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.