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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

High Fidelity

October 23, 2012 Leave a comment

A few days ago, my friend and I went to the local Best Buy for some window shopping. While my friend was busy checking out tablets, I headed to the music section and stopped in front of the Bose kiosk. I tapped the buttons, took the tour of the various systems, and admired the sound – clear, loud notes that you can only experience but not describe.

And as I stood there thinking, I was suddenly transported back in time.

In early 2004, I worked in Talawade – an industrial area outside Nigdi, hardly 20km away from Pune. Talawade is the local mecca for small-scale manufacturers, and is filled with tiny workshops interspersed with larger factories. If you approach Talawade from Nigdi, the road finally comes to a dead end, and then you either turn right towards Bhosari, or left towards Dehu Road.

Just around this corner, there was (is?) a small joint about 100 feet away from the tarmac. Trucks lined the empty space in front of it, and in the rainy seasons you had to watch your step while going in. From the road, it appeared to be just another dhaba, but as you walked closer, your senses were pleasantly assaulted – the smell of dal fry and the tandoor lingered in the air, truck drivers’ chit-chat was all around, and waiters scurried around attending to the patrons.

The owner sat in a corner, keeping an eye on the proceedings, and next to him was a small portable stereo. It was connected to two speakers installed in the rafters, and it belted out hits from the 70s through the early 90s. The speakers  were tinny, and the songs were always scratchy – no bass and hardly any “body” to the songs. But whenever a song ended, we would inadvertently stop chatting in anticipation of the next one.

Most of the times, you would get to hear classics from the likes of QSQT, Aashiqui and Hero, but once in a while the owner would switch gears and treat us to Kishore Kumar or even Gulzaar. Lunch would get over in about 25 min, but we would stay for longer. We would leave an hour after reaching the dhaba – stomachs gorged on dal-roti and mind sated with great music.

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Restaurants that pay you to finish?

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Part of my morning drill (after dunking a coffee and reviewing the tasks for the day) is to read business blogs. There are a few that I read every so often, but BNet is one place that I turn to almost every day. Today morning, I stumbled upon an interesting post on Farnoosh Torabi’s You’re so Money. Apparently, there are quite a few restaurants here in the US that will pay you (or reward you, to be correct) if you complete a gastronomical challenge.

What a neat marketing trick! Lure customers with “get money for eating” and present them with something that they just can’t finish… But the reason why this post caught my attention is entirely different.

Three years ago, I used to live in Aundh, in the outskirts of Pune. There was a small eating joint where me and my wife would go on occasion. This was no “Fine Dining” joint; it was rather a place that bachelors frequented more often. A place to get good food for a reasonable price. The kitchen was inside the building, and the tables were set outside in the open.

If you sat at a table to the right (under the Neem tree), you could see a notice posted on the wall – “this restaurant charges patrons that leave leftovers in the plate.” Below it, in a slightly smaller font was the explanation – “Please do not waste food. You and I can afford it, but our nation cannot“.

I hope more people consider this and make it a habit. As they say, it’s little drops of water that make the ocean, after all.

“Elementary,” he said

February 23, 2011 1 comment

Our daughter’s pre-school here is a far cry from what she had in Mumbai. Back there, she had 3 hours of school 5 days a week, including classwork & homework too. Over here, it’s a tame affair – she attends school just twice a week – and there’s only play in school. No formal “education” as such.

Last month, we were informed that there’s an option of having her stay an extra hour in school and have lunch with her friends too. My wife went to the principal’s office to enroll her in the program, and asked her about any additional fees.

“You will have to pay $20 in addition to the monthly $143.”

“All right,” my wife said, “I’ll write a check for $163”.

“Wait, wait,” said the Principal, and rushed to her calculator. She punched a few buttons, and smiled at my wife. “You are right, it is $163 after all!”

Later that evening, I and my wife chatted about this incident. Back in India, it’s not that you are expected to do such basic arithmetic in your mind – it is assumed that mental arithmetic is the way to go.

*   *   *

Last weekend, we went to the Border’s bookstore to get some educational books for our daughter. Once again, we were surprised – she knew the stuff in books meant for kids 2 years older than her.

What’s with the education system in this country? I know – children are precious, they should be carefully nurtured and all that. But the first 5 years are when a child’s brain develops the most (and has the highest rate of learning too). So what’s the logic behind not harnessing all that intellectual power?

I couldn’t find an answer to this question. Neither do I intend to stay here to find it out.

Lost for words

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s been more than two months since we landed in Denver – almost three. In all this time, I have not posted anything – which is something I fail to understand myself.

There have been so many things that I’ve wanted to write about – the golden rockies at sunrise, the fresh appeal of the 16th street pedestrian mall, my new (and great) work environment, my reaction to living in America (I want to go back asap)… I could go on and on..

But though I’ve thought of so many things to write about, nothing has actually materialized. Surprising, isn’t it?

Well, knowing myself, it’s just a matter of time. Then the river starts flowing again, the words start finding their way out.

I’ll wait.

A Question of Value – yet again

August 10, 2010 1 comment

The last few weeks have seen me very frustrated, to the point of irritation. Usually I have a series of bad days every month or two, when I realize that I am right in the middle of a mid-career crisis situation. Usually I get over it in a day or two, the hangover lasts another couple of days.

Not so this time. I have been in low spirits for over a week now. At work, I am working just for the sake of it, not enjoying it as I used to until last month. Back at home, my wife is thankfully very understanding, and does her best to cheer me up.

Last weekend we went for a picnic, and the drive & the getaway in general helped clear some cobwebs in my brain. On the way back, I finally managed to do some clear-headed thinking on what’s happening to me.

Distilled summary: I don’t see any kind of value in the work that I do here. The only iota of satisfaction is when I solve people’s problems and when they thank me from the heart. But that’s just once in a while. The rest of the time, I do the menial labor that my bosses don’t like to do themselves. But yes, the day I agreed to do it, I knew why did so. And at least that reason still applies today.

Prescription:

1. Try and keep searching for value (whether tangible or otherwise) in whatever I do

2. Maintain sanity at all costs

The former… It’s tricky, but I’ll do it.

The latter part is easy. Today I thanked God for Iron Maiden. Did you?

A Forgotten Tale

May 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Many years ago, there was a small kingdom in the hills. It was like any other kingdom, but for one difference – the drinking water for all the people was taken from a single reservoir.

One fine day, the king had an argument with the resident magician, and ended up insulting him in public. In his fit of anger, the magician swore revenge. That very night, he went to the water reservoir, and emptied a vial of magic potion in it. The next day, when the people drank water from the reservoir, they all became slightly crazy. As the days passed by, their craziness increased gradually, until it reached a point when no one remained sane – not even the king.

However, three businessmen in this kingdom had their own wells in their backyards. As they had not drunk the reservoir’s water, they remained in control of their senses. But this posed a new problem, for the common people now considered these poor fellows as insane. After all, they were starkly in contrast with the rest of the population, weren’t they?

Soon, these three found it increasingly difficult to fit in. Suffocated, they realized that they had do something about the situation, and that too, very fast. They searched high and low for the magician, planning to beg of him to restore the kingdom to sanity. But the magician was long gone. Defeated, they sat down outside his deserted cave. In the distance, they could make out the approaching mob. Time was running out.

Finally, one businessmen announced “I can’t stand it any further. Let’s go and drink from the reservoir. Come with me.”

But the second businessman was unmoved. “Do you mean that you will compromise your integrity, your values just so that you can blend in with a bunch of fools? I am sorry, but I cannot make myself do that. Here, take the deeds to my estate, and give me the jewels in your pocket in return. I will go elsewhere.”

The bargain concluded, the second businessman stood up and gave a long look at what had been his home for so many years. Then, he turned around and started to walk towards the neighboring kingdom. Separation was painful, but he had already gained all that he could here. It was time to move on.

After he could no longer be seen, the first businessman spoke to the third. “Come, let’s go drink from the reservoir. Or are you planning to leave the kingdom too?”

The third businessman was silent. After a length of time, he spoke. “Like the second fellow, even I am not willing to compromise my integrity, my values. But my deals here are not concluded yet. So I will stay. You go ahead and drink from the reservoir, I will only pretend that I have done so. Once my deals are through, I will leave the city too.”

Saying this, he stood up, and started walking back towards the city.

It Grows On You

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week I had to speak to two people about the new assignments I was proposing (yes, one of them was S). I opened up an instant messaging window, typed “Pls meet me”, and was about to hit the “Enter” key when I stopped.

I was about to do one of those things which I hate about my seniors here – treating employees like “Resources”, and not as “Humans”. Till a month ago, I would have walked over to their desks and spoken to them. If not that, I would have at least called them up to discuss. But I never used to break such news or discuss such important matters on chat – at least not in a brusque manner.

I have been constantly ranting about the culture in this company, and how I need to protect myself from getting infected. Last week I saw the first signs of the infection – thankfully I was able to recognize and avoid it. Right now I am looking for a vaccination. If you know any, please tell me.

P.S. – Post by email is great, no doubt about that. But I realize that I need handy a list of all tags already in use. Need to put that on my to-do list.

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