Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The Underdog rises!

“My strength was my weakness” says Advani

“My weakness was my strength” says Manmohan

This was one of the comic strips featured in a leading newspaper recently. It sums up the story of the season – the resurgence of the underdog; the victory of the person considered to be the weakest. All through the election campaign, the BJP claimed that it was the strong force in this elections and its prime ministerial candidate was the best in business. They even started attacking Manmohan Singh directly by calling him a “weak” prime minister. Manmohan did nothing but wait for the election results. When they finally came, the party which considered itself the strongest had fallen flat on their face and the weak prime minister had returned for a historic second term at office.

This year the electorate has chosen a very stable government. The belief in people that this government will save them from the economic crisis showed when the sensex soared more than 2000 points in a day when the government came back to power. The people have made a good decision in choosing one of the national parties with wholesome majority, but being an avid supporter of the other national party, all I can say is that this decision was not the best. After all the years of service to the nation, the strong candidate did not deserve such a humiliating defeat. But I feel that the BJP has got itself to blame by being over-confident and indulging in negative campaigns.


When I wrote about them in an article two weeks back, little did I hope that the royal challengers from Bangalore would be qualifying for the finals of the Indian Premier League. But as in politics, this season of cricket has been just about that – “the rise of the underdogs”. Who would have imagined that the teams placed at the bottom of the table last year would be playing in the finals? All through this tournament, the teams that looked the strongest on paper have fumbled when it mattered the most. And in contrast, the teams considered to be weak have had the last laugh in tough situations.

It is still an irony that an Indian captain has never been able to lift the IPL after 2 spectacular editions. Out of the four semi-finalists, three of the teams were led by Indian captains. The Delhi Daredevils were the strongest in the tournament. And yet, when the big match came, they were sent packing by the explosive Deccan Chargers captain Adam Gilchrist. Even the final game had Royal Challengers’ name written all over it but the team gave in to the pressure and ended up on the losing side. For all the efforts the legend jumbo had put to take his team to the finals and even restricting the opposition on the big day, he did not deserve to be on the losing side. It is such a nice irony – all through the league, Bangalore managed to win the tough games and beat the strongest sides in the tournament when they were considered the underdogs. But on final day, they looked the stronger side and still managed to lose the game. The underdog had to win!


This is perhaps the best of the three underdog stories. While all the above stories were being written on a national or international level and had the entire media attention, the script of this story was being written silently in a remote village of Karnataka. And that’s what makes this story extra special. A young girl from a poor agricultural family in one of the most backward districts of Karnataka scored the highest marks in the recently concluded Pre university examinations. The girl, Shruthi S K belongs to a poor family of Jyothirlingapura, a village that is 15 km from Harapanahalli taluk headquarters in Davanagere. Her father is a farmer and her mother works as a domestic help. They did not have electricity in the house till middle of the year when they got a light-bulb under the government’s “Bhagya-Jyothi” scheme. The girl used to travel in either private or state government buses everyday to her college and then come back home and study. Her success story is really an inspiration for all students. When so many students in the city who go to the expensive coaching classes and still complain about the lack of proper study facilities, this girl has proven that when you have the will power to succeed, no one can stop you from achieving your goal. The achievement of the girl is truly commendable. I wish her story inspires many more students like here to achieve success.


I leave you with these three stories to ponder upon. If you have been constantly labeled as an underdog or a weak person, please don’t lose heart. Every person is unique in his/her own way and will definitely come good in their respective fields. History has proved it time and again. If you have the will to succeed, nothing can stop you in your endeavors and you will definitely win.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

5 things the elections have taught

“Let me see how these people will go it alone this time. They will definitely need my help to survive!” thought Laloo.

“I am the king maker this time. No party can rule this nation without my support” thought Maya.

“I will take my revenge on the other party of my state by keeping them out of the next government” thought Jaya.

“With all the exercises going on to secure allies, who knows, I might end up being the prime minister once again” thought Gowda.

“The communist party is still strong and we can control the next prime minister like a puppet” thought Karat.

So there they were… the so-called leaders of the nation in the warmth of their bungalows, on the night of Friday the 15th of May 2009 hoping that the next day, as soon as the results were announced, the leaders of all the national parties would come begging for their support and that they could dictate terms for the next five years with some 10-50 seats under their control. They even had secret ambitions of leading the nation themselves. They would be the "king makers". They would be the power centers. They would be more important than the nation itself. They had every reason to feel like that with almost all the exit polls predicting a hung parliament for the country and the decisive roles these people would go on to play for the next few years. How wrong they had been!

Today, all those Paswans, the Yadavs, the Mayas, the Jayas, the Naidus, the Gowdas are alone in their homes, watching the TV with a sense of disbelief. Each one of them has been made to eat the humble pie. No one will turn to them now. Forget about dictating terms, they don’t even know if they will be presented with at least a ministerial berth if they decide to support the government. They don’t even know if they will be approached for support in the first place. They have realized that there is only one “king-maker” in this land – the common man. The Indian voter has spoken – "We don’t need a government that is run by one person and controlled by many others in the background according to their whims and fancies. We need a government that responds to what people want".

The elections of this year are really significant in the entire history of democratic India. Our country is now at such a phase where a strong leadership at the centre is absolutely essential for the dreams and aspirations of the nation to turn real. Also, the time has come to send out a strong message to the world that democracy would eventually be the best form of government for a nation as big as ours. For all this to happen, a clear and concise mandate by the Indian voter was absolutely crucial. And the voter has finally spoken… and in a manner that only an Indian voter can!

To me, the results of these elections mainly convey the following five important points:

1. Democracy Wins
Yes, no matter how skeptical you are about its advantages, democracy ultimately wins. This election was all about creating awareness among the young and upper middle-class voters by means of campaigns such as “Lead-India”, “Jaago-Re”, etc. It was about telling everyone how important it is to cast your vote and be counted in a democratic nation. Although this did not translate into an increased percentage of voters on the Election Day, it has proven to be success. More and more people from upper middle class and the younger generation have realized the power of voting. Many people could not vote this time as the campaigns to enroll their name in the voters’ list was started a little late. But I am sure; these elections have certainly created the urge in people to participate in the voting process. In the coming years, the number of people who vote will surely increase. And with the voter getting more and more intelligent, this is real good news for democracy.

2. Only development is the issue
One thing that has been decisively proved by the voter is that all the pseudo-issues do not matter. The voter votes for only that party which promises development. People just ignore the candidates who have a tarnished image. And the candidates have slowly started realizing that they cannot win an election with money alone. They need to be accountable. This is one of the greatest messages according to me. It has worked a great way in restoring the faith of the people in the institution of democracy. Also, the Election Commission being very strict about the spending of candidates has made it tough for the rogues and criminals to win. Caste, religion, money did not matter. Varun Gandhi’s hate speech did not help the party, neither did Shibhu Soren’s criminal record..

3. Performance matters
The clear message sent out by the voter this time around is “Perform or Perish”. Those leaders that enjoyed power but did nothing for the voters were rejected out rightly by the people. While those who showed improvement significantly were bestowed with more power. Veteran leaders who have shown improvement in their respective states like YSR, Sheila Dixit, Navin Patnaik, Nitish Kumar, etc were voted back to power while the ones who did not do much good to the people were defeated.

4. Nation comes first
Our country has adopted a multi-party system where anyone can form a party, win a few seats and hope to have a say in the national level. But over the years, this has been misused by selfish local leaders for short term gains. The recent example of the election commission’s worries when it had to register yet another symbol for Chiranjeevi’s new party shows how confusing and trouble-some multi party system can be. But the voter has become smart enough to distinguish between national parties and local parties. Giving the grand old party a clear mandate is a step in this direction. This means that the time is up for any local leaders who think that they can dictate the terms of the nations having a few seats with them. This means end of days for veterans like DeveGowda, etc.

5. Exit polls are an utter waste of time
This has been proved time and again. After every election, the media, especially the television channels, conduct too many exit polls and keep screaming at the top of their voices that their exit poll results are the most accurate. They even start discussing the post poll alliance that the parties should look for and the potential future prime ministers even before the results are actually announced. This election has clearly proved the futility of such polls and it is high time that these are banned. If the exit polls were really such accurate, why did we need to conduct an election in the first place?

These are exciting days for the nation. We have a new set of leaders at the centre and a party with clear mandate. There will be no pressure on the party from its allies like last few years and it is free to act on its own. But the leaders also know that they cannot take this mandate lightly and become complacent. They have to take up progressive measures for the all-round development of the nation. How these people eventually fare will be known to us only in the days to come. But for now, there is only one king – the Singh. Let us all wish him all the best and hope to see our nation progress in the coming days. Jai Hind!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

In the Driver's seat

“Sir, when you know you are in control of things, you will not feel as afraid”

This was what my cab driver said when asked why he drove so recklessly so as to cause a fear to every passenger in the cab each time he was behind the steering wheel. Driving in the city with traffic in its full glory requires guts. It can suck every bit of patience out of you leaving you irritated and exhausted. As drivers are presented this tough challenge every day, they adapt to the extreme conditions in their own way, depending upon their character. I have been observing the drivers in city for some time now and have been able to come up with the following four different categories of city-drivers:

1. The “I rule the road; I don’t care a damn” types:
The signal is turning from green to red. And the vehicle is a good 300 meters away from the post. The chances of making it through are very slim… and yet, you find these types accelerating the vehicles in such a fury only to get it to sudden, grinding halt at the signal.

These are the ones who belong to the first type. They always drive recklessly, honk endlessly, overtake dangerously, yell mercilessly and most of the times, get injured fatally. They always stay on the right most lane of the road and try to squeeze their big cabs/buses in the smallest of spaces. Traffic rules, one-ways, peak hour traffic – they don’t care a damn about all these. They are forced to follow the traffic only because of the cops or the rest of the traffic. Most of the IT office cab drivers, the auto wallahs and the impulsive youth with flashy sport bikes fall under this category. If you are a passenger in one of such cabs, all you can do is close your eyes and listen to prayers on your music device (Vodafone ZooZoo ishtyle!). You can count yourself lucky each time you get down from these cabs after a journey full of AJMs and unbearable honking and third degree yelling.

Most of these drivers hail from the poor or lower middle class. They would have experienced too many failures in life and always have a frustrated look on their faces. Hence they tend to take out their frustration on the fellow road users. In most cases, the vehicle will not be their own and the pain of damaging the vehicle is not felt by them. If you are at the crossroads with such vehicles approaching from other side, you definitely give way to them.

2. The “Salpa adjust madi; ellaru win madi” types:
This is how most of the aam aadmis drive in Bangalore. Most of us would belong to this category. They understand the road situation and drive accordingly. If the traffic demands that they need to drive slow and follow the right lane, they do so. And when the roads are free, they freely test the maximum speeds of their vehicles. They follow the traffic rules most of the times but ignore the traffic signals when it does not make sense. For example, jumping a red during late night when you can clearly see the roads are empty. They don’t need cops to control them. And unlike the category one drivers, they dont drive rash even when full control is given to them. They are their own decision makers in life. If you find yourself in a vehicle driven by these people, relax and have a nice chat with them. You will end up having a nice time.

This category is the educated and/or well-to-do ones and usually drives its own vehicles. Life has treated them fairly and they expect and exhibit the same on roads. They hate the first category drivers and sometimes help the ones in lower categories.

3. The “Better late than never; play it safe” types:
This category is the exact opposite of the category one types. These people get into a fierce fight with the category one drivers almost each time they get into the streets. They carve for ideal situations and hate it when the rash ones upset their driving day. They drive slow most of the times, follow the traffic signals always and keep complaining about everyone. They get frustrated very soon as they are impatient. If you are a young person reading this post, in most cases you can picture your uncles/aunts in this category. If you are stuck with these people in a vehicle, please be on your guard – you never know when they lose their calm and start yelling at you. Just keep calming them down with soft music on radio or sweet talk of the good ol’ days.

These people are usually the older generation ones who drive because of compulsion and not for the love of it. Probably they would have driven most of their lives in those good old days of traffic free, tree lined, cool roads of Bangalore lament the loss of every good thing that our city once had. Hence, when they come out on the roads, all their emotions come gushing out.

4. The “Oh, I don’t know how to drive; I am confused” types:
These category is a minority in today’s roads but nevertheless more significant. In a way, even the category one people don’t know how to drive but they make up for it with their aggression. But these people are so confused in life and serve the purpose of providing the much needed comic relief on roads. Sometimes, they are stuck in a busy road with heavy traffic not knowing what to do and panic by waving hands; sometimes they are on a slope and their vehicle refuses to move forward causing a pain to others; and most of the times they are struggling in the parking lots struggling to fit in their vehicle in that elusive parking space.

Most of these kinds are learners and are always at the receiving end of the category one drivers’ wrath. But eventually they mature either into category two or category three drivers. They are helped most of the times by good Samaritans of category two. If you are stuck in the crossroads with these kinds of drivers, don’t wait for them to make judgment- they always make the wrong one. Just speed away and you will be all right.

So these were the four categories of drivers as perceived by me. If you feel there are more categories or have something more to add to these, feel free to leave a comment. I wish that more and more people start to follow the category two drivers so that the city roads become a pleasure to drive. I will come back with more interesting categories of occupations next time. Till then, happy driving! :)

1. Salpa Adjust madi - famous Bangalore slang used when you want other people to let you have your way
2. AJM – another famous kannada slang for describing “near-misses”

Monday, 4 May 2009

Fortune favors the brave

In my last article I talked about how luck favors some people more than the others. Some people came back to me after reading it saying that mere luck would not take people anywhere. It should definitely be supplemented by hard work and immense talent. In fact, people could be too foolish to be just sitting and loitering around when the elusive lady of luck kept smiling at them.

I could not agree more with them. That was exactly what I was trying to say. All said and done, it is always hard work and talent that ultimately pays off. But the purpose of that post was not emphasizing that luck is everything you need to succeed. It was just to shed light on the fact that even after being extremely talented and having worked very hard in life, that extra bit of luck is always needed to achieve the kind of success we dream about all the time. One should keep looking for opportunities and grab it when it comes along. It is all about being at the right place at the right time.

There is one more dimension in this. When things seem to be going your way, there is that confidence factor that keeps growing. It feels as though you could do nothing wrong. Everything you touch turns to gold and no one in the world is as happy as you are. On the flipside, even bad times are no exception to this “pouring down all at a time” phenomenon. When things go bad, there seems to be hardly anything that works in our favor. Even the things that we are most comfortable at handling seem to be difficult to do then. I would like to illustrate these cases with a few real examples that I have witnessed recently, some of which are common knowledge.

A classic example is the case of Bangalore’s very own IPL team – the royal challengers. Last year, they were at the receiving end in the very first match of the league that too in front of their home crowd. The scars caused from that huge defeat dented them so badly that they were never able to come back in the tournament. It was imperative then that they finished in the penultimate position. A year passed and in they flew to South Africa to the current edition of the league – the scars still remained. Even though they managed to win the first match, it seemed that they had lost the belief that they can win. In the match against Delhi, all that they had to do was to stay cool and bowl at the right places. But they managed to lose the match. Their body language in the field said it all – they firmly believed they cannot win and waited for the inevitable to happen. They also had many close decisions go against them - Luck had not favored them either. How would it? Fortune always favors the brave right?

After losing four matches in the league, they had their encounter against a pretty weak team – their nemesis from the last edition – the knight riders. Suddenly the team started to believe that they had a chance. And they won. Even though it was a nail-biting finish, they managed to get one under their belt. This was enough to turn things around. Every match they played from then, they grew from strength to strength. The clinical victory over one of the strongest teams, Mumbai was a testimony to this new found confidence. Although, time will only tell how long this confidence will last and the winning streak will continue, the point I am trying to make by citing this example is simple – when things start going against your way, the confidence you gain and that little stroke of luck will help you overcome many obstacles in life.

One more case that comes to mind when I think of this game of fortunes is that of a project at office. There was a big team of people who worked on a really big project sometime back. It was really hectic and the whole team used to work long hours and weekends. The schedule was really impracticable. I really don’t understand who came up with such a ridiculous schedule in the first place. Anyway, the deadline was already there and the team had already reached saturation limits doing whatever best they could. It seemed that the entire team had gone crazy. They were frustrated with the project and its incredulous deadlines. Their personal lives went for a toss. It seemed as though nothing went right for them and there was always a new issue to be tackled every day. Somehow they managed to finish it off with the “bare-minimum” deliverables in place.

Sanity had finally been restored. There was applause all over from top management commending the work done. The team enjoyed nice perks and had great appraisals. They earned promotions at work and saw their career reach new heights. Being in that tough project seemed not so bad after all – they had finally found confidence to tackle issues on their own and had acquired leadership qualities. Slowly, all the missing components were added into the deliverables with such zeal and efficiency that it now boasts of being one among the most stable projects delivered in the company.

When you are at the right place at the right moment, the world around you seems like utopia – the kind of ideal place which you always dream about. Be it writing 1000 lines of quality code, chasing a very high target in a cricket match, facing the toughest job interview or scaling the highest peak – all seem to be a piece of cake. But when the tide turns, life seems one big mistake. I have had both experiences in my work life. Sometimes fixing a small bug in the documentation part of the code has led to so many critical reviews resulting in frustration and anger. Other times, even the toughest of bugs have been finished in no time at all. In the latter, I just happened to be at the right place at the right moment to get it done.

No matter what the game of fortune is, one thing that we should always have is confidence in our abilities. It is this self confidence that will carry us through the tough times of life. In everything that we do, let us give our best and hope that the best will happen. If we are earnest in our efforts, fortune will definitely favor us helping us in our journey to success. I wish everyone of you all the best in realizing your dreams and pray that fortune befriends you in all your endeavors.