Sunday, December 18, 2005

Alternate Angle in Adeagate

Bharathiraja Ramachandrabose - Process Consultant, Adea International’s Bangalore Office

I am a process consultant with Adea International, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you my views on cultural differences, life in India, and the technology revolution. The cultural difference between people across borders, states, towns and even two neighbors is something that has always excited me. Study of different cultures has been one of my favorite subjects at all times. There were times when I used to spend hours together thinking about the cultural difference I saw at my neighbor’s house itself.

Today, being part of a global organization and the industry that made the whole world a small village, it seems very important to know about various cultures as we all need to work with people from different cultural backgrounds. What I am trying to discuss with you here is the influence that our cultural background has on our careers and lifestyles from an individual’s point of you. I would say this is just an extension to the article in ‘Abid’s Angle’ on bridging the cultural gap in his personal journey. I am aware of the fact that this article is going to be read by people from different backgrounds.

I would culturally classify the readers of this article into three groups - my western colleagues who would certainly be surprised by reading this, my Indian colleagues (from urban background) who would be surprised at the cultural diversity within their own country, and the smallest group of folks who would be surprised to see another fellow who has walked the same path.

My Perspective - From Nomads to the Technology Revolution
From the beginning of humankind’s existence, whenever there was a crisis for survival, someone has come from nowhere inventing something new that would change the destiny of their fellow creatures, or Mother Nature herself has shown a new course to her children. Necessity has been the mother of all inventions. Nomadic Stone Age man ate any vegetable he could find initially. When he invented fire, he could have tastier foods. Then he invented systematic cultivation, which stopped him from roaming and gave him work to do. Then it was the industrial revolution, which yielded much better results and made him think beyond food and shelter. This was in our grandfather’s days.

That is when the balancing act between haves and have-nots started taking place. People who owned all the lands and wealth wanted much more than food and shelter. Those who produced the luxuries that were required by the rich also started becoming rich by taking back money in turn. Now it’s the ‘technology revolution’, which is nothing but an extension to the industrial revolution. But this is going to have much bigger impact than the hitherto industrial revolution. For the citizens of developed countries, computers and software might be just a ‘yet another invention’ that would simplify their lives. But for Indians, they have shown a whole new path for life and started playing the role of an economic balancer between countries. When unemployment was becoming the most important problem to be addressed and talented youngsters all around the country were losing hope in life, they came as a blessing.

My Heritage
I come from a remote village, which is connected to the outside world through the stopping of just three buses a day, and during the rainy season, they do not come at all. Everybody is dependent solely on agriculture and agriculture-dependent-businesses there. My fore fathers did agriculture only. They never came out of the village to see what the outside world looked like. What I understand now is that that’s how most of the villagers’ lived two/ three generations back. There was no necessity to think beyond their villages at that time because they got whatever they wanted in their villages themselves. All they wanted was good food thrice a day, some clothes to wear, a shelter to sleep in at night and some entertainment when they didn’t have to work. They didn’t want anything more than this because they have not seen anything beyond their villages. Ignorance was bliss. This is like the ‘egg or hen’ question. There were no desires because there was no exposure, and there was no exposure because there was no desire for anything more.

My Grandfather Becomes Educated
Then my grandfather came out of the village and went to a nearby town for his studies. That is when, I think, our family gradually started thinking beyond agriculture and the foundation was laid for our growth. I have even heard people say it’s because of my grandfather our village is better off today. Then my father came out of the village to do some business and went back to our native place for various reasons. That brought us back to square one. However, my uncle (father’s brother), who got a good education went all around the country and got a lot of exposure, not just to money, but to experiences. I am sure if my grandfather had not gone out of his village for studies, his children would not have dreamt about reaching such bigger heights.

Even today, there are villages that don’t have even a single bus, tar road or any connectivity whatsoever with the outside world. They have to walk for kilometers to see a bus. Because my grandfather left to become educated, I feel that our village advanced. I believe when one gets educated it is not only his/ her lifestyle that is going to change, but it’s the whole family, his/ her community and all his/ her descendants, who are taken at least a century ahead in terms of socio-economic status. Unlike the western countries, rate of education is too low in India. People in rural India don’t even complete their elementary education.

My idea here is not to tell you that agriculture is a bad choice or rural life is inferior. Agriculture is my most respected business ever. Even now, I would not say that this modern life is better than the village life. The kind of security, unity among people, the humanitarian values that I see in villages, I don’t see here. But it’s a bitter truth that the lifestyle of people who have chosen to stay in their villages and do agriculture in that part of the country has not improved much.

My Story
When I could not have thought about anything more than elementary education (as there is only one elementary school in my village), the most fortunate thing in my life happened. My maternal grandfather and uncles (who were in a bigger village) thought about my future and decided to adopt me. That made all the difference. Unlike most of you who were brought up in an urban culture, people coming from countryside have very limited amount of inspirations, motivations or role models. We did not have English-medium schools. We don’t know our own heights, and we never used to think about where we would want to be. There is no project planning or milestones set in our lives (J). No exaggeration ‘ when I was in my native place, the most educated people there were my elementary school teachers only. Anybody who continues his studies after 10 years is called ‘educated’! Even today anybody who earns more than Rs. 2000 a month is called ‘rich’! (For non-Indian folks: In Bangalore, our weekend dinner bill will be Rs. 2000 for 5 people) People who have come from villages would be able to relate to whatever I am talking about. My city friends don’t even believe all of this.

Then when a cousin of mine who was brought up in the city got into the IT industry, I got a small idea about where I would want to be. At that time, I didn’t know what kind of luxurious life this industry could give me. My awareness of computers and software was not much. To become a doctor or an engineer (not a software engineer) was every boy’s lifetime goal at that time. But it was an attraction towards a new option that made me take this path. Now I see a complete change in my lifestyle. It’s not only mine but also in the way our generation itself behaves, eats, dresses and in their confidence level. Jargons like management and leadership are being redefined in the corporate world here. The work culture is going through a paradigm shift in all other industries.

And now, I see my village changing. In my childhood, there was no television in my village. Now, in the same village, I see people talking about sending their kids abroad. Every year, there are lots and lots of English-medium schools coming up. We were able to achieve some things in a few years, which our fathers were not able to do for decades together. The previous generation thinks that we are more responsible than them though we know that they are wrong (J). The next generation looks at us for inspiration. All this would not have been possible if something called ‘software’ was not invented. Doesn’t this put us under tremendous pressure to achieve much bigger things?

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments regarding my views. I look forward to learning more about others within the organization.
- Bharathiraja

Goodbye mail while leaving Blue Chip

Subject: I still remember...

My dear colleagues,

Probably the longest last mail for my long lasting friends and colleagues...

November 6th is going to be an important day in my 2004 diary, as May 2nd was in my 2000 diary, the day I officially became an employee of Blue Chip.

There are few things to forget/regret and many things to remember...

I still remember the day I got the offer letter from the then Branch Manager Sabyasachi Mahanti and what he told me. I still remember the feelings. I felt like flying, crying, jumping up and down, and simply diving front and back. That was the day my software dream got realized. Unlike most of you, joining Blue Chip was my college dream, just because a cousin of mine was working here. BC was the only software company and my cousin was the only software professional I knew at that time. I still remember what I wrote in my diary that night.

I still remember the days I used to tell my class mates, "I have a job and a room in Bangalore. I just have to go there and join. My cousin is there." This was in 1997 and early 98. I still remember the hot night somewhere in October 1998, I said a friend of mine before boarding the bus to Bangalore, "I am going to join a company called Blue Chip in Bangalore". Then it took one and half years to realize my dream. Though I joined in 2000, my association with BC started in 1998 itself. During this one and half years, I never tried anywhere else. My only aim was to become an employee here.

I still remember the days I used to wait in the reception every day, take Annamalai's coffee, and go back home without being able to meet Shyam, the then Branch Manager who gave me this career. I had more friends in BC than some of the BCians had at that time. When I joined, I knew the history of BC, I knew the people of BC, I knew the culture of BC, etc...

I still remember the two continuous night stays to complete the sample project in order to impress the people and get a job in BC.

I still remember how I was when I landed in Bangalore. "Color color" checked shirts, An XXL size spectacles, 100% black thick mustache, most of the times unshaven face, always preferring to wear chapels, a larger than life inferiority complex, a typical down south village fellow. From there... life has turned around 180 degrees. I never thought that this would ever happen in my life. Looking back, everything looks like a dream. I still remember the relationships (!?... BTW: there was certainly no office flirting) that helped me overcome this complex.

I still remember the first time in my life I corrected a silly bug in Pharma CFA sitting at the client site. I still remember the confidence it gave me. I still remember my first boss Radhakrishna (who tried to support me whenever he could through out his stay here) saying "good..." first time when I came back to office.

I still remember the evening asking Joshua to make me the PL of Pharma CFA in the 7th month of my stay in BC, though I was not equipped enough to handle that responsibility at that time. That was a time when all my batch mates in other projects used to deny PL's responsibility.

I still remember the first flight travel for an implementation. I still remember the "Bharath Dharshan" implementation for Allergan and Joshua's appreciation mail for that. I still remember the historical fight we had with Allergan managers in front of KS. Working with the directors and their accessibility to people is an opportunity which, I am sure, I will never get anywhere else.

I still remember the Saturday cricket, everyday volley ball, bad minton tournament, mail forwards, Outlook discussion forums, HOW mails which made me popular here, official trips, my full day 'King daa' dance, Nandi hills picnic in the midnight, ethnic days, birthday parties, over night stays and the parties, which gave a lot of confidence and plenty of shoulders to lean on. Thanks to my friend Gopal, who used parties to build teams. He has been a very important character in my growth story here. BTW: thanks to Deva for giving life to all our parties.

I still remember the night stay on the previous day of Surfa demo with Joshua and Gopal. I still remember the day LogSmart went live in Surfa, Sandeep from nowhere came into picture and got scolded from the client on behalf of us. I am going to miss a true comrade. I still remember the night stays with Prasath, one of my unforgettable team mates, trying be awake for 20 hours for a day continuously for almost an year to complete the work at the client site. I remember speaking stories till morning as well. I still remember the over night Access to SQL conversion, which everybody thought would take at least an year. I still remember the days I used to hide behind Rajesh (whose stay here for some more time would have definitely influenced my growth to a large extend) whenever I see the client, and take tips from him as to how to say 'No' and how to fight with the client. Then the same weak fellow Bharathiraja had to shield people who hid behind him and lead the way. This has been a play field, battle field, reaping field, etc.

More than all these, the past one year has been extremely great here. A big military salute to my team mates, who showed a lot of character, unity and decency. I have seen people forming region based groups and fighting for silly things. There was not even a small instance of that sort. There was not a single conflict between any of you as long as I was there. It makes me so proud and happy. After all, you have convinced me that I am also a leader.

Apart from the professional respect, I am always grateful for the loads of love and affection you showed.

I still remember the last few nights before resigning, trying to come to terms with it and not being able to control the emotions. I still remember Gita's comment on my resignation: "yes, you have never asked for promotion or hike, you have never told me what you get is not enough. Every hike was decided by us without any influence." This gives me much more confidence on my principles. I still remember what Joshua said when he accepted my resignation, "anytime, if you decide to come back, you are always welcome." He has given me an opportunity to tell you all what I have in my mind. Professionally all I have was taken from here. I am going to use it for my benefits in the coming days. I will get much more knowledge and skills after leaving this place. I would be extremely happy if I get another opportunity to use them in the place which grew me. For the past one year, I never updated my resume. Opportunity all the way came to my door and knocked strongly. Though I was a wall all along (only in this), I couldn't resist, said "Yes", as usual. My only guilty feeling is, when someone believed in me and expected a lot from me, I couldn't travel with him till we reach the destination. Anyway...

I still remember the childhood poem of Robert Frost, which means a lot more than ever before:
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. "

No mail will go unanswered at and all calls will be attended to with immense pleasure. Rest in next when you reach me on the above mentioned id. Please don't reply to this id anymore.

I am more than happy to use this opportunity to thank all my colleagues, ex-colleagues, the management and the organization for the support and cooperation.

With loads of emotions and fulfillment,
Blue Chip.


Well begun is half done...

There are millions of things that happen to us and billions of things that we happen to think about. Thinking (about anything) is one thing that has never tired me. It's nice to have someone who will understand and appreciate EVERYTHING that you talk about. Isn't that too much to expect in this world? It may not be possible even in Utopia. Out of all that I come across and think about, there may be thousands of things that I discuss with friends, enemies, relatives and the ones who don't fall in any of these categories. The act of thinking, which is supposed to be a lazy man's act (mind you, there is no action involved!), is fed by the innumerable observations that he makes every nano-second in his existence. I am driven crazy by the observations that I make everyday. I love observing people and their odd and even behaviors. When the innumerable - intensive observations taught me that there is nobody who could listen to EVERYTHING that I talk about, the habit of writing diary got introduced to me. I talk to my diary about anything that will reduce my burden. It doesn't mistake me, doesn't argue with me, doesn't gossip about me and never laughs at me. At the same time, being the best listener I have ever seen, it gives me the satisfaction of having told whatever I wanted to. If I had not met this fellow, I would have been one of the notorious gossipers around.

However, when I came across the habit of blogging, that also seemed to excite me. It seems to be a good blend of diary writing as well as journalism. There were times when my life time ambition was to become a poet, then a short story writer, then a novelist, then a philosopher and then just a writer, who can write ANYTHING. Writing in journals had its share of rejections and editions, which I have always not been comfortable with. I am OK with customizing and tailoring to the customer's needs in my profession, but not in something that I am passionate about.

I am starting a new journey now hoping that this will allow me to talk about ANYTHING that I want to (this is possible in diary, but not in journalism), help me reach people (this is possible in journalism, but not in diary) without losing the originality without any editing (this is not possible in journalism). Above all there wonýt be any embarrassing experiences because I will not have to notice anybody sleeping or busy thinking about something else when I keep blabbering what is important to me!


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