Just Chatting with Life

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Chinki

He had forgotten how to smile. Staying in a hellhole in Virar for the past 6 months had made him a wreck. Everyday he would wake up at 5 am and reach the station by 6:30 . He worked near Haji Ali and it took him nearly two hours to reach there from his room . He would leave the restaurent by 9 pm and then embark on the long ride back to the Chawl. He was treated like dirt by the owner and paid a pittance which just about covered his basic needs leaving almost nothing in savings. He had few friends . No one paid any attention to him and when they did, it was to laugh at him, to make a mockery of him. After all, he was a so-called "chinki" . In reality, he was from Meghalaya but then no one paid any attention to such minor details . He was desperate to go back home. Home where people were still human. where people still cared for another person. Where they did not discriminate on the basis of his features. Where they extended a helping hand.

Today he was running a fever and got up late. Not reporting to work would have resulted in him being fired. He dragged himself out of bed and somehow made it to the station. It was already 6:35 . The 6:36 train will pull into the station at any time. He was scrambling up the overbridge when he saw the train pull up onto the platform . It will stop for exactly 22 seconds. His body felt leaden. The fever was taking its toll. As the train began to move, he reached the platform. It quickly gathered speed and began to move out of his reach. He was running flat out now. The last car was just within his reach. But it was jampacked. Who will make space for a Chinki . He was on the verge of giving up when it happened . Like a magician's trick, A hand came out of the car . Then another . And another . And another . As if they were iron rods being pulled by a giant magnet. As if the petals of a flower were being unfurled. The hands were extended for help. Not for a slap as he was used to. They urged him to go faster . He used every ounce of his energy and ran. The train had picked up speed by now. With a mighty effort, he made contact with a hand. The hand did not care if he was a chinki, a hindu, a muslim, a lower caste. It just held him and pulled him into the car. As he got into the car, He saw smiles all around. They were not the smiles of contempt or mockery. They were genuine smiles of strangers who had helped him. Strangers who 10 seconds earlier had nothing in common with him. Strangers who were packed 400 a car when its official capacity was 100. Strangers who knew that missing the train will cause him to lose his job. Strangers who were now unnamed friends of him. Strangers , who for that one magical moment were not strangers. He smiled for the first time in 6 months . Bombay is not such a bad place after all !

Monday, April 24, 2006

Back in Action

I have never taken such a long break from blogging . 15 days and no posts . I had exams and was really immersed in studies :) . Kehne mein kya jaat hai :) .

Right now @ Chattisgarh where my home is . It hasnt been my home for very long. My parents moved here just about 1.5 yrs ago . Enjoying my 8 days of bliss . And that too without my cell . Of course that has a big disadvantage :( . Will be back in Mumbai on 1st may . Kal se blogging full on :)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Still Thinking straight ??

Here is an article i wrote for SJMSOM Magazine L!Ve -

Still thinking straight, eh?

Let’s start with a small puzzle-
It took two hours for two men to dig a hole five feet deep. How deep would it have been if ten men had dug the hole for two hours?

What is Your Answer? 25 Feet? 99 out of 100 people will give this as an answer. This is what we call “Straight thinking”. We never even think of approaching this problem from another perspective. What if the solution to this problem lay in looking at this problem in a totally different way? What if we use certain “lateral thinking” to solve the problem? What if, for example, the answer depended on the following conditions-

• A hole may need to be of a certain size or shape so digging might stop early at a required depth.
• It is possible that with more people working on a project, each person may become less efficient due to increased opportunity for distraction, the assumption he can slack off, more people to talk to, etc
• The two hours dug by ten men may be under different weather conditions than the two hours dug by two men.
• What if one man in each group is a manager who will not actually dig?

Many of the above answers might seem ridiculous. But hey, lateral thinking doesn’t always make sense. It is the approach and the thinking which is important. While the correct answer may lay in the conventional approach, lateral thinking allows us to examine a problem from different points of view which may bring out a previously hidden aspect of the problem.

So what exactly is this lateral thinking? Wikipedia defines lateral thinking as the reasoning that is not immediately obvious and about ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. This term was coined by the noted psychologist Maltese psychologist Edward De Bono. De Bono is also known for his Six Thinking Hats.
It is a common misconception that lateral thinking means thinking in a crazy way. While it is true that lateral thinking involves thinking in a crazy way, but the real meaning of lateral thinking involves perspectives. Lateral thinkers are adept at exploring an issue from multiple perspectives.

One of the most famous lateral thinkers of out time is Steve Jobs. He has always challenged conventional and traditional thinking. Many years before Microsoft came out with Windows, Apple was already implementing its windowing system. People were skeptical, many did not see the need for an elaborate graphical interface when Operating Systems such as UNIX provided such a powerful text based interface. But Jobs had the courage and foresight to think different and this decision probably paved the way for PCs becoming popular. When Apple came out with the stunning iMac with its strikingly sleek white body and the bright colors, most people did not understand why a Computer needed to be beautiful. But Steve Jobs said, why not? If it has never been tried before, how do you know it won’t be successful? And this one strong belief of lateral thinkers: they are always ready to push the limits. Always ready to challenge the obvious? Another Example. Apple was a computer company. What business it had to venture into the music player business. But it did and the results there for everyone to see.

One interesting aspect to look at is the link between lateral thinking and innovation. Wikipedia defines innovation as the process of making changes to something established by introducing something new. Notice the words change and new in the definition. When you are changing something or making something new, it means that you have discovered a way in which the traditional way can be bettered. This implies that you must have looked at the existing way from a different perspective. This fits in very nicely with our definition of a lateral thinker. Thus it would be fair to assume that most of the innovations are brought about lateral thinkers. Of course, here I am excluding the accidental innovations.

For most of us, the fact that most people buy Cigarettes or Beedis in lots of one and two would be something that we neglect without even thinking. But this very behavior prompted C.K. Ranganath, Chairman and MD, Cavinkare Industries, to make a revolutionary innovation in the shampoo business. His logic was simple: people don’t want to buy large quantity in one go, so why force them. Why not give them a small quantity which will be useful as well as affordable. And this thinking is what led to the introduction of Shampoo in Sachet. With a single stroke, Cavinkare changed the face of business. And it involved lateral thinking on the part of Mr. Ranganath to bring about this innovation.

This brings us to an important question: is it possible to develop lateral thinking? And the answer is yes. While it is true that some people have a built in mechanism to think laterally, it is possible for others to develop this quality. And how should we do that? Simplest way is to be curious. Be curious about the world around you. Ask why a particular thing is like it is. Ask yourself whether you can do it differently. And remember it doesn’t always have to make sense. Some of the solutions you give might sound silly. You will fail. But don’t let that deter you. The one jackpot that you hit will be worth all the failures. Steve Jobs won’t be where he is now, if he would not have thought in a lateral way. So are you still thinking straight? Because if you are, its time to take a (lateral) relook at your thought process.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Story of a Cricket Fan - part 1

It is difficult for me to remember when i began to live cricket. I guess it must be around 1989 when i saw Sanjay Manjrekar score a wonderful century against a Pakistan team which boasted of the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Abdul Qadir . The matches were televised by our beloved DD National and I have some faint recollections of watching the match then . My interest ebbed and flowed until the Historic South African Tour of India in 1991. I watched spell-bound as Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar scored wonderful Centuries at Nehru Stadium in Delhi only
to be defeated by a superlative effort by the young (?) South Africans . I was young then, only 9 years of age , and like every young kid , looking for heroes around me. When i first saw the boy with the curly mop score a breathtaking century against Autralia in Perth 1992 , i knew i had found my idol . Sachin Tendulkar, for me, defined cricket and everything associated with him . Matches began and ended with him. I used to sulk in a corner when he got out and no amount of coaxing from my Mom or Dad would get me talking. The World Cup of 1992 was disastourous for India, but it didnt matter me as Sachin Played some stellar innings that only provided a glimpse of what was to come. The match against Pakistan in WC92 also marked the first time i missed school to watch Cricket.

I tried to have a haircut like Sachin , but that was doomed for failure on my straight as an arrow hair. I tried to model my stance according to Tendulkar. I tried to hit the lofted shot as Sachin hit them. Of course by that time he
didn't play much of the startight drive that became his trademark later on . I even loved his voice . Believe it or not, I began to like Priya Tendulkar just because her surname conincided with the great man. I cried alone when he failed , and celebrated every shot of his. No match was over till Sachin was at the crease. I lived for his innings and the periods when India was not playing marked the dull days in my life.

I celebrated with Joy when Sachin Hit his first ODI Century against Srilanka. For bowlers around the world, that spelled doom . The great man had just found a way to become even greater . Maybe , even better than the Don Himself. By the time WC96, Tendulkar was not only India's main batsman but also the harbinger of millions of hopes. India didn't have a great record in that period, but it did not matter to me. Sachin was scoring Centuries and playing like only he can . This was the time for Sachin the Destroyer . He destroyed bowlers, demolishes teams, dismissed reputations, smiles disdainfully at Targets, created new records and took batting to new heights . The period from 1996-2001 marked his best years with the bat. He scored runs at will and played some innings which i can never forget . An unbeleivable counter-attacking century against South Africa in 1997 was to end up in a losing cause . An epic 136 against Pakistan in 1998-99 would rank as one of the alltime best Test innings. An innings which was played through tremendous physical pain . Those marauding centuries against Australia in Sharjah 1998 must rank as the
alltime great ODI innings, with the latter one played in a surreal atmosphere in Sharjah . Sachin was god in those two innings. His best innings was not the century he scored in the finals , but the innings before that which got India into the finals . His self-belief was so high that after making sure that India got into the finals , he went after a seemingly improbable target . I believe he would have taken India home, had the innigns not been cut short by a horrendous umpriring decision . The two sixes that he hit of Miachel Kasprowicz are as fresh in my mind as if the match was played yesterday . I dont think i have ever been happier after watching a cricket match as i was then. Even now i feel my hair rising when i think of those innings .

Unforunately , this period was marked by his infamous captaincy stint. I do not believe that Sachin was a bad captain. He never got the team he wanted . And yet he perfomed brilliantly even when under pressure of being Indian Captain . His passion for his country shone through . I cried alongwith him when India failed to chase down a paltry 114 at Barbados that marked the nadir of Sachin's Captaincy . He had to quit captaincy when things became too much. Even now, out of all Indian Captains, Sachin has the best batting record .

P.S. . End of part 1 . Rest will follow in part 2 :-) .