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Showing posts from January, 2010

Day 27/28: The Beginnings

As I write this, I can't stop measuring how far I have come with regard to my new year agenda. Last day of January, a month wheezed past already, means that I am already done with a third of my 100 day plan period, which is supposed to change my life. Besides, one-twelfth of the year, if I must be reminded, is already over.


Reflecting back, I have reasons to be happy. I have achieved a big leap - a freedom from my sense of guilt, the overwhelming sense of responsibility that I felt at my work to get things done. Two reasons: First, I realized that what I am now putting together is the only sensible way to run the business, given the commitment levels of the investors. Second, I also noticed that I am being manipulated for my self-imposed sense of responsibility, a state of affairs I should not tolerate for much longer.


Besides, I felt a sense of commitment to my customers, individuals those who invested money on my bidding. One could possibly argue that it was a commercial decision…

Should Congress go alone in West Bengal?

West Bengal Assembly Polls are due next year. This may become a watershed poll, the first one after Jyoti Basu's death, and one that may push CPIM out of power after more than 33 years. In fact, it seems that all of India is waiting to see that happen. There is an expectation in West Bengal building up, because after years of misrule and stagnation, Bengal's moment may just come to join the party in India.



But this is still not certain, if newspaper stories have to be believed. There seems to be an ongoing tussle between the temperamental Trinamool Congress chief, MamtaBanerjee, and the Congress party. Ms Banerjee seems to believe that she is doing a favour by aligning with congress, when the truth is the other way round. And, while Ms Banerjee has been a political survivor in her career, no one can credit her with political astuteness. So, the odds are that she will cross the threshold and the TNC-Congress alliance will not last till the election. This will almost certainly me…

Day 26: Planning for India

I have been in India for almost two weeks now. This visit has turned out differently from any of the other times, as a clear agenda emerged during the course of the visit which set up my plans for my eventual return to India. This was always on the cards, agreed. But it was always difficult to see, and to reconcile various objectives that competed for my time overall was proving difficult. However, this time, various interactions during this visit gave me rather obvious pathways to achieve both of my objectives - to find a permanent solution to the business I run and to map my next few years into a different role and reality.

On those two counts, the visit has gone well so far. I have made some significant progresses on both counts. There were usual surprises, and my optimism was defied. Besides, more than once, the limitations of my own proposals were laid bare in front of my eyes, and I had very little to defend. In my opinion, I did put up a fairly brave front, but, as I know from m…

Obama's New Deal

President Obama had to muster all his oratorical skills to deliver this year’s State of the Union address, just as Americans started blaming him for their plight. He had a lot at stake. He was under pressure, this being another election year, from his own party and those who voted for him. He had to answer his critics – those who are thinking that he is trying to do too much and those who are thinking he is doing too little – and show the country that he is still in control and setting the agenda. It was, in all, a difficult speech, he had to strike a balance at every step, and he had to answer the critics and naysayers while calling for an end to ‘an election every day’ and unnecessarily divisive politics.

Clearly, his greatest worry is the economy. Justifiably so, especially as the employment figures look dismal. Even when business outlook has started looking up and other economic indicators are also on the way to recovery, there are fears that America is looking at a jobless recover…

Jyoti Basu: The Last Gentleman

Writing an obituary for Jyoti Basu is as difficult a writing task as any I could have attempted. This is because he had a universal presence in my political consciousness. This presence was for real – he was the Chief Minister of the state I lived in for quarter of a century. I grew up seeing him as the Chief Minister, and he did not retire until after I left home and started living abroad. In a way, I have never known any other Chief Minister of West Bengal.

Besides, there is another, emotional, dimension to that presence. He was the last of a generation of people who presented a linkage to our pre-independence past, those who shaped the ideas in modern India and carried it to the present day. In his imperious, Bengali babu style, Jyoti Basu was an unlikely communist. Though he created and led, with others, the pre-eminent Left party in India, he was Nehruvian, in his thinking, in his approach, in his ideas about Modern India.

He will be sorely missed. He is possibly one person who mer…

Day 17: A Week Missed

I am writing after a week. I had no Internet access in between, which is a bit strange, but overall, not bad. I enjoyed a certain sense of calm, lack of noise, while I was online. I tried my best to restore connection, but I am in Mumbai and my residential address in India happens to be in Kolkata, and no one will give me an Internet connection. Not even pre-paid, I am told, unless I prepay for a full one year. I balked at the Rs. 18,000/- price tag, which will actually buy me a nifty HP Netbook. On top of this, I have checked into a not-so-good hotel, one of those which wants to create a premium image by charging premium but offer shady services. So, queries about wifi access in the room raised a few eyebrows and suggestive looks at the reception. I am now reduced to surfing from an one off computer in the lobby, reminiscent of the early days of my business travelling, but feels good in a certain way.

I am enjoying India, though I haven't got much done in the last few days. I have…

Day 11: Ready to Go

I travel tomorrow, so the whole day today was focused on the work of wrapping up things, closing off bits that I haven't done earlier and scrambling to make some real progress. Increasingly, my work is about making peace in international culture wars, and I spent hours today explaining to my colleagues why certain things are different in different cultures and why it still may be okay.

The two key questions I keep facing is why do Indians behave so differently from Europeans, and why is it so difficult to do business in India. The first question I accept as valid, though rather obvious: Because Indians are different people. It is clearly wrong to expect them to behave as Europeans do; in fact, it is naive to have that expectation in the first place. Besides, I feel there is an underlying value judgement - 'I can take a German for his word, but not an Indian' - which keeps popping up. I don't agree: If you understand what the Indian is saying, he will turn out to be a ma…

Day 10: Immigration & Other Important Matters

I am ten days into my planned period of transformation and I see some benefits already of having such a transformational goal. To be honest, how I conduct my life hasn't changed much. I have done better in the last few days, despite the fresh snow that arrived today. But, though the details have not changed, I think I got a sense of purpose - and it does help that I keep reminding myself about it every time I write this blog - and the days, though slow, are not being wasted in that sense.

The snow did affect my plans for the day significantly. I changed my plans and called off my engagements in Birmingham, partly because of an almost flu sort of a feeling and the daunting prospect of going out in the cold and snow. The judgement proved correct: The fever arrived and the snow stopped the rail transport from and to our station altogether by the mid-day. So, the day was quickly reduced into writing mails and contracts, planning and reading news.

What I read today is full of surprises. …

Day 9: First Steps

This week is running much better than the last, so far. Things are getting resolved in a way. Matters are coming to a head. People are saying No. So far, in two days, I had two people telling me that they don't want to go ahead with projects we discussed last year. A straight, unambiguous No, which leaves a lot of past work undone, but invaluable in moving life forward. The New Year has finally began.

This evening, sitting in my usual Tuesday workshop at the UCL, I realized another thing that needs to change in my life. So far, I have been playing a part imposed upon me. In our discussions about learning as transformation, the Course Leader touched upon and I discovered the deep significance how learning can be liberating and help me achieve what I want.

In fact, I am in a bit of an introspective mood right now. I know there is no point living the life as I am doing now, a sort of a mid-air existence: I can't fly and I can't fall. This is what gets reflected in my search, wh…

Day 8: Defining Fundamentals

Having lived a week trying to change my life - that's the essence of the 100 day exercises - I realized that there is something missing. Yes, I have created the resolutions - which ranges from expanding knowledge to reducing weight - but I have missed out on defining the fundamentals. This is a bit of a strange realization coming to me looking at the rather blank achievement sheet for last week, if anything life has got worse, and searching hard what I missed.



Such reflection and conscious engagement are indeed the key benefits of trying to get myself in such a mode - a 100 day project. I have defined, though loosely, how my life should look like at the end of this period. However, what I possibly missed is that there are certain benefits of the journey as well as of reaching the destination, and unless one starts enjoying the journey, focusing too hard on what happens in the end does not help much.



Last week was an example on a micro-scale. There are certain things I achieved and m…

Day 7: Lessons from a Failure

I did finally move forward today, despite the weather. Ironically, the motivation was an extremely frustrating event, a rather foolish and pointless posturing which laid bare to me the silliness many of the Western businesses are run with. To me, contracts were a devise to support business activities; however, in most cases, contracts precede the common sense rationale of the business, or at least, made to be so. So, currently, I am up against a demonstration of Shylockian business practise - not for the first time but the sheer mindlessness of the current one is staggering - and this managed to spoil my weekend, and helped spur me on.

So, next week, I must make some real progress. I got some start, cleared some long pending issues and the mini-crisis helped me focus my mind on what I must do. I have made a number of mistakes over last three years, most of them pertaining to communication style and some of them due to the way I organize myself, and I have come a full circle when these …

Day 6: Considerations for an (almost) fallen hero

Saturday always gives some space for reflection. In fact, Saturdays are always much better than Sundays, because Sundays are too close to Mondays and usual cycle of life. This is how I think about it: Sundays are industrial, the physical rest a man must be given, sort of a subsistence break. Saturdays are a modern creation, a service economy or network age reality, when people are given a thinking break. Needless to say, I enjoy Saturday, every Saturday, even if it is like today, with heavy snow, 20 mph wind and grey clouds all over.

This is one of the many oddities I have as a person. I may call my blog Sunday Post, but I actually worship Saturday. I want to stay home and be an Indian, but I stay abroad and applying for a British passport. I love to stay with my family and be surrounded with my brothers, sister, wife, son, every one else, but what I end up doing is being a traveller. I am not exactly a Linda Goodman fan, but someone told me that she has a good explanation why I am lik…

Day 5: A Week Unfinished

Finally, Friday, and a sort of a conclusion of the week. It does not feel over though. If anything, it feels like a freeze, not just the physical kind. It is as if life has suddenly stopped, mid-air! The kind of weightlessness people may feel when being accelerated through the air to fall with a bang on the ground, I am feeling now.

Part of that weightlessness thing is related to the fact that I finally applied for naturalization. It was a fairly long journey over last six years, when a lot has changed in my life. It took me quite a while to come to terms with the idea of giving up my Indian citizenship and settle for the pragmatism of applying for a British passport while the doors are still open. It was difficult, but as I said earlier, I almost came to accept that passport is just paper, not identity.

But, on the same day I made the application, there was an announcement made by the Prime Minister in PravasiBharatiya Divas that NRIs will be able to vote in 2014 elections, raising my …

Day 4: Mid-week Blues

I have had a fairly indifferent week so far. Sandwiched between a long holiday and a long trip forthcoming, it is the tension of waiting and wasting that got me. I have been nibbling away at work, desperate to make a fresh start but dispirited to get the momentum. I have possibly dragged on certain commitments for far too long and wasted time in hope that things will get better. Now that I am almost at the threshold, my spirit is leaving me - sort of mythical spirit leaving the protagonist at the right time. May be, I was reading too many novels lately: All of this is a severe mid-week blue that I must get over with.

The snow did not help. I quite like the snow, and would have welcomed it during holidays. But this has arrived at precisely the wrong time, when it is time to get moving. I have noticed that while snow is all but expected in a northern European country like Britain, it is actually anything but, as everything keeps shutting down. The railway first: For whatever great benefi…

Day 3: A Plan and A Priority

Totally under snow. It keeps snowing more, completely submerging my car and everything around me. I started with, but gave up by the mid-day, any hope of going to see my Chartered Accountant and Mentor-in-Chief, who is also supposed to sign off my naturalization application vouching that I am who I say I am. Given that this will need to be submitted by Friday the 8th, this gives me tomorrow and if the weather does not improve, which is unlikely, I am in for a bit of trouble. I can't postpone the appointment as I must stay in Britain for five working days after the application, and I have got my tickets to fly precisely on the fifth day. I don't feel nervous, this is how my life has been most of the time; in fact, if anything, I feel usual.




I am slowly getting back to the 100-day plan and how critical this really is. Glass-half-empty is not really my style, but if I really want to draw sympathy, here is how it looks like: At the end of this 100-day period, I shall have no job, I…

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