Punyajanam : Lil General gets a name - Pranav

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lil General's "Punyajanam" was performed today. We gave him 3 names : Pranav, Anubhav and Nishit. Vivek and my father-in-law were keen on naming him "Nishit" which means "sharpness". I am for either "Pranav" (which means "Om") or "Anubhav" (which means "Experience"). The official one will be chosen soon.

Bringing home baby

Monday, December 25, 2006

It was homecoming for me and Lil General today. We got home after a week at the hospital. All of us were so happy to be back home - no more shuttle to the hospital and everyone can spend as much time as they want with the lil one who will be just a room away. We got a warm receptio at home with the customary aarthi...We got to see if he adjusts to the new surroundings or gets cranky in the night.

At the hospital, the day started early with preparatios for coming back home, a final 'go-ahead' from the Doc and we presenting a small gift to all the nurses and the Doc as a token of thanks for their hospitality. All's well that ends well.

Veni Vidi Vici

Monday, December 18, 2006

Vivek becomes a guest blogger again on my request as he will write a series of posts on Lil General. I bet you will find his reminiscence of those days since 18h Dec '06 more entertaining than my posts ever will...

18th Dec ' 2006....well thats the day when it all started.. or rather should I say life just turned on its head...
And as they say.. man just proposes....I am not too who sure who disposes..Lakshmi and I have been waiting for the arrival our chlid .. the last 6 months now...
the doctors said...24 , 25, 26, 27, 28, 29th...Dec....now thinking, they could have said.. any day is a damn good day...or just "When LG wants it , he will make the noise"...but 18th Dec afternoon I receive phone Call from laksh... get ready poppy .. pack your bags and haul your ass down to Trichy..Your Son/ Daughter has had enough of kicking inside and now wants to feel the pollution, hear the cars honking and start his own existence...and a honest confession... it was indeed a shocker.. the thought of a new someone actually joining our lives..I mean laksh and I have lived our last 4 1/2 years on our terms... but well you will see.. how it all changes...for the good or bad.. I leave it to the future to tell....

So anyways 18th Dec afternoon, frantic instructions to my friends in Pune to book air tickets, calls to a good friend in Bangalore to book my Bus tickets...the journey had begun...its been the fastest flight I have taken... I mean heart pounding, dry mouth and sweaty palms.. and I thought it all happened in books...landed in bangalore and called my friend... ( I needed to talk to someone to get over my jitters).. he says he will come down to hand me the bus tickets too...we meet up at around 7:30 PM... and decide to go for dinner....and mind you ..I didn't have butterflies in my stomach.. they sure were HUGE UGLY MOTHS flying all around....kept calling my brother in law at trichy..who just kept telling me .. keep your kewl.. lakshmi is in labour room...hmm ironic ehh. lakshmi in labour room and I get to keep my cool :)).. me and my friend sit down for dinner.. talk innocous things... weather, traffic and jobs...finish and get back to bus station and we are waiting to board the bus.. when at around 8:55 PM I receive a call from my Brother in law again.. CONGRAATULATIIIIOOOOOOONS,, you are a pop and its nice healthy young man...3.2 KG ( 7.5 pounds) in weight and normal delivery.....ohhh those words...first thought hope laksh is all fine .and the second thought .. the little bugger couldnt even wait till the morning when his poppy would have reached ...but thats the moment I didn't realize our life had changed...
from here on...LG makes all the decisions and we are mere spectators.... and the man puts his stamp of authority by arriving few hours early :)) ...VENI ... The Emperor had Come....

-- Vivek

Welcoming Lil General to "The Family"

Lil General made a grand entry today at 20:13 IST. Welcome to the family. I saw you for a second as soon as you came out---you were dangling in mid air when the Doc handed over you to the nurse standing next to me. I knew you were a boy but took a good look at you only around 9:45 p.m. when granny came to see me. You were a cute little baby weighing 3.2 Kg at birth.

I'm in pain

Updated on 8th Jan '07: I started drafting this post on 18th Dec 06 minutes before leaving for the hospital but never got to publishing it..here it is now! More posts to follow on Lil General!

Pravin is here and it is a beautiful Monday morning. We went for a refreshing walk to the hospital (alrighty I know what you're thinking but that's the only place I am allowed to go or have been going for the past 2 months) to get an appointment for our regular consultation later this morning. Just as our other visits, after a good 30 minute wait at the lounge, mom and I met the Doctor and we were relieved to know everything was normal Lil General still feels cozy inside. And then I casually remarked to the Doctor that movements had considerably decreased since the previous night. Thats when trouble started.

She examined me and believe me there are still times when I think that this part was more painful than the actual delivery. I braced for the worst and she said "Get admitted today. You will deliver by this night." she gave a pain inducing tablet and a window of 1 hr to have lunch, pack up from home and get admitted.

The feeling cannot be described in words. All these months I was struggling to take one day at a time coping with indigestion and itchy backs. Now all that seemed trivial and the fear of delivery overpowered me. The doctor was quick to remark, "I have the patience to go through a normal delivery for you if you have the patience. And I'm not going to undermine delivery pain. Yes, It will pain like hell that you have never experienced before. But thats what you got to bear to get the kid." You're thinking if the motivating speech helped ? :) Oh yea I wasn't still thinking what lay ahead as pain slowly began to set in...

Meanwhile, mom was still taking in what the Doc said finding it hard to believe that the D-Day was finally here. After we got out, our fingers tirelessly dialed numbers and 3 phones seemed like less. Tickets had to be booked, trips planned and logistics worked out. This was the moment we had carefully planned for but no planning is good enough. Got home and had lunch - the fastest I have had - in 10 mins. We were all set to leave for the hospital in 20 mins. Pain slowly began to set in and I told my neighbour granny with a smile - I think I'm in pain. I know now what she meant then, "if you are in pain, you can't say it. Atleast not with a smile."

Get Set and Go

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm all set to dash off to the hospital anytime or so I've been saying for weeks now. But hey, you can't blame me. Its all cozy inside says the Doc so LG is quite comfortable to stay warm in a hospitable environment for another two weeks. One thing is certain - he is as lazy as his parents are. I went in for my fourth and final Sonography last Friday and the doc was kind enough to run us (mom and I) through the foetus on the monitor. Believe me, I kept nodding my head as he showed us the liver, one eye (the other eye was underneath),heart, kidneys, limbs etc., but I couldn't comprehend anything clearly. Its all hazy inside. And there in a flash I mentally did a rerun of the F.R.I.E.N.D.S episode where Ross tries his best to show the peanut sized foetus to Rach, except that in this case LG is a full grown 3 Kg baby.

My body structure now fits the bill for a "Happy Woman" if there were one like those Chinese "Happy Man" statues - a fat belly, short arms lifted upward in a comfortable sitting posture. Other than a heavy feeling and sleeplessness, all other irritating factors such as sciatica, vomitting, itchiness have been low this week. 38 weeks down...the finish line is so near yet so far.

The Grand Mosque at Bahrain

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Of all the places that Vivek and I had been to at Bahrain this year, the one that we liked the most was the Grand Mosque. During our 2 week stay there we did a lot of touristy stuff, thanks to dad and mom, and this was one place that we felt like going back a second time. The thought of going inside a mosque itself was thrilling and the visit exceeded all our expectations. As I was sorting through the numerous pictures taken this year, my memories of our short trip came back and the guilt of not having blogged about it was overwhelming.

Ahmad Al Fateh Mosque, commonly known as the Grand Mosque, is one of the few mosques in the region that is open to women. Dressed in perfect white, it stands magnificently overlooking the city on one side and the seascape on the other. The mosque stands majestically among lush green gardens. It was a bright Saturday morning 2 hours before prayer time when we timed our visit. More than the mosque, what impressed me the most was the hospitality extended to us by the gentleman who showed us around. Very well organised, visitors are seated and taken for a private tour of the mosque in turns. Women are asked to wear black burqa and cover the heads and all of us had to remove our footwear.

Our guide, a very well learned and educated gentleman who was formerly employed with Gulf Air, has been conducting tours for over 5 years now. His command over the language and the vividness with which he explained the meaning of the words of the prayer call, impressed us.
Continue reading to know more about some facts of the mosque...

  1. the foundation stone was laid on Saturday, the 17th of December, 1983.

  2. Construction work began on 17th December, 1984.

  3. Ahmad Al Fateh Islamic Center was opened on 2nd June, 1988. It consists of the Grand Mosque, the Islamic Institute with its library and students dormitory, and service utilities.

  4. The total area of the centre is about 15 hectares of which 6500 square metres i occupied by the Grand Mosque.

  5. The mosque can accommodate 7000 worshippers: 5000 in the main hall, 1800 in the courtyard and 200 in the women's prayer hall.

  6. The doors of the center are made of teak wood imported from India, their height being six metres to seven metres.

  7. The dome above the main prayer hall from the inside is about 40 metres from ground level with a diameter of 25 metres and has 12 windows inscribed with the name of God in the center in green color.

  8. The main building has two minarets, each rising to 70 metres above ground feet.

  9. The car parking area of the centre can accommodate 750 vehicles.

  10. The center has 952 lamps, 78 lusters and 76 wall lights, all made in France.

  11. The floor of the mosque is covered with 2774 square metres of carpeting, custom manufactured in Scotland.

  12. A total of nearly 3,000 sq. meters of Italian marble were used to cover the floor of the prayer halls and the courtyard.

  13. The total cost of building Ahmad Al Fateh Islamic Center including all its extensions, was BD 7,500,000 which excludes the Sh. Isa Bin Salman Public Memorial Library under construction in the Northern part of the centre compound.

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The great Indian neighborhood

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I love living in India for one reason - the camaraderie you share with the neighbors that makes you feel alive and human. Every evening when I returned from work, I would knock at my neighbor's door to say a 'hello' despite all the tiredness and the drudgery of the long day. A smile on her face and a little chit-chat was always such an effective stress-buster that no other outlet could ever provide.

Life outside India : The 13 months that I lived in Chicago, I never knew who lived next door, forget knowing their names. Initially, it was a creepy feeling that I got over slowly. Some habits die hard and so did the curiosity of seeing my neighbor's faces. For the first few months, every time I heard the doors closeby open/shut I would race to my door and peep thr the eyehole to get a glimpse. Call me the nosy prying Indian or whatever you like. But this was result of the lack of a social circle and interaction with somebody human after returning home from work! This is one reason I would never want to settle down in US where you fix appointments to meet friends!

The article titled There goes the neighborhood in last week's Hindu was an eyeopener that showed where our metros such as Bangalore, Pune with a burgeoning IT population and a cosmo culture are headed.

Continue reading 'The great Indian Neighborhood..

Reads the article ---

There is a an Oriya family next door, two Tamilian families in the floors below me and the couple who are supposed to work day and night at a call centre. I can't remember any of their names. True, they were all there for our housewarming, but we never seem to have progressed since then.

I blamed myself for moving into an apartment, which cocoons people into their own private cells. Then along came a friend who was from a part of a city that still has something resembling a neighborhood. I asked her how much she interacted with her neighbors. Pat came the reply: "A smile here and there... That too if they and I have the time."

Blame it all on the lifestyle : How many of you know the names of your neighbors? Intercoms and Yahoo! groups have conveniently replaced face-to-face conversations in apartments - the concrete jungles! The article is true to an extent while I lived in Bangalore. But I don't agree with it completely. People are quick to respond that there is no time during the week for meaningless conversations. Juggling between their high flying careers, working erratic hours and making time for their kids and finally for their immediate social cicrcle during the weekends keeps their plates and calendars full!

But doesn't the onus lies on us to create that special bond and take the first step. I have been fortunate enough to have gem of a neighbor every place we've lived in. One of the first things I always do after moving into a new place is to go and knock on my neighbor's door and get introduced. nothing breaks the ice as this. Rather than staring sheepishly and peeking thr eye holes or indulging in nosy gossips, this works! It sure is an effort but one that is worth every penny.

The article further states --

"Back during my childhood days, anything at home would see a horde of neighbors drop in. Even if a neighbor's relative was getting married, a representative from our house would make it a point to register our presence. I still live in the same house today, but somehow I have not managed to forge the same relationship with the same neighbors," says Vijaya Sunder, 26, a resident of Malleswaram

Open house :I'm reliving my childhood days when we lived in a small colony where everyone knew everyone else, kids played together, slept over at other's places if parents went on an emergency and you don't have think twice before dropping in a for a cup of coffee unannounced without an appointment.

The apartment we live in now has all the characteristics of a small colony - its so touching when the uncle next door enquires about my health every morning or offers to collect the medical report and goes that extra mile every time. We have a open door policy here. During the days no one closes the doors. So kids in the neighborhood are welcome anytime of the day. When I'm bored to death, I just drop in to listen to stories from the granny who stays opposite. Festivals have been fun too like Diwali and Holi when all of us pool in and burn crackers or play holi together. More the number, more the fun!

One night recently around 11:30 p.m. I was in pain and mom was about to knock at our neighbor's door when I stopped her. She got an earful the next morning from our neighbors when they got to know and the aunty remarked, " Laksh belongs to the current generation. Don't you listen o her. just don't think and knock at our door whatever time of the night it is. what are neighbors for."

That spoke volumes. It is just a perception that the apartment culture is not healthy and has driven people into their private cells. Its more to do with the lifestyle and the attitude the current generation carries. In the current nuclear family setup in metros it is not possible to spend enough time during the year with immediately family and relatives as they are scattered around the world. So it feels all the more good if you live amongst nice people. Along with consumerism and other traits of modern day, we have conveniently given up simplicity and carefree attitude that we were once proud of! Its upto us to take forward those days what we cherished in our childhood.

The waiting game..

Monday, December 04, 2006

There is a new post on this blog which means there is no news yet! Here is a transcript of IM conversation with Harper.

natatwo: are you ready to explode?
lakshmi haaa ..don't sound so crude
natatwo: hahaha i mean in a good and super exciting way
natatwo: you are my closest friend who is having a baby. i am so excited!

Ready to explode, well well, what a different way of asking when Lil General is expected. Would like to but got to wait it out..It sure put a smile on my face as I deal with the every day ordeal of throwing up and the new symptom of itching and scratching all over ..you bet I've got my hands full and if I continue this way I would have enough first pregnancy souvenirs on my body to last a lifetime.

We still haven't picked a name that all of us can agree upon. But we do agree on one thing - of choosing a name before LG goes to College, so there's time.


“Karthigai Deepam” (Festival of Lights), celebrated yesterday, usually falls on a full moon day during the tamil month of Karthigai (Nov-Dec). Tiny earthen lamps similar to the ones used for Diwali in North is used to light up every home in the evening for three consecutive days. This is done in honour of Lord Shiva. As for every Hindu festival, a lot of delicacies are made - the main ones being Pori Urundai (sweet balls made of puffed rice and jaggery) and appam. I had a great time last evening celebrating it with neighbours after quite a few years. Here are some pictures from last evening ...


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423 posts, 23000 hits

Over 3 years, this blog has got 23,000 hits and has about 420 posts. Sure, there have been weird searches on Google as shown by my Usage statistics that lead to this blog but nothing as crazy as this one today - Pregnancy outsourcing to India ..now we are stretching our offshoring services too far, aren't we?

My Pregnancy Journal - a week by week chronicle

Friday, November 24, 2006

It is time to announce my other blog titled Lil General Rules that I've been writing for a while now. A word of caution before I proceed further..since most of the regular readers of this blog are men, I think it is important to state this so that you and I are not embarrassed ...Career, Pregnancy and Kids as the name implies is a week by week chronicle of what I've gone through since April..there is nothing gross in there yet that would make your stomachs churn. Having said that, there isn't anything juicy or interesting like Formula 1 either. Its all mundane, boring stuff on weight loss, weight gain, blood tests, martial arts of the baby, visits to the doctor and some unanswered questions as i took a break in my career -- which I am sure you can live without if your wife is not expecting. If you are single, then all the more better..don't even bother to click the link.

If I still have your attention, go ahead and read it.

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What the heck is "Social Networking"?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

"Are you on Orkut?" asked a old friend a few months back. I replied in the negative. For once, contrary to my Aquarean nature, I did not have the curiosity to try this so-called 'social networking' site that I had heard about in fleeting conversations over lunch at work. Establishing a direct impact on productivity, organizations have gone to the extent of blocking Orkut and other such sites as MySpace, Friendster and LinkedIn.

Anyways, the reason I'm writing this post is because the talk about Orkut has been rekindled with more mentions in the past few weeks from different sources. So I signed up and started exploring and reading others 'scraps'. Note to myself - got to check why they came up with this name 'scrap'.. My only other presence, sorry existence, on the networking sites is in LinkedIn, thanks to Tom B @ Qualcomm. LinkedIn, I guess serves its purpose being a business networking site. ? After a few days of mindless browsing of Orkut and a expression of awe on my face as I saw a few pictures after almost seven years of college, I decided this wasn't for me.

If you are a big fan of these social networking sites, please tell what the heck is social networking and why do you do this? I'm looking for a better answer than "Oh I found a school friend with whom I lost touch for the last decade. Internet is GOD".
Here is one cool article on Fast Company titled "What the heck is Social Networking? I think Jonathan does a lot of justice in answering honestly the real motive of these sites ---

What if there was a way to meet people online through your friends? This would be better for dating, but it would also be better for things that weren't dating. So I started thinking about a dating site that wasn't about dating. Buddy lists where you know everybody and online discussions where things are totally open have been basically how people interact. That's not how we interact in the real world. I wanted to build something in the middle.

People sign up who wouldn't sign up for a traditional dating site. And people seek contact who wouldn't normally do so. We also hear about the Friendster addict. When people first sign up, there's usually a little frenzy, but that can't continue forever. People care about people, and Friendster is all about people. It's also all hypertext. You see one person, and they have an interesting-looking friend. They have a testimonial from another person, and you find that you're connected to that person. Some people say that Friendster is ruining their life and that it got them fired.

Well well, he begins with a honest explanation and then it is all promotion which could be true to an extent. Do you have a lot of time on your hands? Is it really about catching up with old friends or finding new ones? Open conversations? Or is it just entertainment - a IM equivalent? Or am I just being an anti-social animal?

Choosing a name for the baby

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

You might ask "What's in a name?". I'm glad that nature mandates a nine month period to have a baby as it can take longer to choose a name that satisfies everyone's whims and fancies. Else "100 baby names" wouldn't be in the top 100 Google Search terms.

Experienced new parents and family have for months posed this question to Vivek and I, "Have you decided a name yet?" We kept replying, "What's the hurry? There is still time." The reality was I had loads of other things to take care of like nausea, indigestion, heartburn, breathlessness to name a few and "name" did not figure high on the priority. With a lot of time now, I have taken up this "project" and what did not seem a hair splitting problem then is definitely one now.

I will let you in on a little secret. The truth is we had settled for the name "Akshat" which happened by accident. Way back in March, Vivek was handed his Medical Insurance card along with those of his dependents. He had only one dependent then (myself) but was handed over 2 cards - one for Lakshmi Nagarajan and the other for his 'so-called' son - 'Akshat Jain' ...yea yea I wouldn't go into the blunders insurance companies make. Anyway, we had a hearty laugh and later when LG was on the way, we thought why not "Akshat". If it is a girl, add a "a" and it becomes "Akshata" - how convenient. This is what I like about Indian names. "Vijay" becomes "Vijaya".

Apparently, no one likes the name "Akshat" in family, so here after a week's brainwork and deciding I'm not creative enough, I'm asking you all to send in suggestions for LG for a girl and a boy. A good friend, SK made my job easier by formulating some ground rules and here they are ---
Read more

  1. It must not be too common a name: like ‘Amit’. Your id deserves individuality and there is a sea of names to choose from.

  2. It must not be a name that your kid would curse you for: This is complementary to rule 1> above. (‘Khug’ tops our hit list here.)

  3. Not too difficult to pronounce, a Indian name that is not too Americanized. No 'ksh'. 'Lakshmi' always becomes 'Lashhhhmi'

  4. It must not be too long: He/she will have a lot of forms to type/write out in his/her life. Please spare the kid the trouble.

  5. It should be a name that can be naturally (phonetically-speaking) abbreviated: (‘Adi’ instead of ‘Aditya’, for instance). Since you will be screaming after your kid all the way to his/her adult life, the abbreviated name comes in handy. Else, you will have to cook up some other pet name like ‘Pappu’, ‘Bunty’, ‘Happy’…

  6. It must have a nice and uncomplicated meaning to it: If one has to explain the meaning of the name to someone (Indian or otherwise), one shouldn’t have to begin narrating a mythological tale that lasts a fortnight.

  7. It should not be from Maneka Gandhi’s ‘Book of Hindu Names’: Why? Refer to point 6> above.

  8. It must not be a composite name, formed by performing complex String operations on the names of the parents: (‘Raveena’ = Ravi + Veena; Siya = Seema + Ashish). Again, your kid deserves individuality.

  9. It should not be a name that has an almost patented regional overtone: [‘Miral’ / ‘Hetal’: patently Gujarati; ‘Mrinmayee’: patently Maharashtrian; ‘Vaijayanthi’: patently Tamil; ‘Asamanya’ / ‘Bibhuti’: patently Bengali/Orissi], although some such names do sound really nice and exotic, if you ask me.

  10. It should not be a name that’s already in the family: Individuality again.(You have already decided on this; so, that’s good.)

  11. It should not be a name that sounds as if you are trying to clear your throat.

If nothing works, then there's always these to choose from - Lil General, Polu, Bozo, Yuko and Buco Kidoo."

The Final Countdown

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Officially, today is the begining of the 9th month. It can happen anytime after this is what I'm told...naturally the pampering has multiplied a zillion times. Now I call myself the "fat lazy pregnant lady" who sleeps, eats, excretes and repeats the cycle all over again without getting off her a*. And if neither one of the above happensas it should, then I rattle that question "why can't humans reproduce like snakes and what was granny thinking when she gave birth to 11 kids?"

I have been out of work for nearly two months now and it has been amazing so far - contrary to what I feared. Ofcourse, pangs of guilt hit me often - for lazing around when a plethora of opportunities are knocking at my door and me not earning. Taking one day at a time doing freelancing when I wish to, Tanjore painting, solving Sudoku puzzles, GTalking....

Disclaimer: The foul language is not me talking. Its the effect the weight is having on my senses or so I would like you to think.

Good Performer Resigns, Should I Make a Counteroffer?

Friday, November 17, 2006

"Good Performer Resigns, Should I Make a Counteroffer?" was the topic for discussion posted in the forum in this week's Workforce Newsletter. The question was catchy enough to draw my attention as I reflected upon the numerous instances when ex-peers, seniors and subordinates had resigned only to withdraw it weeks later after those closed-room "negotiations".

My question to both sides.
Firstly, if you are a manager and a highly valued person in your team resigns. This can trigger a ripple effect demotivating the rest of the team members. What should you do?

  1. Firstly, would you make a counteroffer to anyone and everyone who resigns? my instinct says no.

  2. Secondly, would you try and find out the real reason behind why the person has decided to go? In most cases, there is more to the 'money' story. It is not just because of the money factor or a 30% increase that a person decides to go. In my cases, it wasn't.

  3. Do you have the authority to make a counteroffer or is it just promises in the air for the moment?

  4. What are you reasons for making this counteroffer and is it worth it? Have you thought of the repercussions this can create? Wouldn't this entice others to follow the same route and set a bad example?

  5. Now the trickier part, you are a good manager and you knew well in advance the person was looking out for reasons that are beyond your control to be changed. The pep talks help only for a week in keeping the person motivated. What should you do?

A counteroffer need not always be monetary based though in most cases it is. A lot of times it is a bargain for a designation or a location change - the ever so lucrative onsite assignment in the IT industry. To put it bluntly, I call it blackmailing or bargaining. It is a situation where you say "you either give me what I want or I go".

Second scenario, you are the person creating this ripple - the one who has put in the papers. Counteroffers galore. What should you do? I have been in this position myself 2 times - once at Tata Infotech and the next at GE.

  1. Are you clear in the head? Do you know the reasons why you started looking out?

  2. If the counteroffer is a princely increase than your new offer, should you stick on overlooking all the other reasons?

My personal "Code book of Professional Ethics" has one golden rule - Never ever withdraw your resignation. You resigned for a reason and it is less likely the situation has changed. To believe that no one in the workplace would know of the "deal" is fooling yourself. I have known instances where managers making the counteroffer in a desperate attempt to retain the team member to keep the project going has resorted to revengous ways soon (sure, you make them feel a loser in the bargain). The water cooler gossip mongers wouldn't stop either. To keep your word and dignity, I always advise to stick to your word and go. And for managers, "let go" if its all official. Don't blame yourself for the situation if you know you have tried.

The respect Lil General commands ....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

With 33 weeks over and the 34th week underway, the bump is drawing wide-eyed glares from passers by on the street as I go for my evening stroll. Mom had so much trouble getting our empty cylinder refilled here as it lay idle for over an year. I accompanied her to the cylinder station and there you go, we got it in 2 day's time on "humanitarian grounds". Not a day has passed when I have not got goodies from the neighbours - varieties of dishes and snacks to munch upon. In the shopping malls, on the streets, name it and its all respect for LG. For once in these 8 months, I am enjoying it :)

At home, the house is getting geared for the Lil General's arrival. Closet arranged with LG's clothes, getting the bag ready to dash to the hospital at any time of the day/night, getting the room in order when we arrive home, a place to hang LG's washed clothes ..I'm just running out of the numerous things mom keeps doing the whole day and there's still so much in her to-do list. I dare imagine how it would have been without her..

Baby Shower : Valakappu

Monday, November 06, 2006

Baby Shower is a tradition that is followed in many cultures across the world. It is a special way of welcoming a new life in to the world and showing that you care. It is usually hosted by family/friends for the pregnant woman.

In India too it is observed in some states though called by different names such as godh barai in the North or Valakappu in Tamil Nadu. In Tamil Brahmins, Valakappu is performed in the eighth month of pregnancy in the mother's house and Seemantham in the mother-in-laws house during the seventh month of pregnancy. However, of late both these functions are performed together either on the same day or on consecutive days keeping in mind the long hours it takes for the rituals to be completed which can be very exerting for the pregnant woman.

My valakappu was celebrated on 3rd November at Trichy. We skipped the Seemantham function. The dat began with me and everyone waking up at 4:30 a.m., granny (usually mother-inlaw does this) put some ceremonial oil on the forehead and I took the ritual oil shower. Following this, I was given a black sari..this is the only function when a black colored dress is worn. Black is symbolic to warding off evil spirits.. Adorning two flower garlands, I sat down while granny made a Ganesha (elephant faced god) out of turmeric and water. all functions begin with a prayer to Vigneshwara (another name of Lord Ganesha). She followed this by slipping 2 bangles in the hands of my cousin, any small girl would do.

Female relatives and friends who had come down for the function sang devotional songs while granny slipped two bangles on each of my arms made out of twigs/grass tied together. This act is supposed to the child from evil spirits. Then about 5 ladies slipped glass bangles in my arms totalling to 21 on the right hand and 20 on the left. Only red and green bangles made of glass are supposed to be worn for this function. it was a lil different with the ladies just touching the bangles and then handing them over to my dad. he is adept in putting me bangles as I have a very weird arm with bones poking at every corner. Finally granny smeared turmeric paste on my arms and feet. This was followed by another function called poochoodal in which delicacies made of white and brown color (21 each) were tied around by waist. 2 small kids were asked to pick one delicacy. The color they pick is a superstitious way of guessing the gender of the child. In my case, both the kids picked appam which meant it would be a girl child cotrary to everyone's opinion. So lets see what LG turns out to be.

Though there have been times, when the education makes you question the relevance of such superstitious traditions and beliefs, it is amazing how rich our tradition is and there is apparently a valid and sensible reason why these rites were performed. What has got diluted over the years is the way it is done..and ignorance of why something is done. If only we had that knowledge it would be amazing..it remains to be seen how many generations can take this forward..

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Live from Trichy

Turns out Lil General did not want to travel on Oct 20th so we all had to reschedule our trip for the 28th with a day's break at Bangalore. V and I finally reached Trichy last Monday after a night's stay at Vinay's place. It was nice to meet Neetu after an year. On second thoughts, I don't really miss Bangalore now except for friends there. The traffic has multiplied n times and so have the malls that have mushroomed across the city. It is going to be a tough deal going back to Bangalore someday ...people swarming around the city like warms with every other road being a made a one-way, it is no pleasant driving or traveling there.

Trichy,a southern Indian city in the state of Tamil Nadu, is no better either now. But the good part is the neighbourhood we reside in now has good infrasturcture and facilities. While it takes a month to get a broadband connection in Pune's suburbs, it just took 2 days here. It has been a fun filled amazing one week - a family get together of sorts, good food -- all that makes for a good life!

Soccer, Vivek and Diwali

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

On the eve of Diwali, Vivek got home flaunting a few shopping bags in hand and a huge SMILE on his face. As he unpacked them, I remained speechless with only the expression changing on my face. As he removed the wrapper on each of the boxes, he said ---

  1. Soccer shoes - Rs. 1xxx

  2. Soccer ball - Rs.1xxx

  3. Socks - Rs.xxx

  4. The shocked expression on my wife's face - priceless

'There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's Master Card. Sure Dude! Believe it or not, he went to bed that day with his soccer shoes on :)

The week that was and the week that will be...

After the emergency incident, all I have been upto the past few weeks has been sleeping and eating. By sleeping I mean, for a good 15 hours everyday at any corner of the house that has a couch or a bed and is cozy/comfortable and this place has a lot of them. I look FAT now and heavily pregnant with just 7 more weeks to go when Lil General will make an appearance. I hope he/she is patient enough to stay in until then. A lot of people who are not familiar with the Indian laws have asked me if I know what the gender of the baby is. I don't and it is illegal here to try and find out. Infact, either I or Vivek have to sign a form everytime I go for a sonography declaring we will not attempt to find the gender. From experience all the oldies I have met till now believe it is a boy..lets see.

I have a whole bunch of posts sitting in the draft stage and a couple of sites waiting to be launched. Amidst all the craziness that ensued over the past few weeks, the only work I got done was cancelling a whole lot of flight and train tickets and rebooking them and planning everyone's itinerary. What a fun thing to do. And then there was Diwali on the 21st. I stayed away from the fun part this year - watching Vivek and his friends bursting crackers for the better part of that evening. It was fun nevertheless. Pune this year though did not have its usual enthusiasm and festive spirit as rains played spoilsport. There will be another spell of blogging hiatus as I travel to Trichy this weekend.

Why Yahoo! Mail Beta is awesome?

Monday, October 23, 2006

I switched over to the new Yahoo! Mail Beta interface about 2 weeks back and I'm delighted! Here's why it is SO much better than Gmail:

  1. Interface: The interface is sleek and stylish. The overall look is styled on Outlook with a three pane window - list of folders on the left, messages on the top of the right pane and message preview pane at the bottom. It has nice fonts unlike the big glaring one in the standard interface.

  2. Speed:The speed is awesome. The speed with which messages are retrieved is commendable.

  3. Tabbed Interface:One can view multiple messages in different tabs. Double clicking a message opens it in multiple tabs. The Compose window now opens in its own tab. So you have access to the Inbox while composing messages. However what I don't like is the multiple tabs it opens up whenever a new message is sent. There should be a way of turning this off.

  4. Shortcut keys: "r" for replying to a message, "c" for composing a new message are some of the newly introduced shortcut keys. There are a whole bunch of them. In addition to this, the right-click context menus for Open, Print, Reply, Forward, Mark read/unread, Flag, Clear flag, Delete, is a welcoming new feature. Right clicking on the folder pane allows you to create a new folder. F2 works for editing the name of a folder..what more can one ask for?

  5. Organizing Messages:There are no menus available to "Move" messages from Inbox to a folder now. It took me a while to undo that habit and just get used to dragging and dropping the messages to the appropriate folder. One can also choose multiple messages and drag them into a folder.

  6. RSS Feeds: It is integrated into the Folder pane. The feeds themselves show up in the message window.

Yahoo! with its Mail Beta launch has pushed Web Mailing to a new level. It is upto Google now to see how better they can respond to this challenge. Google has always been the master in simple interfaces and easy user navigation but the current Gmail interface is far from a easy usable interface when compared to Yahoo! mail.

"The Machine" (Ferrari) lets down "The Man" (Schumacher) ?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In what was the most disappointing Formula 1 race ever, dreams of clinching the Eighth Championship title crashed for Schumacher after the second pit stop at the Suzuka Grand Prix. Can't help thinking if I jinxed it :( ? There is very little magic that Ferrari-Schumacher can pull off against the Renault-Michelin team at the last race of the season - the Brazilian Grand Prix. We HATE Alonso's smiling face and anything BLUE now.

Pregnancy emergency attended to just in time: A "Thank you" note

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The last 2 days have been pretty crazy. I was staying by myself with Vivek gone for a week to San Francisco. Parents as such were very worried as to how I will manage. Used to being by myself, I put up a brave front and was holding up well until things changed for worse on Tuesday evening. I discovered something strange (I would rather not go into the details of what it was..it is grouse for guys who will read it) and called up mom. Frantic as she always is, she urged me to visit the doctor. Surprisingly, my good neighbor thought there was reason to worry too and accompanied me to the doctor.

My doctor who is as cool as a cucumber always, asked me to report in immediately to the hospital despite it being not one of her regular visit days. She examined me and remarked "You got to get admitted right away!" Knowing her, this took me by surprise. I pleaded with her to go back home and return the next day as there was no family with me. She quipped that is reason enough that you stay here right now. A sonography followed by the admission process saw me in the hospital ward in the next 2 hours. Thankfully sonography turned out to be normal with Lil General all happy and kicking as always. So it must have definitely been something that I must have done - overexerting myself.

Numerous calls across the globe, plans changing in a few hours with mom deciding to fly in as early as she could which is this afternoon and Vivek coming in by tomorrow early morning ensued in the 2 hours that followed - this briefly describes the turn of events. Ironically, V sent more hours travelling (close to 80 hours) than the no. of hours he stayed at SFO and mom's willpower to make through this travel has sent me in a tizzy.

However, the reason I'm writing this post is because I was OVERWHLEMED by the support and hospitality of so many people - starting from my neighbor Radha/Sanjay who stayed overnight with me at the hospital, got me admitted, got food every 2 hours until Wednesday afternoon when I finally got discharged, despite their kids having exams. And then there were Vivek's friends Nasir/Yasmeen who were present for a good part of the day taking care of all the bureaucratic part that a hospital admission demands. And then there was Surya who just took me by surprise and dropped me home. Sid, Subu, Kshitij and all others who stood by..thank you all!

I know that a lot of people are going to be mad reading this post as the doctor allowed me to go home early if I took complete REST. But I owed this to everyone. This is one of the things I have been completely advised against doing --- getting stressed by spending hours on my projects which is totally not worth it!

This incident taught me one big lesson - I take family for granted but I shouldn't. And friends never ever for granted. None of the people whose names are written here know about this blog but maybe someday if they do, I just want them to know I was grateful. And on a lighter note, never leave a pregnant woman alone especially one who is upto antics like me!

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Why Schumacher is a class apart from Alonso?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sid called up excitedly and said "Ma'am, are you watching the race? This is the best race ever. I mean ever." I wasn't. Thanks to an unscheduled power cut, I missed the entire race.

The Chinese Grand Prix proved who still rules the Formula 1 circuit - Ferrari and Schumacher! Only a man with nerves of steel, full of passion for racing, articulate driving skills and that connection with the machine can do what Schumi does. Racing never got better. With 2 more races to go, its going to be a nail biting finish. On second thoughts, I'm a little superstitious now and am contemplating if I should watch the ones at Suzuka and Brazil or not - so as not to jinx. When this is all done, we'll have a Ferrari party :)

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My new role - wafadar jamadar

Friday was my last day at work. Sometimes small gestures make you feel good and there were a few of them that day with the caterer at lunch offering me an extra bowl of that day's special dessert. Gosh! I wonder how much I was staring at the dessert..I have such a huge craving for sweets these days and I don't eat non-homemade food, but there is an exception to every rule. What can be a better way to please a pregnant woman. In all the day was eventless ..more on the corporate policies later.

I fit comfortably into my new role - wondering what that is? If there was one thing that V liked the movie Kabhi Alvida Na Kahna for, then it was because it gave him the term "wafadar jamadar" - an addition to his dictionary. He is at ease teasing me with this one...

Related Post:
KANK fails to create magic!

Is freelancing for you?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

If you are a code monkey, then there are umpteen options available to make a living without doing a 9-5 run-of-the-mill job in a IT factory. Some of the sites that cater to developers are RentAcoder,GetAfreeLancer, ELance. The first 2 are free while you have to pay a sum for Elance upfront. The commission charged as project fee varies for each of these sites.

These sites are hugely popular with developers in the developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina and some Easter European Countries such as Romania, Ukraine etc.

Are these sites for you? Some hard facts revealed:

  1. If you are a very fast and smart developer, you can probably earn somewhere between $1000-$2000 a month or less. Which is a decent amount for a month in these countries. So it does not make any economic sense for developers from the US/UK or any such nation to ocmpete in this space. Moreover, most of the service buyers are from these countries looking for cost-effective solution from the offshore developers.

  2. There is a lot of hardwork involved for service providers as there is fierce competition. Every project you bid for, there are atleast 25-30 bidders with all kinds of strategies such as "solution first-pay later" to "minimum cost, low quality" etc etc. So bagging the project and then delivering within time takes its toll in the long run. Not a easy show as a full time corporate job where you can afford to relax for a few days or days when you don't feel like it, just shrugg off and say "Lets do it tomorrow".

  3. If you are looking at making a career out of it, then you need to have a plan. Probability of burnout because of stress, success rate of bids/projects won is high. Good for code monkeys who just want an interim change. This is not your way to entrepreneurship. You can't make money while you are sleeping as in an established business. You work like a dog today and if you continue on the path you work like one even a year later.

  4. If you are in it for fun for lack of anything better to do, then by all means you can have all the fun you want to as I'm doing currently.

  5. A good learning platform. It is a good learning platform where you get paid while you learn on the job. Just don't be foolish enough to admit it.

What are the resources/skills you need to be successful?

  1. Proficiency in English to be able to communicate.

  2. Be good at what you do - know atleast one language thoroughly such as PHP, Perl, Java, XML etc While you have the time you can pick up something else that interests you.

  3. Project Management : Who says you don't need Project Management skills? Sure you don't need all the documents of a SEI CMM firm but the basics are absoultely required to be successful. It is all about communication and communicating effectively all the time. Requirements management, expectation setting, delivery management, defining deliverables etc. is all in the game. You are your manager here. You just wear different hats at different points in time - developer, coordinator, project manager

  4. Time Management: This is by far the most important skill required. Since there is no bus/train to catch at 8:30 a.m. does not mean you don't exercise discipline and sleep in until 11:00 a.m. Browsing/searching for projects can get addictive. Stick to a time schedule and work by the clock.

  5. Logistics: Having an office at your home with a broadband internet connection where you are not disturbed while you work helps. Ofcourse you can run errands when you feel like taking a break but have a plan and be organized.

Related Post: Review: Getafreelancer
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Review: Getafreelancer

Finding success with the freelancing sites such as getafreelancer, rentacoder is not easy. Getafreelancer, Europe's answer to the widely popular American competitor Rent A Coder, was established in February 2004. On last count, the site boasts of 189,848 users and 91,595 posted projects which is still a far cry from RentAcoder's user base of

I have been a member of both the sites for the past 30 days and I find GetAFreelancer much better than RentAcoder for the following reasons:

  1. E-mail notification: Periodic e-mails notifying a service provider of newly posted projects is a very user friendly feature. One does not have to browse or search for projects through the site's user interface. You can set alerts defining the project criteria such as projects PHP and Perl only that fall in the range of $30-$100. Or Java projects that fall in the range of $1000-$3000. The number of e-mail that gets triggered in a day depends on the number of new projects posted. I just take a cursory glance at the listing in my e-mail and if something interesting catches my eye, I goto the site for further details to bid.
    RentACoder's alert notification system works only when you have won a project.

  2. Low No-action rate from buyers: The buyer no-action rate is way high on RentAcoder than on GetAFreelancer. I've had 0 success on RAC till now. All the projects that I have bid for on RAC have either been cancelled or there has been no response from the service buyer.

  3. Mode of payment: Escrow payment is available on both. But I believe the percentage charged by GAF is slightly higher than that of RAC.

  4. Privacy: Again both the sites dictate the same terms and conditions. Service buyers cannot contact service providers directly. Revealing e-mail address is an offense and you stand to get blacklisted on doing so for projects less than $500.

  5. Value for service: GAF fares low on this as compared to RAC. It is very common to see buyers posting projects to develop a clone site such as ebay.com or something popular as digg.com while quoting a price of $30-$100. They want the moon for peanuts.

  6. Service Buyers: Service buyers from Europe are very finicky. Language is an issue with them. They generally try to squeeze in as much as they can going beyond the specifications of a project. Americans are very professional in this regard. They know what they want, they say what they want in clear terms. Even if they don't, they are quick to admit it and are courteous. As principle, I try and avoid European buyers.

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Its all about the paperwork

Leaving formalities are as bureaucratic as joining an organization. I was handed over a sheet of paper with a list of all the departments under the sun from Administration, Finance, Human Resources, Networking Support, Project Manager, Resource Management, Office Supplies, visa and Immigration from whom I need to get signatures (which would perhaps indicate my leaving will cause no harm to the organization when I'm gone). Thank Heavens I don't have to get the sheet autographed from the janitor lady or the coffee boy.

And the amount of tantrums each person throws before signing the sheet, "you need to get this signed from librarian before you come to me". Finance points to admin who in turn points to the gentleman that manages transportation and it all ends up in a crystal maze while I shuttle between buildings. Lil General was very cooperative as I pushed myself to the limit and ended up with 3 signatures on the dotted line. 10 more to get in the next 2 days. I'm breaking my rule of keeping the orgnization I work for a secret always. Cognizant is not the place you want to apply for a job. When I'm done with everything, I'll tell you why.

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Oscillating between great and awful

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Have you ever felt like committing a sin taking a day off from work and just sitting at home doing nothing? Wonder why I feel awful? I felt terribly sick to crawl out of bed this morning because of leg cramps. But I kept telling myself it is only Tuesday and not customary to take the day off ..for the past few weeks I have been skipping work on Wednesdays - mid week and works out well with 2 more days to go before the weekend. I finally decided to call in sick.

Apart from these spurts of tiredness and a feeling of bloatedness, I have been holding up pretty well. Though at any moment I have totally different answers when people ask "How I am feeling?" From being great with a glow on my face to a grumpy sad puppy look you can see it all in a day. Meanwhile, Lil General is having a great time practicing soccer even past midnight.

Sometimes doing nothing and lazing around for the better part of the day does wonders ... but the demons kept reminding through my afternoon nap that it was time to do something productive - work on my website, do freelancing, writing ....The work ticker is on. 5 more working days to go.


Schumi era coming to an end…

Monday, September 11, 2006

Little did I know that Schumacher was going to announce his retirement at the end of yesterday's race. If I had known, I wouldn't have chosen to arranging clothes in my wardrobe over watching the first 20 laps. What a waste! As though not to jinx this race, V did not jump in excitement when Michael came ahead of Kimi after the first and second overlaps. But can one contain emotions when the Spaniard Alonso was out because of an engine failure? Ferrari-Schumi had clinched it and the remaining laps were a mere formality. Just about everything went well for the team at Monza except Massa's emergency pitstop. The remaining 3 races will provide all the drama one can ask for and much more than that!

What makes me immensely sad is that we missed our last chance of watching Schumi live this year and that it would never happen again! The adrenalin rush to watch F1 live is no more there. Statistically, the best driver so far F1 has had and will probably ever have, it will be sad to see the legendary Schumacher with 90 wins and 7 championship titles behind him, bid goodbye at Brazil. The only comforting factor is that it is Kimi who replaces him next year at Ferrari.

I know what I'm going to do the weekends when the next 3 races happen at China, Japan and Brazil..

First Freelancing Experience

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In the 7 years of my corporate life, I've never worked so hard for $100. Well, maybe I have as memories of those night outs in Chicago come back now but that was once in a blue moon and it was fun. On one instance Harper and I stayed up the whole night for launch and were dying to get back home early next morning when T asked us to stay on until he came in just to find us crouched under our respective desks. Aaah well I'm digressing.

So I wanted to get a taste of freelancing. V had enrolled me in getafreelancer.com a couple of months back and I was randomly going through some mails while deleting the hundreds in the 'freelance' folder. A lot of demand for PHP so I thought how hard can it be and here I start learning PHP last Monday. After one unsuccessful bid for $65, I bid another one for $50 and this German guy chose me as the service provider. I can't tell you in so many words how ecstatic I was that day. $50 is a very meager percentage of even my first salary but I felt this was something I had earned on my own.  

What ensued afterward was a nightmare working with this person. Thankfully, there weren't many issues on payments or whatever and he subsequently chose me as the service provider for 2 other projects. To quote his words in one of the closing mails, he writes

Let me again say that i really like to work with you and know you tried with 100 per cent to make it possible. please forgive me for beeing a little bullheaded, pickheaded and stubborn about this issue - i was just looking too much forward on exactly this .

I guess that just sums up the experience. What I have come to realize is that the rest of the breed out there (service buyers I mean) aren't going to be any easy either.

Career and Marriage - a reality check?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Forbes article titled "Don't Marry Career Women" Michael Noer is controversial enough to trigger a feminist revolution. Noer defines a career woman who has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year. I would fit into that description until the end of September. If you are a woman and reading this, there is a good chance you are one too.

Alright, he has gone a little too far by making a huge statement that "Do not marry a career woman" supported by his references to studies done in the past:

If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier ( Institute for Social Research).

A lot of "if's" there encouraging successful career men not to marry. Does he realize the socio-economic imbalance this would cause? Neither of these high-flyers is going to be satisfied in their lives with just their careers by staying single. On the other hand, if this encourages a trend for women not to pursue their careers aggressively, is he suggesting we head back to the 60s/70s causing a gender disproportion in the workforce? Would people like me "who quit their jobs and stay home with the kids be unhappy?' Is it about the money or is about the social networking and everything that goes with a full time job?

I fail to understand what the motive of this article was or what he was trying to convey. In either case, instead of getting offended outright by Noer's remarks, I think it is good to read it with an open mind. There are valid points – ones closer to reality that is hard to accept. Sure, career woman fail to keep a home that is as clean as your neighbor who is a stay-at-home mom and I've felt this all my life. This guilt drives you to work hard at home over the weekends and before you realize life is a planned one full of post-it notes and to-do lists that never ends! With aspirations of being that perfect coworker, perfect wife at home, perfect mom like your mom was and an impeccable home..in short striving for perfection in everything just leads to an emptiness in life.

Krishna Jayanthi/Gokulashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi

It is birthday time for the Hindu Gods that also marks the beginning of the festival season. Thanks to the diversity in India, each of these festivals is celebrated per different customs in the various parts of the nation. Krishna Jayanthi also known as Gokulashtami commemorates the birth of Lord Krishna and is celebrated on Ashtami (eighth day) of the month of Shravana. Since he was born at midnight, the festivities also commence only by late afternoon. We observed it as it is done in the South with little feet of Lord Krishna drawn on the floor in white flour that signifies HE is entering the home..these feet finally culminate in the place of worship.

There is a lively spirit in Pune that one has to appreciate. Festivals here are not restricted to your own homes which is typically the case in South. Here people celebrate as a community and for the first time, we saw Dahi-Handi and enjoyed the game. Every neighbourhood has this competition and it is a tradition observed in Maharashtra. A pot of curd and butter (that Lord Krishna was quite fond of) is suspended from a rope high above the ground. The one in our neighbourhood was broken by a bunch of professional teenagers from Mumbai and they bagged the prize of Rs.11k. It was pouring so heavily that day, despite that people had turned out in large numbers to cheer them.Ganesh Chaturthi is observed in the honor of Lord Ganesha – the elephant god. Don't think it's his birthday. This is fun again in Pune as it is observed here for 10 days and you get to see so many different pandals of Ganesh unlike how it is done in South. The first day was on Sunday when we got a small idol of Ganesha…"Modak" or "Kozhakattai" was missing this year..thanks to lil general. Will post some pictures on flickr soon…Let the festivities begin.

Curves: From concave to convex

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I am not talking Physics here - so it is definitely not about lenses or mirrors. This is how the shape of a woman's body transforms over months as she progresses through her pregnancy. I'm not boasting of a flawless one before this but the change now is so apparent that stares from colleagues/passersby at work makes me conscious of the bump suddenly. More and more clothes are finding their way to the after-January wardrobe. What fit last week won't anymore. Last Friday was fun when I tried confidently jeans after jeans while getting ready for work and finally settled for some old loose clothes. How can I forrget the smile on Vivek's face as he watched me upto my antics? Well, on the brighter side I get to buy new ones.

I'm still weeks away from being "heavily"? pregnant(yet to find out what it means as the baby-center newsletter keeps referring to this). The baby center newsletter is just about the only literature we have been reading occasionally on pregnancy. And I must say the casual attitude has helped us not to get stressed and ignorance to an extent seems bliss. Friends who have gone through this say they used to flood their Docs with calls asking "the book says this should have happened by week xyz. but hasn't, is it a cause for worry?" Our Doc fortunately is as casual as we are. On a recent visit, I complained of breathlessness and she calmly responded what's the problem? Take a long deep breath 4-5 times." you get the picture :)

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Salaries – should it be confidential or made public?

There goes a saying "Never ask a man his salary and a woman her age". With increasing number of women in the workforce today, the saying may not be applicable. But politeness demands we follow this.
Time for some reality check:

  1. Do you know the salary of your college friend who joined along with you as a fresher at the same level?
  2. 5 years later when you switched organizations, do you know the salary of your colleague sitting next to you?
  3. Do you know how much your boss makes?
  4. Any idea how much the CEO makes?

While the response to the first question could be an overwhelming "Yes", I believe the number will come down gradually to almost nil for the subsequent questions. It is fair to assume that people guesstimate the packages of people at different levels of the organization ladder that fit an experience-skill set bracket or "band" of job titles.  
This school of thought –"Why secret salaries are a baaaaaad idea" on The Chief Happiness Officer blog - prompted me to write this post.
Alexander argues the case against secret salaries as –
  1. It frustrates employees because any unfairness (real or perceived) can't be addressed directly.
  2. They're not secret anyway. People talk, you know.
  3. It perpetuates unfair salaries which is bad for people and for the organization
He argues the case for open salaries as –
Making salaries public (inside the company of course) has some major advantages:
  1. Salaries will become more fair. The system gets a chance to adjust itself.
  2. It will be easier to retain the best employees because they're more likely to feel they're getting a fair salary.
  3. The pressure is on the people with the high salaries to earn their keep. Everybody has to pull their weight - the higher the salary, the larger the weight.
I believe in the policy that salaries should be kept confidential because ---

  1. Avoid chaos: In an organization like mine that employs over 30,000 people, you would like the HR to perform other functions effectively rather than resolving conflicts that arise because of salaries known to everyone. You don't have a choice to ignore because it is official. Cases such as "They're not secret anyway. People talk, you know", employees wouldn't have substantial proof to question because it is hearsay! There are many instances where people inflate and announce their salaries to boost their egos.
  2. Respect Privacy: Just as the date of birth of a person is confidential known only to the HR folks, compensation and benefits is something that you have earned (by hook or crook) and should be respected. By allowing someone to question, you are basically allowing the person to question the decision making capabilities of all involved in the recruitment process – the interviewer, the HR manager, the candidate for his proficiencies and negotiation skills.
  3. Fairness does not mean openness:  Fairness does not necessarily imply openness. Organizations make policies and stick to them if they have to run efficiently and smoothly in the long run. Salaries cannot generally be prejudiced or subjective drastically. They don't give a person $10,000 more in his/her package because he/she looked hot or was well behaved. Sure, that would have had an influence but the scope of variation would be a small percentage. To allow for this is why salary brackets are created. This takes care of human judgement errors if any.  Fairness does exist to an extent as employees in many organization do know what the salary bracket for the various designations.
  4. Are appraisals and salaries the same? While most people would agree with me that performance appraisals should be made public within a company, I don't think the same can be extended to salaries. Just as your client contacts or list of customers is confidential information, so are salaries.
Would you like an openness that leads to more distrust and an environment where the camaraderie between employees is lost? Would you like to be in a workplace where you are constantly judged by yoru subordinates and peers if you justify your salary? Is this productive?

E-mail me your opinion on this –should a open book policy be followed or should it kept secret?

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Fresh MBA grads as Business Analysts in IT projects – useful or a pain in the …?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Let me make myself clear first. I don't have anything against the Business Analysts per se. But don't get me started on these fresh off the boat MBA grads from "so-called" premier Management institutes of India such as the IIMs and ISB, Hyderabad. The way management education is pursued in India is a little different than the west. Here, as soon as you complete your 3/4 year undergraduate program you get into one of these Management institutes. Experience has little or no bearing as an entry criterion. With absolutely no industry experience, these kids at the end of their 2 year program join various top tier IT firms as Business Analysts boasting of expertise in the Finance, Systems, Marketing, HR domains.

: Their primary job responsibility in IT services firms such as mine calls for involvement in the requirement analysis phase of the software project lifecycle and that's where the trouble begins. There is a huge misfit between what they know, what they can do and what they perceive of "technologies" and in some cases "computers" itself. Some problems below:

  1. Language: Developers talk technical and BAs talk jargons. Developers are realistic / pessimistic with respect to deadlines and BAs are optimistic or should I say overzealous.

  2. Who is the smartest? Both the sides – technical/BAs think they know the system best and the other is a fool. I have seen situations such as these multiple times. While a developer thinks it is possible to freeze a stock price during intra day trading, a BA believes it is no rocket science to develop pagination of 1000 records in a day.

  3. "Office Boys" – One of the analysts I worked with recently proudly calls themselves as the "Office Boys" due to their allegiance to Microsoft products. And this is one suite of products that developers hate and the deliverables that go with it – documents, documents and more documents.

Possible Solutions:

  1. IT and domain Business Analysts: A clear demarcation of IT BAs and domain oriented Business Analysts (some of them are industry veterans with 10 years of banking experience) is necessary. Their tasks should also be aligned towards their experience which is more driven by profitability for an account than this.

  2. Training: Basic computer training is mandatory else do NOT recruit them. It is not worth the effort teaching how to check mails in Microsoft Outlook (believe me, I have been doing that and makes me wonder – gosh maybe I did the right thing not doing an MBA). Similarly basic domain training is required for the technical folks as well.

to continue…

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Lil General takes over

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lil General (as we fondly call the kid-to-be-born) has assumed full charge of my system dictating when I eat, sleep, talk etc. Funny enough, I get a good kick as though in appreciation when we talk about Ferrari or football and goes off to doze as I read blogs and books. The butterfly flutters after every meal have transformed into martial
art kicks when the food intake is delayed. Most nights, I sleep walk around midnight like a zombie scaring V away. As you can see, it is not fun, but we'll sail through!


KANK fails to create magic!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The verdict is out. I have to confess that I have never been a fan of Karan Johar’s movies and he has proved why again. Had he spent some more time on a more convincing reason for this pyar-mohabbat soap opera than promoting everyday on NDTV and other
television channels, the movie stood a chance of appealing to the viewers. It is too long, too flashy and melodramatic. There was more than once when I thought the movie was over. In short, with all the hype built around this so called bold movie, his
success formula hasn’t worked this time around and comes across as a satire on the institution of marriage (arranged and love) itself.

The BOLD plot: Shot in New York, with infidelity and extra marital affair being the central theme, the story is about 2 failed marriages – that of Dev Saran (Shah Rukh Khan) – Rhea (Preity Zinta) and Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan)-Maya (Rani Mukherji). Sam
(Amitabh Bachchan) plays the role of Rishi’s father and Kiron Kher as Dev’s mom. Dev meets Maya, clad in a dashing scarlet red wedding ghaghra, sitting alone on a bench in the sprawling lush green garden on her marriage day – pondering over the difference between pyaar and mohabbat. In his usual melodramatic way, Dev offers her advice and the movie takes a turning point – he is hit by a car outside the gates of Maya’s mansion and he becomes the cranky Khan for the rest of the movie.

Dev turns into frustrated soul after the accident leaves him limped for the rest of his life. Not able to pursue his dream of playing football (or should I say soccer) he turns mean and vents out all his pent-up anger on his successful fashion-diva wife, Rhea, who runs a magazine called “Diva”. His obsession with football doesn’t fade however and it is hilarious when his son picks up the football in a game and hands it over to the opponent’s goalie.

Three years later, Dev’s and Maya’s paths cross again, and their animosity gives way to friendship which blossoms into love as they find ways to save their marriages with the help of books and discussions over top-notch cafes of New York. Yet I fail to understand why Maya is unhappy with her marriage. Rishi sounds like the perfect husband who runs an upstart party planning firm, is successful and a loving husband. All he demands of her is a bit of social life and passion in the bedroom while she engages in her mundane champa bhai activities of cleaning the spic and span
apartment clad in expensive clothes! For a change none of the lead actors die except Big B who had to go for he couldn’t go around sleeping with all the white females when everyone else was weeping.
There is no twist per se in the end with Rishi finding new love.

The KJ Formula: Karan does it again what he does best – making his protagonists sob. The entire family was found weeping time and again in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Khan and Mukherji don the crying hats this time. Other ingredients of KJ’s moviemaking are in abundance as well with Shah Rukh again in the lead, Amitabh/Jaya Bachchan take turns in his movies with both of them in K3G followed by Jaya in Kal Ho Na Ho and now it is Big B’s turn. Once again, you can see the larger than life size lifestyle with all of them donning designer outfits, driving swanky cars, beautifully furnished apartments – the sophisticated life. Khan has to patronize a game in every movie. If
it was Basketball in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, it is football in KANK.

What to watch out for: The chemistry between the Bachchan duo and the screentime they share together account for the only lighter moments of the film. The first half has many such jolly scenes and passes by quickly. Definitely a movie worth seeing if you get free tickets as I did.

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5 Tips to Manage Notice Period Woes

Friday, August 11, 2006

Typically IT organizations in India impose either a 1, 2 or 3 months notice period for employees who quit. Of late, many are reducing 3 month period to a more reasonable 2. While there are overheads for the organization in forcing an employee to stay for this duration after he/she has put in his papers, in general, companies mitigate the risks of a sudden knowledge loss due to attrition by utilizing this time for planning transition and a smooth handover. Generally, the new organization pressurizes its recruits to come on board as early as possible to fulfill their requirements. In both the cases, it is the individuals who are caught in a catch 22 situation and have to negotiate their way, either by serving the entire notice period or by paying the shortfall in notice from their own pockets. Without proper planning on the part of individuals, this can be really stressful and financially damaging.

Here are a few tips on how notice period issues can be better managed:

  1. Know your Company's Policy: Much before you plan on quitting or even attending any interviews, be aware of your company's notice period policy. During interviews and negotiations , make it clear to the HR of the recruiting company what is the current company's notice period .

  2. Plan your exit: Plan on leaving during a period when the project pressures are not high and no immediate deliverable is on the horizon. The chances of getting released will be relatively high. Be prepared on how you would want to take the discussion forward when your manager announces you will have to serve the notice period. Please ensure to maintain atleast a cordial and good working relations with your immediate manager for the next few days or weeks. He/She can make or break things for you and smoothen out your transition. So even if you have not shared a great rapport so far, keep it under the wraps and work out an amicable solution.

  3. Try for a waiver: As far as possible, serve a month's notice and negotiate a waiver against your accumulated vacation. Thereby, you don't have to pay any money either from your own pocket and neither does the new organization which you intend to join.

  4. Confirmation with HR well before the last date: It is a general practice for quitting employees to state "I would like to get relieved on xyz date". And even if this last date has been mutually agreed between you and your manager, do verify with the HR so that you don't end up paying money towards shortfall of notice period and under some mysterious rules which might be shown to you later. Make sure you get a confirmation by e-mail and let the HR do the calculation of your last date. From my own experience, there's always a difference between how you calculate 60days and how they do, though it's the same calendar.

  5. Negotiate Notice period with the new Company: In cases where you are being pressurised to join immediately at the new organization, discuss with the HR of your new company of how much you would have to pay if you were to join on the date requested. Most companies these days are ready to shell out to get resources on board as soon as possible. If there is a positive response, get this confirmation in an e-mail. Also , enquire in detail as to what documents they will need for reimbursement of this amount, such as a photocopy of the DD attested by the HR of your old company or an FFS (Full and Final Settlement) sheet etc.

Finally, remember to part on good terms with everyone at the existing organization. It’s a small world after all!

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The road half-traveled : 20 weeks to go

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Turn and lie on your left", said the doc doing my ultrasound, with a sudden grim look on her face. This was my second Sonography. After 15 minutes of moving her rod-like equipment (that so looked like the churner of my food processor) over me, she finally threw her hands up in the air. "I want to see the baby's orientation but there is no movement. Go up and down a flight of stairs and come back in 10 mins",
she said. So I took a walk round the hospital as if I were doing rounds ... I went back in 10 mins and the nurse would not let me in. She said, "you gotta walk more to orient the baby". This went on for 2 more times. It was 7:30 p.m. and a long day at work. I felt like saying "Sure, I'll lose my orientation if I do this one more time". V was more than supportive and sarcastically remarked, "the kid has all our traits…lazy right from his/her roots.."

I went in finally and the doc started examining again. No improvement. As if to reassure myself and avoid another stroll outside, I told them I had felt the movement through the day and he/she was probably tired now J And then suddenly they smiled and turned the monitor towards me..there was a teeny weny form with stick like arms and legs and a peanut sized heart beating rapidly (140 pm I got to know later) and a
huge head. It was now moving swiftly within the limited space available. Turns out everything is alright! And for the first time, it sank in that something was happening… 20 more weeks to go.

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E-mail Manners: Why spelling names correctly matter?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

More often than not, the local folks in Pune address me as "Laxmi" in e-mails and it is annoying. Can’t you see the e-mail address? My name is spelt as “Lakshmi” and not "Laxmi". Incidentally, the CEO of my organization has the same name as mine. It would be funny to see these senior folks address him (yes, CEO is a ‘he’) by the wrong spelling. If you don’t get it right internally, what’s the assurance they address customers correctly?

You might ask what’s in a name? That’s your identity. And it matters because that’s the first impression you form and repeated mistakes in subsequent e-mails reinforces the image you have of them that they don’t really care! So spell right for success (exception being that of Indian movie stars whose spelling change every month - thanks to numerology).

What’s in a job title?

Job titles are for business cards, organization directory, offer letters and matter during that promotion for the pay rise.

Most titles in Indian IT firms have the words “analysts, associates, engineers or systems” in their designations at entry levels. On promotion a “systems analyst” becomes a "senior systems analyst” while still performing the same role and fitting into that mysterious "salary band". The roles one performs have little to do with the titles. And some organizations have stretched this too far with titles such as Project Manager -1 , Project Manager -2 so that you can get promoted every year. More link Equality-7345, Equality-2321 in Ayn Rand's Anthem.

“Team Member, Team Lead, Module Lead, Project Lead or Project Manager” or more familiar terms that one can relate to. When you interview for a position, the question one asks HR is "whats my role" and the reply is one of the above - not the designations! So I wonder if we can't have more meaningful job titles or have a job title and a position title defined as here.

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What do you do for a living?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Should I say "I’m a to-be stay-at-home mom" or "I’m a freelance programmer and blogger aspiring to be a writer"? Neither of these would really “earn” me a living. Not yet atleast. I have 2 months and all the resources/freedom to decide on what I want to do and start planning and doing the ground work for it. For now, it is kissing the corporate life goodbye.

Quitting the job calls for “I want to quit my job” conversations with some important people along the way – boss & spouse/family that can either be pleasant or otherwise and sometimes very stressful as my earlier ones have been. It calls for a lot of resilience and persuasion while being assertive in making the other person believe why you think the move is good for you.

No doubt, I’ve had my share of practice but this one was easy….My boss didn't initially believe I wasn't going elsewhere. At one point I felt like saying, "Hello, don't you see this huge bump and you think I would work somehwere now?" The only moment when I was a little startled was when my boss (after convinced I wasn't going elsewhere) with a puzzled look asked "you're giving up your career just like that?". I didn't say anything. For whatever reason, if you don't do a 9-6 job at an IT factory, it is perceived you don't have a career.

I would like to hear from you why you do a job? Social recognition or personal gratification or financial obligation. Definitely there would be all 3 but what figures the highest on your list and is a job the only means to it or is it the easiest and risk-free path?

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Time to quit

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

So I officially communicate tomorrow. Two more months to go after that. It was simple to decide this time and almost like a dream come true or that’s what I think now. No debates surrounding “to quit or not to quit”, no interviews/negotiations and no what/where/when next. While this pregnancy made the reasoning for leaving easier, the truth is I had decided way back in April that this is not my calling and the only thing motivating about going to work is the pay at the end of the month.

It’s a temporary pause to the corporate life and whether this marks an end to the 7 year long career or not is too early to say.

Things that I’m apprehensive of:

  1. My paycheck every month

  2. Being recognized socially just as X’s wife

  3. Loss of independence in the head.

  4. Just a listener to all work related talks hereafter (how silly)

Things that I’m not going to miss (here at Pune):

  1. The cramped office space

  2. Getting up at 6:30 every morning to take the 8:30 a.m. bus

Things that I’m looking forward to:

Over the past few months that I’ve been contemplating of giving up my fulltime career, I’ve been compiling a list of things on tadalist that I would like to do before the kid arrives.

  1. Complete my writing assignments

  2. Tanjore Painting : Aladi Krishnar

  3. Glass Painting

  4. Take Keyboard lessons

My love for technology hasn’t come down a bit. It just gives me the freedom to pursue projects that I like and deliver it that suits my schedule and work out fo home out of a comfy chair. So if you know of any freelance projects, please do let me know.

India Inc. late to jump on the Internet Bandwagon

None of the Indian companies feature in this list of the 100 earliest .com domains that are still active today. No cts.com is not that of Cognizant Technology Solutions.

Mom’s visit: A blessing

Monday, July 24, 2006

Any amount of "thank you (s)"? and words will not do justice to the amount of gratitude I have for mom/dad now. All the restlessness and frustration of the past few months seem to have vanished into thin air now. Moms no doubt are a true embodiment of patience, sacrifice and selflessness when it comes to their kids. Any physical ailment of hers has little or no significance when it comes to taking care of me now. She works herself tirelessly packing my lunch at 6:30 a.m. to making hot dinner before I get home that I say to myself what a selfish brat am I who craves for food incessantly. Sanity is just returning but craving for good food still stays at priority #1. She tolerates my tantrums through the day instead of spanking. I had a great time talking non-stop with her after all these years for the past 2 weeks. Am so sad she is going to leave in another 4 days. But I'?m also so looking forward to October when I get to spend another 4 months with her at Trichy! Moms are the best!

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Dude, where's REC Trichy?

I just stumbled upon Google’s University Search. To my surprise, NIT/REC, Trichy does not find a place in the list whereas some Pune Institute for Computer Technology does and also the lesser known Regional Engineering College, Jalandhar among other premier Indian Institutes such as the IITs and Anna University.

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India: Blogs Blocked

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Every Indian blogger has been harping about it since Monday that their ISPs have blocked all the blogspot, typepad and geocities blogs and how frustrated they are. This is true. As a result of a directive from the Indian Government to block a few sites, the ISPs have extended to blocking the entire domain or atleast it seems that way. A lot of discussion, protest has been voiced against this on TV channels like CNN IBN and an armchair analysis from every TDH on how democratic India is. I believe this would have something to do with the investigations of you know what so lets wait..until there are always aggregators such as Goggle Reader or proxy avoidance sites to get past this.

Blog traffic analysis

Monday, July 10, 2006

Its “starting college” time of the year. With the results for professional entrance exams out, admissions are around the corner. For the past 3 weeks or so, 75% of the traffic to this blog is by the search term “NIT Trichy”. I can visualize anxious parents googling away for information on prospective good colleges they can get a seat in for their kids. Ofcourse, the post is least informative about college or admissions if that’s what parents are looking for. I hope they are not put off by all the gory details in there of what students are upto..

What’s also interesting is that the remaining traffic is due to the search for “Java Interview experiences”. With appraisals done and the suspense of salary increases out, the Pandora box is open for some organizations – attrition rate moving northward. And most of these job hops also seem to be happening around Bangalore.

The party is over

Cans of beer was the only thing missing last night. (I don’t drink before you start getting ideas!) Week after week, V and I have watched almost all the FIFA World Cup 2006 matches. Even the late night matches, after I’ve gone to sleep I would wake up around 2:00 a.m. and wander around in the drawing room like a zombie looking for the TV remote to see who won! Now that it is over, evenings from today are never going to be the same. There is an empty feeling in the head and all the programs on TV don’t seem worth spending time. Last evening was special, it was the Wimbledon finals and the clash of the titans – France vs Italy.

I didn’t get myself to stay up for the whole game last night and crashed out after the first half. V was barely awake until 15 mins into extra time. We were in for a rude shock waking up this morning to the “headbutt” replay of Zidane. I stared at the screen in utter disbelief what Zidane had done…and to see clips of Italy lift the World Cup. I don’t know if Zidane’s exit cost France the World Cup..but it definitely demotivated them. Not a staunch supporter of France, but wanted them to win because of Zidane, this being his last game!

Most of my predictions turned sour with Argentina losing followed by Brazil. The over confident and the arrogant lost. Memories of Rooney being sent home flashed back as Zidane was shown the red card. What a shame for a final to end this way. No doubt, Italy have proved themselves to be #1, but a penalty shootout win in a final is something hard to digest. The party is over and the memories remain.