Versions of Truth

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. I had absolutely nothing to do. Only seldom does one get a change to say I had nothing to do and not be procrastinating something important. I thought of spending some time on Facebook. While scrolling through the page I saw this game “Which Mahabharata character are you?”. The game was simple, you are asked a few questions. Based on your answers the algorithm computes similarities between you and the characters in Mahabharata. While I waited for my result, I expected the result to be Arjuna or Karna, or considering my stout built, I would have even accepted Bheem. But what turned out really shocked me. I got SHAKUNI….. I am not a cunning, deceiving and deceitful person like Shakuni. I was not just disappointed but at some level, even felt offended. I wanted to protest, but where and to whom. This was just a stupid game on internet. Not wanting to waste the rest of my afternoon. I tried to remember all the stories from Mahabharata that my grandmother told me as a kid. I went off to sleep.

When I woke up, I felt as though I had new insight on Mahabharata and found a whole new perspective on Shakuni. May be the saying “Sleep over it!” does work after all.

Here is Shakuni’s story. Shakuni is no ordinary man. He was a prince from the land of Gandhar, son of King Subala and brother of Gandhari. According to folklore, rulers of Hastinapur attacked and conquered Gandhar. They imprisoned all the male members of the royal family. The prisoners were given only one grain of rice per person per day to eat. ‘Surrender or perish’ was the message from the invaders. One grain of rice was not enough to feed them all, but all the grains put together could be enough to feed one person. They decided that the individual they choose to donate their share of rice to must be strong, wise and most importantly capable to avenge the misery brought upon Gandhar. Unanimously they voted “Shakuni!!!” They gathered around Shakuni and hit him hard near his knee, this made Shakuni slightly limp for the rest of his life. But this was done as a permanent reminder to the sacrifice his fellow countrymen made for him and the revenge which he had to accomplish. To add to Shakuni’s misery, his beautiful sister Gandhari was married to blind prince of Histinapur Dhrutarashtra. This infuriated Shakuni. He vowed to erase the entire lineage of rulers of Hastinapur. We only remember Shakuni for his treacherous deeds in Mahabharata. Considering the injustice Shakuni was subjected to, his actions seem justified and at the end he was successful the bloodline of Hastinapur royals perished.

The quiet nap that I took brought back a few more stories to mind.

When the great war at Kurukshetra seemed inevitable, Lord Krishna visited Duryodhana to persuade him to not go ahead with the war. Lives of countless men and destiny of two mighty dynasties were at stake. But Duryodhana wouldn’t relent. Having exhausted all his faculties. Krishna said “Duryodhana, I shall share with you knowledge that no one other than me has ever known. I shall share with you the secrets of ‘Bhagwat Geeta’. In the divine light of Geeta you will forget your lust for war.” Duryodhana smiled slightly and replied “I beg you Krishna not to endow me with the knowledge of Bhagwat Geeta, for I know that it would make me a better person. But to be bad is my  Dharma. Let me have the privilege to live by it.”

Time and again in this epic, the supposedly bad characters have behaved good and the good characters have deviated to do bad things. Take the example of Yudhisthir, also known as Dharmaraj, and yet this is the same person who looses his kingdom, his wealth, his brothers and his wife at a game of dice. Now you would say they game was rigged and he would have lost the game of dice no matter what. But the fact is that the one who is glorified for self control, restraint and patience, is the one who is tempted and does not show restraint and bets over and over again in a game when clearly the luck just wasn’t on his side.

When the world shunned Karna, believing he was inferior because of his inferior class he was born in; It was Shakuni who recognized the strengths of Karna. Shakuni always advised Duryodhana to befriend Karna and others for the strengths they possess, regardless of their social class.

If you look at other stories from this epic, you see that no character can be clearly defined as good or bad. All the characters constitute a grey mix between black and white. So which version of story do you believe in. The version that your grandmother told you when you were kids. Where moralities of characters from the epic were confined to a binary system of heroes and villains. Stories in which heroes are good because you have been told that they are good regardless of there misdemeanor. Or the kind of version that I had realization of after the sound nap, where characters in the epic are not binary but complex and have multiple shades to their constitution.

You really haven’t understood the moral of the epic, if you still believe in rigid classification between good and bad, right and wrong. Truth is formed by the experiences one has over his lifetime. The beliefs and value system one grows with and develops over time. Truth is relative to the perspective of each individual. So the next time you tell a story don’t be disappointed if your assertions are refuted or challenged. Your story is your version of truth, yet not necessarily of your listeners.

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Cubicle Manners

You come back to your desk from a quick break and you find that someone has just rolled your chair away. Or worse, someone comes to meet your cubicle mate, occupies your chair and doesn’t even care to get up and offer it back to you, appearing completely oblivious to the fact that you have returned back to your desk. Does this bother you? Is that putting it mildly?

Our workstation is quickly emerging as our home away from home, as many of us end up spending more time in office than ever before. Just like stealing your chair, people talking loudly on speaker phones, talkative co-workers, wafts of strange smells coming from your neighboring cubicle, and many other such things can all contribute to distract you, leading to lower productivity. We spend most of our productive time in our cubicle; we are bound to become territorial about it. And such conflicts bound to happen with our co-workers at work places. Situations like these are quite common and there is nothing alarming about it. All it takes is a little consideration by employees towards others at their work place to resolve such issues.

The ability to work without distraction is the most important factor for individuals to be effective and stress free, and yet it is quite scarce a lot of the time in our work places. Our offices are extremely noisy – cramped work stations, people chatting away with each other, talking loudly on telephones, crunching away without guilt, borrowing things from each other’s desk without the colleague’s knowledge, cell phones ringing incessantly with Bollywood ringtones – the list is endless. Noise is the leading cause of reduced concentration levels; this inadvertently reduced individual’s productivity, and often, this leads to increased stress for the individual, and conflict with managers or supervisors as an extension to reduced productivity.

Since we don’t have the liberty to change the setup and design of workplace, could there not be ways to make our office environment more productive, comfortable and harmonious in some ways? How to enlighten that bad-mannered work-mate without offending? Here are few of the things to opt with a little grace and lot of good sense to help you.

Rules of Work-space Decorum

  1. No Frisbees in office

Standing up and tossing something to someone a few desks or cubes over like Frisbees is a capital ‘NO’. And so is poking head out of cubicles to survey the peers; managers and supervisors are often guilty of this. Such behaviour is quiet distracting. Even if the walls of your cubicles are low enough to gaze over, go around to the co-worker’s desk to give or take what you wanted. Do use office messengers to check if it’s the right time to go to your co-workers desk instead of barging straight to him.

  1. Have silent zones in offices

You aren’t expected to whisper, but just speak in low voice so that you don’t disturb others working around. Understand that everyone needs to pay attention to the task in front of them; their work is just as important as yours. They too need to perform at their full capacity to finish things before their deadline. Noise is not just talking loud, sending spam emails and continuously sending personal messages over office messengers is also a form of noise. Use office emails and communicators for business communication only.

  1. Handle your phone with care

When on long telephone calls, most put there phones on speakers and that’s understandable. But be considerate, go to a secluded corner of your office before turning the speaker ON; keep the volume as low as possible. The best thing you could do is use headphones. Playing games on smartphones to unwind may not seem like a bad idea, but go someplace private to disengage yourself. Also, you may be a music lover, but that doesn’t give you any rights to sing along or turn the volume up on your smartphone to listen to your favourite tunes. Once again, use headphones. Moreover, keep your phones on ‘silent’ or ‘vibrate’ mode; you certainly don’t want to be nuisance to your co-workers.

  1. In office, not all is public property

Walking into a momentarily vacant cubicle and picking up whatever you want (especially chairs) as if it’s your personal property is strict no-no. Just because the item is lying unattended doesn’t mean you can walk away with it. Even if the stapler, pen or notepad is owned by the company, you need to ask for it each time you require it. Also, return things promptly or let them know when they can expect to get it back. Your colleague will be happier to lend you whatever you may need in future.

  1. Wafts can be displeasing

You are busy and want to devote every minute at work to work; but remember, eating at your desk doesn’t make you super dedicated. Plus, eating involves crackling of wrappers, food aromas, smacking, chewing, crunching, gulping and lots of other sounds which might make your co-worker uncomfortable. Most offices have gyms now days. Using gyms for good health is a good idea but leaving behind sweaty gym shoes at your desk is not so good idea. Think about the foul smell of your sweat clad shoes. It would be revolting for you and others.

There could be many such rules of civility in office that you could follow to make your office environment pleasant for yourself and others. The list could be never exhaustive. But this is the least you could do to be civil towards your co-workers in office. Consider the above rules as a start line, the bare minimum, and add on more such rules as you go along to ensure a productive, comfortable and harmonious workplace for all.

Versions of Truth

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. I had absolutely nothing to do. Only seldom does one get a change to say I had nothing to do and not be procrastinating something important. I thought of spending some time on Facebook. While scrolling through the page I saw this game “Which Mahabharata character are you?”. The game was simple, you are asked a few questions. Based on your answers the algorithm computes similarities between you and the characters in Mahabharata. While I waited for my result, I expected the result to be Arjuna or Karna, or considering my stout built, I would have even accepted Bheem. But what turned out really shocked me. I got SHAKUNI….. I am not a cunning, deceiving and deceitful person like Shakuni. I was not just disappointed but at some level, even felt offended. I wanted to protest, but where and to whom. This was just a stupid game on internet. Not wanting to waste the rest of my afternoon. I tried to remember all the stories from Mahabharata that my grandmother told me as a kid. I went off to sleep.

When I woke up, I felt as though I had new insight on Mahabharata and found a whole new perspective on Shakuni. May be the saying “Sleep over it!” does work after all.

Here is Shakuni’s story. Shakuni is no ordinary man. He was a prince from the land of Gandhar, son of King Subala and brother of Gandhari. According to folklore, rulers of Hastinapur attacked and conquered Gandhar. They imprisoned all the male members of the royal family. The prisoners were given only one grain of rice per person per day to eat. ‘Surrender or perish’ was the message from the invaders. One grain of rice was not enough to feed them all, but all the grains put together could be enough to feed one person. They decided that the individual they choose to donate their share of rice to must be strong, wise and most importantly capable to avenge the misery brought upon Gandhar. Unanimously they voted “Shakuni!!!” They gathered around Shakuni and hit him hard near his knee, this made Shakuni slightly limp for the rest of his life. But this was done as a permanent reminder to the sacrifice his fellow countrymen made for him and the revenge which he had to accomplish. To add to Shakuni’s misery, his beautiful sister Gandhari was married to blind prince of Histinapur Dhrutarashtra. This infuriated Shakuni. He vowed to erase the entire lineage of rulers of Hastinapur. We only remember Shakuni for his treacherous deeds in Mahabharata. Considering the injustice Shakuni was subjected to, his actions seem justified and at the end he was successful the bloodline of Hastinapur royals perished.

The quiet nap that I took brought back a few more stories to mind.

When the great war at Kurukshetra seemed inevitable, Lord Krishna visited Duryodhana to persuade him to not go ahead with the war. Lives of countless men and destiny of two mighty dynasties were at stake. But Duryodhana wouldn’t relent. Having exhausted all his faculties. Krishna said “Duryodhana, I shall share with you knowledge that no one other than me has ever known. I shall share with you the secrets of ‘Bhagwat Geeta’. In the divine light of Geeta you will forget your lust for war.” Duryodhana smiled slightly and replied “I beg you Krishna not to endow me with the knowledge of Bhagwat Geeta, for I know that it would make me a better person. But to be bad is my  Dharma. Let me have the privilege to live by it.”

Time and again in this epic, the supposedly bad characters have behaved good and the good characters have deviated to do bad things. Take the example of Yudhisthir, also known as Dharmaraj, and yet this is the same person who looses his kingdom, his wealth, his brothers and his wife at a game of dice. Now you would say they game was rigged and he would have lost the game of dice no matter what. But the fact is that the one who is glorified for self control, restraint and patience, is the one who is tempted and does not show restraint and bets over and over again in a game when clearly the luck just wasn’t on his side.

When the world shunned Karna, believing he was inferior because of his inferior class he was born in; It was Shakuni who recognized the strengths of Karna. Shakuni always advised Duryodhana to befriend Karna and others for the strengths they possess, regardless of their social class.

If you look at other stories from this epic, you see that no character can be clearly defined as good or bad. All the characters constitute a grey mix between black and white. So which version of story do you believe in. The version that your grandmother told you when you were kids. Where moralities of characters from the epic were confined to a binary system of heroes and villains. Stories in which heroes are good because you have been told that they are good regardless of there misdemeanor. Or the kind of version that I had realization of after the sound nap, where characters in the epic are not binary but complex and have multiple shades to their constitution.

You really haven’t understood the moral of the epic, if you still believe in rigid classification between good and bad, right and wrong. Truth is formed by the experiences one has over his lifetime. The beliefs and value system one grows with and develops over time. Truth is relative to the perspective of each individual. So the next time you tell a story don’t be disappointed if your assertions are refuted or challenged. Your story is your version of truth, yet not necessarily of your listeners.

Why I do it!!!

I remember the first time I attended Toastmaster session. When asked to introduced myself, I started with my work experience, my educational background and certifications I had completed. I paused for a second as I realized, that I was at a Toastmasters Club meeting, and not for a job interview. So I changed subjects to talk about why I was at the club and what I expected to get out of the club. I also talked about my hobbies. Cricket, music and mountains are my passion. Ever since that day, I have never missed a chance to get on stage and talk about mountains and my trekking experiences. And as I spoke, I have seen some eyebrows raised, doubting the credibility of my stories. I know it’s hard to believe a visibly unfit guy like me talk about mountaineering. So I thought to take this opportunity to substantiate my stories with photographic evidence.

So let me jump straight to my presentation, where I’ll show you photographs of three my favourite treks.

1. Alang – Kulang – Madan


Before I tell you about this trek, I want to ask everyone; Which was you most memorable New Year’s Eve? I am sure most would have stories of an epic party with friends at a bar or a pub, or may be a club. For me this particular trek stands out. My friends and I planned to do something different that year. So the moment someone of us muttered Alang – Kulang – Madan, we all agreed in unison. Alang- Kulang – Madan are three most isolate and remote forts in Maharashtra. Very few venture out to these forts, due to its sheer inaccessibility. We drove overnight to the base of the forts, then trekked through thick forests for good six to seven hours, with heavy sacks on our backs; only to face a huge rock wall smooth as a slate. With sun hurrying towards the horizon, we had to muster up as much strength as we could to anchor the ropes and climb the wall that stood before us. Our exhaustion was more than compensated for by the amazing view from the top. We setup a small camp fire and slept next to it gazing at millions of shimmering stars in the clear night sky. At the stroke of midnight the horizon on either side of the forts light up with fireworks set from the towns below.

2. Raigad


Raigad, the capital of the Maratha Empire. A perfect specimen of a formidable fortified fort. I have visited this fort many times, and each time the fort has surprised me with something new. By the way luck never seems to favor me when at this fort though. This one time, I broke my shoes and had to walk bare foot in the mountains on a hot summer afternoon. The other time I broke my toes and had to limp all through the trek. Most memorably, I remember, it rained so heavily that there was about three inches of water in our tent, I had to sleep sitting on our sack.

3. Vasota


Just like Alang, this fort too is one of the most remote places in Maharashtra. Fort Vasota is located in the back waters of the Koyna river. This fort marks the border of rain shadow region. Thick forest and large back waters of the Koyna river on one side and a complete barren landscape on the other side. One can clearly see the stark contrast between the two landscapes during summers. Due to its inaccessibility, Marathas used this fort as prison. Most dreaded convicts of their times were locked up here. Though this fort is heavily fortified, it has never been part of any famous battles. It exchanged hands only through treaties signed between kingdoms. Only story of a battle that I know was between Marathas and British. This too was a token fight, cause it is said that the British fired only three cannon balls at this fort and the fort was surrendered.

Today, I shared only a few of my experiences with you all. My wife hasn’t been this fortunate. One day when I told her about one of my trekking experiences; she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Trekking twenty miles, with a twenty pound sack on your back, all day under the sun in the mountains is not a definition of a fun activity.That’s manual labour. Why would you do such a thing?”. To answer her question I showed her this photo.

That’s me fast asleep on the floor of Satara Bus Depot after a long trek. But on a serious note  my answer to ‘Why do I do it?’ is for three main reasons.

1. Self Actualization


With each trek I have a new realization of my capabilities. Capabilities that I knew I had and the one I didnt. Like the capabilities, I also have the realization of my limitations. With each trek I challenge myself and discover how far I can physically and mentally push myself.

2. History

Every window has a different perspective. History is not dull and depressing as it is in our text books, and its definitely not as glamorous as shown in the movies. To really understand history you have to visit these forts and mountains. They give you a chance to visualize how things must have transpired in the past.

3. I am a Storyteller


I love to tell stories. The most vivid stories are only possible if you have had the opportunity to travel, explore, see and experience things first hand. With a large bag full of experiences that I have, make for some really exciting stories to tell.

Agile Startup

Navin Bansal a young IT professional was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. He submits his idea in an ideation contest conducted by NASCOM. He is misinformed that his idea has reached the final round of an ideation contest. He takes the leap of faith and quits his job to start his start up. He realizes for him to be successful he needs to roll out his product at the earliest. He decides to adopt Agile methodology so that he can get a customer focused product in the shortest amount time. Agile develops products in an iterative manner. With each iteration called Sprint a potentially shippable product is delivered to the client.

Navin hires Yogi to execute his project. Yogi as a Product Owner of an Agile team discusses requirements with Navin and documents them in a product backlog. A product backlog is a repository for all the requirements to be worked upon in Agile. They outline the project timelines and priorities for the project this is called as backlog grooming. Requirements in Agile are called User stories because they are focused on what the customer wants.

Yogi brings in Scrum Master Jitu and his team to develop the product. Yogi and Jitu conduct a sprint planning meeting with the scrum team. Yogi explains the sprints goal to the team. The team reviews and prioritizes the product backlog. Jitu decides which user story fits the current sprint and moves the product backlog into a sprint backlog. A sprint backlog defines the scope of the sprint. The scrum team is a heterogeneous group. It consists of both developers and quality analyst. With everything in place the team gets working.

Everyday during the sprint cycle Jitu conducts a Daily Standup Meeting with the scrum team to monitor their progress. They discuss three key points. What the team did yesterday? What they will be doing today? And what hindered their work? Jitu sees to it that all the impediments are resolved so that the team can work smoothly. Jitu tracks the team’s progress in a Sprint Brundown Graph. He shares it with the team during the daily standup meeting so that the team knows where they are and what they need to do to meet the sprints goal in the given timeline. With each day’s work the teams efforts increase while as the user stories are completed the sprint backlog decreases. When all the work for the sprint is complete it is presented to Navin in an End of Sprint Review.

Navin was happy with the work and signs it off. The partly completed yet usable product is launched in the market. Navin and Yogi then meet with Navin’s customers and seek feedback. They approach Saurabh Mandal a marketing expert to review their product and give them inputs on user experience. The suggestions of the customer and Mandal are documented as new requirements for the upcoming sprint in the product backlog.

Yogi conducts a Retrospective meeting with Jitu and his scrum team. In this meeting Yogi shares the customer feedback with the team. The scrum team also discusses what went well during the sprint and what can be improved for the next sprint. This completes the first sprint and Yogi and Jitu start working with on the next sprint. With complition of each new sprint Navin is one step closer to his finished product.

Using Agile methodology Navin drastically reduces the time to market for his product. Since Navin can take only a part of his product and go to his customers, it gives him a confidence that what he envisioned is what his customer wants. Even with only a small part of the product Navin can start generating revenue for his start up. For a young starup revenue is a desperately needed lifeline.

Navin, Yogi, Jitu and Mandal are characters from one of my favorite internet show “The Pitchers.” The show is about four guys who quit their jobs, to set out on path of entrepreneurship. It’s an amazingly humors drama which I enjoy thoroughly. The show is broadcasted on tvfplay.com. I hope that you too enjoy the show as much as I have.

An Interview

“Hi Omkar, can you help me with search & sort algos?” Sampada asked over the phone.

“Sure, why not.”

After spending some time explaining algorithms to Sampada she said.

“Thanks for the help. So you seem to be all prepped for tomorrow?” “All prepped for what?”

“For the campus interview…You are attending the interview right?”

“Ahhhh….you know what Sam I’ll call you back. Bye.”

I hung up the phone and immediately called another friend.

“Hey Buddy!!! Quick two questions. Did you know there was campus interview at our college tomorrow and are you attending it?”

“Yes and Yes”

Without saying anything further I hung up and dialed hurriedly.

“Sam, need a favor, can you print my CV, my printer is not working.”

This was going to be my first ever job interview and yet somehow I was neither overexcited nor was I nervous. For the next couple of hours I brushed up on possible interview questions.

The next day I reached college early. But to my surprise the college was already buzzing with students from across engineering colleges. That’s probably the first time I felt the gravity the situation.  I registered myself at the registration desk and headed straight to my friends in the auditorium where all the registered students were sitting. There were not much Hi’s or Hello’s rather there were questions “Did you revise OOPs concept?”, “Will they ask SQL queries or data structures?” I didn’t say much and kept to myself.

The hiring HR marched onto the center of the stage and informed “There would be three rounds of interview; Aptitude test, Group Discussion and a Personal Interview.” Students were then randomly split in groups. I unfortunately got in a group where none of my college friends were in.

There were about 15 students in my group. Each group was directed to a different classroom for the aptitude test. Most faces in the room seemed bright and confident. Of course why wouldn’t they. These were probably the bunch who prepared for GRE, GMAT, CAT and other exams. These guys go around job hunting during campus interviews just so that they can put job offers on MBA CV as achievements. The test was done, and I felt it went well. This made me nervous cause if I felt the test went well, all these MBA aspirants in the room must have aced it. HR came in and started announcing names, first name was mine. “Gone…. Lets pack up and go home.” I said to myself. She read out only 8 or 9 names and then asked us to move to another room for GD round. “One down two more two to go” I muttered to myself.

A few more from a different group joined us in the group discussion round. The topic for group discussion was something related to dress code in offices. Everyone shared their opinion on the topic, I shared mine too. But as I spoke the HR moderating the discussion peered out of the folder where she was keeping notes and looked straight at me. The look on her face suggested that I was speaking something atrocious. I got a bit conscious but I trudged on. Once again I waited for the results. My name was called out and was asked to wait in a queue out in the hallway. But what was the result? Did I clear the GD? Or was I in the line for people who were rejected. I checked with some guys ahead of me, they too were clueless. I looked around none of my friends were in the queue. I slowly moved ahead in the queue. Not until I was about 3rd or 4th in line, I figured that this was line for personal interview. So I had made it through the GD after all. A little solace for me.

“Two down one to go. Come on!” I said to myself.

When it was my turn I went to the door knocked it from outside and entered. “Can I sit?” I said. “You are best to judge your ability to sit in that chair. The question you should have rather asked is ‘May I sit in that chair’.” A little voice in my head just screamed “Grinch!!! You got a Grinch. He is not just going to kill you, and he is going to savor every moment of it.” The interview started with the usual line “So tell me something about yourself” and also ended, again with the usual line “That’s all from my side unless you have any questions.” I just shook hands and stepped out of the room.

I went back to the auditorium where I found my friends, they were quiet eager to know how I had done in the interview. There was very little that I could share because my name was called out by HR. I stepped out of the auditorium with the HR, after a brief discussion I was asked to leave.

At about three in the afternoon I was amongst the first to leave college. I tried calling my friends but none answered. Finally at about 8:30 that night I got a call from Vishal. “Pendse did you get the news? There were 25 students from our college; I called all of them you the last one that I am calling. It was tough interview man and only three got selected. Ravi, Irfan and me. Everyone else got rejected” With a big grin on my face which I wished Vishal could see I said “You know what Vishal. Add a fourth name to the list.” “Who’s name?” “My name, I too, got selected.”

So what’s the moral of the story? Be the creator of your own fate. Don’t wait for serendipity to lead you to the right roads. Life not always takes the right turns when you give someone else the control to decide your future. Secondly, when you think you achieved something effortlessly. Think again, your success is a culmination of all the hard work you did through till that moment. Others only see your success but not the hard work that has gone in to be successful. So don’t discount you efforts by saying ‘It was a silly moment of success.’

How hard is it to say Hi!!!

The other day I met a friend at a coffee shop. He had recently changed jobs, so I asked him about his new company. He said “Everything’s great! There’s just one small problem. My desk is pretty close to where all the senior managers sit. And since I am new I don’t know anyone. It gets little awkward when I run into them sometimes.”

Fellow toastmasters and guests, how hard is it for us to just say Hi!!!

I have heard similar instances so many times. It is always either that you don’t know people in your organization or people don’t seem to know you. And neither is good. And if you are an introvert, you do go unnoticed in office. Recently I attended a session by John Stepper on his upcoming book “Working out Loud”.  Listening to John Stepper, I felt, his ideas to create visibility for your work and for yourself are applicable to both introvert or not. Here are three simple ideas I would love share with you.

Introduce:

Consider this; you step into your office elevator. As you enter you see your CEO in it, your pause, you stare then you simply nod or put a smile on your face, reach one corner then quickly take your mobile phone out and dig into its screen pretending to be busy. “Phewww, saved.” Is what your thinking, while the CEO is thinking “What a creep, I wonder how he deals with our clients.” It is absolutely important to learn to greet someone and introduce yourself. Figure out what best describes you and what you do. Order events chronologically, it makes it easier for you to remember and for others to understand. Practice your introduction with your friends. Once you feel confident with your introduction, start using it. For starters, remember those folk you came across around office pantry, why not open up to them, introduce yourself. See if your introduction works.

Thank You Notes:

Who doesn’t like to be appreciated or thanked for the work they do, but we seldom take the efforts to express our gratitude. Guy Spier is a well known speaker and a best selling author on value investing. He is a big proponent of thank you notes. All he suggests is to make efforts to thank people. He says he always leaves a short thank you note for hotel staff before checking out for making his stay comfortable. He says thank you notes are small investments that compound over time. Thank you notes are long term investments, they don’t pay back immediately. Keeping at it is the key. And for the rewards, are rarely monitory. The true reward is the satisfaction one gets appreciating others efforts towards you.

Share Ideas:

A fellow toastmaster of our club was telling me how he was facing a particular problem and how he found an easy fix for it. Once he had the solution he didn’t want to loose it, so as a reminder to himself he posted it on his blog. He was amazed to find his blog had over 5000 visitors overnight and in a matter of few days millions had visited his blog looking for solution. You always have something to contribute, it’s just that we are either unaware or undermine our ability. It’s so easy to share today. Use social and collaboration tools like, Word press, BlogSpot, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. When you open up and share your ideas, it becomes easier for others to share there thoughts and ideas with you. Being part of Toastmasters Club is a great experience and I am sharing this experience on my blog, tracking my Toastmasters Club journey.

Let’s recap; a confident and welcoming introduction is your foot in the door. Appreciate what other offer you and reciprocate with a simple thank you note. That’s the least you can do. Finally share your thoughts, ideas and put your work out there for others to see. Networking is not simply sharing business cards, quick handshakes, phoney smiles and small talk. Networking is about making meaningful relationships. I hope what I have shared with you all today will help you shed inhibitions about networking and help you explore new ways to make yourself and your work visible.

Juggad Innovation.

What comes to your mind when I say “Juggad”? Quick Fix or work around. Juggad has a very negative connotation. Fellow toastmasters and guests today I am going to talk about Juggad Innovation which will change your perspective on this word. Today I will talk on two things structured innovation and juggad innovation. What I will also do is explain the six principles of juggad with six simple examples.

Structured innovation is the conventional form of innovation, implemented widely across industries. When we think of structured innovation we usually picture large organization with huge research facilities with lots of funding dedicated to develop new innovative products. The question is does the outputs of these research facilities justify the resources deployed towards it. Consider this; researchers in 3M were researching world’s strongest adhesive. What they come out with was the most temporary adhesive, and that’s how Posit was invented, 3Ms most sold product.

Structured innovation is a top down model of innovation. It is not a problem-solution model. Juggad on the other hand identifies problem and then provides easy yet robust solution. Key features of juggad solution are its frugality, flexibility and inclusiveness. These features are elaborated in the six principles of juggad which are as follows:

Ø      Seek opportunity in adversity

Ø      Do more with less

Ø      Think and act flexible

Ø      Keep it simple

Ø      Include the margins

Ø      Follow your heart

Seeking Opportunity In Adversity:

About twenty years back Gujarat was an energy deficit state, riddled with frequent power cuts and power shortage. A businessman from Surat involved in the textile industry wondered how he would manage his business with the inadequacy of power supply. In his search for alternative sources of power sources, his research leads him to renewable sources of energy. He realized that Surat being a windy city, it suited him best to start wind farms. Soon he got his facilities was off the grid. As the word of his success spread, businessmen from across India started approaching him for his services to install renewal energy plants suitable for them and their geography. This is the story of Tulsi Tanti and Suzlon. Suzlon today is worlds leading service provider of renewal energy solutions.

Do More With Less:

With international fast food restaurants like McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut etc. opening outlets in India, Samar Gupta saw opportunity providing these restaurants with exotic vegetables like iceberg lettuce, zucchini, avocado, olives etc. To produce these vegetable Samar needed farms, but in India laws are such that only farmers can own agriculture land. Since Samar was not a farmer he could buy farmland. What he did was the next best. He loaned farmland form small farmers. Ever since that time, Samar Gupta’s Trikaya Agriculture has grown from strength to strength.

Think And Act Flexible:

Have you ever heard of a potato cleaning washing machine? Haier is a Chinese consumer electronic company which has done just that. Haier kept receiving complaints from rural China that their washing machines kept clogging. After investigation Haier found that farmer after harvesting potatoes used washing machines to clean the silt from the potatoes, and the result was clogged washing machines. Thinking and acting flexibly Haier choose not to dismiss the complaints of the farmers and instead made modifications to there machines which could then clean clothes and clean vegetables with out clogging the machines.

Keep It Simple:

Remember the first Apple iPod that hit the market, none can be better example of keeping it simple than these iPods. It had a play and pause button to play or pause music. It had left and right arrows to shuffle through the playlist, up and down arrows to increase or decrease the volume of sound. The best part was its long lasting battery which could play high quality music for long time and also loads of space to store all your favorite music. Techno savvy or not anyone could pick it up and use it without the need of any instruction manual. Early iPod epitomizes design simplicity.

Include The Margins:

Vodafone was looking at ways to increasing its base in Africa. During there market research they found that majority of Africans were unbanked. To assist the unbanked Africans, Vodafone launched m-pesa in Kenya in 2007. Using m-pesa individuals could top up there prepaid mobile phones with cash and then transfer the prepaid cash to anyone’s mobile account. To redeem the cash all one had to do was to visit one of the many small mom & pop shops with which Vodafone had tied-up with. This proved a big hit Kenya; soon Vodafone launched the m-pesa in other African countries. Where once again it saw run away success. With m-pesa Vodafone created synergies for its customer and itself.

Follow Your Heart:

When venturing into the retail market, many advised Kishore Biyani to model Big Bazaar on successful models used by hypermarkets in western countries like Tesco, Wal-Mart, Target etc. But trusting his intuition, Kishore felt that the look and feel of the western hypermarkets would seem artificial façade of gloss and shine in country like ours. He believed that Indians loved the bazaar atmosphere and yet the stores had to be clean and organized. That’s why the aisles in Big Bazaar are narrow, so that people bump into each other, just like in a real bazaar. That’s also why most of the products like grocery for example are not packet but kept loose in large vats for people to touch and feel the quality before purchasing.

To sum it all up, juggad innovation is all about three key ideas being frugal, being flexible and being inclusive. Juggad innovation develops precise solution for problem at hand and fast. But this does not mean any compromise on the quality. Rather the emphasis is on delivering high quality in the fastest and the cheapest way possible. How does all of this relate to what we do as software engineers? We work in a product company like Oracle; our products are used by millions across the glob. The only differentiation between us and our competitor is innovative products that create value for customers. Let’s apply juggad innovation to create better products and enhance value for our customers faster and cheaper.

Gujarati Wedding

When in kitchen I am like a fish out of water. I know to make tea and Maggi. A strong self sustenance model right there. I am not much of a foodie. I think I got this from my dad. He’s not much of a foodie himself. Our philosophy towards food is more on the lines of “Udaram Bharanum”.  Serve my dad karele ki sabzi or something exotic like Afgani Nargishi Shahi Korma, ask him how it was “I am Stuffed!!! Fulll!!!!!!” that the response you’ll get. His review is more quantitative than qualitative in nature.

My cousin sister fell in love with a Gujarati guy and wanted to marry him. My uncle was against it, so she came to my dad for help. Dad met this guy, his family; he was assured that they were nice people. So he told my cousin that if her dad doesn’t marry her to this guy he would. Suddenly and almost instantaneously my mom, my dad and I were elevated to be “The People” to impress for the grooms family.

It was a wonderful wedding ceremony. A beautiful mix of Maharashtrian and Gujarati traditions and customs.  I learned a lot about Gujarati culture from this whole affair. There is a common myth that Garba is played during Navratri. That’s false, cause just a day before the wedding I got a call from the groom saying “Garbo night che.”. Gujaratis need smallest reason of happiness and to from a circle and start Garba. Coming back to the wedding, the food was amazing. A wide assortment of Gujarati delicacies were at offer. There was dhoklas, patra, khaman. There was ofcourse Undio. Then there were some trick items as well. It looked exactly like a normal papad but they called it chora fail. Then there was another item which also looked exactly like a papad but it was called Mathari.

Now I don’t like to waste food. I eat everything that’s been served to me, whether I like it or not. But the problem was here there was nothing that I didn’t like. I kept eating and the servers kept serving some more. I was almost done with my lunch when the grooms Mamaji came along with a few of the grooms cousins. They had a big bowl filled with Gulab Jamuns with them. Mamaji kept forcing “Ek Gulab Jam to Chalse!!”. I had already had a dozen puris, shrikhand ,rabid, patra and dhokla, everything. Still I just couldn’t resist the temptation of that one more gulab jamun being offered. Now of course it was the grooms mamaji how could I say no to him, it would be so disrespectful and all. So I nodded ok for one more. The moment I said I’ll have one more, Mamaji and all the cousins standing next to him pulled out a spoon and served gulab jamuns one each. Now I had five gulab jamuns to finish. I took a deep breath, stared at my plate for a while and dug in. I somehow managed to have three more gulab jamun. To say it like my dad does I was Stuffed!!! But I didn’t like the prospect of having to leave something on the plate. I was absolutely full now. My eyes were bulging out of their sockets. I held the forth one in my hand and stared to breath heavily. I needed moral support. I looked around; all of the great Marathas from my side had already surrendered, conceded defeat and left. I was the last bastion standing. My will to accomplish this herculean task was dwindling. That’s when the grooms dad saw me, he approached me from behind and tapped on my shoulder and said “Revade beta, if u finish this they will bring some more.” I had given up, I could eat no more. I just slouched back in my chair and exhaled a sigh of relief. I closed my eyes, for the next 15 minutes as I just sat there.

There have been very few times in my life when I have felt food on my plate and this was one of those times. So if there was any learning from all this, it was don’t under estimate the power of fafdas and dhoklas. I have a Gujarati friends wedding coming up. I have already started conditioning my body for it. I will be fasting for a few days before the wedding and then a few days after as well.

Ig Noble

Good afternoon fellow toastmasters and guests. A grand welcome to Annual Nobel Prize ceremony 2014. Without wasting much of your time I would like to take you straight to the prize distribution ceremony.

This year’s Nobel for…

PHYSICS PRIZE [JAPAN]: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, INDIA]: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.

ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE [NORWAY, GERMANY, USA, CANADA]: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.
Ahhh why do you all look so perplexed? Ohhh wait did I say Nobel Prize before no, no, I meant Ig Nobel Prize 2014.

Since 1991 the magazine “Annals of Improbable Research” have been organizing the Ig Nobel Awards. The ceremony is co sponsored by Harvard Radcliffe Society for Physic Students and the Harvard Radcliffe Science Fiction Association. Each year in September a gall is organized in Harvard Sanders Hall where ten prizes are given to research work from around the world. Research work which would make you Smile, then think. The Ig Nobel is intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, to spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology. The awardees are presented with an Ig Nobel Trophy by Nobel laureates, a piece of paper signed by Nobel laureates accrediting the research and 5 trillion dollars in cash. Well that’s 5 trillion Zimbabwe dollars. Zimbabwe has so much inflation that their central bank actually prints 5, 10, 50 trillion dollars bank notes. Also keeping with the spirits of quirk each year the Ig Nobel trophy designed base on that years theme for the awards. This year the theme was food and so the trophy was designed as a bottle of ketchup on a dish fixed to a black pantry tray with fork and knife. They are always imaginative with the trophies one year they just handed out a big piece of rock to the awardees. After the award distribution each awardee is asked to explain his research in one minute. In case they go longer a sweet little girl comes up to the stage and starts shouting “Please Stop I am Bored” till they actually stop their presentation. Similarly after the Ig Noble awardees are done the Noble laureates are asked to give full technical description of their work in 24 seconds and summarize it in 7 words.
On a serious note, do you think the research work mentioned before was just silly. Well if you look beyond the quirky exterior, the core of is extremely important for mankind. Take this years award for the arctic sciences which goes to the study of reaction of reindeers to men dressed are polar bears. With human so closely co habituating with wildlife wouldn’t it be of any relevance to us to study the effects of human habitation on wildlife.

Ig Nobel brings a ray of hope for me, for once I can actually hope to achieve something nearly Nobel in life. My friends and my parents especially say that I am very lazy. I am actually collecting evidence and doing statistical analysis of the patience and perseverance it takes for me to do nothing at all. I hope once I am done with this research you would definitely nominate me for the Ig Nobles.

There is so much more that is worth mentioning about Ig Noble but time is a big constraint today. Google Ig Nobel and you can enjoy the full video of this event or past events on their official website and also on YouTube. I can guarantee you some laughs, if not enlightenment to you.