Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Life at SIBM

11th June 2007 – I was sitting in auditorium for the Induction Program, wondering how the next two years will unfold. All the brilliant people around me were making me nervous. People were already talking about specializations, job profiles and various other frightening things. I felt so under prepared. I was not really sure as to how I will be able to utilize these two years to add value to my career (pardon the MBA jargon). Before joining the college I was working, hence the usual laid back proclivity had crept over these two years of work. So I was not all enthusiastic and oozing with passion for the cut throat MBA studies which suck off every juice of your joyful life. I must confess I was bit scared after seeing the extra-ordinary enthusiasm of my batch mates and was wondering whether I will be able to make a mark? (I am still wondering about that)
As luck would have it, all those thoughts were washed away the very next week when the actual classes started. First week was kind of cool with normal introductions and interactions, getting to know people and faculty. I knew these were the happy times before the turbulent storm. Fortunately or unfortunately you don’t get time to think in here. You just keep churning out reports and presentations without delving into your own life. It’s like you are a machine or something. Well I have my own qualms about the way an MBA college functions but let’s leave it for a later day.
A usual day for me starts at 8:00 am when I need to get up, take the usual dose of ET and TOI and then make haste for the college after getting ready. Just manage to get my attendance for the first lecture. (By the way attendance is a big deal here in SIBM. If you don’t have 90% attendance for whatever reasons you are not allowed to sit in exams.)
To quote a friend here “Breakfast and sleep are luxury in SIBM”. Breakfast because people like me don’t get up early and sleep because we always fall short of time. Whatever be the situation, however less the load be, you will not get time. There will always, always be something to do which u had left earlier.
After every lecture we have a break of ten minutes in which you have time to probably grab a bite or re-look what is on the “To-do list”. I use Outlook for that but as the “To-do list” keeps on increasing with each passing day like the queue at a counter where there is no one to service. Sometimes it seems like you are fighting a lost battle against time. But heroically in the end, everything falls in place.

After four hours of this ordeal, we have an hour of lunch break in which guys like me rush to the canteen because by this time our belly is screaming at the top its voice to refuel it. After the lunch break, students catch up with the lost sleep previous night though lectures continue. It feels like you are in some spell and just can’t keep yourself from giving in.
Lectures get over at 5 pm on a normal day. On a bad day though, you never know when you will be free because anytime the uninvited mail from coordinator will come about extra class so much so that you don’t have time to have snacks. Now is when the day starts for you. You hit the canteen for some snacks and coke. Call up members of different team members to co-ordinate the assignments. Generally one stays in the college till 9 or 10 doing assignment supposedly as a team. Then have dinner and come back to hostel. After the usual discussion on day’s proceedings and mimicry of all faculties, every one retires to one’s laptop and tries to complete the pending work but the enticement of Movies, Friends, Prison Break and Lost is hard to resist. Sleep takes over by 2-3 am and then the same cycle follows the next day. Though the subjects will keep changing and so will the semesters but I guess this kind of routine will follow me for the next one and the half year. Just hoping that after going through this entire ordeal, it will be worth it. The money and time invested for these two years is an investment and after all the knowledge of NPV and IRR I just hope NPV for this project is comes out to be highly positive.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Inspiring speech from Subroto Bagchi

This is an inspiring speech by the COO of MindTree Consulting - Mr. Subroto Bagchi

"I was the last child of a small-time government servant, in a family of Five brothers. My earliest memory of my father is as that of a District Employment Officer in Koraput, Orissa.

It was and remains as back of Beyond as you canimagine. There was no electricity; no primary school nearby and water did not flow out of a tap. As a result, I did not go to school until the age of eight; I was home-schooled.

My father used to get transferred every year. The family belongings fit into the back of a jeep - so the family moved from place to place and, without any trouble, my Mother would set up an establishment and get us going. Raised by a widow who had come as a refugee from the then East Bengal, she was a matriculate when she married my Father.

My parents set the foundation of my life and the value system which makes me what I am today and largely defines what success means to me today.

As District Employment Officer, my father was given a jeep by the government. There was no garage in the Office, so the jeep was parked in our house. My father refused to use it to commute to the office. He told us that the jeep is an expensive resource given by the government - he reiterated to us that it was not 'his jeep' but the government's jeep. Insisting that he would use it only to tour the interiors, he would walk to his office on normal days. He also made sure that we never sat in the government jeep -we could sit in it only when it was stationary.

That was our early childhood lesson in governance - a lesson that corporate Managers learn the hard way, some never do.

The driver of the jeep was treated with respect due to any other member of my Father's office. As small children, we were taught not to call him by his name. We had to use the suffix 'dada' whenever we were to refer to him in public or private. When I grew up to own a car and a driver by the name of Raju was appointed - I repeated the lesson to my two small daughters. They have, as a result, grown up to call Raju, 'Raju Uncle' รข€" very different from many of their friends who refer to their family drivers as 'my driver'. When I hear that term from a school- or college-going person, I cringe.

To me, the lesson was significant - you treat small people with more respect than how you treat big people. It is more important to respect your subordinates than your superiors.

Our day used to start with the family huddling around my Mother's chulha - an earthen fire place she would build at each place of posting where she would cook for the family. There was no gas, nor electrical stoves. The morning routine started with tea. As the brew was served, Father would ask us to read aloud the editorial page of The Statesman's 'muffosil' edition - delivered one day late. We did not understand much of what we were reading.

But the ritual was meant for us to know that the world was larger than Koraput district and the English I speak today, despite having studied in an Oriya medium school, has to do with that routine. After reading the newspaper aloud, we were told to fold it neatly.

Father taught us a simple lesson. He used to say, "You should leave your newspaper and your toilet, the way you expect to find it".

That lesson was about showing consideration to others. Business begins and ends with that simple precept.

Being small children, we were always enamoured with advertisements in the newspaper for transistor radios - we did not have one. We saw other people having radios in their homes and each time there was an advertisement of Philips, Murphy or Bush radios, we would ask Father when we could get one.

Each time, my Father would reply that we did not need one because he already had five radios - alluding to his five sons. We also did not have a house Of our own and would occasionally ask Father as to when, like others, we would live in our own house. He would give a similar reply, "We do not need a house of our own. I already own five houses". His replies did not gladden our hearts in that instant.

Nonetheless, we learnt that it is important not to measure personal success and sense of well being through material possessions.

Government houses seldom came with fences. Mother and I collected twigs and built a small fence. After lunch, my Mother would never sleep. She would take her kitchen utensils and with those she and I would dig the rocky, white ant infested surrounding. We planted flowering bushes. The white ants destroyed them. My mother brought ash from her chulha and mixed it in the earth and we planted the seedlings all over again. This time, they bloomed.

At that time, my father's transfer order came. A few neighbors told my mother why she was taking so much pain to beautify a government house, why she was planting seeds that would only benefit the next occupant. My mother replied that it did not matter to her that she would not see the flowers in full bloom.

She said, "I have to create a bloom in a desert and whenever I am given a new place, I must leave it more beautiful than what I had inherited".

That was my first lesson in success. It is not about what you create for yourself, it is what you leave behind that defines success.

My mother began developing a cataract in her eyes when I was very small. At that time, the eldest among my brothers got a teaching job at the University in Bhubaneswar and had to prepare for the civil services examination. So, it was decided that my Mother would move to cook for him and, as her appendage, I had to move too. For the first time in my life, I saw electricity in Homes and water coming out of a tap. It was around 1965 and the country was going to war with Pakistan. My mother was having problems reading and in any case, being Bengali, she did not know the Oriya script.

So, in addition to my daily chores, my job was to read her the local newspaper - end to end. That created in me a sense of connectedness with a larger world. I began taking interest in many different things. While reading out news about the war, I felt that I was fighting the war myself. She and I discussed the daily news and built a bond with the larger universe.

In it, we became part of a larger reality. Till date, I measure my success in terms of that sense of larger connectedness.

Meanwhile, the war raged and India was fighting on both fronts. Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minster, coined the term "Jai Jawan, Jai Kishan" and galvanized the nation in to patriotic fervor. Other than reading out the newspaper to my mother, I had no clue about how I could be part of the action. So, after reading her the newspaper, every day I would land up near the University's water tank, which served the community. I would spend hours under it, imagining that there could be spies who would come to poison the water and I had to watch for them. I would daydream about catching one and how the next day, I would be featured in the newspaper. Unfortunately for me, the spies at war ignored the sleepy town of Bhubaneswar and I never got a chance to catch one in action. Yet, that act unlocked my imagination.

Imagination is everything. If we can imagine a future, we can create it, if we can create that future, others will live in it. That is the essence of success.

Over the next few years, my mother's eyesight dimmed but in me she created a larger vision, a vision with which I continue to see the world and, I sense, through my eyes, she was seeing too. As the next few years unfolded, her vision deteriorated and she was operated for cataract. I remember, when she returned after her operation and she saw my face clearly for the first time, she was astonished. She said, "Oh my God, I did not know you were so fair". I remain mighty pleased with that adulation even till date.

Within weeks of getting her sight back, she developed a corneal ulcer and, overnight, became blind in both eyes. That was 1969. She died in 2002. In all those 32 years of living with blindness, she never complained about her fate even once. Curious to know what she saw with blind eyes, I asked her once if she sees darkness. She replied, "No, I do not see darkness. I only see light even with my eyes closed". Until she was eighty years of age, she did her morning yoga everyday, swept her own room and washed her own clothes.

To me, success is about the sense of independence; it is about not seeing the world but seeing the light.

Over the many intervening years, I grew up, studied, joined the industry and began to carve my life's own journey. I began my life as a clerk in a government office, went on to become a Management Trainee with the DCM group and eventually found my life's calling with the IT industry when fourth generation computers came to India in 1981. Life took me places - I worked with outstanding people, challenging assignments and traveled all over the, world.

In 1992, while I was posted in the US, I learnt that my father, living a retired life with my eldest brother, had suffered a third degree burn injury and was admitted in the Safderjung Hospital in Delhi. I flewback to attend to him - he remained for a few days in critical stage, bandaged from neck to toe. The Safderjung Hospital is a cockroac infested, dirty, inhuman place. The overworked, under-resourced sisters in the burn ward are both victims and perpetrators of dehumanized life at its worst.

One morning, while attending to my Father, I realized that the blood bottle was empty and fearing that air would go into his vein, I asked the tending nurse to change it. She bluntly told me to do it myself. In that horrible theater of death, I was in pain and frustration and anger. Finally when she relented and came, my Father opened his eyes and murmured to her, "Why have you not gone home yet?" Here was a man on his deathbed but more concerned about the overworked nurse than his own state. I was stunned at his stoic self.

There I learnt that there is no limit to how concerned you can be for another human being and what is the limit of inclusion you can create.

My father died the next day.

He was a man whose success was defined by his principles, his frugality, his universalism and his sense of inclusion. Above all, he taught me that success is your ability to rise above your discomfort, whatever may be your current state. You can, if you want, raise your consciousness above your immediate surroundings. Success is not about building material comforts - the transistor that he never could buy or the house that he never owned. His success was about the legacy he left, the memetic continuity of his ideals that grew beyond the smallness of a ill-paid, unrecognized government servant's world.

My father was a fervent believer in the British Raj. He sincerely doubted the capability of the post-independence Indian political parties to govern the country. To him, the lowering of the Union Jack was a sad event. My Mother was the exact opposite. When Subhash Bose quit the Indian National Congress and came to Dacca, my mother, then a schoolgirl, garlanded him. She learnt to spin khadi and joined an underground movement that trained her in using daggers and swords. Consequently, our household saw diversity in the political outlook of the two. On major issues concerning the world, the Old Man and the Old Lady had differing opinions.

In them, we learnt the power of disagreements, of dialogue and the essence of living with diversity in thinking. Success is not about the ability to create a definitive dogmatic end state; it is about the unfolding of thought processes, of dialogue and continuum.

Two years back, at the age of eighty-two, Mother had a paralytic stroke and was lying in a government hospital in Bhubaneswar. I flew down from the US where I was serving my second stint, to see her. I spent two weeks with her in the hospital as she remained in a paralytic state. She was neither getting better nor moving on. Eventually I had to return to work. While leaving her behind, I kissed her face. In that paralytic state and a garbled voice, she said, "Why are you kissing me, go kiss the world." Her river was nearing its journey, at the confluence of life and death, this woman who came to India as a refugee, raised by a widowed Mother, no more educated than high school, married to an anonymous government servant whose last salary was Rupees Three Hundred, robbed of her eyesight by fate and crowned by adversity - was telling me to go and kiss the world!

Success to me is about Vision. It is the ability to rise above the immediacy of pain. It is about imagination. It is about sensitivity to small people. It is about building inclusion. It is about connectedness to a larger world existence. It is about personal tenacity. It is about giving back more to life than you take out of it. It is about creating extra-ordinary success with ordinary lives.

Thank you very much; I wish you good luck and Godspeed. Go, kiss the world."

-Subroto Bagchi, Chief Operating Officer, MindTree Consulting
I just wish we all take his advice in our lives and make it extra-ordinary.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Blogging for Value

Long Long time after what had been an eternity for me I am jumping into this whole business of publishing myself or more logically exposing myself to the world -- the world of internet.

Anyways now that I have jumped into this whole thing I need it to be appreciated and liked. Consequently I visited some of the apparently popular blogs and tried to find out a pattern in them. What I noticed was that almost 99 blogs in 100 popular blogs were not about the person who wrote it but some thing which he thinks is of interest for the people and entice them to read his/her blog for. Some thing which gives value to the reader of the blog, some thing which makes the readers' life much better.

Off late I went through two different types of blogs. One was of Mr. Guy Kawasaki (CEO of Garage Ventures) and another was a blog named - "Sleepless in Singapore". I must admit there was a helluva differennce between the two of them. And its not that I made a revelation here which you guys wont have made but the point is I got to know two different genres of blog-writing. Was really impressed by Guy's ideas and his effort for what he is trying to achieve and how he is adding value to the readers of his blog.
So I was wondering as to what value can I add to the reader of my blog. That seemed to me as difficult as opening a new venture. So then I pondered over the existence of almost 60 million other blogs which are there just for name sake. I wondered what drove these people to write their blogs. Lets be honest here.... apart from the obvious and apparent reason of dispensing information, another (obvious) reason is quite simply, ATTENTION. Obviously, I'm not providing you with some profound secret you didn't already know, but lets take the case of a good number of blogs written by vapid people like me who think that everyone wants to read about the minutia of their day-to-day lives. I'm referring to the millions of random Blogspot, MySpace, and LiveJournal blogs penned (typed?) by people who lead excruciatingly insignificant lives, yet think that their Friday night at the club, ordeal while coming to the office etc make for a compelling read.

Another creepy quality of such bloggers is that they'll happily write about awkward, personal things that they probably would never tell you in person. So if you wanna spy on that person you despise so much, read his or her blog! Creepy. right?

So in nutshell as the famous line by Abhishek Bachaan goes - "Iss Duniya main do kism ke bLOG hote hain".
1. Blogs that offer a service, whether it be information, tips, or tools
2. Blogs whose service is to lead you to your death bed with content that reads like personal diary entries.

While both types of bloggers yearn for attention,(theres a whole study about it here) atleast the former uses it for better purposes. Hence, after doing such an extensive research, you must have guessed which type of genre will my blog belong to. Of course the second one..... You see for writing a blog which add value and all that crap you got to have value in yourself. It seems rather implausible for me to be adding value for my readers.... But dont you worry... you can come here and feel a bit entertained. So, keep coming back to my blog but beware--- there is no value added... just some crap which comes to my mind every now and then...