Monday, August 11, 2014


I tried writing this post with a commentary on the law and order situation in the national capital after sixty years of independence but could not find suitable words or phrases to explain the angst in my mind. I have therefore given up the attempt on posing a commentary and this post only relates the incidents of breakdown that I either witnessed, read or heard about from others. Readers are welcome to post their comments on the post. Maybe you will be able to articulate the pain we all feel better and even explain why this a happens or what we can do to stop this madness.

All the incidents took place last week. One of the incidents was widely reported in the papers and triggered the idea of the post in my head. The others were not reported but left me equally aghast. What is appalling is that we seem to accept this as a part of life in the country and more in the capital and the millennium city adjacent to it. This is a part of the country with perhaps the best infrastructure, high literacy and per capita income.

The first incident was a news report that five young men had brutally stabbed and killed another youth in a Delhi market at 3 pm. I reread the article to confirm that it happened in the national capital with a number of folks watching and not doing anything to help the victim. The victim was chased down by the assailants armed with pistols and knives before they stabbed him almost 15 times and left him to die. 

An act of blatant disregard for the law of the land in the heart of the national capital. I know that Delhi's image has taken a beating post the infamous nirbhaya case widely reported by national and international media. Even in that backdrop this was quite a heinous crime and the fact that it was committed in broad daylight in a busy market makes it even more appalling.

The second incident is not as violent in nature and would even be considered funny but for those who actually suffered the experience. This happened in a very busy commercial district of Gurgaon where a number of large multinational companies have their offices and is supposedly a very good residential locality. As a colleague and I stepped out of the office of a MNC consulting company at noon on a Monday, we found that the traffic had come to a complete standstill on Sohna road. I am used to jams in Gurgaon but in typical situations the traffic inches slowly though painfully. This instance was different, there was no movement at all and on enquiry we were told that some locals had blocked the road completely to protest the theft of 5 buffaloes. My colleague and I looked at each other with comical disbelief. Surely this cannot be the reason for a busy commercial district to come to a halt in one of the most developed parts of the country, we thought.

As we started walking to the end of the road we found cops standing at a corner giving the impression that they were as helpless as ordinary citizens.  I am sure the owner of the stolen cattle was aggrieved but surely the police department in Haryana should be able to inspire enough confidence in themselves for the owner to not resort to such measures.

The person who committed the crime in the third incident actually said that he does not care for the police. My friend was driving to work in Gurgaon and his car scratched past another in the rush hour. The driver of the other came over and punched him in the face and beat up his wife when she got out of the car tried calling the cops.

What explains this kind of disregard for norms of a civilized society? How did we let the situation deteriorate to this level? Why is that we are able to build ourselves great offices and houses but not a functioning society? I neither have an explanation for the above incidents nor any grand solution. I only request all readers to introspect and do everything to stop this madness. We can perhaps start by ensuring that we ourselves will not resort to such acts of disregard for other citizens rights and put our faith in the system, whatever be the provocation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Our Flawless Heroes

It was difficult to point that one thing that people loved about him. Was it the stunning good looks, the dimpled smile or the fair colour of the skin (still considered an asset in Indian consciousness)? Was it the fact that he was a pilot (the dream job of a middle class Indian in the 1980's) or that he had married an European ( fairy tale love stories happened only in movies then)? . That he became a popular mass leader within a short span of time of entering public life was without debate. Of course the charisma of the Gandhi surname played its role. The children loved him, the youth wanted to emulate him and the middle aged envied him for he was everything that they wanted to be.

He had such an impact on the collective consciousness of the nation that no one even questioned his inexperience in politics before accepting him as the leader of the nation. It is amazing how we crave for the perfect leader, hoping that he would lead us to a new world where we would have everything that we wanted but were too weak to achieve, turning a blind eye to the weakness that make him human, ignoring the flaws and finding virtues where there are none. The powerful visual media has made it easy to create such heroes. Anyone who has sufficient coverage, speaks the right words and connect with the audience has a good chance. The good looks add a further punch sending the TRPs soaring.
And very often we have seen them fall as fast as they rise. The congress under Rajiv won the maximum number of seats in any parliament in Indian history and plumetted to its lowest number of seats in the very next election under the same leader. Obama's rise is probably as meteoric as Rajiv and within a year the fall in his ratings is amongst the highest.

So what's behind the phenomenon that enables such leaders to sway the voters into a mass hysteria? One explanation could be that these leaders are very good at understanding the weakness of the human spirit and exploiting the same to their benefit. They are good at selling dreams to the vast population which promise to relieve them of their miseries and take them to a better world, tugging at their heart strings with slogans like 'change we need'. The citizens, most of whom are fighting a losing battle with lost jobs or high mortgages, are only too willing to buy the smooth talk while deliberaletly ignoring the fact that they have to solve their lives problems themselves. The reality is too harsh and the world of dreams provides a relief from the wretchedness of a losers life.

The dream reaches its euphoria with the results of the elections announced and the public waiting for the messiah to perform the miracles they promised themselves he will. The reality dawns slowly as unpaid bills pile up and with it the anger of disillusionment crashing the ratings to the ground.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lost and Found

I found it on the middle of the road on a lazy saturday afternoon. It was a single marble, standard green colour, perhaps dropped by a kid with a full pocket and too busy to miss the one. When did I last see kids play with marbles? When did I last play with marbles?

I remember playing cricket in the streets, in the garden and even in the small room inside the house when it was raining. When did I last see kids playing gully cricket? I miss the clamour and the chaos of the young boys roughing it out in the sun. The sun did not hurt and the rain did not matter. We would swim in the pool for hours lazily playing with the Ball. Swimming was still a sport and not an exercise.

"We need an indoor bike to keep fit", says my wife. Reminds me of the green coloured sports bike of the school days used for racing up and down the hill with friends. Our most prized possesion for outdoor activities, for going to school and returning back, for running small errands for Mom from the nearby market. And on days when we we got lucky, the opportunity to drop a lady friend home in the front bar of the bike with her hair blowing in the wind and throwing the beautiful scent of her shampoo into the nostrils.

"I am arranging funds for a vacaton abroad with you and need to spend longer hours in office", I explained to my wife selling her the dream of visiting Europe on a romantic holiday. "Do you remember the most romantic time we spent? ", she asked. We were in college and did not have the funds to watch a movie but plenty of time to stare into each others eyes in the garden close to the girls hostel. The hostel gaurd would announce the curfew hour and we stole a extra few minutes with me not letting her hand go while she made mock protests teasing me about hostel rules. When was the last time we held our hands and went out for a walk in the garden, I tried to remember.

The noise of the car engine broke my reverie and I stared at the marble wondering what I had found and what was lost. I threw it back on the road for someone else to find the loss.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happy workplace, unhappy workplace!

"I would like to work on assignments that make me happy", I announced to my wife.

"Your boss/company would like you to work on assignments that make him/them happy" came the tongue in cheek reply. Its one of the big ironies of life that things that make us happy usually do not make economic sense to our organisations. Most of us would like to be paid for doing the work that we love but this is not usually aligned to our organisation goals (or so we are told).

Is that the reason we admire a Chetan Bhagat or Harsha Bhogle? The entire country fell in love with Rancho of 3 idiots because he followed his heart. Would the movie be so popular had the character played by Aamir Khan ended up as a destitute scientist struggling to eke a living instead of the fairy tale situation of corporate honchos running after him?

What is it that we admire in people like these? The courage to follow their dreams or the fact that they succeeded while doing so. Though most of us do not usually select extreme options like giving up our jobs to be a writer or a commentator, we like to pick up assignments in our organisations that make us happy to come to work and yet contribute to the organisation.

Yet, most managers or bosses would like to convince us that we need to do what is best for the organisation and the common goal etc etc. My only argument against this is "how will the organisation be "okay" if the people who make it are "not okay". In the last century, businesses have shown a remarkable capability to build organisations with thousands of people and make them work towards a common commercial objective. The work ethics of the employees is driven by a strict code of conduct and organisational policies and rule book. Then there is a long list of behavioral patterns that a employee is supposed to follow to demonstrate his positive attitude towards the companies goals and objectives.

Is this the reason why employees leave the organisation to look for better options or simply leave their jobs to pursue interests that really make them happy? Food for thought for managers of the new generation.

Deepak Bhatia

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Positive thinking?

One of the things that has attracted a large number of followers in the last few years is the large list of authors, speakers and books on positive thinking. Secrets was one of the best sellers which quite abashedly encouraged us to dream big and become big. I came across an article in a leading daily recently which talked about the decline in "positive thinking movement". While I am still trying to form an opinion on this topic I would like to mention another book that completely negates the concept of "The self made individual". The book is another bestseller by Malcolm Gladwell by the name of Outliers.

Though Gladwell does not explicitly condemn the positive thinking concept, the book comes across a very well drafted argument against an individuals capability to define his or her destiny. Gladwell's argument in the book is that circumstances beyond our control make or break our life and this is true of the most successful individuals including the likes of Bill Gates and Beetles. So as per Gladwell, anyone who claims to be self made is taking more credit for his own success than he deserves. I am sure this is not going to be music to the ears of the boisterous class of celebrities that live in our midst.
Like I said I am till trying to form an opinion on this topic but I have some interesting takeaways from the book. For one, I have come across a number of people who aren't super successful and have attributed the lack of it to the logic in Gladwell's book. This in itself is not such a bad thing since it may just end up reducing the stress that a large number of people create on themselves searching for the illusive stardom. The book also offers some interesting trivia. For e.g to be world class you need to put 10,000 hrs in your area of interest/profession. Apparently Bill Gates and Beetles did the same. One thing is for sure, if this book catches on a large number of Indian parents may start clocking the time their kids spend on maths or cricket to ensure they do 10,000 hrs.
Coming back to positive thinking, I am not sure if there is any empirical evidence to prove that positive thinkers are more successful, it definitely makes one happier. The idea that I can think myself to success at least removes the pain of the daily grind, the obnoxious boss, and the thankless job that a large number of us live through.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Of Emails and Mobiles

“But, I sent you the mail in the morning” howled my colleague on the cell phone.

“I am sure you did, but I haven’t had a chance to look at it. I have been busy preparing for tomorrow’s client meeting.”

“But, this is urgent. How can you not check your mails for 3 hours?” he continued. I could visualize the expression of agony on his face as he spoke.

“I generally don’t check emails when I am busy with something. It tends to distract me. Besides, if it is so important you can always call. That’s what mobiles are meant for.” The grunt at the other end of the line gave me a feeling that my ideas are not being received well.

This is a conversation that I have with a colleague almost every week. I believe a number of readers may not appreciate the opinion I have on this subject. So let me take an opportunity to explain my point of view in greater detail.

Two developments in the world of communication have changed the way we work and live our lives in the last 15 years – Emails and mobile phones. Both the means allow us to reach others at a pace which was the stuff of science fiction just 30 years back. Yet, there is a key difference between the two. One is an Asynchronous means of communication while the other is a synchronous mode. So when you send out an email there is no way to make sure that your intended recipient of the email has actually received the email and is working on the same unless the recipient chooses to inform you. In fact you can never be sure as to when he will actually look at the email. And this could be due to a variety of reasons. He could be ill and not at work, he may be travelling or he may be simply too busy to check emails. There is usually more to work than just responding to emails. A lot of us seem to have forgotten this simple fact. There are cases where you want an immediate response and fret over the fact that the recipient has not done so. Well, guess what? The recipient is on a flight across the Atlantic and will not be able to check mails for five hours and you are not even aware.

There is no doubt that emails have changed the way in which we communicate for business or personal reasons. However, they have also resulted in increased stress faced by executives who make the mistake of treating it as a synchronous mode of communication. A mobile phone is a better tool to use when you want to get in touch with people instantaneously.

It’s interesting to look back and see how life was without a mobile phone till a few years back. One could get in touch with people only when they were either in office or at home. I remember I would fix up a meeting with my girlfriend on weekends and then reach the destination at the appointed time and wait there for her. There are times she would be late by almost an hour. I had no choice but to wait.

Now, I tend to get irritated if my wife is a few minutes late and does not pick up her mobile when I am calling to check. Most people consider it reasonable to expect people to pick up their mobile phones at any time of the day when. I have seen people flood their acquaintances with continuous calls if there is no response. It’s become difficult to imagine staying away from the phone even for few minutes. In a recent meeting at our office most team members were wary of switching off their mobile phones for a workshop lasting a couple of hours.

I am not trying to run down the benefits of that these devices have obviously brought in our lives. The attempt is to present different view of the impact they have on us. I have seen people get highly stressed up when they do not receive an immediate response to their email or in a situation when their colleague does not pick up the mobile. One tends to build up a whole lot of anger within oneself and form opinions on the other person’s reasons for not responding. I have even seen bosses getting offended when subordinates do not pick up their phones. I am sure that is the kind of stress we all have been through at some point in our life while using these devices.

Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind while using emails or mobiles based on my experience

Allow the receiver of the email sufficient time to respond. This depends on his/her work schedule. If it’s very urgent call up and ask for a quick response.
Try to explain things in sufficient details for the receiver to respond effectively. It reduces too much of email exchange on the same subject
Do not send too many emails to the same person. Try and consolidate everything that you need in a single email.
If out of office for a long time try and configure an auto responder to your email for people trying to get in touch with you
Everyone has a right to not pick up the mobile when in a meeting or in middle of something important.
If its very urgent leave a voice mail or send a SMS
Configure a voice mail on your mobile number so that people trying to reach you have some way to let you know how desperate they are.
Pick up that phone if someone is calling repeatedly at any time in the day. It must be important.

Let me conclude the post with the mention of the only person I know who works in an administrative position in a company but does not bother to keep a mobile phone. He says “I have an office job. I don’t need to travel much. So I can be reached either at home or at office phone numbers. The only time I am not reachable is when I am driving to home or work. I don’t need a mobile.”

Well, he is one of the happiest and stress free persons I know and he is doing fairly well in life.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Great Will of China

The Olympics are over and China has not only emerged as the new sporting superpower but has also managed to organize arguably the most impressive Olympics show in recent times. A few years back the Chinese had declared that they will win the largest number of gold medals in the Beijing Olympics. China has won the largest number of gold medals by any country in any Olympics in the post soviet Olympic era.

A nation that was labeled a third world country a couple of decades back has emerged as one of the key players in the global economy and politics and now has also demonstrated a similar capability in the sporting arena. The world has been speaking of India and China as the emerging super powers of this century and with this Olympics China has truly arrived at the world stage.

So where does that leave India? I am afraid the answer to that question will not please most Indians. India has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to be spoken about in the same breath as China in the international arena again.

The first time this thought struck me was when I arrived in Beijing and Shanghai 2 years ago on a business trip. The impression I had in my mind of China was formed based on media reports of its rapid economic growth and modernization and I was quite prepared to see a reasonably modern nation and not the kind which you see in the typical Chinese Kung Fu movies. Yet, I was taken aback on seeing the level of development in the two cities. There has been talk of making Mumbai the next Shanghai, well its going to take a few years for Mumbai to even come anywhere close. Shanghai is in the league of global cities like New York with its beautiful high rises and cosmopolitan culture. As a foreigner I felt as comfortable in Shanghai as I would feel in any city in my country.

I visited China for a couple of years on a regular basis and what impressed me the most was there single minded determination to succeed. This determination is seen in an average citizen of the country. He wants to succeed in whatever he does for a living. I always felt that this will to succeed in spite of odds is perhaps the key reason why China has gone so far ahead of India.

I also discovered that the origin of this quality has some interesting factors behind it. In the middle of the last century, China came under communist rule and all aspects of religion were abolished from the life of its citizens. The nation was the only religion and the party leaders were the priests. Everything was decided by the party including where you lived and what you did for a living. All decisions were taken for the common good of the country, or so the citizens thought. But as it happened in other communist countries, the people started becoming disillusioned with the party and its leaders. The leaders were after all mortals and fought for power and the riches that being in a powerful position brings and corruption became a way of life. By the mid eighties the common public had realized that all that the party was preaching about socialism was a farce and the leaders themselves were after money. So why should the common man stay behind? Gradually earning money and living a good life became the key mantras for most Chinese citizens.

At the same time the party decided to start opening up the economy to the world and more money poured into China. This drove further growth and there were huge opportunities for the average Chinese people. And there was no religion, and no value systems apart from the communist value system which the people did not believe in anymore. In most societies, religion plays the role of building the value system of its inhabitants. Forty years of communist rule had destroyed the religious systems in China that had been there for centuries and the current generation had no exposure to the same and the ancient value systems.

Success had become the new religion the success was measured in terms of money and career growth as well as a good lifestyle. These were the values passed on to the children by their parents who were completely disillusioned with the communist system and wanted their kids to have the good life that they could not.

The strong Chinese will comes across in everyday life when you deal with them. Chinese will typically negotiate hard in any business deal especially when working with another partner from a different country and usually end up with a deal on their terms. This is also demonstrated in all their negotiations in the international trade and political arena.

I would like to close this post with a key thought that I often have about the Chinese. At this point in time the nation is riving full steam towards development and most Chinese want to focus on being economically successful. In the next few decades the Chinese will achieve this dream. What will they strive for then? With no value systems that most societies have will they decline and degenerate or try and rediscover religion?