It is getting terribly busy again after a short break. Life is like clockwork, wake up at 6.20, if I am 5 minutes late, I will miss the train and if I am 5 minutes early, I will be relaxed a little bit and still miss the train. I liked that dialogue in "About a Boy" - "life is divided into time units, each unit consisting of 30 minutes. having haircut 1 units, dinner 2 units...” (I must be bad at dialogue writing. Even the reproduction from a recent memory doesn’t sound as suave as in the movie). I have this habit of daydreaming while brushing teeth and taking a shower – those are like quality time when I even get good ideas for the day – I totally agree to this notion that showers can be very inspiring.

It is 12 minutes walk from my home to train station. Now winter is almost here and morning walk is torture. So catch a bus from the end of the street, it takes 4 minutes from home to bus stop. That stretch of the road in the morning is in fact beautiful – bare trees at the end of autumn with its last frail twig visible, like a silhouette against mostly grey and very rarely orange sky, an old chapel and brownish buildings. On the way, an old lady will pass me by. If she pass me before I reach a certain point, I am going to miss the train. Before I reach the end of the road, I will meet a dog trainer. He will have different dogs every couple of days - he must be selling them too fast - he will have them in different sizes and colours. So I will step on to the road to avoid them - you see, I am afraid of dogs, even if they are on a leash. Their breed gave me enough reason to be afraid of them when I was a kid. I have the scars even now, only I can spot them - one on the palm and back of the hand when my hand was caught in his mouth and one strip of stitch on the arm when he clawed me.

I have this Nokia phone, which I mainly use for checking time in these walks. It is set 30 secs ahead of railway time. I will get a bus from that bus stop at 7.47. It will take another 4 minutes (if the driver is not new, if it doesn't stop at the next stop, if it doesn't get the next red signal and nobody tries to cross the road through a zebra line). Then out of desperation to reach station I will start having thoughts that my future is in my own hands and it should not be left to one inexperienced driver or un-timely red signals and that from next day onwards I will wake up early. So I will reach station by 7.51 and I can cross over through the side entrance. Only people coming from the side road uses that entrance, others by default take the front entrance which is heavily crowded. I am amazed why those guys who are running like mad to catch some train never think about this entrance. Anyway, I can coolly walk in, pickup a free newspaper and get to the platform to catch the 7.52 train which takes 10 minutes or so to reach my stop and from there another 10 minutes relaxed walk to reach office. So it is all timed.

In fact, within a minute if I don't get out of here, I will miss the next train to go home.
October was the busiest month so far and I took the longest blog break this time. If I don’t do something regularly I may end up stop doing it forever, so let me keep this going. I have started some posts during this period, but if I don't finish it off in one hard push, next day I may deem it as silly, pointless, or too negative and abandon it.

Meanwhile I have been discovering some new things to keep myself amused. First is Friends – TV series. I totally love it now. I wouldn’t have believed it if two years ago somebody told me that I will like it. I didn’t like shows where they insert audience laugh every 30 seconds as if they are giving cue for viewers that it is time to laugh. It is now used as a way to de-stress everyday. If you just overlook the fact that most of them are dirty jokes and all everybody does is dating somebody or other, it is very enjoyable. Brilliantly written, each character perfectly fits in and it is just something which totally clicked into a perfect groove. At times enough to make you roll with laugh.

English Premier League: It has everything. Drama, Suspense, Glamour and great actors. These people love the game very much or rather just love to be crazy about it. I used to watch Spanish league on and off because of Real Madrid and their star line-up- Ronaldo, Beckham, Sidane and group. But now, I get a free newspaper and 10 minutes of time in the morning (between stations) to read sports pages and get updated about the scores and game. Also once in a week, in a capsule, Match of the day with magnificent Gary Linekar. I know all the big names now and the fun is just starting. Watching sports gives this special kind of feeling - taking sides subconsciously, feeling the disappointment of loss and joy of a massive win, kinship with fellow fans and something common to discuss with people having nothing in common. When you hear somebody affectionately saying "what a waste of money this boy Rooney is" after he hit his debut hat-trick or at the end of a pointless meeting when somebody says “all that can wait. Now I will just go home, put on my red shirt and watch the game”, it just feels good.

Another of my fixations in recent past is “Serious” reading – it is something which I am not able to shake off after some miserable failures. I have been reading truckloads of Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Robin Cook, Clive Cussler, Michael Crichton, John Grisham and others during college. There used to be a pay per book library in Trivandrum called Elloor. It charges 10% of book’s price as rental; I guess this is a common practice in many metropolitan private libraries renting English books. So paperback books used to come cheaper and that too old ones have reduced prices, so save up from the college expenses for this. Before that it was Trivandrum Public library which had books with red or green hard cover with thoroughly dusted pages which became familiar to me as the colour of a library “book”. All these fictions (crime, mystery, action, world war, spies, law, a bit of fantasy and sci-fi etc) are without doubt interesting to read – so called thrillers or pulp fiction. But then I read some great ones once in a while like “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and those lightweight philosophical ones like Ayn Rand’s, then I think I was wasting time reading spy stories and it is time to grow up. After getting into job around 5 years ago, I had stopped reading altogether. Lately this serious reading thing started, so recently tried my hand at Umberto Eco, “Forrest Gump” etc but couldn’t even finish which is rare for me – not to finish something even if it is utterly boring. Need to decide which is better - “if you read, it should be for pleasure” or “pulp reading is like junk food”.

I think it is not yet time to make my decision to go back to murder mysteries yet. I am on the lookout for some true pleasures like “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, “Catcher in the Rye” or some lightweight philosophical ones. I haven’t got what is meant exactly by contemporary classics, but it sounds like what I want. So now fishing in Croydon central library which seems to have some good ones.
Just stopped working - like a machine grinding to a halt and refusing to move. It is a funny feeling, to have a mind which refuses to function, something like a small kid who is not capable of agreeing to logical reasoning. At these kind of times, a particular phrase floats up – relax like a cat. At times like this, I think I know what is meant exactly by that phrase. It must be like curled up in a couch, without moving a muscle, content and at peace with everything in the world.

So now while I am waiting till it is time for train and relaxing like a cat in office, let me take one line which caught my attention couple of days back. It is about ‘desi pros’ not having a long term career plan. I thought it may be correct. But then have I seen anybody with a plan? Should we do long term career plan and live according to it? It is fancy to say I don’t live according to any plan and I take one day at a time? But then will I be directionless in life? Forget about career plan, do I know what I want to do with life?

The article is saying that we are worried about near term goals like technology etc. Yes, I have been in the same situation. See the big picture - it is one advice given to every newbie. But then when you say see the big picture; don't be near sighted etc, are you missing out on the fun now. Long term look like a bore which you will be able to bear only if you are subjected to enough exposure and got mature. Visualize yourself as the head of the company - but do you want to head the company? When do people recognize their calling? As you read in novels, is it like a sudden realization that all this time you wanted to do something else and you are stuck somewhere else? In that case I can just wait for that realization. Human life seems pretty funny that way and the movie Matrix seems plausible irrespective of the green glitter. It is all in your head - it can conceal something from right in front of your eyes.

One question I am consistently having is have I seen anybody who knows what they want really?

On the top of my head: I would like to chill out in a calm place with most of the comforts, surrounded nice people and work for fun, not just for money. But then everything has ups and downs. I am coming back to an old line - see the positive side which actually means continue like this and don't think much.

Now I am tending to believe more and more on the quarter-life crisis.
When couple of guys asked me “How was Scotland trip?” I was a little confused whether to say it was great or it was good or it was okay. So as in my normal style, without giving anything away, without saying it was great or worse, I told them it was good in a nonchalant way. It was great at times, dull and tiring at times, but overall it was a good trip. We went in real desi way of sightseeing overseas ie, caught a bus (the cheapest, hardest and longest way) to Edinburgh first. London Victoria station was swarming with Chinese looking people and desis. Travel was much better than what I expected. The highways were too good (better than US), so we had a smooth sail into Scotland.

The first thing I saw in the dim light of the morning from the bus was mountains; it was the last thing I saw before dozing off in the return journey after three days. That pretty much tells the whole story; it is a place which lies between mountains. We had a guide cum taxi driver who explained that glen means valley, ben means big and nevis means heaven. We visited Glen Nevis (valley between Nevis river and highest peak in UK, Ben Nevis), three to four castles, Edinburgh Fringe (a festival of performance artists – I always thought British are heavy inclined towards stage acting and art), Fort William (castles and mountains and rivers, a bridge which was filmed in Harry Potter which lies in a beautiful valley called Glenfinnan, another valley which was filmed in Braveheart) and Inverness (more castles, rivers and mountains). There were beautiful moments like the glimpse of Glenfinnan which was worth going that far, it was a dream like place – as my wife says combination of mountains and water (and some blue sky) is really beautiful.

I think I had different expectations; that the place will be like those we see in Hindi film music with bluest water and greenest mountains. But I realize now that all that is glitter. Nothing is same as it appears. As they say, nothing is very beautiful, very complex, very frightening or very much perfect. Learn to live with the imperfections. Or may be I am not capable of simply become awed by something anymore.

I liked the feeling of history around the place, the scots with their skirt like Kilt, their castles (they would have gone around these mountains and fought with different invaders for ages) and their accent. People were really nice to us, even the one we fought with for cab fare. On the return journey, I was overhearing the bus drivers talking about their life. One was two years away from retirement and he was discussing the policies of bus company. He was talking about some route in which he used to drive; the best thing about that was he could come home to his wife everyday; they could get up in the morning together, go for a walk and plan things for the day. Here I am whining about the lack of challenges, lack of opportunities to work in exciting technologies and the myriad things which would feel ridiculous to these guys. They are talking about 10 to 14 hours of continuous drive in buses where you can’t sleep and move from your seat. I always wondered what will make you work in a coffee shop or in a ticket counter; not that I am above it or anything. Just thinking how it will feel, now that you have something better. What will your life be like? Anyways, overhearing total strangers conversation is interesting; they were talking about retirement plans, getting settled for the rest of the life, going fishing, guys working like machines in Whiskey Distillery and getting paid for every finished bottle so they work faster and lots and lots of tales from a different world, till I got tired and slept.
In college, when we discovered drinks, we used to chide each other saying that somebody’s hands tremble to signal that it is time for one. Somewhat like that towards the end of the week I feel like writing something (read complaining). As usual on Mondays I kid myself that there is a plan for the week and psyche myself up to get going. But towards the end of the week, enthusiasm dies down and then thoughts about what could have made my life better kicks in. Start dreaming about what if I went to work in jeans, T-shirt and slippers and worked with a bunch of fantastic guys who are out to do something than make-believe they are doing something. Sometimes I think I know what I need crystal-clear, talking about illusions.

Started reading ‘Fight Club’. I must be very bad in writing reviews, if I ever attempted. But somehow I seem to like every book or it must be that by spending one hour to choose a book from library I am making sure that it is appealing to my taste. I took this because its film version starred Edward Norton. From the time I watched ‘Primal Fear’, I think he overtook my previous hero, Richard Gere by just outperforming him. He must be an example on ‘Attention to Detail’, ‘Preparation’ and ‘Talent’ for novice actors. I haven’t seen the movie ‘Fight Club’ yet, but judging by the book, it will be something like ‘Seven’. One sentence from the last page I read is still lingering: “Sometimes when you wake up, you have to ask where you are.”

I am traveling to Scotland next weekend for three days. We are going to Edinburgh (in time for the festival, I think), Fort William and Inverness. Hope this will be a good break.
How do people grow into absolute morons? I have completed the discovery of what I like and don’t like in everything including food, drinks, dress, music, films, books, people and life. I have set opinions about everything in this world. I don’t want to move an inch when it comes to explore uncharted territories. “Think out of the box” they say, but I know don’t know that I am in a box. Yesterday somebody was saying, “You think you know, you think you are in control, but you are not”, felt like a definition of ‘The Matrix’. I don’t eat mushrooms, I just don’t like it and I might vomit if I taste them, or that is what I thought. I ate a Mushroom Fajita today, but didn’t finish it. I am a vegetarian, having never wanted to try chicken, without having the pressure of religion forcing me to be. Once a good friend of mine told me to try, insisted he won’t force me if I don’t like it afterwards (he was so convinced that I will like it), I ate a piece and promptly told him that I didn’t like it. I don’t like books which are self-narrated; the ‘I’ books in my own lingo. Given a choice I won’t read books written by women (Jane Austen and Ayn Rand surprised me). I don’t know why I don’t; I might have developed these distastes over time. I don’t know why people like to watch F1, cars just go round and round, what is the fun in that? I never tried to find out. If I walk a way twice and feel comfortable, I won’t dare try another one. Self-Contained, opinionated and dry.

I am bored with grown ups now, none of them can be interesting. Around this time, people start feeling how childhood was this great thing. When I was just out of college and started getting paid, I used to think why these guys are drooling after college life. In college you used to think friendship is the ultimate thing and having a good time with friends is irreplaceable. It was unthinkable that I won’t talk to those guys for four years. I have seen my friends planning out meetings every 5 years and setting dates like 1st Jan 2005, 1st Jan 2010 etc as mandatory reunion days to keep the bond. I don’t know whether they still talk to each other.

Growing up is fun, at least you get to try new clothes every year because you outgrow them. You are trying out new books, you haven’t developed you “tastes” yet. But now that you have eaten a piece of the cake and you are full. Now when you change a routine, it feels good. Walk around a road for million times, you will think you know every detail of it. But long back you would have determined what you want to see and what you don’t. I went into this obscure looking tailor shop in the road which I used to walk everyday, looked out to the road, it somehow seems different, maybe because now I am seeing it from a different angle I never knew existed. I don’t even want to talk about work. NO, I don’t want to talk this sermon thing any longer. It just used to be fun where I came from, now it is just routine. That’s all.

PS: Reading an “I” book now (Frank Skinner – by Frank Skinner. If you get it, don’t read it.) As usual, from every crap, I fantasize that I got something interesting. This guy is saying that it used to be so difficult to get a soccer ball from a terrace that they have to wait till they clean the terrace to get it. When he went back after 20 years, he was surprised at how low that ceiling was. And that he used to be amazed at this giant statue in some museum when he was a kid, but now when he went there, there was a small less frightening one sitting the corner. Something like my theory that the math I used to struggle with in 5th standard is so easy when I went to 7th. Just walk on. It will all blow over.

Another interesting thing: He quotes this story about time machine where a guy stepped on a butterfly and then fast forward to show how that triggered something like world war. It seems how true. What would have happened if I have answered properly for that question “If a two legged bird sits with a leg each perched on two electric wires, what will happen” in CTS interview. Somebody used to say that there are parallel universes and you get into different world when you unknowingly commit an act like that. It leads you to a totally different view of the world. You know, I am the only one who completely believed the story of ‘The Matrix’.
Missed the train twice today, so one hour at my disposal. Now they are saying that it may get delayed, re-routed or cancelled. So first time a blog post from public. It doesn’t feel like I came here two days back. By end of this week, I think I will feel that it had been ages. Got so much info about getting setup in UK that my friend KH might be bored to his bones answering my questions. I am getting enough exercise everyday, around 40 minute to and fro from hotel, office and railway station. Add last minute dashes to it, I got jogging also. Add 7 pounds laptop along with it, I got weight training too. By end of this year, I should be really fit.

I guess last couple of months has been really good for me. I bought a new car, a new house at Trivandrum, got couple of awards at work, got out of the project in which I already spent more than 1 and ½ years and came to UK now. It also had been some learning experience for me – did performance appraisals for some people and they gave me a good grill. I really took something from that experience on how far to go with people, setting over/under/no expectations and some others. Something made me think whether having personal relationship with people helps or being strictly work oriented gets the work done professionally. I thought maybe having a personal relationship makes you reveal more and restrain you from asking for more. You will have difficulty in being blunt. I haven’t made up my mind on this, but I have a good feeling that you can make some friends and some colleagues along the way, not all friends.

Train is getting delayed further. So some more. I planned to get out from office to catch an earlier train. Here people leave from office at sharp 5 pm. At 5.30 pm, they will be really rushing since they are late. At 6 I think the office gets locked. Today I had bit of difficulty getting out of office, so I missed a train and they have trains every half hour only. One happy thought is that this will surely improve my ‘work-life balance’. I need to get out of office by a fixed time.

I haven’t got a good grasp of things here. But it is definitely different from US. I have heard many a times now that here it is not service oriented. You get indifferent behavior if you go to a shop or bank etc. In US they make you feel important and setup good customer service standards. Sophistication is also one level down here. They have more old buildings (it is an old country after all), casual attitude (like us back in India) even though they insist on formal dressing. But at least in office, folks are much more intelligent than US.
Life has gone from a tranquil pace to a frantic frenzy within two days. It is like that F1 advertisement (or is it Toyota?) which shows a snail for half a minute and then suddenly shows a race car zooming at break-neck speed. I have to travel to UK next week and there is a mountain to move before that.

Relocating is like uprooting a plant. Back to mangalore after a long time, I almost got into the rhythm of established routines, faces and places. Sometimes I feel we are kind of gypsies, without having a permanent place to stay, moving around with bare minimum furniture to get by comfortably. It must be really getting into the nerves of our parents. They say, “but you came back only 6 months back..”. Within last 3 to 4 years, I have stayed in 6 or 7 houses ranging from 2 months and 1 year at one place.

Not that I regret going to UK. In more than one occasion, we have glanced at Thomas Cook vacation package for London. So now it gives me another occasion to see some part of the world which I have most read about. On the lighter side, now every Hindi movie is made there, so I have already seen most of it.

But this morning, I was having this kind of detached feeling about how everything goes upside down in a flash and you end up in a totally new situation. For some time my world is going to have new look, almost kind of another chapter.

Come to think of it, it was not totally unexpected also. So now it is time to move that mountain, pack up and leave.
My latest read: “Jack: Straight from the Gut” by Jack Welch. I wanted to read this one for some time. Somehow my previous boss (an MBA) instilled this belief in me that books by great management experts is worth reading and he gave some recommendations – this is one of them. But over time, I have developed some distaste for self-help kind of books which advertises “10 ways to make your wife happy”, “How to become popular” etc and the likes of “Chicken Soup for the soul” (I think they must have got a kick from the success they got for their first editions, so they started giving these soup bowls for Teenage soul, Couple’s soul, Mother’s soul, Daughter’s soul etc – you can find soups for any soul now). This one has a tag line which says “For every man and women who wants to succeed in 21st century” or something like that. Just because of that line, I would have dropped this book, but I saw that line only after borrowing it from a friend.

To tell you the truth, he is really an amazing man – it is not like you take a lottery coupon and next day you are chairman of GE. It takes lot of grit, intelligence, courage, passion and all that good stuff. So maybe there are some things which I can learn.

There is something he professes though out the book – ability to take tough decisions, be it people or business. I got fascinated by this term “Superficial Congeniality”; by being soft with people when you need to be brutally honest, you are doing injustice to yourself as well as the other person.

Once upon a time, I use to think that I can never be a manager type, I am too techie for that. I still harbor that thought some times, but maybe I can bring myself to terms with being in management stream and be good at it. Or maybe all this is “Quarter-life crisis” (a chain mail) which is talking about the confusion of twenty-something.

Funny side of it: I was telling my wife over lunch that this guy is great, but maybe he didn’t do good in his personal life because he divorced his wife after 28 years because they could not adjust with his workaholic nature. That is the downside of becoming a CEO. She promptly said that I can look for something peaceful after making enough money to sustain ourselves for some years.
“So you don’t want me to become a CEO? Any wife would want her husband to succeed.”
.......she was silent for some time and then replied
“Come to think of it, it is okay even if you become the CEO.”
Question in today’s newspaper: - Do you think we should have something similar to corporate culture in parliament?

This made me think a little bit about corporate culture. Maybe when it comes to parliament, we should talk about culture first instead of getting into something else. When I was a kid, I used to think that how can people ever be able to behave like they do. I thought maybe it is a problem with older generation, newer enlightened/educated/forward thinking youngsters will change all that and world will be a nicer place once again. I thought how one could ever be able to even think about the religion or caste of your friends or neighbors, when I listened to such discussions between my elders. I thought how you could be so mean behind ones back and say such things about them. How could you ever loath your friends and still smile at them and make sweet talk with them? I thought all this is going to change, I used to tell my father so and he used to wisely say that I am yet to get into the real world. I used to vehemently disagree and say that he is getting old and the new generation will change all this. Later I was really surprised when my friends started discussing about marriage (during college, generally) and said that they have to find a nice muslim/christian/hindu/nair/catholic girl and marry her and settle down for life. I asked couple of them and the answer was all the modern talks are fine but when it comes to your life, you won’t say that let your child go and marry a Muslim and say that I have a big heart about it. I used to see people who would declare that they consider their brother/sister among the dead since they married a Christian. I have seen death threats and attempted suicides, just on this marriage issue. Nothing changes with age around here.

So how could you cheat and take something which is not rightfully yours and be thick skinned about it. We have a stereotype about politicians that all of them are corrupt. Maybe that is because they reinforce that belief time and again. So what is corporate culture? Being fair about everything? Being professional and approach everything in professional manner? Be transparent about financial transactions? Work hard, achieve and be proud about what you do? Have a competency based work culture which allows you to progress if you work hard? Have thorough knowledge, improve continuously? You get ahead only if you are competent enough to handle the responsibility? As in normal life, I used to think that it is all that, everything is fair, human factors doesn’t come into all this, no sentimentality/partiality/ego issues, no reason to suspect anybody of foul play. But there also I get rude surprises once in a while. I believe I am wiser than that and can understand that world is anything but fair.

When they say, we are being so generous and that’s why you are getting a salary hike, what they actually mean is, here is a small bone, chew that and don’t jump out of here for sometime. I am not saying that it is all bad, but there are hidden agenda behind polished talk sometimes. But be high and mighty about it, at least you will feel good. People are intelligent nowadays, so politicians should also get that idea and move into much rosy “corporate culture” and keep doing the same thing behind a much more reinforced shield. Sometimes it just simply translates to being sophisticated about it all.

Other day, I read about CPI(M) thinking about training their leaders on how to answer questions in interviews, how to excel in debates (“Big Fights”, “Crossfires” and the like) and how to leverage this emerging force called the Media to their advantage. One good thing about communists is that they will theorize everything and make you think that there is a “philosophy” behind all this – so this time it is, our ultimate aim is to reach maximum people and convey the message, and so what is wrong in doing what others do. I am sure they will also have training where they will be taught not to say something which you don’t want to say, how to package it in a shiny envelope which won’t let you guess what is inside.

PS: excerpt from Chicago, Razzle Dazzle:

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?
What if, in fact, you're just disgusting?

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they;ll never catch wise!

How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Throw 'em a fake and a finagle
They'll never know you're just a bagel,

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll beg you for more!

Though you are stiffer than a girder
They let you get away with murder
Razzle dazzle 'em
And you've got a romance

Give 'em the old
Razzle Dazzle

Daze and dizzy'em
Show 'em the first rate sorcerer you are

Long as you keep 'em way off balance
How can they spot you got no talents?

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll make you a star!
In Mangalore when it rains it really pours and when it is hot, it is red hot. Now the rainy season has started. Didn’t even notice when we slipped into the routine of carrying an umbrella. It usually starts with the exact same day school opens after summer. I think I have bought the car at the right time because umbrella is just a play thing for this kind of rain. It will beat it and soak you by the time you count ten steps.

Right now I am exploring all the byways, alleys around the office with the car – still not confident of taking it to the main road. It is like those parents say that they are afraid of bringing up their kids in this kind of world. It would pain you when, with just a warning from a horn just behind your ears, they overtake you and you almost fear that they have touched your rear view mirror.

I was in Bangalore for most of last week. I think I am lucky not to bring up my car in Bangalore. It is jungle out there. If you stop at a signal, autorickshaws and two-wheelers will cover you like those flies. It would be almost impossible to get out of those claws without touching anything. I always tend to compare this with those building block puzzles. Within half a minute of stopping at a signal, each car/auto/two-wheeler will do their individual part and fit everything perfectly into the nooks and corners that it will be the most efficient way of packing different kind of vehicles into minimum space.

It is like art of walking in a crowd (I would think of the crowd coming out of a theatre) without touching anybody, but still maneuver by applying breaks, suddenly accelerating, sensing openings and counting on the speed of others when you cross over. It almost becomes a second nature in these parts of the world. Ever tried crossing over a 4-way intersection? It is just like those magic acts. Close your eyes and just glide forward, those who needs to stop will stop and you will reach there without a scratch. But you may get slightly scared if you keep your eyes open. It is not the concern for others which would make you good at driving; it is just the art of survival and protecting your skin at any cost which will see you safe at the end of the day when you reach home.

I know that it will all look very silly and exaggerated to a veteran, but maybe because I drove for around 2 years in US (that is the first time I owned a car), I have too many bad habits (like checking blind spot, waving pedestrians to cross the road – one guy today stared at me for stopping and asking him to cross the road, these concepts called “yield”, “signals”, don’t horn unless the other guy is going to hit you for sure etc). I have to unlearn a lot of things. Hope I will get better at it soon. Then maybe I will start appreciating my friend’s view that driving here is the ultimate enjoyment (why don’t they seek that enjoyment only from video games which allows you to restart the game when you hit something).
I was in classroom training for three full days this week. Reminded me of old college days. But this was more meaningful and I wanted to listen and understand, maybe because I can make direct use of the knowledge. In college, during some boring lectures, I used to shut myself out and completely get lost in something else. Now I can attend sessions only if I want to and only if it is useful for me. There is a difference in trying to mug up something for getting good grade and studying something to make use of it. I still maintain that we have a rusty education system.

Some random thoughts related to this:-
I attended a long seminar where technical details were getting explained with general statements like “it is good”, “it will make your life easy”, “it is the in-thing now”, “it is accepted by industry and pioneered by major players”, “great people are talking about it”, “statistics shows that it is better”. I wanted to say “cut the crap and get to the point”, but as usual I didn’t even show that I am not interested. At the end, I am not clear what “it is” and how exactly is it great. All this statements doesn’t make it great, accepted or respected. It is like painting a very foggy picture, no outline visible, you can’t make out any shape out of it, but it is made as if it has some meaning. You won’t be able to say for sure that are bluffing or you won’t be able counter argue because they haven’t said anything clearly. They specialize in making general open-ended statements which can interpreted either way. I get a feeling that there is nothing tangible, nothing intelligent, no use listening to this babble.

It is almost like you can spot phonies by just listening to them for some time. Elusive, shadow-fighting are some words coming to my mind. Sometimes I think the one problem with corporate culture is, these non-absolutes grow much faster than anybody else. It is somewhat difficult to deal with such guys. Maybe it is one of those skills needed to survive in this world. But only problem is, you keep painting an unclear picture every time, you may end up disoriented yourself.

One piece of quotable quote (I don’t remember exact words): Don’t accept anybody else’s reality as your own just because they say so. Subject it to your own reason and accept it as your reality only if it is reasonable to you. Don’t fake reality.
“What’s up?”
“Nothing Much. Going on as usual. Usual work, usual life, no changes.”

Sometimes we want change desperately and sometimes we protect ourselves from changes. If it was like tasting different dishes, we could have determined which dish we want to have after some tries. But no, here if something tastes bitter, it lingers on and spoils the next too. So it is like somebody shouted “Statue” and walked away. You can move but you don’t even think about it. It is total inertia. There is an exciting world out there with thousands of possibilities, but why are people stuck in mundane jobs as if in a trance? It is like that movie, “Pleasantville”. Life is like a clock-work, nothing should disturb it, and it will go on in its set pace and course. When it is idle, a thick cloak will settle on the top and seal it from any intruder. I sometimes think that the problem with our country is also this inertia. Its cities maybe developing, but travel 20 km out of it, you will find same old life with its blank stare. Somebody should shake us once in a while and ask us to sit up and take notice.

- This started with one statement: “Let’s buy a new car. Atleast we will have something exciting in life for sometime”. At least a pebble dropped into pool of still water.
Which is better? Having no competition at all or having competent antagonists? Hard, unforgiving, ruthless competition raises the level of the game. There is not much pleasure in winning hands down. Winning a hard fought battle gives much better satisfaction than playing a game knowing that whatever mistake you make, you cannot loose. A lion who reigns alone, who doesn’t have anything to fear, will become lazy and which may even lead to his downfall. The hand which works the most becomes stronger compared to the limp one which assists. Everything which is idle will catch rust – be it brain or body.

Raising the level of the game – it truly is a unique feeling. You will be surprised at your own skill – surprised at the fact that all this time, you were able to play this well, but realizes it only on the face of competition. At the end of it, you would be grateful to the opponent for offering such resistance which made you realize your potential. But at the end one should win. I think winner takes all – they are fooling themselves when they say “taking part in the game is the biggest feat, not winning it”. It is just to make sure you participate and give a morale boost when there is nothing to be proud of.
He is not able to comprehend the nature of their hate. He does not hear the poisonous venom they spit out behind his back. They are afraid to look in his eye, lest he will figure out the lack of intelligence in them. They say he is a heartless, ruthless materialist who knows nothing but how to make money, but not capable of spiritual enjoyment, while he is the one who is most capable of enjoying life. Competence is the only currency with which he deals with men. Spark of intelligence can light him up. He turns his face away when they start with “I think..”, “It seems to me that..”, “According to so and so..” etc.

It is a zombie world with expressionless faces - afraid to look in the eye, bored, unseeing, blank eyes. A man who stands firm on his feet, not scurrying to collect the bread crumbs dropped by somebody else, a man who lives by his own standards, his own moral code, not looking for his reflection in the eyes and words of others, is a rarity.

Reason, clarity, logic, courage – hard to find commodities in today's world. Nobody cares for anything which happens around them. A quote for the day – politics thrives on the fact that majority doesn’t care. Reality is lost in the razzle-dazzle of pretenses. Men who practice the art of deceiving others efficiently can go straight to the top – that is the highest quality. Talk without conveying any meaning, order without assuming responsibility and shift blame to next person you see when anything goes wrong. Successful man can always find somebody to blame for everything that goes wrong.

For years we have been taught that going after anything is futile because nothing lasts forever. We have been injected with antidotes for reason, hope and ambition. We have been told that pleasure experienced by body is sin, being materialistic is trivial and wanting anything is an illusion which we should guard against. We have been taught not to expect returns from any venture. We are trained to be the zombies of today's world.

Among all this, he stands tall, proud of his achievements and ability, with the weight of whole world on his shoulders.

--- An impressionable mind fed with a strong dose of “Atlas Shrugged”.
One incident made me think about the abstract nature in which we think about the code we develop. We spend so much time on designing, developing and testing some code that we lose the focus on the end users who are going to use it. We know too much gory details about the code that it is going through thousands of lines for doing some function and we are thinking about the minutest details. We don’t see a non-IT, regular person in the counter of a shop using our application. Instead, we see it going in and out of IF loops and FOR loops. I wonder how will be the case with Doctors – they know too much gory details about the body, will they lose the ability to appreciate human body as something beautiful?

There is one usual comment given to freshers – “see the big picture”. It feels corny to say that think about the users of your application while developing. But it is important to see the one thing they will expect out of your application. I had read an article comparing software development with painting. I would also like to think about software development as an art form – at least it gives me a good feeling to think about it that way. There is lot of creative work involved in there.

Once upon a time, it used to give me a feeling of adventure also – to delve into uncharted and dangerous terrains (undocumented massive applications) and try to enhance it, or design something complex, which would tickle my little brain, unique feeling when something works fine. For an artist, it must be immense pleasure when people truly appreciate his painting or music. It would definitely make me happy if a user says, you have made my life easy and thanks for that. Again it is not the often repeated word (there some words which are used so much that it is starting to show the wear and tear), “Customer Delight”. The delight is all mine, to have designed and developed something good. I would like to be satisfied first on anything I deliver.

At the end of the day, it is just another job which pays well and we are nothing but workers creating factory products. But looking at the fancy side of it and giving it an air of art, makes it worthwhile.
Multi-tasking. This is one skill, which would help me a lot right now. I got into one task for last three hours and I am waiting for last 20 minutes for something to finish so that I can continue. I don’t want to start something else meanwhile. I had made a list of 6 or 7 “things-to-do” in the morning, but I don’t want to get out this one. Sometimes the intention is to finish one by one. It gives a very nice feeling to mark each item as completed. It will give a very good feeling if all items are marked at the end of the day. But it never happens.

It needs something called context switching. If all 6 items are entirely different from each other, there is reluctance from within to start doing next one. It is just like trying to drive, shift the gears gradually and get going in full speed, then apply sudden break, then start all over again.

My previous boss (a lady) once forwarded a clip, saying women are better at multi-tasking than men are:-
“This evolutionary divide can be seen all over the modern world. Almost exclusively airport traffic controllers are male, this appeals to their spatial skills after all and they are intrinsically better at it then women. On the other hand, the majority of secretaries are female, this isn’t because of male oppression but simply that women are better at the multitasking needed to do this job. “

No idea whether this true. It needs ability to leave something unfinished and not even think about it afterwards. It becomes more difficult when all these 6 items will have to continue for a week and little of each has to be done every day. I need to determine a sequence, time to spend on each task and put time slots for each.

Knowing when to stop pursuing something is vital. To increase the efficiency, one should know when to shift the gears. If you are heading for a dead end in any one of them, either change tracks immediately or leave it as it is and come back later to have a fresh look.

So let me abandon what I am doing right now and move on to next in the list.
I am trying to read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand for last 2 months - 2 pages per day, but somehow I am keeping it going. During my furious reading days (school/college), I used to finish a book at one go sometimes without putting it down even once. If a book is taken up on a weekday, then until it finishes, there is a good feeling while returning home that there is something waiting for me. It is like the excitement of a kid waiting for the postman to bring the month’s edition of children’s books.

Reading sometimes gives a feeling of getting detached from this world for some time and wandering in the fantasy worlds built with words. Something like a drunken stupor. Slowly the characters will be given a shape, some nudging from the author by giving hints about their features, then each small piece is added up, then we match it with somebody or something we have seen and registered in the subconscious and starts taking them through the story. Sometimes at the end of the story, I had revelations that the place, which I was imagining while reading, was something I had seen in a movie. It is like a drama going on in mind - characters, place and time constructed from the hints given by the author, played out on the script provided by the book. There is creative activity going in the background. It does not stop with that. It is like taking a shot of strongest liquor. Effect lingers for couple of days. Keep replaying situations going back and forth in the story, changing the course of the story, giving new climaxes, thinking over some new ideas from the book and discussing it with any available person. A story, which can take you away from this world as far as possible or lets you forget everything around you for sufficient period, is the best. If you say at the end of a show that you didn’t notice time flying by, then it must be something good.

I started this post for saying something about the philosophy in Atlas Shrugged, but as usual went off track. I will get back to that some other time.
I was searching for “design flexibility” in google today and came across this interview with Martin Fowler. I was looking for general best practices in making the design flexible enough to make maintenance and changes easy. Something like flexible molding material which you can change without much effort. I had read about regenerative systems some time back. Some fantasy about self-healing or intelligent error handling programs. If these errors out, then it can start looking for the actual cause of error by itself, fix that and start running again without manual intervention. Sounds fantastic. It is not a sophisticated idea which sounds good on paper but not good for real life application development. Maybe not in an expansive manner, at least the idea can be implemented.

Following are some quotes from this article.
“We seem to have a notion in the software industry that doing a good job slows you down.”
Yes, I have this opinion some times. Not literally, but pulling off a perfect job takes time. I always work within pre-set time limits and one prime objective is to deliver good quality product within set time lines. If you have unlimited time at your disposal, then making something perfect is just a matter of patience. I have also advised others that don’t tinker with something until you get satisfied, but rather finish it off and proceed with next life cycle. It is not for just finishing the task for the sake of it, but to take care against next cycles getting squeezed because of this. The theory is, if making it 90% perfect took 100% of time, then the rest 10% will take much more.

In this model of working (waterfall) in a one-dimensional manner, there is little choice but to start with coding once you think design is more or less correct. Is this where iterative, agile, extreme methodologies makes a difference? Making a perfect design of a part is easier than designing a complex system at one go. When you have to compromise because of time lines, this axiom is true.

“Planned design's weakness is that creating a well-planned design is actually really tough.”
“Why?”
“Martin Fowler: I don't know. Why is composing symphonies tough? I don't know. It's just very few people in the world can do it well. And I think that's the case with upfront design. It is very hard to do well. “


It is true that making a perfect upfront design is tough. You have to visualize the complex system which you are designing completely. You have to be imaginative enough to see all its flow from start to finish. You are expected to fill in all the loopholes and all the tiny cracks.

I just had a brainwave - let me take the example of cooking. If I decide beforehand that I am going to use a certain amount of vegetables, water, salt, pepper etc and start cooking, chances of it being edible is less. I am least experienced in cooking, but from my limited experience, adding ingredients as needed into a basic mix with multiple iterations helps to test the taste regularly and improve. Final product is always tastier compared to first method. But somehow, I was not able to practice the iterative development in a full-fledged manner so far. So I don’t know the other side of the story.

“focusing on superficial problems can lead to the discovery of substantial problems”
This is true not only in design, but in other areas also. Biggest hurdle when I face new situations or new problems is courage to attempt solving it. Fear of unknown is one big deterrent which makes people believe that it is complex. But scratch the surface, series of small discoveries will add to the confidence for exploring more. The problem will get solved by itself.
Direction, Clarity, Presence of Mind, Care, Composure, Control, Articulate, Integrity, Honor, Honesty, Precision, Perfection, Pleasant, Open, Serious :- some I would like to have.

Timidity, Fear, Unnecessary elation, Patronizing, Envy, Panic, Dramatize, Overreact, Conspire, Boast, Pretend :- some others I would like to avoid.
Slept really late yesterday. Doing nothing. Nowadays there is no time to spend like that also – doing nothing. Watched highlights of cricket match couple of times, cricket news in every channel, made sure that I got my complete fill of the Indian victory. Today read every article in the sports section of the newspaper also. Now that chapter is closed. I am going to give a rest to cricket for some time. It is taking lot of my free time.

Before this cricket series started, it was football. I was following Real Madrid and once they were out of the competition, that ended. Today I was watching something where Pele was saying that every great team would have one star player. Real had Beckham, Zidane, Ronaldo, Carlos, Figo – but still they could not go all the way. If one could measure talent quantitatively, then a player having largest amount of it, could be matched by a group with average amounts of it. So a team of medium talented players fitting in just like pieces of jigsaw can also be a great one. But only difference is there is no single face to pin all that greatness to. People will forget the greatness of a team of 80’s easily, but won’t forget the great player of 80’s. I don’t have much interest in British football, don’t want to start. Not atleast this season.

I am really afraid whether staying up until 2 or 3 am is becoming a habit. It is really having its toll on my wife. I am afraid I am turning her clock also to sleep late. Slept till 2 pm today. Seeing me waking up at 2 o’clock on a Saturday with a stiff neck, a friend had adviced me to get up early and enjoy the weekend. But weekends are taken for catching up on all the lost sleep. It is like a long journey through the mazes of bizarre dreams. Especially when you oversleep. What the mind conjures up as dreams is amazing - places, people, situations all mixed up.

Striking a perfect balance between work and life is getting difficult. Now even I am guarding myself against making unhealthy habits and give each its own required place and importance. Not doing really anything about it, but I don’t know as yet what can be done.

I was catching up with some of my frequent blogs. One was saying that everybody presents their best face to strangers, so don’t just go by what is written down. There could be more behind these written words. Another was saying that surely he won’t write anything about how he fell in love, because he doesn’t want to share that with strangers. Yet another was saying that he won’t write politics, so as not to muddy the water. Another was saying that send the link of your blog to your mother, sister and girlfriend. That way you won’t write anything unnecessary. I guess there will always be something which you want to keep only to yourself. Most guarded secrets of a person which he won’t acknowledge even to himself. There are shared feelings with our near and dear which one need not flaunt in public and disrespect those feelings. These are common property on which both parties have some right. You don’t have any right to make decision whether to tell others about it. I sometimes feel, we have different faces to show to every one. Adjusting the shapes according to what others want to see. Admit it or not, people always adjust to others expectations. Sometimes even language gets modified when talking to different people. Show one face, have same set of feelings, speak same language to all, guard against transformation – is that the sign of maturity? As for me, there will be a line drawn as to where I should stop. It is not the fear of others seeing my ugly faces, but out of something called self-respect. But I need not have restriction that I won’t say anything about politics, sports, technology or any of the wordly things. Whatever it is which interests me.

I don’t know what I am saying. I think waking up late is having its toll on me. I have a heavy head. I came to office to finish off some work. Now I will get back to that. Two more hectic weeks. As always, I hope, after this, I will get back some control on my life and some “quality time”.
Fridays are the best days of the week. It is pure peace to think about couple of days ahead. There is a bubbly, jumpy, springy feeling in legs from the morning (probably because of the Adidas shoes worn only on Fridays, which is a respite from unforgiving formals worn on the other days). Feel casual, work casual, have something to look forward to, work is also enjoyable, feels like talking to friends and finish off the day, feels like getting out of office early. I do not have the luxury of enjoying the whole weekend since some work is left to be done, but still it doesn’t feel bad.
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So much about Friday. I was catching up with some of my frequent blogs yesterday. It is interesting to see what they are thinking/doing, how their mood flickers and interests change. It would be a great feeling if these blogs exists for 20-30 years, then I would have known these people and their thoughts for so long. It would be some feeling to grow old and look back at my oldest posts.
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Cricket bonanza is over. I was waiting for the fifth day of last Test, which would have been played out on Saturday. But Pakistan meekly surrendered. I didn’t like the way Inzy gave up. He should have fought atleast by himself. It was like giving the victory to India by force. After dropping six catches, Indian team managed to bowl them out in a day. This is stupendous when you think that Pakistan dropped Dravid twice also. They have failed in every aspect of the game. They came back from the trenches and won the second test, but what hit them in third? Are they bent on winning so much that they stop performing? I am starting to sound like Sidhu. When Sidhu speaks, they should focus the camera on his companions. I would like see them trying to keep a straight face.
I always thought Pakistan is a formidable opponent with good sporting skills, better physique and good pool of talent. But they lacked the resolve. Dravid was superb. He is demanding a place in the greatest list. Watch his interviews, the way he answers the questions tactfully and positively is a lesson to even diplomats. I wonder what he is in real life. B-School graduate? I was also thinking what will be his next role after cricket (that is still a long way, but). Will he take up after Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and others? He can take up politics, if he wants.
It was great cricket, though. At the end, somebody has to win. Happy that it is India.
I had a great achievement also. I could get my wife interested in the game. Now I got company to watch the game and discuss the details passionately.
Calendar on my desk for this month reads - “Optimism: The hopeful sees success where others see failure; sunshine where others see shadow & storm”. If only I could see success, happiness and sunshine through the thick fog of confusion and uncertainty, always. I do not want capsules, doctrines, pep talk and other remedies prescribed by modern hippies for mental peace. Find your own way to reach there. But when do I finish my black book of ideals, principles and perspective and live by it? Why do I think I need it? Everyday, I think I am older and more mature than yesterday and I repent some of my yesterday’s actions as childish. When does one finish the process of growing up, see the world through the wise eyes, and be able to explain ones actions completely? Body reaches maturity one day and it stops to grow and only shrivels with age. But when do I see my mental maturity to reach its maximum growth? Sometimes I think I am becoming a cynic in life.

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I need to get some life outside office. I have worked the hardest for last two weeks. Everyday including Saturday and Sunday until 3 am. There was tension, chaos, uncertainty, but everything turned out fine in the end. I didn’t think about it much, but I enjoyed it a lot. I like working myself upto my limits. I used to play table tennis for hours continuously. Partners come and go, but I used to be there at one end of the table. At the end, sweat coming out of every pore, I would like to rest and then take a lazy walk. But I never used to get a partner. I lured many of my friends, taught them the game, made them play, but they eventually lost interest. Some good old times. Back to my work. I have completed one part of it. Second part is building up. I have gruelling weeks to come; if I don’t manage correctly, it could also blow up. About 3 weeks to go. From tomorrow, no moment to waste, with the fullest of energy, with the sharpest of mind.

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I am thrilled with the way cricket is going. Nowadays I read every article in the sports section of the newspaper (within ten minutes snatched away in the morning). There is big fight going on in office bulletin board about cricket. I guess corporates will have a huge loss in productivity due to this series. But cricket is bringing beautiful pieces of writing too. I liked some written by my colleagues. I am a fan of Harsha Bhogle. I loved one of his articles, Sign of the times. I pitched in couple of times to offer my piece of mind too. It is celebration times, but as always, I am skeptic of their continued success.

I don’t feel very strongly. I like to enjoy the game and leave it at that and don’t get too much into history, statistics and such and start arguing. At all times, keep in mind that it is just a game. Just for the fun of it, I replied to one of the posts in bulletin board:

This is a new phenomenon about Sachin bashing. These same elements would not have even wagged there collective tails when Sachin was bashing others with his bat. When he gets single digit scores in two matches, you scream at him to score. When he scores 140, you scream at him to score even more and ensure that the team wins. Then you demand personal commitment towards team’s victory, not teamwork where everybody contributes towards victory. When he scores 140 and still India won’t win, it is Sachin who failed, not this new fantasy “Team India”. Australia is a team where everybody has enough potential to contribute. Here we are afraid when this paper tower is going to collapse. We depended upon personal achievements to forward the team. Now when there are four youngsters who are worth something, it is team India.

There is nothing wrong in aiming something personally and get going to achieve it. If a person doesn’t know what he wants and how to get it, how can he get it done for others? Even the declaration wouldn’t have become a controversy if India declared at 650 instead of 675. If you can wait that far, there is nothing wrong in waiting for two more overs. If this happened due to a miscommunication between captain and player, it is fine, but if you say person does not matter only the team matters, what does it do to a person’s self-respect. Nobody likes to hear that you are dispensible at any point of time and that you as a person is insignificant.

Strong willed individuals who knows what they want can form a good team.

Don’t attach greatness and tell him that he is not great.
Don’t attach divinity then accuse him that he is not god.
Don't hail them as "Sultan of Multan" today and treat them like a pauper tomorrow.
Let them play for what they are worth.
P&P: Planning and Prioritization

All my carefully planned, well thought of, ingenious ideas are crumbling to tiny pieces. I prepare a weekly plan to get to know week’s objectives well in advance for me and team, prepare daily plans for me, end of day achievements, team’s daily plan and then replan in case of contingencies. I spend ½ hr everyday morning doing this planning. Then lets the team also know what the objectives are. This is on the top of sending them the detailed schedule for things to do. I review the progress regularly; have daily review sessions planned which I conduct in crunch situations. I think about improving me and my team every day. I am logging the random ideas I have, short term and long term action items, to improve on any problem I observe (which is sent to team and feels like it is going in a back hole). I conduct feedback sessions (One-to-One sessions, I call it) every two months or so. I give them feedback on what they did, what do I expect, which ones to improve, which ones to keep doing. I am not a planning freak who does not do anything but plan. I am not a perfectionist.

The biggest down side is, after all this, I spend long nights in office. By god, I am trying hard, really hard.

I don’t fret over things,
I don’t crowd people with my plans,
I give them space.
I am not doing great
At least what I think is great –
Compared to that I am not even mediocre
But I want completeness in everything I do
Have to feel that I have put my best into it
Then I feel comfortable
Nobody forces me,
I force myself,
Not to impress anybody,
But to have the satisfaction
I don’t keep at one thing
Till it is too perfect
I know when to let go
But still I end up working every hour in between meals and sleep.

I just put down this sticky in front of me:
Don’t mince words. State the actual problem. (I think that others may feel bad. But for a pro, the aim is to get it done.)
Do it thoroughly or don’t do it.
Don’t get emotional, take a moment to think.
Don’t waste time!!! (Like this)

Life is continuous improvement, introspection, questioning, and correction. But without results.
Sometimes I think whether I seriously have a problem with grasping some control. When rope is slipping from my hands, I don’t even mind. Take life as a game you would like to play well. I can be competitive in a game, if I know how to play – I have demonstrated that with couple of them, but it is still mediocre. But here if I lose hope of winning, then I am losing the urge to fight. “If you can’t win, go down fighting”. What is the use? If there is a sinking feeling, then relax your muscles and let it do whatever it wants? Let the wheels roll and take you wherever it goes? Inaction. When it requires maximum work to be done, when it hits hard where it hurts, when it tumbles down with smoke and dust all around you, when you feel the pressure of the mountain you are trying to move is going to crush you, what if your nerves just give up? What if it just ceases to care and let it all take its course? Sleep and hope that when you open your eyes again, everything will be all right?

Challenges should thrill, without challenges there is no fun, harder the battle, more fun in winning it. Challenges without stakes are also not much fun. If winning and losing does not mean different things, there is not much fun.

Forget the aching shoulders, forget the chaos, and see the light at the end of tunnel. Fix your eyes on that, let the periphery blur. Detach the claws one by one. Crouch to leap ahead and with sure steps, march towards that light.
It is like calm after a torrential rain. Office has grown a little silent after 7pm. Now some decibels are clearer or am I listening for the first time today? There are clicks from space bars around me. Since it is the key that is hit the most, it has lost its bearings and sounds like a hollow tin. It is the sound of this place - the sound of space bar. Every factory will have its own noise, its own smell - something similar. Then somebody hits an enter key with vengeance. This new mouse has that scroll on it - it should be greased, if somebody tries to go to the end of a document using that, it makes screeching sound, sounds like using sand paper to smooth a rough surface, insistent sound in short installments. Why don't they make it noiseless? - I guess whatever I hear, is from old furniture, which will be replaced soon. Old compaq PCs replaced with new Dell and HP flat screens and noise less keyboards - then this music will reduce in tempo. Other musical instruments are those chairs. It is comfortable, all right. But some of them creak. Some of them make sound as if it is breaking. Then there is the melodious low growl of phones. If you detach yourself from these sounds, it sound like water dripping from trees onto puddles of water or tin surfaces after the rain - clicking sounds coming from all around with no sequence. Thinking about rain, it hasn't rained since I came back to Mangalore - long time. One of my favorite pastimes is to read or watch TV while it rains buckets outside with a furious wind swaying the trees. I just have to wait couple more months for that.

Coming back to the music inside the office, I don't notice this at all normally - it is sound of daily life. But after a splitting headache suppressed with pain relief tablet, a throbbing head catches these decibels more clearly.
“I need closure”. I have read that in some fiction. A person who was wronged or who did something awful cannot live peacefully until he satisfies himself that it is closed in the best way he can and then he can breathe normally. He comes back, repents his actions and then asks for absolution. Then he gets closure to his pain, his discomfort and his state of hanging on a nail. Or he was wronged by somebody whom he did not expect it from, or whom he held closer to his heart, he wanted to ask why was it done to him? I was thinking, what is the big deal. Forget it and move on. But I guess the best thing to do in such circumstances is to turn right back to the faceless, nameless feeling, try to confront and then bring an end to it – be it confession, questioning or whatever action it may take. Close the chapter, if possible with a happy ending.

Just a string of thought remotely related to something that is bothering me.
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I saw this movie “Leon, The Professional”, some time back in which Jean Reno is a hatchet man – a professional one. I liked that guy in some movies (eg: “French Kiss” etc). There are a quite a few movies with professional con men and hit men like Leon. They show tough guys who knows all the tricks of the trade, all the tools (at least they can churn out sentences filled with C6, M5, 0.45, 0.85 etc). They have been in all sorts of situations; know how to pull off any mission. Give the requirement, they will chart out ways, give the list of things they need (“The Heat”, “Ronin”), recruit specialists in explosives, cover etc (I am a bit rusty, I am quite out of date with those KGB, CIA fictions and movies – I used to know quite a lot). Then they execute the job, get out of it without a scratch with the booty and do not feel a bit of emotion or elation.

Being a “pro” means something – thorough knowledge about the trade, knows all the byways and shortcuts, knows how to execute something to perfection and have the satisfaction of “job well done” without emotion, ego issues etc.

My breed is called Software Professionals, but I am yet to find true professionals. It is kind of macho stuff kids believe in, but the core is dedication to what you do and the satisfaction of getting it done well. That is probably where I want to see myself in another 5 years – a true pro?
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Yesterday I was frustrated by a hurtful comment in blog – I know that I shouldn’t take it serious, it doesn’t matter one bit, I am writing for my satisfaction and to make myself clear about my own scattered thinking. I deleted that comment. Why am I writing this down? Nowadays I seem to ask that question quite often (I guess my courting period with blogging is over). If I keep something that I wrote for more than a day, I will not put it up because I will think that it is too silly. So I have now an unused folder where I keep the scrap. So why blog? After venturing into this, just checking back, I think it helps to keep “the feet firmly on ground” as I read somewhere – giving shape to spurts of thought and thereby realize the whereabouts of oneself by writing and thinking about it. I guess I will keep it as it is – update it with whatever, whenever I want. Cut “..and some software” from it and create separate one to keep notes related to that (I am not getting time to do that).
Weekend Plans

After a long long time, I am going to relax this weekend. I have been working like a dog for last two months. I need to set down my burden for some tim. I hope I won't have to come to office on both the days. I hope I don't even have to take any work home. Saturday there is india-Pak cricket. So have to get up early. Need to warn my wife earlier that I will be busy (idle?) the whole day, need to muster some good arguments - that I haven't seen one match completely for over four years (but I am watching almost all the highlights including matches like Zimbabwe-Bangladesh - hope she won't come up with that point), that it is the "do-or-die" for our "boys" and if I am not there in front of TV and one more prayer added in my name, it may hurt their chances. That "it is mother of all cricket battles" and try to make her interested also so we can watch together – it is one good old technique.

So I am going to relax like a cat. Need to stock up some snacks. It is not everyday an indo-pak cricket comes on a weekend. Need to get a book (to read during breaks). It will be a hot day. It will be calm, there won't be any noise (there won’t be any kids playing cricket outside our apartment and yelling like mad). Curtains will be flapping its wings from a nice breeze – somehow it gives me a feeling of serenity. It will be a perfect day if India fights and wins – there is not much thrill in winning hands down.

I already have some hurdles which might spoil all my day dreams – I was asked to do some cheerleading for our department in some function ( “team-buliding-exercises”), but I could turn it down. Now somebody is saying that only one TV channel is broadcasting the game, which is not available here. Hope it works out.

I have read an article proclaiming that Indian’s craziness for cricket is affecting their economy. That they have been fed with some thing vile which is making them imbeciles. That it is the only game where so much time is wasted. That it is a deliberate move from old colonial masters to get us addicted to this game before they left. I think there could be lots of answers to these, but I have only one explanation - I enjoy watching it thoroughly - that is the only reason we need to have for doing anything, I guess.
Should I get bored if two or three days turned out exactly similar and dull? Do I need to be more patient to let this tide pass and wait for the sun to come out? I am bothered with too many disturbing thoughts – no, I am not making this up. Do lunar cycles really have an effect on us? I guess if we can explain the mood swings based on some tangible reason like that, it should have been easier to wait for it to subside.

One of my friends (sensitive, sentiments – he hasn’t even heard about these words, but basically good at heart – so we get along) once offered an analysis after reading a bit of Freud - that my basic characteristics is melancholy. Very Strange – this comment came in between a very ordinary conversation in no particular place, when we were waiting for somebody outside a house – but every time I think about this comment, I get a clear picture of the cemented lawn with a coconut tree and its gnarled roots protruding and we two standing by the side of it, his bike somewhere near, sun already set and very dimly lit. Funny how you associate even some not-so-important events in your life with the place and time and with an image – like a catalogued picture card pulled out to read out the note. I suppose there is lots of catalogued cards like that which flash when you think of some things.
Maybe he was right (for once), but anyway I am not exactly the opposite, so it leaves room for very little argument.

It is bit difficult to untangle the messy knot and separate the strings of thought so I can attack one by one – but I can distinguish one of them. It is an old question which keeps coming back during every one of my blackouts – that I don’t have a real goal – personal, work, or anywhere. I started reading “Atlas Shrugged” – going in a crawling pace. It professes one idea continuously – that the most depraved kind of man is one without a purpose in life. I am not sure whether the book is manifesting the disturbance I feel or it augments the thought I already have. Once and for all, I should decide whether I should give some merit to this and do something about it. I happened to talk to some friends – but they seem to be much more immersed in this and disillusioned than me. Is it a problem with the times that we are going through – nobody knows what they want in life? Or nobody ever thinks about it and it is better to get on with life than indulge in such fancy thoughts? Maybe thinking in these lines is a luxury. Do I need a shrink, career guidance or a friend? I should probably think some more and separate facts and fantasies.
Put a person bodily on a tank full of water and put a heavy stone on the chest, heavy enough to get a sinking feeling without hope. Ever felt like that – pressure on the chest with feeling of doom? There is a deadline looming large and after three days of limited sleep my head feels like big, swollen thing which is pricked by some sharp object at times. Something like a zombie trying to drag his feet and somehow touch the finish line.

But to tell you the truth I think I don’t resent, but enjoy this struggle. I think this has some purpose, some sense of achievement, some satisfaction of something creative being done, some satisfaction of using cells in my brain which were in a coma state for a long time. Thinking about brain dead – I wonder how much am I using that powerful machine of mine? I think since my head is swollen, I can imagine a big unused, well preserved (?) gray matter sleeping for years inside my head. Frankly speaking, today's software development firms doesn’t need people to use any part of brain. It just needs little practice – like typing. But even then India is becoming a super power. So there must be lot more untapped gray cells. Won’t it be great to get a medicine or something which can cultivate these cells a little more?

Even to get an engineering degree (at least with the education system we have) we don’t need to use too much of brain, just a little bit of RAM kind of memory – short term. I exercised that feature very well. I used to study just on the previous day of final exams. For one of them, which was supposed to be very fuzzy and all, I had severe headache on the previous day of final exam (that was the day I had planned to study in my calendar). In the evening, a friend came to get some capsule sort of lesson on one part. The exams used to be three parts or something. I don’t remember exactly now. From each part, you need to answer 2 questions or something. So you can do a gamble if you don’t have time or inclination to study. You can pray to god and skip some portions altogether and still survive. So this friend of mine had studied one part and he wanted to get a shot from me for the second part. I got really depressed because I didn’t even start and there is a big groovy text book full of Greek symbols. Then I started the battle – put on some Vicks on my eyes and nose (to fight off sleep and running nose), had a Crocin (precaution as well as cure) and started reading that book and simultaneously write notes into some paper – it is one efficient way of getting things into RAM. Write on a paper, it will stay on the brain for a little longer. I think that is because while you think about what to write, there will be enough time for something to be written in to RAM. So I studied for 14 hours at a stretch and went to exam without sleeping at all. I wrote it well despite the fact that the paper was tough – (while others search in their hard disk, I could get it fast from RAM?). I had even techniques like, if you manage to get enough material for the exam into the head with around 12 hours of loading, then don’t use the head too much till the exam is over – don’t read newspapers and all – it may flush out something which got in first.

I don’t use even one tiny piece of “knowledge” gained during those four years now. So it is feels really good to think that I didn’t waste much time in studying ICs, resitors/capacitors etc and enjoyed the years in college thoroughly.

So the moral of the story is – Little bit of RAM is enough for getting through even engineering, so if what they say about human brain and those cells is right, I have huge untapped potential in my small brain which is just waiting to be unleashed. That indeed is one refreshing thought.

I really have some hangover of Catcher in the Rye.
Compulsive blogging – is that what I do? I just read that and felt shy to write more. Am I writing for the sake of it? Huh. Not a good feeling, don’t think too much about it now.

So I was thinking all the time I was walking from home to office. I got a house close to office – just about a kilometer. Also, Mangalore sleeps much early compared to other places I have been. Not that I have a complaint about that – many of my colleagues have. “there is no nightlife here”. I am not sure what will I do with some more nightlife.

It is much different place out there at night, after all the drama of the day is over. I was having visions about this clip I saw somewhere – or I don’t know if it is a clip conjured up by my imagination. if everything in front of you is fast forwarded and you are placed inside that for a moment, then if only you are taken out of that and now you look back into the fast forwarded life in front of you, won’t it feel funny? I think walking alone at night gives these crazy feelings, sort of detached from the world; it is amusing to think about the world which is going to embark on this road in another few hours.

It is bit odd to walk at these hours of night – shutter of last shop closing, coming down with a sharp click gives a feeling of everything closing down finally, gives a reminder that it is time to get home and settle down for the day. Just one two-wheeler passes me, the drone of which you can hear from the long distance and will be there for a long time even after it passes you. Every noise is amplified. All the noises you don’t hear in the ruffle of the day – some sweet chirping and lots of barking.

Barking – it is the worst. The distance from office to home is divided into small countries which are ruled by one dog each. They will drive you out their territory by any means – growl, frighten by sharp barks, follow you close. Some of them will walk you till the boundary of next to make sure. I could identify each one now. I am entering the zone 1; this guy will give a low growl – like a warning. Then enter zone 2 where a silent one will watch you intently – you can feel every inch on your back and legs until you pass that one. Through some zones I walk without giving one small indication that I am scared – as they say, they may be able to smell your fear (I think it was said for velociraptors). I will just check them out through the corner of my eyes – without letting them know that I am watching them. Last zone is governed by an aging warrior – he will let you pass without acknowledging.

I should really stop these walks – it is about time.
I read How to Write a Better Weblog couple of days back. It made me think about something else altogether. I wanted to study Creative Writing for some time now – I don’t know what that means, I think I have seen some movies (“My Girl” has some scenes) and got some idea into my head.

In my school days, for some months I had this crazy idea of writing a story and submitting it to a newspaper or magazine. I think I wanted to do it because they offered some money for it and I thought I could use some cash. So I used to think about stories and even wrote some horrible ones. The biggest problem is, I wound the story in loops, jumped back and forth in sequences (something like Pulp Fiction and other Quentin Tarantino films – with all sequences broken up, but mine was incomprehensible to anybody other than me) and tangled myself in all kind of loops. I start telling a story, go into something else, come back, say something more, introduce some other character, then go back to other – it was pure mess. I had taken part in some story writing competitions. I think I wrote something like that and got a third prize in school once. It was funny experience, though – you will be given some fixed time, all contestants will be in same room. At the beginning everybody will be looking at ceiling for a long time, searching for stories. Then time will be running out, so we will start writing something, tear some paper, write something else. I don’t how the evaluator made sense out of my stories – it will require some analytical skills to understand those. So I didn’t manage to write any decent ones, didn’t send anything to newspaper (I did some research and found whom to send etc, I even thought that I will send to some famous writers and they will give me comments, just like in movies – you must have got it by now – I do a lot of day dreaming), got disgusted at myself and stopped everything.

So once in a while, I will think about this Creative Writing course which will set me right. Sometime back I started stalking books on Writing – like John Grisham’s “On Writing” etc. Didn’t read any till now, but.

Let me jump on to another incident (Digression – that may be the mark of amateur. But I got a boost when Holden Caulfield said he liked that better in “Catcher in the Rye”). I have this friend who is a little cranky at times (but he is one of those I would like to be friends for life). He called me recently and played “Pehla Nasha” in keyboard. I asked “Good one – which is that cassette?” So he made me choose any song so he can prove that he is playing it. Later I went over to his place and he was passionately demonstrating his keyboard skills. He is really good, to tell you the truth. So he was saying this – that we should not start learning this directly from a teacher, you will never learn enough to play confidently for a long time, a teacher will take you through all standard steps, exercises etc and by the time you get around to real stuff you will lose the interest. So learn by yourself some and then go and get the formal training if you want. I think this is very true in many cases.

I am living example of this – I studied Guitar for two years. I should say I wasted it. Maybe it is because I didn’t have the talent. If I had, I could have picked up something. But just by practice, a decent level of proficiency can be achieved.
In programming also, they used to say the same thing. Don’t go by a book “.. in 21 days”. You will be wasting your time. I learned Java the other way. I didn’t have any training, was put into a project which was about to get completed in 2 months, did design, coding and everything and learned on the fly. If you don’t know how something is done – look in some book or ask somebody. Quality may not be good this way, but you learn a lot. Later do formal training to fill in the gaps – you can appreciate it better.

I just made up a theory from this – if you got a glimpse of the forest at least once, it will be easy for you in the woods. So, I want to improve my writing – just to give me more satisfaction in the output (one sure thing is – writing even crap is a pleasurable experience), but not with a course on writing. Let me experiment for some time and see where it goes.
Today I think there was a strike or something. Buses were very few and most were state transport. They don’t have collection based compensation, but a fixed monthly salary, so no street racing and no competition to fill the bus and all related tricks. Anyway, I got on one such bus. I was having some papers in my hand, a mobile phone, had a tie on. I already had the change for the conductor in my hand – so with all these papers etc, he had to take it from my hand. He wrote the ticket, didn’t play kite with that piece of paper and carefully put it in my hand. And he gave me a smile. You won’t realize the impact – how often do you get a smile from a bus conductor? I also smiled nicely back. Then he asked me something in Kannada – I don’t know a word – even though I have been living in Mangalore for quite some time. I said I don’t know – but he is smarter, he knew my language a bit. So he asked me “do you work there?” – pointing to my office. I said yes. And then he asked me “how much do you get? 10-15000 per month?”. He didn’t mean any malice, so I did some actions to say so-so. That’s it, I reached my stop. This is a little embarrassing question due to some reasons and it is not the first time somebody asks me the exact same way.

Small incident, I didn’t write it to infer anything. Just that our common public sometimes look at our new breed (wearing this tie and all and everybody having that ID card in some black string around our necks) in a little cautious manner. But don’t even imagine that they don’t know anything about what we do. My sister-in-law’s marriage was in Jan and I met a lot of elders in the family during the function. Couple of them was retired for 10-15 years and they are quite old. They searched for me, got hold of me and talked to me. I was really surprised that they know quite a lot of software industry. They talked to me about outsourcing, whether it is affecting us, whether there is going to be legislature against it, about politics in it and all. Luckily I was reading some articles recently and I could hold my ground. Next day one of them really bowled me out. He asked about Richard Stallman’s address in Kochin University about Open Source, its IPR issues, clash with Microsoft etc. I think many of us don’t even know who Richard Stallman is. Again I was reading furiously about Open Source recently, so I said something. I was wondering why I was surprised – I underestimated them. Another interesting observation is – Really old people are fascinated by this growth of the industry, but middle aged ones who are in other industries are slightly irritated by its growth. I got an impression that they regret their not getting into this bandwagon. I am not even saying that it is great or anything. As I read somewhere, real fast, this industry is also becoming as common as others and there will be nothing out of ordinary if you are a software developer.
It is so hot out there. It is like walking thru a hot oven or something. And to think that summer has not started its works yet. You can get roasted crisp if you stand still in that heat for one hour. But it is not so bad to walk out there, to tell you the truth. On the way to office, I was walking across this small playground constructed by industrious youth of that locality. They play cricket there. Some weird kind of cricket where they bowl underarm. They seem to enjoy it a lot. They have even tournament for that where they even display a trophy (complete with red ribbon and all) by the side of this small ground. They seem to be very passionate about it. They have flattened the ground, built a small basic room to store their things. One side of the ground is road, so they have put a net on that side so the balls don’t go to road often. They draw lines using this white powder and all. It is almost red earth; dust will rise like clouds at every step. I only wish those do something worthwhile with their lives and if they are so thorough in their life also, it would be good. Not that they are not, I just don't know. They seem to there every evening - not during the day time though - nobody will be there.

By the side of their recreation room, there is one small capsule sized play pen for small kids. Some small kids will be playing underarm cricket there too – dust hanging around them like mist. And there will be this small girl who yells “no ball” and fights like mad with the other boys over runs and leg before.

There is this small grocery store owned by a silent family by the side of this playground. Son, father and sister take shifts managing the store. Son is very calm guy. He will be out in front of the store watching those guys play - he doesn’t normally get involved. But he seems to know everybody who plays there. He stays directly above this store and plays old Hindi music at night (nowadays I am returning home when MTV starts playing “Graveyard Shift”) which seems to include all my favorite songs.

And there are million other small things around this peanut sized place. I used to walk in between these around two and half years back. Then I went out of the country for two years, came back, took an apartment in same complex and am walking through the same playground again with same guys playing underarm cricket. It felt like “Groundhog day” today, like I am taking this walk everyday and the calendar is not moving forward at all. It is like last two years didn’t change even one small thing in this place. Now I feel I haven’t even gone anywhere – just woke up from a deep slumber and happy to find the same old things around me. It is like at the end of a long hard day, you wonder whether something you did in the morning happened on the same day or not. It feels so distant.

I think sometimes we want to get out of this “Groundhog day” and sometimes you want to continue living in it.

I think I can as well write a boring book out of this, but enough of horsing around that one small place for one day.

One day, I am the soaring spirit, happy as I haven’t been in months. Next day, I am a crawling worm, not able to pull myself up. Yesterday, I was so content that I wanted to capture the moment, freeze and live it over and over again. I didn’t want yesterday to be over. But today, everything seems to go wrong. I have slipped on delivery dates, not able to motivate myself up to do something. Brain is simply refusing to function. Yesterday I was so creative that I planned a week’s activities for myself and the team, drew some charts with sequences and activities, brought a calendar and marked all important dates. I was able to design, analyze, explain, joke, convince, argue, teach – possibly everything. I was hyperactive and at the end of the day, I got to know that I got graded at the top 30% in year end appraisal – so much for my “initiatives” and “visibility factor” – after all just working might also fetch some goods (even though I still don’t know for how long). But today I am wondering how I ever ended up there.

I think that is one of life’s mysteries. Maybe stars have something to do with it.
But I shouldn’t explain it away as something “corny” as “life’s mysteries”. I am taking work personal and I shouldn’t do that much. It is not good for health. But frankly, I don’t seem to detach myself that much. Over time, I have learned somewhat, but still I won’t be happy at the end of the day if things didn’t go well. Even small things will be nagging at the back of the mind, then I have to think and find out what is that discomfort. That is one funny feeling – I will feel uncomfortable, then after sometime I will realize it, check back, what is it, what did I not like, find out and do something about it or console myself that it is not important enough to worry. Like some machine running a health check.

Hey, but I don’t know where this blog is going? I started with some elaborate agenda, but now it is just a barometer of my ups and downs. I ought to remove “software” from its title.
In office on Sunday, am supposed to finish something to meet a deadline for Tuesday. Irrespective of the deadline, I am feeling happy, eager, peaceful, and content to do it. I have already put around 60 hrs into work this week and still I am not feeling tired now. I had this small theory about taking a small break – getting recharged. I had a welcome break yesterday, didn’t even think about work. It is rather unusual nowadays, not to think about work. We didn’t do anything special, nothing at all, but it was a beautiful valentine’s day. No Hallmark, no Archies, no gifts, no candlelight dinner, no oh-so-good music. But still it was beautiful.

Ate twice at a new Punjabi Dhaba, where we are getting to know the owner cum waiter cum cashier. Honest guy, I like honest, down to the earth guys, with no pretense, their actions speaking for themselves, not even knowing that they are doing good. There are not many I like; it is something I want to explain a little more some other time – about some qualities which I think defines a man. Sometimes you feel to keep some things untouched or uncovered, lest it will lose its charm. It is good from this angle, this light, this distance – just don’t go near. It is not doubt about its charm, but feeling content to leave it at that. You may not even want to look at it later, but may feel the pleasure of seeing it once. It is all not related to that waiter, but my liking made me think a little.

Just finished Ayn Rand’s “Fountain Head”, which left me like land after a small storm. Shaken, not sure how to cope up. It is not necessary that I make sense out of it or have my version of explanations. It is not necessary that I have my own interpretations, whether I accept the ideologies professed. But still I will have its hangover for some days. Can’t stop thinking about some things. It won’t be satisfied until I give it some shape.

Just remembered a small incident – we had been to a temple in TamilNadu (big one – they have lots of them) – me and my father. I was 4-5 years old, I think. We reached there at wee hours of the night; there were no hotels near by. I think the plan was to have darshan early morning and return early. I slept a little, my father woke me up after some time and took me to take bath in the pool behind temple (“pool” looks modern – but I didn’t get a better word). It was pitch dark and the shapes around me were straight out of some gothic place. I think the shadows and trees and big rocks played a lot of tricks with me. At one spot, I think I saw some big animal ready to pounce at me. It had long horns, bulky shape and mean look. Whatever my father did, I wouldn’t move from that spot. Then he gave me this piece of advice. He said it is just a piece of rock – otherwise why would it stand in that same pose for so long. He offered to go over and touch it first to make me confident. He asked me to go over and touch it to make sure. Go on, feel it to take that fear completely out of your mind. It is one incident which remained with me for so long. I think about it whenever I have doubt like this about anything’s shape. Go on, explore it, it will surely feel less threatening and more friendly.

listen

“You should go home and sleep.” “I am listening to these guys talking.” “From this far away?’ “I am not sure what they are saying,...