Saturday, April 07, 2007

Last Post!

What happened to my blog? Hmmm. Good question. I've asked myself that question many times. Some of the answers I came up with -

When I started the blog, I was in New York. I didn't have any friends I could wax philosophical with. Initially the blog gave an outlet for that.

After it got recognised by a couple of top shots in the internet world, I kind of hit a high and the blog became more of an attention seeking device!

Once I came back to India, I realised that life in India is quite different! (I had forgotten what it is like!) In India, somehow you just go with the flow. You argue, debate a whole bunch more, but always with real friends rather than virtual ones. Thoughts, questions pop up throughout the week and instead of getting channelised into writing they become very intense discussions!

I also realised there's a huge difference between talking and doing. Talk is cheap. Doing is tougher.

Finally, I'm quite tired of writing. I don't need an outlet in prose any more. I've started many blog posts but never got around to finishing them. At the end I just gave up!

But everything that's born has to die. So what I've been thinking of late is that I'll give the blog a quiet burial that it deserves and remove it from the virtual world altogether. It just seems to hang there like a dead star. Maybe thoughts are ephemeral for a reason. Maybe they are not for eternity. Maybe the book is over. Maybe the universe ends in a whisper.

That sounds like a good 'last post'.

Monday, August 08, 2005



Any fame is a by-product of making something that means something.

Thanks, Banksy

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some Thoughts on Management

dilbert's manager

It's been ten years since I started working in a corporate, and I sometimes wonder what I would say to myself ten years ago, if I could, from all the experience that has happened.

One of the things that I'd love to tell anybody who's willing to hear is that 'management' is unnecessarily overhyped. Considering how much of the work is done by managers and how much is done by the team, I'm still amazed by how much of a halo 'management' has. Sometimes, it feels like this huge illusion that has been created by management schools and managers themselves to make it feel so ultra important. It might be important, but the huge amount of bad managers belies this.

I was trying to Google for 'Egoless programming', and surprisingly there's a huge amount of material out there on this. In fact, it is a term to be used and watched out for! Wow! But when I try for egoless management, there's hardly anything! The second link talks about Michael Dell, which comes as no surprise. From the article -
But most amazing of all to his peers is Dell's near egoless management. From the start, he has sought out gray-haired mentors to help show him the way.

Like programming, there are two tenets of management -
  1. You own your own words
  2. Assume good intent
(This from Community Building via Voidstar)

Assume Good Intent also means a lot of trust. What happens in reality is so counterintuitive that it could only result from severe brainwashing! The same person who when (s)he was part of the team doing good, suddenly starts suspecting the team when they start managing! Wierd, eh? This particular point sometimes gets obliterated under huge manifestos and the many, many rules of doing management well, like the Six Thinking Hats by De Bono.

In my experience, the best managers have always used inclusive terms, like us and we, when referring to the whole team. The worst managers have always used exclusive terms, like you when talking to the team. If that's not alienation, I don't know what is!

All these thoughts about creativity, time management, and all the other jargon associated with good management, should come after these first two tenets.

Of course, there will be slackers, but the goal of management should not be to treat everyone as slackers. Rather it should be to think of everyone as trying to do their own bests.

I get the feeling that mostly managers feel that 'management' is synonymous with 'control'. Well, then they would be called 'Controllers', wouldn't they?

Recently I read an absolutely fantastic blog-post by Paul Graham called What Business Can Learn from Open Source -
Companies ensure quality through rules to prevent employees from screwing up. But you don't need that when the audience can communicate with one another. People just produce whatever they want; the good stuff spreads, and the bad gets ignored. And in both cases, feedback from the audience improves the best work.

I think the same could be said about a lot of management!

Management should be there to guide, not control. Management should be there to listen, not talk. Management should be about seeing the bigger picture, not the nitty gritties. I think the first thing that managers should realise that if it weren't for the team, they wouldn't be there!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Virtual People

virtual people

Another day, don't feel like going to work, but have to.

During the ride to office, I wonder, what this life is all about? As usual, there are no answers.

Reach work, check mail, do the rounds, take a coffee break. Couple of cigarettes and the question is still there at the back of my head. But by this time of the day, the mind has become totally numb to personal quests!

While I wait for the elevator to come, there's another person next to me. 'Some kind of worker', is the thought that's there, at an unconscious level. So, as usual, with people I don't think I know (sometimes even with those whom I do!), I ignore the person.

We get into the elevator, I press the button. Everything just like an automaton. I lean back against the wall. Suddenly, the man says, "Namaskara, sir". I finally look at him. He looks vaguely familiar. "How many years have you been abroad?", he asks. "Quite a few", I say, thinking, 'too many to count'. "I saw you last at the old office", he says, "I work in the canteen, it's been many years".

"Yes, it has. How have you been?"

"I've been fine".

The elevator stops. I've not reached my floor. He has. "See you later", he says, before getting off. I wave, the elevator doors close, and starts moving again.

I wonder about this person. So many years it's been, I wonder what all has happened in his life. Has he been able to marry his daughter off? Has he been able to provide for his son's education? I think that this earth is made of real people. Real people like this guy, who make the world go round. Who work not for the sake of work, but for others. Both in terms of what they do, as well as the money they earn from it.

And then I think about myself. How far away from the world I really am. I wonder about big things like 'job satisfaction'. About complex sounding words like 'vision' and 'quest'.

Do I know how much a kilo of potatoes cost? How about a dozen eggs? Do I know how much it costs to eat at home compared to eating out? When, really, was the last time I sweated? When was the last time I bled? When was the last time I lived?

Suddenly, a phrase comes into my head - "Virtual People".

We're all virtual people. We, who are supposed to be changing the world. We, who're supposed to be the most influential 'voting block'. We, who're supposed to be creating wonders. We're all virtual people.

We don't know the meaning of hunger, of thirst. We define simple words like happiness and sadness in paragraphs. We, day after day, write emails, which don't mean anything, which really doesn't make any difference. We're all virtual people. We have our 'luxuries' but we don't know what to do with them. We have our 'conveniences' but we're always inconvenienced. We suffer from vague problems like 'stress' and 'tension'.

What's happened to us? What's gone wrong where? Why have we forgotten to feel joy? Why have we forgotten to cry?

The day thankfully is over. The ride is the same. Traffic. The mind is riding the bike without thinking about it. 'Virtual People' just spins round and round inside my head.

There must be a way out. There has to be. This bubble has to have an edge somewhere. Somewhere, if I walk through, I'll see the sun and smell the grass.

Someday. Someday.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Paper Toys Again - "Paper Forest"


Paper Forest is one of the best paper toys website I've seen. It has an amazing collection of both origami as well as cut-and-paste toys. All toys are free downloads, and they're really wonderful.

The latest are from the Yamaha website. They have paper cut-and-paste toys of some wonderful animals as well as bikes!! You can download the colour pdf files and really have a ball.

Here're two that I really like -

The Lemur

And of course, the incredible XJR1300!


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

All kinds of Paper Toys and Origami!

origami dinosaur
I've been wanting to write this for some time. I've been seeing numerous paper toys - origami, cut and paste toys, and others, on the internet and I thought I'll put all these together on one post.

So this one is for all the kids I know. (And the ones who are still kids at heart!)

Let's start with some Victorian Toys. And here are some dinosaurs! A site with lots of origami is here. I found this 3D Dragon great fun too, mainly because as you walk beside it, it seems to follow you with it's eyes!!

But Robert J. Lang's site stands way above the crowd, with some fantastic origami animals, birds, even a dinosaur skeleton!! Unfortunately, I couldn't find any diagrams for download there.

A great mechanical cut-and-paste toy is this Paper Rocket, which shoots up almost two floors high on pressurised air! Moving on, here are some airplanes, and here's one which flies by flapping it's wings!

For kids who're a little older, here's a very nice Chess Set, including the chess board! And here's a 12-sided calendar to keep on their desk!

But this will surely be one of the most interesting to create. This is a Dirkon Pin Hole Camera, through which you can actually shoot pictures and develop them!

One of the more useful for adults and kids alike is this site where you can print your own graph paper, according to your requirements!

Finally, if you're just looking for some posters, check out National Geographic's Poster page. You can print some fantastic posters on regular A4 paper and put them together.

Not to forget the kids who're still pining for a Mac, you can fulfill all your fantasies of owning a Mac here!

All of these can be printed out on a regular A4 paper from any printer. (Which is what I found really useful, because when I was young and tried origami, getting the papers with the right colours was always a tough job! Not to mention expensive!)

Thanks to Boing Boing.

Update: I discovered that all these links have been consolidated on a very nice site called WebZen

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Namdu Bangalore!

Sting in Bangalore

The contrasts hit me. A long time ago, a friend who had returned from abroad had told me "The culture shock is not as much as when you get there. Its when you come back".

Second day in Bangalore and I'm going to watch Sting perform live. As I reach Palace Grounds, through loads of traffic, we park a distance away and decide to walk up. There are some chaps cleaning the streets. The parking lot is just a huge area, with makeshift markers. There's a lot of dust all around. Past it as we walk through the drive, there are Pepsi hoardings everywhere. They are the official sponsors of the show. There're also vendors in cane baskets selling peanuts in paper cones. I guess this is the only place in the world where you can watch Sting perform live with a handful of charcoal heated peanuts!

As I watch the show, I forget where I am. I look up, the sky looks the same. I can see Orion and his belt. I see trees all around. This could as well have been Central Park in New York. But as I look around, there're people from all walks of life. To the cops minding the crowds, I wonder, what does Sting mean to them?

Sometimes, the whole thing feels too surreal. This juxtaposition of the extreme modern into the extreme primitive. As if different times and worlds have somehow collided and everybody is just doing fine! I feel like screaming to break down the barriers of the different worlds, the different eras. I feel like screaming at the rock swaying crowd and point out the inequalities all around. I feel like screaming at the others to point them out the differences to make them want better. But slowly I realise, this is not a clash of worlds, neither is this a fusion of mindsets. This is a people living in many worlds at the same time.

People who enjoy Zakir Hussain as much as Sting. People who are as comfortable with Andrew Lloyd Webber as with A.R. Rehman. Along with the young and urban there are also people who will shake their heads as they watch teenagers swaying to music on their headphones, but the same people who will want a better future for their children than they ever hoped to have. Time travel is not fiction in this land. All you need to do is change focus.

This is my country. This surreal, mixed-up, confusing, chaotic, enervating, energising land is my home. Struggle is not a part of life here. Struggle is life here. That's what enriches us, makes us stronger. That's what makes us get up after a tsunami hits, dust off our clothes and get back to work the next day. Because tsunamis hit everyday here. Not just of water, but of ideas, cultures, paradigms. And in the midst of it all, we sometimes put forth our hands to shake and sometimes join them together in a Namaskar. That's us. And we're happy doing both.

As the famous Bangalorean saying goes - "We are like this only!"

Friday, April 29, 2005

Bollywood for the skeptical

Bollywood Restaurant

India is 'in' these days. There are numerous articles criticising and praising India, and somehow all the things that a lot of the Westerners point out either as good or bad, we've been taking them as a matter of course all our lives. But despite all the numbers and statistics regarding population or surface area, India is still a small, homely, always welcome place to live in. And Bangalore is the jewel in India's IT crown. High speed internet is getting ubiquitous. You can pay all your bills at any of the Bangalore One kiosks which are set up with touch sensitive screens and 24 hour access. But go off the main roads and you're back a few decades.

The other day, riding up Airport Road, one of the most high profile of roads in Bangalore. Steel and concrete structures looming on both sides. And of course, the ever present traffic jam! Decided to take a detour and took a random turn. Didn't know where the road was headed. All of a sudden there are small houses around me. Neat, modest, without any ostentatiousness. Vegetable sellers are hawking their wares. Housewives are gossiping over their boundary walls. Clothes are drying on lines on the terraces. There are no Pepsi signs here. No big hoardings. Quiet, peaceful Bangalore which was always how I've enjoyed Bangalore. A third of a kilometer equates to a third of a century in a city whose name has of late even become a verb!

Somehow this seems to be true to quite a lot of India. Somehow this juxtaposition of the modern with the ancient is what is taken for granted by us. And very, very rarely do I get to read something which puts India just as it is. So when I came across a site called "Bollywood for the skeptical", I was, to say the least, skeptical! A person's perspective, showing as much of the person as it is of India. A very, enjoyable single page read, and with an excellent collection of music too! Fits nicely on one CD, without all the DRM hoopla, giving a wonderful picture of Indian music over the last fifty years or so. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Farewell USA

USA Flag

The horizon tilts. The runway lights speed up. The scenery blurs. The engines roar. There's a sudden whoosh and the plane is in the air. Farewell USA.

I never wanted to come here. A number of reasons for that. First, it was too easy for a software professional to get here. Everybody comes here. There's really nothing unique about getting to the US. Second, I hated it that the US always seemed to impose itself on every other country - tried to tell the world how to do things while it's own house was, if not a mess, atleast not in order. So why did I come? The project was technically challenging and I thought to myself, let me see with my own eyes what this country is all about!

So, of all places, I landed up in Phoenix! Dry, hot, epitomy of American excess! Big countryside, big cars, big roads, big everything! Not quite Texas, but close! It was soon after coming here that I realised that Americans are vastly different from American foreign policy! (Politics corrupts people, I guess!). With their sense of humour and their warmth, Americans didn't take long to become endearing!

As usual, both me and my wife would take off traversing the countryside at the slightest opportunity. Got a chance to see amazing landscapes and sceneries. From the azure blue of the horsehoe canyon to the ethereal colours of Antelope Canyon. From the sky scraping Californian Redwoods to bone dry white of Death Valley. We enjoyed the South West tremendously and then decided to take the Route 66 as far as we could to reach New York.

Now New York, as Billy Joel has said, is not a city. The rush, the bustle, the hyper speed of walking. Times Square, dirty subways, all of it go to make New York what he correctly mentioned it to be, a state of mind.

New York did a number of things to me. I discovered, literally, the virtual world here. The world of the mind, of the web. I also discovered my love for writing. I discovered Jazz in Harlem bars, and the New York Philharmonic in Central Park. And more than anything else, I discovered friends. Friends who will be dear to me all my life. Friends with whom I've felt I've always known them, friends who've changed from strangers to family within an hour of knowing them. These are the people with whom not only have I had the best experiences with but who have become a part of me. New York to me became a discovery, not only of a city, but of myself.

So, after over two years, it does feel strange to leave this place behind. It does feel wierd to leave all the friends behind. But it will always feel as if they are a part of what I am today. And in these days of high speed communications maybe we'll all still be together in the parallel virtual world.

But as I go back home, I think of what awaits me. India, the ancient world. The one place where anything is possible. The land where four of the six largest religeons took birth. The land where brick laying was known five thousand years ago, the land where stone pillars make music. A potpourri of everything, literally everything, and still welcoming more. In a strange way, going back feels liberating. Going home gives me a sense of freedom. A freedom to fly and soar. Nina Simone's words ring in my mind -

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Stars in the sky, you know how I feel
Leaves drifting on by, you know how I feel

It's an old world, it's a new world, it's a bold world, for me.

It's an eighteen hour flight to Bombay. My mind goes over as many of the memories I can think of. Some of them trivial, some of them fantastic, all memorable. I think about how I became so engrossed in the political situation even though I couldn't vote! How I got involved in the copyright wars which wage in the US. In essence, how never bieng an American, I was thinking like one! A strange twist of fate. "You are what you attack" as someone once said. I think back about the bias I had of the US, and I think how uninformed I was. Knowledge, as always, makes the world more likeable, but makes oneself more complex! A realisation that I am very different from what I think I am! As I said earlier, this was a discovery.

The seat belt sign dings. The pilot announces that we're over Bombay. The plane tilts. I see lights of a city again. From this height I might have just circled back into New York! The wheels thud. The wind breakers roar in trying to stop this behemoth. The engines wind down.

I'm home.

Goodbye New York, I'll always miss you. I might have left you, but you'll never leave me.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Blogging from India will take a bit of time. It'll be a while until I get online during my spare time! Till then, I'm biking it up to Bombay and back, catching up with old friends, and seeing the countryside (and life) go by.

Be back soon!