Tuesday, August 16, 2011

GRASS ALWAYS LOOKS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE

Just before entering the class, Ravi opened his medicine box and gulped down two pills to ease the back pain and head ache. Irregular and exceptionally long working hours had taken a toll on his health over the years resulting in frequent bouts of back pain and head ache.

Ravi was an Investment Banker by profession and had completed six years in this field last month. The career had so far been very demanding but exceptionally rewarding at the same time as well. Within five years, he was a proud owner of an S-class Mercedes and 4-BHK sea facing flat at Nariman Point in South Mumbai. In Mumbai, if you told someone that you were living at Nariman Point it was considered a status symbol.

Today he was here at the most prestigious management school in India on direct invitation from its director to deliver a lecture on “Career in Investment Banking”. Adjusting his tie, Ravi entered the class full of students waiting anxiously for some career guidance. For the next two hours, Ravi spoke at length and answered all questions that students threw at him. By the end of lecture, one thing was clear to him. Almost all the students wanted to pursue this career just for the sheer money and glamour of it. But he couldn't blame them; the same reasons had been his motivation when he was in their place. The luxury of business class travel all around the world, comfort of staying in five-star hotels, having Gold cuff links and most importantly the thrill of interacting and meeting with Chairman's and CEOs of large corporations had been simply too good to resist for him at that time. Coming back to reality, Ravi gave a small closing speech to finish the lecture and gave his email id and mobile number for anyone who wanted any further help in pursuing a career in Investment Banking.

As he was packing his stuff, Ravi heard one student say to another, “ I am telling you Investment Banking is the place to be if you want to make money and that too real quick. Did you notice the cuff links on this investment banker guy's shirt? They were probably pure gold cuff links. Those two cuff links would be worth much more than both our outfits combined. I saw him coming out of a Mercedes too in the morning and too think he must be in his Mid-30s. No other career will be able to give that kind of money and luxury when you reach his age”. Ravi smiled and thought “Be careful what you wish for kid, Grass always looks greener on the other side”.

As Ravi stepped outside the gates of the campus, he signaled for his driver to come and pick him up from he was standing. Sunil, his regular driver was unwell today and had sent in a replacement to cover his absence. Ravi made a mental note to ask for the new guys name and mobile number on the way to office.

Once inside the car, he thought of catching up on some sleep since he had flown in from Paris quite late in the night and got up early to arrive for the lecture in time. But first he had to call his parents with whom he hadn‟t been able to talk for past six weeks. They had called three to four times all this while and each time he was in some meeting or the other. He dialed his dad's mobile number and spoke to both his parents for a couple of minutes. Like everyone else, they complained of his lack of phone calls and visits to them. They were worried about his health and told him to take easy. He made a false promise to them he would. This had been the routine for every call that he had with parents in last one and a half-year. Once he hung up, he closed his eyes for a quick nap.

Just as he was about to doze off, his cell phone rang. Annoyingly he picked up the phone and looked at the screen to see who was disturbing him. His ex-wife Avni was calling.

He picked up the call and said “Hello Avni, How are you doing?”

Avni replied, “I am doing fine Ravi, how are you? “

“I am doing well. How's my little champ doing?” Ravi asked

“Raj is doing great. He had sports day in his school today. He won two medals. You had promised him you would attend. Even your best friend Vicky was there to cheer for his son and he also was complaining that he hadn‟t spoken to you in last one month” Said Avni.

"Oh! Shit. I completely forgot about the promise I made to my son to attend Sports Day at his school" thought Ravi. Thinking of no possible excuse to give, Ravi could only say,” I am so sorry Avni. I completely forgot about this. I was very much looking forward to come and cheer our little boy. But then this sudden trip to Paris and lecture came up and I completely forgot about it. Please tell Raj, Papa is very proud of him and extremely sorry for missing out on his big day. Also tell him that I will make up to him by taking you both out to a 5-star dinner this Saturday”.

Calmly, Avni replied, “This is not the first time this has happened Ravi. Last year, you forgot his birthday and your excuse for that you were in London attending a very important client meeting. Was it that hard for you take 5 minutes out of your time to call your son and wish him Happy Birthday? I have so many more such instances that I can think of but that's not really the reason behind my call. I just wanted to tell you that our son really looks up to you. As it is our divorce was difficult for him and if you keep on ignoring him like that, a day will come when you will crave for his attention and he will walk right by you without even bothering to look up”.

Ravi felt a deep sense of sorrow and could only manage” I am very sorry Avni. I swear I will make it up to you both of you. I will make sure it doesn‟t happen again”

“I can only hope that you keep your promise this time Ravi. Otherwise you are going to lose your son. Good day Ravi!” Saying this Avni disconnected the call.

Ravi sighed and kept the phone down. Things were never this bad between Ravi and Avni. They had met each other at the first day of their MBA course and hit it off from there. It was kind of love at first sight for both of them. They studied together, did all their project and assignments jointly and in the free time explored Mumbai and its nearby places. It came as no surprise to any of their fellow batch mates when in middle of second year both of them announced that they were getting married.

Ravi passed out with a job offer from a top investment bank and Avni secured a job with a private bank. Things went smoothly for Ravi in the first year as most of it was spent on trainings and learning stuff from the experienced. Avni gave birth to their son in the second year and that was when the trouble started. Having gained enough experience in the first year, the investment bankers higher up in the chain started giving him more work. They also started involving him in meetings with top management from the clients which required lots of abroad travel. While Ravi travelled and attended meetings, Avni sat at home attending to their kid. Even when he was not travelling, Ravi spent most of his time in office doing work. At first, Avni did not say anything to Ravi as she thought that the job was such that it required him to work long hours and travel a lot. But her patience started to wear thin as their son turned a year old. She confronted him on this issue and Ravi dodged it by assuring her that things will get better soon. This went on for almost two years when Avni finally had enough. She decided that it was best that they divorce and remains friends. They decided that she will keep the custody of their child while he can come and visit them anytime. Ravi tried one last time to reconcile but Avni had made up her mind. He reluctantly gave in and finalized the divorce. Over the years, Avni had many a times indicated to him about getting back together provided he give up his job and look for something less stressing and demanding.

A sudden bump at the pothole brought Ravi back to reality and he looked around outside the window to notice that his office was not far away. Another 15-20 minutes and he would be back to world of balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flows. Sleep was far from his eyes after conversation with Avni. He decided to pass time by chatting with this new driver.

”What's your name?” asked Ravi

“My name is Satish, Sir” replied the Driver

“What do you do for living Satish?” Ravi asked

“I drive a taxi, sir” was Satish‟s reply

“So, how come you are not driving a taxi today?” was Ravi‟s next question

“Sir, Sunil called me last night and told me that he will not be able to report for duty today. He asked me if I could substitute on his behalf for a day. He also promised to give me Rs. 600 for the day. Even after I pay Rs. 150 to my boss, I will still make Rs. 450 which is more than I make on an average day. Plus the charm of driving a big Air conditioned car instead of a taxi was simply too good to resist.” Said Satish

“Why do you pay Rs.150 to your boss?” asked Ravi

“Sir, the taxi I drive is not mine. I am a hired driver for the taxi which is owned by my boss. We have an agreement with him where in we pay him Rs.150 daily and keep the rest of the earnings to ourselves. We are responsible for filling the CNG tank as well. Even on bad days when we end up making very little money, we are supposed to pay our boss.” Replied Satish

“So, on an average, if you make Rs. 300 per day, your monthly income comes out be approximately Rs. 9,000. Is that sufficient enough money for you and your family? How many members are there in your family?” was Ravi's next question

“Sir, I have a wife and two sons. My wife is a housewife. One is six year old and other is nine year old. Both of my children go to a local municipal school. As far as your other question goes, if you ask me, the money is never sufficient enough. The rent for my chawl is Rs.2500 and most of the remaining money is utilized on other regular monthly expenditures. We barely manage to save Rs. 500 per month. But I am happy with my life. I leave my home at 8'o clock in the morning and come back at 7 in the evening after 11 hours of shift. My kids are receiving decent education and my wife is there at home to take care of them. I have high hopes from my kids. I want them to get a good education and have a good career.” Was Satish's answer

“Don't you think if you had more money, you would be able to provide better education to your kids than the one you are currently providing?” asked Ravi

“Sir, the answer to your question is in your question itself. The issue is that I don't have more money. So I try to be content with what I have. In today‟s world, there is no definition of more money. If I had more money then I will be able to send my kids to a good private school. Then one day will come when I will come across someone who has sent their child abroad to receive even better education. Then again I would wish for more money to send my children abroad for even better education. Grass always looks greener on the other side. Right now I earn 9000 rupees in a month. I am home by 7-7.30 in the evening. I spend an hour with my kids going over what they learnt in the school that day and helping with their homework. In our home, we can only afford one fan at the moment. We have that installed in our children's room so that they get a good sleep. Me and my wife are used to sleeping without a fan anyways. But it is important to us that our kids receive our full support to the best of our abilities. I can drive my taxi for 14-15 hours instead of 11 hours and earn a little extra money. But I choose not to because I like to spend some time with my wife and help out kids with their homework. Family is more important to me than money.” Satish said

Ravi, kind of taken aback by reply from Satish refrained from asking further questions. But the words of Satish kept on provoking a thought in his mind. Here was a driver who was barely making ends meet but was content with his life and strived to provide the best support that he could offer to his family. While on the other hand was his own example, who despite having all the money in the world was completely disconnected from his family. He son only lived 20 kms away from his house and still he went months without seeing him. Suddenly Ravi felt himself to be very poor compared to the driver.

Somewhere during his thoughts, Ravi noticed that he had arrived in his office building. His driver stopped the car in front of the lobby. Clutching his briefcase Ravi got out of the car and went straight towards the lift. He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he did not notice the security guard saluting him. Once at his desk, Ravi tried focusing on work but his thoughts kept going back to the conversation with driver and Avni. The thought of losing his son brought a small tear to his eye. Surely, his child deserved better treatment from his father. He could imagine Satish helping his kids with their homework and saying Good Night to them when they went to sleep. Suddenly, Ravi realized what he needed to do in order to get his family back. He pondered over his decision for a minute and then made up his mind. He opened his mailbox and began to type an e-mail to Manoj, his boss “Dear Manoj, It is with extreme difficulty that I inform you that I have decided to resign from my current position……."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CORRUPTION BEGET$ TERRORI$M


I don’t know who compiled this list and how much of it is actually true. But for my blog, it may be reasonable to assume 50% accuracy and probability level. The figures at the end of the list are `910,603,234,300,000 which roughly totals to US$20 trillion. That’s right 20 trillion US dollars. Just for simplicity purposes, I will explain the math here. Let us assume that 1 US dollar = ` 45 (Its ` 43.85 as of today). 1 million US dollars would be equal to ` 4.5 crores. Now, $1 billion (bn) = $1000 million. That sums up to, $1 bn = ` 4500 crore. Again, $1 trillion (tn) = $1000 billion. This again adds up to, $1 tn = ` 45 lakh crores. So, $20 tn comes out to be ` 900 lakh crores. With 50% probable level, this is 450 Lakh crores. Current Population of India, a little over 120 crores. That translates to ` 40,000 per citizen. Think of it as two months earnings of millions of Indians after hard work and uncertain future. And we are talking about scams known or reported. There are, I am sure, many more which never came out in public.

Had these dollars been used for the development of the country, just think how much employment would have been generated and to what extent poverty could have been curbed. The end result would have been probably a developed nation in India and many more people not being forced to resort to the life of crime or terrorism to earn a living.

How black money abets violence? Firstly, black money is generated through a route which is criminal by law and hence, thus violence is an embedded feature of it. The one who is generating black money is by nature a criminal and hence can transit easily to higher levels of crime, which he/she or those benefitting would probably do.

Ill gotten money has another route for violence creation. What does one do with the black money? All of this cannot be spent on Palaces, Luxury Yachts, Cars, and Jewelry etc. The money finds its way to the dirty routes of arms smuggling, drugs manufacturing and funding of terrorism.

Corruption creates islands of wealth and thus the gap in the social structures. This in itself is the cause of serious discontentment leading to violence in the society.

In spite of all this Jihad talk, I believe that main reason which drives a person to violence (read terrorism) is poverty. It is always easy to lure a person to do the dirty work who cannot provide a decent one time meal for himself/herself or their family. I had once read in newspaper that in Mumbai, all you have to do is shell out `5000 if you want somebody murdered. It is that EASY! Similarly, if you promise someone that you will take care of their family for the rest of their lives if you drive a plane into a building he/she is tempted even if means sacrificing their own miserable lives. Also, combine this monetary incentive with martyrdom and you have a terrorist in your hands.

The politicians, bureaucrats and the greedy that are part of this corruption are all directly responsible for the upheaval caused by terrorism in the world. Even the tax havens, who stash away all this black money safely in their banks, are equally to blame for this. Their own economy runs on our money which is hidden in their country by the corrupt because of the laws which safeguards it and protects them at the same time. In fact such places are as much part of terrorism as internationally declared Terrorists States. The moment these countries stopped providing protection to black money, the world scenario will change in no time. Most of illegal transactions including arms sale and smuggling will stop breaking terrorists backbone.

IT IS TIME THAT THESE COUNTRIES SHOULD REALIZE THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE CRIME IN THE WORLD AND SHAKES OFF THEIR OWN INTERNAL AND OUTWARD SHOW OF BEING GOOD AND RESPONSIBLE NATIONS.

However, at the end, I would like to say is no matter how imperfect and flawed the world we live in is, it is not a bad place. There is still lots of good and hope in this world. To end the blog, here’s a commercial from Coca Cola titled “Reason to Believe” which symbolizes hope and optimism.


video


(Disclaimer: - The views here are strictly my personal opinions and are not meant to hurt anyone’s sentiments. Also I want to state that my blog is not meant to glorify terrorism in any way. Terrorism is a social evil and needs to be wiped out from the society. )

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

THE GIRL WITH THE PINK EARRING

Earrings are probably the last thing a boy would notice in a girl but somehow I ended up making an exception to this unsaid rule for the “Girl with the pink earring”.

It was a typical Monday at the office. I was still reeling from the after effects of indulging in partying and heavy drinking for last three consecutive nights. Last night had been the worst of all; me and my friends had started drinking at around midnight and drank till 5.30 in the morning. On top of that, I had reported to work at 9.30 in the morning with barely 3 hours of sleep and made sure to eat 2 disprins before stepping inside the office so as not to look too hung over. While on my way to office, I had decided to abstain from alcohol for some time but in my mind I knew that if someone asked me to join them for some drinks over the weekend I would in all probability oblige. Luckily the work load was less today and I could get away with a quick 2 minute nap every now and then by pretending to look at the computer screen reading something important.

However, my manager had no intention of letting my life become so painless and buzzed me on the office messenger. He wanted me to help some other team with their work as they were falling short of time and people. Instantly, my defense mechanism became active and I very subtly told my manager that I was already overloaded with work and also provided him with a list of things I was working on. Trying to sound somewhat supportive, I suggested him the name of a colleague who had some bandwidth available and who could help him on his request.

Just as I was wrapping up the discussion with my manager, my friends buzzed me for lunch. ‘It’s about time’ I thought. I was hoping that a good sumptuous meal can probably cure the hangover that still remained although it was no secret that our cafeteria served some of the most pathetic food that I had ever eaten in my life. Still, I got up from my seat and dragged my feet towards the cafeteria. As I was crossing the aisle to approach the cafeteria looking here and there, my eyes fixed on a girl chatting with someone. I could not see her face as she had her back facing towards me. From where I was standing, I could only see a pink color diamond earring dangling from her right ear. I had always liked dangling earrings over hoops or clip-on earrings on a female which is what probably caused me to take a notice of her earring. As I moved forward, the back of her body came into the full view and I noticed that she was wearing a pink salwar kameez. The kameez came down to the top of her knee and had some kind of flower embroidery done on it with white threads which looked extremely pretty. I somehow felt myself getting curious about her looks and for a moment thought of taking another way just to see her face. But then I saw my friends coming down the aisle and quickly discarded any such thoughts from my mind.

As I sat down for lunch, I found my thoughts going back to the girl with the pink earring. I kept trying to paint a face on her in my mind while having lunch at the same time. Halfway through my lunch, I saw her enter the cafeteria smiling and talking with the same person she was chatting with earlier. She was more beautiful then I had imagined her to be. I was immediately captivated by her smile and kept staring at it until I was shouted at by my friend for not paying attention to his distress story. However, I still kept taking occasional glances at her direction while trying to keep myself focused on the discussion happening at the table. The discussion at the lunch table mostly revolved around either abusing managers in hushed voices or pure gibberish and today was no exception. After taking her food, she and her friend sat two tables away from where we were seating. She was seating diagonally opposite to me and I could see her face clearly. I noticed that she was wearing a visitors badge which probably meant that she was here for an interview and the friend with whom she was having lunch with had had referred her for some opening in the organization. She was just starting her lunch while we were almost through with ours so it was useless to try and reduce my pace of eating just to spend more time looking at her. While we were getting up from our table, I deliberately chose to pass by her table to get a closer look at her face hoping that my friends did not take any notice of it.

Post lunch, we went about our daily routine of having tea at a shop outside our office gate. While we were paying the shopkeeper after finishing our tea, I saw her come out of the main gate. She must have called her driver in advance as he was already at the gate waiting for her holding the back door open. She quickly went inside and the driver shut the door. The driver wasted no time in hitting the accelerator once he was seated and within couple of seconds, her white Toyota went out of sight.

For the next three days, her face and smile kept wandering in and out of mind. Then on Friday I saw her again. While I was going out for Lunch with my friends, I saw her come in and proceed towards the lift lobby. I immediately made an excuse that I had my forgotten my mobile phone at the desk and will have to retrieve it before someone else pockets it. I ran towards the lift lobby and saw her standing there waiting for a lift to arrive. After a few minutes, a lift arrived and we both stepped inside it. Once inside, she pressed the button for 5th floor which ironically was the same floor where I also happened to sit. She was wearing western formals this time and the perfume she was wearing smelled heavenly. I thought of wishing her all the best as it was pretty evident from her visitors badge and the fact that she was wearing western formals on a Friday which happened to be casuals’ day that she was here for an interview but then decided otherwise. Within few seconds, 5th floor arrived and both of us stepped out of the elevator. I saw her open the front door which did not require any identification and approach the security desk behind it. She would probably wait there for a few minutes before someone came in and ushered her in to the conference room for the next round of interview. After that, I quickly ran downstairs using stairs and joined my friends. I had intentionally kept the mobile in my hand to show as if I had hurriedly picked it up from my desk and came down as soon as possible without bothering to keep it in the pocket.

Another week passed after that incident without any sign of her. ‘Maybe she did not clear the interview’ I said to myself. Slowly, I was trying to forget her as I had no hope of seeing her again. Besides, I had resigned from my job three weeks back and only four weeks remained on my stipulated notice period. ‘Who knows we might meet in the new organization I was going to join’ I thought with as much optimism as I could gather. A pat on the shoulder interrupted my thoughts and I turned around to see my manager standing with her. For a few seconds, I just remained seated with my mouth open and did not even bother to get up and greet my manager. As soon as I had regained my composure, I got up from my seat and greeted my manager with a “Hi” and looked at her direction. In reply he said, “Hi Nishant, I want you to meet your replacement …………. “

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