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 :) .