my Scribbling

Remember the time…

October 2016
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my Chirps

Counting Medals at the Olympics

The 2016 Olympic Games is just about to close; as i write this, the 10th day is in progress. The closing ceremony and games will come to a close shortly, just a matter of days.


India, a country of over 1.3 Billion people have been participating in Olympic Games since it first started. Our only recourse to a medal, and that too Gold at it, was from Hockey (field hockey). All this worked, till the Europeans and others from the ‘western world’ changed the rules on us. Since then for a long long time, the number of medals we gained from participating in Olympics was close to Zero.


Things started to turn around a decade or so ago, when we started winning medals in sports, that we would have never thought of competing before – shooting, archery, boxing, badminton, wrestling, weightlifting, etc. Also thanks to 24×7 news channels, we were bombarded with news everytime we started a campaign in one of the many international competitions – Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and of course the Olympic Games.


This year in 2016 too was no different. India had a large contingent of participants. We have done this before too, but usually it used to be filled with officials and other cronies from the sports and other federations out for a joy ride. Last few years, things have changed in favor of the athletes and other sports personnel. There is always a big hype generated when the events are about to start, and a big moan of despair and lament when we finish the games, and return home with nothing or minimal medals. The team is held to task for their performance. Accountability is a good thing, but who to be held accountable and for what is a different thing altogether.


This Olympic games were no different. Except Team India was pitched as the best ever, and the medal counts were being fixed much before even the games had started. The team went, they performed, but ended up with a medal count that is again close to Zero.


Before we begin our judgement, lets take a breather. Team India entered 117 candidates in 15 sporting categories. We were able to see, thanks in part to our ranking in the world as a sporting nation, and additionally thanks to the attention a sport other than cricket commands with TV viewers, we were able to see only limited set of Indian athletes perform in their sport. I can tell you about the ones i saw, they performed their hearts out. Yes, they could have done better, an inch to the middle, a sec faster, a feet to the right, or whatever. We are always so used to hearing, we in India, don’t have the ‘killer’ attitude. Probably not. But can you really pin the blame on them?


The school systems in an average county in the US, support and provide sporting facilities that rival the setup India can usually put up for an Asiad championship games. Children are provided facilities and training right from their infancy in their preferred sport. The system of grades includes and allows these children who excel in sport to get credits to help them move up their ladder in the education system. Swimming, diving, athletics, team sports, name it, they have a method to channel the madness. We shouldn’t mistake this for the Chinese style camps to farm medals and records. This is individual driven and family supported, making the best use of the facilities provided to excel in their field. Today at the Rio games, the US has reaped about 105 medals, with two days remaining for the games to close.


The day when India is able to provide even half of what the counties in the US are able to, we should begin rating performances of the athletes and hold them accountable. Till then, lets us simply encourage the ones that try. Even if it is not enough to beat the best in the world. It is enough to inspire a few in India to try harder.


Here are some other notable performances:
Name Sporting Event Time Overall Position
Lalita Babar 3000 Mtr Steeple Chase 9:22.74 10th
Manish Singh 20 KM Walk 1:21:21 13th
Sandeep Kumar 50 KM Walk 4:07:55 35th
OP Jaisha Marathon 2:47:19 89th
Kavita Raut Marathon 2:59:29 120th
Khushbir Kaur 20 KM Walk 1:40:33 54th
Dattu Baban Bhokanal Mens Single Sculls (Rowing) 13th
Abhinav Bindra 10 Mtr Air Rifle 4th
Jitu Rai 10 Mtr Air Rifle 8th
Satish Sivalingam Men’s 77 Kg 11th

Delivering, a customer service

I studied commerce, accounting and economics as majors for my college graduate degree. Two of these designated customer as king, in most, if not all economic transaction. Across the globe too, many different economic model of society and government have given way, allowing capitalism to ascertain its supremacy. The very basis of this economic model, demandXsupplyprofit for the individual, is based on the availability of choices; in the constant battle to find equilibrium between demand and supply. While there are always exception to the concept of demand driving supply, it is just that, an exception. The rule applied to virtually almost all transaction.

The availability of choices to the customer, is therefore a major principle of this economic theory. This allowed new suppliers to enter the market place and fulfill demands of the buyer. The customer (buyer) stopped buying from a particular supplier, if the goods are defective, service bad, and or if the price  higher, among a multitude of other conditions. The pressure on the supplier to please the customer is there paramount in this situation. New suppliers are constantly presented the opportunity to enter the market place, and existing supplier is continuously under pressure to deliver and retain its customer base. A simple survey around the neighbourhood, will provide clear evidence of this duel.

I as a customer, am entitled to superior service as a paying customer. The concept of expecting and delivering superior customer service has been an important basis throughout my professional career. It equally applies in personal transaction, but personal transactions are clearly outside the laws of commerce and economics, and are governed by more ethereal laws. My very first job, at NIIT, required me to be constantly searching for delivering quality service to my customers, my students, both current and prospective. It required among other things, for me to sit at the front office, and help with prospects. My first manager, AT as he was known then, talked to us about how even the supposedly “lame” telephone operator was an important role in the organization; essentially stating that their voice and demeanor on the phone played a big role in coloring the organization.

Today, i trot the globe, traveling constantly between two major continents, with a life in two large economies; India and US. I run an organization in India, which is part of a larger entity based in the US. I expect my team members of the organization i run, to now constantly deliver service over and beyond their ability. This then creates a stress, akin to the balance between demand and supply. The problem tho’ is one of two things; either my expectations are unrealistic, or customer service as a principle is archaic. Before you read too much into this particular scenario, allow me state here that my team does one hell of a job persevering to attain the objectives we have set for ourselves. It still requires me to introspect this in the larger economic system, because service to customer  appears to be on the wane everywhere. However, in my worldly experiences and search for answers, am thinking will allow me to be at peace in the world, but also hoping i can use some of the learning to help me and my team.

I had sometime back recounted the concept of good and bad customer service in my blogs, specifically one about experiences at my neighbourhood store – Trader Joe’s. I happened to meet up with a team leader or manager, at coffee place next to the grocery store. I struck up a conversation to find how they used their magic to have happy employees, who were able to keep their customers happy. It appears just that; happy employees means happy customers. Ensuring your team is happy, solves a major part of the riddle it seems. The team at Trader Joe’s are provided a lot of freedom in day to day transactions and encouraged to do their best to solve customer problems. Teams are created to tackle different administrative tasks, and setting goals allow them to freedom to execute and function smoothly, without too much of managerial pressure. Allowing your team members to find answers to problems in customer transactions (reasoning), encouraging them to try new things (innovate) and determining the outcomes and correction (analysis) all go a long way in delivering superior service.

The onus then becomes to find a balance between innovation and execution. Innovation in itself cannot provide superior service, because many ideas will fail, and only a few succeed. Rote execution creates boredom, and is soon fraught with errors, and therefore failure to deliver the required service. Solutions and answers begin with understanding the problems. The bane of dreadful service is usually the inability to understand the problem we are solving. Many times what is required is the mindset to understand the pain and suffering of the customer, providing a sympathetic hearing of the problem or even a simple acceptance of the situation or issue (even if unwarranted). Unfortunately in the pressure cooker that we all live in, it is difficult to appreciate your problems, when i am drowning in my own. The corporation’s requirement to find profit, at all costs, is also another reason why even willing team members are unable to offer service or deliver.

The freedom to innovate, reason, and conduct critical analysis, in my mind stand out as key factors that influence the ability to deliver superior service. Like all things, how much is too much, and how little is too little then becomes the main function of a manager. It is not so much the need for an equilibrium between these, but rather the ability to execute and function even while thinking. That is the key attribute that needs to be honed and encouraged amongst the team, including oneself.

Easier blogged, than done!

Yes, Virginia, there is racism in America

Two days back, i happened to watch the TV, after a long long time.
Watching the news, i was confronted with yet another shooting of a Hands up Dont Shootblack man, by white police officers. It was not just a shooting, it was cold blooded murder. Two freakin dirty cops, held down a man, and had him under control, and yet took out their guns and shot him. Not once! But many times, till they were certain he was dead. Then last night the news from Minnesota. Which is worse? Are these dirty cops supposed to be protecting the citizens, they swore to serve and protect or are they mercenaries? I dont see any police work here, i see straight forward expression of fear and disgust.

The police in these cases and in many other similar incidents have clearly overstepped their boundary. Thanks to social media, smart phones and other technology, we are now a witness to many of these, and that too instantly. Ironically, the first big event to which i played witness to, happened around the time i had landed in the US for the first time. The beating of Rodney King by the LAPD. Until then, i had only known of the Klan and the civil rights movement. All these old news, and had me naively thinking everything was fine and dandy in the land of the free and home of the brave. My life here, introduced me to many instances of discrimination, specifically against the blacks here. Only the biggest and dirtiest made it to the headline news. And even so, was always peppered with doubt,  disbelief or blatant refutal, and when it was too obvious, a call for introspection on both sides.

There is no reason in my mind for further evidence or proof. The US of A, still practices racism in subtle forms, but law enforcement perpetuates a culture of glaring discrimination in dealing with crime committed by white and black persons. I never believed that Obama would be voted President. I always held that the US was not ready to accept a black man in that position. The youth of the country in a revolution of the mind, voted him into power. Clearly showing signs that there is hope, and things can change. Despondency sets in when i think, after all this, discrimination has not diminished, even if marginally. If at all, the hatred towards Obama, has been channeled into increased discriminatory practices.

The law enforcement in the US for obvious reasons is a superior breed. When i compare it with other countries and even India, their ability to protect and serve its citizens does stand paramount. The ability to respond, to preserve law and order, to secure and shield, and most importantly prosecute and implement the law has little parallel that i am aware of.

But, yes there is a big but! It is clearly lopsided. This office and machinery appears to be limited to serve only the rich, powerful and white america, in that order. That’s a shame. To all others, specially the under-privileged black kids and men, the police officers and the law enforcement machinery seems exclusively focused on – shoot first and then ask questions later – principle. These people stopped by the police are not innocent until proven guilty. They are guilty and have to be eliminated before they could or would become a problem for the lowest rank of the office. This act is then supported, and sometimes even endorsed by higher ranking officers and other agencies that can potentially correct this wrong.

Before i close, let me state that i myself personally have not had to experience any form of discrimination from any person during my many years here. Thanks, probably in part to social status i enjoy, i have had only the best experiences personally. I have had the fortune to live in many cities across the US, most if not all states east of the Mississippi. And in all these years, i or my family  have not experienced anything but pleasant and sometimes the most beautiful experiences. I only wish, i could say this on behalf of the some of the people i have interacted with. These are all hearsay, but like they say “there is no smoke without a fire”.

Let me close by saying – BlacksLivesMatter, and AllLivesMatter! One is not worth anything, without the other. However simply responding with AllLivesMatter, is an assertion that nothing is broken and so get back to life as usual.

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel

Everyday, when i see what is happening in India, i am aghast. Since i reside or split my life between two countries, the US and India, i see several parallels. The recent happenings in India, were similar to the reactions in the US, after 9/11. Immediately after 9/11, US citizens  started reacting wildly, ready to give up their privacy and rights, or maybe the Govt simply usurped the rights. People felt that it was important to the larger cause. People who opposed this thought process were considered anti-national. The situation in India, is very similar. The Govt, here in India, clearly doesnt need any special laws like in the US, but has effectively employed quite archaic rules and laws, that were so widely used during the British rule of India. Or even without using any appropriate law, they are able to intimidate people, and divide them into nationalists and anti-nationalists.
The last couple of years in India with the advent of the Narendra Modi government, the RSS and and similar sounding outfits, have come crawling out of holes. They have been empowered and have started to echo similar sounds that hark back to the divide. The idea that if you do not wear the national flag on your chest you are a anti-national simply sounds ridiculous. The constitution or the laws of the nation do not be demand that you to keep raising the national flag, or invoke the soldiers that stand guard at our borders. Yes, these are patriotic duties of a citizen, but please don’t teach me these. I know when, and how, and where to display these patriotic feelings. I don’t need to prove my nationalism and patriotism to anybody.
Since I brought the topic of the soldiers I do wish to bring up another point. Before we talk about the soldiers who guard our borders, it is important to realize that their masters are the government. And by that definition, we mean the politicians that rule the country. This situation begs the question, why did we put them there? As in why do our soldiers stand guard at our borders? Borders on glaciers and mountains, where the cold kills more than an enemy’s bullet or bomb. Did we exhaust all political dialogue before we put our soldiers at risk? I understand the situation that we are in, and I realize the importance of the role, these soldiers play. And therefore you must be careful before we drag their name into every politically street fight. Don’t use their hallowed name to settle your local internal and petty scores.
This government, its agents and the vast fan following available to BJP and RSS, and others that support this rightwing ideology are busy on Twitter, Facebook and the multitude of social media outlets. Narendra Modi, elected to power on a platform of governance seem to have lost the plot. Instead of focusing on governance, passing bills in the assembly, working on the needs of the citizens, he and his government have instead kept the focus on ideology. The same ideology that divides the nation, instead of uniting it. Their so-called rights to the Hindu religion, in the name of hindutva, seems only serve a select few. It reeks off, the dark Middle Ages when the people were divided based on caste, class and other lines. The have single-handedly used this ideology to cast aspersion on anyone who would think different. They link every issue to patriotism, or the lack of it. They question thought, oppress speech that don’t concur to their views, and raise fake questions and doubts on people who don’t support these views. They do effectively use the internet to leave a trail, for anyone and all to pickup; whether it is true or not.
It is important to stay awake, and to question this stance. It is important for the rest of the nation to be aware of the plot and to resist this divide. It is not always a question of nationalism vs against. It is simply a fundamental right guaranteed by our constitution.
If we want to be patriotic, then lets be patriotic to our constitution. We have had the opportunity to create one after reviewing the Magna Carta, the constitution of the British Govt, the American and many others. We have, in all probability adopted the best of these and set a new standard.
The six fundamental rights recognized by the Indian constitution are:
  1. Right to equality: Which includes equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.
  2. Right to food; every citizen has right to food, which include right to non-veg food as well
  3. Right to freedom: Which includes freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality), right to life and liberty, protection in respect to conviction in offences and protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
  4. Right against exploitation: Which prohibits all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic of human beings
  5. Right to freedom of religion: Which includes freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs, freedom from certain taxes and freedom from religious instructions in certain educational institutes.
  6. Cultural and Educational rights: Preserve the right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  7. Right to constitutional remedies: Which is present for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
  8. Right to life: Which gives the right to live with human dignity. This includes rights such as right to clean environment, water, education, health, livelihood, shelter and basic amenities that the state shall provide.
  9. Right to education: It is the latest addition to the fundamental rights
Lets start with these.
Jai Hind!

The Chingari Chick

Many years back, i forget the context of the protest, but a picture in India Today, showing a girl at one of Delhi’s colleges, holding a poster, caught my attention.
“Hum Chick Nahi, Chingari Hain,
Bharat Ke Hum Nari Hain”.
Two small lines, but it contained a world of philosophy in it. I don’t quite recall, why or how, i build this sense within me, but i have always held that “All things being equal, a woman does a better job than a man”. It must be my mother, or maybe my blind support for the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, in my teens and early college years, or might have been reinforced by my wife.
I don’t mean to sponsor a new gender war. I just think that, based on what i have seen and experienced. And off course, i am biased. I would have to be god, if i didn’t let bias influence my position on a topic.
Look around you, and you will find examples of what i have just said. Biology is a good place to start. In the sphere of reproduction, the simply most important function of any species, the male job is done in about 1-2 minute. Yes, i know some people can hold on much longer, but i am talking reproduction, not a pleasure sport. The male off course, requires to work very hard, very very hard, up until that few minutes, before the actual “2 minutes”. Once complete, the female of the species takes over. It then has to labour hard for 9 months and then almost a year afterward. There are a select few species, where the male has to do more work than what I have stated. But they are invariably only an exception.
Sometime back I also chanced upon a material, that  talked about how a woman, specially housewife, was quite experienced in the field of management. The specifics of that paper talked about how she managed budgets,  inventory control, procurement and various other functions which were common in management. Important thing, was that the article, even though it did not specifically highlight the gender bias, was clearly targeted on the fact that management in many enterprises, is typically filled with male heads. The situation today in India is a little bit more open, allowing woman in the upper echelons of management. Again this is an exception not the rule. The percentage of women in top management is minuscule and definitely not noteworthy.
It is my firm belief that a woman in senior management or in senior roles within the organisation can deliver more value than equally qualified men. I do not have much proof of this, and if any is more anecdotal. However given the role that she plays at home managing a family, children, a kitchen and a household and sometime also at work managing a team has to be quite impressive. This is something that is difficult to ask of a typical male. Looked from this context it is obvious that you could put woman into more challenging positions and to expect success.
Irrespective of everything stated here, it is important from the perspective of diversity that you have a team that is diverse enough to look at any decision from multiple aspects. Most if not all decisions taken at senior management level impacts people. Who better to give you advice on people management than a woman. And so you have to welcome the role of women in business, management, and corporate decision-making.
In India, in spite of having women occupy powerful positions in the political landscape, we have not had the opportunity to uplift their role in general society. We tend to see women as teachers, doctors, nurses maids and sometimes even lawyers, but find it very difficult to conceive them playing a critical role in management. The situation is changing and must continue to improve and we have a long way to go before we can see a more positive transformation.
Women have always been part of workforce that power an economy. Lets accept, without them there would not have been an economy to talk about. While they have been confined to playing a silent role within a household, their value-add has always been unaccounted in any GDP. Also, it’s a misnomer to think they need to stay inside closed doors, else we will see the ruin of a culture and family. Kudos to the ones, who were trailblazers. Kudos to the silent majority constantly trying to break down these impregnable barriers. Kudos to the husbands and family that stand by them. Kudos to all the men, who support and encourage them.

Machi, இது Namma சென்னை !


For a almost a month now, we have been soaking in rain and so much that it has been welling up all over the city. As November was closing, it seemed like the worst was over. Tuesday, Dec 1st, began like the day before, no rains. At 5am, i departed to the airport, scheduled to catch my flight out of the country. I reached the US, feeling extremely guilty. A deserter. The horror of situation had dawned on me very quickly.
Saddened by the twist of fate. I was fortunate to have escaped the fury of the flood waters. I was altho’ unfortunately, far away from my home, and it was hurting most badly now. As i talk to people home the picture soon takes on ominous propositions. Again, my mind is thinking i should have been there, in Chennai.

Internet, almost always being a curse, can be a boon every once in a while. And today the internet helped me visualize and feel how my city was grappling and confronting the deluge. Water had conquered most of Chennai, leaving only a few and sparse patches untouched. It had affected all of its people, the rich, the poor and everyone in the middle. There were tons of water, if you can measure it that way. Power and communication quickly capitulated; making it a double or triple whammy. The poverty didn’t just end there; food and drinking water quickly became a rare commodity.

The end is nigh.

What defines a city? Its architecture, its climate, its transportation, its facilities, its natural surroundings; but the most important is its atmosphere. Sometimes also referred as its culture. This is nothing but a collective definition of its people. The richness of their heart, or the pollution of their minds.

Singara Chennai suddenly has a new meaning. The last few days we saw20151208205022 this beautiful Chennai. In dark and dangerous areas, where ghouls wouldn’t dare; our youth lend their helping hands. First they saved us from the flooded homes and roads. They housed us and sheltered us from the pouring rain and menacing waters. Then they fed us with hot food, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Soon their warmth and cheer enriched our lives. Their touch and spirit of sharing and giving, sparking new hope. Don’t give up, reach out to me, let me grab you and lift you up. The Chennai, shone bright, with all its radiance, showered by all its people.

I was miles away. Yet i was in the middle of it all. My heart melted many times over. My guilt eased as pride swelled in my chest. I am blessed to be part of this culture; Chennai. I am usually; what usually, i am always cynical. Specially about human beings and how we treat our planet. We are the worst of the species to inhabit a home and destroy it steadily, with full cognizance. But we are also the ones that can shower love amongst all and instantly make this world a better place. Chennai showed this to the world. I pray and hope we build on this emotion.

The end, is nigh. Look no further. This is home and you have arrived. Machi, Ithu Namma Chennai!

Gutter, that is Twitter


The internet has changed the world in so many ways, that it is difficult to imagine a life before it or without it. When i first, was introduced to twitter in 2009, it was still a very quaint idea. Imagine leaving tidbits of info on the internet, that may or may not make sense to all. I had probably visited the tweet central about a dozen times during that entire year.
Fast forward to today. Twitter has become probably my main source for news. Ridiculous as it seems, it quite the truth. And there in lies the rub. While twitter is an important source of information, it is like most of the internet, a beehive of misinformation and more importantly disinformation. Yes, there is a word called dis-information, and it is the opposite of information. But this was there before too, and so twitter didn’t introduce or create this dubiosity. What twitter offered was the ability to deliver direct and unsolicited, messages.
Twitter provided access to any and all, no matter where they resided in this whole wide world. Direct access, even if the message was a one to one, it was available for all and sundry to read and react. Suddenly it leveled the playing field. Like blogging did to the world of publishing, twitter did to the world of editorial and press. Just imagine if you made public your entire email inbox. And like everyone else allowed everybody to read their inboxes. And then we read, reacted and messaged each other, about each other, on what each other wrote to each other. Each of the “each” and “other” possibly being completely discrete people on this globe. Imagine. Well, we you don’t need to anymore, twitter has done just that.
Today, thanks to twitter, i am able to directly communicate with @POTUS – yes the president of the US, @narendramodi – the PM of India, my buddies and just about anybody in the world, if i can figure out their twitter handle. And sometimes even that is not really required. I can tweet using their name, and their friends and fans will take this message to them. And many times it really doesn’t matter. Because this is not about communicating; which is a two street. This is more like hurling words. What they mean or cause is usually irrelevant. The very purpose of the tweet could be – shock and awe. Yup. That underhand punch to the chin, when your opponent is expecting you to slam him on the side of the head. Bam!
Twitter is the grand central of hate these days. It used to be youtube, Facebook and myriad others, but none offer the convenience and ease to spew hatred and spill a few foul words. All it requires is, anyone with the most basic skill of to assemble letters, and form words. It does limit you though, to 140 letters for every instance of hate you wish to pass on. It is difficult to have to navigate your way through this gutter, these days. I am not taking some moral high ground here, i have used a few choice words too. I am not happy i did either. It is however sad, how we humans, can abrogate just about anything.
I still cherish the access twitter provides me. I also see how twitter has changed the delivery of news (from the fourth estate), for ever. Sometimes i think that alone is worth it. And sometime i think not!

My Flicks

Food service at the movies. Plates, spoons, napkins, appetisers, main course and desserts. #superfamily #ownfood

Love Birds catching the early morning sunrise. About to bite a haddi :grinning:

Sunrise at the Beach @ Home! Well just minutes away.

Sunset from the sky

Sunset from the sky

More Photos