Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another Award

...yes, I got another award in office yesterday as an appreciation and recognition of work that I did in the last release.

The last release that happened in the end of July was a real big release, and I had absolutely slogged out for that. I was handling three products, three writers, interacting with numerous, numerous people, and overall handling complicated information.

Out of the three products, the one that I was supposed to only manage was the one in which I ended up writing too. It was being handled by a novice writer, and ultimately I had to review and almost rewrite everything that the writer had done. It was a learning experience for me. It taught me patience and working in pressured environment. I learnt the lesson that for novice writers, I need to adopt a different strategy.

The second product was again being written by a junior writer. I spent a lot of time again in making the writer understand the mistakes, only to find the same mistakes being committed again and again. By the time I could again help the writer understand the fine nuances of writing, I had to concentrate on the third product, which was going to be the toughest of all.

I learnt a valuable lesson while handling the second product. I learnt that how much ever you try to be at all places every time, you cannot. How much ever you try to do all things on your own, you cannot. How much ever you try to make people do things perfectly, they will not. Because, they will do it only as per their capacity.

And finally, that you have to let go. You simply cannot do all the things, all the time, all the way. You have to stop yourself and not stretch. You have to let go and understand that you cannot be there all the time, and that you are not responsible if people do not do work as you want them to do.

The toughest was the third product. Information was hard to come by, and when it came, it came in hordes. Multiple people commenting on existing information in the documents, providing new information that had to be added, requesting to delete some information, requesting for a fourth or fifth review of the updated information. It was crazy! But there was method in all this madness.

I could handle it because I had learnt how it was to handle the third product from the last time. I had faced similar people and similar sources of information in the last release. I was prepared for it. The good part was that people had started trusting me with the documentation for that product and readily helped me.

There were days when I was struggling with my information. At times, I was at loss to understand where to start. For some information, I couldn't see when the reviews and comments would stop coming. A week before closing the docs, I was done with most of the documentation. However, with my past experience, I knew that there was one block of information that was still pending from a team.

That's what exactly happened. It was crazy handling the complex information. But I could do it and get the reviews too. It was a mammoth task of interacting with so many people and getting information from them.

But I have learnt so much from this. I have actually seen myself grow as a writer, as a senior person in a team, and moving on to handle bigger things. I really, really love my work here.

During this last release, it was only once that I was off my rocker when I was facing issues on my personal front and when there was  just too much of information to handle at work. But then, all my colleagues helped me and supported me. My manager especially knew how hard I was working and asked me to take a week off when the release was over.

I have really been lucky. I thank God for giving me opportunities to perform, to excel, to help me grow, and to test my mettle. And I thank Him for putting me in a set of people that support me, understand me, and help me grow!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

To Babai

Babai in a pensive mood
Dearest Babai, who is right now not as healthy as she used to be. It is heart-wrenching to see her like that.

Babai, my Aai's Aai, has always been this one strong woman, who has never ever bowed down. To see her in the bed all the time, too weak to talk is very disturbing.

When me and my sister were kids, we used to stay at my grandmom's place after our school. We used to be dropped by our rickshaw-wale kaka in the afternoon, and stayed there till evening, when Baba used to come to pick us up.

Those were magical days! Babai and Kaka (my Ajoba) used to stay at Prabhat Talkies, literally in the heart of Pune city. They had a two-room home that housed so many people at a time. We used to have all our cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, all together under one roof. But the house always seemed enough for all.

Babai was almost the head of the house, taking care of the kitchen, the kids, the grocery, everything around. She was a solid support for my Mami who continued working as a nurse. My cousin, my sister, and I used to spend afternoons together after school. We used to fight during lunch for the place closest to Kaka. We used to fight again for the afternoon siesta for a place closest to Babai. She would pacify us saying that she had long hands and would reach up to all.

She was the one who taught us to read time. She had this old, broken-down clock that she used to tune and change the hour and minute hands, and then ask us to guess the time. I can never forget that red-faced clock and those "timely" hours spent in the balcony.

Babai had always been strong, at times very, very headstrong, to the point of being irritating. She always gloried in the work that she did, the contacts she maintained in her big family, be it on her own side, or her husband's side. Everyone in the family used to respect her, love her, and never forgot what she had done for them. And she really did do everything possible for everyone. No one left her threshold unsatisfied. She was there for everyone, a lighthouse, a beacon, a solid wall of support.

She had her flaws. She was too headstrong. She had been too much in the limelight, too much in the power to give up easily. She always wanted things her way. She has had a tremendous ego. But all in all, she never bowed down, never gave up.

Today, when I see her in the hospital, I can only remember how she was once upon a time. She is diminished, faded, and tired. After 85 years of being headstrong, it is hard to see her bowed down due to her age. She is slowly losing against time.

We all love you, Babai! Just one more loving request we make of you...do not go away by losing away to life. Fight back! Be your own self! Be the iron lady you have been! Make your final exit on your own terms. Not by simply fading away!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Fiasco Of Planting Trees



Today morning dawned a new scene. Around 9.30 in the morning, just as we were getting ready for office, there was a kind of sober commotion outside house. Some people from the municipal corporation had come to plant trees in the neighbourhood. Everyone started gathering around as people realised what was going to happen.

Everyone in the area had been unprepared for this surprise visit. Rather, all were taken aback that new trees were even required in our area. My locality consists mainly of self-occupied houses surrounded by small gardens. Most of the owners have created their own greenery and plants in their little gardens. Also, the area has never been barren what with gulmohor, palm, parijatak, and other variety of trees growing in the area. Naturally, a tree-plantation drive was as much a novelty as an unnecessity.

The worst part of the drive was that none of the residents were informed in advance of such a drive. And secondly, to plant those saplings, the corporation workers were digging up the newly-laid footpaths. The workers went about their work unashamedly, and have already dug up the footpaths on both the sides of the road at several places. The dug up footpaths are now easy pitfalls for idle walkers who may not always look down as they walk.

The irate residents were very vocal in their disapprovals. One of the men in the group was heard saying: "पण मी म्हणतो, चांगले फुटपाथ खोदायला कशाला पाहिजेत?" The other one was heard saying how these men would just keep the pits open and never bother about planting trees or even covering them up. "ते लोक काय, त्यांचे काम करून गेले, आता कोण येऊन बघणार?"

Another irritated man angrily was showing everyone, who was ready to pay attention, how those workers had dug up exactly in front of his gate. The kaka who live opposite us had already shown all the trees in his own garden when those people had dug up the footpath on their side of the road. But of course, that didn't budge the workers. Their target was to dig up the platform for trees outside the compounds, not inside. What mattered if there were scores of trees inside! There were none on the footpath or at the edge of the road. That meant there were no trees!

One other man with an upright civic sense was ranting about how the local corporator was really not of much use, how he knew the corporator had climbed the ladder to success, and how he was irresponsible. The resident was also unhappy about how most of the residents had not even bothered to come out of their houses even when someone was digging up right in front of their houses. He ranted on loudly of their indifference to the wrong doings of the civic body.

Honestly, I found the situation hilarious. Here were people who were angry that the footpaths were being dug up, while the workers nonchalantly and diligently completed their digging and went away.

What I would certainly like to know is, who really had this great idea of digging up the footpaths to plant trees in an area where there were quite some trees? Who also gave them permission to do that? And why is it always that digging is done when the road is newly made or when footpaths are newly laid?

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Immortals of Meluha

(I have tried not to delve out a lot of details from the book to avoid giving spoilers. However, if you have not read the book, and plan to read it, just a warning that the following post might contain spoilers.)

This first of the Shiva trilogy is a fantastic book. After I started reading it, I just could not put it down. It is fast-paced, funny, intelligent, and not a bit boring.

Amish Tripathi, the author has taken Lord Shiva out of his "Lordship" and yet awarded him the "Lordship" in a totally different way. We see him as a common man who has his own problems, ideas, thoughts, weak points, and strong points. But he certainly has the strength to lead people and think differently. That is what makes him different.

Amish has made use of one of the greatest civilizations of history, the Indus Valley Civilisation to the greatest advantage. In a very creative way, the life led in that civilisation, which we might have known only through school and history books, is brought back to life, providing a whole gamut of experiences of understanding the civilisation. Perhaps it may not be all true. But the way it has been imaginatively given a character of its own is very good.

The workings of that civilisation are intrinsically woven into the story. The civilisation was a way of life. And that is precisely what is portrayed in the book.

The characters are well fleshed out. Each one, including the hero, has flaws that are part of the character. Each character is dynamic and doesn't behave superficially. Some characters may not be given a lot of space, like the Queen of the Suryavnshis. But such characters are not lost. They still have their own presence felt.

A mixture of mythology, fiction, suspense, mystic, and a brilliant plot is what makes this book a pleasure to read. Right from detailed descriptions of the wars that are fought, the one-on-one fights, or even the skirmishes that take place, the book does not become dull any moment.

I really liked the book and am looking forward to reading the next one - The Secret of the Nagas. I am hoping that Amish does not disappoint even in the last of the trilogy and keeps writing many more such interesting books.

Behind The Wall

My office is very close to the jail. The office canteen overlooks a wide patch of land where all women convicts toil hard in the day. As the days have passed, the brown, coarse patch has turned into a green, lively field.

Everyday is a new day to observe these women in the field. When we moved to this new facility, it was a novel place for us all. We were overjoyed to see the vast fields before us and the open skies. We moved in the winter months and were glad to sit in the weak, winter sun and get some sun-bath. The early morning ritual of a hot cup of chai in the sun to warm ourselves was coupled with the gazing and observing of the fields before us.

As winter gave way to summer, the oppressive heat became unbearable. We tried to avoid the open canteen and remain inside in the air conditioning. Even as we had to go to the canteen for our lunch, we grumbled about the brutal heat waves that made it impossible to sit there. Only as the afternoon waned, we stepped into the canteen for a cup of evening chai.

Rains have come very late this season. Long, dry summer was very adamant and troubled everyone with its dry winds and insufferable heat. Finally as the rains have arrived, a fresh breath of life has been given to all. Everyone has also given a sigh of relief that the water situation for the entire city will improve.

During all this time, with the changing landscape, the fields and the workers have been constant. In the harsh summer afternoon, we could see them under the trees. All ladies in green saris toiling hard in the heat. As monsoon approached, they started tilling the fields and then waiting for rains. Two months into the rainy season, their fields have blossomed into green vegetables, and other produce that they will sell.

Every day, for me it is a kind of a routine to look out at the fields and see the convicts working. Sometimes, it is hard to believe that all those ladies working in those fields are convicts. The tremendous efforts that they put into their work is a truly extraordinary.

Perhaps some of them could have been convicted for petty crimes, some might have done gruesome crimes, while a few could also have been convicted wrongly. But they all have the same routine now, same lifestyle. A few could have been from rich families, while others from poor families. But in the world behind that big wall, they just are all the same. Neither poor, nor rich; neither educated, nor coarse, just plain criminals who are all on an equal level.

Or so it seems! Inside the walls, what happens one wouldn't know. There would be a hierarchy even among the hardest of the criminals. They might perhaps still be bullying some weaklings in the group. Perhaps only before the wardens they behave themselves while without a watchful eye, they go back to being the ruffians that they are thought to be.

Each one of them would have a story to tell. Of why and how they landed up in the jail. How they have their families behind them, how their kids might be surviving without them. It must be difficult for them to be without their kids and families.

I always wonder what each one of them must be thinking of when they are serving their sentences. Do they feel ashamed of what they did? Do they feel good that they did what was right? Do they feel stuck in that little world behind the big wall? Some of them could be waiting for the end of their sentences so that they go out and lead a better life. They have perhaps learnt from their mistakes and during their time in the prison, they have come to understand what life really is.

All in all, for me it is an everyday experience of seeing the ladies toiling in the fields and doing something that not all could boast of in an urban landscape. But then, they also have done something that not all would normally do.