Monday, June 27, 2005

The perfect storm

It was Saturday and Nikhil was driving me around to show me some historical sites in Delhi. "I think Humayun's tomb is somwhere around here". "Ok lets check it out". We searched around for quite some time and then decided to ask for directions. Again people were not too enthusiastic to help out. Finally when we were near to it an old man told us to "Go right", then an auto guy told us "Go straight". Never trust an auto/taxi guy in Delhi if your not gonna sit in his auto/taxi. We went a little ahead and found a guy sitting on his bike parked by the side of the road, smoking grass. "Go left". When in doubt trust the guy smoking grass :-) I don't know why the taxi or auto guys don't like to help or maybe it was just me.

On the way back we picked up some stuff for the dinner that we were to cook. Nikhil had called some of the guys over. We were driving on one of the busy roads. A lot of people were eager to get back home. Then suddenly we saw someone fall. An elderly man and his wife were driving and the bus infront of them suddenly braked. The man tried to avoid it but I think the side hit his handle and he lost his balance. The lady had a royal fall. If the car infront of us was going any faster the lady's head may have been hit. The cars around them swerved and went on. Although they wern't hurt they would definately have been shaken up a bit. But people were still eager to get home. We decided to stop as I got out and helped the man to move the vehicle. Nikhil parked to the side. I asked them if they were ok but the lady who was yelling at her husband now looked at me to get some support for her case. "You tell me. Wasn't he driving fast", she looked at me still yelling at her husband. "If I knew how to drive I would drive but...". She looked at me to say something more to bolster her case. Errr change the subject.... "Water". I'll go get water from the car. "Cold water", she smiled at me. Ok cold water. We will get it from the shop across the road. Her husband was quite all the time while she kept on yelling :-) Even when we came back after a few minutes she was still poking him. He handed me the money, thanking me for the help and we moved on. I don't know for how long the storm lasted.

We had a nice dinner. Nikhil's friend Lloyd cooks pretty well. Nikhil made some nice steak. The second round was better. Maybe it was cause of the beer that fell in :-) Rahul did some impersonations of Jack Nicholson and some other guys. "Mr Gamboni".... Pretty good voice modulation, diction and depth accompanied by some facial gestures. He was wearing a pink, yes a PINK t-shirt for which there were some nasty comments from the audience. Then there was Varun. He also had a story to tell. Lloyd's list of people he didn't like kept on increasing thru the night :-) Nikhil told us about the time in Kolkata where he innocently played TT with this girl. The next morning there were people waiting outside church to beat him up :-) Everyone had stories to tell. Slept again at about 4am. The next day on the way to the airport down came the rain. It felt extremely good. I hope the rain didn't take that long for the elderly couple.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Longest Day

June 24th, the longest day. Err... isn't it supposed to be June 21st ??? Well not this year. I was in Delhi for a friends wedding. Had arrived the previous night and was staying with Nikhil, my to be brother-in-law. "Delhi is hot!". Well I'm talking about the weather. Just a few hours earlier I was in Bangalore where people were contemplating over whether they should take out their sweaters from the closet. We decided to drive around a bit in the morning as I chose historical sites over malls. Red Fort was .... well red. The person at the counter didn't feel like telling us that there were separate tickets for the museums. Luckily we saw the person at the side pick up some. "Delhi is hot!". The weather again. Chill, I'll let you know when I have something else in mind. Anyways the trees inside didn't provide us shade for long as I discovered the hard way. They had some velvety black occupants and one particular chap didn't like me much :-) Good luck they say. Yeah. Yeah. If I was lucky I wouldn't be standing there in the first place. We finally decided to cool ourselves down with the sprinklers. The two of us became little kids as we ran around following the spray of water, spurting out of this device that employs simple physics principles in ingenious ways. The energy in the universe remains constant. We were witness to this phenomenon as the force of moving water turned the nozzle around and finally transferred the energy to us. "Cool!".

Finally I went home and got dressed up and after a few minutes landed up at Saurabh's place, just in time to catch the last of the 'Sehra Bandi' ceremony. 'Sehra' means the wedding turban and 'bandi' means 'to tie'. Well I haven't been for a complete Hindu/Jain marriage so I was taking notes. I mean I've been to Hindu marriages before but just for the important part, the food! Maxime, someone I know from Bangalore was sitting on the sofa taking notes too. This was to be the second Indian marriage he would be attending. He is basically from Switzerland, planning for a PhD in network security. This being his fourth visit to India. On the way to Saurabh's place I realized that the distance from his place to the marriage hall is pretty far. Hey I'm smart. I can figure these things out. "Is the Baraat gonna walk/dance the full distance." I mean I can run long distances but "Delhi is hot!". My fears were allayed when they put Saurabh up on the horse and he went just a little distance ahead. The cameras were on till just before he got off. The plan was to go by car to another hall where the 'Baraat' would start. I felt like wacking the horse on its behind so that it galloped ahead a bit. However I didn't want all his family members to start staring at me. Yeah.. what if the horse ran far far away :-)

I got into a car filled with a lot of kids. Maxime was along with me. Then he started to speak to me in Hindi. This guy knows a lot of words and sentences! We were listening to some Hindi songs and he recognised words. He also spoke to the kids in Hindi. They were entertained. In addition to that he knows some Tamil, English, French, Portuguese. God knows which other languages. He also writes letters in Hindi!! In fact at times his responses were faster in Hindi than they were in English.

On the way we realised that we were lost so we started asking for directions. Again most people were not very enthusiastic to help out. Finally we reached the 'Baraat' hall where there was some more puja. Met Tushit, who I had met in Bangalore before. Met Meenakshi, Saurabh's childhood friend who had an experience coming to Delhi from Mumbai where she spent more than 10 hours at the airport. After that we came out as I saw a similar looking horse. Nobody should know that we came all the way by car :-) The 'Baraat' then proceeded towards the marriage hall. This is the first time I've been in a 'baraat' procession, as opposed to watching thousands of them pass by in my home town.

Neha, the groom's sister was pretty happy as she danced and danced along the way, accompanied by all of us. We even stopped traffic along the way. Everyone was honking adding to the sound of the music. Outside the hall everyone danced and danced as if there was no tomorrow. Finally the bride's people welcomed us with garlands. I got one too :-) Wearing a garland gave us special status as the girl's side welcomed us inside the hall. We took out the garlands after some time but Maxime decided to stick on to his one. Finally he took it off. Met Neeti there as she is doing an internship in Delhi, learning the ropes, makes the rules we follow. "But what about following the spirit of the rule", I asked her once. She didn't say anything. I know one day she will :-) Neeti and Saurabh are my play buddies, ever ready to freak out and do anything wild.

Then we saw the bride coming out with a chunni which is a long, flowing veil, held over her by her sisters. She came on to the dias where they were to have the garland ceremony. They have this thing where they lift up the person so that the other one can't put the garland on. Saurabh introduced me to the others up there as the bodybuilder from Maharashtra as I took my place infront. Hey... it was a college competition. A college of geeks. The first time I won there was no tough competition. The guy who had won the previous year saw me and decided to back out :-) The second time I had to fight off some stiff competition. Trained quite a bit for the second one. Anyways bodybuilder from Maharashtra... I'm not complaining :-)

Then I get an SMS from my mom. "Allaboy how r u ? What r u doing? sms. 2morrow is r wedd anniversary". She was basically worried (as usual) as to how and when I would be going back home. Although the words didn't reflect that, the time did. C'mon I'm a bodybuilder from Maharashtra. I can take care of myself. Its about 10-15 secs after the sms, while I'm walking to a quiter place outside. My mom calls, "I sent you an sms. You got it na?". She is famous for this :-)

Food! My biological clock tells me its time for dinner. I tell the others that I'll go on a reconnaisance mission before we attack. I was a little worried when I just saw some fruits and chaats when I entered the food court. Was relieved to know that the food court was actually downstairs. After food it was time for the actual wedding. Tushit and Meenakshi left. Neeti also did the vanishing act. So Maxime and myself decided to start taking notes again.

The pujari made them throw stuff into the fire, chanting verses. They walked around the fire tied to each other so that neither one can run away :-) When some ladies were busy chatting (making noise) the pujari told them,"Do you remember what you said when you got married". "No", was the answer. "Then listen!". He also made 4 men from the girls side stand in four corners and forgot about them. Finally he asked to sit after about an hour. The whole ceremony took about 3 hours or more. A christian marriage takes about 1 hour. The exchange of vows being about 10-15 mins. Thats it. The priest asks the couple stuff and they say "I do". Then he asks "If anyone has any objections that these two not be wed, let them speak now or forever hold their peace". Sometimes you would see the bride or groom slyly look over their shoulder to make sure non of their exs decide that they suddenly have an objection :-) I remember when we were small we once did a mock wedding. We made someone the priest who said all the dialogues. We even had flower girls and page boys. We got Derrick married to Diamee. They exchanged wedding vows, even wedding rings made of golden eclair wrappers. I don't remember if anyone had any objections when the priest asked us if we did.

So do people actually get married just because they exchange marriage vows. Sometimes it takes 10 mins, sometimes 3 hours. Different languages, different customs. Sometimes they don't know what they are saying cause they are kids. Thats child marriage. Ok so the two people have to be willing to be married to call it a marriage. Derrick and Diamee were kids... they were willing ??? Also are people married the picosecond after they say "I do". Or are they already married before that, the moment they decided that they wanted to be. My parents engagement was the next day, 29 years. Maybe they are married cause they have exchanged and renewed their wedding vows over the past 29 years. hmmmmm.

After the ceremony the brides sisters and friends wanted Rs 50,001 from Saurabh to give him his shoes back. Dude, I'll sell you mine for 25,000, err 20,000, err... 15 ... forget it. Met the married couple after the ceremony. It was about 4am ish. I tried to say something witty. I'm thinking to myself, "That was not witty at all. It sounded so much better and different in my head." Time to give my brain some rest.

It was about 5:30am by the time I reached the bed. I was planning to visit the Taj Mahal the same day. Had done some inquiries about the mode of travel the previous day. It was gonna take 3-4 hours either way. Maybe if I don't sleep I can make ZZZzzzzzzz.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Preacher Preacher

"The beginning and end of imagination, all at the same time." Those were the words that the narrator of the movie 'Seabiscuit', used to voice his opinion about the 'Great Industrial Revolution'. Those were the words that stuck with me after I watched 'Seabiscuit', a true story brilliantly captured in 8mm. Set in the backdrop of 'The Great Depression', its about a horse that many thought should be put to sleep. The horse however had plans of its own and went on to encourage three individuals and in turn the nation, to triumph over adversity.

We have this thing called a readers club in office which offers the readers to delve deeper into the books through discussions. Each group consists of about 5 people. Our first was a book on good programming methodology. We then read a book called 'The soul of a new machine', a 1980 pulitzer prize winner. We are currently in the middle of a book called 'Zapp! The lightning of empowerment'. Its a book for managers on ways to motivate their employees.

So there we were midway through the book, discussing, relating parts of the book to instances in office, suggesting improvements, accepting our own faults. Each meeting a scribe would be appointed to note down our discussions. Basically we would pick the person who didn't read the chapters decided upon :-) The scribe would then post our discussions on a newsgroup for company junta to discuss/view. I was the scribe for one such meeting.

I personally feel that managers are of two types. Those who manage people to do the work assigned to them, where there is a transfer of responsibility. And those who consider people as resources to complete the work assigned to them, where there is no transfer of responsibility but more like a transfer of orders to follow strictly. Something like 'The beginning and end of imagination, all at the same time". After I had posted our discussions, and my thoughts about managers, the CEO asked me to explain my one line comment on managers as it was not intuitively clear. I went on to explain it to him with a little bit of evangelistic zeal :-) This was a few weeks back.

I was to leave for Delhi for a friend's wedding. A decision that I was not sure of till the previous night due to my current workload. I decided to leave the office for the airport by 3pm, so I was quickly getting jobs done. Do some feasibility analysis and send a mail out. Then analyse some scope captures to find out why the device that usually sings like Norah Jones or cries like Carlos' guitar, was sometimes singing like me??? I knew what I had to do but it would take time. "Quick!!!". I decided to outsource some of the menial, straight forward work to one of the testers. I was happy with the thought that I would get all the work done in such a short span of time. I bragged about the outsourcing part to Sudhakar, the h/w manager who was giving me ideas on how to isolate the problem. We have worked on some gory problems before and more than knowing each others strengths we have come to know each others weaknesses. He looked at me with one eyebrow up which basically means "HELLO... Anybody up there". He told me that testers should not be treated like personal secretaries. I smiled when I understood my mistake. It was "The beginning and end of imagination, all at the same time". I quickly went to the tester and took my work back making some lame excuse. As I passed Sudhakar's place on the was out I put one eyebrow up and said "Thanks" as I rushed to catch my flight.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The secret lives of drawers

"Garbage in the universe remains constant". I think thats one of the laws of junkodynamics. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyways in the morning as we came into office we saw an easel with eight color pictures. I went up the usual fleet of stairs, unconsciously tapping my fingers on the wooden railing. My footing programmed from monotony to touch the ground at exactly the right place. I opened my mailbox and out popped a mail from the CEO which threw some light on the existence of the pictures. The mail read, "The pictures are a Saturday morning snapshot of a finite set of desk drawers at Impulsesoft. Since these pictures were taken early in the morning possibly it might explain why all the drawers don't look their best. In order to keep the competition simple, you have to match four or more drawers with their owners. The drawers you will notice are numbered creatively as #1 through #8. The names of the owners (some of them) are included below."

I reach the bottom of the mail. Yup my name is there. I then proceed to take a look at my drawer. Well it was not so early in the morning and my drawer still didn't look its best. Entangled wires everywhere which were used to develop the wireless products that we build. What else... well some naked PCB boards, debug cables, bubble rap, static covers, tiny screw drivers, a phone, some iPods. Everything kept in a very disorderly fashion. Well the stuff wasn't garbage as mentioned above but thats what I was treating it like. What a sight! I then went down to look at the other pictures. Well mine wasn't that bad :-)

After going to the cafeteria I went up to look at the mail again. "Study these pictures well for they will be used in competition #2 as well. We will announce the winner before we go for volleyball this evening." A few days have passed since then. No winner was officially announced but then again no prizes for guessing who won.

Now when I come into office, I go up the usual fleet of stairs, unconsciously tapping my fingers on the wooden railing. My footing programmed from monotony to touch the ground at exactly the right place. But before I open my mail box I now think of the not so secret life of my drawer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

There's a girl on the tracks!!!!

It was a moment frozen in time by terror. It was a moment frozen in time in the Readers Digest 50th anniversary edition. I had taken the book with me to spend time during my journey to Mumbai and back. The stories are amazing. You can read them again and again and again and then get inspired all over again. This particular real life story took place in the New York subway. The story is so well written, that after 20-25 minutes of being taken through this moment in time you actually realise that this moment in time was just over a span of 1-2 minutes.

For about 30 seconds everyone on the platform expects someone else to go and help the little girl who missed her step and landed on the tracks, while her mom was screaming for help. Finally they hear the rumble of the train coming in at about 50kph. Two brave people then decide not just to be spectators. One of them nearly looses his legs in his attempt to save the girls life. He runs along the tracks and finally arrives near the girl with the train about 2-3 seconds away from him. He first moves the girl to safety and then tries to save himself. Luckily no one was hurt. I was wondering, if I was put in that situation would I also run to help that little girl. Hmmm I wonder. I mean I can write now that maybe I would. But come to think of it you have to be in that moment when your whole system (mind, body and soul) is put through the test to actually see if you can go through it.

So there I was at the railway station accompanied by my mom to see me off. I had been through some eventful days over the weekend. It was Duncan's wedding. Had been for the bachelor's party, then the wedding. Met a lot of relatives. Genuinly greeted some, smiled at the others. At the bachelor's party I was assigned the task of capturing the joyous and some embarassing moments :-) on tape. When Duncan, the groom, is watching it some eons from now I'm sure it will bring a smile on his face. Anyways it was fun. So as I was saying I was at the railway station waiting for the train. The same platform was used for the local trains which is heavily used by people to commute to work and back. People push to get in and people push to get out as the train stops for just a few seconds. You just have to go with the flow. One such local train had just passed which was not yet filled to capacity. When I say filled to capacity I mean people hanging out of the trains.

Suddenly out of nowhere I see a big black flying object, zoom in, hit a fan and fall to the ground. "There's a crow on the platform"... Wait. Please wait. I can imagine you yawning, wondering, "Its not even on the tracks!!!!". Uhem... for those of you who are still here lets go on. Ok so there's a wounded crow on the platform. People just look from far and decide to go on with their business. A few moments pass. Then we see the crow limping, trying to fly, moving towards the tracks. It can't fly but its still about a few centimeters from the end of the platform. A few more moments pass but no one decides to help. Then one elderly man, on his way to work I presume, picks up the crow and moves it to the side. You could make out that the desire to help that creature came quite naturally. Seeing that another man went and poured some water for the crow. Both of them moved on. The crow drank a little water and tried to fly again. There were a lot of crows flying all around trying to give encouragement to the little chap to fly. However it again went a few centimeters from the end of the platform and turned over.

I thought to myself. Maybe I should go and help it. I looked around to see if anyone wanted to do the honours. No one. Ok I then took out a packet to wrap around my hand. But as I walked closer I wondered if the crows above would come charging down at me. Or what if a local train came into the platform suddenly out of nowhere. What if the crow starts to wiggle and I lose my balance near the edge. Wierd thoughts were running through my head as each step I took seemed to take ages. What if the local train is crowded and someone stamps on the crow. Worse, what if they slip and people get injured too. As I neared the crow covered in its jet black fur, it looked at me and I looked at it. Both of us were quite calm then. I pulled it to the place where there was water for it. This time it somehow knew that we were just trying to help and it remained there.

My train then came into the station. I boarded it on my journey back. Why did it take me so long to go and help it. Maybe cause some of its cousins have dropped some of their belongings on me in the past :-) If it was a different bird would I have gone sooner. But God forbid, what if there was a little girl on the tracks would I do something about it. Would I risk my life for another or in the words of one of the brave men from the story above, "Would I choose to live, knowing that a certain part of me would die". I wonder.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Sweet 16

My mother's profession.... well she's a housewife... thats pronounced as "houswif" if you are interested in phonetics, with a silent 'w' and a half silent 'u'. Talking about phonetics, I remember when I was in school I would prepare with my mother for elocutions. We would focus on my breathing, voice modulation, diction, pace, face expressions, body gestures... the works. Later on the process became natural for me which helped during my short stint at dramatics in school. Even now while reading or speaking in front of an audience my voice naturally changes. I don't make any effort to change it but it just does.

All my neighbours would know that I'm preparing for a competition cause my voice was so loud :-) Otherwise I would be this real quite person. While preparing my mother knew the flow of it all so well that I would always tell her to leave the auditorium when my chance came. Cause I was afraid that I would look into hers eyes and when I made some mistake I knew she would know it. After preparing with my mother I would go to Aunty Ancy to check if I was phonetically correct. I remember her telling me how to pronounce the word housewife.... Its "hous if".... "hous if".

Anyways... so I met my mother and sisters after more than a month. We were in Mumbai for Duncan's wedding. The wedding was an excuse to meet up with my sisters who are also in Mumbai. My mom likes to travel. All you have to do is tell her she's invited and she will travel all over the country to attend your wedding. BTW Duncan is also her godchild so she had to be present.

That evening she was telling me about her journey and the people she met along the way. She was telling me ... her face all lit up and stuff.... that the person next to her was wondering who this old lady was that he would be sitting beside. He had seen that her age was mentioned as 56 on the list. Finally when she came to her seat he was like... "you don't look 56 at all... you don't even have wrinkles on your face". There was this other time when some passengers were surprised that she had childen who were so big. My mother would love it when some of our relations (who can't see too well) would say that my mom and sisters, look like sisters..... My mom and I would savour those moments. However for me, the moment would often be short lived when they would say "Let me guess... you're the eldest".... Hello!! you blooming blind bats... I'm the youngest in the family. Well I told you in the beginning itself that they can't see too well.

My mom is probably the only woman in the world who loves telling people her age. Even her email id has her year of birth prominently embedded for all to see.... 1949. She won't say she's 56.... It would be more like, "I'm going on 57".... and then she would wait for ppl's reaction. This waiting for a reaction thing is used in other scenarios too... Like when you have just eaten her cake or some food that she has prepared. If you tell her you like her cake she will bake you one full one. She has plans to start a business baking cakes... Everyone tells her that her cakes would sell like hot cake!! But everytime someone asks her to bake a cake its like, "maybe the next time I'll start charging them".

Come to think of it my dad also doesn't look his age. He doesn't have white hair. He's 57 and sometimes ends up calling my mom's cousins "Aunty" :-) It would be good for them if they are hard of hearing. Hehehe...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Clock Builder vs Time Teller

When you look at a wireless handheld consumer device there are 3 main factors that define the product besides the functionality/usecase ofcourse. The factors are the cost, the range/bandwidth and the battery life. For the end consumer they would like a lot of functionality with the cost being as low as possible. While they would love the range and battery life to be large.

Ok back to reality.... The 3 factors are related and you could consider them as the 3 points of the golden triangle that surrounds the basic use case. You have to tweak the various factors depending on the usecase. If you want more range and bandwidth, battery life will go down, cost will rise. The thumb rule... tweaking one affects another.

So there we were, trying to tweak the current consumption of the device we were building. The aim was to reduce the current consumption of a particular component from about 1.5 milli amps (1500 micro amps) to less than 10 micro amps under certain conditions. We studied the h/w schematics, the external/internal pullups/pulldowns for various paths, the chip datasheet. Discussed it with the h/w folks. I ran the various signals thru my head, keeping in mind not to break any existing functionality while trying to accomodate the new ones. We had to multiplex just a single line to communicate stuff between the main processor and the component under scrutiny. We had to think of timing issues and signal settling times due to spurious capacitances, signals. In this tiny little world of chips, super-highways and interconnects we were playing God. And as God we had to think more about the rogue signals and components that misbehave and try to get them back to the right path. Come to think of it we were just being human. hmmm...... When consuming less than 10 micro amps the component would switch off its sequential logic (logic using some clock). To get out of that low power mode we had to use the combinational logic functions of the chip. Finally we came to the conclusion that it was feasible. The feasibility analysis had to be done before writing a single line of code and the implementation itself would provide its own set of challenges. We finally ended up bringing down the current consumption to about 1 microamp but thats another story.

Anyways after the feasibility analysis, we were wondering what we should charge the customer for this feature. It was a small feature but everyone would love to be paid a lot for anything and everything they do. While the person who you are doing it for would love to get it done for free or as part of some previous payment.

Ok back to reality.... So my manager decides to call a meeting of the team and the program manager to discuss the technical details of the feature, and the pricing for it related to the man hours to be allocated. We spoke of the technical feasibility and came to the conclusion that it would take a couple of days to complete, which included full regression testing. Regarding the pricing he and the program manager could have come to a decision on it. They didn't need us in the discussion as we were engineers and that was not part of our job profile. We then went into some philosophical discussions about doing the right thing and decided that it was something we had missed and so we should not charge the customer for it.

Looking back I feel my manager came into the meeting already decided. He didn't want to just force his decision upon us. I had a feeling that this was on his mind from the beginning of the meeting. Trust me I did :-) He could have just told us what his decision was and we would have left it at that. No questions asked. However he didn't want to just tell us the time as per his clock. He wanted us engineers to build the clock so that we can tell the time in the future.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Gift

It was Kathleen's birthday, my cousin's daughter. She is 7 now and I was at Bangalore Central wondering what to buy her. I had some time... and I had already thought about the plan... the plan? Yes the plan of action... so the plan was to go to the toys section, choose something..... don't buy it yet.... go around do some window shopping... then go back... pick up the gift and leave. When I say pick up the gift I mean buy it ... just making things clear :-)

Anyways.... So I head towards the toys section forced by the layout of the mall to look at other stuff which I don't intend to buy. I spend about 10 mins out there and decide on something. Gawd!!! that was quick... I still have a lot of time. Window shopping to the rescue. I land up at the clothes section where I know that I can spend time. I have this habit where I like to check out a lot of stuff before I finally pick up something. Often this process is not completed in the same day!!! Thats why I like to shop alone when I'm scouting for clothes.... Its just that the thing that I'm buying has to strike a chord with me. Its called the 'aaahhhhaaa!' feeling. Wierd na :-) .... I am like this only maacha.... Well.. I ended up buying some Jeans which I liked....

"Its about 7... ok back to the toys section... pick up the gift and off to my cousin's place"..... So I'm there at the toys section standing in front of the gift that I had earlier decided to buy and I ask myself, "If I was 7, would I like it". I stand there staring at what I have in my hands... Thinking.... Trying to put myself in her shoes. Her shoes don't fit me so I'm trying harder. I start to feel a bit uncomfortable. Not because of the tight shoes but with my choice. Then it comes out, "Naaahh!". Ok then pick up something else....

So I'm looking around and finally spot something that manages to catch my fancy. Its called a starters engineering set or something... It has these tiny little things which you have to join together to form bigger things. It has tiny little beams and nuts and bolts inside which you have to attach together to form stuff.... interesting stuff... Models of a plane, a car, a pulley system are given on the front. I think to myself, "Once you get the hang of it you just have to use your imagination to build whatever you want". Thats the key .... "Use your imagination"... to build something.... maybe even something out of the ordinary. Its like you have all these sounds inside your head but only when you follow certain rules and join them in certain ways do they become music. Otherwise its just..... its just.... well its just plain simple noise.

I don't know if she will like it but I sure felt like opening up the box there and then and building something. I know some ppl in office who would love this gift :-) My hands began to itch. The neurons in my brain started to send out these messages. The "aaahhhaaa!" feeling. That it.. thats the gift I'll give her. Well come to think of it she already has the gift, the gift to use her imagination to build something..... It just that she just has to discover it. So what I was giving her was not a 'gift' per se. It was a means to an end. An end where she has to realize her gift and then decide whether to pursue it further or no. Its a choice that she has to make. Will she be taken over by the force.... the "aaahhhaaa!" feeling.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Games people play.

It was a day like any other day at work. Everyone was busy as usual... fighting dragons, building new battleships, polishing the existing ones, forging alliances, at times sailing through murky waters, and planning for the road ahead. We were at our lunch break when the captain entered and saw four of us, Mayank, Sandeep, Himanshu and myself. He told us to meet him after lunch.

So there we were in the captain's cabin wondering why he had called for this meeting. Then he suggested that we play a game. "A game?? now!!! .... Hello, I have work to do!". Well I didn't tell him that :-) As the words went through the various filters it came out as, "ok so lets play the game". BTW what is the game. He then suggested that we each come up with 2 words. I was appointed as the scribe as I was closest to the board. We didn't know what the game was yet but we presumed that we would have to do something with those words. "What does the captain have up his sleeve?". Our brains were put on high alert. Then one by one the words found their way from the deep crevices of our brain to the board. Converted along the way from signals to vibrations then back to signals. My brain was on extra high alert as I crossed checked the spellings before I sent out signals to my hand to scribble something on the board. There were words like 'revolution', 'volunteer', 'mission', 'money', 'celebration', 'man', 'which', 'adhoc', 'time' and then 'Jackie Chan'. 'Jackie Chan' ???

Ok what next. The captain then told us to write a paragraph using those words. "Well thats not too bad. I can do it", I thought to myself as the alert level of my brain came down. We took about 5-10 mins to complete it. Then each one read out what they had written. The four of us started the paragraph using the words 'Jackie Chan', two referring to the film star while the other two used it as just another name. Our paragraphs revolved around the person 'Jackie Chan'. The captain used the word 'Jackie Chan' in a different way.

We were a bit more comfortable after each one finished reading out what he had written. The captain then went on to explain as to why he had just put us through this drill. He told us that his father suffers from Parkinsons disease and the doctor has advised him to do things outside of his 'comfort zone'. His father reads the newspapers a lot but does not do a lot of writing. He shaves with his right hand, now he tries to do it with his left. Doing something out of his comfort zone would help to stimulate his brain and as some researchers have shown may also help in growing new brain cells. It was earlier thought that we cannot grow new brain cells.

He then told us that he was surprised with the words we had come up with cause most of them like 'man', 'which', 'time' and a few others were 2nd-3rd grade or even lower standard vocalubary. We were discussing that some people would try to fit all the words in 1 or 2 sentences. Then I came up with "Revolution, volunteer, mission, money, celebration, man, which, adhoc, time are words from the dictionary. Even Jackie Chan knows that!". HeHeHe... everyone laughed half heartily. That sounded so much better in my head. Anyways... we then decided to come up with two more words each. Our brains then came up with 'Ornithology', 'masochist', some others without any trouble. Someone came up with a name of an unknown German poet. Atleast thats what he told us the person was.

So why did we come up with easy words the first time. Maybe it was the fear of the unknown, the fear of making a fool of ourselves in front of our peers and especially the captain. Maybe we didn't want to move out of our comfort zone. But as the captain later put it, "We need to move out of our comfort zone. We need to constantly challenge ourselves. We need to try out other things which may also be outside the domain of our work. Try something out of the ordinary from our daily routine to stimulate ourselves. We need to push ourselves and face the unknown with discomfort at first. Then slowly make that our comfort zone. Only then can we grow from what we are to what we will become in the future".

Well just a few days back my manager was talking to me about comfort zones and discomfort zones. He actually used the same words, "comfort zone". It seems quite a few people in the company have been playing games :-)