Friday, November 19, 2010

Thank you Deepak!

This post is inspired by Amar's post here...

Amar is my friend and batch mate at Great Lakes...he has an aura about him that is a little difficult to place - no airs, humble, playfully chiding and at times, displaying a childish nature that belies his age.

Well, this post is about my mentor at Intel, Deepak. Thanks in large part to him, my 33 months at Intel from July 2007 until April 2010 were the best months of my life and am not exaggerating at all. I am extremely glad that we still stay in touch.

Deepak is the epitome of charm, a humble, helpful and caring nature. His manner of working, interpersonal skills, ability to strike working relationships across teams in no time, manage stakeholders - all of this have given me numerous lessons and here, during this PGPM program, hardly any day passes by without me remembering him and thinking, how his behavior still has a great deal of impact and influence on me.

Never once has he told me "You should do this only in this manner"/"You must complete this within this hour"/"Stay back and complete this testing"/"Don't take up that additional assignment as it is not related to your project". The freedom that he gave to a fresher like me is, in retrospect, a huge reason for my happiness.

Those numerous hours of working together, time spent in the smoking zone, chatting about everything under the sun including the prettiest girls, the latest books and the most scenic tourist spots - if I say that, he personally took a deep interest in my learning and development and did everything in his capacity towards that, it would be a fitting tribute to his interpersonal skills. I owe my technical and process skills as well as my immense confidence at work to him. Courses here talk about idealized influence and individulized attention under the head -transformational leadership. Well, words remain words - a little lofty, a touch verbose and well-nigh idealistic. But I have the pleasure of having seen them in action...

I learnt a lot of things from him - seeing things in perspective, the philosphy of "If you see a white crow, you should not be surprised", (which I am tempted to term as an axiom), the importance of making people happy and good about what they do and more than anything else, to thank them for what they have done...

Deepak, I would always remain indebted to you, whichever offer I take up at the end of this program and wherever I work. Thank You!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Political scenario in India

We were asked to write on this for a contest - 300 words was the limit.

From the days of scrupulously clean politicians like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Kamaraj and Moraji Desai to the days of everyday scandals, Indian politics has come to be synonymous with corruption, appeasement and inaction.

Across the length and breadth of the country, there is reluctance on the part of politicians to wield power with responsibility and accountability. There is no harm per se in acquiring power but exercising it with impunity for the wrong ends is a rot of the system. A political career is viewed as a means to acquire the maximum possible wealth in the shortest possible time or as a means to pander to one’s regional and caste groups. As a result, youth community is deeply sceptical about politics.

People have been duped into believing that short term solutions are what they need. Any political leader should be a visionary and sadly, among the current crop of leaders, except for a select few like our Prime Minister, hardly any politician has a vision for the country. Under the guise of action, all that our politicians do is form committees and task forces. Direct action that addresses people’s real needs is virtually absent. Vote banks are created and the flames of radicalism and casteism are fanned. This leads to a vicious cycle culminating in appalling mediocrity. Politicians appease their pet constituencies and the people who vote get lured by short term fixes and perpetuate inefficiency.

What India needs today is a redefinition of the word politics to encompass the larger public good. We also need politicians who can practise honesty and sincerity visibly - since role modelling good behaviour will in itself be an incentive for others - and a mobilisation of the country’s youth behind those who do that. Any radical change has its seeds in a revolution.

PS: This couldn't make it to the next round...perhaps, wasn't upto the mark!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Human beings and the underlying subconscious

This is an essay I wrote in Term 1 as part of the course - "Intelligently interacting with others" - Read it after a long time and felt, this deserved a space here...

The online Longman dictionary definition of the word says “subconscious feelings, desires etc are hidden in your mind and affect your behaviour, but you do not know that you have them”. A course in ‘Intelligently interacting with others’ encompassing Karma Yoga and ‘Group Processes’ right at the beginning of the term, all said and done, helped us understand the significance of the “subconscious” in our daily lives – how every act of ours is influenced by the subconscious without our knowing it and how in turn, every act plays a small part in moulding the “subconscious”.

The first part of the course was a series of challenges to conventional modern assumptions - beliefs that have got so ingrained at the subconscious level- that, to be able to challenge them, the effort taken should be commensurate enough to achieve a transformation at the subconscious level. Far removed from the world of introspection and contemplation, in the midst of constant flux, caught in the centre of a vortex having little control, we have been zombies, moving about in a preoccupied and dazed fashion, rarely pausing and thinking about what we are doing. From such a state to a state where we have been able to assimilate some of the tenets of Karma Yoga, it is a long journey indeed – a journey marked by several reflections, explorations and unanswered questions.

Materialism and individualism, marked by an enhanced perception of the self and in some cases, characterised by a scant disrespect of others, have pervaded the intellectual space of the modern World so much so that any mention of spirituality, collectivism and moderation is brushed aside as a weak attempt to digress and deviate from the immediate concerns. However, any attempt at self-discovery involves an earnest exploration of the subconscious. We started doing that when we examined selfishness, freedom, duty, love and work. At the outset, all these entities seem disparate but nothing can be more further from the truth as we learned.

Work for work’s sake, work without attachment to results and without any selfish motive in mind, do your duty through love and freedom, strive to do good and resist evil – can we in today’s world practise this? I am tempted to say “No”, but then, after serious thought, if happiness and contentment is needed out of life, instead of a perennial struggle marked by frustration, then, the answer is a big and resounding “Yes”. Shorn of all mumbo-jumbo, this list of 5 can be illuminating. Intimidating to merit attention at first, gradually, with practise, they would result in ‘peace of mind’ and harmony because they are in line with a pure conscience – an ideal at best.

The second part of the course on ‘Group Processes’ breached a wall in the “subconscious” – the wall between the individual and the collective space. With the help of scientific evidence, numerous experiments and theories, human behaviour in groups was examined. The joy of learning is enhanced when it can be achieved through association to something we already knew. Existing aside from the hard wired world of other sciences, here, nothing is set in stone. Therein lays the difficulty too. We are used to capturing rigid formulas and theories and storing them away in our minds, but in any dimension involving human behaviour and groups, there is no clearly demarcated line that anybody can tread on!

In unravelling several layers of the “subconscious”, I realised that many of my assumptions in life had no real basis at all. That

Minority groups can influence – When somebody like the lone jury member in ‘Eleven Angry Men’ can turn the tables around and convince the rest of the jury members to pore over the evidence in detail several times in succession, each of us can influence too!

Biology and systems have something to do with group theories – Any field of study or science is not an isolated entity. Rather every field draws from and gives to other fields, something of significance that can be omitted or ignored only at a huge loss

An individual’s self esteem draws a lot of its strength from the group the individual belongs to – If a person can get a higher sense of self-esteem, simply by helping other group members’ cope with their miseries and agonies, then unselfish work can yield high personal rewards.

Human beings at times seek out miserable company and don’t always get drawn to similar people -

Comparison can actually sometimes aid in personal development – When the word comparison has only less-than-good connotations, to realise that it can actually aid in a personal advancement is heartening.

Groups can actually acquire a mind of their own – Similar to human beings, groups can also acquire a mind of their own though this can prove to be both advantageous and disadvantageous depending on context.

Leadership is not all about Power – With leadership tied to politics in our heads, realising that it is actually “helping people see a different set of possibilities” was a revelation.

Cooperation can result in greater returns in the longer term than competition – In a few cases, though competition is cutthroat, both parties can be well off if both of them cooperate.

Our judgement of another person’s character can be as faulty as a conclusion drawn from a simple and unthoughful interpretation owing to our own prejudices and the person’s membership outside our own groups.

Physical spaces and seating can enhance productivity manifold – Just the manner of arrangement of physical spaces can enhance or bring down productivity.

Being part of likeminded groups can be a source of succour to many – Therapy and self group groups can offer hope and mutual learning respectively.

These are some of the many things that my “subconscious” was wired to dismiss without due consideration. But on reflection, this has been my takeaway. My subconscious has definitely got moulded and my actions henceforth will draw from a new set of altered assumptions and beliefs. That is a remarkable feat to accomplish in such a short time and I am proud as a consequence.

The course was something I would never ever forget!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fading imprints

The dynamics of human memory is very strange - it is able to accommodate an astonishing number of moments in stark detail within its folds and crevices. When we walk on the beach, the foot prints that we leave on the sand fade into nothingness, washed away by the mighty waves. There is not even the slightest trace that gets left behind. Yet, it is not hard to imagine, how surprised we would feel, if, by a stroke of fortune, we were able to see those foot prints again. Precisely, this was the thought running through my mind as I was talking to my child hood friend today. Every word that he spoke seemed to touch some chord deep within and reveal it in a stark fashion. Having known each other since primary school, conversation flowed easily. 

The topic under discussion was our mutual acquaintances. As we reminisced, I realized that I had no clue what these people were doing now. The feeling was a little unnerving; these were the same people I used to meet every day, day in and day out, during my school days. Yet, I had no idea, what paths destiny had in store for them and in which nook and corner of the world, they are in! I came to know that somebody is in Ethiopia, some body is in NZ, some body else is happily married...

How does this happen? We get so caught up in our mundane routine that we forget the very people who were once, so much an integral part of our lives! The people who live 2 doors away, with whom, I used to play cricket in my school days, what do they do now? My school teachers, are they still teaching the same classes? That silent guy who used to sit next to me in class 4, what is he doing now? Perhaps, we should refrain from straining our memories too much. Perhaps, we should cease to think about these people, for they serve no purpose in our lives now. Perhaps, their utility in our lives, their presence, that was once so vivid, their unique attributes, the qualities by which we used to remember them, all of these have ceased to matter. 

No, certainly, that is a very crude way to look at it. It is not how, we should look at life. What about the present? I almost shuddered. Will I, some 7-8 years from now, talk about my college friends in the same manner? Am I now getting confused between friends and acquaintances? Has this boundary ever been clear to me? It is simply unthinkable and too scary to contemplate. Yet, it is not a proposition that can be dismissed at the outset. It is quite possible, if not probable. Why did I not think about these boys and girls when I was in Bangalore? It is not possible to answer that question without feeling a little guilty. 

Yes, I admit it. I am feeling guilty today. Guilt - it is so easy to acknowledge this feeling now. Once acknowledged, it makes redemption possible. I hope, I don't write a similar post some 7-8 years from now. That would be too hard to stomach. That would be, to repeat myself, totally unthinkable!