Stoned Racounteur

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Allright, a post from me after a long time n thaat too a copy paste job.Anyways, these are two awesome articles borrowed from the net somewhere.I dont remember the sources 'coz i had done a Ctrl-C Ctrl-V long time back.The first one will make you laugh your guts out and the second one will bring you back to your senses.Both of them are must reads though.Have a look.


The liaison team for ICICI consisted of X and Y. They tried, as all liaison teams do, to soothe our frayed nerves. This included telling us possible questions, and we were told that the interview usually started with the question “Tell us something about yourself”
It is a question that I have historically never enjoyed. Responses in the past have included “Could you be clearer?”, “What exactly do you want to know about me?” or, worse still, “What aspect of me do you want to know about?”
But this time, thanks to being warned in advance, I was totally prepared. I marched into the ICICI interview room with an air of confidence. The panel consisted of a pass out and an HR lady.
“So, which are the other companies that you have been short listed for?”
This caught me like a bolt from the blue. It was like Caesar saying “Nice work, dude” instead of “Et tu Brutus”. “Hey, that’s not part of the script” was what I wanted to say.
What I said instead was hardly better. With consummate assurance, I started off: ”HSBC, …”
And then it hit me. I had not even applied to HSBC, which had made a short list a mathematical impossibility. Instead of continuing on, which would have made the gaffe inconspicuous, I silently thought about why I’d blurted out something that was as far removed from the truth as possible. I believe that the sight of bumps being given just before I was called had led to HSBC having, in management lingo, top of the mind recall.
So I paused for a considerable period of time. The chap looked at me and prompted: "Yeah, go on...”
“Oh”, said I, starting a bit, “well, Citibank, StanC, Pepsi …”
“Among these companies, which one would you prefer the most?”
If somebody had asked me about who won the 100 m gold in the 1988 Olympics, I’d almost certainly have given the same answer viz;
I don’t know why I said that. All I know is that after I said this, panic seized me. At this rate, I didn’t know where I’d end up.
An ICICI guy might not be used to the paeans of HSBC sung with such regularity in an interview. Mildly surprised, he said:”You seem quite interested in HSBC. Tell us something more about it.”
“Well, you see, it’s one of the largest banks in the world”. Global statement, if ever there were one.
“Hmm. Go on.”
Considering my fixation on HSBC, he might have expected me to come up with all the fin ratios and what not. If he did, and he probably did, the answer would have shocked him.
“Well, that’s all that I … er , … remember” (recalling the words of wisdom that remember is always preferable to know since it assumes that you knew and forgot, and hence substituting the former for the latter), said I, sheepishly and abruptly.
There was silence all around for about five seconds. It was the kind of silence that gets on your nerves and can be described as creepily mournful, except that this was an interview going on and not a funeral. In these five seconds, I was rebuking myself for the mess I’d landed myself in and thinking of ways to clean it up. The alumnus might well have been wondering whether he was dreaming and wistfully regretting that somebody had pipped him to the adage “Fact is stranger than fiction”. The HR lady might have been thinking of the most innocuous question possible. The second statement can never be ascertained. What can, however, is that the HR dame did ask the most innocuous question possible.
‘Which are your favorite subjects?”
It was a rope being thrown out to a drowning man.
I could see a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. I replied with more enthusiasm on display that in the entire interview till then: “BIO and QAM.” (Behaviour In Organizations and Quantitative Analysis for Management.)
Most people would (and quite sensibly too) have left it there. The rope would have been eagerly grasped. But here was somebody hell bent on drowning for reasons that are yet to be discovered. They produced possibly the most amazing statement, in the sense that it was completely uncalled for.
“This is very peculiar. For QAM is the concretest of subjects and BIO the most abstract. QAM theories can be verified to be true, BIO theories cannot.”
The addendum, puzzling, dubious and superfluous as it was, might still have been pardonable. Except that HR people, whose bread and butter depend to a certain extent on BIO, do not like cocky youngsters denouncing its foundations. A side of the statement that had entirely escaped me, even as I reflected upon it with horror. But not for long. Making sure of this was the HR person, earlier trying to play the Good Samaritan, who now seemed to change roles rapidly.
“Could you”, she said, and I noticed that there was a disconcerting and unmistakable trace of asperity in her voice “elaborate?” She had, without doubt, fired the opening salvo.
I could, of course. There is always scope for taking things from bad to worse.
“What I’m trying to say is that sometimes BIO theories make the obvious things complicated. In fact, I am sure that some of them are wrong.”
Irrelevance is to be avoided, irreverence even more so. The combination is disastrous.
“Like?” , she countered, red in the face by now.
I stopped in mid sentence. What were the names of those horrid theories that we’d had to cram up? Ah, there was this one..
“... Theory X and Theory Y.”
“Ok, tell me about Theory X and Theory Y and prove that they are wrong.”, said she, leaning back in her chair with a forbidding stare and eagerly awaiting further blunders.
My heart sank. Just a bit. Proofs of abstract theories or their refutation were not exactly up my street. Still, I tried to muster up courage and continued.
“Theory X says that you cannot motivate people.”
“That”, said she, with a sardonic smile and barely concealed glee at winning the battle, if not the war, almost before it had begun” is Theory Y.”
It is doubtful whether four words had ever demoralized me more. This was a chance to finally say something incontrovertible and I’d blown it up. That too when I’d had a 50% chance of getting the name right. The bard’s words “What’s in a name?” seemed the most rotten piece of poetry ever written. To my credit, I brushed that aside as if it were the tiniest flaw.
“Whatever. Then that’s Theory Y. So Theory X says that you can motivate people.”
“That’s right. Okay, let’s hear your rebuttal.”
Then it struck me.
I’d merely been on shaky ground so far, but had ventured into a quagmire now, and there could be no escape. For even in that frame of mind, I saw with crystal clarity that either you could motivate people or you couldn’t. One of the theories had to be right. Of all the darn theories I could have chosen, I had chosen a pair that nobody could ever disprove. I might as well have tried to solve the Rubik cube blindfolded
“Well”, I said quite forlornly, “consider this guy A and consider people trying to motivate him.”
While they were considering that, I was considering what to say next. What I followed this sentence up with nobody will ever know. And a good thing too. I spoke such arrant nonsense continuously for two minutes, about the guy and a billion scenarios and used the words “motivation”, “perhaps” and “maybe” a dozen times, that I stopped only when I ran out of words.
I said with innocence “So you see, they can’t be true.”, as if it were a natural conclusion of whatever had been said.
They didn’t say “Non sequitur.” Obviously they hadn’t understood. Nobody could have.
It is measure of their professionalism that only after this did they give up on me and the interview become more or less a farce. I was asked about the projects I had done, and when I mentioned the movie Apollo 13, they asked me what the management lessons from it were.
I singled out two lessons.
“The first one is to have a calm head in times of crisis.”
(They politely didn’t point out that apparently this lesson had fallen on deaf ears.)
They appreciated that. Was there still a miraculous recovery around the corner? The answer came sooner than I thought.
“And the second one is to plan for any unforeseen events.”
Dash! Immediately, I knew what was coming.
“Hang on, how is that possible?”
Another impossibility had to be explained away. Having already done this once a short time before and debating mentally whether to take up proving the improvable as an avocation, I stammered something about the past events could help us to forecast unforeseen events.
I don’t remember the questions asked after that. Not that it matters. They possibly wanted to bring the interview to some kind of sensible and sober conclusion. Since I was struggling to give a sane answer to the most common place of questions, it would have seemed a difficult task. They should have considered themselves lucky that after two minutes of mundane questions, it was over.
I came out, my head still spinning a bit when I thought about what had transpired for the past twenty minutes. I couldn’t help smiling at the crazy aspects, which in fact formed almost the entire interview.
“You’re all smiles! Cracked it, eh?" , said Y
“Not exactly”, said I, “They asked me about my favourite company and I said HSBC ...”
“Oh, that’s ok. Don’t worry too much about that. They might even like your frankness.”
“Hey, look here…”
How little did he know! Should I tell him the whole story? I felt sure that it’d take more time than he or I had, for another liaison team guy was waiting for me.

Address by Subroto Bagchi, Chief Operating Officer, MindTree Consulting to the Class of 2006 at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore on defining success. July 2nd 2004

I was the last child of a small-time government servant, in a family of five brothers. My earliest memory of my father is as that of a District Employment Officer in Koraput, Orissa. It was and remains as back of beyond as you can imagine. There was no electricity; no primary school nearby and water did not flow out of a tap. As a result, I did not go to school until the age of eight; I was home-schooled. My father used to get transferred every year. The family belongings fit into the back of a jeep – so the family moved from place to place and, without any trouble, my Mother would set up an establishment and get us going. Raised by a widow who had come as a refugee from the then East Bengal, she was a matriculate when she married my Father. My parents set the foundation of my life and the value system which makes me what I am today and largely defines what success means to me today.

As District Employment Officer, my father was given a jeep by the government. There was no garage in the Office, so the jeep was parked in our house. My father refused to use it to commute to the office. He told us that the jeep is an expensive resource given by the government – he reiterated to us that it was not ‘his jeep’ but the government’s jeep. Insisting that he would use it only to tour the interiors, he would walk to his office on normal days. He also made sure that we never sat in the government jeep – we could sit in it only when it was stationary. That was our early childhood lesson in governance – a lesson that corporate managers learn the hard way, some never do.

The driver of the jeep was treated with respect due to any other member of my Father’s office. As small children, we were taught not to call him by his name. We had to use the suffix ‘dada’ whenever we were to refer to him in public or private. When I grew up to own a car and a driver by the name of Raju was appointed – I repeated the lesson to my two small daughters. They have, as a result, grown up to call Raju, ‘Raju Uncle’ – very different from many of their friends who refer to their family drivers as ‘my driver’. When I hear that term from a school- or college-going person, I cringe. To me, the lesson was significant – you treat small people with more respect than how you treat big people. It is more important to respect your subordinates than your superiors.

Our day used to start with the family huddling around my Mother’s chulha – an earthen fire place she would build at each place of posting where she would cook for the family. There was no gas, nor electrical stoves. The morning routine started with tea. As the brew was served, Father would ask us to read aloud the editorial page of The Statesman’s ‘muffosil’ edition – delivered one day late. We did not understand much of what we were reading. But the ritual was meant for us to know that the world was larger than Koraput district and the English I speak today, despite having studied in an Oriya medium school, has to do with that routine. After reading the newspaper aloud, we were told to fold it neatly. Father taught us a simple lesson. He used to say, “You should leave your newspaper and your toilet, the way you expect to find it”. That lesson was about showing consideration to others. Business begins and ends with that simple precept.

Being small children, we were always enamored with advertisements in the newspaper for transistor radios – we did not have one. We saw other people having radios in their homes and each time there was an advertisement of Philips, Murphy or Bush radios, we would ask Father when we could get one. Each time, my Father would reply that we did not need one because he already had five radios – alluding to his five sons. We also did not have a house of our own and would occasionally ask Father as to when, like others, we would live in our own house. He would give a similar reply, “We do not need a house of our own. I already own five houses”. His replies did not gladden our hearts in that instant. Nonetheless, we learnt that it is important not to measure personal success and sense of well being through material possessions.

Government houses seldom came with fences. Mother and I collected twigs and built a small fence. After lunch, my Mother would never sleep. She would take her kitchen utensils and with those she and I would dig the rocky, white ant infested surrounding. We planted flowering bushes. The white ants destroyed them. My mother brought ash from her chulha and mixed it in the earth and we planted the seedlings all over again. This time, they bloomed. At that time, my father’s transfer order came. A few neighbors told my mother why she was taking so much pain to beautify a government house, why she was planting seeds that would only benefit the next occupant.

My mother replied that it did not matter to her that she would not see the flowers in full bloom. She said, “I have to create a bloom in a desert and whenever I am given a new place, I must leave it more beautiful than what I had inherited”. That was my first lesson in success. It is not about what you create for yourself, it is what you leave behind that defines success.My mother began developing a cataract in her eyes when I was very small. At that time, the eldest among my brothers got a teaching job at the University in Bhubaneswar and had to prepare for the civil services examination. So, it was decided that my Mother would move to cook for him and, as her appendage, I had to move too. For the first time in my life, I saw electricity in homes and water coming out of a tap. It was around 1965 and the country was going to war with Pakistan. My mother was having problems reading and in any case, being Bengali, she did not know the Oriya script. So, in addition to my daily chores, my job was to read her the local newspaper – end to end. That created in me a sense of connectedness with a larger world. I began taking interest in many different things. While reading out news about the war, I felt that I was fighting the war myself. She and I discussed the daily news and built a bond with the larger universe. In it, we became part of a larger reality. Till date, I measure my success in terms of that sense of larger connectedness.

Meanwhile, the war raged and India was fighting on both fronts. Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minster, coined the term “Jai Jawan, Jai Kishan” and galvanized the nation in to patriotic fervor. Other than reading out the newspaper to my mother, I had no clue about how I could be part of the action. So, after reading her the newspaper, every day I would land up near the University’s water tank, which served the community. I would spend hours under it, imagining that there could be spies who would come to poison the water and I had to watch for them. I would daydream about catching one and how the next day, I would be featured in the newspaper. Unfortunately for me, the spies at war ignored the sleepy town of Bhubaneswar and I never got a chance to catch one in action. Yet, that act unlocked my imagination. Imagination is everything. If we can imagine a future, we can create it, if we can create that future, others will live in it. That is the essence of success.

Over the next few years, my mother’s eyesight dimmed but in me she created a larger vision, a vision with which I continue to see the world and, I sense, through my eyes, she was seeing too. As the next few years unfolded, her vision deteriorated and she was operated for cataract. I remember, when she returned after her operation and she saw my face clearly for the first time, she was astonished. She said, “Oh my God, I did not know you were so fair”. I remain mighty pleased with that adulation even till date. Within weeks of getting her sight back, she developed a corneal ulcer and, overnight, became blind in both eyes. That was 1969. She died in 2002. In all those 32 years of living with blindness, she never complained about her fate even once. Curious to know what she saw with blind eyes, I asked her once if she sees darkness. She replied, “No, I do not see darkness. I only see light even with my eyes closed”. Until she was eighty years of age, she did her morning yoga everyday, swept her own room and washed her own clothes. To me, success is about the sense of independence; it is about not seeing the world but seeing the light.

Over the many intervening years, I grew up, studied, joined the industry and began to carve my life’s own journey. I began my life as a clerk in a government office, went on to become a Management Trainee with the DCM group and eventually found my life’s calling with the IT industry when fourth generation computers came to India in 1981. Life took me places – I worked with outstanding people, challenging assignments and traveled all over the world. In 1992, while I was posted in the US, I learnt that my father, living a retired life with my eldest brother, had suffered a third degree burn injury and was admitted in the Safderjung Hospital in Delhi. I flew back to attend to him – he remained for a few days in critical stage, bandaged from neck to toe. The Safderjung Hospital is a cockroach infested, dirty, inhuman place. The overworked, under-resourced sisters in the burn ward are both victims and perpetrators of dehumanized life at its worst. One morning, while attending to my Father, I realized that the blood bottle was empty and fearing that air would go into his vein, I asked the attending nurse to change it. She bluntly told me to do it myself. In that horrible theater of death, I was in pain and frustration and anger. Finally when she relented and came, my Father opened his eyes and murmured to her, “Why have you not gone home yet?” Here was a man on his deathbed but more concerned about the overworked nurse than his own state. I was stunned at his stoic self. There I learnt that there is no limit to how concerned you can be for another human being and what is the limit of inclusion you can create. My father died the next day.

He was a man whose success was defined by his principles, his frugality, his universalism and his sense of inclusion. Above all, he taught me that success is your ability to rise above your discomfort, whatever may be your current state. You can, if you want, raise your consciousness above your immediate surroundings. Success is not about building material comforts – the transistor that he never could buy or the house that he never owned. His success was about the legacy he left, the memetic continuity of his ideals that grew beyond the smallness of a ill-paid, unrecognized government servant’s world.

My father was a fervent believer in the British Raj. He sincerely doubted the capability of the post-independence Indian political parties to govern the country. To him, the lowering of the Union Jack was a sad event. My Mother was the exact opposite. When Subhash Bose quit the Indian National Congress and came to Dacca, my mother, then a schoolgirl, garlanded him. She learnt to spin khadi and joined an underground movement that trained her in using daggers and swords. Consequently, our household saw diversity in the political outlook of the two. On major issues concerning the world, the Old Man and the Old Lady had differing opinions. In them, we learnt the power of disagreements, of dialogue and the essence of living with diversity in thinking. Success is not about the ability to create a definitive dogmatic end state; it is about the unfolding of thought processes, of dialogue and continuum.

Two years back, at the age of eighty-two, Mother had a paralytic stroke and was lying in a government hospital in Bhubaneswar. I flew down from the US where I was serving my second stint, to see her. I spent two weeks with her in the hospital as she remained in a paralytic state. She was neither getting better nor moving on. Eventually I had to return to work. While leaving her behind, I kissed her face. In that paralytic state and a garbled voice, she said, “Why are you kissing me, go kiss the world.” Her river was nearing its journey, at the confluence of life and death, this woman who came to India as a refugee, raised by a widowed Mother, no more educated than high school, married to an anonymous government servant whose last salary was Rupees Three Hundred, robbed of her eyesight by fate and crowned by adversity – was telling me to go and kiss the world!

Success to me is about Vision. It is the ability to rise above the immediacy of pain. It is about imagination. It is about sensitivity to small people. It is about building inclusion. It is about connectedness to a larger world existence. It is about personal tenacity. It is about giving back more to life than you take out of it. It is about creating extra-ordinary success with ordinary lives.

Thank you very much; I wish you good luck and Godspeed. Go, kiss the world.


  • read ur loooooooooooooooooong blog after a loooooooong time.. the cutest part in the first one was when the guy comes out smiling.. :)

    By Anonymous shireen, at 1:25 PM  

  • hey shireen
    how are you
    nice to have u back @ the blog :)

    By Blogger Rohit Anand, at 8:21 PM  

  • The second one is from Abdul Kalam's. 'Wings of Fire'. =)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:45 AM  

  • is SM shireen makkar:)

    By Blogger Rohit Anand, at 2:29 AM  

  • Dangling Carrots!? ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:00 AM  

  • ouch!

    By Blogger Rohit Anand, at 5:17 PM  

  • and SM...ahem...that is not APJ...APJ's dad was a fisherman :)

    By Blogger Rohit Anand, at 5:28 PM  

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