Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life Is An Eight Letter Word

Sometimes, scripts for life are written before hand. They are written from the heart. Of loss, pain, sorrow, suffering, redemption, second chances, moving on.

It will be Chelsea this time to win the Champions League. A story of try, try till you succeed, a story of triumph over personal tragedy, a story of playing as a team when it mattered.

To go where no Chelsea team has gone before.

Forza Chelsea...

Football is life... Football is life.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Integrity and the Future of India

Visiting Japan can change someones life. The way Japanese society and business are structured to be consensus driven and internetworked, the emphasis on "wa", the strict codes of conduct and honour (in both personal and professional lives), the limitless efforts to achieve perfection. I could go on. It's to be seen to be believed.

Honesty and sincerity are some of the key drivers of the Japanese way of life. A very simple thought kept striking me many a time over the one and a half years in Tokyo.

Seeing cars and bikes travel at top speeds on city roads made me think: Its a result of the discipline and confidence one driver has that the other driver will stop at a red signal, that enables one to travel without a care in the world.

Discipline, sincerity, honesty, integrity, humility. Some of the key reasons Japan is what it is today.

To be very honest with you, today if you ask me, between the US and Japan, I love Japan as much as I love my own country, India.

The US: I hate that country. For what it stands and for the way it manipulates the world to do its bidding. For the way it treats other countries of this world as if they are just a means to better the lives of Americans. For the way it treats the entire world as its backyard to do as it pleases to screw up with no sense of understanding or care about the impact on the people of that country (case in point: Iraq and Afghanistan.) The US is the anti-thesis of what Japan is. I have grown to understand and appreciate the way of life of the Japanese and admire it and love it (atleast the parts Iv looked into deeply).

The fact that the US is the dream destination for hordes of people (including many readers of this blog) might colour the opinion of people negatively towards what I have written, but I stand by my words.

The words of former LTCB President Katsunobu Onogi san with respect to the way Japanese business and economy are structured (from the book Saving the Sun) still ring in my ears. He talks of the Japanese economy being an interdependent system with one part of the system feeding off the others and reciprocating in return when needed.

If you didnt get the point, it means: the economy works for the benefit of all. No single entity or individual stands to benefit grossly. Infact, the Japanese way of business is to treat it as an enabler for national growth and the growth of society as a whole, for the benefit of all.

It is my guess that Shinsei is an outcast precisely because it broke this code of honour/conduct/Japanese way of business.

How ironic no? Onogi san before 1999 and Yoshiro san post 1999. Same bank. Starkly different standings.

But you might wonder, why am I rambling about the Japanese way of life and business when the title of my post has nothing to do with it.

Well, here I come to the point.

I have often asked myself what it would take to make India on par with the developed nations of the world. To enable people access to basic facilities like electricity, drinking water, sanitation and health care. To enable them to be in a position to demand more than just basic facilities. To be in a position where my kids can think of choosing their school, college, careers based on interests instead of just following the crowd and doing a degree without any real goal and then getting into a working life, again without any goal.

Its all linked, you know. Progress, prosperity, a good life, a fulfilling life, sincerity in life, integrity of character, honesty of purpose, vision and goals.

As a wide-eyed fresher a couple of years ago, I was told I had to take a finance exam as part of my training. I got down in right earnest and diligently sat through the training slides, making notes, going home and revising, practicing problems.

As exam day dawned, a lot of people got nervous. And they somehow got hold of the question papers and xeroxed them and thus prepared for the test. To be fair to them, its known through the grapevine that thats how a majority of the sample space used to give the test.

I was asked if I wanted the papers, but I refused as I was quite satisfied with my preparations and confident of aceing the test. In the end, I managed to clear it on my first attempt.

A couple of people were infact caught with the papers and no action was taken. Taking action would have shown the testing department in poor light and brought into question the methodology of testing and the checks and balances therewith.

Thats just how we work. A symbiotic relationship between thieves of varying orders.

It has always surprised me that people will go to all lengths to "show" they have the knowledge, defeating the very purpose of providing them with the tools to gain knowledge.

It makes me angry/sad/apprehensive that the future doyens of Indian industry have feet of clay and such a standard of integrity. I suppose they cant be blamed really, for that is exactly how our machinery functions. And if you are not a part of it, they will beat you down. Its called self-preservation.

We are an insincere people. In work, in our personal lives (Im amazed how "committed" and married people stray so easily when the partner isnt looking, rather has no way to look.) What is the purpose of such a "commitment", the "till death do us part" sham routine called marriage, I wonder?

We need to understand that we need to look inwards into ourselves and improve ourselves instead of pointing fingers at other countries and listing out their frailties, as a means of self-defence in the face of criticism. There are advanced countries in this world and while industrialization and academia are important pillars of their growth, so is the human and integrity capital; the industry of the people is what has catapulted them into the position they are in today.

Ultimately everyone has two hands. And one mind. And its upto us to channelize that mind to use those hands constructively.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quick Thought

Wonder in these times of (sub-prime) crises, how (and why) JPM managed to buy out Bear Stearns and also the Shinsei Headquarters at Hibiya Park!

Friday, April 11, 2008

We, The People

I visited Shardambal Kovil today with Mom to get some Archanai Prasadam. On the way back, we saw an urchin kid, maybe around 6-8 years old, lugging a baby in her arms. There was another kid, again 6-7 years old, who was with them.

Mom indicated the kids and said: "Look. There are kids living like this too, in this world."

Mom asked me to give her the bananas we got as prasadam. I went forward to give her bananas and she says: "Uncle, iss ke liye doodh lena hai. Iski mummy bazaar gayi hai. Uncle, iss ke liye doodh lena hai." The subject in question was the lil kid she was holding.

I strongly felt like taking a ten rupee note and giving it to her, but somehow the thought of encouraging begging stopped me from doing it. I gave her the bananas silently and walked back, but a gamut of emotions exploded in my mind.

Later, we went to have dinner at Geeta Bhavan. A man, probably as old as my father was waiting at our table. We had a nice dinner and finished soon. We said our thank you to the person and left (after paying the bill, ofcourse :)

Watching the kid, watching the man, made me feel something I couldn't quite define. It is not pity I feel for them. I don't think anyone needs my pity.

I think its a mix of emotions from admiring how they cope with life, with so less on their side to a hope that someday, they can rise up and make a better life for themselves.

I salute that person who waited at our table. He is probably doing this job hoping someday his kids get the chances, he may never have received. He will probably continue doing it till the day his body doesn't support him.

When I was in Tokyo, I once told people that someday I want India to be like Tokyo is. The people laughed at me and said that is not possible, EVER and to take it in writing.

I still don't believe them.

In response to one of my previous posts, Vijaya had written that we must be proud of Indian minds on whose strength the corporations of the world are running. I agree.

In my opinion, an Indian success story is not just the Indian NRIs heading MNCs. It is as much the uncommonly "common" Indian person who fights for each square inch of space, each job, each travel berth, each spot under the sun.

Each Indian works damn hard, undergoing tremendous amounts of stress, almost always a ready smile and a kind word, even the poor helping those poorer than themselves. And returning home to a small home, maybe a slum home, tired, hungry and having worked a hard day.

Think of the bus drivers, cops, sewage cleaners, construction workers. Think of the hard work they put without getting their faces on the front pages of TIME magazine.

There is an order of truth joining the person who waited at the table with the rest of India. The truth is that he works very hard from morning to night to earn a few rupees which would probably go into a savings fund for his children's education, an occasional ice-cream, a new shirt for Diwali.

The rest of middle-class India saves pennies by bargaining at the vegetable market, spends frugally, works hard at a job, resists temptation to splurge extravagantly and builds up a lifes worth of savings to buy a home, get married, fund their future, the future of their children.

People like you, me and the rest of us who are lucky to be born into families where want is unheard of, every wish is granted and life is a bed of roses in most cases; it is the very least that we somehow find ways to constructively utilize our gifts to work towards the betterment of the lives of those who don't.

We have done nothing to earn the privileges we have or worked to be born into the families that have been able to help us achieve our dreams and goals.

It is not politicians peddling quotas for money who are the true India. It is not politicians peddling communal disharmony who are the true India. It is not corrupt bureaucrats who are the true India.

It is you, me and rest of us hard-working Indians who are the true India. And no matter what anyone says, I believe that inspite of all the differences amongst us, inspite of any negativity that surrounds us, inspite of a responseless Government, we can and we WILL rise. When that day would come is unknown, but it will happen. We will rise with people power.

We, the People. We, the Indians.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Its A New Day, Its A New Start

I officially close my association with the Shinsei MobileBanking project today. A journey of almost 2 years, starting in July 2006 comes to an end. So many lovely experiences, so many opportunities, so many learnings, so much left unsaid, so much left undone :)

I'm quite privileged and lucky that I was in a position to serve this team.

Tomorrow is a new day and I'm ready to meet it on its merits.

Billa No. 15786... Hain

Friday, April 04, 2008

I Love The Smell Of Napalm In The Morning...

... It smells like... VICTORY!

This is my favourite line from the movie Apocalypse Now. Brilliant movie, with brilliant picturization. This line is towards the end of the Battle of Kilgore and said by the Colonel (who likes to fight or surf.)

Tonight, while returning from the gym, I was thinking of a headline I read in today's paper. A BEST driver died at the wheel and the bus was moving backwards. The alert conductor applied emergency brakes and saved the passengers. The poor driver was only 45. The report spoke of the stresses on a bus driver, driving through narrow lanes, with zigzagging vehicles and people all through.

Firstly, I pray for the soul of the driver and I hope his family gets adequate compensation (what would be adequate???). I hope his kids get to goto school and study to improve their and their mother's lives.

Yesterday morning, I saw a guy cleaning my car. And I wondered. People talk of savings and onsite et al. We are so caught up with our petty financial worries and life in general, that we forget to thank the Almighty for how fortunate we are to have a good education and the means to a great life.

What we consider as regular or a given might be someones life wish. In this context, I am reminded of a favourite Hindi poem of mine (unfortunately, I forgot the names of the poet and the poem), that I learnt in my 12th standard.

It spoke of children of rowmen of boats on the river Ganga, diving into the Ganga to retrieve coins thrown by passengers of the trains running above. Later in the evening, the boys wear clean shirts and oil their hair and the girls wear jasmine flowers in their hair. Its a beautiful scene that has stayed with me after all these years.

My life in Tokyo was so posh, that I sometimes wonder what good deeds I might have done in my life that enabled me to live such a life in something very close to heaven on earth.

I used to think that like most others, I too would have trouble accepting the life back in India. The quality of life, the fight of getting through each day.

But tell you what! Im actually feeling no difference being in Tokyo and being in Mumbai. Tokyo was a beautiful home for me for one and a half years almost. That's quite a bit of time and compares with the early part of my life, where we used to stay in a place for roughly 2-3 years only. Being in Mumbai, I only look back on Tokyo as a beautiful dream and with a gratitude for having been able to experience Japan and its culture and people in the very best sense.

Trust me, my trip to Japan has changed me so much as a person. I cannot believe that I am the very same person that I was before my trip. More optimistic, more risk taking, more self-knowledgeable, more worldly wise, more accepting, more humble (???). I have changed. And for the better, even if I do say so myself.

When I look around myself in India, I ask myself: "Hey, why cannot I devote my life to helping the people around me? Why cannot we improve ourselves? Why cannot we dream of being a First-World country? What stops us? Even if something is stopping us, theres no obstacle in this world that hard work cannot overcome. Impossible is nothing!"

Each day, when I talk to Dad, I feel grateful to him for all that he is and for the various sacrifices he has made for his family. Each time I look into my Mother's eyes and each action of hers, I know there might never be ANYONE in this world, who could love me so purely and selflessly, just coz I am her son. When I look at my sister, I see a good individual who is successfully progressing towards becoming a well respected Chartered Accountant.

I love the smell of India in the morning... It smells like... home.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

When We'r Hungry, Love Will Keep Us Alive :)

Iv had two love affairs in life and the second of those has been the MobileBanking project that I worked in for close to two years :) It took me on so many journeys, taught me so many things and in the end, left me like I was a nobody.

But, I'm not disappointed. And the reason, for those who have been in love, is understandable. It gave me a sense that cannot be explained and as much as I try, I cannot look back and regret it.

As I have thought back and said to myself so many times over the years: "She came into my life and left me a better person for someone else."

Dream On. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.