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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Parent Trap

Whisky chewed my office shoes.

Let’s back up – whisky is the 1.5 year old golden retriever my wife adopted, nursed to health and considers a daughter. I am not a animal person, but I don’t mind dogs either (as long as I don’t have to take care of them, clean up after them etc.) so, it’s generally pat them, rub their belly and generally ignore them. Oh, yes, one more thing – I can shout at her and if necessary wield the slipper when she misbehaves, without flinching and actually mean it. My wife is the “good cop”, you see and I am happily hen-pecked, so apparently, this makes me the boss of the household whenever the wife does not like doing something. 

I am posted in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh as a government functionary which means, we have to attend official parties and such. We went out last evening and I made the fundamental mistake of leaving my official shoes beside the sofa as I was in a hurry. This article would not have happened if I had just remembered to put away the damned shoes on the shoe rack, but such is fate, especially that of my readers.

So, we got back and found my office shoes literally in tatters. The damned dog is teething and this is the second pair of shoes which she has chewed to bits, despite being provided with enough chew toys to drown in.

She obviously needed to be “disciplined” or the behaviour might continue. But despite my anger and frustration, I couldn’t quite bring myself to do much more than shout at her (she promptly disappeared under the bed!) and make excuses – she had her shots recently and was running a slight fever. Also, I disliked being the “bad cop” all the time.

So, what about disciplining her in order to ensure correct behaviour in the future.

More to the point, what would I have done if this was my kid, instead of a “damned dog”?

We don’t have children yet. Most of my friends have kids in pre-school, if not in middle school already. One of the reasons I told myself, was financial instability. Belonging to a generation which has undergone self-funded education abroad, the effects of recession and extremely strong though fluctuating career growth; marriage and a traditional social life was a much deferred choice till my early thirties. Children, considered a natural progression in a typical social milieu, literally scared my pants off.

Blessed with a wonderful and supportive partner, however I overcame a lot of my fears. And getting a dog was the recommended alternative to becoming a parent. And, so I became a father figure to an adolescent furry teenager who has repeated a bad behavioural trait.

This is not where I shine. In fact, I am literally close to blowing out a fuse.

My parents were great adherents of “spare the rod, spoil the child” and “discipline”. Not just them, but the entire damned family were worshippers of Marquis De Sade when it came to education and discipline. Cousins abroad wouldn’t believe us when we traded stories of growing up and it was much, much later that I personally realized that, our parents had been unintentionally brutal in certain aspects of child-rearing.

But as my dad stolidly maintains, “it was all for your own good”.

True – they produced over-achievers who were literally fearless and didn’t know how to give up. Stubborn to a fault, aggressive and capable children with by-products of depression, failure-anxiety, rage-driven at times and more. Sometimes, parents would animate their own frustrations on their children and this is especially true of Indian parents, creating clones of themselves perhaps. As another uncle puts it, “you kids got nothing on what we received.” And child is indeed, the father of the man.

It’s hard to say exactly if they were in the right to discipline us the way they were themselves. Somewhere, this cycle has to stop, any reasonable person would conclude.

But where exactly is the line? Between ineffectual parenting and brutalizing.

India is the land of over-achievers. Despite Amir Khan’s life-affirming movies, millions of parents, rich or poor, insist on discipline as the right way of “moulding” their children. Without discipline, children are ruined, they claim and are proved right, as well. The road-wrecks of well-meaning parents lie as eye-catching debris in a land where the sheer population ensures that moral science is a joke class and success defined by social worth or career growth.

To the rest of their social circle, my parents are damned successful – they have done their jobs well indeed. And now, the “eyes” are on me with my furry daughter.

So, who teaches us parenting and discipline? Our parents? Who taught them?

Whisky has received two light whacks from the chewed shoe from wifey and I am currently refusing to pet her – she is literally in the doghouse.

I am not ready for kids.

Or in commonspeak, “Dawg, shit be unreal!”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Solving Corruption

My people, including myself, lack dignity & discipline. Not surprising, considering that we had a little too much of it growing up in India. And typical with age or even human frailty, one wishes for his childhood with the passage of time. I too, long for the simplicity and authority of an earlier time when the folk seemed more genteel and courteous but then realise that I rebelled against those very ideas when I faced them. 

Our generations have undergone drastic and sudden change without the advantages of graduated absorption and accordingly, social interactions or transactions have acquired a different hue & colour in their applications or perspectives. This is not wrong in itself, but the world is surprisingly over-populated and the human race seems to have become a sprint rather than a marathon.

The New York Times claims that the average American sees 5000 advertisements a day from a variety of sources and acts accordingly. The average Indian sees at least 500 instances of corruption, rule violations, minor misdemeanours and social nuisances and also acts accordingly.

Corruption is endemic states our media most emphatically while breaking the same rules and regulations while in pursuit of such rule-breakers. Irony is definitely not a term to be found in their dictionaries and nor is hypocrisy. The virtues we espouse publicly are western in genesis and hence, privately we choose to ignore them whenever we think we’re not being observed. Such is our plight, the modern Indian.

The uncle who condemns the deplorable law & order situation is un-surprisingly the first to break lanes in traffic to get ahead. The cousins who spew fundamentalist and alarmingly socialist views in our drawing rooms are quite secular and capitalistically compromising in handling their due payments & not above paying off the “fragrant grease” (as the Chinese term it) for expediting their matters. 

That I have not followed that principle is why I am being published in an online journal, perhaps but then, this is not a rant, merely an observation.

A favourite mentor once explained that in India, problems are never solved – they are resolved, absolved or best, DISSOLVED - preferably with scotch & soda. People do not wish for end-game solutions, lest they and their comfort-zones are antagonized or changed.

We Indians might make a hullabaloo about corruption and love to talk, rant or hear about it on mass & local media but we do not truly wish it gone. We fear that if we were to live in a truly corruption-free society, we would not be able to do what we have always done. Simple facts of life, pleasures even such as littering, over-speeding, drunk-driving, traffic abuse and all those simple truths of everyday existence for an Indian might disappear. Or worse, cost more than they do now – And we hate inflation, us Indians!

Charity begins at home, mercy is a taught quality – most of our “moral science” virtues are afforded by civilizations which do not have worry about empty bellies and desperate dreams, such as those owned by 1.3 billion Indians. Which is why, we see a negative connotation of Moses Abrahamovitz’s famous theory of convergence. We learnt how to leap-frog into western technology and while doing so, inadvertently picked up their social mores without the appending years of individualism, personal limitations and social tolerance. 

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing indeed.

Corruption essentially is an issue of self-pride or nation pride and even ego, if one takes it that way. It is a state of disconnected-ness which leads to insecurity or fear and thus fostering aspirations or even creation of desire or fear of normal fulfillment and hence adoption of other modes of acquiring one’s desires. In a way, it could be called a state of mind or being, subjected to an individual or a nation, in the throes of deprivation or desperation – in short, corruption is the reflection of a society or a people who are afraid of their future and wish to secure it at any cost. 

Socialist India was far more structured and the division between the haves & have-not’s were not nearly as discriminatory or visible as they are today. Corruption like inflation was similarly controlled till the late 70’s, not that it was non-existent. The authority paradigm was stronger with social value systems in place to curb against extremism or blatant antagonism.  Since 1992, rapid liberalization & globalization have caused a massive imbalance (of sorts) in the parent-child, teacher-student or the authority paradigm resulting in several generations who are disconnected, lacking identity or self-worth, seeking the price of everything without ascribing value to anything, they are truly Wilde(s) children. 

Solving corruption therefore necessitates we recover the coming generations if we wish to hope for a society without corruption or one with structure & values which are not over-ridden by a mob-mentality. Demanding today’s generations to change and follow the westernized model of society as being self-realized and structured is like expecting a fish to become amphibious over-night, not to mention a land-dweller by the next day. 

Education is obviously the key, but exactly what sort of education? 

We need values and dignity – discipline essentially in almost all endeavours.

We need vigorous penalties and a systemic approach towards mal-functions or break-downs.

We need specific branding and visibility upon which to base our value systems.

India Shining is not a brand that benefits the society holistically. The numbers of visa applications to the west prove that we’re not happy with our own image or of our country. It doesn’t satisfy us to be Indians and till we resolve this crucial issue – from children’s bedrooms to schoolrooms, we will not escape the issues of corruption.

Blindly copying and emulating the west is not enough for the rest.  We need self-realization and perhaps a dictator while we are at it. Not that I would know much about power paradigm shifts anyhow, but we Indians are still too naive and need guidance with firm control. Anything less is proving calamitous in every predictable future for our nation. 

Incidents like the one in GS Road, at Guwahati happened and were dealt with monetarily and therefore significantly forgotten within the period of a few weeks. We would be incited and provoked into a social media circus in the belief of a rural octogenarian who has 17th century solutions for 21st century problems and less than a year later, it’s in the past and the new fight is about invasion of the lungi-clad religious fundamentalists led by a perfume merchant who preaches. 

By the way, did you know what was the title/surname of the perfume merchants of Gujrat?


Someone return our dignity & discipline – we are lost.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Cynical Smiles...

The issues of NE students like Dana Sangma, Richard Loitham and many more un-named and forgotten victims, brings to mind a rather bitter joke I had used with my british and yank cousins to explain why we are what or how we are -

Indian movies (especially those of 70's, 80's and 90's) often go above the top with violence, gore and melodrama, because for the average indian of those times, cinema was the only vicarious release for all the frustrations endured and inabilities silenced. It was cathartic for the normal bloke to believe that "justice" will prevail and "revenge" can be had - usually without a backlash and preferably with a happily everafter ending. Fact is, even today, the entire indian film & television industry exist on the same ideals (perhaps with a touch more sophistry).... a fact that cannot be understood by anyone who has not spent a satisfactory amount of time in India as an adult.

And my cousins would smile and think I was "full of myself" and a "character"....

I smile at the attempts of the media,
the rabid flailings of the students, parents and well-wishers
and KNOW that in a while, they will all disperse... today, tomorrow, soon..

I smile at the media's castigation of criminals
because I KNOW what our judicial system is like
how they will slip past if they have the money & contacts.

I smile at all the hopefuls we have,
In India and elsewhere who dream of ideals and sentiments
and KNOW that if forced to choose for their own life & living or their families,
everything else will take a back seat... just like any other human....

And FINALLY, I smile
because cynics like me can do no more than smile
and KNOW that I'm part of the problem in itself..... :P

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Attrition – Corporate Scourge

Mention it in any sphere of corporate life and reactions are usually strong and possibly adverse. Most people face this word in everyday life and yet never realise what they are facing. Quite a shame, to be honest.

Attrition devolves from the Medieval Latin word, attricioun or attritio which originally meant sorrow for one’s sins that arises from a motive other than love of God. This definition also included the meaning of the act of wearing down or grinding down by friction and further the act of weakening or exhausting by constant harassment, abuse of attack – also known as a war of attrition.

In modern usage and connotation, the word indicates the reduction of staff and employees in an organization through normal or abnormal means, such as retirements or resignations. Attrition could also mean the gradual reduction of a workforce by employee’s leaving and not being replaced rather than by their being laid off.

Under any circumstances, within the harsh strictures of corporate terminology, growth indicating success is an undeniable fact. Any organization losing people or “assets” is considered to be in trouble and hence the strong reactions to this word.

Regardless of the size, dimension or even profile of the company, in today’s world, it is becoming harder each day to retain the top performers – the best and the brightest for the duration of their productive lives. This is never more in sharper clarity than on the corporate battlefields of modern-day India. As a microsm of global business, the Indian corporate scenario makes some rather pertinent points, which should be considered by global market leaders or any entrepreneur worth their salt.

In recent business news, top IT companies like Yahoo, Microsoft etc expressed publicly the issues faced by them in relation to on-going attrition of their top resources. This phenomenon is not sustained or only faced by IT domain companies, but also larger conglomerates like GE, LG and Reliance.

Flat prices of stock post-recession (or is it still on?), vested options for top talent or even aggressive start-ups who are willing to take chances and push compensation market rates higher than actual valuations are causing much heart-burn, acidity and even the odd heart-attacks due to issues of retention.

There are a variety of plans, policies and ideas afoot to counteract such alarming market trends – but attrition has been around since roman times, or should that be Vedic times. We forget this to our disadvantage and complain bitterly about treacherous or un-loyal resources.

Are we a victim to our own plans, policies and ideas?

I believe we are… and here are my reasons;

Inane Rules & Regulations

One of the top issues of frustrated employees of any level or experience are inane rules & regulations. In theory or on fat reports, certain rules sound sensible and possibly even progressive. During day to day activities of a 10 hr average corporate working day, no one has time for inane rules, which don’t contribute to their specific tasks/activities or aid/assist them in fulfilment of the same. When the talent (whether management, marketing, operations, development or whatever teams) starts “complaining” or in worse case scenario’s, “simply following orders” – the organization is in trouble. Talent/resources/assets who do not question or raise voices in processes are hard workers, not smart workers – the smart workers are already packing their bags.

Motivation in Action

Motivation is a big word and another greatly misused word. Motivation does not come from merely sweet talk or pats on the shoulder. Motivation works in deeds not speech. By definition, corporates are organic bodies and having specific articulatory parts. Most of the best and brightest of an organization are never asked if they’re really interested in what they’re doing – everyone is on a deadline and there are too many deliverables. Top talent is never driven by money and power completely – the compensation is important but not a priority. But the greatest motivation is genuine interest & passion in what they do on an everyday basis. It’s the chance to be a part of something BIG, something that would possibly change the world (in whatever small way) or even something that they, the top talent, would feel proud about. It’s not enough to just say, “well done” but needs to be followed up with more chances to showcase skills, learn more and contribute positively.

Cursory Performance Reviews

Ineffective performance reviews, which are rushed and/or vague, usually due to pressing deliverables & deadlines leave impressions that the company just doesn’t care in long term futures with the organization. This leads to issues of the next point…

Career Development & Priorities

90% of employees have no long term career goals or even mid-term goals, leave aside personal development or even specific time-bound priorities. This case is especially so in India where once a student gets a job, the battle is half over. Less than 2% of junior employees and under 5% of middle ranking staff could give you a detailed plan for what they want to do in the next 5-10 years. But, everyone wants to know how much their salaries will increase in the same period! Some of the best people to work with undertake an annual review of focus for both employer and employee, which ensures that there is a cohesive and comprehensive discussion on succession planning and career development. In essence, if your people know that there is a path ahead of them, they are more likely to stick around and see what’s at the end of the suggested road.

Accountability & Responsibility

Delegation is a vast task and an extremely sensitive issue. To delegate work to someone would mean an engendering of trust, reliance upon another at cost to self. If the task is not done properly or not done at all, it’s your neck on the line hence most good resources/assets try to do everything themselves. What they need to be taught is not fear of missing deliverables and unbearable deadlines, but the freedom to mentor and monitor juniors, coordinate with colleagues for successful delegation. In this context, specific accountability and responsibility allotment are key – this is a rock solid answer to fears and a future anchor to successful retention of top assets/resources as they don’t feel over-worked and respect the trust of the organization in them. Avoid trying to tell them how to do their jobs once the expectations are explained.

Peer Equality

A top worker or field man or developer will want to work with someone who is at least of their calibre if not someone who is better than themselves so that they can learn and add to their knowledge/skill base. Top talent are always smart workers and deliver best when competing with others of the same ilk. There is no sense in hiring and retaining people who don’t benefit others as well as themselves. Replacements for top assets should also be with top assets or else, a previously vigorous and effective team would lose momentum and morale. To keep our best & brightest, we need better and brighter people.

Openness and Vision

The smart workers always have ideas for improvement– and a desperate need to have them listened to! However, the majority of their ideas might go against the established corporate vision/strategy. This creates a lot of frustration and feelings of alienation for all such employees regardless of rank, designation etc. If the smart workers feel alienated at every turn and meeting, the organization will be left with a staff of Yes Men who agree to whatever is stated without any personal inputs of worth. There is a need to acknowledge the fact that others can have good ideas and incorporate the best parts of said innovations into over-all strategy. Sometimes the “boss” is not always right although they may be usually right.

Strategic Priorities

New endeavours and approaches should be appreciated as long as they mesh with over-all company goals and targets, regardless of provenance. The challenge in setting up such “incubation schemes” is not in approving the same for the sake of superficial movement but specific commitment till results yield proof of failure. Cursory attempts towards new approaches and a clamped down authoritarian style results in bad situations – space/opportunity should always be afforded, with prudence & caution to try new ideas. If not anything, 1 failed idea with good support would ensure 20 official directives issued without any hassles. And if the idea works, everyone benefits.

It’s never a one-way street in the corporate world. If the employer pays a salary, the employee works for the organization. But, paying a salary is not the same as slavery or family relations – there is a symbiotic relationship at work here with trust, dependence, delegation and belief to be extended in either direction. Top resources/assets naturally have to assume a lot of responsibility for deliveries and deadlines on behalf of the employers – if this equation is not on an even keel, the situation will never be beneficial for either party. However, with the scarcity of “top talent” – which is bound to substantially decrease in relation to demand – the organization, which understands these reasons for attrition would stand a better chance of having people come to them, instead of going to the people.

Processes, Projections and Proactive-ness

Indian corporates are possibly the single most powerful engine of growth in our burgeoning economic advance and it’s a machine of frightful efficiency. Guess our mantra? We can deliver anything and with chutney on the side!

In an economy that is still shaking itself out of the shackles of Nehruvian economics and socialistic import substitution policies, our current generations picked themselves up in the wake of liberalization and globalization. We embraced technology, refused to be seduced by plastic credit and stayed liquid through the worst financial crisis of the decade.

We are brash, talk trash but have ready cash….

India is finding itself, or perhaps Indians are. We are a bunch of self-congratulatory, aggressive and very-much-full-of-ourselves people. We love to say “told ya so!!” and then charge to process a solution. Not much wonder why our corporates are hated, feared and possibly considered alien in structure, thought and processes.

As an expat, an 8 hour working day was laughably easy and overtime was silliness – but then who’s complaining? A boss who is abusive cannot be tolerated and deadlines are set after collective deliberation? This was not heaven, we told each other – it’s a holiday from the real world, OUR world. A world where 12 hour days without overtime are the basic norm and words like employee exploitation are matter of fact, amongst many other “things” that are par for the course.

Like many things that we have learnt from the fabled West, we have learnt how to ensure our profit margins stay healthy. Maximise profits, minimise costs, utilize resources optimally and do all this on a set time-frame, usually condensed and compromised by human frailty and faults – we don’t merely expect the impossible, we take it for granted. 

And what of attrition, employee fall-outs and segmentation – for anyone unhappy with their job, there are 20 or even 200 others who would happily take that job. Pay 100 employees marginal wages and pay a manager top dollar to sustain the product is a very western concept that is losing prevalence in the country of its origin.

“Get off your chair, this is not the bloody governmental bureaucracy that you have inherited and get on with your job” We talk in lacs and crores and refuse refusals – nothing is impossible and haven’t you heard the clichĂ© – I (a)M Possible??!

It is surprisingly easy to say that things have changed in our lives here in India. Much too easy but perhaps easy is as easy does for the possibilities are endless; the requirements still stay the same – the wish for security, substance and respect of labour. And despite everything that has happened in the past 100 years, a majority of our people, educated or not, employed or not, are still struggling for the very same even today.

Success is a state of mind, achievement is merely perspective. Shift your focus, I tell my students and often as not, to myself. The hardest test is the one you don’t know you’re being graded upon – and as I write these lines, I realize that we Indians refuse to grade ourselves. We refuse refusals and in the process refuse to acknowledge ownership. Sometimes it’s the lowly menial who refuses to accept ownership for his area of endeavours and sometimes the proprietor who would rather overlook ownership of his endeavours towards his employees – in both cases, out of baser instincts usually.
We have inherited responsibility from the bitter teachings of a restricted economy; accountability was imposed on our untrammelled spirits to ensure delivery and standards, but we are yet to embrace ownership. Ownership for actions and consequences of the same – especially when we do business or invoke the holy triumvirate of corporate policy, development and growth.
And in this process, how do we take ownership for our ideals and principles? Or do we give them a quick polish when it suits our needs or wants. Do we trot out our mission values and statements only when we showcase our code of business conduct paperwork for the next foreign contract or tender? Do we realize that our capitalistic excesses in making hay while the sun shines is self-destructive towards creating institutions rather than quick profits to retire upon?

But then, do we really BUILD for the future today or is that merely a hoary old phrase? Do we actually expect something to outlast our lifetimes and reach out to touch people we are yet to know or might never know. This internet age states that we can access information at the click or a keystroke – how much of it do we actually value and re-use?

A person’s life is similar to the growth cycle of a company – not merely envisaging the ups and downs of the market and the shifting vagaries of demand & supply economics. Building a company is similar to building a life, a sensible stage by stage progression of choices, none of which are wrong.  And no theory ever devised by the ingenuous minds of facile imagination can ever comprehend fully the rich diversity of actuality or its causality. Except that of the person building the damned foundations for a structure to call their own and he/she definitely takes all the risks and definitely deserves a bigger slice of the cake. But, exactly HOW big a slice are we talking about here?

To blog is to basically stand on a soapbox and explain to yourself how elevated your thoughts are to the rest of humanity. It is perhaps a vain effort to stretch out to oneself in the ravaging clamour of an uncaring world, too busy blogging itself or variations thereof. My blog is to question how we find the balance between the raging inferno of our ambitions and the consequences of our actions. I apologize if I am unable to state more clearly or categorically as I am lost between the two.
*This piece was selected as a Winning Entry for the ‘Viewspaper Express Yourself Writing Competition’*

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tech Support ASAP

A friend texted me the other day – if you wish to trouble someone, sue him. Both of you will get what you deserve!!!

The conduct of a lawsuit is called litigation – in essence, it means that you bring in legal processes against someone or vice-versa or as the case may be. Lawyers love defining terms and drawing inferences and interpretations, so I will stop right here and get on with this article.

Basically, getting involved in any part of a legal process could be (mis)construed as “litigation” – in India, this is a synonym for “unbelievably cruel torture”, “waste of time” and even worse. I do realise that I am possibly slandering and causing grounds for libel, but I guess that’s the better part of living in a democracy. I get to say what I want….or at least till I am not arrested. Akhil Gogoi and his histrionics give me precedent, in case I AM arrested.

It’s been over 60 odd years and the higher up courts have got all the plaudits for “judicial activism” and TV cameras, while down in the gutters, it is still might is right or rather, money and cunning is all that (legally) matters. The heart cries out for a vigilante leaping off the short roofs of Guwahati town, righting wrongs and basically looking really good in tights….guys like me can only hope for such writer’s wet dreams.

There are over 3 crore (governmental figures, don’t believe them) cases currently pending in various courts in India. In most cases, citizens stand next to nothing chances of actually getting a decree in their lifetimes, much less justice. Did I hear someone mean-mouthing our honourable court processes and declare YET another hunger strike?!!!

I went and voted today. There was an ear-splitting screech from the machine as I pressed down on technology in the voting machine which has made ballot rigging a much harder exercise. As I type this on my laptop, I am able to delete most of the text which would probably land me in jail. As most of you read this, you yourselves will possibly understand that it’s not hunger strikes which have caused this present day miracle of an angry voice unheard in the backwaters of India ranting forth on the idiocy of a technologically savvy society from not seeing what is in front of their eyes.

India has more than 791.38 MILLION mobile phone users (as on February 2011) and I just needed to type in “number of cell phone users in India” to get the Wikipedia estimate. Each cell phone is registered and one must provide due papers for accessing the mobile telephony services. No doubt there are loopholes in this process which people have exploited, but by and large, it is still an amazing process where we have managed to map the hitherto innumerable Indian masses.

Technology, in essence, says “eat dust, suckers”…..

As a card-holding member of that particular Indian group – the armchair politicians and sofa do-gooders, the TV remote is the ultimate device for assuaging whatever scrap of social conscience we have. We’d rather have aggressive news anchors sell the “public voice” tabloid style and ask “hard questions” while the “nation watches”. And then we have dinner, discuss how the country is going to the dogs and go to sleep.

The ordinary citizen can barely make it to the polling station and avoids the courts like the plague – is it any wonder that hunger strikes of octogenarians sell TRP’s ?

As the Indian colossus staggers on, riding on the heroic shoulders of a few hundred thousand technology-oriented citizens, it seems there could be answer to many of our so-called “issues” at the feet of technology I am usually accused of ranting; therefore, allow me the indulgence of a providing a case study. The Indian Judicial Services should do well as the sacrificial goat, with due reverence to our ancient customs – none intended for the IJS, just to make my point clear.

Most Indians know how to access Facebook; in fact, the DWS website informs us that as on 27th of July 2010, Facebook registered over 12 million FB users. That figure contains several magistrates and judges of the trial courts in the State of Assam, as per my personal experience and knowledge. The judicial services see fit to install computers in all lower courts at quite an expense and furthermore, the magistrates are given laptops for day to day usage. Playing solitaire during boring legal arguments must have figured mainly during this decision to invest in such infrastructure.

Our legal system has been given a car with very nice upholstery and no engine to speak of. I would not know what kind of software that said judges and magistrates are utilizing, but obviously there is no intra-net in place to any form of data mining or even run basic trend regressions. There is a point system in place; I have been informed by my legal brethren on the bench, but what formulation thereof? If the judicial system has been optimized and brought up to IT speed, why are these figures not published? What is being hidden?

My main question is – why is this data, i.e. the number of trials under processes, under-trials, pre-trials not summarized or mapped? And published!!!

My supplementary questions are – why is this data not available to the general public? Why is judicial activism only visible in the High Courts and that too as the discretion of the said High Court judges? Why are the processes not subject to review by external audit bodies?

Have you not heard of data mining or MIS (management of information systems)?

Allow me to quote Wikipedia (ever heard of it, you fossils warming those hallowed benches?) –

Data mining (also known as Knowledge Discovery in Data, or KDD), field of computer science, is the process of extracting patterns from large data sets by combining methods from statistics and artificial intelligence with database management. With recent tremendous technical advances in processing power, storage capacity, and inter-connectivity of computer technology, data mining is seen as an increasingly important tool by modern business to transform unprecedented quantities of digital data into business intelligence giving an in a wide range of profiling practices, such as marketing, surveillance, fraud detection, and scientific discovery. The growing consensus that data mining can bring real value has led to an explosion in demand for novel data mining technologies”

Again –

A management information system (MIS) is a system that provides information needed to manage organizations effectively. Management information systems involve three primary resources: technology, information, and people. It's important to recognize that while all three resources are key components when studying management information systems ... the most important resource is people. Management information systems are regarded to be a subset of the overall internal controls procedures in a business, which cover the application of people, documents, technologies, and procedures used by management accountants to solve business problems such as costing a product, service or a business-wide strategy. Management information systems are distinct from regular information systems in that they are used to analyze other information systems applied in operational activities in the organization. Academically, the term is commonly used to refer to the group of information management methods tied to the automation or support of human decision making, e.g. Decision Support Systems, Expert systems, and Executive information systems”

We are discussing technology which has been around for quite a bit of time – and guess what, Indian companies lead the way in delivering the same to clients such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, USAID, Havard Med School and many more. But the gods forbid that the Indian citizen’s hard earned taxes should be spent in such frivolous expenditure. I mean, seriously, we would depriving the families of all those tout’s posing as lawyers, the clerks in the records branches and many, many more of their livelihood now, wouldn’t we?

And what if the said data WERE to be mined or the information so available is checked against census records, or even records from the telecom sectors? Would it be really possible that there would be a massive culling out of people who are dead, cases which are already time barred or worse, release prisoners who have been detained illegally?

Every VILLAGE in India now has cyber cafĂ©’s – why does the average Indian litigant have to bribe the court master (peshkar) to know the next date or even submit a petition for absence? Would it be so hard to explain to our dearly beloved judicial services that it might be possible to run a basic website informing litigants of the status of their cases?

But wait, I hear people (highly placed people who sneer for a living – worse than the armchair brigade) scream about the cost. Of course there is cost – when was the last time any of you fat cats being driven in fancy white sedans with air-conditioning last understand the cost of a litigant who gives up a day’s wage to travel to the city, waits the entire day for his case to be heard and be finally informed that due to some issue (the magistrate’s grand-daughter’s birthday or the public prosecutor’s hangover) the case was deferred to the next leap year’s February the 29th.

Cost is subjective, cost is perspective – ask a man running around the courts for the last 10 years just to get a decree, much less justice, what cost really is. But in reality, hyperbole aside, the car’s been bought already, the infrastructure is in place – an engine or the right software would cost a few lacs. Certainly cheaper than the fleet of new white sedans I see every time I pass the High Court of our glorious State.

Of course – we could NEVER implement such radical processes, it would show up so many people, processes and so much else in bad light and no one really wants that.

And technology, in essence, is told “eat dust, sucker”…..

Someone get my bail money.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What Women Want….

Allow me to start by quoting from a dictionary…..I love doing this as it irritates people to no end!!!

Chauvinist: Believing that the group one belongs to, be it of sex, creed, or color, is automatically superior to another's. Sexism is a prime example of chauvinistic ideology. (Quote Urban Dictionary)

Chivalry: Origin Old French "chevalerie", from Latin "caballarius" 'horseman'. Derivatives Chivalric (adjective). Also, the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral and social code. Again, the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readyness to help the weak. Finally, courteous behaviour, especially that of a man towards women. For eg. Chivalry was an expected quality of an knight during the medieval period. (Quote Urban Dictionary)

If you open the door, hold the seat, be courteous i.e. whatever makes life easier for women today, you are chivalrous. However, if that same spirit extends to not being conducive to women, you’re chauvinistic – I can open my OWN door, pay for my own coffee/drink…..THANK YOU (I hate the way they say Thank You – feels like a call to arms!!)

As life gets easier, things get complicated – or so we think. Each generation feels that the other generations had it easy. The questions that each generation throws up are obviously different, but in essence quite the same. The way we deal with them is also quite the same in essence – we keep on moving ahead and over time, the questions become someone else’s headache and we cant be bothered…..or so my dad says J

This is a note, NOT in answer, but a Note to understand….a note for elucidation & elaboration for myself. No doubt it has been inspired by other near and dear ones, but the questions that are raised need answers. I don’t think I have all the answers but the years of observation allow me draw my own conclusions – conclusions I believe in though they are subject to change. I would be no better than many if I was to consider that standing my ground actually counts as being steadfast, courageous or whatever.

Virtues are a form of social conditioning and we learn them at home due to their prevalence in society and as accepted norms of behaviour. The story of the fox and the grapes is absurd if we were to think of it now, but we take the lesson from it, ONLY because we’re taught only one way to think or perceive or even reason. Take a minute to consider the story – run through it in your mind….spot the absurdity….if you don’t get it, message me J

Women of this generation are a confused lot and the men are worse – merely because our thought processes are vicarious. We are who the women in our life were or are. And before you call me an ardent feminist, read on….

Our grandparents or forebears had it better – there was a clear demarcation of roles and hence there was compromise. You got married without consent and you moved on with it. In short, lack of options made the process palatable.

This is my first issue – we have far too many options today…..confusion begins with too many options.

Who are a male and a female? Does anatomy actually demarcate gender or is it a state of mind? A girl who has to fight for her everyday bread and fight ruthlessly in an uncaring world is “masculine” in getting what she needs to survive. A boy who is cosseted and mollycoddled, unable to decide what his priorities are, is considered “effeminate” and therefore ridiculed. Are these concepts or biases? Who set up these definitions? Do they apply today……do they need to?

My second issue – definition is imperative……confusion ensues when you cant define something or someone into its correct square peg.

You disagree? Its possible to be a round hole in a square peg – also known as the chaos theory, yes?

So, what do women want? What do men want? What is it that makes us hunt endlessly over and over to attain the nirvana of happiness? In fact, what is happiness? When did you last see it? Who was responsible for it?

The taste of an ice-cream on a hot summer’s day is happiness……YOU cause it by eating the ice-cream. The happiness is therefore related to YOUR satisfaction. If it’s a beer that quenches your thirst, would water do as well? If your heart wishes for something then does a substitute actually do the job?

If you’re gay and society demands you’re straight, would that work for you? If it does not, what happens? You are either gay or happy or you’re straight and unhappy……life’s pretty much specific and the one thing it teaches is that happiness is purely a matter of perspective.

My third issue – where do we draw the line? What do we accept and work with…..and what happens when we don’t or cant accept and negotiate?

Coming to the topic at hand, why cant women – capable, smart women get the men they want? Yes, this is the main question. We men often get the women we want because we’re okay with settling for whatever works for us. But women, after generations of brutal fighting, are never satisfied till they have EXACTLY what they want. Be it 200 shops for just the RIGHT dress or climbing 6 floors of successively better men to get to that BEST IDEAL MAN till they come to an empty terrace with a sign saying “hi, you’re the 364847262826725 woman to arrive here. Just goes to show that you women can NEVER be satisfied” !!!!

Yes, that was a stupid joke, but a brilliant understanding of women. Men are accused of wanting arm candy and trophy wives – what gives women of TODAY the right NOT to have the same? ALSO, alongwith that right comes the duty of being castigated the same as us men!!!

Welcome to the world…its not a male world, its not a female world. Its YOUR world and it treats you the way you BEHAVE. You fight like mad to get to where you are, you’re successful, capable etc etc – CONGRATULATIONS….WELL DONE…’ve proven you have balls – now deal with it!!!

Women who are successful are no different from men who are successful. You have got the same opportunities as us and in fact sometimes more in intangible terms. And now, you don’t get men, you lot whine??!!!

Here’s a secret - men who are successful look for companions who get along with them, not someone who start’s a pissing contest with them. We’ve had a few millennia to figure out what we need and who symbolizes that for us. Its quite rare to find two equally successful people marrying and sustaining that marriage. Success is a hard cored wheel that rubs sparks off its own ilk….we get that and therefore choose companions who get along with our state of mind, rather than give us headaches.

My fourth issue - Women who are successful want even more successful men to look up to….something that’s just not going to happen J

You’ve worked your entire lives beating the odds to be PAMPERED and LOOKED AFTER??? NOW you realize that you want to be TAKEN CARE OF?? A little late, don’t you think…..

Men on the other hand are clear – they’re happy to be exactly what they are, all life long….hence less issues and we settle down fine. Women get cantankerous and ugly inside and become bitter and cynical and blame the world……but when was that a new story? Women would rather blame the world and claim they were “victimized”…..they would rather say, “its taken me SOOOOOO long to become who I am, so love me or leave me….I cant change!!!”…..Damn right we leave….we’re simple people…..we know what we want….and if you cant deliver, we’ll go elsewhere …. And you know what, it’s a damn shame.

My conclusion – make your peace with who you want to be and find contextual satisfaction……if you want everything, you’ll remain confused, upset, bitter and get uglier inside with each year till you can’t bear your own skin….

You say no? Then why even bother looking for a man? Be happy with who you are, be self-contained, isolated and comprehensively happy with the deal – why vitiate matters by bringing in other factors into the equation?

Its like my granny said – you can have one or the other…..try to be a juggler and realize that it becomes a show that’s time-bound….at some point, the balls WILL drop and the more balls you have in the air, the louder the crash, the more devastating the aftermath……

OR you can figure out what you want and more importantly, NEED and strike a sensible deal……

Like the heroine in a recent movie said, “I’m really glad and happy for all that your generation has done for mine, but I basically don’t want to be alone. I choose a home rather than a career and I’m okay with my choice. It’s a good deal for me…”

Go get that arm candy, get those trophy hubbie girls……you might have to look down on them, but you’ll still get love and care and be looked after…..or stay single and sneer at the world…….

And I’ll get some cheese if you still wanna whine!!!