Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oil Paintings - 1 : Nature


I always had a thing for colours and painting but never got a chance to learn in my growing-up years, so much caught up I was, in my studies (or so I believed!). My brother is an obscenely creative guy - can work his magic with words and pencils alike (and I do not say this just coz am his Sis!!).

My colleague in office started her drawing classes, working towards her Intermediate Drawing exams and one day we were discussing painting over lunch and I was asked whether I draw. That question rekindled my love for colours and now that I had complete control over my time and priorities, I thought, Why Not!

So, in the weekend, I picked up oil colours, canvases, brushes, thinner and inspiration from youtube. Going through step-by-step on how to use oil on canvas, these are my very first creations...



My first inspiration was Michael Thompson and reproduced above is his painting.

I was so excited when I completed this :)...

Eagerly waited for the upcoming weekend... couldn't wait to put paint to paper again...

Here was what I reproduced from my inspiration here - Bunches of Hydrangea.


I have fallen in love with oils... they give a beautiful texture and there is so much one can do.

I hope to sustain this passion for painting...


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yummy Apple Cake

I am not a fruity person... I don't mind co-existing with fruits but we don't have much in common. And I am not much into cakes either. (The only thing I love about home-made cakes is my mum making them and moi licking the vessel clean!). I was at the super market, picking up provisions for the week, when I saw fresh red apples. They were almost calling out to me! (Fruits have never spoken to me before!) So, in all impulsiveness, I picked up a few. Once home, however, I didn't know what to do with them. Finally, I decided the only way I can finish all the apples at one go (so that I would not feel guilty about buying them without a purpose - and I can hear some men sighing thinking that this is what most women do all the time in shopping!), is to bake a cake with them. So, I modified the standard cake making recipe (since I wanted it to be low calorie) to bake the Yummy Apple Cake as I now call it.

With the TV switched on to the DLF IPL Chennai Super Kings v/s Kolkata Knight Riders with the crowds cheering and Dhoni doing what he does best - dho daalna, I embarked on my baking mission.

Here's what I used :
4 fresh red apples,
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 tbsp sugar (apples have a sweetness of their own so too much sugar won't be necessary and we are treading the low calorie path, remember!)

...and what I did :
1. Wash 3 apples under running water and make a paste in the mixer. I kept the skin of the apples on, which gave the paste a slightly grainy texture.
2. Add the eggs and beat the mix well.
3. Mix in the vanilla essence and sugar. Continue stirring well.
4. Sift flour and baking powder 2-3 times in a separate bowl.
5. One spoon at a time, pour in the flour mix into the egg mix, stirring constantly. Mix everything together until a smooth batter of even consistency is formed.
6. Take a microwave safe bowl, grease with very little butter and dust flour on the base and sides (or line with greaseproof paper).
7. Microwave on a high for 3 minutes. Then pre-heat to 220 degree celcius and microwave for about 8 minutes or till a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. I kept checking every 3 odd minutes, since I was using the microwave to bake a cake for the first time. Spend these minutes doing full justice to licking the mixing bowl clean.
8. Take the cake out and leave it to cool.
9. Take the last apple, skin it and slice it into very small pieces. Dust it with half tsp sugar (you can omit the sugar if the apples are very sweet) and microwave on high for about 2 minutes till they are soft.
10. Layer the cake with these soft, gooey apply slices, dust some powdered sugar on it and digg in.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

White!!!








































Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Master Blaster

I am not a cricket fan... I would much rather watch a movie or read stuff or blog rather than watch a cricket match. The only time I have enjoyed a cricket match is at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, commonly known as the Chepauk, in Chennai when, on 23rd April 2008, Mahendra Singh Dhoni led Chennai Super Kings clashed with Harbhajan Singh led Mumbai Indians. The electrifying atmosphere, Shivamani, Hariharan's live performances, the dance and jingles of the cheer leaders and the 'Mexican Wave' of hands going around again and again, around the stadium.

But when it comes to the Master Blaster, its show-time, folks. To quote from the Times Of India, 'Just 147 balls later, Tendulkar set the record straight in emphatic fashion. A staggering 2,961 matches and almost 39 years after the first ODI was played the Little Legend finally became the first cricketer to score 200 in a one-dayer, propelled by a record 25 fours in one knock.'

The Time Magazine's quote on Sachin: "When Sachin Tendulkar travelled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race a F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam. When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact, USSR was one big, big country, Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to "open" the Nehruvian economy. It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man. Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will."

He will always remain a man for whom excellence is a habit, who is so devoted to his craft, so enthusiastic still, that with experience he has mastered the art of seamlessly binding talent, discipline and perspicacity, all without compromising on style, for maximum gain in a team cause.
Sachin, You Rock!!!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

To be a mother...

This is from a very old e-mail I'd received and treasured. Guys, be warned, this has a strong dose of senti and girlie-wisdom... !

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family."
"We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"
"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."

But that is not what I meant at all.

I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her.
I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.
I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?".
That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her.
That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder
if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub.
That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moments hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room
rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.

Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child.That she would give up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs. I want her to know that a caesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.

My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more
you can love someone who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with their child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children's future.

I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. "You'll never regret it," I finally say.
Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.

This post has always left me a little loss for words... and although I understand all that has been written and spoken about motherhood, it is a huge step in itself and a whole new world. At the end of the day, for parents, what is most important is not the ability to have children but the courage and conviction to raise them and raise then well. It's a lovely little adventure to be on!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Bollywood's IMDB - ReviewGang

I am a Bollywood fan... I love to watch movies and I love everything about them - the songs, music, romance, drama, dialogues – from SRK's kisi cheez ko agar dil se chaho to saari kainath tumhe usse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai (OSO), Bade bade desho mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hain (DDLJ) to Mogambo Khush Hua (Mr. India) & Kitne aadmi the (Sholay), the roona-dhona, hasna-gaana, the works! When I watch movies, I get drawn into the plot, identify with the characters and for the brief 150 or so minutes, I know I want to be in that world, particulary since I know that most Bollywood movies end on a ‘Happily-Ever-After’ note.

Being more drawn into Hindi movies than English ones, I find IMDB not adequate for Bollywood reviews. I search youtube for trailers and songs, news websites to read on what the critics have commented, a few of my favourite blogs and user sites to read movie-goers' reviews and finally decide whether or not I should go for the movie or just wait for it to do a ‘World-TV-Premiere’ and watch it free from the comforts of my home. Getting together so much information is tiresome at times and yet it is something I think most of us Bollywood-Buffs do, irrespective of whether the movie is a run-away hit or a dismal flop. That’s where ‘Review-Gang’ was born.

I like ReviewGang for its simple and clean interface. Although initially I had found the logo way too simple, it now stands out in the movies’ poster watermark very well. (Being a woman I guess I look at aesthetics way ahead of checking the utility :) ). But the site is great utility as well. What is interesting about it is that it gives the Critic review, User reviews, Links, Music, Videos, Trailers and Ratings all in one place. One can even look at up-coming releases and watch their videos and trailers. And what’s cooler is that in addition to giving a weighted rating on a scale of 1 to 10, aggregated from the ratings given by critics, it allows users to rate movies through a separate Viewer’s Rating (So now I can Voice out MY Ratings alongside Anupama Chopra & Nikhat Kazmi!!). I even wrote a few reviews for the site. And one can become a FaceBook fan here.

So, in complete Bollywood ishtyle, Tamaam gawaahon aur sabooton ko maddhe nazar rakhte hue ye adalat iss nateeje par pahuchi hai ki ReviewGang ke khilaf koi saboot nahin hai; issliye ye adalat ReviewGang ko baaizzat bari karti hai. After all, FIRST IMPRESSION... IZ the LAST IMPRESSION... Jhakaazzz……. (Anil Kapoor!) (Keeping in mind all the testinomials and proofs, the court has come to the conclusion that there is nothing against ReviewGang which makes it guilty; in light of the same, this court acquits ReviewGang restoring full honours. - a very popular Hindi Filmi dialogue)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Incredible India!!! Incredible Andamans!

This was a 5-day trip that we made to Havelock and what a vacation it was...

The Port Blair airport is just 10 minutes away from the dock where the ferry transports you to this island. The ferry charges could be a little high (around 13$ - 20$) but it takes just 1.5 hours to get you to Havelock as against a boat which could take you anywhere between 4-6 hours. Also, the ferry is air conditioned with plush seats and a food counter inside where you can pick up snacks.

DiveIndia picked us up from the airport to the ferry and from Havelock ferry dock to the resort. One of the first things that strikes you about Island Vinnie's is the proximity to the beach the the lush greenery. The Cabanas are adequately big, clean with water and electricity. Each has a hammock for lazy evenings. There are hammocks on the beach, under the shades of big trees, for a quiet snooze by the beach. There are the two huge and absolutely adorable dogs - Frodo and Sam, one a golden retriever and the other a Labrador - who are everywhere, frolicking in the waves or rolling about in the sand or getting petted by everyone.

The biggest attraction for this resort are the dive courses - PADI, SSI etc that they offer. The instructors are extremely competent, patient and jolly. There's never a moment's unpleasantness in this place. Everyone seems to be looking at the brighter side of life and that is so contagious.



Most of the travelers there are foreign nationals who keep coming back for their love of the sea and diving and if you are someone who loves a good conversation over some good beer (or lemonade), this is the place. Mornings, the resort wears an almost empty look with almost all guests and Dive teams out in the sea but come afternoon, the boats start heading back and with it, divers with diverse and incredible stories to tell - whether it is the colourful soft corals, the barracudas, octopus, the schools of vibrant fish or the sharks or just the excited first-time diver who has managed to stay underwater with the Buoyancy Compensator and wet suits - it is an infectious enthusiasm.



The evening wears on with people reading up their theoretical course books or just reading up on the aquatic life.



The Full Moon Cafe serves limited veg and non-veg dishes. I would recommend the roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, masala omlette, lemonade with mint and fish / chicken fried rice. The portions are adequate.

If you are not diving, there is plenty that you can do. Rent a bike / scooty / cycle and explore the Island. Radha Nagar Beach No. 7 is another not-to-be-missed location. The beachline is long with lush green forests, giant trees and elephants. The way to the beach is winding peppered with lush meadows, clusters of coconut trees, lotuses and wild flowers.


If you are someone who likes the comforts of home, wants a spa and air-condition in your room, Havelock may not be for you. But if you love the unknown, the sand, sea, surf and meeting new people and prefer pristine beaches, this is it.

Even if you don't stay at the Island Vinnie's resort, the warmth of the people, the experience of the Divers and the diverse people that you will meet here, makes it sure worth a visit. And am sure, the resort will grow on you...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Jelly-fishy Day!

Picked it up from a forum... Love it!
Hi Sue,

Just another note from your bottom-dwelling brother. Last week I had a bad day at the office.I know you've been feeling down lately at work, so I thought I would share my dilemma with you to make you realize it's not so bad after all.
Before I can tell you what happened to me, I first must bore you with a few technicalities of my job. As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It's a wetsuit. This time of year the water is quite cool. So what we do to keep warm is this: We have a diesel-powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea, heats it to a delightful temperature, then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose which is taped to the air hose.

Now this sounds like a darn good plan, and I've used it several times with no complaints. What I do, when I get to the bottom and start working, is take the hose and stuff it down the back of my wetsuit. This floods my whole suit with warm water. It's like working in a Jacuzzi. Everything was going well until all of a sudden, my bum started to itch.So, of course, I scratched it. This only made things worse. Within a few seconds my bum started to burn!I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened. The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit. Now, since I don't have any hair on my back, the jellyfish couldn't stick to it. However, the crack of my bum was not as fortunate. When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into the crack of my bum.

I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemma over the communicator. His instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with five other divers, were all laughing hysterically. Needless to say I aborted the dive. I was instructed to make three agonizing in-water decompression stops totalling thirty-five minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression. When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet. As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my bum as soon as I got in the chamber. The cream put the fire out, but I couldn't poo for two days because my bum was swollen shut.

So, next time you're having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your arse. Now repeat to yourself, I love my job, I love my job, I love my job. Remember whenever you have a bad day, ask yourself, is this a jellyfish bad day?

May you NEVER have a jellyfish bad day!!!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rishta - Unka Hamaari Peedha Se - Part 3


Continuing the Peedha and More Peedha, because of trackers, here's another one by 'The Sun'...

Toh mere sahyogiyon... kya badh gaya hai trackeron kay prati aapka pyar?

Sab apney apney sessions mein hain involved.
Kar rahein hai apni apni employees ko evolve?
Kabhi coaching to kabhi mentoring par hum de rahein hai gyaan..
Mr. K key dashboards par bhi hai humein abhimaan!

Bus kya karien inkey data requests say hi lagtaa hai dar..
HC recon kartey kartey jayegi hamaari zindagi guzar..
Palat kar dekha to ho rahi thee nayey praniyon ki entry..
MA, SMA ban gayey HR team ke centre of gravity..

Bas aagey kya bolein...
Humein hai aapkey inputs ka besabri sey intezaar..
Dissappoint mat karo yaar!
To which I responded :
Aur trackers hamare liye gaayenge...
Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you.

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you.

And those who can't live without them...

Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but it's you I can't replace
Oh trackers, can't you see
You belong to me


Jo trackers se Karen pyaar, woh MS excel se kaise kare inkaar?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Ode to Mumbai Local Trains

We Mumbaikars (I may be in Tamland married in Malluland but I sure am a Mumbaikar and will remain so, all my life) spend a lot of time discussing the 3:26 Virar Fast, the 5:44 Borivili Double Fast, the 10:26 Kurla Harbour local, 11:09 Dombivili Fast, because, to a large extent, our life depends on these local suburban trains. Don't ever mention the word peak hour. On the suburban trains, every hour is peak hour, including ek challis ki last local from Churchgate. The activity at the Churchgate and Victoria (Chatrapati Shivaji) Terminus stations, with a fully packed train arriving or leaving every two minutes, amazes me. The sea of humanity outside Dadar station every evening could be frightening. But it shows what the trains mean to us.

The experience of traveling in a Mumbai local can range from exhilarating, frustrating and occasionally frightening. There are times, with each train carrying more than five thousand passengers rather than the intended fifteen hundred when I wondered how I got into the crowded coaches and how I managed to get out. But then you miss out a lot of Mumbai life if you do not travel by the suburban trains.

I learnt a lot about life in the city from the trains. During peak hours, there was hardly any difference between the first class and the second class coaches. Even with millions travelling, almost everyone possessed a ticket or a pass. Unmindful of discomfort, the passengers chatted, gossiped, played cards and sang bhajans. I learnt a lot from their chatter. I got the latest twist in the Ambani power struggle and received tips on how to make rasam and appam from the South Indian lady passengers. The most heated discussions invariably took place during the elections or a cricket match when the fortunes of the parties or the teams were debated. And if you are a regular viewer of the K-serials and if you’ve missed the previous evening’s telecast, there’s no better place to catch up than the local trains.

Part of the education of commuting was rushing in first and trying to grab the window seat. The seat can accommodate three passengers comfortably but a fourth one invariably nudges and tries to squeeze in. Well, all you can do is glare at her and mutter something and hope she would away. But typically, you would get into the same situation the next day. saying - zaara adjust kar lo!

Commuting at leisure can lead to rumination. I used to wonder at the romance of station names like Cotton Green, King's Circle, Sandhurst Road, Santa Cruz and the harshness of desi station names like Chinchpokli or Ghatkopar. I remember hearing fashionable Christian girls pronouncing Kandivili as "Candyville" rhyming with Pleasantville, a New York suburb. Speaking of girls, it was the general belief that girls on the Western Railway were prettier and more fashionably dressed than the ones commuting by the Central. Don't ask me why! But then watching the Ladies Specials on both the Railways made one forget about glamour; the women pushed and barged in with a ferocity which would put male commuters to shame. Did anyone say weaker sex? For the timid, getting into and off a Mumbai train is close to a life altering experience. Engulfed in a sea of humanity, the hapless commuter just flows with the tide. Getting off crowded trains will redefine the meaning of personal space for you. The rides are so crowded that people even take the train in the opposite direction to one of the ends of the lines -- just so they can try and get a seat when the train turns around!

So what are the rules of commuting? The unwritten ones are :

1. No baggage Rule : There's just no space and in rush hours, either you get in sans the luggage or stay out!

2. Getting Off Rule : Stand near the door, atleast one stop away from your destination in empty compartments and in case your station is among the next three upcoming ones, do not even venture near a seat.
It is common for passengers near to tap each other’s shoulders asking for their destination. These people aren’t (usually) serial stalkers; they’re looking to position themselves for the 10-second window during which they can exit.

3. Seat Reservation Rule :
If you want to sit, stand in between the 3-seaters and ask the seated passengers 'Kaha uttarna hai' (Where do you want to alight?) If their destination is before yours, you point to yourself, then to him/her. A head bob from the seated party seals the deal, and your bum will soon be riding in style.

4. Helping-Hand Rule : You must, with the aid of your fellow passengers, scoop a passenger running towards the doorway
.Everyone works together to get you on the train before it departs.

5. Sharing Rule :
Newspapers are public goods in the Mumbai trains. If you don’t like people reading over your shoulder, then catch up on the latest Satyam development at your breakfast table. If you are reading newspaper in the train, you need to share it with atleast 3 of your co-passengers.

In Mumbai, local trains are the heart and soul of the city. It breathes life into Mumbai at the break of dawn and cradles the city to sleep, if only for a few hours. It truely is the lifeline. No other city, I know of, has such a plethora of people inter-mingling at one place and sharing moments of their lives together, even if it only is for a few hours.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Corporate Theatre

I have learnt the concept of training during my post-graduation course and have implemented it at various occasions in my work-life. I have also got trained by various methodologies in the last few years. But this was my first exposure to Corporate Theatre and training through the theatre methodology and what a refreshing experience it was...

This was the introduction sheet to the training :

Dress Code: Absolutely Informal. Wear something loose and comfortable that will allow sitting, lying, or rolling on the floor. (Rolling on the floor - was this corporate training or some kid's workshop?) Ladies are advised to avoid Saris as they inhibit free movement.

Bring nothing with you - no notebooks, pads, or pens. Note-taking is strictly forbidden.

Footwear to be left outside the hall. Along with footwear, participants are requested to leave adult personalities, seniority, designations, and hierarchy, outside. Whatever is needed from among these can be retrieved on the way back after the workshop. (I completely loved this statement).

Bring cameras along. You will catch yourselves and each other in amazing postures and costumes and with unbelievable expressions that you may find difficult to replicate afterwards. You will want to preserve them for posterity and show it to parents, spouses, children, and grandchildren down the years. However don't expect them to believe it is YOU !! (This really intrigued my imagination!)

When I read this as a prelude to a training program I was scheduled to attend later in the week, I was sure about one thing : it would not be the conventional training programs that I've been used to.

When I entered the hotel and was ushered to the Training Center, I was surprised to find that there were no chairs, no projectors, laptops - not even a whiteboard or a flip-chart. Instead, there were mattresses and bolsters along the three walls at one end of the hall. All chairs were stacked in one corner. And the participants were stretched out comfortably on the mattresses and bolsters, casually chatting with each other. The atmosphere was warm and if I may add, very homely!

Mr. Paul Mathew, the trainer, came across as someone who was really passionate about theatre and his entire life was dedicated to this sole passion. He emphasized the basic learning principles on which the "Corporate Theatre" methodology is based:

1. Learning happens best in the 'child' state : In the 'adult' state, one has most of the answers, very few questions. Made a lot of sense. Have you heard any kid say / think : What will my mom / dad / teacher / friend think of me if I ask them this question? They are free from the 'looking good' mentality and hence are open to a huge amount of learning - their curiosity for learning and inconsideration towards 'What-Will-Others-Think' attitude, fosters an immense speed , gamut of exposure and assimilation of knowledge. As we grow, we get into a lot of complexities and our inhibitions and ego that we already know so much stop us from asking questions and thus our learning becomes lesser and lesser.

2. No one can train another : The onus is on the learner. Unless the learner chooses to learn, learning does not take place. True, isn't it? Until and unless you want to learn, you may be present at the workshop physically but me mentally absent.

3. One person's knowledge need not be relevant to another : Learning is best when each one gets in touch with their own wisdom. This I completely relate to. The 'Aa-ha' moment comes when a particular point sticks on to you since you can relate to it from your past experiences. The other participants also hear the same lines but they may not get impacted the way you do. And then no amount of note-taking is necessary. It remains with you long after the sessions are done.

4. Transformation is the most immediate and direct result of learning : If there is no transformation, there has been no learning. This sums up any training program. Change and learning are essential to training and if there is positive transformation, even in a small measure, the training has impacted you.




The training was competely an activity based methodology and we did various group tasks, the finale being, using basic artcles like chart paper, bed sheets, felt pens etc, to create a scene which would not have dialogues but we would freeze, on the count, and basis our expressons, arrangement of the props etc, the other groups would have to guess what we were portraying.

My biggest learning out of this workshop was that, a diverse group of people, from various walks of life, can play up to their strengths and keeping their individual ego aside, work with single minded focus so that the team wins. Individuals didn't have to be complete in themselves but the team neede to be, by playing up to each individual's strengths.

Paul stretched this concept of teamwork into the way we use Performance Appraisals in our workplaces.
He stressed on the fact that an incorrect appraisal system could make people compete against each other in an unhealthy way rather than collaborating to work towards team goals.

Differentiation is key in team appraisals, on the lines of what I had discussed in my post 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. But the process should be such that if the team loses, no one gets rewarded, no matter how well they have individually performed. If the team succeeds in iys objective, everyone gets amply rewarded. And here, the winning team will differentiate its performers into top, middle and bottom.

Over a couple of cycles of appraisal, this will ensure that the Team weeds out the non-committed far more ruthlessly than a 'boss' can do it. Only those who can and want to contribute, are tolerated by a natural Team. When the Team does the rating, there is no perceived unfairness or injustice. It is not one person's appraisal. And unless a Team is 'suicidal' the rating will be ruthlessly fair. If not, they realize that ultimately everyone loses.

As I have said earlier, only a robust Performance Management System can build credibility in the process. There are various ways to differentiate and this is one of the ways.

Monday, June 01, 2009

I Know What's On Your Mind!!!

News has emerged from Google’s offices that should send a shiver down every employee’s back (and make Human Resources jump with joy). Google, concerned by the recent departures of several top executives, has developed an algorithm to try to identify which employees are likely to quit, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The algorithm would crunch “data from employee reviews and promotion and pay histories in a mathematical formula” and would show which of its employees were the most likely to quit soon. Laszlo Bock, who runs human resources for Google, told the Journal the algorithm helps the company "get inside people's heads even before they know they might leave."

This algorithm has huge potential - a boon of sorts to HR. Imagine its powers. Catch employees going away on holidays too often or falling sick time and again, take his ratings, promotions and pay histories and presto : you know whether he is headed to the hospital or on his way out of your company. HR's job and primary KRA (Key Responsibility Area) will now become what Sherlock Holmes and our very own Byomkesh Bakshi did - track, follow, pursue, shadow and nab the traitors! Loyal employees who are dedicated and trusty have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. But the plotting, calculating, conniving and devious ones - Beware!

How many times have you bumped into your bosses, super-bosses and the Company CEO's and MD's and have been casually asked : So, how are you finding the company? And how many times have you answered with all the earnestness and emphasis in your command : It's going absolutely great, Sir. I totally love my job. Do we really have to follow a Light's Out policy at 8PM and no work on Sundays? I could get so much more done if I were allowed to stay the nights and work on weekends (while your mind is conjuring up pleasant images of your seniors' faces on your favorite dartboard and you hitting bulls eye and yelling - I hate you, your freaking job and your stupid company. If I could, I'd write out my resignation letter and throw it on your face. After I am gone, I hope your work suffers, you get demoted / pink-slipped and you feel cold, alone and uncared for, just as I have). But do you say this? Nope! You play your cards close to your heart, smile broadly, look happy and lie through your nose. Convincingly. Repeatedly.

So will you now get caught by the HR Under-cover Agents if you even just think of lying? Thankfully, the answer, for now, seems to be No. People Management magazine reported that the chances of Google commercially releasing the quitter finder algorithm were dim. A spokesman for Google clarified that, “The development of HR algorithms is not our core business”.

However, fore-warned is fore-armed. You are behind enemy lines and are constantly being watched.

After all, the New HR Mantra is :

Every breath you take / Every move you make / Every bond you break / Every step you take

I’ll be watching you.

Every single day / Every word you say / Every game you play /Every night you stay

I’ll be watching you.

Every move you make / Every vow you break / Every smile you fake/Every claim you stake

I’ll be watching you

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Am India...





I am India....

I remember in March 1993, when the skyline of Bombay was almost blown off with a series of bomb blast...bombs went off at the Bombay Stock Exchange building, Air India building, Masjid Bunder, a bus near Passport Office, a building near Poonam Chambers, Plaza cinema hall at Dadar, Centaur Hotel Juhu and Sea Rock Hotel at Bandra ... to name a few. Thousands lost their lives, thousand others were wounded and the poor became poorer still. I obviously knew who had done it but I was asked by the so-called powerful nations to restrain myself and not jump to conclusions. After all, I am the country where great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi have preached non-violence, to give the other cheek if I am slapped on one. How can I then be a hypocrite in front of the world and resort to voilence? So, I allowed terrorists likes Dawood and Tiger Memon to escape out to Pakistan / Dubai and lead lavish lives. The world, not surprisingly had a very short memory and carried on and no one bothered.

I have always been surrounded by rogue states and unstable governments. And my borders are so vast and varied that I am vulnerable from various sides. And Pakistan has been a neighbour which constantly keeps reminding me of its existence. A few years later Pakistan again was at war with me. Kargil was a full-fleged war on my people. It was horrifying to say the least . And what did it yield except the Powers-that-be telling me to restrain and work towards 'samjhauta'... The world knows what happened to the Express which went by that name. A compromise which would mean handing over Kashmir on a platter to my neighbours!

I have produced proof after proof of Pakistan being the birthplace and nurturer of terror. And can Pak sustain its terror activities without the support of its military? Where does its arms and ammunition come from? Where does the money come in? When documents were produced stating that France continues to sell arms to Pakistan, no embargo, no sanctions but "good advice' was given. I was reminded that I am the world's largest Democracy and hence should be the big sister to a nation who in fact is a day older than us!

Do you remember December 1999? It was Christmas time, and the whole world was celebrating the end of the century and the beginning to a new millennium. But how was it made immortal in our minds? The hijack of Flight IC 814. In the middle of no-where, in Kandahaar, the plight of the passengers and the crew was in the hands of the terrorists. My countrymen watched horrified and with bated breath to hear any news on the return of their near and dear ones . Did any country in the world come forward with a solution? I had to fend for myself.

I carried out the Pokhran II nuclear test, the whole world was quick to condemn me, US sanctions were the first to be implemented. Pakistan was given as much support as required.

I find it extremely ironical that the big bully who did not think twice before the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima / Nagasaki, raced to wipe out Vietnam, eagerly instigated the Afghans against Soviet Union (and so, in a large respect, aided the creation of Taliban), time and again reminded their next generation that they should fight for justice turns face about when it comes to their country? America, the country who finds it difficult to swallow the same bitter pill, the developed nation who had no clue of what was going to happen to them on a Tuesday morning, who had no inkling of events to unfold... the same country who has all along just given me lip service got full support from me in its time of need.

From the riots of 1993 to the Taj bombing of 2008, I have been bleeding... crying... tolerating... sacrificing. I was once regarded as the most secular, cohesive and peaceful democracy but now am being broken down to pieces. At times, I think it is a battle - a war that I have allowed too many countries to meddle in and distort the real essence of .

Is Kashmir my only problem? What about the rampant lawlessness in states like Bihar and UP? And the under-development in the BiMaRU states? And how can I forget my patriotic 'netas' who, in the garb of preserving my culture, create communal and civil violence. Do you, my country-men (and women) vote for a party or against it? Why is there so much criminalization of politics and corruption right from the lower to the topmost rung in society?

When you go for movies, do you stant up for the National Anthem with a sense of pride or do you, in your minds, keep thinking 'What a waste of time this is'... Well, if you do, here's a new anthem for you... Sing it and feel ashamed. Jaya he!!! (or is it Jai Ho!!!)



Jana Gana Mana Rann hai..
Iss rann me, Zakhmi Bharat ka Bhagya Vidhaata..
Punjab Sindh Gujrat Maratha..
Ek doosre se lad ke mar rahe hain...
Iss desh ne humko ek kiya,
Aur hum desh ke tukde kar rahe hain..
Dravid Utkala Banga..!
Khoon bahakar ek rang ka, kar diya humne Tiranga,
Sarhadon pe jung aur, galiyon me fasaad-danga..
Vindh Himachal Yamuna Ganga, mein tezaab ubal raha hai,
Mar gaya sab ka zameer, Jaane kab zinda ho aage..
Phir bhi tava shubh naame jaage.. Tava shubha ashish maange..
Aag mein jal kar cheekh raha hai, Phir bhi koi nahi bachata..
Gaahe tava jaya gaatha..
Desh ka aisa haal hai lekin, Aapas me ladh rahe neta..
Jana Gana Mangal Dayak Jaya Hai..
Bharat ko bacha le Vidhata!
Jaya He! Ya yeh marann hai..
Jana Gana Mana Rann hai..

Saturday, May 16, 2009

For Whom The 'Bell' Tolls



I was working on developing a career management system for my company and in that context was critically evaluating the performance appraisal system as well. One of the most debated ways to assess performance in organizations is the dreaded Bell Curve. Forced ranking assesses employee performance relative to peers rather than against predetermined goals. Managers rank employees into three categories: The top 20 percent are the people who will lead the future of the company. They're given raises, stock options, and training. The middle 70 percent are given smaller raises and encouraged to improve. The bottom 10 percent are contribute the least and may be meeting expectations but are simply "good" on a team of "greats." They're given no raises or bonuses and are either offered training, asked if they'd be happier elsewhere, or fired.

I was reading Jack Welch's Winning and came across this passage on forced rating, bell curve and differentiation (For the uninitiated, Jack Welch, retired Chief Executive Officer of General Electric (GE), is most often associated with forced ranking, since GE used this performance management tool to eliminate the bottom ten percent of performers each year.) :

Differentiation starts right from our school days with our grades and play-ground where the best players get picked first and the least athletic ones watch from the stands. Everyone knows where he/she stands. The top kids want desperately to stay there and continue to get the thrill and respect of winning. the kids in the middle work hard to get better and thus bring up the quality of play. And the kids who couldn't make the cut usually found other pursuits, other sports in which they excelled. this is true on the playground and it is true in business.

When differentiation is working, people know where they stand. Maybe some information is hard to swallow at first but soon enough, knowledge is liberating because when you know where you stand, you can control your destiny.


Differentiation brings out the positive impact of an open, honest management system built on candid performance assessments and aligned rewards. For the top performers, the very existence of a middle cadre gives them yet another reason to pull out all the stops everyday. They have to keep getting better to have a high standing. For the middle performers, the aspiration to get into the top level makes them work harder, think more creatively, share more ideas and overall, fight the good fight everyday.

Now, coming to the detractors of forced ranking, I have heard many say that it is not ethical. My view on this is - any system or process is nether ethical or unethical - it is the implementers who make it so. A lot depends on how fairly the system is developed, and how fair the people are who carry it out.

Forced Ranking may be hard on the under-performers, people who are not dependable, determined or persistent but truth be told, organizations are not charitable set-ups where they are obligated to carry these non-performers with them, on emotional grounds. And more importantly, a laissez-faire attitude where everybody gets an exceptional / very good rating makes the ranking meaningless to employees. Would that not be the case if everyone in a school stood first?

But, having said that, I definitely feel the emphasis should be on the correct way to implement the process. Clear, transparent and honest communication of process and feedback goes a long way in building credibility of the system and its processes. If the Forced Ranking system is a way to make power centers in the organization where those who fall out of favour with the boss / are not 'Yes-Bosses' are chucked out, such a system is doomed to implode. If you don’t give people what they need to perform well and expect them to succeed, if you set a measure to which people should perform and don’t give them the tools to do it, then it is an unfair process, set up for failure and politics to set in. But if the evaluations are carried out in fair ways, and if people know the grounds or expectations on which they are being evaluated, it could be a reasonable way to reward growth and ability and to cull unpromising or under performing employees.

My Choice Blogger AWard


I have been awarded the My Choice Blogger award by Meera. Thanks so much. I am glad I am your choice!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day, Ma!!!


On the occasion of Mother's Day, I thought it apt to share this piece of writing...

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family."
"We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"
"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."

But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.

I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her.

That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a souffle or her best crystal without a moments hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.

Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child.That she would give up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs. I want her to know that a caesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.

My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love someone who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with their child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children's future.

I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes.

"You'll never regret it," I finally say.

Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.