Saturday, September 18, 2010

The knotty problem

I prevent solar radiations from hitting your skin; prevent sweat from falling into your eyes; prevent dust from entering your nose; provide more surface area to evaporate your sweat to cool your body; prevent body from radiating heat away when the surrounding is cold and so much more. But what do you do? You use me for silly metaphors like, “Pull a mountain by tying a hair to it. If you succeed you will get a mountain, if you lose you will lose only a hair”. Only a hair you say? Ask Harsha Bhogle and Virender Sehwag about it.

Some people say he is dead and he serves no purpose; some people say mankind lost the tail to evolution; but he is longer on us than any other animal, so just because we don't understand doesn't mean he has no purpose. I am not going to debate on this further. I am making a decision on behalf of Solomon Paapaiah, “Though hair is an integral part of human body, it is considered insignificant by our people”. Before I get to the point, let me narrate my experience with my hair.

As far as my memory goes I had very short hair as a youngster, growing up in the hot and humid climates of Pondicherry with “summer cuts”. My earliest memory of my hair is my neighbour telling me that I have two curls (tamil: suzhi) and that I would have two wives. It took me another two years to realize that it was a lie and what a disappointment that was. It was a matter of great pride for me when people admire the density of my hair. But, my dad was always there with a grin “your time will come, you have my genes” showing his balding head. I was hoping it was my mom’s genes outside my head and my dad’s inside; but nature had other plans.

I started experimenting with hairstyle only after I completed college. Drawing inspiration from Jason Gillespie and partly from my younger brother I started growing my hair long. I still can’t forget the look on my mom’s face when she saw my hair when I visited home after a long break. She did not like it, but didn’t want me to feel bad and she said “super kanna” when I asked her how it was. Later she slowly asked me as if to sound casual, “so, when are you planning to cut the hair?” Dad came to my aid saying “Paapaa, this is the age to experiment. After few years even if he wants to, there will be nothing left to experiment with”. I decided not to take that as an insult and looked at it positively saying to myself that my dad is supporting me.

My colleagues find it very enjoyable to ask silly questions, “What are you saving money for? By not going to a barber” “Is MindTree not paying enough money for even a hair cut” some of them even started a relief fund for my hair cut. Little did they know about my hardships? I stopped driving my bike to office since a helmet would spoil the hairstyle. I had to drive my car, which meant more fuel. I can’t keep the car windows down, since the wind would spoil my hairstyle. Window up, AC on, pocket empty. More the length of the hair, more the cost for maintenance. More itching, more shampoo. On top of all this, I had to cope up with these self proclaimed humor gods.

General reponse to my hairstyle

If people in Bangalore think I am a weirdo, what would people in Thippanampatti think? [Thippanampatti is a remote village in TamilNadu and happens to be my mom’s native.] I could see my younger relatives visiting my grandpa’s house discussing secrets, looking at me and giggling. An aged granny asked me innocently, “Is this how everyone in Bangalore is?” I tried Rajnikanth’s method, just smile if the question is hard to answer, trust me it worked. I had become an outcast to them.

Sleeping in the night and walking in the wind were the biggest challenges for me in life for long. I always end up with hair inside my eyes, nose, ears and mouth. I have no clue how the girls manage this without any fuss. Then there were some people; I had to hide behind trees or pillars to escape from. There is one in particular who till date thinks I have cut my hair because of his philosophical preaching.

There were many people who appreciated my long hair style and there were fans too. But, what fascinates me is to see that majority of my well-wishers were so disturbed by such an insignificant contradiction of mine to common societal belief. When Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo claimed sun is at the centre and not earth, they were considered outcasts [million times bigger than my case though ;)]; In reality all that people had to think was “Why is every heavenly body rising in the east and setting in the west and not even one in the reverse direction?” If a cop says he would not take a bribe, I have no doubts that his/her well-wishers would consider him an outcast too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Passion and Obsession

This is an excerpt from a speech by the CEO of Coca-Cola, Brian G. Dyson. “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - Work - Family - Health - Friends - Spirit, and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls -- family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

This is a story I heard in the Belur and Halebidu temples of Karnataka. “A sculptor was once working on a piece of art, which had to be placed on a tower which is about 30 feet high. It took him days to sculpt the rock. One day when the sclpture was almost complete, he noticed a tiny mistake he had made. Disappointed with himself, he started working on a new rock for the same sculpture. His co-worker was puzzled by this behaviour and asked him “the mistake is too tiny to be noticed from 30 feet below, who would know that there is a flaw?” For which the sculptor replied “I will know” and continued working on the new rock.” These temples are epitomes of Indian architecture and the attention to details of the sculptures were just mind blowing.

These two stories carry two different messages which I think is very essential for this generation corporate employees. The first one talks about work-life balance and the latter about passion in work. Does this seem contradicting? I think not. I know a friend who is passionate towards football; he screams when his team scores a goal and becomes silent when they concede one. He plays the game with same passion; he is passionate about his work; he is passionate when he discusses current affairs; he is passionate when he discusses world history. Again, I have not seen a long lasting effect on him just because his team has lost or won. That for me is the difference between passion and obsession. Don’t work just for the money; work is not everything in life.

This is a real life example to show these subtle differences. I was part of team developing software for a semiconductor packaging company. The hierarchy of the development team was a project manager at the top, a technical lead below him, two module leads reporting to the technical lead and ten developers under the module leads. I was one of the module leads. Bala, the project manager is a no nonsense guy and an example of a true professional. He is very passionate about his work and expects similar commitment from his team. Inspired by the leader, the team too stretched from the usual working hours quite often. The application we were developing was very ambitious and challenging; we knew it would be quite an achievement at the end.

One of my close friends, Vimal’s marriage was around the corner at the time our development was nearing its peak. I had applied for just a day’s leave while many of my fortunate friends could afford more days to help him out. The day before the marriage Bala called me into a meeting room and asked me if I could attend the marriage in the morning, come back and work during the day and go back to attend the reception in the evening. I had some valid reasons why I couldn’t do that. Then he told me “I had to miss the marriage of my paternal aunt’s son the week before since we had work. Vinoj (our technical lead) had postponed to visit his mother-in-law who was diagnosed with brain tumor because of work. I want you too to be an example for the team.” I calmly told him “Bala, everyone has their own priorities. Work is yours, friend’s marriage is mine. I am sorry I will not be able to work on that day”.  I still think I set the right example to my team

[The project was a great success and has become a show case project for winning many clients.]