Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's Love Got To Do With It?

That is my latest article on the Writers Blend. The theme for this month is 'Human Rights'. An excerpt -

A New Year is around the corner and one of the first western festivals that we will be celebrating in the New Year (apart from New Year’s Day itself) will be Valentine’s Day. Now this has long been the eyesore for a multitude of Indians and they have been worried about immorality and the western concept of love infiltrating our culture. Of course, all Indian love stories are exempt from any compliance with morality (as defined today by the masses – dating included FYI) and are above and beyond all verification. Why don’t we begin with the Mahabharata – the book most Indians will swear by...

Read the whole article here: http://writersblend.blogspot.com/2007/12/whats-love-got-to-do-with-it.html

You can also read my Human Rights article 'Soul On Sale' at the same site: http://writersblend.blogspot.com/2007/12/soul-on-sale_10.html

Keep the faith!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Of Memories And Musicals

Hungama hai kyon barpa, Thodi si jo pi li hai
Daaka toh nahi daala, Chori toh nahi ki hai…

These are lines from a very famous Ghazal by Ustad Ghulam Ali. I don’t remember when was the first time I heard it…but I do remember my father pulling out that Ghulam Ali gramophone record on these Sundays when the household would decide to go on a cleaning spree. After finishing off with the major chunk of furniture, we would pick these small artefacts that needed fabric attention and settle down. That is when he would first lovingly wipe the record with a soft cloth akin to a priceless antique (which is how all the gramophone records at our place are treated, because that is what they are – priceless and antique) and then put it on the record player at 33 ½ rpm. We would proceed with the cleaning, everyone humming along with the mellifluous voice wafting from the speakers. At this point, my mother would be making us all a refreshing (and much needed) cup of tea (probably the second or third in the day). As we took a break from the cleaning to savour the tea, she would tell us the (quite romantic) story about how they acquired that record. My parents were connoisseurs of the Ghazal.

(In retrospection, I think it was rather queer for a South Indian family to be so interested in Urdu Ghazals when some of our clan does not even know such an art form exists. But then, we never behaved like a typical South Indian family (thank Gawd!))

Other memories related to Ghazals are returning home from school or Basketball practice on some evenings and finding either yellow or no lights in the drawing room. Even as I would enter the door Jagjit Singh’s dulcet voice would greet me. Usually something like Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti or Ahista Ahista…my father had an enviable collection of Jagjit Singh’s records that he reserved to be relished on such evenings when he was in a mood for some mellow music. As usual tea would be brewing and hot pakoras could be a bonus as we enjoyed the music. I grew up listening to Ghazals and the maestros lived in our home.

But then my father lost his hearing and the maestros became quiet. Nobody wanted to hear them when my father could not be an audience. After he passed away, those records became painful memories and the Ghazal had no patronage in the house…only in memory.

So when I went to the Jagjit Singh concert in Bangalore on the 1st of December, I was awash with mixed feelings. It was like being back in 1996 or something and hearing his soothing voice welcome me home. I was inundated in the music and the memories for the three hours. I knew most of the songs and it felt like I had found an old friend again. The 2nd of December marked three years since my father passed away and I wanted my attendance at the concert to be a personal tribute to his love for Ghazals…the same love that he infused in me.

The concert was to start at 5:30 PM but they only started letting people into the Koramangala Indoor Stadium a little after 6. There was quite a crowd that had assembled and one was glad to see youngsters in the queue. We entered the stadium too and waited anxiously upon taking our seats…it was close to 7:30 PM. Then Jagjit Singh arrived and transported us to heaven.

The audience regaled in the timeless classics like a parched soul who finds water in the desert. Kiska Chehra, Kal Chaudhvi Ki Raat Thhi, Tera Chehra, Who Kagaz Ki Kashti, Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya, Kabhi Yun Bhi Toh Ho, Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi were just some of the pearls that rolled out. Ahista Ahista was conspicuous by its absence though. The last two Ghazals – Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar and Hothon Se Choo Lo Tum had complete audience participation. And then came the surprise – a bunch of Punjabi folk songs and that was the best part since I saw a completely different aspect of Jagjit Singh’s singing. It was three hours of good music – just like the old times.

I don’t know why I enjoyed the concert so much – because I am a Ghazal fan myself or because there are so many good memories I have about Ghazals. Was it the music or the comfort zone that I was relishing? Why was I able to overlook the obvious unsuitability of the venue, the bad sound arrangements and the utterly ill-mannered crowd (something that would have irked me no end on a normal day) and take away the best from the concert? I am still looking for a rational explanation for it, for the way memories and sentiments have this effect on you that is hard to explain and makes it possible to put up with this planet…but then who wants a rational explanation anyway…I am happier with this heady feeling.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Difference

Between leaders and followers. Between proactive and passive. Between great and good.
We have been stuck with a few issues in a solution that we are implementing at client site for the past 10 days. The solution was developed to cater to a specific business need about 7 years ago by my company in association with the Development guys. And as part of the solution, several standard packages that are a part of specific business modules are called to fulfil specific functions.
Two of the issues we are facing are clearly stated limitations of the solution that the client wants to be handled. The other two are problems with the standard packages that are being called. I have broken my head over those two for the whole of last week and dug into the ultra-extensive code to isolate the exact SELECT statements where the problem is, as pointed out by log files that we have obtained (anyone who has some experience in the software industry will know what it is to look into someone else’s code and then make sense out of it, not to mention that this particular code refers about 1 billion packages!!).
Now we supplied these SELECT statements along with the log files and a detailed problem statement to the Development team so that they could help us figure out what the problem was and look into it if it was a bug in the standard code.
And this is the response we got: Since your company developed the custom code, you should look into it. Kindly tell your own guys to investigate. We cannot provide development bandwidth for this. We can only provide pointers.
Now the response on the limitations and the workarounds provided by the guy who worked on the solution 7 years ago and is much higher up in the hierarchy– he actually looked into the whole problem and took the effort of drafting two vary detailed mails with the reason (as he remembered) why the solution had a particular limitation and what we could do as a workaround. He gave examples with data fished out from some documents he had from the past and explained the whole thing in a nice informal manner. And given this guy’s designation, I can imagine how difficult it is for him to take out the time to revisit something you did ages ago and explain it to someone else.
I am forced to wonder if it is attitude and not a limitation in IQ that is coming in the way of the Development guy seeing that the problem is in the standard code (the exact name of which has been provided to him). Just because the custom code calls a standard package does not mean that it is our responsibility to debug even standard code which was never altered…only used. It is like saying that since the Audi was customized to have a right hand drive in India, Audi has no responsibility of any problems that the engine presents in India; we used the standard code, it was driving the whole solution. But since we wrote the code that calls the standard code, Development is free to wash its hands off the whole thing.
And that is the difference that I am talking about. Owning up to things, no matter what the consequences. We are always on the lookout for ways to shrug responsibility off especially in the face of adversity (considering that our client has actually escalated the fact the Development is not giving the right attention to the bugs that we have raised)…But it takes the heart of a leader to stand up for something.
And it is this difference in attitude, in vision that has gotten the Senior guy where he is today and also the reason why the Development guy remains where he is. He may be good. But he is not great enough. I am appalled at the apathetic behaviour he displayed but I also have learnt a business lesson that will last me in good stead - Own up. Stand up. The more fire you face, the brighter you shine…like Gold.