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Archive for September, 2013

I started blogging about two years back.  I am grateful to my family for having enabled me to indulge myself in one of my favorite activities – writing. Close friends continue to enthuse me in this adventure. This one happens to be my 100th blog post. On this occasion, I am tempted to share with you some of my observations about the art and science of blogging!

I have come to believe that if we write a blog from our heart, based on our inner convictions, our own knowledge of things, places, events and people, and our personal experiences, we have a winning situation at hand. I do not think there is much merit in creating a ‘cut-n-paste’ blog post. Success lies in writing about something which concerns people across diverse continents and cultures. A fresh perspective helps.

Ideas Popping Up, Words Streaming In

There is an inherent charm in composing a piece. There are ideas floating about in the environment. Like a radio receiver, I suddenly get tuned to one and – plop – there it drops into my mind. I churn it over in my mind. Nurture it. Sleep over it. Let it develop a wee bit. Read up more on the subject. The idea starts taking a tangible shape. My grey cells start working feverishly. I can not sleep till the time the idea manifests itself in words. With mind chugging along on all six cylinders, I start hammering out at the key board. There are times when words come in a torrent, and it is not easy to match the pace with my hands.

After the initial intellectual ejaculation gets over, I read it all over again. Improve upon it here and there. While doing something else VitruvianManaltogether, I suddenly discover a new angle to the whole subject. I rush back. Read a little bit more. Make improvements. Again sleep over it. Read it with a fresh perspective the next morning. Improve further. Leave it to let it simmer for some more time. Come back and – bingo! It sounds just right. I am happy with how I have expressed myself. I ‘publish’ it!

I do not do this for money. I do it because I cannot help but write. It appears that I am always surrounded by words, phrases and aphorisms which help me to express myself. I derive immense inner joy in doing it. There is a form of creativity within me. I feel I am merely a medium to express a mini-micro-segment of the thoughts floating around us in the environment. Yes, I do it responsibly. I write without malice to anyone. My endeavor is merely to amuse, entertain and (if possible) enlighten my limited audience.

Yes, I do seek success, appreciation and some recognition, though not as an aggressive participant in a rat race. A thoughtful comment once in a while does cheer me up. And the joy of knowing the global reach of my thoughts. Connecting with people from diverse cultures and ethnic groups also bucks me up no end.

Utopia and Reality

Those of my close friends who are still tied down to a 9-to-9 routine perhaps imagine the life of an armchair blogger to be a highly disciplined and placid one.

Up in the morning bright and early. The first bed tea. The newspaper. The second bed tea. The shave. The bath. The fruit juice. The eggs. The oats. The coffee. The garden chair lounge. The dreamy reverie. The new idea popping up while looking at the birds and bees going about their daily chores. The dash to the laptop. The first draft of the new blog post. The mid-morning tea. The walk on the terrace. The first revised draft. The lunch. The afternoon siesta. The second revised draft. The late afternoon tea. The sudden ‘a-ha’ moment. The Google search for related information. The third revised draft. The spell-check. The reading through. The tinkering with phrases and passages. The early evening tea. The pottering about in the garden. The daily dose of brisk walk. The chat with kids. The shower. The change into something loose. The family get together. The dinner. The dishes. The final proof reading. The checking of likes, comments, visits and views for the day. The uploading. The rest and repose of late evening. The locking up of the humble abode for the night. The bed.

Well, nothing could be more misleading. The raw excitements and distractions of life often leave me wondering as to what the next moment might bring!

Just when the flow of thoughts is gathering momentum, the better half suddenly popping up to ask where in the house she has kept and 'The Thinker' : Rodinforgotten her spectacle frames. The milk delivery person passing by, hoping to discuss the local neighborhood gossip. The newspaper delivery person arriving to settle his account for the past month. The call from distant relatives informing the dates of their impending visit. The neighbor passing by to share remorse at the declining economy of the country, the accumulated garbage in the locality and the pathetic quality of movies one is forced to ‘enjoy’ these days.

The sudden power failure precipitating a crisis of sorts. The narrow-band – euphemistically referred to as the broad-band in my part of the planet – going on the blink. The sudden summons from the better half as to the declining stock of fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. The dash to the market so as to ensure availability of nourishment to keep the body and soul together. The invitation from a management institution to deliver a guest lecture. The preparation. The drive to a clinic for a health check-up for the spouse. The visit to the NGO for a spot of check to see if things are moving as per plans. A new idea popping up. The late night rush to the laptop to ensure it does not get lost in the din of extra-curricular noises made by real life. Catching up with the half-finished blog post started two days earlier, etc, etc.

Of course, these travails are nothing when compared to the challenges faced by a hapless blogger on the run who is trying to pursue his/her passion while juggling between work and life in general!

Oh, the inner glow and warmth of satisfaction and bliss on having composed and uploaded a piece which is endearing and intellectual. If it also tickles the funny bone, even better! Can words actually express this bliss in real? I doubt; for that to happen, we would need connectivity at a different level altogether!!

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WEAKNESSES – MARKET THEM!

There are rich rewards to be reaped by practicing transparency at the personal level. Be open about your weaknesses and discuss them upfront. You would get respected for your maturity.

WORK-LIFE BALANCEWORK-LIFE BALANCE

Neglect this vital part of life only at a personal risk of your well-being – mental as well as physical. Take time off for your kid’s parent teacher meeting due next Saturday. Cultivate a hobby which helps you retain your sanity while handling the whirlwind operations that you manage at the speed of light.

Remember, E (Energy and Enthusiasm) = m (Mental peace) X c (mental and physical Capacity) squared. When you achieve a better work-life balance, you improve your inner peace, as well as your capacity to do things.

WORKING HOURS

Those who watch the clock remain one of the hands! For a real growth in career, stop grumbling about long working hours. Work smarter. Improve you productivity. If you follow Parkinson’s First Law (Work increases depending upon the time available), and are prone to spending 20 hours in the office, you could end up having a tendency to defer important assignments for later in the day – you then get into a vicious cycle of low performance and low productivity.

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Howsoever dark a cloud is, there is always a silver lining. For those of us in India who are in a mood of despondency these days and continue to be defensive about quite a few things under the sun, let me list out what is there to cheer about.

  • There has been a record reduction in poverty, but we do not wish to announce it to the world. One, we are still concerned about the ones still lagging behind in the economic growth rat race. Two, we are not too sure about our own numbers!
  • There has been a sustained increase in rural wages and incomes. Pretty soon, we shall find that the market is being propped up by rural demand, while our urban folks continue to be in a doom gloom phase. While FMCG honchos are busy designing packages specifically targeted at the semi-urban and rural hinterlands, we continue to be diffident on this front.
  • In five year’s time, we have set up one-fourth of our installed capacity for power generation.  We have also laid power lines to 4.6 lac villages. We can not claim this to be an achievement because we have failed to provide back-up linkages of fuel, leaving vast swathes of country reeling under a power shortage.
  • On the road to financial inclusion, we have created and rolled out a programme which gives each of us a unique identity. This is also likely to help us plug leakages of subsidies, making resources available for other social welfare measures. We are defensive about it, because we are not too sure it would eventually work out. Sure enough, for the un-entitled ones who have been enjoying subsidies so far, the cost of living is just going to go up.
  • We have laid fiber optic cables to 2,50,000 panchayats. The only plausible reason for our hesitation to energizing the same and converting our narrow band capabilities into genuinely broad band ones  could be our fear of a majority of our denizens being covered by snooping measures of some foreign intelligence agencies!
  • Our parallel economy continues to thrive. Our politicos and private sector do not appear to be in a mood to stifle the same any time soon. However, one does come across some  papers and articles which indicate that post-Lehman Brothers, India faced the effect of a meltdown much later, the insulation having been provided by our underground economy. So, may be, we are being smart, allowing black money to proliferate!
  • Our rural tele-density at the beginning of this millennium was close to 1. As of now, it is around 40. We are quite defensive when it comes to claiming this to be an achievement because of some scam ridden decisions which were taken by those at the helm of affairs in the interim.  The argument is not that corruption is acceptable; it is only to say that there is indeed a positive aspect  which needs to be kept in mind.
  • We have also orchestrated a structural transformation of the economy. With the ratio of those engaged in agriculture coming down below 50%, we appear to be on our way to get more industrialized. We feel shy of talking about this because we have not pro-actively addressed the issue of urban housing and reforms.

Forget the ‘Incredible India’ campaign. The credible India has much going for it – a thriving democracy, a robust corporate sector, a young population, a growing and aspirational middle class, increasing urbanization, to cite some of the long-term strengths.  Brand India is there to stay. The devil is in the details – a tendency towards jugaad or short-term fixes, a habit of claiming rights sans any feeling of responsibility, a poor track record in implementation of grandiose projects, and the like.

So, here is a glass which is half full. Admittedly, there are mighty challenges ahead.  Just  as in the case of individuals, nations can learn to manage better from crises. If 1991 brought us economic reforms, the current crisis could prod us into reforming our legislative, executive and judiciary. Bolder and structural reforms could improve the standard of living of millions of Indians in the days to come. Let us be self-confident and push ahead in these times of economic turbulence.

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       In our child-like innocence, we worshipped in you the light beautiful,

You goaded us, disciplined us, making us learn things awesome and wonderful;

Admiring and amazed, we were like wet clay in the hands of expert potters,

Clinging to you for mind’s nourishment and support, like your very own sons and daughters.

Part of 1969 batch, Central School, Mathura (UP)

Part of 1969 batch, Central School, Mathura (UP)

 

In our coming of age phase, you taught us to enjoy our freedom with responsibility,

Made us crunch complicated aphorisms and equations, keeping up our mental agility;

You had a tireless step so difficult to keep up with, our nature weary of concepts too great,

Prisoners of our human limitations, searching for livelihood, theoretical equations we did hate.

1974 batch, Delhi University, Department of Physics

1974 batch, Delhi University, Department of Physics

 

As we blossomed further, we found you to be friends, philosophers and guides,

At times we misbehaved but you continued exhorting us to explore unchartered waters and tides;

You were close to our hearts, yet distant, objective and impartial, difficult to comprehend,

Pushing us towards aims we could start understanding only when our association was about to end.

1975 and 1976 batches, UBS, Panjab University, Chandigarh

1975 and 1976 batches, UBS, Panjab University, Chandigarh

 

We explored new frontiers of music, dance, drama and elocution,

Hobnobbing with celebrities, we learnt the art of event execution;

The City Beautiful had seasons in which our romantic thoughts easily led to transient infatuations,  

Acquiring everlasting friendships, we braced to enter the business world to handle real situations.   

A friend, philosopher and guide, circa 1994

A friend, philosopher and guide, circa 1994

 

Some of us chose the challenges of entrepreneurship; some enriched the civil services archives,

Most of us crafted highly successful careers, adding value to our organizations, as also to our lives;

You were the platform from where we, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, soared in the sky azure,

We continue to hold aloft the ideals and values learnt from you, our love and regards certainly pure. 

 

 

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It is heartening to know that India’s civil services aspirants shall soon be taking an examination in ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’ as part of their endeavor to make a career in public administration. It is a laudable initiative, and one does hope that in the days to come, our denizens’ issues with the administration shall start getting resolved with empathy, pragmatism and promptness, sans any corrupt practices.    

As an average person, one is tempted to ask if our politicos should also be taking a similar test! We live in an era when probity in India emblempublic life is at a nadir. The conduct of some of our honorable MPs and MLAs on the floor of our august legislative bodies often leaves us red-faced and scurrying for cover. The only time we see a semblance of unity amongst politicians of different hues is when they are faced by the threat of declaring their finances under the landmark RTI Act or when trying to thwart the judiciary’s attempts to keep criminals out of our polity.

How about an Indian Political Service?!

May be, the time has come to introduce an Indian Political Service? If meritocracy has to rule, those aspiring for a career in politics can be made to first apply to a body like the Union Political Service Commission! Detailed CVs backed by details of socially relevant projects handled, vision for the future, parentage and financial backing etc will need to be submitted and made public. Thereafter, the aspirants would need to undergo a rigorous selection process, comprising a written examination, followed by a group discussion, individual PPT presentations for the benefit of their target constituents, personal interviews and the like.

A professional working license can get issued only after a five-year internship with a duly registered political party. Thereafter, the incumbent could become entitled to joining the election fray. license can be put up for renewal once every five years.

Criteria for disqualification can also be laid down. Involvement in scams of any kind, a lapse in discharge of core duties, getting convicted in a court of law, disrupting legislative work, browsing the net for pornographic content while on duty, tax arrears of any kind, etc., could lead to suspension of the license to practice.

An exhaustive appraisal system can be put in place. Performance could be rated on various aspects like development works completed in the constituency, number of new legislations introduced, hours of legislative attendance registered, besides core targets met for the portfolio handled. For re-election, the license will need to be renewed based on the ballot performance.   

Would a Management Development Program Help?India Parliament House

In case our leaders and constitutional experts declare the above mentioned approach as null and void, another option is at hand. We can ask some of our premier management institutes to design a Management Development Program for our politicians! Such a program could have modules on ethics and integrity and behavioral sciences – with a focus on etiquettes and manners. A crash course on meditation techniques could lead our politicos to do some introspection on their own part, trying to figure out ways to attract today’s educated youth into the political mainstream, handling important legislations with equipoise and equanimity, controlling passions on the floor of the house and cleaning up the finances of the parties they owe their affiliations to.

In an era of scams and systemic corruption, the reputation of our political honchos has taken a severe beating. This is not to say that there are no straight forward and honest politicians ruling us. But corruption appears to rule the roost. Whether it is through a loot of the exchequer (Westland helicopters, fodder scam), sale of patronage (allocation of natural resources) or plain extortion and rent-seeking (pay or take the highway), the ingenuity with which public money gets siphoned off to either fill the political parties’ tills or to shore up personal fortunes is something which one cannot learn at management or accounting institutes.

Connecting with the Post-reforms Generation

All political parties need to do some introspection as to how to win and influence potential voters, specifically Gen-Z, meaning those who were born in the post-reforms era and who expect performance in place of promises and delivery in place of dithering.

The writing on the wall is clear – cleaning up political funding, giving up vote bank politics, avoiding inane bickering to win India Rashtrapati Bhavanbrownie points and joining hands to work together and taking concrete steps which enable common citizens to become successful entrepreneurs and make the delicately nurtured amongst us experience true freedom.

It is apparent that as a country, India has so far focused only on economic reforms. Reforms in the other realms of a vibrant democracy, like legislature and judiciary, are yet to be conceptualized and rolled out. We have miles to go before we get to sleep!

 

 

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UNDERGROUND CABLE CONNECTIONS

Strong relationships of a personal nature, which can be used once in a while to achieve good results. These need investment of time, affection and mutual trust to be built up over a period of time. The returns are surely worth the effort.

 

VACATIONSVACATIONS

Not to be neglected. Do not give in to the temptation of believing that the whole organization would collapse in your absence. Plan for the same in advance and delegate while keeping your boss updated. You would be surprised to find that your team turned in a better performance while you were away to Bahamas.

The absence of a good manager is never felt, because his team is trained up so very well!

 

“VICE” PRESIDENTS

Being a “Virtue” President makes eminent sense, being a “Vice” President does not. If the top management is being over ambitious and the delicate line between avoidance and evasion is disappearing, register your dissent. If you are not heard, look for greener pastures before the sordid affair gets dumped onto your shoulders and you get lynched.

It pays to build up and protect your own brand value!

 

VISIBILITY

Being a visible employee always helps.

To improve visibility, check if you are engaged and motivated enough on the job. Introspect and take corrective steps to improve your level of engagement. Analyze and imbibe the qualities and skills of those who are more visible than you are. Take charge of your behavior and stop feeling like a victim. Excel at what you do and make sure you are noticed by the right people across the organization.

 


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