The case for Anti-Corruption Movement

The last few days, the comments on the anti-corruption drive are amazing..

One person said, its all pointless, till we effect change in ourselves on bribing.

Another said, will anybody bother once the media goes gung ho after IPL starts.

A third person said, hey this guy also had dubious deal allegation, so why assign credibility to this initiative

Made me think.. Did we also introspect and question on every unrest/movements when we were fighting to gain independence from the British? Are we not fighting to get independence from paying bribes for stuff which should be available outright. Some make it sound, that we, ourselves, mentally go prepared that to do anything, we must pay a bribe, like we need to put a coin before making a call at the phone booth. It is not so. We are entitled to live a life free of the hurdles that the governing bodies impose upon us implicitly. Why must I need to pay a bribe to get a death certificate at that shady looking office, so that the last rites on the departed can be performed. Given a choice and right, I must not be “required” to pay the bribe. Often, it is not a choice but has been made to believe that it is a necessity and the way things are. When we go abroad, or live there, you will feel this difference, of being able to live your life free of the many hassles, we face on a daily basis. Need an electric connection, pay bribe to the officer, engineer and the guy whose job is to fit in a screw and connect the wire. Pay a bribe to expedite the MTNL linesman to expedite the line connection so that you can conduct your business. Pay a bribe, so that your elected representatives, can go to the House, and raise issues that affect your locality/region; something he was supposed to do and get paid for by the handsome remuneration he gets from the government. You pay bribes to lawyers, justices,court clerks, so that some depositions go missing, lawyers can look the other way, dates keep getting extended and justice can tilt to your favor. Is this it? To be a citizen of a country like India, I have to morally bereft of all ethical means and live a life of questionable measures. How many generations will need to be born, dead and passed, before we can feel this glut beyond the inflicted suffering.

Media – The partisan friend n foe rolled in one. Their objectivity is highly questionable and often swings to which ever way the powers want it to be. As they say – Jo biktha hai, vo hi chaltha hai 🙂 Recently, I saw the movie based on the Jessica Lal killing. Media just says, is there a story there ( worth making money on or getting TRP eyeballs )? Does the media really bother about right/wrong, objectivity, activism,social change anymore? Have our media barons forgotten the power of the written word of the yore like the Kesari/The Telegraph, during our struggles to get our dues? Or has it fully understood them for the subservient gains that arise from the press, as a tool of opinion manipulation.

Either way, the state of affairs has really gone to the dogs and the people (read PM ) on whom we pledged our faith in, have become the ones to dread. Dr.Singh does not appear to be a Lal Bahadur Shastri despite dressing up so and having a humble humility like facade. It is clear that we as citizens have a serious role in this state of affairs. We voted them with a unanimous sense and gave them all the freedom for them to perpetrate their oppressions on us. I am not,as someone commented, qualified enough to do a political commentary on the corruption in my country, but when I can feel the singe of its effects, its time to do something about it. AND NOW IS THE TIME.

As Dr.Abdul Kalam once said in his famous speech at the EU parliament, that change begins with you and spreads to your family and to your community and to the nation and to the whole world.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1OBQ-3GbPY

“Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character.When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. when there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.”

Change from within is vital but a common conciousness of change, can become a tsunami of a revolution.

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The iPad Experience

There has been so many posts on discussing the various aspects of the iPad interjection in our lives. Many such observations have been made in the comfort of information available on the net or hearsay.

There is no doubt that the slate based computing is here to stay and redefine how we do things. But a lot rides on what our expectations are from a personal computing device and how we intend to use it. If all we need to surf the net, play solitaire, read books, probably any device could do it. But why do we need to have a slate based device.

Last night, I had the opportunity to see and play on this device at a friend’s place. Must say, I was very impressed and can agree with the awe factor associated with it.. Ok here goes my two cents on the Ipad

The Plus factors

  • Form factor is superb and amazing. So thin and sleek.
  • Display and font readability. The bright display really stands out and the readability of the Lucida font is the hallmark of all Apple products.
  • Navigation is very easy although some basic learning is required.
  • Connectivity to 3G and wifi was seamless
  • Sound and speaker were delectable just like the iPods.
  • Some interesting Apps; The talkback cat was great, the newpaper app was equally good. BubbleBreaker has an interesting change. Gmaps interface was radically different though the pan motion was amazingly fluid. The Bloomberg Stock App was delicious.
  • The screen tilting orientation was very sweet as well

The Minus factors

  • The sleek factor is also its nemesis as well. One fall and you can kiss your 500 dollars goodbye.
  • Single button. I never understand why Jobs insists everything in the world should be done with just one finger! The single button, is the center of the ipad universe. Figuring out how to use it for many purposes, will require some learning. However, it would be worrisome, to many, who are used to seeing familiar interfaces.
  • Videos were good but lacks the HD capability. Simple thing like playback of recorded/downloaded HD content is a no-no without any conversion.
  • Flash is also on the prohibited list.
  • Downloads only from the app store and nothing else. Downloading files or even from email attachments is not permitted. you can only view them but not save them.
  • Extensibility is in short supply.The standard apple connector is the only way in. Moreover, even with that you can only do limited things  dictated by the iTunes. This means, no uploading files and apps that you may need, but iTunes does not like.
  • 3G but no webcam! Strange but true..

In a nutshell, hats off to Steve Jobs for creating a wonderful slate device which succeeds in stimulating the conventional computing paradigm. But its usefulness will well be defined by how average you are and how easy you find Apple’s marketing pitches.There are thousands of apps but what do you really want it to do? You could have a fancy dice roller, or you could also have a language translator. What I do find seriously short is that, why isn’t there a Transcriber app that lets you write in freehand for taking notes. Also, something like a Dragon app, by which you can dictate to the device and it will create the text.It could be useful for graphic processing type uses like image processing or videos.

But the thing that really irks me, is at a very conceptual level. The whole Apple’s Secret Garden thinktank, that they know better than what you want and what you should be doing with a device that you bought with your money, is in a sense like the Truman Show movie. It may be a perfect world as per Jobs, but real life and freedom have different meanings. You may have factored in a million considerations, but why do you not let the customer decide on his freedoms. This debate will live on endlesslessly.

For me, I will continue to wait for a tablet like device, feature richness and dollops of usability. Besides, being a firm believer in cloud computing and a very active user of Google products, I would be more inclined to open systems like Android. Perhaps the Adam can bring that change. Only time will tell.

Linkedin for Small Business

Came Across this wonderful article that can be useful for businesses wanting to use LinkedIn for Business purposes.

Ten Ways for Small Businesses to Use LinkedIn

When I first blogged about ten ways to use LinkedIn, the site had 8.5 million total users worldwide. I’m told that now there are over twelve million small-business people on LinkedIn, which is roughly 20 percent of its total user base.

Many of these small-business people are using the site in ways you’d commonly imagine: finding leads, growing their business globally, or finding the right vendors. My buddies at LinkedIn recently provided me a list of ten additional ways small businesses can use LinkedIn:

  1. Acquire new customers through online recommendations and word of mouth. Satisfied customers are the best source of new customers. Increase your word of mouth referrals by asking your happy clients to write you a recommendation, which will be published on your LinkedIn profile and will be broadcast to their entire LinkedIn network.
  2. Keep in touch with people who care most about your business. Sites like LinkedIn help keep your business alive in the minds of the people who care most about your business. LinkedIn is effective for two reasons: the business intent of LinkedIn users and fewer status updates, which mean you stay on top of mind. Tip: You can also increase the impact of your status updates by syncing your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.
  3. Find the right vendors to outsource services you’re not an expert on.Think of the number of times you’ve asked your colleagues if they knew of a great web designer or photographer. LinkedIn makes it easy for you to find and vet vendors through the network of your peers. Additionally, you can also trade services with your vendor connections on LinkedIn; sort of a mutual referral system.
  4. Build your industry network—online and in person. Search LinkedIn’s Groups directory to find industry associations and networks to take part in. For example, if you’re in the event planning or wedding industry, there are over 530 groups. In addition, LinkedIn also surfaces popular events in your industry calling out local events that your connections are attending. Imagine being able to find only industry events that your prospective clients are attending.
  5. Get answers to tough business questions with a little help from your real friends. Small business owners deal with challenging questions on a slew of topics each day. LinkedIn Answers and Groups let you find answers to those vexing questions quickly by tapping into the wisdom of your network (LinkedIn tells me there are over 200 different categories on Answers including one dedicated just to small business and over 2000 groups on small business related topics). Wondering whether your recent office purchase is tax deductible? Check out hundreds of questions on related topics here.
  6. Win new business by answering questions in your area of expertise.Use the many forums on LinkedIn to share the knowledge you’ve gained in your area of expertise. This is a great opportunity to win new business or at least find prospective clients to pitch your business to. Prospective customers will find your answers when they use LinkedIn’s advanced Answers search. And don’t forget, what goes around comes around. Don’t forget, this is a great way to soft pitch your skills and expertise.
  7. Raise funding. You can use LinkedIn to find mentors or potential investors for your startup because there are over three million startup professionals and over 12M small business professionals on LinkedIn and it’s always good to stay in touch with folks who’ve been there, done that and willing to mentor you. Once you’re connected, your participation on LinkedIn (answers, status updates or group conversations) may even cause them to consider investing in your small business.
  8. Network with peers in your industry for repeat business referrals.LinkedIn Groups is a powerful medium to find peers in your respective industries to network with and to find complimentary businesses to share referrals with. For example, mortgage brokers can find real estate agents to partner with on relevant groups and as most small businesses know, these partners are your best source of referrals that can turn into repeat business. With over 2000 groups dedicated to small business topics, you’re sure to find a relevant group to network.
  9. Convince potential customers of your expertise by sharing unique blog content. Small businesses smart enough to create unique content on their expertise (either with a blog or twitter account) should link to it from their LinkedIn profiles. Or take it one step further by promoting featured blog content to LinkedIn members on the site (for e.g. with small text ads). You can specify exactly who will see your ads—Executives or VPs—and include a link to your profile so they know who’s behind this content.
  10. Keep your friends close and your competition closer. Over 150,000 companies have a company profile on LinkedIn, the “public profile” for companies. These pages surface key stats on companies; recent hires as well movers and shakers. Not only do company profiles give you unique insight into your competition, they also give you an opportunity to stumble upon potential hires by browsing through company pages.

I hope this helps you take LinkedIn beyond the usual uses and makes your small business even more successful.

Financial education in very simple terms. The following article elucidates the thought process for investing in Equities… Read on..

Education – 10 Steps to invest in Equity

Equity market investments typically yield high returns, particularly if invested over longer periods of time, although such investments are characterized by a high degree of price volatility in the short term. The volatility in our markets, particularly in the nineties, reflects significant shifts in the nature of the Indian economy, with the services sector gaining increasing importance. This fundamental change in the economy has resulted in a dramatic change in the nature of our stock markets with the services sector, including technology, assuming increasing importance. Investment in equities has dismayed many in the short term, but if executed in the framework of the steps outlined below, may help in better choices.

STEP 1:

Identify your objective, given your needs, life stage and resources. If you want to increase the value of your investment in order to have a larger sum to spend at a later date, your main priority will be capital growth.

STEP 2:

Identify your risk tolerance and then invest appropriately Young people at the start of their working lives will have a greater appetite for taking financial risk as compared to people at the end of their career who are looking forward to stable income and preservation of capital. These two extremes will exemplify the ability to take equity exposure. The young person is likely to be invested largely in equities for he can afford to take short term capital loss in anticipation of higher rates of return from equities. The elderly will be unable to take the risk of capital loss even in the short term as their ability to make back any losses will be limited by time and ability to earn.

STEP 3:

Categorize your stock: Cyclical, Growth or Defensive Investing in cyclical stocks, such as those in the cement or steel sector, requires an understanding of the economic scenario. An active involvement in the investment is required in order to reap the maximum benefits of swings in economic cycles over time. The stock prices are likely to move through extreme highs and lows, and the ability to time entry and exit will be necessary. Growth investing refers to stocks in sectors where the future direction is clear for the medium term – such as technology. However even here, timing is key, for the stock may do nothing for a long time as momentum builds up and then move sharply thereafter.Defensive investing is that which is done from a long term viewpoint, where a stock is held on the premise that it will grow consistently and on a sustainable basis over time, such as those in the fast moving consumer goods sector. While the appreciation may, at times, not be as dramatic as cyclical or growth stocks, stocks that constitute defensive investments grow steadily over longer time periods.

STEP 4:

Check out the technical position. Can you actually sell your investment when you want to? The liquidity of a stock is very important in taking an investment decision, for if there is very little free stock available in the market, buying and selling may well impact the stock price in an adverse manner. It is interesting to see what the price volume relationship is for a stock. So if a stock price is moving up or down on high trading volume, it is more likely that there is real interest in that price movement than if there is very little volume supporting the price move.

STEP 5:

Know what the company does The fate of each stock is tied inextricably to the fortune of the underlying business, and the market’s perception of the future prospects for that business. The industry’s future potential in terms of projected demand-supply is key as is the company’s competitive position in the industry. The business model of the company should be considered, as well as possible future changes, and the ability of the company to sustain growth and momentum well into the future.

STEP 6:

Know who runs the company The capability and integrity of management is even more important in determining the future viability of your investment. A strong, credible, experienced and shareholder responsive management team is critical for operating and growing a successful company. In the newer areas of our economy, management vision is also of significant importance.

STEP 7:

Know the company’s performance The price earnings (P/E) ratio is the often quoted measure of a company’s value. This ratio divides the stock price by the year’s earnings, and is useful in arriving at comparative valuation. But the tool that is quite prevalent in professional evaluations is the return on equity (ROE), which is the year’s earnings divided by the net worth of the company. This when compared to the cost of capital for the company allows the investor to gauge the company’s wealth creating ability. Apart from the ratios the investor must also focus on the sustainability of earnings growth.

STEP 8:

Know the company’s valuation Two stocks may have the same EPS but different P/E’s. This is because ROE may be different and its sustainability may be different. Broadly speaking, the higher the sustainable ROE, the higher the P/E rating. A high P/E does not therefore necessarily imply an overvalued stock. Stocks with high sustainable ROEs are likely to trade at high P/E multiples.

STEP 9:

Know the price target Having selected stocks and built a portfolio, it is now imperative to track these investments closely. One method of doing so is to set expectations, by identifying a target price, and to re-evaluate the stock when this target is reached. Here, it is important to consider opportunity costs. If there is a loss on a stock, should one realize that loss and invest in another stock, which has a greater potential, or should one wait for the loss to turn into a profit. By not selling out of low return stocks to get into higher return stocks, investors miss out on opportunities.

STEP 10:

Do you want a professional manager? Many investors mistakenly assume that they can purchase one or two stocks and they will do well. In the absence of good luck, this can be a dangerous strategy since there is always a risk of a stock declining in value or the business facing company specific problems. The more diversified the portfolio, lower is the risk of one poorly performing stock affecting overall performance of the portfolio. However, a good way of diversifying the portfolio is to invest through mutual funds where the professional fund manager and the rigorous investment process is likely to limit risk while maximizing profit, depending on the risk profile of the fund invested in.

A very interesting article on time in our lives…

Punch the Clock

Often you will meet people in large cities who grew up in a rural setting. Once in awhile, after years of bustle in an urban area, someone will opt for a quieter lifestyle with a bit more elbow room.

Green grass would replace concrete and climbing the corporate ladder may be your way to the hay loft.

We spend about 30% of our lives sleeping, another 30% working, about 10-20% consuming entertainment, add another 5% for eating and 5% getting ready – which includes dressing and showering and ironing and primping and pressing and let’s lob in another 5% for traffic. Feel free to adjust that number according to your situation.

So we are booked 85-90% of the time. We have 10-15% left over to follow our dreams, have uninterrupted thought, read a novel, relax, contemplate navels

That 30% chunk taken by that work thing seems pretty important, doesn’t it?

The notion of think time is completely foreign to most companies. This is where you are in your office or sitting quietly in a space and you are not in a meeting or online or answering emails or doing busy work. You are thinking, creating, solving. How better could you do your gig with time blocked off every day just to think?

The idea that teams could put titles away and collaborate freely is something still rather rare. Real collaboration, not we value your opinion so we can then show you why we didn’t pick it. No passive aggressive fearful ego laden managerial yelling style – collaboration. Respectful teamwork.

Now imagine you are the manager, the owner, perhaps you are already. What does it look like? You are overseeing 30% of people’s entire lives. Sure they will move on, have several careers, but you are the curator of one third of their existence while they are working with you. Or is it just about the bottom line?

Do you think we could take some of that time for dreams and thought – as part of our work experience – with each other?

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway

Every now and then, comes along a quote which has unforgettable effect on you. The title of this note, is one such quote.

I remember sitting in the lecture room in 2005 at NCST and listening Prof Satam talking about computer networks. Like many other students, we just gaped at the slides on display one after the other and then suddenly in the middle of a saturday afternoon, this hits me. At that time of seeing the slides and the ensuing discussion, I was kinda PPMA (Physically Present but Mentally Absent) with all the numbers and bytes thrown in random going way above than Malcom Marshall’s bouncers. Its only later on, when I read the textbook “Computer Networks” by Andrew S Tanenbaums, did the profoundness of the quote dwelt on me. The wisdom propagated by the author, has had a deep impact on my psyche.

It spelt out the truth that we must always carry when we devise solutions for all kinds of problems. Common Sense is the vital key ingredient that all solutions must have. As technology professionals, there is a perceptible enthusiasm to incorporate newer technology as well as that sizzle that makes it sound like the state of the art cutting edge solution. Often, we get carried away to have that technological solution delivery to our achievements in our kitty when simpler solutions can be found with some plain thinking common sense.

That truth stuck on till date and everytime, I am required to devise a solution, the first thing that hits me is this quote. It forces me to adopt common sense as a platform and not get swept away by technological exuberances.

A brief explanation for folks who are from a non-techie domains:

Suppose you have a large data set that needs to be transferred from one location to another. The technology guy will rattle off statistic like you will need a 8 Mbps leased line and the transfer will take some days to finish ASSUMING the line does not drop etc etc. But with a little common sense, lot more can be achieved with far less too..

This is an excerpt from Tanenbaums book in 1990s; Picture yourself there as you read it..

…. A simple calculation will make this point clear. An industry standard Ultrium tape can hold 200 gigabytes. A box 60 x 60 x 60 cm can hold about 1000 of these tapes, for a total capacity of 200 terabytes, or 1600 terabits (1.6 petabits). A box of tapes can be delivered anywhere in the United States in 24 hours by Federal Express and other companies. The effective bandwidth of this transmission is 1600 terabits/86,400 sec, or 19Gbps. If the destination is only an hour away by road, the bandwidth is increased to over 400Gbps. No computer network can even approach this.

For a bank with many gigabytes of data to be backed up daily on a second machine (so the bank can continue to function even in the face of a major flood or earthquake), it is likely that no other transmission technology can even begin to approach magnetic tape for performance. Of course, networks are getting faster, but tape densities are increasing, too.

If we now look at cost, we get a similar picture. The cost of an Ultrium tape is around $40 when bought in bulk. A tape can be reused at least ten times, so the tape cost is maybe $4000 per box per usage. Add to this another $1000 for shipping (probably much less), and we have a cost of roughly $5000 to ship 200TB. This amounts to shipping a gigabyte for under 3 cents. No network can beat that.

The moral of the story is:

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

A very informative common sense article from InsideCRM

The Manager’s Cheat Sheet: 101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders

Management is all about connecting with the people on your team. So how do you effectively manage a team? With common knowledge, of course. These are a few back-to-basics rules that will help you develop management skills that really matter.

Body Language

Like it or not, your body speaks volumes, even when you are silent. Here’s how to express an attitude that’s appropriate for a leader.

1. Stand tall. Keeping your shoulders back and holding yourself up to your full height will give you an air of confidence.
2. Take your hands out of your pockets. Putting your hands in your pockets is often seen as a sign that you have something to hide.
3. Stand with your arms crossed behind your back. This will help you adjust your posture, and it leaves your hands in a position that is open and not intimidating.
4. Make eye contact. Always look directly into the eyes of the people you are speaking with. This shows you’re interested and also gives you a sense of confidence.
5. Sit up straight. Even if you’re at an 8 a.m. meeting and feeling tired, it’s important to sit up straight in your chair. Slouching makes you look disinterested and can give off an unwanted air of laziness.
6. Face the person you’re talking to. This shows you are interested and engaged in the conversation.
7. Shake hands firmly. For many, a handshake is a reflection of the person you’re shaking hands with. You don’t want to come across as unsure or overbearing, so make sure yours is professional and confident.
8. Always smile. Smiles are contagious and will make others feel positive when you’re around.
9. Look your best. You don’t have to be model perfect every day, but you should dress appropriately and neatly. Clothes can have a big impact on the way you’re perceived.
10. Walk confidently. Keep your head up and take even strides.

Meeting Deadlines

No one will be happy if your team has to rush around at the last minute to complete a project. Follow these tips to make deadlines less stressful for everyone.

11. Only promise what you can realistically deliver. Don’t create deadlines that you know you can’t meet. By only promising what you know you can do, you’ll be able to finish on time.
12. Set clear goals. Once you know what you need to accomplish, it helps to know how and when you want to do it. Put your goals down on paper and make sure everyone on your team gets a copy.
13. Organize a team. Many of your employees will have unique strengths and training that can make them great assets to certain projects. Pick a team that has the right skills to carry out the job.
14. Delegate tasks. Spread work among your employees in a way that doesn’t leave anyone overburdened while also allowing the project work smoothly.
15. Create milestones. Creating milestones for you and your team will help you keep track of your progress and also give you a sense of accomplishment as you reach each milestone.
16. Keep communication open. Keeping everyone in touch with the status of the project is key to making sure it’s completed on time.
17. Do it right the first time. Planning ahead will help prevent you from delivering a substandard product. Having to redo something for a client costs money, and, more than likely, future business opportunities.
18. Stay organized. Staying organized will help keep you from wasting time chasing down important documents and information.
19. Make sure expectations are clear. Be sure that each member of your team knows what their specific responsibilities are. This will save time and prevent tasks from being overlooked.
20. Create a plan. Compile your goals and milestones into a comprehensive plan for attacking any project you are given. This way, you can make sure you’re staying on schedule and that all of your employees will be clear about how and when things should be done.

Getting Along with Employees

A happy office is a productive one. Everyone will be more cheerful if you follow these simple rules.

21. Don’t make your employees come in on days they’re normally not scheduled to work or call them while they’re on vacation. A surefire way to make employees resent you is to invade their personal time for nonpressing work. Unless you have something that absolutely has to be done, let time away from work stay that way.
22. Don’t play favorites. Playing favorites can bias your judgment and impair your leadership abilities. Treat your employees equally.
23. Give credit when it’s due. Don’t take credit for your employees’ ideas or hog their limelight. This action not only fosters resentment but also makes you seem untrustworthy.
24. Don’t micromanage. While it’s fine to keep up with what your employees are working on, don’t constantly look over their shoulders.
25. Never discuss employee matters with their co-workers. This kind of gossip always gets back to the person and will make you look unprofessional.
26. Don’t interfere with employees’ work. If your employees are getting work done, don’t stress about how it gets done. Even if it’s not being done they way you’d do it, it’s best to let employees use their best judgment.
27. Don’t push unreasonable deadlines. You don’t want to spend all of your time at the office, and neither do your employees.
28. Keep your promises. Barring some catastrophic event, you should always keep promises you make to employees, especially about pay and benefits.
29. Keep work about work. Don’t require employees to run your personal errands. Take care of your own personal business or hire an assistant.
30. Reward hard work. Make sure your employees feel valued for the work that they do. Employees will be more willing to put in extra effort if they know it’s noted and appreciated.
31. Provide motivation. Sometimes employees need a morale boost. Provide them with encouragement to get a project rolling.

Manage Yourself

Being a good manager isn’t just about what you can encourage other people to do, it’s also about managing your own performance.

32. Be accessible. Don’t hole up in your office all day — come out and visit with your employees. Let them know that they can always come to you with problems and concerns.
33. Be open to constructive criticism. It may not always be what you want to hear, but listening to constructive criticism gives you the chance to learn and grow from your mistakes.
34. Accept responsibility. Part of being the boss is accepting responsibility for the mistakes of all that you manage, not just your own.
35. Know there’s always room for improvement. No matter how good you think you are, your job can always be done better. Always be willing to learn.
36. Improve your skills. Learning is a lifelong process. You’re never too old to take a class or ask a co-worker to help you improve your knowledge.
37. Explain things simply. Don’t use big words or technical jargon just to sound smart and impress others. Your employees will understand and perform better if you explain simply and clearly what you need.
38. Instruct rather than order. You may be the boss, but you don’t have to be bossy. You’ll have more success if your requests are more tactfully delivered.
39. Include your staff in your plans. Don’t make your work top secret; let your employees know what’s going on and how they are expected to contribute.
40. Know your subordinates’ jobs. You don’t want to be caught with inferior job knowledge.
41. Be flexible. It’s fine to be firm in what you expect, but allow for flexibility in how it gets done.
42. Get regular feedback. Your employees and superiors can give you valuable feedback on how to improve your performance. Use this to your advantage.
43. Know your limitations. You can’t be everywhere doing everything all at once. Know the limits of your time and abilities and say no to things you know you can’t do.

Boosting Productivity

Getting the most out of your day can be difficult with a busy schedule, but you can use these tips to help you maximize your time in order to be better available to employees.

44. Get the most out of meetings. Be organized and prepared for meetings to increase effectiveness and time savings.
45. Focus your energy on things that matter. Don’t let trivial tasks take time away from things that are really important.
46. Identify your time-stealers. Everyone has little things that detract their attention and make them lose focus. Figure out what these are and work to eliminate them, if only for a few hours a day.
47. Be punctual. Being on time is a big deal. Never keep people waiting for appointments or meetings if you can help it.
48. Respond to your correspondence within a reasonable amount of time. You don’t have to bechained to your inbox, but make sure you respond to emails within a few hours whenever possible.
49. Do only what is necessary. There are times when going above and beyond works, but doing so on a daily basis can derail your progress on more important issues. Get the key things done first, then see if you have time for additional things.
50. Stick to schedules and routines. While they may not be the most exciting things, schedules and routines can help streamline and improve your productivity.
51. Organize and manage your schedule. Use any tools and utilities you have at your disposal to prioritize your day and keep track of what you need to get done.
52. Plan more than you think you can do. While this may sound stressful, it can actually be a great motivator. If you manage to get everything done, you’ll enjoy a great sense of achievement.
53. Get to work early on occasion. Sometimes an uninterrupted half hour in an unoccupied office can help you get key things done or allow you to plan your day before there are any distractions to slow you down.
54. Know that sometimes stress is good. While too much of anything, especially stress, can be bad, sometimes a little stress can be the motivation to get you moving, allowing you to get more done.
55. Do your least favorite tasks first. Get your most tedious and least desirable tasks out of the way earlier in the day. After that, everything else will be a breeze.

Managing Finances and Resources

Whether you’re a business owner or a manager, staying on top of tangible items is vital to success. These tips can help you keep track.

56. Set up a realistic budget. While it’s good to be optimistic, don’t plan for more spending than you know you can afford. Make sure you plan for emergencies and contingencies as well.
57. Save costs where they matter the most. Don’t just pinch pennies for the present. Make sure your savings will pay off in the long run. Compromising on quality might cost you later on in repairs and replacements.
58. Spend only when it’s necessary. Don’t spend if you don’t need to. Every bit you save goes toward your profit.
59. Find alternative sources of finance. Sometimes even successful businesses need a little help. Business loans and investors can help you through leaner times.
60. Stay true to your contracts. Not only will you gain the respect of your clients, you’ll also avoid legal battles that can be a serious financial drain.
61. Make sure employees are well compensated. Employees deserve to be rewarded for hard work. Make sure yours are well compensated for their time and they’ll be more productive and happier to come to work.
62. Learn to do more with less. Quality is much more important than quantity, so make what you have count.
63. Assign equipment wisely. While it might be nice for every employee to have a PDA, budgets often don’t allow for such conveniences. Make sure the employees that need tools the most have access to them.
64. Invest in solid technology. This doesn’t always mean the latest technology, but what your office needs to do work effectively.
65. Update when necessary. Using obsolete equipment and programs can really slow you down. Update when it makes sense so you won’t get left behind by competitors.
66. Don’t be wasteful. Every sheet of paper, paper clip and pen is a cost on your budget. Use materials wisely and don’t waste them out of haste or carelessness.

Communicating with Clients

Whether you’re a business owner or a manager carrying out a project, one thing is always the same: The client is dominant voice in decision-making. Learn to communicate with them effectively and you’ll set a good example for the people you supervise.

67. Remember that the customer is the boss. At the end of the day, your job is to make the customer happy. Act accordingly.
68. Differentiate your products. Don’t get lost in a sea of products and services like yours. Make sure you stand out from your competitors.
69. Retain customers as much as you recruit new ones. While you always want to bring in new business, it’s very important to maintain relationships with loyal customers.
70. Provide effective channels of communication. Make sure your clients can contact you easily and quickly if they have a problem, concern or question. They can also provide a valuable source of feedback.
71. Maintain customer data. Use this data to make your customers feel special by remembering occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. It’s also helpful for keeping track of purchasing preferences.
72. Segment your customers. Not all customers are alike. Divide your customers into groups that allow you to provide attention and services that meet each customer’s unique needs.
73. Provide effective after-sales services. Don’t let contact fall off after the work is complete. Make sure your client stays happy.
74. Listen attentively. Pay attention to exactly what clients are asking for to help you better meet their needs.
75. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. It’s OK not to know the answer to every question. It’s better to say you don’t know and get back to a customer than to try to bluff your way through a conversation and have to backtrack later.

Keep Up with Change

There is no way to stop the world from changing, so follow these tips to keep up and ahead of the game.

76. Don’t fight change. You can’t stop markets, trends and technology from changing, so learn to go with the flow.
77. Adopt a predictive managerial style. Don’t wait for things to happen to make a move. Anticipate problems and provide contingency plans.
78. Test your contingency plans. Waiting for disaster to strike is a dangerous way to find out if your emergency plans will hold. Test them out from time to time to fine-tune them and make sure they’re still relevant.
79. Identify the positives. Even the most negative changes can have positive aspects to them. Being able to identify and maximize them can help make adapting less painful.
80. Be quick to adapt. Learn to adapt to changing situations quickly and be able to change plans on the spur of the moment if the situation requires it.
81. Stay tuned to external factors. Your business is affected in many ways by outside factors. Keep abreast of these so you can anticipate any sudden market changes that would affect how you need to manage.
82. Put in place a Research and Development plan. Encourage innovation and creativity to stay ahead of the demand for newer and better products and services.
83. Keep an eye on the competition. Don’t let the competition get the best of you. Keep up-to-date with what they’re doing and use it to your advantage in managing your business.

Resolving Problems

Whether problems are internal or external, they can make your management duties a nightmare if you don’t handle them correctly. Here’s how to stay on top of them.

84. Stand up for employees. If other departments or managers are bearing down hard on your employees, stand up for them.
85. Fix what’s broken. Don’t waste time placing blame. Take care of fixing the problem before dealing with any possible repercussions.
86. Manage and control your emotions. Don’t let anger or frustration affect your problem resolution. If you are emotionally invested in a situation, cool down before discussing it or bring in an outside mediator.
87. Learn when to step in. Some problems might resolve themselves if you just let them be, but you need to be aware of times where you’ll need to step in and take control of a situation.
88. Take the blame. If you’ve made a mistake, fess up. It’ll give you more time to work on fixing the problem instead of talking your way out of taking the rap.
89. Get the facts first. Before you pass judgment on a situation, make sure you have the whole story. Listen to employees and refrain from questioning anyone’s integrity without first ensuring that you’ve gathered all the data.
90. Rise above the crisis. Learn to separate yourself from the problem and rise above the fray. You’ll be able to think more clearly and make a better decision on how to rectify the issue.
91. Don’t ignore problems. A small problem can easily snowball and become something much more difficult to fix.
92. Try to depersonalize problems. Let employees know that the problem isn’t with them but with their actions. Don’t make it personal.

Go Above and Beyond

Managing people isn’t just about getting the job done. To truly be a great leader, sometimes you need to go above and beyond what the job calls for.

93. Lead by example. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but the best way to get a point across is to be the model to emulate. Let employees follow your lead.
94. Get your hands dirty. Sometimes you need to show your employees that no one’s above doing unattractive tasks.
95. Make a difference to your employees. Don’t just be a generic manager — stand out as a leader and role model for your employees.
96. Gain your employees’ trust and respect. You’ll have a much easier time managing employees when they respect your rules and boundaries and trust your leadership.
97. Be empathetic to personal problems. Whether it should or not, what happens outside of work can have a big affect on the quality of work produced. Be sensitive if employees have personal issues that keep them from concentrating on work.
98. Be unique as a manager. Every position demands something different and you should be proud to be adept at your particular role rather than trying to emulate other managers.
99. Remember that ethics matter above all. Be honest and reliable in all of your business and personal relationships.
100. Be on the lookout for new ideas. You never know where your next great inspiration will come from.
101. Get to know your employees. Learn more than just their names. Get to know your employees’ family backgrounds, likes and dislikes. Doing so will make you more personable.

Cloud Computing: The Next Classic Disruptive Technology

An interesting article on Clod Computing and its current prospects

Cloud Computing: The Next Classic Disruptive Technology

Global technology companies like Microsoft and SAP are investing heavily in developing subscription-based model for their products that can be provisioned from a cloud. Companies who are into hardware as well as in software business like HP and IBM are expected to offer Cloud Computing-based services, as per the expert. He also recommends services firms like Accenture, Capgemini, TCS, Infosys to provide services using this new model
The typical way applications are designed and implemented is to purchase computer hardware and install the applications on servers in a data center to run the applications. Critical applications are hosted on dedicated server farms and in-house teams who built the applications have full ownership of their systems and are responsible for uptime, upgrades, load balancing, bcp, etc. The capacity was designed for peak load (which occurs a few times a day at best) and hence the average utilization of the servers is extremely low (on average 8 percent to 10 percent of server capacity is used). All this adds up to a high upfront investment and ongoing operational expenses. Security, DR/Business Continuity plans have to be in place and maintained at all times. These costs are very high for mission critical applications which require a dedicated backup site such as found in the DR plans of many large financial institutions.
Technology Evolution: The last decade has seen a tremendous evolution on the technology front with hardware commoditization, maturity of the Internet as a platform, virtualization, open source, Rich Internet Applications (RIA), Software as a Service (SaaS), improved security products and processes. These technology trends are revolutionizing IT departments by separating computing power from hardware. Virtualization allows servers to be split into multiple “virtual machines” where each virtual instance can run it own applications — IT departments need not add new machines each time a new application is needed or to cater to peak loads. RIA supports desktop like functionality within a browser and SaaS allows access to application when needed on a subscription basis. These trends along with the increased focus on Green IT and overall cost reduction policies have lead to IT departments looking at an utility-based model with the ability to tap into computing power on the Web and pay for the computing power consumed.
What is Cloud Computing? The term Cloud Computing probably comes from (at least partly) the use of a cloud image to represent the Internet or some large networked environment. Simply put, computing is done in a remote location and applications tap into that computing power over an Internet connection from any type of connected device. Cloud Computing is a potentially cost-efficient model for provisioning processes, applications and services (computation services, storage services, networking services and such) and delivered on demand regardless of where the user is or the type of device they’re using. In this emerging computing model, users access their applications from anywhere through any connected device and pay by usage. The applications reside on scalable remote data centers and computational resources can be dynamically provisioned and are shared to achieve economies of scale. Users are abstracted from the complexity of the underlying infrastructure.
Is Cloud Computing the ultimate form of globalization presenting new opportunities for services firms? Cloud Computing represents a virtualized computing power — provisioning processes, applications and services regardless of where the user is and where the computing power is delivered from (with Internet as delivery platform). Cloud Computing will help Small to Medium-sized Enterprises’ (SMEs) world over particularly from developing countries access world class applications and services without large investments in IT infrastructure. It also opens up application developers in developing countries to build applications and distribute them on the Cloud Computing platform at minimal cost and compete with the best — an option not available until this point. Cloud Computing will clearly change the economics of the business and services firms, which will need to adapt to the platform shift.

Firms specializing in developing traditional software or designing business applications will come under increasing pressure. These firms sell their applications charging an upfront license fee and an annual maintenance free for upgrades and support. The biggest challenge for such firms will be to become cloud suppliers and firms like Microsoft and SAP are investing heavily in developing subscription-based model for their products that can be provisioned from a cloud.
Service providers that rely on large implementations of ERP and other enterprise systems will need to adapt to provide solutions in a “pay as you go model”. Firms need to choose to be a cloud service provider. Firms such as HP and IBM already sell both hardware and IT services will try to do both. The services firms like Accenture, Capgemini, TCS, Infosys should adapt to provision services using this new model.
The main clientele for the large services firms are Fortune 500 business such as Wall Street banks, credit card companies, insurers and such. The shift created is retargeting the IT supported business-process services toward the mid-market. Mid-market firms typically find it very expensive to invest in high-availability, high-security enterprise systems. This is an opportunity for Cloud Computing service providers to provide a truly disruptive technology since it brings a whole new group of customers into the market.
Firms in developing countries are a pristine customer base for the service providers using the Cloud Computing “pay as you go model”. This brings new clients in new geographies that typically could not afford the upfront investments to build a full scale IT infrastructure as the pay as you go model reduces capex.
Who are the key vendors in this space?

The list is a sample of vendors in the space and the core offering — backed by venture capital funding it is expected that cloud computing space will see innovative products to make this space secure and enterprise ready.

Cloud Providers / Platforms
Amazon Infrastructure Cloud: Provides resizable compute capacity (EC2), a web service that provides core database services, storage (S3), Queue service, etc.
Google App Engine: Allows running of Web applications on Google’s infrastructure.
IBM Blue Cloud: Blue Cloud meant to run large-scale applications with massive databases over the Internet.
Microsoft Azure: A cloud services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers, which provides an operating system and a set of developer services.
Rackspace: Offers computing service through its subsidiary Mosso. Priced higher than Amazon but much cheaper than a dedicated server.
Vmware vCloud: VMware has partnered with a number of hosting and cloud computing vendors to enable delivery on a common VMware platform. This gives users choice of where they deploy applications and allows easy transitions between providers, as well as on and off premise use.
Force.com: Force.com is Cloud Computing for the Enterprise with 13 software applications on Force.com.
Sun Microsystems: Sun is planning a comprehensive cloud platform including mySQL database and Q-layer (Technology Simplifies Cloud Computing Development and Deployment).
EMC: EMC will offer storage and sharing services and has made 2 acquisitions in this space (Mozy and Pi).
Cloud Applications / Products / Solutions
GoogleDocs: It is an application offering web based word processor, spreadsheet, etc created, edited, shared, opened, and also edited by multiple users at the same time
Morph: Provider of on-demand application delivery platforms, managed services and end-user applications using the Amazon Web Services platform
Zoho: A comprehensive suite of 18 web-based programs for small businesses
Zuora/PayPal: Zuora hosted billing platform using PayPal’s SDK and APIs to tie into the PayPal billing engine.
ADP: Hosted HR/Payroll solution
Amex/Concur: Amex owns an equity in Concur which offers expense management as a hosted model
Salesforce.com: Built on the Force.com platform, Salesforce CRM claims to be the fastest, most flexible CRM service on the market
NetSuite: NetSuite OneWorld is a cloud computing solution which enables multi-national and multi-subsidiary companies to manage their global business operations in real-time.

“Private Cloud” vs. “Public Cloud”: It is important to note that it is unlikely that large enterprises will provision all their applications from “public” clouds. Whilst there will be a large number of public clouds that enterprises can leverage, most likely a number of “private or specialty” clouds will be created to cater to the needs of a certain sector or industry or by a cloud supplier for their customers or for an organization. Private clouds offer greater control and security over applications and data.
For example, a services firm, in collaboration with a cloud infrastructure provider, can create a “private” cloud with a HR outsourcing platform. This platform should be made complaint with the all the relevant regulations, incorporate the requisite security and data privacy features. The platform should support “multitenancy” — the ability to support multiple end clients without compromising on security, privacy, quality of service and such. The services provider is responsible for the implementation, security and ongoing support and maintenance. The infrastructure provider will ensure computer systems availability including load balancing, backups and archiving, bcp and disaster recovery plans and invoices the service vendor by usage (storage, number of instance of the application, and such). The customers are invoiced on a pay as you use model (for example, the number of employees in the HR system). Customers can now forecast and budget their HR expenses based on their growth plans without the variability of IT infrastructure and overhead costs (In essence a capex has turned into an opex). The service providers can leverage this platform to market their HR solution to other clients including the SME sector.
Service providers should look at a key aspect of the cloud data centers called “multi-tenancy.” Computing tasks being done for different individuals or companies are all handled on the same set of computers. As a result, more of the available computing power is being used at any given time. Rather than have dedicated set of computer hardware and software per client per application, they should look at hosting solutions on the same set of systems guarantying the same level of security, capacity, load balancing, bcp, etc. Salesforce.com and NetSuite are clear leaders in this space whilst SAP, Oracle and Microsoft are positioning their products to be cloud-ready. Firms specializing in BPO should look at platforms that are multi-tenant ready as clients are going to demand cost benefits in future contracts. As an example, Wall Street Systems is offering an on demand processing capacity and pay as you go pricing for the financial services firms and is a post trade processing utility for the capital markets.
Early Successes and Challenges: Most Cloud providers like Amazon, at this time, cater to startups and non critical applications. However, a number of service providers are positioning their products to be cloud ready including IBM’s DB2, and such. As listed previously, a large number of niche firms, backed by venture capital funding are developing innovative solutions to make cloud computing enterprise ready.

Some examples of early movers in the space:
Nasdaq has used a cloud computing provider to provide historical stock market information called Market Replay.
A senior engineer of The Washington Post used Amazon Web Service to turn 17,000 pages of information from a non searchable PDF into a searchable database in about 26 hours using 1,407 hours of virtual machine time at a final expense of $144.62.
Engineers at Kenworth, a midsized truck maker rented time on IBM computers to simulate tests and remove any design flaws to improve gas efficiency of their trucks (Exa Corporation sold metered access to a cluster of IBM computers with enough speed for their design simulation). The internal computers at Kenworth weren’t powerful enough to closely estimate the air flow conditions around a truck travelling at a certain speed.
Some enterprise customers are planning to evolve their datacenters to “private” clouds. BMI, a UK based airline, has plans to a significant parts of its infrastructure onto a VMware-based private cloud delivered by third party the U.K.-based service provider.
An enterprise, planning to foray into this space, needs to be cognizant of the key challenges:

Migrating existing enterprise applications and integration across multiple applications

Migrating from an enterprise in house application to a cloud requires a lot of effort.
Currently there is integration across applications in an enterprise — HR application to payroll, trading systems and compliance application, ERP and accounting systems, and such. Interoperability across clouds will be a challenge.
Risk: Legal, regulatory, and business

U.S. publicly traded companies have to be SOX complaint and depending upon the industry a company is in, there may be industry-specific regulations like HIPAA in health care.
Amazon and Google services have had outages recently increasing business risk.
It remains to be seen how governments begin to regulate the platform for security and other data related issues.
Customer should audit cloud providers and suppliers as they would any other vendor for all the legal and regulatory requirements. Certain European nations mandate that information must be kept within the borders of the nation. All the cloud providers and suppliers understand the regulations but will need to be audited for compliance.
Difficulty of managing cloud applications

All of the cloud providers offer tools to manage systems running in their environments and there are startups that provide even more sophisticated tools to manage some cloud environments. Currently there are no system management tools to manage a mixed environment that incorporates existing data centers as well as a cloud environment.
Too early to establish the cost advantage for cloud computing

Since the industry is still in its infancy, it is difficult to establish clearly the cost advantage using cloud computing platforms. However over time, it is widely believed that this platform will lead to substantial savings.
For the service providers, pricing using the new model will be challenging initially.
Security of confidential data stored in a cloud
Security models and standards are yet to emerge.
Recommendation: Most business should not relinquish control of their critical data and all of their computing resources to a cloud provider but it is important that they start planning beginning with the non critical applications and processes that are mature from an outsourcing perspective (e.g. HR, F &A, etc). The IT and BPO service providers should design solutions based on a “private” cloud computing model that incorporates subscription or utility based pricing. We certainly do not expect the in house enterprise implementations and IT departments to disappear in the near future, service providers will need to cater to both — a pay as you use model and the traditional model that we are currently most familiar with. Finally, to the service providers, a new clustomer base from developing countries and the SME’s segment is a great incentive to invest in the Cloud Computing platform.
URL for this article:
http://www.globalservicesmedia.com/IT-Outsourcing/Infrastructure-Management/Cloud-Computing:-The-Next-Classic-Disruptive-Technology/22/6/0/general200903166148

AAADD – Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder

This hilarious story was sent to me earlier this week, don’t know who wrote it, but see if you can relate to any of it…if you can remember!!

Recently,  I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D.

Age Activated Attention Deficit  Disorder This is how it  manifests:

I  decide to water my garden. As  I turn on the hose in the driveway, I  look over at my car and decide it needs washing.

As  I start toward my car, I  notice mail on the porch table that I  had brought up from the mailbox earlier.

I decide to go  through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car  keys on the table, put  the junk mail in the garbage can under the table, and  notice that the can is full.

So, I decide to put the  bills back on  the table and take out the garbage first.

But  then I think, since  I’m going to be right next to the mailbox when  I take out the garbage, I  may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check  book off the table, and  see that there is only one check left.

My extra  checks are in my desk in the study, so  I go inside the house to my desk where find the can of Pepsi I’d been drinking – pleased I found it.

Now I’m  going to look for my checks, but  first I need to push the  Pepsi aside so  that I don’t accidentally knock it  over.

The Pepsi is now quite  warm, so  I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it  cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the  Pepsi, a vase of flowers on the counter catches  my eye – they need water.

I put the Pepsi on the  counter and discover  my reading glasses that I’ve  been searching for all morning. Glad I have found them.

I decide I better  put them back on my desk, but  first I’m going to water the flowers.

I set the  glasses back down on the counter, fill  a container with water and suddenly spot the TV  remote. Aah, so that’s where it is, pleased I have found it.

I realize that tonight  when we go to watch TV, I’ll  be looking for the remote, but  I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so  I decide to put it back in the den where it  belongs, but  first I’ll water the flowers.

I pour some of the water in  the flowers, but  quite a bit of it spills on the floor.

So, I set the  remote back on the table, get  some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then, I head down  the hall trying to remember  what I was planning to do.

At  the end of my day:

  • the  car isn’t washed
  • the  bills aren’t paid
  • there  is a warm can of Pepsi sitting on the  counter
  • the  flowers don’t have enough water
  • there  is still only 1 check in my check book
  • I  can’t find the remote
  • I  can’t find my glasses
  • and  I don’t remember what I did with the car keys

Then,  when I try to figure out why nothing got done  today, I’m  really baffled because I know I was busy all damn  day, and  I’m also really tired.

I realize this is a serious  problem, and  I’ll try to get some help for it, but  first I’ll check my e-mail…

Do me a  favor. Let me know if I have already send this pathetic tale of my day to you, because I don’t remember who the hell I’ve sent it to.

Don’t  laugh — if this isn’t you yet, your day is coming!

A new dawn awakens the soul

Wishing  you all an exciting new year.  May you live the rest of your lives reminiscing the moments that you experienced in the coming year.

The year has started off on a very interesting note with some very intriguing thoughts. After a lull in the past few years, there have been some renewed convictions to change the future course of our lives. IT has to happen this year. The signs are all there.

Yesterday, as I embarked upon making the 2 hour bus trip from CBD Belapur to the in-laws castle in Juhu, I left work around 6 pm. reaching the bus depot; I was fraught with a dilemma. The bus was just pulling out of the depot and taking the next bus would mean waiting for another 20 odd minutes. To cross the road and request the driver to let me in, or should I respect my hunger pangs by having a snack. It was a typical to-be-or-not-to-be kind of a situation. 3 seconds of confusion and I ran inside the store to pick up my samosa sandwich. As I grabbed the snack and came to the main road, I noticed that there was an intersection on the highway which the bus was struggling to get past. On the split of the moment, like Arjuna’s focus on the fish eye, I dashed across to the highway point some 200 mts away in a bid to get to the bus and beg the driver to let me in. My single-minded conviction paid off, while I did get in front of the driver’s view, he signaled me to go ahead about 100 mts where he could stop his monstrous AC bus. That was a good start where I did follow my heart and belief and it worked. Moral of the story: Focus and devotion yield results. You CAN have your samosa and eat it too 😉

This morning, reading the papers, it was quite depressing to comprehend the article detailing modern day depression cycles. The writer outlined the many factors which kind of puts a person through a series of events leading to a depressive state. Putting it aside, I left home for a walk on the beach. The sea was silent; numbing my skull and choking my nostrils. The low tide was draining my thoughts away. After some 20 minutes of leisurely strolling, I sat on the beach sands gaping at the cloudless sky and the endless sea horizon. Just then, I noticed a black furry dog settling itself down close to where I was sitting. The dog was quite a good looking dog and had a collar on its neck. It was obvious from the red band around its neck that it was somebody’s pet and now in a state of homelessness. The dog made me think of humans and animals. This dog had obviously seen some human affections and must have definitely also reciprocated the same. One look at the timid creature, and you would want to pet it. Yet in all its aged state, it found itself lying on a beach with no outlook whatsoever. It would watch the other walkers on the beach with their pet Labradors, poodles, Alsatians et al, loving tendered upon by their masters. The pain was very evident on the pooch’s face and it was clear that it was depressed to the core. Ironically, humans when subjected to a similar fate of homelessness, lack of love, zilch prospects of the future, resort to radical steps of alcoholism, drugs and even suicide. Animals, as I learnt this morning, learn that life has its ups and downs and the Lord will take care of them nevertheless. You don’t find monkeys, dogs and cats running off a cliff and throwing themselves down from the highest perch atop a tree. They know that times have changed; food and sustenance will be a struggle and that they must keep trying to survive till the Lord’s calling comes. As I left the seashore, the mind was stronger with the experience.

As I walked back from the sea, my mind also drifted on the similarities of the human and animal lives. Like the dog, there are numerous folk out there, who are no longer zippy and youthful. There is a mother out there who stayed back home to look after every need of her young hearts. There is a father out there breaking his hump day after day, sacrificing his time with his kids, in the hope that he will be able to afford his children a far better financially stable life than he lives in today. A time comes when these folks get a grip on reality that their youthful days are far behind, lost in their single minded pursuits of their goals for their children. That is the time they feel the vulnerabilities; older age, lesser incomes, insecurities of career, compromises on lifestyle due to affordability and more. Very similar to the dog’s experience, they are both swayed by the times and circumstances. But as humans, we are a very unique lot.

Parents are often relegated to the fringes and new fascinations take over. So much is our fetish with all things new, that these folks who have given their best to the children, often find themselves with uncertain future, despair and in many cultures, land up in old age homes as well. This year, let us not forget these wonderful people who silently gave you all that you ever wanted and more. Yes, they will not be always cheerful and agreeable, but remember, neither were you when they took pains to workaround your needs and keep you happy. Let them not have the dog’s fate in their golden years; give them the gift of your time and attention this year, and not those expensive gifts.

As I write these, I am told of unfortunate happenings to a friend of ours. She has been having the most trying times of her life. With a career in dwindles, income is a trickle. Fate has quite a humor and often plays ballet with her. Couple of months ago, her mother has been in and out of hospital due to illness and heart attack. Just when she found herself coming out of that shock, she finds herself confronted by a heart attack condition to her father. With severely impacted finances, such emotional turmoil can only play havoc with the mind. Like the dog, I would advise her to be strong and keep her faith alive. Times are tough but nothing that will not pass. There will be different times and different experiences. Hang in there, lady.

As I said the signs are all over and God speaks to us in many ways. My only wish to God this year is to help make me alive; alive to every thing happening; alive to not take any moment for granted.  May you have the most wonderful of experiences in your lives. Like the movie “August Rush” ends – “Music is all around; all you have to do is listen!”. Happy New Year.

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