Great place to work

Quite often, I come across posts by employees of various companies, celebrating their respective organisation to be a Great place to work. I am not quite sure of the process of certification by and what all goes into it, but stray interactions with a few of the people working in some of these certified organisations, reveal a gap between the certification and the actual working conditions prevalent in these companies. It’s true that corporate world is not a democratic world and no organisation on the earth can really boast of 100% satisfied staff and customers. But without getting into numbers, I am sure the certification must be ensuring a meaningful sample size; otherwise outcome may not be representative of the actual state of affairs.

My belief is that it takes more than an excellent product or state of the art service for a company to become a great place to work. Even if the product or service offering is unmatchable, the trust and confidence, of internal ( employees) and external (clientele) customers can get built up only after the company has traversed the path for sufficiently long period of time with consistency. It’s not an overnight or quick phenomenon. In fact, a few companies achieve such an iconic status that even if their products are subsequently found to have some flaws, they are unaffected. A case in point is Coca Cola. Though its sweetened carbonated flavoured drink is found to have health hazards, the company continues to have huge fan following and attract new customers into its fold by tweaking its product portfolio. I read somewhere that Coke and Pepsi also contribute their bit to conservation and they help in recharging ground water to the extent of water drawn out by them for their production, something that needs validation. Of the new lot, I have heard great things about Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple as employers. All these companies must be certified great places to work, but they really need no certificate as their satisfied employees and customers bear testimony to this fact. On the contrary, may need these iconic names in its list to be a relevant and reliable functional site.

Let organisations first strive to achieve greatness internally – and who knows better than an organisation itself regarding its internal state of affairs- certifications are important but these should come naturally as an outcome rather than striven to be obtained.

Javed Akhtar- A Poet of hope and optimism

It was a pleasure listening to Javed Akhtar’s views expressed by him at various platforms during his recent visit to Pakistan, where he had gone in response to invitation extended to him to participate in Faiz festival 2023.

Whether it was recital of his poetry at the festival or his candidly expressed views during various interactions and interviews, it was a sheer delight to witness his grace and persona. How he grew up in a family comprising communists and congress supporters, but all puffed up with the pride of Indianness, fighting for its freedom, his rebellion and his initial days of struggle in Mumbai, his life is inspirational to say the least. And here it’s futile to talk about his talent as a story teller and a poet, fields in which he has touched an acme in excellence.

His interpretation of why secularism is the basis of democracy is something that’s extremely noteworthy and deserves to be adopted as the right definition of democracy. According to him, a party in majority forms government and then brings acts and bills to implement its policies. These bills get passed by a majority vote. However, this majority and minority get redefined every 5 years and is not perpetual. This, according to him, is the right definition of minority and majority as it’s redefined every 5 years. On the contrary religious based majority and minority are non changing and hence not secular.

As he ends one of his interviews with his own couplet:

Kabhi to insaan karega zindagi ki izzat

Yeh ek ummeed aaj bhi dil main pal rahi hai!

Hats off to you Javed Sahab! Please do continue to spread this hope, optimism and happiness.

Odisha- India’s best kept secret

One of the wishes in my bucket list got completed now – to visit Odisha and seek blessings of Lord Jagannath. And when your visit is not only facilitated, but fully organised and accompanied by a native, my friend Manoj and his very affectionate and petite wife Mousumi, the experience is simply ethereal. That’s how I sum up my week long visit to this beautiful state rich in heritage, culture, cuisine, art and above all that houses one of the char dhams – Puri!

From the time we landed at Bhubaneswar airport to the time we were dropped there exactly one week later – we neither needed to know the itinerary nor worry about logistics. Our friend and his wife had planned everything meticulously to the last mile.

Starting with well planned and smart city of Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital, we were simply mesmerised by its fine roads, disciplined traffic and hospitality in general. The incomparable Mayfair provided the perfect stay and mouth watering seafood and meat dishes were simply incredible. Nandan Kanan, about which I had read in my NCERT text book, had seen better days, but still provided a great experience. The high point our Bhubaneswar stay was delicious bamboo mutton, where soft mutton pieces, marinated and boiled are filled inside a bamboo and then left to cook slowly inside a tandoor or oven. It’s one of the finest and most delicious dishes eaten by me. Apart from certain temples and a quick visit to the commercial city of Cuttack, Bhubaneswar left a lasting impression on the mind.

It was time for visit to Lake Chilika, the massive brackish water lagoon spread over an area of 1100 square kilometer. It’s the second largest lake of India after Vembanad. It was surreal and the food at the resort most sumptuous. In fact, I would stop making any mention of food herein after as across wherever and whatever we are – vegetarian or non vegetarian, eating food was a great gastronomic experience. After a night’s stay at Chilika, it was the time for most awaited visited to Konark and Puri. Once again we were booked in a resort right on the confluence where river Chandrabhaga seamlessly merged into the mighty Bay of Bengal. Konark’s ruins bear testimony to its architectural excellence and one needs hours to fully appreciate the thought that went behind its construction. And as aforesaid, then came the high point of our trip – visit of Lord Jagannath’s Dham – a surreal and spiritual experience. The visit also included consumption of Mahaprasad within the precincts of Jagannath temple and this was one of the most delicious meals. Next day happened to be our 35th wedding anniversary too and this couple friend ordered traditional odiya food, specially customised for us, served on a specially decorated table. What else could one ask for to celebrate one’s anniversary? The heady mix of great place, great food, great company and above all blessings of Lord Jagannath provided everything!

Time to leave for Bhubaneswar airport for return back home was filled with déjà vu, but armed with Odiya delicacies – Chhena Podh and Rasgullas, we reconciled our heart with the age old wisdom- “ All good things come to an end.” But our joy is endless, memories lifelong and gratitude deep to this couple for revealing India’s best kept secret, Odisha tourism’s tagline, to us in the most incredible manner.

Another close Odiya friend, Raman Mahapatra, who was guiding and following our Odisha sojourn closely also added a bit of mysticism to the entire scenario. Unknowingly, I completed visit to the third Shakti Peeth after Kolkata and Guwahati two years ago ! As per Raman ( Quote)

“The great mythological texts including the Shiva Purana and the Kalika Purana (the Asthashakti) recognize the four major Shakti Peethas. Like

  1. (Bimala, Pada Khanda) inside the Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa,
  2. (Tara Tarini) Sthana Khanda (Breasts), near Berhampur, Orissa,
  3. (Kamakshi, Yoni khanda) near Guwahati, Assam and
  4. (Dakhina Kalika, Mukha khanda) in Kolkata, West Bengal originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati. In a hymn, the Kalika Purana (Asthashakti) clearly says:
    “Vimala Pada khandancha,
    Stana khandancha Tarini (Tara Tarini),
    Kamakhya Yoni khandancha,
    Mukha khandancha 7Kalika (Kali)
    Anga pratyanga sangena Vishnu Chakra Kshate nacha……..”
Yummy cuisine
Majestic view of Lake Chilika
Traditional odiya cuisine customised for us

Valentine’s Day – For one and all

In the peak of my youth,

I lived life with joy and abandon gay;

All the festivals were occasions to rejoice,

But alas! There was no Valentine’s Day!

But where was the time for such passion,

Between the degree and job life was tight;

Hardly had I tasted independence,

I was already married and had a wife.

With time, Valentine’s Day acquired importance,

And the youth brigade made it a great occasion;

I was already middle aged and a father,

Bereft of such vivacious joy and passion.

Why was I born a few decades too soon?

Is my pet peeve;

That gets all the more aggravated,

On Valentine’s Day eve!

But if age is indeed a number,

And expressing love knows no bounds;

Who’s better Valentine than one’s life companion,

To celebrate love why this day but all year round!

Happy Valentine’s Day

Job losses

Employee attrition in all forms- natural or forced, opportunistic or circumstantial, employee initiated or employer driven – has been a topic under my special focus and the posts by me covering this aspect have evoked passionate response. However, when we see marquee names like Google, Amazon, Twitter etc laying of thousands of people at a very short or no notice and that too at foreign locations where a few sources don’t even have a shelter of their own, the problem back home here in India seems rather insignificant. I have seen parents taking a lot of pride in announcing hiring of their wards by Google, FB. Twitter and Amazon, but the recent spate of layoffs by these gains is extremely worrisome.

If laying off employees is solely due to company not doing well financially and it’s product line becoming obsolete, something that’s beyond the purview or control of employees, it’s understandable, though any good corporate would try its best to make such performance/financial linked severance to be sweet and smooth to the extent possible. When companies do well and assume marquee status, laying off employees for the reasons such as improving productivity, reducing operating cost, automation of processes etc could be myopic. Companies, who treat their staff and employees as an important resource, an important input, value their contribution and take care of them by re or upskilling them to prepare them to deliver the desired benefits. It takes a corporate number of years and some serious investment through training and financial outlay to prepare it’s ready to deliver manpower and laying it off under the slightest of the pretexts could be myopic, as aforesaid.

Meanwhile, I understand that Indians laid off by large companies in US are exploring alternative opportunities and many of them are getting rehired too. For the rest, I am sure their skills will stand them in good stead here in India. I dread the prospects of people getting laid off at an age when they should be delivering peak performance and securing themselves socially and financially.

Budget 2023

My limited take on the historic budget based on the seven principles of Amrit Kaal and ticking all the boxes are as under:

(1) I am leading a comparatively comfortable retired life thanks to the forced investment in life insurance due to tax incentives. There’s no incentive now to save and a person will have more money in hand to indulge in higher spending.

(2) As my job is not pensionable, I was thinking of moving part of my retrial benefit into HV insurance product to get a fixed monthly interest free pension after initial lock in. This opportunity is now gone.

(3) I would celebrate happy occasions by sending small gift remittances to my daughter who’s abroad. Amount remitted up to Rs7 lakhs in a FY attracted no TCS. The new provisions will attract a TCS of 20% on such remittances. 

(4) As I preferred forced saving, during my work life, I opted for old tax regime, which I proposed to continue post retirement. The Government is determined to push everyone to new tax regime. 

To be honest, while I am reading lots of analysis and hearing panel discussions, on the personal front, I am not feeling too enthused🥲.

A slightly different perspective on this Republic Day

It’s rather ironical that all the important incidents and developments are not analysed from the perspective of their impact on the interests of our country, if any, but are viewed with a myopic lens. Let me cite three current events that are catching all the headlines.

Unprecedented crisis being faced by our neighbour- crisis of food, energy and likely default of international payment obligations- is a matter that’s strictly internal to that nation. If more than 250 of their rupees are required to buy 1 USD, obviously it needs a serious introspection by its economic think tank. India has had no role – neither in the current crisis being faced by that country or the efforts required by them to come out of this quagmire. It should only be treated as an eye opener for all of us, especially for an increasing  propensity on part of a few of us to dole out freebies! 

Hindenburg report on Adani group needs to be taken cognisance of by the bankers, regulator and the government and if certain course correction needs to be carried out, the same should be done promptly. By creating sensation and scare, no purpose will be achieved other than a temporary setback to India juggernaut that’s rolling fast post Covid recovery. In one of my earlier posts, I had suggested that such big conglomerates with borrowings in billions and trillions should be treated as systematically important borrowers on the lines of systematically important banks that are too large to be allowed to fail. These groups should necessarily follow certain more stringent debt equity, liquidity and asset cover ratios and there ought to be a stricter oversight on them collectively by the financing banks, regulator and other statutory authorities so that external reports like the one received on Adani group do not create any surprise or panic.

SRK’s Pathaan seems to be breaking box office records everywhere and the movie reaffirms SRK’s position as undisputed King of Bollywood. I think movies serve a limited purpose of entertaining us and this new trend of riling the image of the stars and building up frenzy on social media for their boycott is quite unnecessary and not in line with our spirit of accommodation and open mindedness. People should have choice as to what to wear, eat or watch and those having a different view can present their perspective sans any bulldozing. 

While we all lament about the need for more balanced reporting and discussions on the issues that could be of general interest, I think we can stop lamenting and instead suitably moderate our reaction to such events. On the issue of national security and interest, we should all be together without exception. This will be a very proper celebration of the spirit of our Republic Day.

Twist in the tale

Saw an interesting post on social media, which I have tried to convert into a narrative that clearly brings out twist in the tale. The narrative reads as below:

A widower with a grown up son, and in need of company, starts dating a young girl, whom he had met through his son only. The old man had become fascinated by the young lass and he could charm his way into the young girl’s heart! As a matter of sheer coincidence, the young son of the old widower also takes fancy to an elderly woman, a recently widowed lady, who happens to be the mother of the girl, seeing his father. Of course, the two affairs move in parallel without the knowledge of each of the parties involved therein. And on the D day, a rude shock is in store for not only four individuals but their friends, relatives and acquaintances as well. However, matters by then have gone too far for anyone to be backing out!

In due course, both the ladies get pregnant and give birth to a girl ( father + young lass) and a male (young boy+ mother of the lass) respectively! Now let’s look at the complexity of relationships arising out of the above liaisons:

The old widower is grandfather to the male child and the young lass is his grandmother. The young lass is also the the young boy’s step mother! The young boy is actually a step brother to the girl child, though his wife is her grandmother, apart from being her sister-in-law too!

It gives one shivers to merely think what if tomorrow the newly borns fall for each other and marry! 

New hope in a New Year

We all know that an optimist sees half a glass of water as half filled, while a pessimist sees it as half empty. This is an age old take on optimism and pessimism. However, when such concepts are redefined citing newer analogies, the impression is more profound. And if something like what’s stated below is come across just when we are at the beginning of a new year, the impact is most powerful. It reads:

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”

Like the example of glass, where both see the same, albeit with a different perspective, in the second example, both stay awake till midnight, albeit with different objectives.

To sum up, our actions and reactions are common- we see the same things and similarly stay awake for the same period – it’s how we perceive or respond to them is more important.

First fortnight of 2023

We are already past the first fortnight of the year 2023 and the euphoria of celebrating new year and making resolutions would have subsided by now. So, it’s time to review the pluses and minuses, which may set the path for the rest of the year.

I welcomed the new year like everyone else, but for a change abstained from making any resolutions. For one, as it is, post my superannuation, I am leading a life of a recluse doing nothing much. So, howsoever hard I tried, I couldn’t really think of anything beyond my personal well-being, health wise. My creaking knees that I have been ignoring for long, received my attention and I joined a therapy based on certain pressure points. I was advised to go for at least 10 sessions before I could feel any discernible effect, post which, I could review the need for further sessions. This week I will be completing 10 sessions and I must admit that the things have really not shown any improvement and the time, effort and money are seemingly gone down the drain. But I am happy that an issue on which I have been procrastinating since long, has ultimately received my attention and notwithstanding the outcome, I have at least acknowledged the problem rather than sweeping it under the carpet.

And my learning from the above incident can be extrapolated to any situation or problem. Important thing is to identify, acknowledge and act irrespective of the outcome, because trying is everything – success and failure are outcomes that are, strictly speaking, not always under our control.

My resolution for 2023, therefore, is to identify, acknowledge and act – the matter may be grave or trivial !