How Desperately Difficult it is to be Honest

This post was inspired from the quote : “How Desperately Difficult it is to be Honest with oneself. It is much easier to be honest with others”. It has been taken quite literally. It is about the questions that a person would want to ask if he meets himself, who is 10 years older. This is only possible if a Time machine were invented, but it is possible in my blog too 🙂 . I have written this one in Youth Unite, where I am a Co-author. You can find the post in the below link.

http://youthunite.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/how-desperately-difficult-it-is-to-be-honest/

Destination Infinity

Bilingual Dilemmas

Actually, I can speak four languages – Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and English (Yes, I count this as a separate language that I know!). But English is only for Business. Since, I can speak English well, Am I an Englishman? A look in the mirror confirms otherwise. Am I then Hindi? I guess not – for I can speak only broken Hindi.

 

We are then left with two more – Tamil and Telugu. Both are dominant languages of South India. As long I was in Chennai, there was no problem. I was a Tamilian outside my house and Telugu inside. But when I came to Bangalore, I had to answer one tough question – ‘Are you Tamil?’ It would have been easier to answer this – ‘Are you from Chennai?’ But no, you are asked the other question always. Sometimes, I have blinked for as long as 20 seconds to answer that question.

 

Forget others; my real problem comes when my heart asks my mind – ‘Are you Telugu or Tamil?’

 

Though my mother tongue is Telugu and we speak Telugu at home, I was born and brought up in Chennai in Tamil Nadu. My second language in school was Tamil and it was one of my favorite subjects. Outside my house, I always used to speak in Tamil.

 

Many of my classmates were Telugu by birth, but no one bothered to enquire. In fact, one of my bench mates for a long time in college was Telugu and had studied Telugu as a second language – in Chennai. But we always spoke to each other in Tamil.

 

Tamil is a very rich and an absorbing language. Living in Chennai for three generations means you are almost Tamil. Almost.  

 

When I came to Bangalore, my PG (Paying Guest accommodation) house owner introduced me to my future room mates and said that they were also Tamil. I insisted that I was Telugu. He then spoke to me in Telugu for five minutes. That was all he needed to convince himself that I was Tamil indeed, as he had earlier thought and spoke to me in Tamil henceforth.

 

Watching cricket matches could be boring sometimes. But with a big cheering crowd in my PG and 20 overs limited fast paced matches, watching the IPL was fun. One of my PG room mate was born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh (Chattisgarh, to be precise). His mother tongue was Tamil. This guy was supporting Chennai Super Kings (CSK). I decided that if this Madhya Pradesh (Now Chattisgarh) born guy could support his ancestral town; I better support Hyderabad Deccan Chargers. Or maybe even the Bangalore Royal Challengers, as I am currently living in Bangalore. But to my (and my fellow and ancestral city mates) dismay, neither of the teams blasted. The Madhya Pradesh (Chattisgarh?) supported CSK went right upto the finals! Of course, I decided to support CSK in the finals and you saw what happened! Call it luck – Bad Luck.

 

When I went to Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram?) to my colleague’s house, his mother asked me the same question – ‘Are you Tamil?’ Looking at the confusion in my face, my colleague volunteered – “He is Telugu”. To which, his mother replied – ‘But he looks like a Pandi…’. I later came to know that Pandi is a loose reference to Pandiya Nadu and that Malayalee’s use that word to refer to Tamil people in general, much like how North Indians use ‘Madrasi’ to refer to South Indians in general!

 

The icing in the cake came when I over heard a couple of Telugu guys speaking about me – “Some new Tamil guy has joined in our PG it seems….”

 

So, I use this medium of Blogging to tell everyone in Blogsville – “Naan Thamizhan ille nu yenga sonnen?…..  Thamizhana irrundirunda nalla irrukkum nu than solleren”

 

Dasavatharam Style….

 

Destination Infinity

 

PS: I am not going to translate the last sentence to any other language. If you can understand it, it was meant only for you. J

 

 

 

Sen. Barack Obama’s Speech in Berlin, Germany

Below is the link to the speech given on 24th July ’08 by the US Presidential Candidate – Sen. Barack Obama before about 200000 people in Berlin, Germany.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAhb06Z8N1c
Excerpt: “Partnership and Co-operation among nations is not a choice. It is the only way. The only way to protect our common security and advance our common humanity. That is why the greatest danger of all is to avoid new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between the old allies on the either side of Atlantic, cannot stand. Teh walls between the countries with the most and least, cannot stand. The walls between the races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christians, Muslims and Jews, cannot stand. These are the walls we must tear down”.

 

Destination Infinity.

PS: An appropriate and thought provoking speech. No wonder, he is the leading candidate for the next US President.

The Truth – Let us accept it.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=1lpsGl1oUL0

Raghu was the only son of a rather well-off family. His father was into district administration and money was never a problem. Raghu mostly got what he wanted. Being the only kid in the family, his demands were immediately fulfilled. Seeing a Microsoft X-Box in one of his friend’s house, he was pestering his parents to buy him a Sony Play Station II. He was so impressed by it that he wanted it pretty badly. Not that they didn’t have the money, but his parents wanted to bargain with him. He had to get the first rank in the quarterly examinations to get his Sony Play Station II. That was the deal. He was one among the top ten students in the class, but that was just not enough.

 

Sudha was of the same class as Raghu. Both were studying their fifth standard in a Government Central Board School. But Sudha was from a poor family. She had two elder brothers and one younger sister. Since her fathers income was not enough to manage such a big family, her mother used to help him by selling knitted jasmine flowers near the temple. But during the evening time, the crowd was particularly heavy and hence Sudha would go with her mother. She would do the knitting and her mother would do the selling. This happened from five to eight thirty in the evenings, daily. But this was the time she used to study her lessons – until last year. Her academic performance this year, was predictably lagging.

 

Both Raghu and Sudha had one common passion – Painting. There was a painting competition held in their school in which all the primary classes participated to exhibit their talent. The prize money was sponsored for this event by some trust, but the school didn’t believe in just giving the money to the kids. So, they devised a procedure – The first prize winner would receive fifty rupees per week, on Saturday. They had to go to the nearby post office and deposit the money on the same day and hand over a copy of the receipt to the class teacher. The school deliberately did this to inculcate the habit of savings in the kids. They wanted to create an example with the winner to other kids. But all the money was sponsored only to the first prize winner. And he could take it only after a year of savings in the post office account opened by their school.

 

Raghu thought about the prize money. If he gets the prize, he calculated, how many months would it take for him to buy a Sony Play Station II? The results were not very encouraging. By the time he would be able to save enough money, the model may not even exist. He wanted the Play Station II now.

 

Sudha also thought about the prize money. She was imagining the possibilities. If she was able to get fifty rupees a week, in a year, she could make a huge sum. She had learnt Simple Interest recently. So, when she was informed that they would be offering an interest of 8% a year, she was able to calculate the interest amount too. Wow. That was a lot of money. She was juggling her priorities.

 

There was some thing that Raghu was thinking about – He had already been getting a pocket money of fifty rupees per day (Being in the senior most section of the primary, he had a lot of expenditures). Besides, Saturday evenings were spent happily playing his favorite game – Cricket. He had not missed a single match until then. If he had to collect that fifty rupees every Saturday afternoon, walk to the post office, stand in the queue, make the payment and get the receipt, file it and then go to play, there would not be much time left before the sun comes down. Besides, if he pestered his parents enough, he might still get the Play Station II even if he did not get the first rank. Well 10 was very close to 1, after all!

 

The principal asked him – “Do you accept the terms and procedures for receiving the prize money or do we give it to Sudha, the second prize winner in the painting competition?”

 

It took only two minutes for him to take a decision. “Give it to anyone” he said.

 

Sudha was over-joyed. She would indeed get the money at last! She was thinking about all the possibilities. She would give the entire money to her parents. She would request only one thing in return – To allow her to study in the weekdays instead of knitting jasmines for her mother. She might be able to complete a college degree some day! She was beaming when she told about the whole thing to her parents. Could she stay back and study on the weekdays, she asked.

 

Her father replied to her mother: “See what a bargain she wants to strike. That too at such a young age! That’s why I asked you not to let the girls study. You would never listen. Well, how about this bargain – She’ll give all the money to us after one year and work in the evenings or she’ll not go to the school anymore”

 

It took only two minutes for all her dreams to get completely shattered.

 

 

Destination Infinity.

 

PS: The video at the beginning of the post was made by the colleague of a friend who works for a software company in Bangalore who worked extensively on Saturdays and Sundays with a team of friends to make it. The video even got a mention in “The Hindu”. This is the link to their website: http://www.pukar-dias.com/

The CEO

 

There was a time when Germany was holding most of the patents in the chemical industry. Most of the leading chemical industries were based out of Germany. But there was an empire some where else, which wanted the technology – very badly. This empire was built by manufacturing armaments – Guns, Gunpowder and a lot more. But civilization, they say keeps changing. The armaments industry was no more as profitable as it was before. The empire needed to diversify soon.

 

There was a new recruit in one of the chemical industries in Germany. He was clearly not the average German worker you would find. In fact his German language was highly broken and irregular. But he was able to impress the supervisor. His efficiency and speed impressed many. He was so good that he was promoted twice in the first six months. And six months was the time which he needed to understand a particular chemical process. The process for which scientists had toiled day and night. The process and the patent the company possessed, that enabled the company to refuse re-sale rights to the Empire.

 

In a totally unrelated incident after 150 years, there was an interview in the TV. They interviewed a lot of people in the malls, theatres, parks etc. The question was – “Would you like to become the CEO of a big company and why?”

 

Some of the answers are given below:

 

“Yeah. Why not? I would like to have a lavish lifestyle wear costly watches and suites, drive BMW…….”

 

“Definitely. I could travel in business class. Maybe own my own personal jet……”

 

“Why not? Work hard, play hard, party big time……”

 

“The power. That’s what I like about the CEO position. I have total control over the resources and I can take decisions and implement them as and when I wish. I would have the money, people and the influence. That’s power…..”

 

“Well I have 25 years of Government service behind me. Trust me, this is the best job in the world. Are bhaiyya, CEO ke job mein bahut tension hota hai. Look at me, I am happy, my son Is employed with the Government too and we are totally settled in life…”

 

“Well frankly, it’s a challenge. A small decision you make could have a huge impact on the people working down the line. If I could make an informed decision and if I have the experience, why not?…..”

 

Let us get back once again to the chemical era, 150 years ago.

 

The empire was called Du Pont. It is still called so. The worker who did the entry level jobs in the German Chemical industry for quite some time to obtain the chemical process was none other than the CEO of one of the Du Pont companies in the United States, back then. Of course, they later got the resale rights but this time it was at their price.

 

 

Destination Infinity

 

PS: This is almost a true story (Except the interview part). A bit generalized because I don’t remember the exact names involved.

ENA – Elite Public Education in France

The Ecole Nationale d’ Administration (ENA) was the result of a disaster. The disaster called World War II. Until then, it was the role of universities in France to impart education, which remained hotbeds of feudalism, clericalism and intellectual conservatism. But as a post World War purges of 1944-45, France desperately wanted to replenish the higher ranks of its civil service. Hence the birth of ENA.

 

In 1945, in the first year of ENA’s service, the school didn’t even have a building, let alone a curriculum. The only thing the new students could do was field training. Soon after, the directors realized the wisdom of giving students contact with the real world after so many years in the education system of cramming for exams.

 

ENA’s program lasts 27 months. But the first two six months are for field training even today. The internships are in a prefecture, embassy or even a French multinational corporation.

 

After the field training come the classes. The courses cover administration of a prefecture, control of community affairs and management of public affairs. Informal courses and through role plays, the students are taught about economic analysis and decision making. They are taught how to evaluate a budget and assess diplomatic efforts. In teams of twelve, they produce a group report on weighty topics such as assessing France’s energy policy, the minimum wage reform or unification of Germany.

 

Each year the Prime Minister reserves top positions in each ministry for ENA’s top graduates. They begin their careers where the best civil servants usually expect to end theirs. About one half of the ministers in any present cabinet, six of the last nine Prime Ministers and two of the last three Presidents were from ENA.

 

All this, not without reason. And that being the competitive nature of the selection process, which make sure that only the best are taken into the ENA. The entrance tests are divided into two parts: Written and Oral.

 

Candidates write five tests of five hours each on public law, economy, political thought, second language proficiency (Second language is a language other than French) and the European Union(Or Social Affairs). They are required to analyse issues like “Recent reforms of the qualified majority in the European Commission” or “The place of the contract in Administrative Law”. They have to read sixty pages of documents and produce a ministerial memorandum on an issue like ‘Amendments to the language Law of June 1994’.

 

The written tests eliminate six of seven prospective candidates. Those who pass become eligible for the oral examinations. The first part consists of three hours of oral exams to test candidates capacity to speak a second language and their general knowledge of public finance. Foreign affairs, Social Affairs and European Union. The fourth examination is the Grand O (Grand Oral), in which for 45 minutes, a five person jury questions candidates on anything. This is public. Anyone interested to watch, can.

 

ENA students are graded on everything they do during their 27 months of study. Each course ends with a five hour exam, during which a student much read eighty pages of material on the topic of study and produce a four page ministerial memorandum. At the end of all this, the students tend to choose their postings (among the ones available) according to their grade.

 

This choice by rank system also serves a broader purpose. It helps prevent the kind of thickly woven network of contacts, friends and political sympathizers. Before ENA, families, associations and political parties monopolized the ministerial services. Now, ministers have no choice about the candidate they hire under them. The Government is forced to cooperate with a corps of prefects and a Conseil d’ Etat that wasn’t put there by friends or family.

 

 

Destination Infinity.

 

PS: Almost all the points were taken from a particular chapter of the book “Sixty Million Frenchmen can’t be Wrong”. Quite an informative book which attempts to understand the ways of a nation whose public administration ranks among the best in the world.

 

To read more such articles, you could visit the People Places and Culture section of this blog.

The Humble beginnings of the “Red-Tape”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D__yFDBIR_4]

“Dad, my school wants me to donate some money for the flood relief scheme”

“Great. Actually it is a very good thing to do, son. It is good to do your part to help the people suffering in another part of the country”

“It’s been made compulsory”

“I thought it was voluntary”

“Yeah, that’s what the notice board says. But the teacher is asking all the students to donate”

“Voluntarily?”

“Well….”

“Its still fine, son. It’s always good to do something to support people who are affected by natural disasters”

“How much do I give?”

“How much did Kumar’s son give?”

“100 rupees”

“Then you give 150. If that Kumar can donate 100, we can do much more. After all, when it comes to the ‘status’, we are far ahead of them”

“They are also organizing a camp. We could volunteer to directly go to the affected villages and distribute materials”

“You are too small for all that…”

“But a couple of guys from my class are going…”

“You don’t understand. The villages are affected by floods. They don’t even have good water to drink. And besides you get cold if you stand in the rain just for even five minutes… Why don’t they give the money to the Government? They are supposed to do the distribution”

“But the teacher says that the Government will take a long time to bring in aid. Our school is adopting one village and we would be helping that village to come back to normal life. They also feel it would be a good opportunity for the children to learn about the ways of dealing with emergency by volunteering to help”

“By doing these things, your school is acknowledging that the Government is unable to do its job. If they are really concerned, they should make sure that the money goes into the right hands and the necessary things are done, instead of involving kids into all this”

 

Does the Red-Tape start from home or the Government?

 

 

Destination Infinity.

 

PS: The video is the effort of one person wanting to help some of the Tsunami Victims in Sri-Lanka.

 

Match Fixing

He practices for ages…
That stuns even the sages.

He is the gifted one…
Also the chosen one.

Placing is hard, so he thought…
Leaving is harder, which he felt.

His performance was a stunner…
But he deserved an Oscar.

Oh God,

We miss catches and fix matches
And still call it ‘sport’

You mix actors and fix the script
And still call it ‘Life’

What is the difference between Thou and I?

Destination Infinity

Karate and Social Sciences

 

When you are young, it’s the thrill of doing something that gets you doing many things. Dheeraj was about twelve, when he enrolled in the Karate Classes. Three days a week, two hours per day and a lot of kicking – he thought. Only after joining did he come to know that there would be absolutely no sparing (Karate equivalent to fighting), while he was in the white belt stage, which was the entry level for new joinees. It would be vigorous exercising for 45 minutes and Khatta practice for the remaining time. (A Khatta is like a dance. The steps, moves, punches and kicks are all done in a sequence – Orderly way). After about six months, Dheeraj at last entered the Orange III level.  (White, Orange III, II, I, Brown III, II, I, Black I, II, III…. Is the sequence in which you progress. The colour of the belt is different for different schools of Karate). When you reach the Orange belt level, you are expected to spare (fight). Dheeraj was well built, quite tall and have an above average structure. So, he was eager to do this. There were four points one needs to score to win over his opponent. The point awarded, depended on the quality of the hit.

 

The first day of fighting was a disaster for Dheeraj. He had to fight a senior. Before he could move, there was a high reverse kick, which landed straight on his face. Blood. He had seen blood before, while playing many of the outdoor games. But this was different. The next class got only worse. This time he had to fight the Sempai (Master). But there was no blood this time, Only a few kicks and falling down. Of course, Dheeraj was on the receiving end always.

 

He felt this was unfair. He had just started to learn how to fight and straight away he was pitted against his senior and master. There was this uneasy feeling inside him as this continued for some more time. He could no longer be patient. He asked the Sempai – “Don’t you think this is unfair? Why don’t you let me fight the guys from my batch? I might be able to hit them better and score more points”

 

 

Rohini was very good in Mathematics. Her love for numbers and problem solving always reflected in her results. She always topped the class in mathematics. The interest and enthusiasm she showed in mathematics impressed everyone. It came naturally to her. She was always proud of her marks in mathematics. Her Social Sciences teacher, who was also her class teacher, was not all that happy as she was not doing well in other subjects. She called Rohini to the Staff room and wanted to know what was the problem in other subjects. Especially Social Sciences.

 

“Its so hard for me to memorize. I mean, look at maths. If I practice solving a particular type of problem, the formulae and the methods get registered automatically in my mind. But in Social Science, I have to force myself to memorize. I find it really hard to remember the events and especially the dates. I am not interested in them.”

 

The teacher was shocked. She was from a different country and a different way of teaching altogether. She was new to the ways of urban India.

 

“Is this the way all the students learn?”

 

“Most of them, yes”

 

“Why do you have to memorize the whole syllabus?”

 

“Because we want to get more marks. That’s how you win in life – getting more marks. And you get more marks by reproducing the text book word by word”

 

“What you learn out of those lessons are not important to you?”

 

“Not If we get good marks. As long as we keep getting good marks, how we get it and what we learn out of it, doesn’t really matter”

 

 

The Sempai (Karate Master) asked Dheeraj – “Why did you join Karate?”

 

“Because a lot of my friends did. Many of my neighbors are already in brown belt.”

 

“What do you want to learn in Karate?”

 

“I want to reach the highest belt possible, in the shortest possible time. I heard that Black X is the highest. Or is it the red belt?”

 

“So, if I offer you the black belt immediately, would you happily take it?”

 

“Why not? But you haven’t answered my question. Why do we have to fight with you and seniors, and not our own batch mates?”

 

“Since you are curious, Ill tell you. In Karate, we train you to hit in self defense. But more importantly, we train you to cope up with the pain inflicted by an opponent who may be much stronger and larger than you. Being able to get back to your feet, even if the opponent has landed a powerful punch on your face, and getting in position to fight back is more important than the most powerful punch you can deliver. Irrespective of your strength and skill, you can always expect your opponents to be better in Karate. You cant always keep winning in Karate”

 

Perhaps so in life, too.

 

 

Destination Infinity

 

“You can buy education. But not wisdom”