Saturday, December 16, 2006

Romeo on Bike

All through my Bachelor's life, so far, I have always done a lot of bird watching. Birds here, for the uninitiated, are a metaphor for females . I think for most guys there is a lot of fun in chasing the birds. I think even the most sober looking straight guys can't help but thinking about birds. However there are those who go that extra mile on that chase so much so that they seem to be spending a most of their time planning the chase and being a part of it.

One of my first roommates, who I have by now decided fit for the title "Romeo on Bike" is on those who not only went that extra mile but also earned significant life long returns for that. Now that his returns have been garunteed its time for me to leak out information on how he earned them ....

Both of joined at the same company on the same day. We started as young, single engineers so naturally apart from work we spent a lot of time thinking about the obvious and chasing ... well you know what ... Nothing unusual for young working bachelor's. However the whole beauty was how he went the "extra mile".

First he spotted a vulnerable target, someone who took a liking in him and he had a crush on that female. Lets call this female as the "juliet". One of the first things Romeo did well was to make sure that Juliet was on the list whenever me or any of my other roommates drew up any weekend plans. So whether it was a Sharukh movie, a birthday or a new year party, a trek or even a casual dinner together she was always there. Obvisouly since there were a few more females in the group, the rest of us were also interested in having them around. Romeo gradually got closer to Juliet through these social interactions. Now treks are not necessarily social, but there are people around and there is lots of time to spend and lots more to take a walk. So I am sure that the treks helped our Romeo as well. Of course the treks came in just at the right time for him. A time when we were all good friends and Romeo wanted to take it beyond just friends.

A reader might say ... so what... the whole story above is not very uncommon ... that's how courtship begins... or rather all Romeo's do that. What's new ? Why Romeo on bike ?

Before I move on to the "bike" part, I have to say, there is a thing about the ladies and bikes... Most of them cannot drive bikes. Most of them are too timid to be driving at high speeds. Yet almost all of them like sitting on bikes. Especially on the back seat. They are always interested in taking a ride to home or movie etc. I have even once said of some one that "if you want to keep her from crying or getting angry put her on a bike and take her for a ride."

If you haven't guessed it, I said the above words about Juliet to one of our common friends. However I was not the only one to notice this interest. Romeo was there too and he did plan it out well to make use of this interest. May be it was spontaneous. Planned or spontenous Romeo's on-bike routine worked well for him.

Our company offered a loan for buying bikes after 6 months of service. Guess what... as soon as the 6 months were over Romeo had bought his bike. Initially I thought that it was good to have someone with bike around. That would mean more mobility for me as well. But how wrong I was?. As soon as the bike came in, suddenly Romeo did not have any time at all. He soon had a very interesting routine to follow.

In the morning he would leave for office on his bike to catch breakfast with Juliet. Often there were people like me who spoilt the fun of those meetings but I guess he managed to time his meetings well enough to avoid me often. The lunch was with the whole group, but tea time was again on a table for two. Then when we returned home in the evening, there was a phone call everyday after lunch time. I used to call that phone call as time to fill DART. (DART or daily activity reporting tool was a tool that we used to report our time everday in our company). I wonder why that call was required, after all they would meet at least 3 times a day anyway before that... But I guess that's the difference between a Romeo and bachelors like me... They have something to talk about all the time.

As if the meetings on the weekdays were not enough, the bike opened up a whole new opportunity for Romeo. Afterall Juliet had always shown interest in bikes already. He normally was just another lazy bachelor averse to cleanliness and hygine... However soon afte the arrival of the bike, all that changed. The maid was roped in to make sure that the clothes were clean and available each weekend. The usage hair care products were increased to make sure that his receding hairline didn't cause problems. So our Mr Romeo, would get up early on weekends and get ready in his best T-shirt and jeans, comb his hair, spray up the deo, appreciate himself in the mirror and go off on his "Duty". Duty on weekends ? .. That's what rest of us came to call his weekend routine... After all the early morning prep, our Romeo would be off on his bike at sharp 10 am (by that time I used to be barely out of my bed). He would return back home only as late as 10 pm and then report his DART to some one.

He stuck to this routine so religiously that we started calling it his weekend "Duty"... What he did during those 12 hours is anybody's guess. Sometimes both were spotted at shopping malls. At other times they joined the rest of the group for movies. However I am sure he got a lot of quality time with his "Duty". So much so that they managed to put a happy ending to thier Romeo and Juliet story and got married recently.

As I finish this log of the Romeo on Bike, I wish that the two have a fairy tale ending. i.e. "Live happily ever after". A piece of advice to all the other romeos in making ... Get a bike. Learn to ride it well and safe. Get 2 helmets and then find someone to wear the other helmet .....
I myself am still to find some one to occupy the back seat .. but I'll take some clues from the Romeo here...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A life called Infosys - Day Dreaming at MidNights

Day Dreaming at MidNights
A description of software profession would be incomplete without having talked about Day-dreaming at nights... If this concept sounds alien let's just first define day dreaming - "dreaming with the eyes open" i.e. when a person appears to be awake. With that defined, dreaming at midnights still doesn't qualify. Afterall most people would midnight that as bed time. Then why is it different for software professionals. In the next few paragraphs I'll try to answer.

A proper treatment of this concept would require a few definitions.
1. Deadlines - A term used to define a published time line by which a certain piece of work is expected to be completed. Of course nobody dies if this time line is crossed. At worst the company / client may lose a little revenue and / or goodwill due to unavailability of certain system functions at the expected times. If at all something dies then those are "the chances of a good appraisal" for the person involved in missing the deadlines.

2. Esimate - A term used to identify a random number given out by senior management to the customer as expected size of the work. There are whole lot of models and methodologies to try and scientifically justify and rationalize the above mentioned number but I still think that it is nothing but a seemingly rational random number.

3. Resource - A term used to identify an entity who can work for about 8 - 9 hrs a day towards completing some "estimated" work. This term symbolises the fact that people are often treated as nothing more than the number of person-hours they contribute. Especially for the purpose of coming out with an "estimate"

4. Effort - A number used to quantify the a piece of work in terms of time (person hours). It is usually another random number that precedes the estimate and tries to quantify intellectual capital in terms of number of hours it takes to build up a tangible output. This term is often considered synonymous with "estimate" but the difference lies in the fact that effort is purely the size of the work whereas "estimate" might be around cost, time, effort or a combination of above three.

A time line is set by considering the total "effort" and the number of "resources". However often it becomes a dead line when some managers over "estimate" the "effort" or the capbility of "resources".
When something like the above situation happens, commitments are at stake and resources are expected to work extra hours to meet the deadlines. Sometimes the extra hours extend into the midnights and thus that time also becomes equivalent to day time in the sense that useful work is expected to be done at that time.

Having given a serious explaination of deadlines and late nights its time to bring out my own perspective to "day dreaming at midnights".
In my experience, when dead lines start becoming aggressive, there is "effort" over run and in absence of more resources, the existing ones have to put in beyond the standard 9 hours a day.

One time such a situation happened in one of my previous projects. Soon my work timetable started entering beyond the mid night. Gradually my room mates started thinking of me as a nocturnal creature who entered the house in the quite of the nitght and who slept calm when they all prepared to for leave office. I found that my whole time table had soon shifted drastically and that I had started considering midnight as creative time. Naturally if I started having delusions of a working code, they were nothing but "day dreams at midnight".

All said and done I can't end this post without talking about some of the facilities that are provided these days, which are often mistaken as encouragement towards working late nights.

1. Late Night Drops - Special shuttle / taxi services for employees who work until unearthly hours.
2. Dormitory - A concept perhaps unique to Infosys. A place where employees can choose to sleep overnight instead of having to bother going home at uneartly hours. This place even has a proper and well supplied bathroom. I did spend a few nights in this place although I didn't like not going home but I'll always remember one of my roomates suggestion. He suggested that I stay over at the dormitory only and set up some place where I could do the laundry. That way I wouldn't have to pay the house rent. I was anyway not using the house like a house anyways. For food obvisouly there were the canteens and what else does a working bachelor have in life...

Due to some of these facilities some of the younger developers often consider it as a factor of coolness to be counted among the "Day dreamers at midnight" but as I look back it is perhaps one experience which should remain as only a single experience and not be allowed to become a habit.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A dummy's guide to Crashing weddings

I have seen a few movies which had scenes of smart looking, glib talking gentlemen crash wedding parties with the sole intention of eating good food for free. However I never thought that such things are actually possible. One event however got me thinking otherwise to the extent that I decided to write this dummy's guide.

The recent event was nothing out of the ordinary. I got invited to a friend's wedding. For a change I chose to be punctual at a social function and reached the hall on time for the wedding reception party. To my surprise the couple in question had not arrived. Apparently they were delayed in the previous ceremonies and were running late. Now the only people I knew at the place were the bride and the groom. Everybody else was alien to me. Further, Unfortunately the Hall manager did not bother putting a welcome board mentioning the names of the bride and groom. So here I was at a wedding reception party, with no clue as to whether I was at the right party at all. Absentminded as I am I started doubting whether I had taken down the details correctly and walked out of the hall to check the neighbourhood for any other halls out there. Thankfully there were none and a quick chat with another guest confirmed that I was at the right place.
As the reception started, I could see people going upto the stage and greeting the newly wed couple. I sat on one of the seats, observing other people, not knowing whom to talk to and what to talk. As I observed the people around me an idea hit me ... What if I were a wedding crasher... My situation, frankly, was different only to the extent that I was invited to this one and my friend did smile at me from the stage to confirm that I was at the right place. However even if both the bride or groom were not my friends, I think I could have easily passed of as an invited guest... Thus based on my observation and thoughts I came out with this guide. So here are the steps -

Dress Smart
.- As they say "Clothes maketh the man". If some one is dressed well most people will think that you are an invited person. They will appreciate your presence. Imagine showing up at a wedding in a dirty green T'shirt and a muddy blue jeans. The chances are that even if you are the bride / bridegroom's best friend that person will refuse to recognize you ... On the other hand, have clean, well ironed, formal clothes appropriate for the occasion and the person at the door might just believe that you are an invited guest without having to give any sort of introduction. After all Indian weddings are also about the great and colourful clothes.. The Kurtas, payjamas, chunnis, choli - lehengas, sarees, the stylish suits .... the list goes on. With so many good clothes at stake, a smart looking, well dressed gentleman or lady are always going to be welcome.

Appear Confident - Even if you don't know anybody or the place no body will doubt confident looking person walking around the place. When some one sees a confident person walking around they would think you are some one of importance. How to appear confident ... that's easy, Hold your head and sholders high, walk at a steady pace and look in front as you are walking, have a grin of satisfaction on your face. Walking too fast may give an impression confusion or tension and walking too slow may give out an impression that you are not too comfortable. With the above point and this, even if some one doubts your credentials they would not dare ask. Who would want to piss you off on such an auspicious ocassion.

Choose your seat
- Even if you enter confidently it is important to choose a good seat. A good place would be a seat somewhere amongst the relatively quite crowd. These people won't talk much and most probably they would think you are from the other side (i.e if they are the bride's relatives, they would think you are the bridegroom's friend or something). It is important that this crowd is not around your age. That adds to the generation gap, which always delays the start of any conversation. Continue your grin as if you are very happy to see the couple wed.

Have a story
- The first 2 points set the tone for your entry. However if you are seated for quite some time, the chances are that some body looking to build a network might just talk to you. An obvious question would be "So whose side are you from ?" .. Obviously here you would want to be related to either the bride or the groom or else you would be perhaps shown the door. So have a story. After all no conversation would end at the above question. I'll give out my tips here with an example conversation which could be (replace the bride part with groom if you choose to be the groom's friend)...
Other Guest (OG): "So who's side are you from ?"
You: "I am here from the bride's side (ladkiwalen). What about you?" (Tip: Before such a thing happens, try to eaves drop a few conversations so as to figure out useful details about the bride and groom such as name, education, city of origin, place of work etc .. you don't need all of those but know some are definitely useful. Use the confident walk to roam around while you are gathering details and pause often at places and stare at the bride and groom with appreciation. Be on alert for people approaching you as you do this).

OG: (Blah blah's about him being from ladkiwalen as well and some relationship). So how do you know 'xyz' (substitute the bride's name here)
You: (Tip: Have a relationship that can not be verified by anyone but the bride herslef. ). I used to go to a french class along with her. The class went out for a trek to Mahabaleshwar and there we got to know each other better and became good friends. It is such a pleasure to be here to see her tie the knot .. (heave a breathe of satisfaction like "awe" as you look at her and then smile) (Tip: Make sure that the story is believable, easily forgettable and not verifiable by any one but the bride herself. No body will dare ask the bride and others won't be sure but would believe rather than disturb the bride during her wedding.)
OG: Ohh I see.. (After having verified your intent at the wedding, the focus will now shift towards what you do what he does and so on .. again have some story ....) (Tip: Do not carry any thing which can lead to you being chased - eg. business card, working cell number. If you have to divulge your cell, give out an out of area cell and mention that it is not on roaming, lest OG insists on giving you a missed call at that instant. )

Know one should recognize you - This is one of the most important points. If anyone knows your intentions definitively, the chances are that you will get kicked out. Therefore make sure that know one who knows you is around. You would already have concoted a story by now which says that the only person who can verify your authenticity is either the bride or the groom. (Tip: Have a common name, so that the chances are that the bride / groom already have some invited friend by that name). A combination of the point above and this means that you are now there to stay pretty much like all the invited guests.

Avoid socializing too much - The more the people who have talked to you, the more the chances that your story will be caught and that some one might just inform the bride / groom about your presence. The simple solution is too avoid socializing too much. Additionally socialize with the people who are not likely to talk to the bride / groom or their parents / siblings about you. It goes without saying here that you would have to keep a close eye on the people around the bride and groom to identify who their closest people are (parents, siblings, close friends etc) and avoid getting too close to them. Watch out for facial, structural, behavioural similarities, interaction with the couple of interest, body language etc to identify these. If you end up socializing then be sure to have some unique and interesting adventure stories like "your experience with trekking the Mt Fuji in Japan" ... Such experiences will completely divert your conversation from the marriage and you are thus safe.

If there is a Dance floor - Well If you love dancing be sure to dance where a group of people is dancing. They don't mind somebody who dances well, dancing along with them. Enjoy the dance along with others, but make sure that your entry and exit are stealthy lest somebody wants to involve you in a useful conversation ...

Be sure to relish the food - After all what are you in for ... All the above steps set you up till the time you get to eat. Relish the food well (unless it is inedible, in which case all your effort was a total waste). All of the above steps were meant for this very culmination...
If there are the cocktails and you like them, be sure to have only as much as you can take. You don't want to ruin all your efforts so far by belching out truth about in under the influence of alcohol.

I have by now given you a "dummy's guide to crashing weddings". But there is always a fine print to all products and so here is my disclaimer...

"Try the above steps at your own risk. I am not responsible if you get beaten black and blue or charged for impersonation. All of the above description is based out of my imagination and interpretation of imaginary situations so they might be complete hallucinations of my mind. The guide has not gone through any testing and there are no testimonials to prove that it works."

If after reading the disclaimer you do follow this guide to your own "wedding crash" then let me know about there result by leaving a comment at this blog. Also please don't try this at my wedding. Finally I hope my friend, whose wedding inspired this does have that little bit extra sense of humour to accept this post :) .

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A life called Infosys - The Halo of Dalai Lama

In my article - A life called Infosys - The Dream Company, I mentioned about the fact that the announcement that I got a job at Infosys drew various reactions. The reactions ranged from surprise and amazement to happiness and praise. However all those reactions didn't quite come close to the reactions that I saw when I came home to Mumbai for the first real vacation. This vacation was about 8 months after joining Infy, so there were lots of changes in me and also the perception of me among other people (relatives, neighbours and friends).

I have always been among the worst dressed guys in college so as mentioned in "The Dress Code" I was now counted among the most improved gentlemen in terms of dressing. I received a few compliments and chose to take notes in my head so that I could mention those in blogs like these. I think the best of those when one of the good looking females from my college mentioned "Vishal - you are looking smart" ....To all my critics - notes in head of course have not been amplified here and that is an actual comment.

However none of the compliments even come close to the "The Halo of Dalai Lama" reaction. One my roommates once told me about a conversation between him and one of his distant uncles ("door ke rishtedar"). The conversation went something like this.
Uncle: Beta where do you work?.
My Roomie (with a look beaming with pride): I work at Infosys.
Uncle: (With a look on the face that signifies respect, appreciation, praise etc). Ooh Mr Murthy's Infosys. Its a great company .. blah blah ... How do you think should I ask my son to become some one like you?

Of course the rest of the conversation mentioned above is inconsequential. The look on my friend's uncle's face is what matters. My friend described it to as "He looked at me as if I am an enlightened soul with the Halo of Dalai Lama behind my head" This description stayed put in my head and I learnt that it was so very true when I went home on my first vacation.

Suddenly I was no longer the guy in the grey T-shirt and muddy blue jeans who stood for all things that college students (guys) are not supposed to do. I am referring to things like bunking lectures, hanging out in canteen, ogling at girls, sleeping in the occasional lecture that I attended, copying assignments and so on ..... an no I didn't do drugs or ciggarettes so please don't imagine those in the so on list. I was now the guy who had made it to one of the most successful and respected companies in India. I was now seen as an ambassador of the company. I was now seen as the one with "The Halo of Dalai Lama"

So you might ask what's so special about this look... to site a few things I'll use a approach better known as then and now. The "then" here is when I was in college and the "now" here is when I came for a vacation after joining infy.
1. "Then" Mom nagged me about the fact that despite being bright (all Mom's think thier kid is bright) I couldn't stay above the 60 % mark consistently during my B.E. She wanted me to reduce my involvement in all the extra curriculars (refer to the so on ... list above) "Now" she was convinced that I was doing all of that with a purpose. I pretended that I had it all planned :)

2. "Then" some of my neighbours would think (I guess) this guy is spoiling the kids by hanging out in the playground during the exams (I did that a lot). "Now" the same set of neighbours were appreciative of my intellect. The suddenly started believing in "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".

3. "Then" I was the person who barely scrapped through the exams and didn't seem to be good enough to make it to a job in the campus placements. "Now" people would ask me for advice on career advice for their kids and they would actually listen to me.

4. "Then" My college teachers viewed me as an "outstanding student" - a student who always stood out of the classroom. "Now" my college teachers viewed me as an "outstanding student" - a student who worked for Infosys.

With the "Then" - "now" approach I believe I have really highlighted "The Halo of Dalai Lama" and its significance. I have to put some disclaimers out here. I wasn't actually all that bad in college. I did manage to clear all my semesters of engineering in first attempt in Mumbai university and that is a feat that only a small percentage of people (I guess that percentage would be as low as 20 %) manage to perform. Of course this feat was known only to a few people (my family and close friends). Most of my neighbours and relatives had kids who did the same feat but with an average which was much above 60 %. (Some of them actually had managed a first class every sem). Thus it was not that I was all that bad in the eyes of my neighbours, it was just that I wasn't too good enough :) ... Infosys for the first time changed that from not bad to "The Halo of Dalai Lama"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A life called Infosys - The Dress Code

The Dress code
I always found one aspect of Infy's policies amusing. This was regarding the Dress code. The HR gave us a suspect story line as a justification to the dress code. The dress code is simple yet discriminating. For gentlemen, Mondays and Tuesdays it is full business formals with Tie. On wednesdays and thursdays the tie is not required and they may opt for half sleeves. On fridays casuals are exceptable however shoes are a must and shorts are not allowed. Guys anyways do not have many options and such dress code restrictions only seek to further bring about the uniform look. The dress code for ladies accepted almost anything other than T-shirt and jeans as formal wear and that is applicable for the "Formal" days of the week. On fridays they may choose to wear pretty much any ladies wear under the sun (I guess mini skirts are excluded).

Having defined the dress code, I would like to bring out the fact that wearing a Tie while coding is like wearing a Hangman's knot to work. That's just my perspective though. The HR people would rather say that it makes us look like gentlemen and professional. Their story was that infoscions before introduction of the dress code were a pack of badly dressed geeks who made a mockery of the infosys brand in front of clients by their geekish dressing sense. They even quoted us some supposedly true story. Thus the dress code was introduced with an intention of turning us geeks into gentlemen and professionals. Interestingly during nearly 1.5 years that I spent at client site, I never had to wear a tie.

Funnily however the definition of dress code for ladies is so vague that almost any type of pants they wear below a western formal shirt is acceptable as a formal dress. I have even seen some of them wear jeans on mondays and it passes off as formals. Whereas for guys even wearing sports shoes on Mondays is considered an offence. If you ask me the origin of the dress code would lie somewhere in a tea time chat between two HR females. It would have been a conversation which could go like this
HR female 1 - "These software people look so damn dirty and intellectual in their green T shirt and muddy blue jeans."

HR female 2 - "Ohhh .. .my! They look so awful, but they are smart within aren't they. How else would they have cleared that aptitude test. I would find it difficult to clear it even with the cheat sheet in hand"

HRF1 - "Yeah.. that's true. The apti is tough, but then shouldn't smart people also look smart. I bet one of these guys will look like a real gentlemen in the correct formal clothes"

HRF2 - "Those black boots, those well creased shirts"

HRF1 - "Those smart ties. Like the complete man that appears in those grasim suitings advts"

HRF2 - "How about we get them to wear formals..."

HRF1 - "No way. These geeks won't do it. There is no way that we can convince one of them to change their dressing style"

HRF2 - "We can't .. but a dress code policy can"
So the conversation must have gone on for another half an hour and the rest of course, is history.

Having critisized the dress code at length, its time to see the bright side of it too.
1. It is easy to recognize infoscions on Mondays and Tuesdays and hence help hitch hike to office courtesy the infoscions who own Cars.
2. The gentlemen actually look gentlemen and the dirty green T shirts and muddy blue jean are unheard of in office.
3. After college it is exciting to dress up in formals on a daily basis.. at least till the paid vacation is on.
4. Most importantly .. This point is based on a true story. .. People appreciate your dressing sense.

Before I end this post, I have to elaborate on the true story just mentioned.
All through my college life, I have been considered as one of the worst dressed guys. Worst dressed is not a compliment but unfortunately I was too comfortable (read as Lazy) to change that. Thus when Infy dress code grew on me, I actually started wearing clean and decent clothes even on weekends. This transformation was more so because my wardrobe suddenly had a higher percentage of formals and even my choice in informals was now affected by a formal mindset. After several months in Infy I happened to meet some of my female class mates and for the first time they appreciated my dressing sense. I chose to bask in the glory of that compliment but I guess I owe that compliment to the Dress code.
Like it or hate it, I think the dress code is in Infy to stay.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A life called Infosys - The Paid Vacation

The Paid Vacation
If the heading makes you feel that infosys gives a paid vacation to each of its employees .. It almost does. At least the fresh entrants get to go on one. For all those infoscions who read this and say that I am joking .. please care to recollect your memories about the entry level training.
The training is basically a period of time when fresh entrants are considered bright and talented but not quite ready for being put into projects. To hone the talent they are put through a period of training which varies from 2 months to 4 months (depending on the educational background). People who haven't had this opportunity might wonder what this training is about and how can it be a paid vacation. Lets see ...
  1. All trainees are typically given accomodation in 3 star hotels or equvivalent (Mysore training facility has a hostel equivalent to 3 star hotel) for the duration of the training. Some trainee batches in past haven't got this but mine did. With a batch of around 100 or more trainees it is like staying in a hostel but with luxury of a hotel. The fun of hostel life does not need a second mention. Additionally the boys and girls hostel are not in two separate buildings separated by special security.. Need I say more on this.
  2. The campus has lush green lawns, a health club and various playing fields (basket ball, Lawn tennis etc). All this for a very small fee. The whole thing is extremely well maintained.
  3. There are lectures (like college) for half the day on weekdays. People like me like to think of that time as the time catch up some pending sleep. The second half of the day is dedicated to practicals. Put simply we have access to a PC and a mail box and some assignments. In typcal engineering style some of us managed to sneak out for numerous tea breaks and strolls in the Campus. Additionally the mail box is used for little more than sending out official mails. I almost used it like a tool to chat with other trainees.
  4. The company pays the trainees a handsome salary and not a meagre stipend.
Net net .. We got paid for being in college and that too a good looking one. Well there were the assignements and tests to spoil the show but as long as one managed to spend enough time mugging up the Champak (the study material given by the education department) they were never a problem. Thus the training was more like getting paid for having fun at college. Additionally being just out of college meant that the corporate life didn't yet have the opportunity to rob us of our sense of mischief.

For me training was a simple routine.
Get up in the morning to catch the office bus. Getting up early meant that some of my sleep was cut short so I used the boring lectures to catch up on the rest. The practicals was the only time I seriously did some studying (apart from chatting and mailing on other windows). Evenings were spent taking long strolls in the campus or trying some baskets at the basketball court or just chilling out at the canteen. Finally we used to catch bus back to the hotel. At the hotel my job was to coax every one among my new found friends (batch mates) to play cards or to plan for a trip on the next weekend. I did end up studying in typical Mumbai University style. i.e the night before the assignment which of course was group study and for me just hearing the discussions was good enough to get me to the minimum passing criteria. I chose to let the hard studies be things the batch toppers did and I associated myself with them so as to gain from their hard work. Some might say how mean ... but if clearing the test was the only aim .. why bother wasting the paid vacation.

Unfortunately my paid vacation lasted only 3 weeks after which Infy decided to pull us into real projects. I still curse the EnR department for robbing us of our paid vacation, but I guess times gone cannot come back only memories like these continue to remain as cherished ones.

A life called Infosys - The Aptitude Test

Shakuntala Devi is really popular
I had always heard about the lady Shakuntala Devi and her puzzle books. They said that her brain works faster than a Computer. I guess with the computing speed of the age old 86 family processors any body with good arithmetic and analytical ability could do that. With the kind of test that Infosys has, for filtering aspirants I could almost argue that even my brain runs faster that the Computer. ... Ok I am blowing my tumpet ... It seems that there is a remarkable similarity in the puzzles that infy tests the candidates against and the ones that feature in Shauntala Devi's books.. With my habit of clearing most aptitude tests and then failing interviews I did not worry about going through those books. However the others who joined with me swore by this book. In fact to date if any person asks me the secret behind clearing the Infosys aptitude test, I say pick up Shakuntala Devi's puzzle books and solve it in its entirity and you should be good.. Given that a huge number of people appear for Infy's tests I guess it is safe to assume that the sales of the above mentioned books are driven by Infosys' recruitment ...

A life called Infosys - The Dream Company

The Dream Company
As engineering students we dreamt about various options for our future.. Some wanted to chase the great American dream and do their post graduation in US. There were others who preferred doing management in India and there were still others like me who thought that it was time to place the books in the library and start counting money (I mean get a full time job)..
Given the Brand name of Infosys and the Icon Mr Narayan Murthy, Infosys was by far the dream company for anyone remotely interested in pursuing a software company.
Thus when I got my offer letter I was excited to say the least.
Then began my trumphet. I declared to every friend and relative I knew that I would working for Infosys and I was always met with the a reaction that conveyed everything from surprise, amazment and of course happiness and praise. For the next few days till I actually joined the company I chose to bask in the light of my success (even if it was only the start of a much longer journey). I think Infosys still continues to be one of the dream companies for most IT aspirants and professionals in India

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rs 500 and 8 hours on weekly laundry

If you read the heading and imagine that spending 500 rupees on laundry is something that would happen If I were to send my clothes to the laundry of an expensive hotel ... You are wrong. I am a little too miserly to do that. The next few paragraphs just demonstrate how to spend so much money to just get a machine wash at home.

I used to work for quite some time in Bangalore. Living there with friends meant that I had learnt to gaurd my laundry bag and actually do the laundry all by myself. However when I shifted to Pune things took a whole new turn on the laundry front. My hometown Mumbai is quite close to Pune. It is just about 4 hrs drive from my Pune residence to my parent's residence in Mumbai. Obvisouly weekend was a time to chill out at their place. The first weekend my Mom was very happy to see me. Her happiness showed in her eyes ..."as if her brave son had returned from War".

For Lazy bums like me daily chores are no less than a War. Simple things like cooking, laundry, cleaning the house etc take several hours to do and lots of bravery (imagine having to wash the denim jeans you worn for 3 months without washing). A few hours of mental preparation before going to the WAR to actually do the job. I know most Mom's can do the above chores half asleep or while simultaneously attending to other things like "saas bahu" serials, phone etc. However for a sloth like me they really are war. In that sense my homecoming to was like being back from Vietnam war.

First few weekends were really good. I was treated like a guest at home and in India guests are considered as messengers of the Almighty. Naturally my Mom cooked food as per my liking and made sure I had eaten up right until my belly bulged out. My clothes were taken care of on priority scheduling for the daily machine wash. I didn't have to do any chores at home at all and could just lie on the sofa and watch TV all day. Never during my college days did I have such luzury at home.

I guess good things don't last for ever so also was the case with the VIP treatement I got at my home. My Mom saw through my lazy mind's plan reduce work. Being the great Mom she is I still get to eat a lot, the clothes are also taken care of and I still manage to a lot of nothing by warming the upholstery. However things have taken their course. The twinkle in my Mom's eye has change to more like a sigh of relief and and expression of disinterest. Relief because she is able to see me hale and healthy every time I show up. Disnterest because with me comes my huge back pack full of clothes with that manly odour (read as bad odour of sweat). Some of clothes (my socks and dirty jeans) are treated as if they need to go through special bomb diffusal to prevent harm to others in the house but I get clean clothes nevertheless. I get pushed these days do some daily chores like getting stationaries from nearby shop. I am expected to eat whatever is cooked irrespective of my liking. In short I am treated with as much repect as the other members at home.

Despite the lack of VIP treatement, the benefit of getting your laundry taken care of .. free of charge and with utmost adherence to quality is worth travelling for 8 hours and spending about 500 rupees transportation. I guess spending the time and money to go to Mumbai has more to do with visiting the family but I can't deny the fact that the laundry is often a trigger to plan trips to home sweet home. With that quote .. I know I'll probably have to do a few weeks of laundry myself if my dear Mom reads this.. So sorry Mom .. that's just this Lazy idiots outlook .. please ignore me

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Bookworm

I have know this guy for about 2 years but the short time that we were room mates was when I actually came to know about him and it sure left his mark on me.
Why do I call him book worm ... I guess there is no doubt. Afterall I think he spent most of his free time with his head dug deep into books. He has a great appetite for books and usually I found that I name it and he has read it.

As expected given the nickname he got excited when I took him to the Richmond Library. For an Indian non fiction fan, seeing a section full of non fiction books is like a dream. Thus our bookworm entered his dream world. I had to done the drivers cap as he didn't yet have a Car and I couldn't say no to him whenever he asked me to take him to the library. Afterall I owed my driving skills to his patience and strong heart.

When I wasn't quite sure how to drive in the USA, this guy took the risk of sitting by my side and teaching me. I have to say he did shout every time I braked at the last moment or threatened to crash into other cars while changing lanes. But he did have the patience and the strong heart to sit by my side even as I scared the living day lights out of him by my driving prowess. In that sense I owe my now honed driving skills to him.

Besides being a book worm and one of the better drivers I have known, there are some other traits in him that do impress me and I wish those have brushed into me. For one he had a lot of patience for some one so passionate about his work or his personal space. Talking about passion, I think he is one the most dedicated and passionate people as far as their jobs are concerned. He also had a great knack of building up relationships with our clients and that's a quality which I myself had to work hard on despite the fact that I count communication as one my strengths.

Having showered a lot of praise I think it is important that I mention some of the not so appreciated qualities as well. In that sense he is a competitor to me. He has been one of the laziest persons I have known although I think he isn't as lazy as yours truly. He has a great taste for alchohol and for PJs. His PJs continue to be very competitive to mine and I guess the next time we meet, we might be up for a PJ challenge. In that sense we both used a lot of dialogues from the popular hindi comedies like Andaz Apna Apna, Jaane bhi do yaroon, Hera Pheri etc.

His taste for alchohol was something that became evident to me when we both went into the liquors section in one big retail store (I think it was COSTCO). He got excited in quite the same way as he was excited in the library. He ended up giving me the taste of Heinekin beer. However the best of his alchohol acts was when he prepared rum chicken. The idea was to prepare chicken as per a recipe pulled of the net. However he started the preparation with a peg of rum in his hand. The start was ok but by the time we reached the mid, we both weren't quite sure what to call the chicken or what its contents should be. We both suspected that some of the rum also had spilled into the prepartion. Thus we decided to rechristen the Chicken as "Rum Chicken"

As I write this blog, our book worm is busy studying for his post graduation and I think his addiction to book will take him places. However I'll always remember him for the "Rum Chicken"

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Friday Night Chicken

As I recollect my memories and write about my perception of people ... there are some experiences which deserve to go down in my book as "those good old bachelor's days" type of memories. One of the most significant of those memories is "Friday Night Chicken"

I had learnt to cook my own food as early as the age of 15. However living at home didn't provide me enough opportunities or motivation to try too much cooking. My experiences as bachelor in India didn't make much of a difference either as there were other economic options (read as canteen, mesh, cheap hotels, cooks for hire). However the USA provided an interesting twist to this story of my Bachelorhood and cooking.

My early experiments with cooking included 2 minute noodles (Maggie) and egg omlet both of which I cooked quite decently. I had picked up making Chapati too .. but despite being a hard core non vegetarian, who believed in equality, (when it came to eating I treated animals and plants alike ... i.e cook and eat both ) I hadn't tried cooking meat seriously. With the entry of Mr. Chef (refer to a separate post on him) in our room, our cooking story took a whole new turn.. Mr Chef loved the chicken (when deliciously cooked and served in his plate) and also knew how to cook and serve it like a proffesional chef.

Our first dish on chicken took about 3 hours (right from cleaning it to serving it on the table). Our master Chef started work at about 9:00 pm on the friday and we were devouring the first ever chicken curry made at our place at about 12:00 am ...For bachelors Friday night also meant boys night so for the non believers (teetotalers) we had the juices (orange) and for the believers there was beer and vodka ... Thus began our first Friday boys night (technically it was Saturday morning) complete with bachelors, movies, drinks, meat and some sides like decorated veggies, peanuts (referred to as "Chakna" - a word used for junk food that accompanies a drinkl .. also courtesy Chef). Actually the poker table was missing but none of us played poker so it was complete for us.

Soon Friday night became synonymous with cooking Chicken and having a boys night. The rest of us now began taking more interest in the cooking and even learnt to cook our own chicken recipes. Thus within next few months we had tried Tandoori Chicken, Butter chicken, gulti chicken and even rum chicken (courtesy a semi drunk Mr. Bookworm - soon to feature in another post).

Not to be left behind, I tried my hand with something unique. Being a Konkani, fish ran in my blood.. Afterall "Ek konkani ko rice or fish curry mil jave to uska life saakar ho jaye". I had often seen my mom cook delicious pan fried fish. So I used my instincts and years of observation of her cooking to cook up my first fried fish. I started right from cleaning the fish fins, too chooping it and then frying it. The shape first time around didn't quite look good, nor were all the ingredients right but thanks to our Friday night, it was well received and completely devoured.
A few lessons (i.e phone calls with my Mom and cousin sis) later my fish became a part of the "Chakna". I also mastered cooking Chapati for 7 people in a day.

Thus a standard friday night menu was really a feast and the Friday night came to be known as "Friday Night Chicken". Afterall the only thing that was constant in our Friday night feast was chicken (we often did not have booze .. but chicken was always there) ... I salute all those chickens and fish who had to be sacrificed to fill our hungry stomachs ...