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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Color Purple

The post title is a namesake of an acclaimed 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker that won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. Later, it was adapted into a film and a Broadway musical.

I was reading the synopsis of the story last night and today I received a forward from my father of an article in Boston Globe. Sometimes, it makes me feel glad that I am from a family which has given me ample opportunity for my education and has not treated me like some second class citizen.

During the final year of my undergrad, a family friend, who was about the age of my father and had equivalent social status, ( the mark of broad mindedness for the naive like the "then" me) asked me what do I intend to do after my college. I intimated: I want to work for a while before I study further. And I want to travel. See places. Meet people. Their customs, attire, food. I want to live it. He casually remarked: Aar porashona kore ki korbi? Ekhon biye tiye korr. ( What is the point of studying further? Get married now.) His vested interest was his marriageable elder son who had just cleared an entrance for the judiciary system and had a stable career ahead. He was looking for a bride. He admired me a lot. My family knew about it. But I felt scandalized. I had a very high opinion about that man until that day. If he really wanted me to be a part of his family, he should have waited for some years until I was ready, instead of trying to mutilate my growth . Like some fathers do- for cultural , religious , and purely non-medical reasons.

FGM was an unknown concept to me till yesterday, when I decided to browse through the story of The Color Purple in Wikipedia. By the time I got reading to Type III FGC , I was so sick to my stomach that I wanted to puke. The ancient Chinese practice of foot binding was equally cruel.

My intent is not to shock and awe. Or to transform the usually "responsible" content of THE VARIEGATED SKY into a sibling of a shock site. I'll probably get back to sipping coffee and preparing case studies after this. But I wanted to say what I felt. And I don't care if I am labeled a Feminist henceforth. The term itself is unfair. It should be an "Equalist". Feminist makes it sound as if we are trying to give women a status they do not deserve. Even some of the "great" minds at work believe it is charity they are doing. And in their modesty lies the silent pride that it is their greatness that makes them work for the social cause, not the necessity. (How lame is that? )

We might have come a long way since 4 December 1829, when Sati was formally banned in Bengal by Lord William Bentinck. Raja Rammohan Roy might not live today to campaign against the practice but it hasn't stopped burning alive of women. Oh , they don't do it on funeral pyres nowadays. When I was residing in NCR, I often came across articles like this. Made me wonder where I was living.

But I don't blame the society. Because I am a part of it. Some days back when I was walking to school, I saw a bully thrashing a small young boy. The kid lay writhing in pain on the pavement while the big boy stamped his wrist under his feet. It was so horrible that I wanted to stop it at once. But 1) I did not know if it was happening under parental observation and the parents thought it was a healthy way to play 2) I knew the kid had to get up himself and hit back if he wanted some dignity in his life. I could hear his cries a long way down the walk, and I thought to myself: You will grow up to be a strong man or you won't ever grow up at all.

What I mean by narrating this random incident is that it is the rule of nature. The strong feed on the weak. You either grow to be stronger or you perish. If women want respect, they will have to earn it. They won't be given alms.

Education, empowerment, financial independence- are the three first crucial steps. Then comes sexual liberty- the right to say no.
Many women tolerate domestic violence because they are not able enough to support their children of their own and would prefer to lead a degraded existence than see their kids suffer or their daughters be subjected to the same atrocities when they grow up fatherless.

If only these women had means to support themselves and run a family. Or made a choice to do so. That reminds of a real life incident. She was a small town girl from India who grew up in reasonable comfort. After two elder brothers, she was the only daughter. She had an arranged marriage soon after she had her Bachelor's degree to a guy who was "working in America", from the same town. The emphasis on "working in America" was so great that the parents of the bride did not check on the guy's background. Who turned out to be a big time drunkard and gambler. She started working to pay the bills. The woman had two sons with him. One fine day, she decided she had enough and left him. They are now separated. Not legally divorced. Every one back home knows they are happily married.

I respect her for her strength to go on herself, being a single mother, and not going back to her folks for help. Even if she did, she would have probably been turned away in fear of "lok-lajja". She might not be the ideal woman for me. But she made a choice. And that makes me look up to her.

I'm not a commitmentphobe or a man hater. But I definitely know when a man does or does not respect me. If I ever exercise my right to choose a life partner, I will go for a man , who more than anything else is a good human being and does not take me for granted. It might have nothing to do with the Feminist Movement but I will save at least one life. Mine.

The original book cover. Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Back to Ads

From making celebrities, to breaking them. From selling something as nominal as toothpicks to inspiring you to donate your vital organs, I have always believed in the power of media. Or more specifically- ads. Here are two of my recent favorites:

2. Bobby Jindal
You can watch the video here

1.Chevrolet Volt
I saw the GM car on display in South Station. People were clicking away its pictures like some Messiah had come down to Earth. But it's NOT the solution.
The irony is here. Who killed the Electric Car

And here's a fwd I got from zoxcleb:

For other favs, u can have a look here

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What drives you?

There's a friend of mine (the C of ABC tales) who makes "filthy rich" sound so good. I say to him: There are three ways to have money- inherit it, earn it , marry into it. He says he'd prefer to earn it but I know marrying into it is not exactly out of his agenda :D

Then there are others who lust for power. If you have watched Manorama - Six Feet Under, you probably know what kind of big fish I am talking about. Nothing matters to them except their power to influence. Which might gnaw into their own well being later, but it's a high like no other and nothing else ever seems to satisfy them. They believe- power corrupts a few, but weakness corrupts many. And they are probably right.

I always thought I wanted a profile that gives me satisfaction to work in the capacity of. Salary didn't really matter that much as long as I had a comfortable lifestyle. But the question is: How comfortable is comfortable? Some might believe that owning a private jet and a cruise ship is comfortable. Some might think that having ready made warm food after a long day's work is a luxury.

I'm not sure what exactly my emotional and financial requirements are going to be after 2/ 3 years. But I have some idea. I have worked as a communication consultant during my undergrad days, as an intern with Central Forensic Lab, seen an old age home run closely and realized how individual interests give rise to conflicts in the achievements of a common goal. In an e-publishing house , I have found that the flatter the structure of an organization, the less likelihood of conflicts but greater the chances of frustration among employees because of delayed gratification. I want to expand my angle of exposure. I want to learn more. And I don't want to spend a lifetime preparing for a lifetime. I want to be ready now. Be prepared to face whatever comes my way. This is what success means to me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The 13th Floor

Ok. First the title. It was on the 13th floor of the Park Plaza office building that I had gone for the interviews for my team project. But what happened there goes down in my team reports, not my personal blog. It was an enchanting afternoon and I promised myself that if I finished my work with some time in hand before the team met in the evening to discuss progress, I'd allow myself a stroll in Boston Public Garden.

Fortunately I did have sometime, even after an unscheduled interview, and I ambled into the green patch. *Together with the Boston Common, these two parks form the northern terminus of the Emerald Necklace, a long string of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. While the Common is primarily unstructured open space, the Public Garden contains a lake and a large series of formal plantings that are maintained by the city and others and vary from season to season.

I had got down at Park street station (*constructed in 1897, one of the two oldest subway stations in the United States, along with Boylston) and kept walking straight, keeping Suffolk University to my left, straight ahead till I could see Dunkin Donuts across the street, took a right at the corner, crossed the Central Burying Ground (burial sites of the artist Gilbert Stuart and the composer William Billings) on the Boylston Street side of Boston Common and crossed the zebra for Charles street .

Since I allowed myself the luxury of discovering a new place on my way back, you'll see the pictures in the reverse order.
*Content from Wikipedia

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Of recipes and MBTI profiles

Here's my customized recipe for Palak Paneer (spinach and cottage cheese):
Spinach 1/2 kg
Paneer 100 grams
Onion 1
Bay leaves 2-3
Salt to taste
Black pepper powder .
Ginger-garlic paste 3/4 tsp.
Garam Masala Powder 1 tsp.
(You can also put green chili paste and cumin seeds for your taste. I prefer not to use them in this dish )

  1. Pressure cook / Boil in sauce pan the spinach (with salt) for about 7-8 minutes (just before the first whistle).
  2. Drain remaining water.Blend the spinach leaves in a blender to have a smooth even paste.
  3. Cut paneer into small cubes.
  4. Heat 1 teaspoon butter . Fry the paneer pieces on 'medium' heat till they turn slightly brown. Set the paneer pieces aside.
  5. Heat 2 tsp butter. Fry bay leaves (and cumin seeds). Add finely chopped onion /paste. Fry until the onions become pink.
  6. Add salt, black pepper powder. Stir well.
  7. Add paneer and spinach. Pour required amount of water and set to cook in "low" heat.
  8. Add garam masala just when it is about to be done.
Serve with paranthas and chutney. Also, recommend me some of your favorite recipes.

MGT 650 is one class where even after 3 hours, you wish: Hey, yeh dil mange more!
Last Thursday, we were analyzing the results of our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) personality inventory , which rests on psychological types described by Carl Jung . The Jungian model classifies individuals in positive terms, by what people like rather than what people lack.

Establishing relations:

Generating information:
Sensing/ iNtuitive

Making decisions:

Choosing priorities:

The combinations can be:

Making use of individual differences can benefit an organization/relationship, while ignoring or merely tolerating such differences doesn't. Probably, that is why when someone I know had every element opposite to what I have, I laughed and said: You complement me in every way! That's one way to look at it. He said: That's the only way to look at it. :D
Another thing we were told in class is that the instrument is robust enough to measure the cognitive style of an individual even if he changes the scores. For example, Prof Novak was still an INTP (I had guessed him to be an INTJ) after 20 years he had taken the test first and had changed the allocation of scores considerably. However, it is not unnatural to see changes in the profile with time. In fact, with conscious efforts, you can change your type.

About 60% of the class had the core elements ST, and only 3 had NF.
While STs make good middle managers, NFs are visionaries, people-oriented and imaginative. But the catch is, in most organizations, you have to have to be a middle manager first to become a C-level executive.

You can take one of the tests I found online here, which is quite different from the one I took in my course text book (if you find a shorter one online, please forward the link)
Also, here's a short list of the characteristics of the 16 possible types.

Any guesses what my MBTI profile came out to be? (I have dropped enough hints for the perceptive )
The Road Ahead. While walking to school last Thursday.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Em Be Yeah

My team members from yesterday's team meeting. From left to right: Wendy, Mike, Gordon, Matt and Vanessa. Next week is going to be crazy for us. We're scheduled to do the data collection (read:interviews) for our team project. Time to update my organizer.
This one to slake Vanessa's complain :) You can take a memory test who's who. :D

Update 8:58 AM, 10/05/2007
Here's a snapshot of how a typical week looks like for me:

10/01 Mon Accounting (AF 610) with Sally Wright 4-5:15 PM, McCormack M01-0428,
10/02 Tues Team meeting (MGT 650)6-9 PM
10/03 Wed Accounting (AF 610) with Sally Wright 4-5:15 PM, McCormack M01-0428, Environmental Management (MGT 671) with Marc Fournier 6-9 PM, Wheatley Hall W01-0045,
10/04 Thurs Organizational Analysis and Skills (MGT 650)with Michael Novak,6-9 PM, McCormack M03-0617

I have off on Fridays.

I also attended the MGT 650 workshops on Project Management by Benyamin Lichtenstein, Collaborative Writing and Editing with Pacey Foster and a guest Lecture by Ed Burke of Dennis K. Burke Inc. on Biodiesel.

I have a book report due next week, the usual weekly assignments , and an Interview with the President of *** on Tuesday. Monday(10/08) is Columbus day, so no classes. An extended weekend. Could have gone out somewhere. Hmmm.

Busy schedule. But well paced. Just enough work to keep me happy.

*You might also be interested to have a look here (Including Samuel)

Update 3:10 PM, 10/05/2007
On Marc's suggestion, I went Barnes and Noble (Prudential Center) today to get the books I couldn't find at the university store. And boy! I almost believed that I have died and have gone to Heaven. It IS Heaven for bibliophiles like me. All you see is books, books and more books all around. Even a section for DVDs couldn't dilute the pleasure of being surrounded by pages full of wisdom, feelings, or even pure trash.

I went to buy Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Plan B 2.0 by Lester Brown but when I found that The Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words and The Double Helix by James Watson were available too- I felt my years of search has come to an end. And who could resist buying the biography of Jack Welch after reading the author's note:

"This may seem a strange way to begin an autobiography. A confession: I hate having to use the first person. Nearly everything I've done in life has been accomplished with other people. Yet when you write a book like this, you're forced to use the narrative"I" when it's really the "we" that counts.
I wanted to mention the names of all the people who took this journey with me. My editors kept beating me up, trying to get names out. We finally struck a compromise. That's why the acknowledgments in the back of the book are somewhat long. Please remember that every time you see the word I in these pages, it refers to all those colleagues and friends and some I might have missed."

A sure bait for people oriented individuals like me. Will have to read the rest soon. Good to know that Jack is an alumnus University of Massachusetts. He did his B.S. from UMASS in 1957 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois. He joined GE in 1960 and was elected vice president in 1972 and vice-chairman in 1979. In 1981, he became the eighth chairman and CEO in the company's 121-year history.

I dragged myself out of the store lest I should turn totally maniacal. Anyways I wanted to get back home and start working on the book report as soon as possible. By the time I am through, you might be seeing a lot of book reviews on this page.

If you want to get to BN, and you live near a red line, all you have to do is take one to Park Street and then from there, the green line to Heath Street. The fourth station is Prudential Center, and after you take the elevator to your left for exit, just take the door on your right and a second elevator will take you right to the store.

There were three incidents that happened on the way and back that has somehow clung to my mind.
1.Near Bayside Expo center, I saw a young man in a wheelchair and a woman walking beside him. They looked like a couple. Maybe it's strange, but I still believe in the power of love and it's ability to overcome any emotional or physical handicap.
2. At Park Street Station, a man was playing a guitar and singing a song in a language I couldn't understand. Maybe he was singing about some long lost love, or of his homeland he had left behind or about a comrade he lost in a war. But it didn't matter, the melody was enchanting. And as long as I stood there, waiting for the red line outbound to Braintree, I kept listening to that haunting music and was transported to a different world.
3. In the T, there stood an old man in his bare essentials. It was pretty cold today, though warmer than usual. He had sports shoes and a backpack on. There were a couple of South Asian girls who were laughing at him. I felt bad. Why do people who need to dye their hair blonde to be "in", laugh at some one who's just being himself? Maybe he's from somewhere that really cold.

Anyways,though it may sound impertinent , I think my MBTI profile of ENFP defines me truly. I 'm an Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceptive individual. And how that works for a future manager? Will let you know in the next post.

Till then
Take Care

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Kyu ki managers bhi kabhi techi they

This post is dedicated to all the managers who think bossing over people will make them true leaders. ( Who knows- a few years later- I might need to read this post again . I hope not. For my own good reasons)

Some days back someone popped me a message on Gtalk:
AB: Kemon cholche Manushke Chabkanor lesson (How's is it going- your lessons for whipping humans? )
me: You hate your manager- don't you?
( I needn't have asked him- it was more than evident)
AB: Prachanda (Extremely)

I have rarely come across an employee who has said that he/she doesn't hate his/her manager. Let alone like/admire/respect/any other positive emotion. The title of a "manager" or "boss" conjures up the image of Hari Sadu. The brilliantly done ad of the year 2005 that had so cleverly used to draw frustrated employers from all over the country to post their resumes in search of greener pastures.

The catch is- the grass only gets yellower. And if you keep job switching all the time, your CV would soon start looking that of a paranoid schizophrenic. If you stay on- you'll probably develop a severe case of Tourette syndrome with associated swearing.

Attrition rates in most companies can be attributed to mismanagement. At least, people I have talked to have mostly pointed that out. What makes a successful manager then?
In theory, we are taught several coveted *personal characteristics of a leader-
  • Energy and stamina
  • Focus
  • Sensitivity
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to tolerate conflict , etc
(*Organizational Behavior and Processes- Ancona et al)

But in practice, do we really have any time to look back at the management lessons we had in B-schools, when the only concern is to get the job done- in time? I guess not. That is why I believe it is better to practice these values in a perpetual way than trying to resort to them periodically. By that I mean, just like charity begins at home, a good manager begins at home too.

Look at your personal life- are you having too much of conflict in interpersonal relations? Are you cluttering your life with redundant emotions and that is defocussing you from your priorities? Are you unclear about what you want? Are you restless most of the times? Do you have a negative image about yourself which is affecting your opinion about others or what possible opinion they might have about you? Then your life is in total mismanagement. And you need to streamline your efforts to do ONLY the things that are important to you. Life will be simple, uncomplicated and a joy to live.

Eventually, we are all seeking happiness. If we are not getting it then there's something definitely wrong. No point trying to be an ostrich with its head buried in the sand and pretending that nothing is happening around. You have to make a few active decisions . Even if it's as trifling as deciding to start the day 15 minutes early or having a healthy breakfast.

Life is , in the end, the choices we make. And I have heard someone say recently: You get what you want from life. At least 80% of it. I believe it. And also that: Beyond all talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck- but most of all endurance.

So all the best for your love, luck and life. But don't forget the elements. And enjoy the journey.