following

I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. We are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. Slight iterations on a theme.

“First principles” is a physics way of looking at the world. What that really means is that you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and then reason up from there. That takes a lot more mental energy. 

This actually made me think about the popular quip that is being drummed up by all politicians these days. "Development". The concept of development being sold these days is something on the lines of industrialization in the west, where labor was in shortage and machines were necessary. It is an improvisation of the 20th century models. The same approach can't be sustained in a populous country like India for more than a few decades.

We need to wake up to the fundamental truth that applies to India. We are a populous country.  The aim of industries on the other hand is to achieve maximum output with minimum labor resources. Of course there might be some tasks that could be done at a cheaper price compared to machinery. But manufacturing units strive to optimize on human hands.

If one were to analyse the supply-demand problem to a populous country like India, where everyone aspires to move to the cities and settle for a paid job, farmers should make more money than the rest. In a country where there are 1.25 billion people, farmers should be richest people as they have a decisive impact on your next meal. It must turn out to be a more profitable job than being a software engineer in Whitefield or a production engineer in Sriperumbudur area. People and businessmen must start ‘investing’ in this sector instead of running away from it.

Instead we are struck with low buying costs and lower selling cost model because of social security nets like PDS. Any attempt to disturb this system could lead to a case of ‘hoarding.’ In fact, agriculture in India can give more sustainable jobs to people than manufacturing sector (which thrives on machines and not people). The whole social security system has made the profession of farmers a nightmare. Unfortunately, the only palliative we have for them are relief packages and slogans like "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan". The situation of agriculture is totally opposite to what an economist would expect.

Considering the huge time consumed for commuting in cities, people must stop buying four wheelers and rely on public transport. In fact there can be private players in city transport systems competing with expensive BMTC buses thereby bringing down prices. (Even after considering cab businesses). The environmental impact of having millions of BSIV compliant vehicles would be much higher than a strong fleet of BS III compliant city transport systems.

If the weather is becoming warmer and electricity prices are going up, we must be building greener houses with a sizable dependence on solar power. Provisions for rainwater harvesting must become a norm rather than a rare exception. Of course the resource crunch in urban areas has turned resources like water into commodities. People are voting for lunatics to get these resources at an affordable price. [Read AAP]. We must stop humiliating basic supply demand laws. Otherwise Karma will always catch up someday and India will implode.

India’s growth is not tied to a single figure like GDP growth but also with simple things like access to food, water, power, health and stress free transport systems. We just need to get back to the fundamentals, the simpler way of doing things. Unfortunately we are busy blaming the government and leaders for most of these things while we prefer to stay in our comfort zones (me included) and politically correct arguments.