Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Please take a smaller bribe...

Close on the heels of the PM's clarion call to cut wages (btw, this TOI piece is really good, it rips the speech) in the corporate sector, I, on behalf of the many honest people who work in the corporate sector call for measure of sobriety in corruption, nepotism and asset collection by politicians, political parties and their ilk.

Once again, our PM has got it all wrong, second, he is advising the wrong (some notes on how much Karnataka politicians are worth and add for all assembly and parliamentary constituencies and figure out the money out there) people. Maybe he can ask the politicians in his party to declare all those assets stashed away to come up with a voluntary disclosure of black money, benami assets, Swiss bank records etc? May I request a self imposed ceiling on bribes, kickbacks, favours and ostentatious lifestyle including star weddings as a means to drive down demand. Some of these measures can be directly used to alleviate poverty (it has alleviated poverty of many a politicians families 7 generation, I talk of the larger good.)

Not that this is the first time he is calling for a call to cut wages - he keeps saying different things at different times though.

Just one thing. The corporate sector pays for performance, quite unlike government schemes or companies. Work is something we do, not where we go and while our time. Most positions in the corporate world are based on something called merit - by and large. That is one word that nobody prints in government dictionaries anymore. The companies in the private sector make money thanks to the hard work of its employees and they share some of it in the form of decent (not outrageous) salaries with its employees. The government on the other hand takes money from honest taxpayers and it goes into, among other things, a laptop for the mayor of Bombay, to paint UP blue, sandstone elephants in UP, upkeep of Sonia and her families residences - 47 lakh in 3 years (see here for a great collection). How about fixing that, sir?

Meanwhile here is some government official calling for a world class Indian workforce. World class company with third class pay? Not possible, as any basic economics textbook will tell you. Which means, he is arguing for our industry to be non-competitive? With lower pay and incentive, profits would be hit - by and large, right? That means, lesser growth, lesser jobs? That means, he wants India to be worse off? Why would a prime minister want the country he rules to be worse off? Beats me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Railways, no change

From the time I was a kid, trains have been a part of our travel plans. Of course, air travel at that time was unthinkable from a cost perspective and buses were pretty bad as were the roads. Today air travel is affordable, more or less and buses have leapt in quality. Funnily enough, our roads are still terrible (which are mostly government controlled), but the buses and cars (over which the government has no control) have improved. The airports (mostly government with some exceptions coming up) have remained terrible, the airlines (ha) have got better. 

The railways in the meantime, have remained terrible. Average speeds have not gone up yet. 30 years of no change! Imagine that. We use more powerful locos to run trains slowly - of course the length of the trains keep on increasing. Amazing isnt it? For this speed, the railways could very well have continued to use steam locos.  Lalu Prasad or not, somehow the railways need to get better for passengers. 

Take the food served. Somehow, in a train journey over the past 10 years or so, I buy less and less from any vendor who is selling food. Somehow the tolerance of mostly watery tea and mostly tasteless food has gone. I prefer to carry my own food - I myself never imagined that I would be carrying my own food, even if it is prepacked. Every once in a while I have tried the food, once or twice I have been surprised, but other than that it has been a painfully predictable experience of contracted monopolies trying to maximize their revenue at the cost of the customers. Prices have gone up, but not quality. 

What I like about the railways is the online ticket booking service. Perhaps the greatest innovation in Indian railway history especially considering they treat their tracks secondarily as toilet dispensers.

Yes, so much can be changed. The railway platforms can be so much better in terms of their cleanliness. The trains could be so much better, faster instead of focusing only on lower fares. And they come up with the hare brained idea of having 3 side berths. In the last 20 or 30 odd years train speeds have barely gone up, if at all. Buses are overtaking trains; that was not true until some years back.

Perhaps the railways need to think about their passengers as customers, not as aam janta or vegetables.

Bangalore and an election

I moved from Bombay to Bangalore nearly 8 eight years back. The contrast between the two cities could not be greater. And since nobody warned me, I used the same skills I had in Bombay. 

This was in 2000 or so. To try to get a bus to go to MG Road or Iskcon was one thing. If you succeeded in getting there, then coming back at any point after 6.30 was a challenge. Getting a rickshaw with or without a "one and a half" and a city tour was equally painful. Bangalore barely had a public transport infrastructure. To reach the outskirts of the city (where most companies are located) one had to take a combination of bus, rickshaw and rickety private buses and after that, you would reach in about thrice the time it took by company vehicle. Bangalore had all of one flyover which was built at the cost of an entire city and is now nearly in complete disuse (the famous one with a signal in the middle). There was another flyover built near the city market which also took ages. Then there was the historical Silk Bored flyover. 

After 8 years, the city has barely made progress. There have been roads that have been in a post war condition for many years. There was an 80 feet road which was an 80 feet canal for a while. Now that road has got repaired, but the arterial roads around it, are completely broken up. 
A couple of grade separators have been built. There has been some attempt at getting better at public transport, but the metro is barely chugging along and overall it is not easy to get to work to any of the IT hubs using public transport. Result: Companies run their transport services - which really is a waste of resources. How difficult is to built a subway - either for pedestrians under busy roads or for vehicles? You wont believe how difficult it is here. One particular subway took about a year to build.

In Bombay when the Shiv Sena government came to power, they built a whopping 50 odd flyovers and then some. It was a widely criticised move at that time by the press - and all sorts of allegations including kickbacks were written about. But the city got work done. The construction contracts (with its rewards and penalties system) got most of the flyovers completed before time. Subways were built under the highways and there are long stretches where vehicles can go fast without having people crossing roads. Then, the overburdened suburban railway system that works - Bombay is all set to get a metro rail. That government turned the tables of Bombay elections for ever. 

From 2 rupee zunka bhakar every election manifesto is more and more about more flyovers, metro railways, water and infrastructure. The city feels taken care of - with each progressing visit. That is something visitors to Bangalore will not get a feel of. I hope that this election changes the face of Bangalore for ever...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The great telecon battle of 2002

The two armies led by the Satrap and the King met over teleconference at IST 8.00 p.m. As the virtual teams gathered over a Cisco and an Avaya Voip phone at their respective ends, many team members now swear they heard a conch. Warming up with "I am not political." from Srikanth , the telconference went into heat mode and finally exploded into a full fledged mud slinging encounter between the two teams. Requirements, connectivity were the main weapons from offshore while reactiveness and lack of domain knowledge were the onsite mantra.

At this stage, the war was on equal footing, it looked as if it would break the existing record for the longest fought stalemate wars over telephone. Once the Connectivity and Requirements ammo had found their mark and used beyond their due date, offshore pounded onsite with "Offshore is not delivering" bombs. Bombs fell in from all project co-ordinators onsite who, until this stage, were silent observers sharpening their saws. The satrap was not prepared for such a response. He had hoped for some support atleast from those who he had sent onsite, but it was not to be. It turned to be a betrayal. He raised the white flag.

As per the treaty signed post the battle of 2002, offshore would send as tribute, 17 elephant sized status reports, 25 horse sized status reports and about 122 reports on the resources (infantry). Apart from this regular tributes in the form of conference calls, expert review committees, process improvements were also demanded and agreed upon.

If any of these tributes were not paid, was the implied warning, the satrap could lose his crown. As a continued tribute, the best offshore warriors were now drafted to the onsite army further weakening the offshore satrap.

Bereft of its able warriors offshore slowly transformed from a tiger (later toothless) into a chained dog. Finally, the King sent two of his least useful and highly incompetent and ranked officers to oversee the satrap from his own kingdom. Meanwhile, the wily Sanket saw light at the end of the tunnel. If he could do well and impress Srikanth and if Tushar had enough of being a vassal, he could get to become delivery manager in a short span of time.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Karnataka polls contd

Ashok Kheny, the man behind the BMIC Bangalore Mysore highway that is somewhere in between is in the process of educating voters to vote for national parties, not regional parties. Great.  

The BJP, meanwhile has launched a Vote BJP, Save BJP Bangalore campaign and has got into the act of promising 2 rupee a kilo rice for the poor. This follows close on the heels of the Congress promising 2 rupee a kilo rice. People, how about free rice? 

Atleast the BJP promises development. The JD (S) - I have not heard them promise anything, but by now, nobody will believe their promises. Their sole promise premise is self preservation and family preservation and they will surely promise joint development. (pun intended) The Congress, well, they are busy too.

Meanwhile,a  look at the assets of some of the politicians tells you why politics is so much better than any other career option. More here and here

Bravery or spinelessness?

Heres our External affairs minister spouting the usual words. Attacks wont stop India from aiding Afghanistan. Great words. Greater still are his comments that follow, "We cannot succumb to the pressure of Taliban or any extremist group. Our approach is of zero tolerance," declared external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee. 

Commendable, Mr. Mukherjee. The only thing is that, our approach is not of zero tolerance, but of maximum tolerance when it comes to our citizens lives. The same comments are spouted after terror attacks in any part of India or after yet another bloody attack in Kashmir. 

It is one thing to say, zero tolerance and not succumb to pressure and blah, but unless you go back and hit them (whoever it is, wherever it is) where it hurts, all these declarations are as good as cowering in fear. There will be more attacks and some more of our citizens will die and you can continue to spout theatrical lines like the ones above. 

Sleepless nights, anyone?

I am busy, I am important

Once upon a time, I had a boss (Good or bad, I learnt a lot. Sometimes you learn what to do, sometimes, it is what not to do). He had this style of picking up the phone and answering it. He would pick up the phone and just before he said hello into the receiver, he would mention something (anything, but an inconsequential word or two) to the person in the room at that time, audible enough for the caller to hear. (I strongly believe he did that even if there was no one in the room.) The intent? To signal to the caller, that he was busy (or "working").

There was another chap I knew, who would carry a laptop bag to all places he went. I knew he had no laptop. Why carry a laptop bag when all you really have is a lunch box inside? The intent? I am an important person - I have a laptop.

Sometimes people need to boost their ego. But it only works a few times and works with chaps who don't know you and these tricks. Once they do, the perceived boost becomes zero, probably negative. You are seen as a fake.

Its not all about the music

Fever, a radio channel in Bangalore, started off in a promising manner. I had written about them earlier. But now, I no longer listen to them, because they became like (m)any of the other channels.

Radio Mirchi too started off differently, only to become similar. Fever has gone the same path.

More yapping RJs, more stupid contests. I prefer my CDs and personal player thank you. With the popularity of personal players (on phones, ipods) radio stations will have to do something different, soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Appointment, Bangalore style

The normal definition of a medical appointment is that you book a time slot and you get to meet the doctor at the appropriate time. So, you have an appointment at 3, you pretty much walk in at 3. You take an appointment since you dont want to wait in the clinic - sometimes this special service entails a special charge.

But thats not how they do it here, in most of the clinics. I was surprised when I took an appointment a few years back. Not knowing how this worked, I had an appointment at 3 and I walked in at 3, as I am wont to. Only to find another 100 persons with appointments at 3. Wow! So, if you have an appointment at 3, you walk in at 3 and then after that it is "first come first serve" or "most influenced, first serve" or thereabouts. The whole purpose of taking an appointment is defeated. Of course, it must be mentioned here that there is no special charge for this appointment, but the whole thing, is why call it an appointment at all?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Karnataka polls 2

As the Karnataka polls draw nearer, I see a big difference this time on the ground. This started off as a comment at The Examined Life, but I think its worth a thought here.

Coming close on the heels of the delimitation exercise, is a growing awareness among the IT class - the so called privileged class in the city. Let the words privileged class not fool you. There is not a single section in the city which has not benefited from the IT influx, regardless of what charlatans may have you believe. From the auto drivers to land owners to landlords of decrepit properties to owners to shady eateries and maids, gardeners and drivers, the boom has benefited every single person.

Over the last 5 years, the IT class has also found itself hit where it hurts most. And I dont mean salaries. I mean quality of life. The traffic situation in the city goes from bad to worse and worser every few days and just when you think it cant get worse, it does. The water situation here is pretty grim too. Electricity, well, it is only thanks to generators that electricity is available continuously.

The past 5 years have also seen perhaps the dirtiest politics in Karnataka. So, this time around the IT class will make its voice heard. This is what I have gathered from my interactions with many people. The turnout here, I think will be really high this time and there will be many "new" voters here. People who migrated from other cities here and they I think will make a difference than they ever did. So, parties which are still thinking 2 rupee rice and TVs might want to pitch for a better Bangalore if they want their votes...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

So, where is this thought coming from

You have furniture to deliver to a customer. The customer wants his furniture without any glitches - like an unfinished polish job or creaky doors or doors that do not close well or loose handles or badly fitted drawers. In the whole piece of your job, it may be a small thing, but why is that not important?

You have a 1000 incidents to fix. You fixed, 999. You missed 1. Why? "I forgot" or "So what, I delivered 999" are both equally bad excuses.

You have to reach point A from point B. You fixed a price of x rupees. When you reach point B,(which you realise is an airport/hotel) the price is suddenly x plus something else. Why surprise me? 

You fixed a price for something to be done at a house. When you see the house, you decide that the price you quoted was low (because the house surely looks rich), and hence you revise the price. 

You go to a post office or any other place with all the documents that was mentioned. And then, at the last moment, they tell you that there are three other forms, two rubber stamps and one signature that is missing...

I am sure you will agree to any or many of these situations and here is what I refer to as doing a perfect job. No hidden costs. No surprises, atleast unpleasant ones. Which is what triggered of a series of thoughts, here, here and here

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Towards perfection

The very first time I picked up an Arrow shirt, I had no idea what made a shirt good. Till then, we used to buy cloth and get it stitched at the friendly neighbourhood tailor. It seemed perfect, till a friend showed the differences. (These are not exhaustive, but if there are more, please leave a comment.)

The first difference is in the fabric itself. See the fabric at eye level. There will be no raised threads, none at all, even after a few washes. On the cheaper stuff, it will stand up on end like someone told the cloth a ghost story.

Then the stitching itself. Your shirt wont lose a button. Ever.

Then the way the threads on the inside are stitched. There are some different types of stitching.

The collar is another giveaway. No frayed edges. Ever.

Now see the way the pocket is attached. If it is a striped/dress shirt, the design across the pocket should be seamless with the actual shirt. Also the shoulder and the back and the sleeves - the stripes will join them in near perfection.

So, wash after wash, your shirt remains new. And, I of course, had no clue. It took my first job at a shirting company to get this understanding. Not sure why this was not discussed at our first management trainee meeting!

But in any case, many a time, we dont seek perfection because we do not know that a perfect situation exists. RAC in trains, extra travellers with a current ticket - please adjust, despite the fact that I paid for a berth in full, there are freeloaders. We in our simple minds accommodate such people - all in all, telling our brains that there is nothing that is perfect.

And then, the services that we received, throughout the 80s. The postal services, telephone services, roads - almost everything. Nothing, was ever perfect. And then of course, we had the conspiracy theory, the big foreign hand...

Now before you rush to think that I am talking of perfection (the acme, the paradigm of everything) in a philosophical sense like the perfect world, I am not. 

The perfection that I mean (and that is an imperfect definition in itself) is a simple "deliver what you promised". So if you promised to deliver a car, let it be a hassle free car. If it is a shirt, let it be a good durable shirt. If it is a wall, it better be straight. If we agree on a price, let that price be final - not the autorickshaw kind of price where one turn of the wheel could mean a ten rupees more. No hidden costs? Perhaps. 

Previous thoughts, here and here...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Its poll time in Karnataka

Once again. So whats new? Nothing much. Except that it is a different year. We have the same set of politicians, politicians families, politicians under different parties that they were in the last election promising the same.

The Congress has started off with rice for 2 rupees a kg and a TV. They also promise cheap loans for farmers. Great. Did you ask the people what they want?

Just in case that is difficult to fathom, they would need a few useless things like perhaps good roads, a wee bit more reliable electricity, good public transport, more infrastructure work like the metro.

2 rupee rice will be about as edible as asphalt and the TV, well, once they get electricity, they can use the TV. This, of course, is just the beginning of the Tamasha here.

Karnataka, this time atleast I hope escapes from the clutches from the Joint development family. Watch this space.

Good ad from UTI

This particular TV spot is pretty good. (via Ravikiran, and his comment is pertinent too)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why we dont seek perfection?

Continuing a thought from before on perfection.

I picked up yet another set of Lego blocks recently - I am a big fan of them. The pieces on every Lego are perfect, nothing less than that. Each block seamlessly meshes with the others, the instructions are perfect and every single thing on their instructions (we call it the "idea book") can be made. Over the past few years is when I have really seen Lego. They are perfect and I mean perfect.

When I was a kid, we had many similar blocks available in India. But you could start from the pack itself. The colour outside would be different from the content inside. The instructions would not necessarily be easy to follow - it would include more blocks than was provided in the pack. The blocks themselves never meshed well, there were protrusions and size discrepancies which meant that every single thing you made was less than perfect.

On the face of it, it is easy to dismiss this as a rich mans toy versus a poor mans toy. But connect it every single thing you faced when you grew up. How many things were perfect? It was always a matter of adjustment to a less than perfect condition. Think school, think college. How many assignments were submitted in a perfect way, that you, as the submitter were happy about the way it was done, than the fact that it finally was completed? Think carpenter, think plumber, think bank, think transport.

Therefore, perfection, in our minds, atleast for generations till now, is more an aberration than a regular occurrence. For us perfection is more an exception, than a rule! Is this why we find it so bizarre when someone seeks perfection at work, atleast initially?

A continuing chain of thought, more as it develops...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The one thing a retail shop should do

if it wants more footfalls in India, is to make the checkout as fast and seamless as possible.

Two examples. There is a Reliance Fresh here, where the checkout counters are always crowded - leading to bizarre situations. Husband and wife arrive, husband stands in the queue, wife fills up shopping basket since they are going to spend a fair amount of time standing in the queue anyway. Or there are Kirana stores chaps who hog the checkout queue with a thousand baskets. And knowing this is the situation, there is a mad scramble inside the stores to complete the shopping as fast as possible to beat the queue at the counter. Another mall near where I live, there are some 20 checkout counters - fast and efficient. Havent spent more than 2 minutes waiting for a counter to be free. Guess which place I prefer?

And then as you leave, there is a so called security who checks your bill with the items. Get rid of it guys, let the customers leave with dignity...

Monday, April 07, 2008

What is India?

How does India connect? Apart from the telephone networks, and the so called caste networks that many publications want us to believe?

India connects to itself through its way of life. Most Mumbaikars will share this feeling. You can spot a Mumbaikar from a distance. The very mention of the city creates a bonding. I am sure Delhites will agree to the same feeling when they meet people from their cities. So, will
Chennaites, Maduraites, Lucknowis and Bhopalis. Right?

Ask anybody who has worked in the Gulf. The Tamils there are a group unto themselves as are the Malayalees as are the other linguistic groups. Many collegians will tell you of a Gujarat group or a Bihar group at their hostels. Of course, the said group will hate any other said group, but that will not translate into anything other than a dinner conversation.

Ever met anyone from the US? Someone who has worked there? The Telugu and Kannada association is pretty strong there – as are the others, including the Marathi Mandals.

There is nothing wrong about this. This is how India connects. India, the nation, has carved out millions of identities and the people have done it for themselves. Each of these is independent in itself and is both tolerant and non-destructive of the other. So, the Telugu and Kannada association can at once represent South India as much as they can represent the Indian IT community or the Indian Diaspora. The Mumbaikars can represent all commuters at one time and can represent the state of Maharashtra or even the middle class of India or just the urbanized India. Each of these groupings view themselves as defenders of India and its way of life.

So, what is the identity that is India? Is it the states? If that is the case, there are quite a few of them, created and in creation, in the minds and on paper. Is it the language? If that is the case, there are hundreds, if not thousands of them. Is it just a mishmash of where we are born and brought up? Or is it more of the festivals we celebrate? Is it perhaps the places where we were educated? Or is it where we work?

Is it just the cricket team that makes us collectively root for it? Or is it the star power of Shah Rukh Khan? Or is it the dialogues of Rajinikanth? The baritone of Amitabh perhaps? The sublime cricket of Sachin? The mellifluous music of Ilayaraja or AR Rahman? Or the Suprabhatam of MS Subbalakshmi? Or the rush Tirupati? Or the beaches of Goa? What holds us together? Just the flag or the nation?

It is these micro identities, ever fluid, ever changing, yet tolerant of every other identity, that has characterized India so far. So far, because change is in the air. Those who wish to divide the nation have seen this as an evil that needs to be ripped apart. These identities are being tugged and pulled at in various directions to the detriment of this nation.

A couple of years back, we had a big argument in Hyderabad with an auto driver who did not want to speak to us in Telugu. He gave us a big bhashan on how Hindi is the national language. The whole thing ended by us walking out of his rickshaw. Obviously, he had been brought up with the belief that he did not identify with the "rest" of Hyderabad.

Recently, I was talking to someone from that 100% literate state and the person persistently refused to talk to me in Malayalam. Not that I realized it then, I continued and it was only later that I realized that all the while I spoke in Malayalam, he preferred to speak to me in English. Simply put, he did not want to identify himself as a "Keralite".

As we drove near the border of Kerala, into Tamil Nadu – this is somewhere near Tenkasi, I spotted a school of Arabic in a place that is basically a ghetto. An Arabic school in the middle of Tamil Nadu? Will they identify themselves with the Tamil Nadus way of life? And then you wonder where the students of this school will find jobs? Of course, they can serve their Arabic masters, when the time comes , as their bootlicking servants. In due course, these students will grow up as aliens in their own country with their grievances which we can sit down to address, by creating more Arabic schools and Arabic quotas, for example. And perhaps that is the intent of those who have funded a school like this in a poor area.

You might say, so what? It is the denial of the national identity, the heritage, which to date has been an identity to stand by, that is disturbing. The national identity of India closely identified with its linguistic identity and heritage irrespective of religion is being attempted to be superimposed by a "superior " identity, that of religion, that wants people to deny their heritage and accept a new one.

Religion, until recently here has always found its way in India through its heritage. Kerala Christians and Kashmiri Muslims are an example Religions have modified their presence in India, much like McDonalds customized its Aloo Tikki and it is this customization that is in danger. The India that has been held together by strands of language and customs that cut across religion suddenly finds itself being cut apart by the scissor of religion. Make no mistake. This is a trend that will have far reaching implications. This may be a little premature, but the signs are clear.

Too far fetched? Think about this example. Bengal and Bangladesh, once upon a time, were linked by their common language and customs. Today, there is no real link between WestBengal and Bangladesh anywhere except in the cobwebs of nostalgia that people weave in their senile brains sitting in their decrepit armchairs. In any case, the East Bengal will never resemble what the West Bengal was or is. It is well on its way to slavishly emulating something else, denying every single thing that its heritage once stood for.

The linguistic state formation, however wrong, was an endorsement of how we identified strongly with our heritage and languages that we grew up with. And that was there on the ground to see. Today, that fabric is being slowly torn apart. By educating in English (including myself) without education in their local languages, by choosing not to highlight our heritage to our children and of course, by external forces, for whom it is beneficial that we live in denial about our heritage.

Yet I am not entirely pessimistic about this. There are many more pieces that hold India beyond this. Yet, my sense is that every single icon that holds us together is in danger of being attacked by these divisive forces.

What can hold us together inspite of these forces? Many things. India is a land of many icons, starting from Shivaji to Gandhiji and Buddha to Asoka. This is one example of strong glue that can hold us together. Somehow, deliberately, slowly, through our education system
there is this puzzling inability to highlight what some of these historical successes. The tolerant India is rapidly losing many strands of its fabric. And that is to the advantage of some who wish to divide this country. And our politicians, willy nilly play into their hands little knowing that their short term gain will cost us a country...

And this by the way is post number 1000 on this blog. Wish you all a happy Ugadi.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Shashi Tharoor discovers the cellphone

He left the shores of the country in 1975 and now that he is back, he discovers that the idiots he left behind use cellphones very well. The column is basically a pitch for his book, but it is a good lesson on how to write a piece for any phoren publication. 

Coming after last weeks Eureka moment when he managed to convince himself that he would have been a terrorist had he taken that engineering seat he nearly missed, this is momentous. At least this one is true...

Sorry sir, no change

If you are the first customer at any shop when you are about to make the payment, this is a common refrain.  "Sorry, sir, I dont have change."

Well then please change, and keep change. You run the shop, you expect customers to walk in, why don't you be ready with change when you set up shop? How do you expect that every one of your customers has exact change?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Wasting time, no papa

"The company has decided to stop newspapers from being kept in the library." Dheeraj smiled as he read the mail.

"It has been observed that many employees spend a lot of time reading newspapers while they ought to be doing work. Also, we found in a survey that we conducted in secret by hiding behind library walls and using Mission Impossible type outfits that it is only a few people who read newspapers here. Most people tend to get newspapers at home. Considering that over 100 years it will save us 7 lakh rupees, we thought it was a good decision from the company perspective"

Dheeraj glanced at the mail and got back to what he was busy with. He had no time for newspapers. His deliverable was nearing the due date and he had to simply finish his work. In any case, this was happening over the last few days. As the dollar fell and the rupee rose, moods fell and tempers rose. First they decided to call people on weekends, then they cut the coffee vending machines, then the airconditioners were switched on every alternate hour. Free stationery was erased and employees had to get their own notepads and pencils.

Dheeraj, nonetheless was at his best. His new boss found him to be a very good employee.

She had recently cracked down on people making and receiving personal calls on their personal mobile phones and landlines. As she walked around if she saw an internet browser opened, she would do the verbal equivalent of taking a sword and cutting of the head of the concerned associate. If people were found at the coffee table as she passed that way, it was sure to figure in their next appraisal. If anybody was absent from their desks for anything longer than a few minutes, a mail would appear asking them of their absence. She was also rumoured to be working on a device that would throw water on people who sat for more than 30 seconds on a toilet seat.

In all this chaos Dheeraj maintained his calm. His feedback contained the words "I see you diligently working at your desk all day long. It is great to see an employee who does not while away his time at the table tennis table, coffee table, loo, library, smoking areas, internet."

"Thanks" was the only thing Dheeraj could add. He felt like a million dollars and a little bit smart at the same time. "I need to hurry", he said, "after all, I have work to do."

He got back to his work. He was busy writing code for an application he was developing for his free lance project that he took out of a website that lets people rent developers.