The wind phone

While recuperating from a bout of god knows what, I came across this tit-bit on BBC World of the ‘wind phone’ – a telephone box on the outskirts of Dublin. This is unlike any other telephone box. It does have a round dial-up phone inside but it doesn’t work. The phone box set up on a scenic mountain top, serves as a private space for anyone to deliberate on life and loss and whatever is spoken within that box is carried by the wind. A beautiful concept, it is something I could do with right now.



A season for the right reasons

In this time of hectic campaigning and election fury, there is a soft, sane and stern voice of a gentleman whom I greatly admire. While I have read his political commentary over the years, I confess I have not touched his literature yet. However his Dr. U. R. Ananthamurthythoughts in the articles he has written and the interviews he has given have created a fan in me.

I came across Dr. U. R. Ananthamurthy‘s write-up in the Caravan Magazine – a magazine that establishes itself as the antithesis of today’s journalism. I believe Dr. URA’s message is an important reminder to the electorate of what we are getting into in the name of blind character-driven jingoism. Following is the article. It’s simple and straightforward, but very clear.

Office dynamics for dummies (includes me!)

What a day! As the evening ends and the India-Pakistan cricket match does not go down to the wire, what with wickets starting to fall like nine pins, I sit back and reflect on a day when someone tried to challenge my integrity as a professional. I stood my ground to the barrage and in the end received something that was on the lines of an apology for trying to belittle me and an appreciation for the work I did.

I have realised some pretty important facts in managing office dynamics during my seven year professional career. People are out to squeeze the most out of you but the important thing is to stand your ground no matter what. Here, from my point of view and experience, are some strong facts that could help make rather than break a strong professional foundation:

1. Know your work and responsibilities that go with it clearly: Many a time we get into a work profile based purely on the designation provided, the moolah of course, and based on the general job description provided. But in case of the JD, do we get into the nitty gritties of what is required of you? In most cases we just go by the generalised job description failing to ask the right questions. Get to know your reporting heads during the interview stage and never hesitate to ask the right questions (no matter how silly).

Back to cricket – Wahab Riaz is out as I type out this first point.

2. Set your pace and define your output: Once in, you got to set the level at which you operate and immediately set the level of quality of work you deliver. That way your contemporaries and leadership teams are in the know-how on what you can deliver, how you do it and the turnaround time that goes with it.

3. Go by your job description and stand your ground no matter how slight the deviation may be from your JD: When you enter an organisation that is made up of different verticals or is a part of a multi-tier process flow where you have various business heads breathing down your neck, stand your ground and go with the pace you have set.

4. Identify leaders in your organisation who can become your mentors: Make sure you have the right guides to help you out in getting your bearings in the organisation. Identify leaders who matter and are patient enough to impart the right advice. Make sure you follow up on the advice and get back to them with the results. Never hesitate to ask for help.

5. Never get overawed by suits: The big guns may breathe down your neck but as long as you follow the process and never waiver in your commitment to the process, you are safe. Never get cowed down from the brickbats you may face for not being flexible enough with the process. In large organisations, it helps to stick to the process workflow, that you define initially, like a leech. Be polite and respectful at all times, but firm.

6. Maintain values: A clear conscience, honesty, transparency, being there for your team and the people whom you manage, always be respectful to the people around you and you will gain their respect in return.

7. Never get personal: This is not about loose talk but about your life. Never talk about your personal life to colleagues however much they may open up to you. In the end you are in a professional environment and face-offs are better off when you don’t know anything personal about the others nor others know about you. Also, a level of respect builds up for you as an individual in such a situation. It’s a matter of never knowing what to expect except professionalism from the individual in question. That makes you unpredictable and such a quality builds a careful attitude and a respectful distance from you.

A lot of the credit for coming out with these details goes to my experience with my earlier company and people who have been constantly mentoring me and providing me the right insights at the right time.

As I write this, India make it to the finals of the cricket World Cup by beating Pakistan. Fireworks and shouts of joy envelop the air. After the way the day went and the excitement of the match I need to call it a day.

Goodnight and Good Luck India.

Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010 opening ceremony – A big hit

The Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010 Opening ceremony just got over and I caught bits and pieces in between. From what I saw, the spectacle was on par with other great global showpiece events and the Government of India along with Sheila Dixit‘s office do deserve all the praise for getting the Games up and running on time especially considering the ineptitude of a few, who nearly derailed the games.

For all the talk about corruption and ineptitude in the run up to the games, Suresh Kalmadi‘s enthusiasm and confidence to make this one of the best games ever seems justified now that the games have begun. India works well at the last minute and I have seen this happen time and again through first hand experience in my work. We seem to work best with our backs against the wall.

Anyway, getting back to the Games, everything went like clockwork. A small aberration would have been the boos reserved for Kalmadi when he got up to speak. An encouraging feature were the cheers for Sheila Dixit, Delhi’s Chief Minister, when her name was mentioned in the speeches. She was at the forefront of cleaning up the mess of the Indian Olympic Association and helped get the games back on track.

The cultural events featured during the show were the usual, showcasing the diverse culture of India. However, the presentation was not tacky and with a huge helium filled balloon hanging like some out-of-this-world orb over the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the whole production of the opening ceremony was a brilliant display of India’s kitschy culture. The Indian railways that form the heart of the India’s movement to greater things, was featured in a skit to the strains of ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ from A.R. Rahman. The train skit had some unique ‘bogies’ displayed featuring India’s mad riot of colours, work ethic and platform culture.

The right athletes were given prominence from India when it came to the baton relay. Abhinav Bindra led the Indian delegation in the march past, Vijender Singh brought the torch into the stadium for the final stretch of the Queen’s baton relay and passed it on to another boxer Mary Kom who handed it over to Samaresh Jung (who won the most medals by an individual at the last Commonwealth Games at Manchester) and finally Sushil Kumar handed over the torch to Prince Charles.

A memorable opening ceremony for all the right reasons and a good advertisement to the International Olympic Committee, what with Jacques Rogge visiting as an observer, Kalmadi’s dream of bringing the Olympic Games to India may still be on track.

Congress – BJP domain wars

Type on your browser and you are going to be taken to the Indian National Congress official website. At least that was the case this morning at 11.46 AM IST as I entered this post.

The current official Bhartiya Janata Party website is, but the popularity of the .com domain makes users naturally enter on their browsers. The re-routing of this URL to the Congress website is particularly fishy and quite hilarious in fact, and it needs to be seen which imaginative mind either on the Congress’ side or the domain host providers’ ventured ahead with this.

BJP may be regretting that they were not alert when the domain registry term expired. If I am not mistaken, used to redirect to

Right now, looks like there’s a verbal battle going on between the two parties as they each convey press conferences or concalls with various media outlets. NDTV is running the same on TV. Looks like the Congress IT Support team has showcased some creative initiative here, it’s left to the BJP IT Systems staff to firefight this out.

What Mangalore can teach Ayodhya

So, there we have it. The Ayodhya verdict is due this month end and there’s no stopping it this time, now that the Supreme Court has intervened and cleared the path for judgment day on September 30, 2010. Simplistically speaking Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi has been a conflict between two of the largest communities in India over a historical piece of land that holds cultural and religious significance to both communities.

From what I have heard and read in the media, Babri Masjid was built over a Hindu temple sometime in the 1500’s/1600’s when the Mughal invasions were at their peak. As the name suggests, the mosque was built by the Mughal ruler Babur. Sometime, towards the end of the nineteenth century, you had this court case filed by the Hindus who wanted to reclaim the land and their temple. But this case was ruled in favour of the Muslims by a British judge who said that too much time had passed and in the event of no clear historical documentation this case could not proceed further. That was it until the middle of the twentieth century, when following independence you had a bunch of politicos deciding the fate of this land based on the religio-political significance it held for their party.

The facts in the previous paragraph bring into perspective an event in Mangalore, that in my simplistic view of the Babri demolition would serve as a fine example of how such a case would be allowed to complete its natural progression in a cultural era of suspicion.

The Idgah Mosque on the Light House Hill Road is a landmark in Mangalore and one of the oldest mosques (if not the oldest) in this region. This mosque exists right next to the St. Aloysius College and Educational Institutions that are home to the historical St. Aloysius Chapel and some of the oldest Catholic artefacts in this region. You must be wondering where this is heading.

Now, sometime during the reign of Tipu Sultan, i.e. around the 18th century, when Mangalore was under Tipu’s control, a whole lot of atrocities were perpetuated against the Catholics and Christian community at large in this region. Reason – Tipu believed that the Indian Christian community was siding with the British against him. This unfounded fear led to thousands of Christians being marched up to Srirangapatna – the capital of Tipu’s kingdom and forced to labour their days there. Similar to the Holocaust, where slave camps were the final resting places of whole families, a generation of Catholics suffered in these camps and many perished while others bore the brunt till they could escape or wait for the liberation by the neighbouring armies or the British as soon as Tipu was vanquished.

Now it was during this period that the Milagres Church that rested at the foot of the Light House Hill, came to be known as a sort of seat of the Catholic Church in Mangalore. Being in the center of the city, this Mangalorean parish catered to most of the Christians in the region. However, the advent of Tipu brought about a rash of cultural destruction that included the demolition of the Milagres Church in Hampankatta.

To add insult to injury, the Idgah Mosque was built with the very same bricks taken from the demolished Milagres Church. Following the defeat of Tipu and his armies after years of battle, Mangalore reverted back to British rule under the purview of Madras Presidency. Milagres Church was rebuilt at the bottom of the hill and this is where it stands to this day. The Idgah Mosque was allowed to remain on the top of the Light House Hill, built with the holy bricks of the Milagres Church.

Gradually, as time flew by, the mosque and church formed their own identity and even though the mosque was a reminder of the atrocities perpetrated by Tipu on the Mangalorean Catholics, the fairly large community of Catholics did not persist with the case but went on to build a successful economy for the region.

Centuries have passed since these events and even though the Catholic community commemorates the persecution of our forefathers, there is no attempt at creating animosity between Muslims and Christians in the region. It is understood that historical circumstances where the rule of democratic law was not what it is today, were responsible for those events and in the present scenario with an Indian Constitution (that in my eyes reflects the purest form of justice if implemented in the right spirit), we have successfully integrated values that respect history while avoiding the use of it to score a religio-cultural point.

My interpretation of the Ayodhya conflict may be simplistic to use this Mangalorean example of how an historical conflict can be resolved naturally. But I feel there are enough similarities that reflect the maturity of the people of this region. Mangalore has had its share of communal tension and as I write this, there are security forces deployed ahead of the Allahabad High Court verdict on September 30. But, the cultural values and the educated mindset of the people are strong enough to withstand the worst. Mangalore may not be a shining example of tolerance at the moment, but there was a time before the politicians rode the religious bandwagon, when educated, erudite, honest politicians ruled the root and used a mature worldly understanding to resolve issues.

A sign of the bonhomie and strength of the relationship between the Muslim and Christian communities of Mangalore , centuries after the demolition of the Milagres Church by the Mohammedan Tipu Sultan, is the annual Eid/Ramzan celebrations. The parking space near the mosque is not enough for the worshippers, so St. Aloysius College has offered its campus parking space for free during the festival period. It is not an uncommon site to see Muslim brethren walking through the Catholic campus carrying their prayer mats and going for Namaz at the Idgah mosque next door. We do not absolve what happened in the past, but we are ready to forgive (it’s hard, I know) and move forward.

That was another time, and in Bob Dylan‘s words – ‘the times they are a changin’.

President Osama in Sunday Express?

Today’s Sunday Express (The New Indian Express edition) had a major typo in its mid-page features. It was in Soli Sorabjee’s Soliloquies section. A reference to President Obama is spelt as President Osama. Such a mistake appearing in a national newspaper does call for action, either on the newspaper’s part by apologising before it becomes an issue, or the concerned diplomatic authorities may have to pull them up.

Soli Sorabjee’s column does draw in a lot of eyeballs, what with his razor sharp insights on Indian democracy and politics at large, and the humorous or interesting asides at the end of his serious write-up. The fault for this typo however would largely be attributed to the sub-editor and the editor who would have had a look at his main features before giving the go-ahead.

Wonder how this is going to go down with the US if they spot and report this. Anyway, looking forward to a lazy Sunday. The Express does take up a lot of time what with their innumerable write-ups in the supplements – some nonsense but mostly sense.