Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Next is what?

“Unbelievable!” exclaims Aamir Khan sitting on his couch and enjoying the surround sound of the new mobile in his hand. He has had a haircut and looks too mature - This is a new ad for the recently launched i450 music phone from SamsungMobile. The software in the phone belongs to the company for which I work for but one reason which would compel me to buy that phone is definitely Aamir Khan – my favorite actor. He has transformed nicely in the ad world. It seems ages since that Coke ad where he abuses a waiter at a bar with words like “baal ki dukaan” and “flower pot” because that poor chap does not know “thanda matlab coca cola”.

After many days, I had the fortune of getting the TV remote control in my hands this Sunday. Most of the times, either Panini will have her serials to watch or Ultra will have his premier league soccer matches. If both are not there, mum would want to watch her “boogie woogie” style programs. It seems that I had forgotten that TV could also be a source of entertainment all these days. So when I got a chance to watch it, I kept surfing looking out for nice shows. The advertising world has changed a lot after that “cola wars” days. Today, a young girl gives her dad a cheque to buy a new big car, a couple keep calling each other because the roaming tariffs and call rates have dropped to an all time low, a cute pug assists a little girl with chores and is very “happy to help”... Many ads like these are nice and fun to watch.

I like to watch sports and so, whenever I get a chance to watch TV, I keep hoping that there is some live sporting event going on. Sunday was a great day for sports. There was a formula one race going on the Silverstone circuit in England. There was the Asia Cup final between India and Sri Lanka going on. But the ultimate match was live from the famous All-England club in Wimbledon, where the world’s current number one player and probably the best player ever, Roger Federer was fighting it out against his nemesis – Rafael Nadal.

I crave for watching live tennis or cricketing events live on TV but usually I don’t get a chance. But today I had a choice of watching either. I considered myself lucky. First, I watched the cricket match – after making mockery of chasing by successfully scoring scores above 300 in the league matches, Indians were struggling to score a modest 273 in the finals. It was saddening. Some new guy with a fitting name “mended” the torn apart match by Sehwag's early fireworks into his country’s favour. It was really disappointing for India. The ghosts of the finals had came back to haunt them again. So I switched to tennis.

Since the time I started following tennis, I have had just one favorite – Roger Federer. His utter dominance on the tennis court and his ability to turn any situation to his favor has just never ceased to amaze me. Time and again, he has demolished his opponents with his fierce ground strokes and “never-say-die” attitude. I don’t understand the details of the shots in tennis that well but if a Federer match is going on, I dare not to miss it for the sheer ruthlessness he exudes in his games.

Despite being the champion that he is, I admire Federer more because of his off-court attitude. He is always calm and composed on and off the field – whether in victory or defeat. His mannerisms are worth emulating and his sense of humor, impeccable. Most champions that I know of, for example some of the Australian cricket team members are arrogant about their success and that makes me dislike them but Federer is different. The others just display their power and arrogance but Federer is all grace and humility.

So when I watched tennis that day, I whole-heartedly wanted Federer to win his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title, a record that no other player has been able to achieve in the open era. But if cricket was saddening, this match was even disappointing – at least till the first rain interruption. Federer faced a very rare threat of losing in straight sets to Rafael Nadal, the same Spanish lad who has been denying him the only grand slam to have eluded him for three years consecutively, the same guy who defeated him in straight sets a month ago at Paris – in the shortest final ever at French Open. It was a sad day for all Federer fans till then. I just could not watch it. I went to bed wondering what would be the eventual outcome of this match.

But what a final it turned out to be! The longest match to played at a Wimbledon final, the most fiercest battle ever, two players giving it whatever they had, matching each other shot to shot - the critics have still not stopped describing the glory of the match. Eventually, after a marathon time and in complete darkness, the winner was decided. It was as though the dark clouds and the entire court was in darkness only to mourn the fall of a great champion. But the opponent who defeated him surely deserved to win.

Federer has been defeated. He is not as invincible as he used to be. All is fans are faced with the same question - next is what? He faces a threat of losing his world number title to Nadal who is matching him shot to shot on all surfaces. His record of most number of consecutive wins has been broken. But the good thing is that the man himself is not. That’s the best part of Federer. He never gives up. When Bjorn Borg was defeated after 5 consecutive Wimbledon wins in 1981, he walked away from the ceremonies and never came back to playing grand slam again. He spoilt his life with an unsuccessful marriage, bankruptcy, rumoured drug abuse, etc. But Federer is not that kind of a person. He announced after the match that he would come back again and try next year. He praised Nadal wholeheartedly. And that’s what distinguishes the champs from the rest - they stay and fight back. Dont they?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Musings - a year after

“Sir, All that I know in life is this. This has been my bread and butter for almost a decade now. What other job will I get?”

The other day it was raining very heavily and it was late in the night. I was going home in the cab that my company had provided me. I was surprised to find that even in that heavy rain, the driver had not put the “windshield wiper” on. Since I was alone in the cab and didn’t have anything else to do, I started to converse with the driver. It was during that chat that he said the above lines.

This guy was no ordinary driver. He had an amazing talent of driving vehicles. From a small motor vehicle to a large bus, he had driven all kinds of vehicles. He had an experience of driving vehicles in all kinds of terrain and weather. His driving instincts in the city was one for which anyone would envy him for. And he was not overconfident about himself. The only reason that he had not put the wipers on was that the company for which he worked didn’t take care of such an important detail while giving the cab to him. But he had not complained. He just treaded cautiously, following the tail lamp of the vehicle in front of him.

During the course of the conversation with him, I got to know many things. The transport companies never gave the drivers their true share. They used the drivers according their whims and never cared anything about their welfare. Sometimes they had to work very late after midnight and be prepared for hectic day early next morning. But the most startling fact that I learned from him that day sitting in that cab was this – the driver was a graduate and knew to converse fluently in five different languages. He held a bachelor’s degree in commerce. Inspite of this, he had made the above statement!

This set me thinking. Even I am nothing but a graduate. I just finished my degree last year and entered into this corporate world. Today, I will be finishing one glorious year of work-life. It surely calls for a nice celebration. It really feels nice as you are independent and your life is in your hands. It feels like being gifted with all the happiness. Does it really feel so?

Well, the answer is “not as much”. And what is it that makes me say that? Am I not happy at being at the centre of a booming technology stream? Am I not happy at working at a nice place with all the luxuries provided by the company? Am I not privileged that my bank balance is replenished by nice salary at the end of the month? Does it not feel good when a cab driver who is ten to fifteen older to you addresses you as “sir” and asks you to teach him how to use his cell phone? Am I not leading a respectable life in the society? Yes, yes and yes. The answer to each one of these is yes. But is that all that there is in life?

The nicest part of life was the days spent at school and college. We had a big gang of friends who used to have fun in every possible way. We sat near coffee shop or canteen or even in the classrooms after classes and discussed all topics under the sun with so much of enthusiasm. We felt we had the power to change the world. We took responsibility of organizing fests, co curricular events and slogged day in and day out to make it successful. The joy we felt when something worked as expected was immense. We worked in teams even then. There was no misunderstanding, backstabbing, dominating, jealousy - nothing. It was pure fun and even if something dint work as expected, there was no one crib about it. We took collective responsibility for it- not one person was pin pointed or blamed. We worked to please ourselves. Each one of us enjoyed all these as much as the other. It was natural that I expected the same when I entered the corporate world.

But what I have seen in this year at office is quite different. There is a specific process that is to be followed for each kind of work. Sometimes the process makes sense but in most cases it is followed only because someone in the top level management thinks it as a “best practice”. Some will be lucky enough to be put into teams with team mates of their kind. They get all kind of help from seniors and grow well. But the not-so-lucky ones struggle. And then there are those bosses/managers/leads or whatever they are called. They are in charge of your appraisals/salary reviews and they are the ones whom you cannot risk hurting. You have to please them no matter what. Some bosses are nice. They nurture talents in their team and help them grow. People feel motivated to work for them. They inspire innovation and lead by example. Even the teams that they lead will be united. They help each other and work together. Getting teams and managers like that is again, luck.

Then there is a second category of bosses. The ones who want to suck the last drop of blood in you and make you slog like anything. They are those sadist creatures who think that the whole world should follow the rules that they set. Outwardly, they are all smiles and maintain a chum-chum relationship with you. But somehow they make sure that they ruin you. If you end up with bosses like these, you get too much frustrated, work gets so mundane and life becomes hell. Some even start working only to please their bosses and get a good review. Some reach a point where all their creativity gets lost because of the frustration in them and that’s not only bad for them but in turn it affects everyone around them including the company that they work for.

The most unfortunate part of all this is that both these good and bad parts exist in the same company. The ones who suffer will watch the ones who enjoy their work and get even frustrated. They curse their destiny to be in teams like theirs. Eventually, they either become sobre and unproductive or quit and go in search of greener pastures leading to losses for the company.

I have had an opportunity to witness both the good and bad aspects of the work life in this one year at work. Work in itself is really challenging – presenting many situations to analyze, throwing many problems to be solved, etc. Working on all these is nice and I get to learn a lot of things. But the bad aspects of work life mentioned above have taken their toll on me. On some occasions I have given more than 14 hours in a day for work being left with no time for myself, let alone my family. In a particular week, Ultra used to be sleeping when I left home in the morning and had already gone to bed when I came back in the night. In the weekend, he exclaimed, “Thank God I saw you at least today!” In college, even during the exam time, I managed to get some time to watch some sports and movies on TV. We used to even bunk classes and go to the much awaited movie of the year. Now, TV is a thing of the past. The much awaited movie of the year has already come and gone without me even knowing about it. The only day et for ourselves are weekends, where we usually plan loads of things to do and end up executing none.

To the outside world, we are all much envied. They feel that we live in a life of luxury - with nice air-conditioned offices to work in, with high paying jobs affording all that you can dream of, roaming around the city in nice cars, going on trips to expensive places. People feel we have money to burn and try extracting the maximum from us. When in college, I could roam around the city even in the night without any fear. Now, it is not safe anymore – even a rickshaw driver demand more when he ferries a “techie”, a traffic cop fines at least five hundred rupees when he catches us for a petty offence, a vegetable vendor claims almost double the normal rate for his vegetables when he sells in apartments. In a way it is contributing significantly to the high cost of living in these silicon cities. But the truth is we live a life full of stress and fear. At work, we are faced with work pressure, weekly targets, and monthly deadlines. Outside, we are faced with envious people trying to loot money from us in every possible way. At home, we are faced with fatigue and depression which leads to cracks in normal relationships. Besides the job security is totally gone. Any moment, your company could be acquired, shut down or merged leading to total mayhem in the organization. What other skills do we posses if all of a sudden the whole industry comes to a halt – nothing! At least my cab driver who is a graduate knows how to drive in a city with so much of traffic. We cant even do that.

These were all my musings on the occasion of my first anniversary at work. Though work has given me a lot of knowledge and skills technically, one main take home point that I have learnt is this – having the right attitude is all that matters in life. Though life may seem frustrating and depressing during times of trouble, you can always look back at it later with feeling of satisfaction. At the end of the day, this feeling of satisfaction is all that matters. Even if you work for hours together and are not satisified, there will be frustration. But, on the other hand, even an hour's work which satisfies you can keep you happy for days. I want to thank many of my colleagues, (especially my batch mates and mentors in team) who made me realize this. Having the right attitude can in itself solve many of the problems in life. So, in spite of all the tough and sad days at work, I would like to look back at all the good things that have happened to me during this one year and make it even better going further. Tough times don’t always last. But tough people do – Right?