About Me

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who Laughs Last!

It happened around the time the Dal Makhani was brought in. The joke being told was not the kind that deserved intense laughter – atleast not the heart-and-maybe-a-foot-below intensity it held. Having been a passive observer of these traits for some time, I realized what that laughter was even before the Dal was completely served – and in clich├ęd wisdom remarked to myself – “Dal mein kuch kaala hai”.

Every career brings with it, its idiosyncrasies (every career is a carrier of its idiosyncrasies, anyone! :-) ). Mind it – I’m not talking of a person but a career. Here’s an example – A fireman’s favourite joke (notice reference to gender) will be about his hose being longer than his colleague’s… like that!

Here I write about an idiosyncrasy of a life-time member from the consultancy career – The Consultant’s Laugh! On many occasions our ilk faces situations where clients or fellow consultants need to be appreciated and humored. If you won’t take my word for it, try getting 3 years sales data split month-wise from a client. Pressurize him enough to give you the data and see if his CV won’t appear on Monster.com within a week. In such situations, a little appreciation and humoring is not seen as out of place. It’s termed ‘client-relationship’. There are other easier ways by which as a consultant, one can keep the client and others around in good spirits. Some of these methods involve a 2 year prison-stint and/or a 5000 buck fine. Hence, they will not be written about.

The Laugh is not something one is born with. Like the other great things about a person – leadership, courage, smelly arm-pits and flatulence – it’s an acquired trait. And one that is acquired with a lot of dedication. The Laugh is not made explicit or explained when one joins this line of work. Very much like the bonus-calculation mechanism. And one fine day, if you survive the “induction” where one particular department tests your ability to stay awake under the influence of chloroform, one hears it. Sometimes a hollow sound, like when you open the tap of an empty beer barrel, sometimes full and flowing, like when you open the tap of a loaded beer barrel and sometimes silent and inconspicuous like when you open the tap of no beer barrel. The Consultant’s Laugh!

One can trust the quality of the consultant’s work, based purely on the quality of The Laugh he generates. The more annoying and fake it gets the more certain of the recommendations being a ppt lifted from the company’s archives. Any signs of The Laugh being genuine and one can be sure there is some very good data analysis done before referring to company archives for recommendations.

With a year-and-a-half neatly tucked behind, time and other-wise, it was fairly recently that I realized The Laugh hiding in me. All original and I’ve also been practicing hard using the mirrors in the rest room (only now realizing why some of my colleagues are avoiding me lately). It ain’t too hard to discover the gift one has. Go on… give it some thinking over the weekend and flourish and aim for that career shift!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bite the Bullet

The last two months have been trying! The project having gotten underway, it prevented me and my team from doing anything but that which consultants do - namely, ask for data, reject data given to us, sulk behind the client, clean the data over 70% of the period of the project, (filtering through xl does it well I've realized, though a colleague discovered an easier and more assured way using a P & G product; he refuses to divulge further information and needless to say, was assigned most of the cleaning), build wonderful models using xl sheets and give them names like "Return of the Mother - X-series - V1.1.xls".

In a desperate attempt to discover/invent silver-linings for ourselves in those bleak times, we ran up a very good bill at the local condiments store (being Mallu, he has a wonderful take on diversification and sells tea, tea estates in Darjeeling, low-cost labor for tea estates in Darjeeling, filter coffee, coffee filters and cycle chains). The silver-lining was quick to be seen, when he told us our daily bills. It appeared as a multi-Z shaped cloud right above the head when paying up and some wonderful reverse peristalsis on a jam bun.

That's not all the silver-lining I could bring up. On a personal front, I realized a long-held wish and a near-impossible hope. I bought the Thunderbird that I so much wanted. A-haa, not an old one, but a new one that depleted my savings account like a Las Vegas casino might when dealing with a bad hand at the cards. 'Near-impossible', I use the phrase due to the kind of pressure folks @ home put on me.

"Minimum mileage should be 65kmpl" said Dad.
"Should the vehicle run on water or is milk good enough?" came my reply.

"Its a very heavy bike!" said Mom.
" ". I didn't have to say anything. With arms outstretched I let her take in my complete picture and she quickly figured out where all the butter dosas she made went.

A week after the purchase I fuelled up. I filled myself up with 3 litres of trepidation at the first intimidating traffic junction and headed out to the nearest Ganesha temple. In these days of reckless riding, nothing like some help from upstairs I thought. Parked beside the temple and awaiting the coconut-breaking ceremony was a Pulsar (due regards to the Bajaj family and their pet peeves). The vehicles seemed to have a sense of competition between themselves and I could distinctly feel a rumble from my bike, which told me that it wanted the Pulsar for breakfast and if left over, a brunch! (minutes later I realized the sound was due to the fuel levels having reached reserve and me not acknowledging the fact).

With some clear hand-signs I interrupted the priest's hymns and made it clear that coconuts needn't be broken on bikes for blessings and the road was built for just that purpose. Having settled accounts with Priest Sir, God sir and a pantheon of other god-fathers and god-mothers, I set out to fuel the bike.

It was here that the first of the acknowledgements from society dropped by. Though the bike is very personal, nothing like a bit of Maslow's higher layers pitching in to make one feel good. Fellow-rider of a Bullet started his bike a short distance away. I glanced in that direction without giving it a thought. Bullet-man before taking off, raised his hand in my direction with a leather-gloved thums-up sign. A silent nod of his head later (a vertical nod, indicating respect and approval, not the horizontal one, which indicates non-approval and flies around the head) he went his way. Tough men don't smile I said to myself. I looked at the mirror of my bike and smirked hard instead. With a thumping kick to the start, I rode back home.