Friday, December 25, 2009

Excellence in all that we do…

Last month, my company garlanded the heroes of the company, setting forth role models for others to emulate. It’s called the Awards for Excellence – an event to proclaim and applaud the mighty ones who have done more than the ordinary, stood taller than others and achieved a distinction not wont to many. And for an organization spanning one hundred thousand, to be among the chosen few would definitely be something.
What does it take to get there? To stand out and be known as the achievers; to deserve special mention from the lot; and if you are not amongst the top ones, does that mean one is under performing? That one is not working to the fullest potential?
I once asked my colleague – What motivates people to work? Apart from the obvious monetary benefits; he said people are responsible. There is nothing that is motivating them to work. It’s just the sense of responsibility that makes them finish the work assigned. It’s more like they do it for the sake of it. A deadline to meet; questions to answer; that’s basically it.
To an extent I will have to agree with him. Imagine doing the same thing over and over again. I am not in the manufacturing sector. I belong to the servicing sector. Now if the kind of services your company is offering is just the same, what reason would excite you to do your job? Apart from the obvious sense of duty, work could get mundane, frustrating and often lifeless.
Where is the question of excellence here? How does one differentiate another? Everyone doing what they have been asked to. Nothing extraordinary, just the ordinary gets repeated. Not surprising then that most of the youngsters will be seriously dejected with work.
The fact that an event recognizing excellence from over a hundred thousand could only attract the attention of a few hundred speaks a lot of the mindset people have towards excellence.
I feel its a problem with our surrounding. Our environment. Our education. Our school. There is a fundamental problem that usually plagues all of these. Think of this - when someone speaks of their son/daughter making into a prestigious university, what do you think makes them so happy about it. Leaving apart the social recognition, it is the assurance that the lad will walk out with a secure future on completion of his/her degree that gives them utmost peace. The focus is only on securing a future. On getting a good job. That is the primary concern of every parent. That is how we are brought up. Any career other than the conventional ones are frowned upon even today.
The child's interest is the last thing in the minds of people. I remember my father's friend who went berserk when I told him I didn't want to do an MBA. He scowled at my ignorance. That I didn't want to take a laid out path made me look stupid and idiotic. And he heads a career guidance cell in my town!!!. This was the same person who told me that only a fool would choose I.T in engineering, when my father told him I had opted for that. That time, the dot com bust had just happened and he was almost certain that I.T was just a spike and there was no future in it.
The essence I am trying to bring forth is that our concern with the buck spoils our attitude. We are never encouraged to love anything. To chase our passion. Or to even kindle a passion in subjects that interest us. Our schooling system dumps loads and loads of information. Our college repeats the same with outdated content.

And then we complain that there is a huge gap between academia and industry. That there is a serious lack of employable talent and so on. How can you? No one ever studied to learn. Studies was only to earn - marks, certificates or jobs.

When the noble laureate Ramakrishnan was in IIM, someone asked - how do you get a nobel prize. His answer summarizes it all - "to go for a nobel is a sure recipe for disaster. Nobody goes into research for a nobel. Its their love for the subject that attracts them. It is the change they can bring about that motivates them. Not the nobel"

No wonder then that India is nowhere close in global research. We are never encouraged in that direction. Not that we have any dearth for talent. we are never short on intillegence. We have with us some of the brightest minds. Only that we lack the support.

There is a need for change and it should begin at home. If every parent can encourage their child to find his/her interest. To allow them to excel in that. To allow them to do what they really love. It would bring about a radical change. It would change the way we discharged our duty. It would have an effect on the product that we produce. On the service that we offer. Our own bars of expectation would rise then. How many times have we been fooled by the salesaman saying export quality. Why is it that local quality is never sought after?

It is the mindset that needs a change... This is the message I want to share with all my readers this new year. Lets chase excellence.

As Rancho says in 3 idiots - kaabil ban. be deserving, success will find you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A connoisseur's treat

A fine Saturday morning, rising sun making way for the pouring clouds; one of those days you wished would stay forever, making you feel the beauty of nature, bereft of all the artificial temperature controllers. I was only glad that I didn't have to spend such a day staring at any stupid monitor.
I had an appointment to keep. Bringing some purpose to my day, I was to teach elementary mathematics to graduate students. Aptitude training – never did I think in the wildest of my dreams to don such a role. The caprices of life are so unpredictable; this was the second time I was doing this and I must admit, it turned out to be a memorable experience about which I intend to write sometime. So, after a few hours of yelling, yes now I realize the importance of voice for teachers, I was all exhausted. I told Ajai that I need good food to make up for all the energy I just lost. Ajai and I, apart from being schoolmates have this special thing in common – we both enjoy our food. We are not gluttons though; the right word would be gourmets or connoisseurs. Apart from the fact that we appreciate good food, we savor them. No we are not really gluttons. J
Just that we use of our taste buds extensively. Not many people do that. I am proud to say we are among the enlightened few.
So I suggested Mainland China – a brilliant Chinese restaurant, he said zaras – an Italian one with tapas bar. Then we thought of our common friend, another school mate who’s also in Chennai. Now this guy, Manoj is always the Bakra. Poor chap, always ends up paying for our rampages. The sad part is, amongst the three he would be mistaken for the glutton, thanks to the biological reactions in his body. Though he eats only half as much as we do, he looks twice as much as we are ;) and by some spate of fate, always ends up paying for us. I have to acknowledge his magnanimous heart. I am sure Ajai will agree. Coming back to deciding on the restaurant, I suggest crimson chakra, a place close to where Manoj stays. A place neither of us have been. So we are agreed. Just as I was giving direction to Manoj, Ajai suggest we pick him up from his house. This took us on the verge of ECR – east coast road, a beautiful road along the Bay of Bengal which every Chennaite would enjoy riding on. Now the plan changes and off we go zooming along east coast to Mahabalipuram – a small town famous for its temples, rock carvings, statues and a lot more. Most importantly this place is very popular for fishes, which is why we were going.
Off we go to sea shore garden resort. A small place right in the middle of the beach, almost touching the waters; covered with thatched roof and adorned in simple interiors, this place is a treat to the eye. You could sit there and feel the magical sea breeze tickle your senses. The waves almost in front of you; the babes also add to the color. Sadly, Manoj is unlucky again – he’s fasting until Christmas– a ritual he so ardently exercises without any worldly incentive. Fasting would mean staying away from all sorts of non vegetarian food including egg. May the good Lord bless him in abundance.
We start our orders with gobi for him and fish for us J. We start with calamari, proceed to masala fried fish – I don’t know the name of the fish but it was decent in size. Chopped to small pieces and friend with nice masala and when topped with lime, made for a great dish. But the calamari was definitely the better of the two. We were done with that, but were in no mood to go in for any main course, so we ask the waiter what else he has to offer us. He brings us a plate of tiger prawns spread in mouth watering masala. The plate is clean in less than two minutes. We call him again and this time he says he will check with the sea. He is evidently amused at our potential. In the gap, he fills ours table with some spicy pepper chicken which I leave it to Ajai to handle. All the while our dear friend is feeding on gobi. Taking pity on him, we call the waiter and ask what else they have in vegetarian cuisine. He thinks for long and says he has chips – fried potato. With no other option, we order one of that. By the time that came, our table was clean again. Once again we call the waiter and ask him for the best he can offer us in fish. He goes back in and shows us a good long fish. We nod our heads and what comes to our table is nothing but bliss. That long fish mixed in finger licking masala, kept as is in one huge plate. Pure heavenly bliss; we pounce on it with a respectful bow. To our friend we say – God bless you! For having resisted the temptation to immerse in ecstasy; for the next few minutes, the table was silent. It was unadulterated pleasure. Strictly for a food aficionado;
Oh… a treat it was… to the tongue and to the eye. Harmony couldn't have manifest in any way better. Peace, blessing, love – whatever they call that state of mind where you are in a world away from the usual – we were in that. I can’t be too sure of Manoj now :p. we just sat there staring at the sea for another hour, letting the waves wash over us, indulging in a luxury which many don’t discover.
I must say, a truly memorable day…