Friday, September 30

Life after…

Like so many of us who would be reading this piece, I stumbled into HR.

My generation grew up in the shadow of low employment and Mandal. We saw a state inching towards insanity - the government losing its charm as the most favored employer. It was a strange time when such strange bed fellows like Politics and Economics gave rise to the phenomenon called Globalisation. Globalisation became the common man’s lingo. And his libido. It gave him expression. It gave him purpose. It gave him choices.

Among the manifestations of Globalisation was the rise in Non government jobs which made the hitherto elite MBA education a middle class dream. It was a career option that seemed accessible and respectable. I reacted to it no differently. I tucked away my own dreams of changing the world to embrace “The Great Indian MBA Dream” and one cold evening, I packed my suitcase and joined TISS.

TISS taught me loads. If I were to bulletise (wonder why Oxford hasn’t yet incorporated this word) in a fancy Power point presentation,

ü To be or not to be.

ü Do Lunch or be Lunch ( with due apologies to Michael Porter)

ü That a lunch never comes free.

ü The lunch that is not free is served for an hour in Dining Hall, if you reach late there is no lunch ( it’s held me in good stead in most lunches in Life)

ü Choices are something you have. (Like there are 3 choices to any assignment a la KBC )

o Helpline (
o Phone a senior ( and take all his last year notes, assignments before the senior feels peer pressure to clean up the room for hostel night)
o Audience Vote ( get all 30 of you to write the assignment together , this is called soldiering in a factory environment)

ü Choices have implications ( This is strictly retrospective thinking, didn’t occur to me in my two years at TISS)

ü Opinions are something you should have. And if you don’t say it, you don’t have it. (especially in a 15 minute GD)

ü The gender ratio in TISS is reversed as compared to IITs. It sucks.

ü HR is a strategic partner.

And then Life struck us, almost unawares. We had our placements and thanks to a reasonably good economic year; we got jobs. To begin with, job life is great, (especially on pay cheque days). Quite like Globalisation. It gives you purpose. It gives you expression……

But soon job life starts teaching a lot , changes the way one thinks, changes the way one is…

There was simple stuff I learnt and then there was complex stuff, stuff one needs to get reconciled to…stuff that hits, then hurts a while, and then stays there like a dead fish in an aquarium.

Here is work life presented through the prism of 20 something (quite a bit actually), negotiating her space with her job, her profession and her life.


ü It takes almost 9 minutes to reach from Siddhivinayak to Stanrose House after 9:00 a.m; it takes exactly 3 mins before 9:00 a.m.

ü Nageshwar, Nagabhushan and Nagarjuna are three different people and it helps us to know who you are writing to - to avoid a PG Wodehousian situation.

ü Whoever made V (look up) and Pivot knew his stuff. Whoever made power point did not.

ü Asking for more data is an excuse to defer decisions.

ü All three theories on lunches in TISS hold true.

ü The evening sky looks very beautiful if one doesn’t see it all six days a week.

ü If one wakes up late on Sundays, one wakes upto half a holiday.

ü We still have choices, what makes life tough is the knowledge of implications.

ü Feedback on performance … yeah… Competency based feedback on potential ….sure…tell me what I wont do right tomorrow because you cant find what I don’t do wrong today.

ü Vision is what hangs on the wall like the Mahatma Gandhi poster; Values are an addendum like the picture of Nehru next to the Mahatma.

ü The gender ratio in the work environment is not reversed. It doesn’t matter.

Also some more sublime ones….

You will see more if you stand on the shoulders of a giant and see. (with due
Apologies to Sir Issac Newton)

I think Newton was a sorted out guy to have built on Copernicus’s theory than build his own. It takes a lot of guts to build on someone else’s theory …one’s got to be ok with being boring. Staid. Repetitive.
We 20 something get very caught up with our creativity to look at the Power of Ctrl C, Ctrl V. The work that some other original 20 something did, not long ago or Ctrl Ced, Ctrl Ved from some place. I know a guy who called it Resource mobilization. He has done very well for himself. Big stuff. Managerial quality. Mark my mumblings.

Meetings do not end on time because of our inherent need to value add.

Most of us who had average childhoods are taught to be useful. Taught to contribute, to take decisions, to think, to be visionaries. We suffer from a pressure to add value. We need to have an opinion on things. Like where should the next employee picnic be held, should we have compensatory off or not, should the world change or not and if it should then how? And so when reasonably intelligent blokes meet, this age old need lurks up. It forces most of us to go on and end up concluding when to meet next to discuss the same things all over again.

The more you do there is always a competitive bloke who does it better or faster or an experienced bloke who has done it before.

Last week couple of us got together and wondered why has most of the stuff already gotten talked about or written? Or done. What’s more its done better. Done faster.
Performance, they say is not absolute, but relative. So are values. Even energy, said Einstein, was not absolute. Yeah… it’s an unfair oops ‘relative’ world.

I used to work with someone who had traveled to every town in India with a certain population in his distribution stint. I mean, try telling that guy how hectic work life is…and how traveling on weekends is a toll on the very tenuous work-life balance. He just shot a “been there - done that” glance which actually meant “this topic is closed for further discussion”. Or take the perennial issue of sitting and working late. So you sat till 12 midnight, some other energetic 20 something beat you by sitting till 1:00 am….you see…even gestures are relative…it takes a lot more than guts to say….I am not part of this madness, pack up at 6:00 pm and lead a complete life. Got to be straight out of a Nick Hornby book.

Networking be damned…gimme a party that rocks.

The last party I went to had the right concoction. The rustle of fab India silk… the flowing wine.. the restrained smiles. The inane conversation… “so what do you handle? Oh, what do you do? Oh, wonderful…..I fought an inner urge to say – I do Ref checks…anchor all ref checks for the organization. Yes… that’s what I do… pick up the phone and do Reference Checks… no jazz, no high end stuff, just plain ref checks…and I can do about 30 a day.
Over the last few years… my idea of a party is reduced to a strange place with strangers… some booze…lot of music….blaring music that drowns any noise ….engulfs any conversation.

Team work is a noble idea…that’s what it is …a noble idea

This one needs no explanation, we all know what happens when people “who don’t see because they do not stand on the shoulders of others and see” are “driven by their inherent need to value add” come together to work with “competitive blokes” under “experienced blokes “.

Chaos is the only way it works … or goes. I would rather be left alone to do what I do best…and leave others to do what they do best.

It takes a lot to be an ordinary guy with no stakes involved.

Kevin Spacey told a consultant in the movie American Beauty:” I am an ordinary guy with no stakes involved”. While saying so he exposed the underbelly of our lives and times. It takes a bit of rigor and a whole lot of passion to be different, to be extraordinary. But it takes much more to remain ordinary…

I recall being part of a livelihood generation project in another world… another space… It involved traveling to a place called Harudi in Bhuj. Also traveling with us was the founder of a Delhi based NGO called Goonj. Many years my senior, this guy loved what he did. He was nuts… he wanted to create livelihood in the drought hit Harudi… It turned out that he had a professional degree in Mass Communication from a reputed Institute. Yet, he chose to be with the people he thought needed him most. I never saw him looking at his life as a series of bullet points on his resume. Or his career as a series of meaningful experiences….

He had learnt some things right: about doing the right thing vs doing things right.

In his maverick way he taught me life was more than a resume. More than a profile. More than a job. More than success. It was about being an ordinary human being… which eludes a whole lot of us.

Globalisation is here to stay. And so are choices. Also their implications.

Wednesday, September 21

that one moment...

It was a moment... a precise moment... a fraction of time pitted against 28 years of living when it came back to me... a moment of joy...against infinite moments of reasonably lived life...
A hectic day, a gruelling assessment centre, a call on people , putting a tick or a cross against another life of hopes, ambitions, needs.
A day of reckoning for some fuelled by a tick... hopes truncated by a cross.
It was therefore a night to assauge a lacerated self.... and so I stumbled into Bottles and Chimney at Hyderabad.
The yellow light.... the blaring music... people dancing to the music...swaying with their reasonably led was a precise moment...when the yellow light flickered in my conscious.... the trance playing at bottles and chimney seized me to a moment of bliss before my life claimed me back.
In that one moment .....poetry came back to me... poetry locked in a chest of drawers with clothes I dont wear any more .... the bright pink scarf I picked up in a gush at Fashion street years ago or the lemon top which hugged my uninhibited self on a Matheran trek... a yellow blob of sunlight in a rain washed poetry sat with my discarded clothes ... locked in a chest of drawers ....while I wore my reasonably lived life.
Something in me that night walked to my old drawer while yellow lights and music guarded the my here and now. the drawer... it made a noise as I pushed it open... as though it wanted to be sure, that I hadnt forgotten its untouchable status,that it was discarded,that it was not meant to be... yet I pushed it open, picked up the pink scarf, held it in my fingers, the musty smell of years of neglect filled me.the stench of the untouchable.
And there it sat, the yellow papers. my poetry. my spilled self over sheets of paper.. the code of the combination lock called me. lost and forgotten.and my life came back to me.... a fish thrown out of the aquarium into the sea, the sea of her belongingness. and then it swims... first unsure, then sure, then brave,then bold, and then never to stop.
I wrote a poem wearing a bright pink scarf on the back of a tissue paper.... a self spilled on the back of a tissue paper at bottles and chimney... a self you can wipe your careless fingers with.a self you can fold and keep in the wallet.
My spilled self...
chingari hein Jindagi jala ke dekho sulaag jayegee
mere pehlu mein aa jao, tumhari jindagi badal jayegee
akeli hein raat, andheri hein raat, ek paheli hein raat
raat to ek mom hein, kuch der mein peeghal jayegee
sapna ek thama hein, koi raasta ruka hein, kitna dhuaan hein
gum ho jayo isme, tumhe jindagi mil jayegee
kachcha sa dhaga hein, palo ke moti hein, dil na bandha hein
sanjo ke rakho, lamhon mein piroyee jindagi beekhar jayegee
dara hein maan,rootha hein maan, jala hein maan, paglaa hein maan
koi kahani jo tum suna do, aaj jindagi bahal jayegee