Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why dont we have Ikea in India?

After an amazing non-stop run of 11 continuous daily posts, I finally succumbed to the atrocities of a hectic work life and no internet connection at home. I missed 4 days of posting and probably lost all my readers :).

But there will be an effort to get back on track, and like all things in life, I shall persevere to overcome the hurdles presented by trivial realities of the life of a middle-class IT genius (like the triviality of a snow storm which severs the home internet connection). And at the same time I will stick to the advice of mah best friend. To write when I feel like writing, not because I have to write. I agree. I want to maintain the sanctity of what I write, and continue to write for myself, not for my audience :).

Its been a roller coaster week. And the highlight has perhaps been not having internet at home, about which I have cribbed in my previous post.. even now the connection at home is not working but one of my colleagues has been nice enough to lend me their 3G wireless card. Which makes me sure that I will apply for one at work the next time I meet my manager and ensure that my dedication at work is not affected by natural disasters like a cut internet connection :) However not having internet at home has helped me relax and have a really lazy weekend. I slept through most of yesterday, watched some nonsense on TV and cooked. It is officially spring in Sweden, but this is what Stockholm looked like on Friday.. (the pics are from before.. but it should give you an idea of what the road to my workplace looks like when there is heavy snow!)

Today I had planned trip to Ikea with my apartment owner to purchase furniture. It was an interesting trip. My apartment owner, lets call him ‘A’ is an interesting old man who is a musician and piano/music teacher. We went to Ikea in his car, and interestingly, when he switched on the radio (tuned in to a national radio channel), the channel was playing “Kaale Megha Kaale Megha” from Lagaan. I was pleasantly surprised and extremely amused to find a hindi song playing on Swedish radio. ‘A’ wasn’t surprised, he didn’t notice it was a hindi song till I pointed it out to him. I guess the people here are more exposed to international music than we Indians are. He even told me that he is a big fan of Pandit Ravi Shankar. He said that he connected with Pandit Ravi Shankar on a personal note as well because Panditjis daughter was a Sitar player, pretty similar to A’s own daughter who had also taken up music and was an Opera singer. Well, the world after all, is a small place. I enjoyed my ride, its not often that one gets to listen to Bollywood music driving on the roads of Stockholm.

Have you ever wondered why there is no Ikea in India? (If you haven’t heard of the phenomenon called Ikea, please read about it on Wikipedia by clicking at the link: HERE . It is the pride of Sweden and is much talked about here because it was founded in Sweden by a Swede called Ingvar Kamprad in1943)
It is there everywhere.. in nearly all states of US, in Canada, in 24 countries in Europe, all over Australia, most parts of Asia and even in one location in South America.. Its absence is noticeable only in Africa and India. For Africa we can perhaps find economic reasons for the absence but its absence in India is very conspicuous. Check out the picture of Ikea presence below, and you will know what I mean (The green parts are present locations of Ikea, the blue are planned locations):

. Photo Source: Wikipedia .

Now think about it, we have all the worlds biggest brands, from McDonalds to Gucci to Mercedes. Then why do we not have Ikea?

The basic concept of Ikea according to me is affordable furniture with the best high class designs in the world which is “designed to be assembled by the consumer”. Also the showrooms are huge and are designed exactly as your rooms would look like if you purchase their stuff, complete with bedcovers, table lamps, cushions and soft toys.
Wikipedia says “Much of IKEA's furniture is designed to be assembled by the consumer rather than being sold pre-assembled. IKEA claims this permits them to reduce costs and use of packaging by not shipping air. This is also a practical point for many of the chain's European customers, where public transport is commonly used; the flat-pack distribution methods allow for easier transport via public transport from the store to a customer's home for assembly".
Well, I would say that all the above points will be points of advantage for the Indian market as well. Affordability, oh yes, that’s something that would help in India. Ability to ship it using Public Transport.. once again something we could do with. But why do we not have Ikea in India?
I have posed this question to quite a few people, and some of the answers have been hilarious and some interesting. Here are some of them (please note these are not my opinions, but those of other people I know)..
1. Indians are by nature lazy, it is unthinkable for an Indian to buy a bed and then sit and assemble it themselves
2. The low cost factor of Ikea emerging out of self-assembly is lost in the Indian market because of extremely low cost of labor. Why should someone buy Ikea furniture and assemble it themselves, when they can get furniture fully assembled, delivered and set up at their homes at lower cost?
3. I don’t know if many have seen the Tele2 ad campaign which promotes the “Proud to be Cheap” concept by using a Black Sheep (symbolically) to talk about how cheap is the new ‘in-thing’ (interesting ad >> Click HERE to view it on YouTube). This will go down well with the Indians, who are famous for haggling and giving a lot of importance to a “good deals”. Ikea cannot be the best deal in the market because you cannot beat the prices of the local carpenter. So in India, if there was an Ikea, people would take their local carpenters to the store, take photos of the designs and ask their carpentars to replicate them. And it doesn’t matter if the furniture is not perfect; it’s still a ‘good deal’!

Whether in India or not, for me, Ikea continues to be a constant source of awe. After spending 2 years trying to understand complex marketing theories, I am amazed at how Ikea has used the simplest of marketing concepts to become the world's largest furniture manufacturer. Any European would tell you that most people get a kick out of assembling the Ikea stuff themselves. It’s tapping into the psychological mindset of the euphoria and pride of “creating” furniture for your own home. It’s the same gratification you get when you assemble a Lego town, or put the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. And its simple.. no marketing theories involved here. Saves the cost of assembly, simplifies the supply chain by reducing transportation overheads and gives the customer a kick. What else can you ask for?
And for those of you who haven’t yet heard of the famous Ikea commercials, I suggest you go to YouTube and search for “banned ikea commercial” :). You will know what I mean when I say they had a different kind of advertising strategy. They did a lot of things different. And the craze spread to the whole world. I only wish we had Ikea in India. Till they come you can always fly to the US or Europe with your carpenter and then replicate!

We switched from daylight saving today, so I am now one hour closer to my loved ones in India. Sometimes its tough to explain the concept of daylight saving to my friends in India, and I have a tough time adjusting to it as well. We Indians think that going forward and backwards in time should be left to the Gods and so we stick to one single time, come rain, sun or snow. And touchwood, we have good and healthy doses of daylight throughout the year. SIGH! I miss India.

Swollen Tomato is getting married and has sent me an invite. I wish I could attend, I wish her a very happy married life. I also hope that Iya gets married soon :).

And now the posts will keep coming. CHEERS!

Desert for today...

The best home-made Black Forrest I have ever had. Key ingredient: Liberal quantities of love :).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Important things in life?

My schedule today:
8 to 9 am: Meeting
9 to 10 am: Meeting
10 to 11 am: Meeting
11 am to 12 pm: Meeting
12 to 2 pm: Lunch meeting
2 to 3 pm: Meeting
3 to 4 pm: Meeting
5 to 6 pm: Meeting
6 to 6.30 pm: Meeting
6.30 to 7.30 pm: Check mails
Most meetings are with different people at different locations!
Its 7.43 pm now, and I am still at work. Why? Because the internet at home is not working. Even as I type this I realize I have become a geek.
How important is internet in your life?
It holds a lot of importance in mine... in fact more than it should. I realized this today. Its late and here I am still at work. Because the internet at home is not working, and I cannot log on from home. Which makes me realize two things:
1. I am working more than I should. I shouldnt get distressed because I cannot log on from home. After I go home, I shouldnt think of logging on.
2. I am very dependent on the internet.
Both of these things are not good and I dont want to be the IT geek. The IT genius maybe... or maybe even the IT wizard.. but NOT the IT geek. Hence, I will try to invest my time in more creative pursuits which do not involve staring at a screen (that rules out TV as well.. damn :) )

Monday, March 23, 2009

Was it really a bad day?

Everyone has these really nasty days. There are several reasons for having a nasty day, you get multiple pieces of bad news, you get screamed at by you boss, you have multiple meetings where things don’t click, you mess up your work, your wife/husband/bf/gf calls midway in a conference and you have a fight or maybe something more trivial.. like the attractive colleague at work you’ve been eyeing for some time starts spending time with a better looking male/female colleague. And then everything looks like its out to get you. You imagine you are getting bad vibes from everyone and everything. You snap at your subordinate, you scream at your best friend, and you misbehave with your mentor. And that makes you feel worse because somewhere inside you, you know that you are being nasty with people who are not at fault. And it becomes a vicious circle.

At such times, I always believe in telling myself that its a bad day. Just admitting that, and knowing that I am responsible for and can be in control of making things better makes me feel better.

There is always this one person at work, one insignificant non descript person sitting in some corner of the floor whom I don’t usually talk to. I go and talk to that person. That person never lets me down.. He always talks nicely to me and has an infectious smile. It always makes me feel good talking to him, he never frowns, never snaps. On my bad days when I talk to him I promise myself, that as a person, this is what I want to become some day. The kind of person everyone can talk to, at anytime, anyday, and know that I will make them feel good. I do hope that someday I will be such a person.

Sometimes I open my chat messenger and start talking to whoever is online. And I never talk about myself. I always talk about the other person. I try to understand whats going on in that persons life.. I have a genuine friendship with most people I chat online, and we don’t do PC. And it helps me and soothes me talking to people I know. About anything. Sometimes about things they did the previous weekend. Sometimes about things that are wrong in their life. Sometimes about how they are in love. Its nice to be a listener. It is good karma. It soothes the mind. And it feels good if I can be of any help to someone who needs an ear. And even without realizing it, the other person makes my troubles go away.

And sometimes, I write. I just write without a care in the world. Like now. I write whats on my mind. Without a direction, without any flow, without reason. Without thinking if I will put it on the blog, or whether I will mail it to my best friend. That too helps. I got the same question again today. Why do I blog? Or write. And I had the same answer. It makes me feel good.

I always say that life is like the ocean. It has its crests and it has its trough. The ride is not smooth. But if you stay long enough out there, you get used to it and it doesn’t really bother you. Till suddenly some big wave comes along and you are on the crest. And you love the feeling. Or when you miss the big wave and you are in a trough, a deep one. But the thing to remember is that no trough and no crest lasts for long. And they are intermittent. They follow each other. There is nothing like an eternal high or an eternal low. Some crests are longer than the others, but you never notice those. Some troughs are longer than the others and you always notice those. It doesn’t really matter. Because it shall come to pass. And you shall move on. To different things, usually to better things.

At times when I feel bad, I look back 2 years. And I think about all the things that I felt bad about that time. And I think about how those things didn’t matter. How they seemed so huge then and how they don’t mean a thing to me now. About how much of time and thoughts I wasted feeling bad about something that had no significance in my life. And then I think whether what I am feeling bad about right now will have any significance in my life 2 years from now.. or 6 months from now, or a month from now. Invariably I discover that it doesn’t matter. If you look at the bigger picture there are very few things in life that really matter. And the key to happiness is perhaps realizing those things.

Today I had a new subordinate join my team. I was working late and he came upto me and asked, “I completed my work, can I go home”. It kinda shocked me a little bit. I don’t remember asking that to my manager ever. Actually the last time I ever asked that question was when I got the Indian version of detention and was asked to stay back after school. After working abroad for a year and a half, I hope I have not forgotten how things work in India. If I go back to India, will I have to ask my manager before I leave for home? Or is it dependent on the company and not the country? This new guy was new to the company as well as my team. I don’t think that such culture exists in my firm. But its a scary thought!! I do plan to return to India at some point, and I do plan to work in the Indian work culture. But I so do not want to ask my manager everyday before I leave for home!

I am now much calmer and do not think that this is such a bad day. Hence I will go home, and not snap at people. I can now go back to being a happy Merlin :).

Quote of the day:
“Life's disappointments are harder to take when you don't know any swear words”
Calvin in Calvin & Hobbes

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Random Thoughts...

I like the way in which the creative flows into the mundane…
The way in which the imaginative trickles into the humdrum…
The way something as poetic as humor, merges with something as scientific as software.
I like the blend, the whole cocktail. I like the art in science, or the science in art
It is so unlikely…
Like a topaz in a sty, like laughter in a morgue,
Like no traffic on Bangalore MG Road…

But when you hear the tinkle of laughter on the floor of an IT company,
When you read poems in a technical newsletter,
When you find creative heads in an engineering company…
When you see artistic graffiti on the walls of a corporate office
You know its not all black and white…
Somewhere, deep inside there is color, a lot of it.

I have heard of CEOs writing poetry, CFOs performing Kathak,
I have heard of engineers becoming movie stars.
And now I also see I see graphic designers in call centers
Literary writers in IT companies…
Are there people who take the challenge of brightening up the dull weather?
Someone to splash some color on the blank canvases?

Someone who could throw a few words onto a paper,
And bring tears to your eyes…
Someone who could whisper a pun in your ears,
And make your sides split…
Some who could scribble a few pages,
And make hundreds lose themselves in an imaginary world…
Some one who could pen down a few thoughts,
And make you question your existence.

Someone from the land of those abstract thinkers, philosophers,
Who find Nirvana in the likes of photography…
Someone amongst the group of world travelers,
Who find romance in the ruins of a historic fort.

Someone who believed that creativity is not limited to an ad campaign.
But in making a screensaver look asthetic
Someone who believed that writing is not just about novels and poems.
But in getting across a simple thought to hundreds of minds with a single email.
Someone who could have gone to a Branding Consultant,
Or become a professional photographer, or a novelist…

There’s more to creativity than professionalism
There’s more to technology than just plain technology
IT can sometimes be better interpreted as Imaginative Technology
Its just that we need more people to fill in the imagination.

Heres a toast to those who bring color to the monotony of technology
The people who bother to animate the smileys in chat,
Put humor in application error messages..
Find innovative ways to write instructions for application use..
Make the internet world a little more interesting..

You add some spice to our ordinary life..

Nice lazy weekend... some good food and some relaxed time.. and a movie thrown in.. And while we are discussing food, I had a lot of it this weekend.. Pulao, Matar kachodi, Bengali chicken curry, Jackfruit curry, Chana Masala, Raita, Ras Malai, Fruit Ice Cream cocktail. Thanks to my bengali adda and my best friend :) !!

Quote of the weekend:

“- "I've been thinking Hobbes --"
- "On a weekend?"
- "Well, it wasn't on purpose..."”
From Calvin & Hobbes

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More on Blogging...

Fridays is Volleyball day for me... and for some of my other colleagues. People who are very busy, very much in demand stop working at 4.55 p.m. on Friday, put aside their critical business demands, high priority meetings, escalated projects and head towards the sports centre (Also called The --- Club). There they blend into a common pool of people where there are no differences. Nobody cares who is the manager and who is the subordinate. For those 3-4 hours they are just two teams pushing the ball at each other, and nothing except placing the ball at the right place really matters. I love my Fridays and my volleyball.

It has been a hectic week. The past 2 days I have woken up at 7.30ish and started working, and have not gone to bed till 1 am. I have the bad habit of waking up in the morning, and while half asleep dragging my laptop towards me and logging on. I check to see if there are any escalations or any "red" mails. If there are I am usually glued to the computer for another half an hour before I can drag myself to brush, freshen up and have my morning tea. And that’s how my day starts. Well, not really the best way to start my day. But I believe in the "work-hard, play-hard" philosophy. When I work, I really immerse myself in it, and when I play.. people get fed up of my 'fun' moods..
Someday I know that things will even out and I will lead a more relaxed life. But right now I feel the strong need to work hard and persevere in all the things that I have aimed for. In my profession there is limited scope of ‘impressing’ the boss with anything other than actual results. And those can be achieved only with hard work and an eye on the target..
To digress a little bit.. I want to go away from the work part of my life. And towards the other things in my life that excite me. The real turn on in my life has always been conversation. I always cherish a good thought provoking conversation which leaves me with a warm feeling. And all my friendships are formed around the kind of conversations I have with them. Some of my closest friends are those whom I can call at any point of time, have a meaningful conversation, and end with a nice euphoria. The conversations can vary, from the intellectual to the absolutely silly and meaningless. From the controversial to the extreme conservative. And I wonder if things will change as we get older. I see a lot of my friends getting married. I always wonder.. will they change? I see them, like me, grow older, and in a few cases, wiser. I wonder will that make our conversations different. Thankfully till now nothing has changed for most of my closest friends, but my apprehension still persists. I do not want to have boring elderly conversations 30 years down the line about the grades of my grandchild. Or will those kind of conversations bring as much thrill into my life as the conversations I have right now about the economy, the cultural difference, about ambitions and emotional upheavals? Maybe I will leave that to my 900th blog post :).

Todays conversation with my best friend was about blogging. It is interesting how she has the patience to go through innumerable blogs. I do not have the patience. I follow very few blogs (3 actually) and do not have the patience to discover more. I need a blog to be very stimulating and honest to be able to keep my attention. I cannot tolerate fake blogs. Or crude blogs. Or wannabe blogs. Or blogs with incorrect grammar and bad English. I have read a few celebrity blogs, but the day I was told that Amitabh and Obama don’t really have the time to blog, and it is actually a professional who notes down the thoughts of such celebrities in shorthand and then converts these thoughts to priceless pieces of literature, it kinda spoilt it for me. Maybe it was a false speculation, but one will never know. And so I do not read celebrity blogs as well. I ask this question to myself often, would I read my own blog if I was someone else. The answer is usually a no.

There is no pattern or common trend among the blogs I do read and follow. They are as different from each other as could possibly be. One is that of my best friend. One is that of a lady from Delhi (whom I met at a University Debate competition and befriended) who is working as a consultant in the US, a typical NRI (pardon me Iya for categorizing you thus). And the third of another lady who is a brutally honest and straight forward person in the FMCG industry in India. All three of these ladies (yes, the charm of male penmanship has still eluded me) have distinctly different styles of writing. One is the most down-to-earth, no frills and simple blog I have ever come across. The simplicity of the blog, the purity of the thoughts are something that keep me hooked to the blog. And this one is perhaps the favorite. It is not without a reason that she is my best friend, amongst other things. The second is one of the most complex and yet honest blogs I have read. It does not show off (like my blog) but in a very subtle way reaches out to the reader with the strong personality of the blogger. The lady who is as complex and as much of a cancerian as me, and yet is so down to earth. Someone who is so identical to me that it is eerie. A certain person I know off would perhaps shrug it off as a play of the stars, we were born with the same sun sign. But I have still not stopped being surprised at how similar we are and so its good to read the thoughts of a clone in a different world. And the third has a style so brutally honest that it shocks me. And it is a good feeling to be brought down to earth, even if its with a thud. It has its dreamy side, but you have to read between the lines for that. I admire the fact that the thoughts of the person can come across so clearly, and even if sometimes I cannot identify with the thoughts I can feel them. And that is the beauty of the blog.
My writing style has changes over the years. I cannot tolerate what I have written even 5 years back. Is everyone like this? Have I become worse, or better, or has nothing changed, its just in my head? I feel I am much more positive towards life than I was before. I am much less self centered and much more aware of things around me. Of people around me. Of the life around me. I leave it to you. Here is a something I wrote 5 years back, I do not know if it is different from what I am today. I hate reading this kinda stuff, but I want to believe that I shall never be embarrassed of the person I have been..... so here it is.
If I have sinned, I have suffered a long and gruesome penance, and with the hope that I have now atoned for all the wrongs that I may have done, I am back in the battlefield. Back to where I belong, albeit with a few changes and a few wounds. This for all purposes is ACT III Scene I and it is as interesting as it gets.
"All the worlds a stage and all the men and women mere players, they have their exits and entrances and every man in his time plays many parts"
The parts have been numerous, and the journey has been long...from "Dumb guy" to "Casanova", and from "Romeo" to "Merlin"... and now a whole new story, and a new part to play... but then before I move on and move up, there are some things which need to be cleaned up... and amongst them is the Jeanie.
Merlin needs no sympathies, Merlin needs no empathies, Merlin needs no handkerchiefs for the tears that may come, but Merlin has been wronged, and Merlin will fight back no matter what, for he is the magician and he is the fighter, and the fighter always wins

Interesting, I have not stopped calling myself Merlin. Some things never change I guess. I still believe I am not a muggle. :)

Notable Achievement: Today I complete a week of daily blogging without missing a single day. I promised myself that in spite of the busiest schedule I can still do this. Now I know I can. :)

Quote of the Day:
King Uther Pendragon: You've tricked me, Merlin.
Merlin: Come, come Uther. I am a wizard, that's my business.

Quoted from the movie Merlin (1998/II) (TV) (

Thursday, March 19, 2009


The relevance of PC still eludes me. And for those of us whose acronym quotient has been dimmed by old age (me included) I should advise that you should add this term to your vocabulary if you already don’t have it there. PC doesn’t have a specific definition. I have always aimed to keep this a universally readable space, hence I shall overcome my temptation to use more appropriate expansions of the acronym and settle for Polite Conversation. Its the conversation you have when you meet someone and you don’t know exactly what to talk about. So you have to fill up the silence and you ask him questions whose answers you are least interested in knowing. Yes.. and the relevance of PC still eludes still me. Maybe because I wouldn’t really call myself a champion at PC. I would rather suffer the unease of silence then carry out a inane and impotent conversation.

You do PC when you meet your boss, colleague, client, competitor or the person you hate most at work. I am not good at it. I am good at GC (Genuine Conversation) but not so good at PC. The limitation of GC is you can carry it out only with people you genuinely connect with. I admire people who are highly skilled at PC, (some even make a living out of it in my profession) and I try making up for my lack of skills in PC by connecting with most people I come across so that I can carry out a good GC. At least I can admit frankly that when it comes to PC, I suck. There are some who are not good at it but who just won’t give up. And sometimes it backfires. Like the time when a guy from the competitor firm who tries hard to be good at PC asked me the reason for a cut on the bridge of my nose, and I had to tell him that the reason was too scandalous to tell in front of a formal business group. The shade of red on his face was the most interesting one I have ever seen.

A close friend today got a call from a recruitment consultant who said he had got to know about his profile from LinkedIn and would want to make a job offer. I was impressed, this is what I call applied technology. Connecting the right people across the world. Being able to get job offers without even applying for jobs, just by the virtue of having your professional profile on a portal. It is probably the best solution to the age old problem of finding the right people for the right role, across boundaries of race and nations. I logged in to explore LinkedIn (I have one of the most updated profiles on the portal, I really believe in LinkedIn as a professional network that adds value). And it was interesting to see that even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have their profiles up there, which I think are genuine profiles. More interestingly, Barack Obama is a second level connection in my network :). Well, now I guess you can call me a well connected person.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Youthful Sojourns of Life :)

I am always apprehensive when I try to mention this to anyone as inevitably they think that I am boasting. But what the hell, I am perceived to be a show-off anyway, so let me write about it.. especially as I have been thinking about this the whole day.
I am too young for the job I do… to the extent that it’s the first thing people notice when they meet me at work. To give you a rough idea, I am the youngest person in my team and the person who is second youngest is around 9 years elder to me. And in case you find it amusing, or think it’s a nice situation to be in , let me tell you, it’s the worst thing that can happen to you if you happen to do the kind of job I do..
Well I will admit it’s a flattering thing to blog about (ah, I just told you in my last post that I was successful dude didn’t I.. yes I am such a narcissist), but in the real world, well lets just say it causes a lot of issues. I run the risk of not being taken seriously, of being labeled as immature, ‘too young’ to do a high profile task or being included in a high profile team and lately ran into a guy who told me that I was an “angry young man” and cant be taken seriously because I was a bit assertive at a meeting.
“Ageism” can be as bad as racism. But everyday I realize that being young gives me such an edge over people who are elder to me. And so I never really complain about being the youngest in the team. But it also makes me wonder.. will I feel insecure as I grow older and there are younger Merlins vying for the wizards position in Arthurs court? Maybe, but who cares. I am still at the age where I can shrug and say ‘who cares’ :).
Apart from the serious effects it has in my job role, there are some very amusing incidents related to it. Like the first time I joined this role and uploaded my photo on the company portal (its kinda mandatory.. I like it actually, its like having facebook on ur company portal). It is then that my new Swedish manager called me. Swedes are extremely polite. They are soft spoken and very refined. This manager was someone who adored me and had a very good opinion of me, so he took extra care to not offend me. So heres how the conversation went:
Manager: Isnt it a better idea to put up a semi formal picture?
Me: But the one I have put up is semi formal.
Manager: Yes it is, but you have short hair and a t-shirt
Me: But you are also wearing a t-shirt in your pic and how does the short hair matter?
Manager: Umm.. its not abt semi formal actually, I was thinking a different look would make people take you more seriously
Me: (confused) Different look?
Manager: Yes.. like you can wear a suit, take a pic now with your longer hair, maybe wear specs
Me: Ah, you want me to look older?
Manager (blushing): Yes.. I mean.. I don’t want to offend you but you look pretty young don’t you think, especially as you are in a role where you make decisions and influence senior managers on the client side
Me: Not really but that’s ok, I will change the pic

So I have a pic in a suit with a serious growl on my face, and I hope now it doesn’t remind people of Cerelac anymore. SIGH!
Another one was with a lady colleague who belongs to a different team. I exchanged e-mails with her for nearly a year on formal matters. And then there was an escalation and we had to meet up to decide how to address it and so I went to the pre-booked meeting room.
Her (As soon as I enter): I am sorry but this room is booked
Me: I know, I booked it myself, you must be Rachel.. I am Merlin.
Her (shakes hands with a surprised look): You are Merlin??
Me: Yes, you seem to have a doubt?
Her: No.. er.. you seemed totally different in mails, you don’t look like Merlin?
Me: And how should Merlin look like?
Her: Er…. Maybe a bit older?

At least she was honest. Most people aren’t, but I know the look which says ‘You are Merlin??!! you gotta be kidding’.

My gtalk status reads “Mid month resolution.. I will blog everyday :)” and I get a lot of sarcastic comments on that (Some have commented in the posts below) because for some reason I have given the image that I am a very busy guy. I don’t deny it, but I firmly believe that every man should have the time to love his girl (if he has one), talk to friends (he should have some), spend time with his parents/kids, and blog. If he cannot do these very basic activities, he should reconsider his job, maybe take a sabbatical and spend a year being with his loved ones and blogging. On a serious note, I want to blog everyday because I like blogging. It makes me feel that I can think of things beyond my work issues (and being the youngest in the team is not really a work issue). It makes me feel freshened up just putting my thoughts down. My dad practices Yoga. My mom believes and spends time in meditation. My best friend writes morning pages. I blog. It is an equally spiritual and refreshing exercise. For those of you who are bloggers, I don’t need to convince you, for those of you who arent I will say.. try it. For those who have tried and given up, well, even yoga and meditation are not meant for everyone.
Today was a sunny day and it was positive four degrees. One of the brightest days so far. Hence I have forgiven fate for bringing all the escalations and work related tensions in my life. As long as there is sunlight, a nice home to come back to, some interesting people to chat with, and space to blog in, I am a happy man.

Quote of the day:
“"I worry that all of my wisdom is derived from bad analogies."
"Ratbert, sometimes a good wine has to age before it is perfect."
"So... I'll get smarter over time?"
"To the extent that you are like a grape."
- Ratbert and Dogbert in Dilbert

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Of God and of Happiness...

Sometimes when good things happen to you, you give the credit to yourself... saying that you were good hence… sometimes you say that you persevered long enough, and it paid off… sometimes you shrug and tell yourself that you just happened to be at the right place at the right time, and sometimes … you just believe in God.

I wouldn’t say I am an atheist, but religion and God never played a very important role in my life… till now. Suddenly God decided to make his presence felt, and I started feeling his might at every curve in the road of my life. So much so that I started talking about Him, and maybe even writing about Him, something which is very surprising to me, if not to Him too!
Gods greatest gift to anyone ever is people. You can be made happy with money, power, success, but if the people in your life are not the right ones, your happiness will never actually be complete. And hence the legendary stories of the rich lonely tycoons and the hungry happy beggars. But just sticking to the non extremities of the world, even to the common man, a bank assistant, a shop owner, a software engineer, happiness is defined by the people in his/her life. So it all boils to something as simple as this.. if God has been graceful enough to give you the right kind of people in your life, it doesn’t really matter how much you earn, or what you do, or how successful you are, in the end you will be a happy person. Because for a human being, it’s the people around that matter the most.

I guess I can say that I happen to be a fairly successful man till now. I’ve been lucky. I am not exactly an heir to unprecedented wealth, but I fall in the successful category amongst the common men I was telling you about, amidst the non extremities of the world. For my age, I earn more than most people do, and more than I had expected 3 years back. I have managed to fulfill all the criteria which the society has laid out for a man to be called successful.. I have the correct number of digits in my salary figure; I have the word ‘manager’ in my e-mail signature, and the name of a well known international company below it. I have the correct number and types of qualifications which society deems necessary, and I am abroad in the correct country, for an appropriate number of years. Hence I am a society certified successful person, but success per se, does not bring me any happiness. It brings me a lot of pride, satisfies my ego, partly quenches my eternal thirst of ambition. It boosts by self esteem and gives me the confidence to face the world. But it does not give me happiness. I wouldn’t say I am in the possession of a great deal of wealth, or power, but I am sure even these wouldn’t fetch me a substantial amount of happiness. What actually brings happiness to me are the people in my life. And with Gods grace, I am a happy man. I am successful, but that’s not relevant.. what matters more is that I am happy. And that is only because I have the right people in my life.

I heard a lot of people comment about what A.R.Rehman said during the Oscars “Mere paas Maa hai”... some found it weird. I didn’t, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Thanks to all those who surround me and bring happiness in my life! My happiness is because of you :).

Quote of the day: "You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted - Ruth E. Renkl".

1. Yes, I am in a philosophical mood, please bear with me...
2. Thanks to the person/people who cheered my blogging.. you made my day.. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Seasons...

It is plus nine degrees today. After a long time there is bright sunshine and I feel that I will survive in Stockholm for some more time.

I never thought that my surroundings and the weather can make such a profound impact on my mood. But then I never lived in a place where the seasons and the environment changed so much, its almost as if it has a life of its own. India has its seasons, but they aren’t half as varied as in Europe. Stockholm for example, is a different planet in summer. Bright, warm, colorful and cheerful. Its inevitable that the spirit of summer will get to you and you will smile, laugh and wear bright colors. People here behave differently in summer. The sound levels in the metro train are a notch higher, more kids are outside playing, the dogs are wagging their tails. Its a shame if you don’t take a boat ride to the islands nearby or go for a grill lunch picnic. Autumn is a different look altogether. It gets slightly darker, the greens turn to yellow and there are leaves all around. The whiff of winter is in the air, almost whispering in your ears about how its going to come and engulf everything around in a few months. The first time I set foot in Stockholm, it was autumn. As I entered my hotel room I noticed a tree in front which had beautiful yellow and maroon leaves. It was a beautiful sight. The next day as I prepared to go to work I looked out and lo behold! There wasn’t a single leaf on the tree!! And I thought.. so this is what autumn is like. I’d read it in all those books growing up, but that day I felt autumn.

Winter is the worst. Not because of the cold. Everyone asks me this all the time. ‘It must be cold in Stockholm’. It is… really cold.. goes down to minus 10, but it doesn’t matter. Every place has central heating… home, workplace, metro trains, metro stations, busses, cars, shops, malls. When you go out you are dressed for the cold. And with time you learn to be fashionable even in 3 layers of clothing. You learn about not being brave and always wearing a scarf and gloves. And with time you also get used to the cold.. till it doesn’t really bother you too much. So the minus temperatures really don’t matter.

It’s the darkness, always the darkness, that matters the most. I had laughed the first time someone had told me this. And had told the person, how does it matter anyway? I like nights, taking long walks in the night, partying at night, or just sitting with my best friend out on the verandah at night. But the phenomenon of having darkness around you 24 by 7.. through weeks and months.. for nearly 4 months is something that cannot be explained. You never even know when it starts getting to you. Until someday when you had a good day at work, a nice evening and still at the end of the day you feel depressed. Like something is missing. Its like when you taste a familiar dish with a missing ingredient and you try to guess what is missing. Its waking up to darkness, going to work in darkness, and then returning home to darkness. Its about having your breakfasts, lunches and dinners in darkness. Its about spending weekends in darkness. Well, as I said its kinda tough explaining it, but believe me somehow it gets to you. There have been so many occasions when I have thought.. if only I could see the sun.. just for an hour. And not surprisingly I am not the only one. People, like birds, migrate during winter to sunnier parts of the world.

It stays dark and gloomy till it snows, and somehow the snow makes you feel better. It lifts up your spirits. And then of course there is Christmas. You do not have to be a Christian to feel the Christmas spirit in the air during December. And then things are less gloomy.

But things are changing. I saw a flower peeping out of the ground today, with a kind of a hesitation, as if it was not sure that it was time for it to come out. It reflects the mood in the air, no ones sure whether winter has ended. I thought it had ended a week back, till 4 days back when I woke up to a white morning, everything covered in snow. And it snowed continuously for 3 days. But today its plus nine degrees, the snow is gone, and the sun was out for 30 minutes in the morning. I am already feeling happy.

From 4 hours of daylight we will soon move to 8 to 9 hours, and in a few months we will have a day when we will have 23 hours of sunlight! And that believe me is enough to cheer up the most depressed person in the world. So my advice is, if you have the equivalent of around 500 EUR (that’s around 35000 INR) saved up for air tickets, pack your bags and come over to Stockholm in May. You can put up at my place and I can show you around and tell you a few more interesting things about Stockholm :)

Picking up from my last blog, you can always look at the life you have in a better perspective if you remove yourself and look at it from afar. If I see the life I had in India, I can see so many things I never bothered thinking about back then. Like the daylight, like the warmth, of the climate and of the people. Like the bhel puri and pani puri. Like those amazing Kolkata egg rolls. Like the Delhi matharis. Like the most amazing Nagpur pav bhajis.. When I go back to India, I promise to appreciate the daylight and the weather everyday and thank God everytime I have panipuri :).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Then... and now... A Brick in the Wall

It is always good to look back at what you were thinking a year or two back.. it gives you a correct perspective of where you are now. Its almost like this European Travel Channel I was watching, where some tourists from Europe and the US have gone on an 'adventure tour' of India, to the remote villages and towns of Uttar Pradesh. They are all people who had upheavals in their life recently, and they all said the same thing. Being in India, in a land that is so different, so culturally removed from the lives that they live, gave them a perspective of where they were. Hence it is always good to remove yourself from where you are now, and look at your life from afar, from the past, the future, or maybe from a different world altogether. Maybe that is why Indians living abroad have a better perspective of the life in India.. for better or for worse. But that deserves a separate post :). For this one, I will stick to travelling to the past and taking a look at my life now from that point.

For me a look at my past means a read of what I had written 2 years back. So here is something I wrote when I was still in India.. at a juncture where things were a wee bit hazy. And I guess I crossed the phase and came to the crest..

I promised myself I will not write too much philosophy on my blog, but as this is something that puts my life in perspective, let this be an exception.

Also to be noted... I am new to public blogging, not to writing :) Hence there will be some historic posts pulled out from archives in this blog now and then.

A Brick in The Wall
Written on 20th June 2007...
Sometimes things are very obscure, the color tends more towards grey, and there is an over hanging haze. Uncertainty rules over everything, and life seems to be like a car that has skidded out of control in spite of you being in the driving seat. Sometimes it feels like you're bobbing amidst a huge ocean… struggling to stay afloat and looking around for a piece of wood to grab on to… surrounded by the eternity of things that make you but a speck of dust in the galaxy. You’re just a part of things, a drop in the sea, a grain of sand in a desert…. And you wonder about yourself. You wonder about your identity. You wonder who you are… You wonder if you’re just a brick in the wall…

When you set out on a journey, you have a destination in mind. And the image of the destination, the pleasure and the satisfaction of reaching it is what spurs you on. And there are times when after a long journey, after a lot of toil, a lot of sweat, you finally reach your destination, and look around, and wonder… have I really arrived? Is this what I looked forward to throughout the journey? Is this what I yearned for? And then you wonder… about yourself, about the empty feeling inside you. You wonder if you’ve reached your destination, or just an intermediary stop… You wonder if there is a destination at all…

There are times when you set a goal and try to achieve it. There are times when it seems so out of reach. There are times when it seems just impossible. There are times when it feels not worth it. But you just strive on… and at a point achieve what you set your eyes on. But somehow after the initial exhilaration has died down, and you look around at what you got, you wonder if this is what you tried so hard for, so long for. And you wonder if after all this is what you want… you wonder if this is your target, your goal, you wonder that in life what is your final call…

Right now I feel all of this... and lots more. I have everything I ever wanted and I don’t know what it was that I ever wanted. They say I am a good listener and a good mentor too. So if anyone would have come and told me the same thing that I state above I would have laughed it off and said, chill, its just a phase. Maybe it is… maybe it isn’t. Whatever it is, it is tough. The only thing that’s certain is uncertainty and it stands mighty and tall.

I don’t know where I’ll be in another 2 months time, whether I’ll be in the same role, whether I’ll be in the same division, whether I’ll be in the same house, whether I’ll be in India at all. But I shall plough on. There was a time when some people, whom I had relied on, had counted on, had suddenly moved away. Life almost seemed to have been doing an orchestrated dance against me. And the trough just seemed to be getting deeper and deeper. Till I was actually looking forward to hitting the rock bottom so that I could come back to the crest sooner. But the time is past, and even through the haze I can make out the outline of the crest.

They say that in the journey of life u gain some, u lose some… some friends, some confidence, some valuable emotions. And it has never been truer for me. Even as I bend forward on the edge of the cliff thinking I have support, the support is drawn away from me, and I feel the void, the feeling of being suspended in free space. I realize that the support I had looked forward to was an illusion. Sometimes friendship very closely resembles an illusion, a hoax, and it is difficult to tell one from the other. Just when u start thinking that something is too good to be true, something is a hoax, it blossoms into a beautiful friendship and maybe love too, sometimes when u think you have discovered the truest of friendship, it turns out to be an illusion. In the past 3 years I have experienced both these feelings.

I struggle on. I have surprisingly formed new relations, new emotions, and new love. And it feels so good… like salvaging back a lost treasure. There were some people who were close to me… I have let them fade away. Maybe the verb is wrong, I have after all struggled to hold on, but sometimes a one sided effort is not enough.

Amidst the haze and the fog I grope, I trip and I stumble, but I go on. And I hope that my new relations, my new hopes will overshadow the things that I have lost, I hope they will be support enough for me to go on, even if I do not know my destination, even if I cannot see my next step. I hope that what I have gained is much more valuable than what I have lost. And I hope that wherever I am, in whatever role, as a Team Lead or a Client Manager, in India or Sweden, it will not matter. The haze will not matter. Because for myself and for a select few others, I will not be a brick in the wall.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

About Orators, Bloggers and Prostitutes..

There are two kinds of orators: the prostitutes and the wives. No don’t get me wrong, I am not the typical pervert, its just that its the only way to categorize them. Having a 2 year master’s degree which taught me to give fancy names to everything that walks or stays still under the sun, I have an exaggerated appreciation for simplicity. So we will stick by the simple categorization. And note that I have been debating since I was 7 years old, and have participated in nearly every notable state and national level debate there is, so you’ll have to give it to me, I have seen every type of orator. And they are all either the prostitutes or the wives.

The logic is simple. There are the prostitutes… the speakers who perform for the masses, who address the complete audience, irrespective of whether you are the judge of the debate, or just a passer by who stopped by to listen... Personally I have always admired these orators more than the wives. Wives are the ones who address only a selected part of an audience. It could be the panel of 3 judges in a crowd of a 100, or their girlfriend sitting in the last row, or their professors/boss.. anything. Mind you, the wives are also pretty successful orators, I have seen quite a few of them win some of the biggest competitions. But as I said… personally I would go for the prostitutes. They are the guys who don’t care a damn about winning. They get a kick out of speaking to the masses… and that’s all that matters. They don’t care if you agree with them or not, they don’t care if you believe them or not, if they get through to you, if they can reach out to you, if they can make you think and ponder on what they just said, they are happy. That’s victory for them. The worlds greatest orators have historically been politicians.. John F Kennedy, Abraham Lincon, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony.. and in that profession you cannot afford to be a wife.. you have to speak to the masses.
And though you must have guessed it by now, as an orator, I am a prostitute, and I don’t know if the last line would have been more difficult to say if I had been a girl.

But its actually the writers I want to talk about. It’s just that I cannot help but draw a comparison to the orators. Both use the most powerful tool there ever was: words. Both have a huge impact on an audience. Both have been known to change the history of the world. Also I identify myself more as an orator than a writer and hence feel more strongly about them.
But there is a distinctive difference in the prostitute-wife philosophy when applied to writers. And that is my point of contention. Whereas every orator worth his salt wants to be a prostitute, most respected writers fall into a third category altogether – virgins – those who write only for the sake of penning their thoughts and not for pleasing any specific audience. I don’t know if there are wives as well, I guess there are.. people who write to please their editors, their friends, family and specific audiences. And then of course, there are the prostitutes… who I don’t have a personal fascination for. Some of the latter category can bend down to such extents to please their audience and increase their viewership that I sometimes believe that the government should impose a license to write, and such writers should have their licenses revoked. The art of writing is as much an art as painting and singing and should command as much respect. It is not to be auctioned off for the sake of popularity. If you have been gifted with the art, please do not berate it by writing for the sake of being popular..
Just as all thoughts and blog entries are inspired by a certain incident, so is this.

This post is inspired by a blogger/writer/author with excellent skills in penmanship, for whom I have a lot of respect. The person in question has slowly shifted from to the category of writers I am not so fond of, and now tries to write on topics which he knows will draw audiences. This includes some scandalous topics and some insinuating topics. And there are some advertising gimmicks involved, like scrapping everyone about each new blog entry, sending mass mailers to people and posting in communities asking people to read the blog entry. I am not judging, but isn’t the definition of a blog supposed to be a tool of self expression, and not a tool of self propagation.
Interestingly, the bloggers whose blogs I follow are people who write on topics that they feel about. Of course, every person is influenced by the opinions of the people who read their blog. And every person tries making their blog more interesting. And I guess that’s all right.. till they do not join the P category.

I was having this interesting conversation with my best friend... about blogs and bloggers. I was expressing my opinion that most bloggers start blogging with the intent of expressing themselves. But it is impossible to avoid being influenced by the opinions of the readership, especially when you have a sizable audience. Some of the blogs I read about, admire and follow have also gone through the changes. And if you have followed it from the beginning you can see the difference. However the changes are on most occasions welcome and I feel there is nothing wrong with them, as long as the person remains genuine. As long as the person still pens his thoughts. As long as the person writes what he/she feels and not what he/she is expected to feel.

As for this blog, maybe it will have its changes. Maybe it will not have any readership at all and I will be able to stick to my guns and write boring philosophies. But its better to blog stupid stuff than not blog at all. As I wrote in my first post below “A not-so-wise lady once said very wisely "There's only two types of people in the world.. The ones that entertain and the ones that observe" Well as I also have always been the put-on-a-show kinda guy, I guess I will want to be in the first category... and blog...”

Act 1 Scene 1..

For those who know me.. the title of this first post will not be a surprise. For those who dont.. lets just say I am one of the old fashioned few who never got over the Shakespeare lessons in school... and are still in love with the famous scribe!

Yes.. I have had a number of websites, online diaries and blogs before. No.. I cannot justify why this one will be different. All I can say is that life for me has always been in phases... and this phase is so new that I believe that I can say it is Act 1 Scene 1 for me all over again...

This will be an anonymous blog, and I do not promise to be able to post regularly, this is perhaps the busiest time in my life and career. But my best friend has inspired me to write again (I will tag her blog as well once I figure out how to do that)... and so I will write.

A not-so-wise lady once said very wisely "There's only two types of people in the world.. The ones that entertain and the ones that observe" Well as I also have always been the put-on-a-show kinda guy, I guess I will want to be in the first category... and blog...

And for all those who are wondering what blogging has got to do with entertaining.. well you need to wait for my blog on blogging..