About Me

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Economic Times - The Corner Office

    "There is no shortcut to the corner office. Or is there?" went the ad in the paper. 2 hours and a short ride later, sitting in one of the assembly-line cubicles in the big blue building, the question ran across my eyes like an invisible ticker. I had to know the answer. Standing up, the corner office was in clear line of sight. About 30 feet away, shimmering with all its sharp-looking furniture and with all the attention that a wealthy tourist in Bangkok gets. It surely wasn't the corner office I aspired for - this one had the printers, brochures of our products and services and other 'intellectual capital' stacked high as the eye. If there was a shortcut to this office, I didn't care about it. I guess the ads weren't talking of the literal corner offices but the metaphorical ones.

    The advent of HR as an important function made redundant the premise of the ad. Corner offices weren't physically corner offices anymore. Everyone followed an open door policy and on those rare occasions when the senior management wasn't canoodling a client, you could always walk in and take your annual quota of 15 minutes from him or her. This was the childhood equivalent of getting chocolates from the 'America Uncle' whom you barely knew. America Uncle would forget you the moment he set foot on foreign shores. And so will the senior management. But you still had the chocolates. The metaphorical corner office lay not on the x-axis but the y-axis. As one grew in the organization, the floor on which one's office is located goes up by storey-by-storey.

    The ticker ran again in front of my eyes. Economic Times promised that becoming a Young Leader would change things forever. A leading daily and one with strong views on the economy - perhaps they had a view or two about career progression as well. I didn't see myself as a guy in a hurry. 'Give it a shot' said the voice inside. South Indian meals for 40 Rs. at the canteen upstairs - drowned the voice for 4 hours straight. The next morning without much of a thought, I went to the portal and completed the activities. One round followed another and nearly 3 months later the results were out. 22, yours truly included were in the list. A visit to Bombay for the panel discussion and grand dinner ensued. The long-term impact is still too early to be gauged. But in the short term, we had a chance to spend 2 hours talking to some of the top honchos of Corporate India. Completely worth the experience.

    2 days from now I set off to ISB, Hyderabad. 'Accelerated Management Programme' says the word document sent by the program organizer. 'Accelerate' - the old message on the invisible ticker running across my eyes, is replaced with this one word. Maybe this is what I need to step on the pedal. To draw in a little more of fuel from around and get that extra boost of energy. Either ways, I know one thing with certainty - the course alone is not going to change anything beyond being a refresher of what I learnt (or feigned learning) 6 years ago. I look at the Young Leaders as a fantastic platform; one that makes you run faster and with more stamina and certainty towards a goal. There are however, no shortcuts to the corner office.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

To Dosa or not to Dosa

Culinary complexities this side of the Vindhyas are as deep as the number of ways a saree can be wrapped around oneself (assuming ‘oneself’ is a woman). And the epitome of such complexity, more due to diversity than the raw materials constituting it is the humbling dosa. There are many variants to the dosa. The offering changes from home to home and restaurant to restaurant. There’s the smooth-as-Smitha neer dosa from Mangalore, Bangalore’s own rava dosa which comes with the personality of a desert rattle snake, and the ubiquitous masala dosa. Further north we have dosas with a change in the stuffing – the Chinese dosa which makes you wonder if Hindi-Cheeni are really bhai-bhai, dosas with cheese and even dosas with other dosas as stuffing.

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ went the Bard. The Bard’s pincode did not belong to Malleswaram, Bangalore or Mambalam, Chennai. If it did, he’d have a deep long look while writing that quote and promptly crush the papyrus into the bin. The way one pronounces a word, more than the word itself, is key to how far you get around within the IT parks that dot the landscape south of the Plateau. There’s the Tamilian dho-sigh¸ which in translations north of the plateau makes you wonder if the dosa is served with the waiter sighing twice, instead of the traditional double chutney. An Iyengar or Iyer would throw in that hint of a nasal twang with the dho-sIgh. In the north, the land of the spring dosas and other such blasphemous dosa progenies, the stress is on the first syllable – DOsa, asserting in typical aggressiveness, their supremacy over the humble batter.

Every state would have its share of legends on the origin of the dosa. The journey from legend to truth is a long one, spanning many generations of potato-fillings for the dosa and newer legends would be formed as often as new variants of sambar are being created. One version talks of how the first dosas were made by nuns in the missionaries in Mangalore. The Kannadiga calls his childhood kitchen sweetheart, dhosey, while his cousins across the Almatti Dam would go dhosa every Sunday morning. At the risk of not being sure, God’s own country and by logical deduction, God pronounce it dho-shy, leaving the spring dosa hunters, to wonder if the Malayali was bitten once, to be shy twice.

The loved are called more often. If recent polls are any indication the dosa will brace itself for many more a-calling. But whatever the tongue, or the marriage of syllables, the stuffing or lack of it, each time the dosa will respond to the calling with the same love as the chef’s twirl of wrist. Shakespeare, perhaps was right. A rose smells just as sweet by any other name.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Walking Tall

It’s been 3 years since I’ve owned an Enfield. Many a ride taken, through rains and skin-scorching sun, many a mile and historic town that has gone past with the all-too familiar thump of splitting the roads. It had to give one day. And it did. 3 weeks ago while nearly 10 km away from home on a wonderful Sunday. I looked around frantically for a mechanic who could fix it. For all the love of the Enfield that I have, I’m not good with tools. I’m more inclined towards the inner beauty of the beast while not capable of prying it open, like a doctor. And so the search took many forms – calls to friends who lived in the neighbourhood to rely on local knowledge, prayers to the almighty to make the best mechanic in town walk that same path I was stranded on, coincidentally and meaningless tinkering of the wiring hidden beneath the casing on the left. Finally, a search on the phone yielded a mechanic who could fix it who would be open on that day in that neighbourhood. Relief was only momentary since in a week there was a breakdown again. The first mechanic had not given it the health check of a specialist but that of a general practitioner.

With the festival week staring ahead, I knew that I’d have to get back to the oldest form of civilization’s travel – on foot. For ten days now I’ve relied on my feet for transportation services. And it feels great. I read somewhere that all it takes to begin a journey is to take the first step. And then another. And then another before the journey is already underway. While that may have been a metaphor, to me it was a literal journey. For a week now I’ve walked to every place I have to go – Java city, the coffee house that’s my home away from home; the grocery store for the day’s calories; the gym to burn away the previous day’s groceries and to meet friends round the corner. It feels great. It’s been 10 days now and the throttle of the Enfield is back where it belongs – on the road. But the break was just what I wanted to remind of the most basic forms of transportation. Sometimes we forget that fitness is just round the corner. We don’t need expensive memberships in the fitness center, we don’t need to go on diets, crash or extended to keep the health ticker moving. All it takes is a good walk.

You know where to begin – take the first step! The road is yours!!