Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Digital Dangers


“Kar lo Duniya Mutthi Me!!” is something which we aspired to do in our childhood. Loosely translated, it means ‘capture the world in your fist’. Today I am proud to say that my entire ‘duniya’ (world) is in my ‘mutthi’ (fist). This is because I can hold my mobile phone in my fist and operate the entire world through the same. I can shop online, transfer money, operate my bank account, pay my credit card bill, pay my electricity bill.. practically everything… Wow… How convenient…

And of course, nobody can operate my mobile phone. Because it can be opened only by a retina scan. Or using my fingerprints. So my teenage son cannot operate my mobile phone. My wife cannot see my whatsapp chats with my numerous girlfriends. If ever there was privacy.. this is it!

Last week a distant relative passed away. He must have been around 60. He had done his health check up just a few days back and was fine. That fateful day, just after lunch he was sitting on the couch and had a massive heart attack. He passed away before he could receive any help. In today’s age 60 is still young.

This incident shook me up completely. Life is uncertain and  everyone comes with an expiry date. However unlike packaged foods, it is not printed on the package and not known to everybody. This incident got me thinking.

A death is a morose event. You will have people coming over to pay you condolences. Relatives will be looking at preparations to carry out the last rites. It is only after a few days that the family will think of accessing the savings and the finances. Unfortunately,  everything is in the phone. And the phone can be accessed only with a retina scan or fingerprint. By the time they realise what needs to be done, the body is already disposed off!!!

The last thing on people’s mind on seeing my dead body will be to open my phone by prising my eyes open or by using the fingers to unlock the phone. Effectively, its like carrying secrets to the grave; only these are not secrets. While it may not be possible to carry my wealth with me to the next world, there is a real possibility that my next of kin may not be able to access the same.

My parents used to have a big folder where all financial documents are stored. Today all my backups are stored on the cloud. And I pride myself for being paperless!! Since that day I have started doing the following:

1.       Making a list of all my email addresses with passwords, so my spouse can access the same.

2.       Making a list of passwords to access my computer – in case it is encrypted

3.       Making a list of all my bank accounts with Bank account numbers and user ids to access accounts online

4.       Am checking where most of the accounts are individual – does a nomination exist

5.       Am ensuring that most accounts are joint with my wife

6.       Making a list of all my insurance policies

7.       Making a list of all my investments

8.       Made a list of all usernames and passwords to access the investments and insurance policies

9.       Telling my spouse where she can access the list

During the lockdown I met a batchmate of mine, Balaji after close to 30 years. One of the most profound things that he has told me is that you need to create a ‘fire drill document’. That is a step by step SOP which the spouse or the Next of Kin needs to follow in case Lord Yama (The God of Death) decides to pay you a sudden visit. True to his name it is godly wisdom.

While I haven’t implemented his suggestion and created the ‘Fire Drill Document’ as yet, it is an item on my agenda to be created before the end of the Financial Year. I think one of the first things that everyone need to do is create a “Fire Drill Document” for your family.. immediately!!!

I thought I was a smart guy when it came to work. But smartness is of no use, if the money you earn cannot be accessed by your near and dear ones. And of course, Lord Yama always comes unannounced!!

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Don’t Sprint the Marathon

It’s now close to two months that the country is in a lockdown. It is an unprecedented situation. Nobody in this generation has experienced something like this.

Over these two months I have been doing a lot of listening to experts. Very early we had some analysts saying that India’s GDP growth will be close to 1.5%. A few days later some other Global Analyst (or is it a rating company) said that the growth rate will be Nil. A few more days later someone else said that it will be negative. I don’t blame them. They are compelled by their profession to give expert advice. Doesn’t matter whether it is right or not. During my college days, we had a play which had a dialogue which went, “Once this necktie suffocates you; you are qualified to say anything you want.”

A lot of people said Government is not doing anything. “Where is the package?” they asked. In the same breath they also said “If the Government announces a package the fiscal deficit will grow and then rating agencies will downgrade you.”

When the package was announced they asked, “Where is the money for the package?  And what about the downgrades?” Now that a small part of the package was announced, they said, “Oh you are only giving a loan. No payout. The announcement is nice, but will it reach people?” And then there are host of jokes on the package and the Government.

I believe that all commentators and experts on media; social or otherwise (tempted to call it anti-social; the way some debates take place) have two problems. One; they are sprinting the marathon. The marathon has to be run at a steady pace over 42 kms. At no stage will the marathoner achieve the pace a 100 metre sprinter does. All these analysts are used to running the 100 metre race – daily market movements and quarterly results.

The second is a lot of them suffer from contempt of the ruling establishment. I am not talking about their political affiliation. During my teens, it was fashionable to criticize the ruling establishment. It didn’t matter who was in power because the educated people never had any political ambitions or leanings. I see the same behavior today; with a slight difference. There are three classes today. There are bhakts on both sides and then there are what I call Intellectuals. Let’s call them Indifferents. The right side bhakts think everything that the Government is doing is good. The non-right side (refraining from calling them left or wrong which is the opposite of right) hates the Government hence it criticizes them. The Indifferent blame any Government in power. They believe that they know everything and have a responsibility to speak on everything. After all freedom of speech exists in its true sense in India. The truth actually lies somewhere in between.

These are unprecedented circumstances. It is a test for all politicians irrespective of their affiliation. We are always wise in hindsight and the Government; the politicians, the IAS officers don’t have that luxury. They have to take spot decisions in the hope that situation improves. I think all of them – irrespective of which end of the political spectrum they are; are doing a great job. It is very easy to criticize from outside.

My views about the economic package are as follows. Firstly there is a need for liquidity in the system which the Government is providing. Giving money can only work for some time. Remember the old adage, ‘Teaching someone to fish vs. giving them fish?’ Secondly it is very easy to poke holes in any proposal provided by any Government. It is very difficult to conceive one.

My piece of advice to everyone is as follows:

1.       Today the country needs us to stand together to fight a war against an unseen enemy. Let us do that.

2.       Whatever the economic package; let us help the beneficiaries (including ourselves) get the share of the same. If we are not entitled to anything; so be it.

3.       Let us follow the Government’s instructions (whether they are right or wrong) during this period and bring positivity to the fore

The fight against Corona is a long one. And it’s not only medical; it’s even economical. I am not even sure at what stage we are in. Let’s not sprint the marathon.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Mother Knows Best

Parenting is extremely difficult. I see that in the daily struggle my wife has when it comes to feeding my son. He is six years young (I refuse to call him six years old), but just doesn’t want to eat. On those rare weekends, when I am at home, I notice the stress my wife has to go through.

Early morning when my son wakes up my wife begins cajoling him to have milk.  He just ignores her. It is a spectacle watching her move from one room to another, chasing him, cup in hand. Sometimes he will relent, but only for a few minutes, take  a couple of sips and run away. On some weekends, he is bribed with the promise of a movie. On other days, he is told that unless he finishes his milk, he cannot go down to play. He is a bag of tricks and so is my wife. It is like watching two boxers spar in the ring. Each throwing a punch, ducking, weaving, running from one corner to another. Some punches land, some go in the air. At the end of the bout the mom wins on points in a very closely fought contest.

Now I know why even when the son is a 30 year adult, the mom asks, “Beta tune khana khaya ke nahin?” It gets ingrained in the DNA from birth of the child and extracting that strand becomes difficult later in the day. The daughter in law thinks that the 30 year old kid is being pampered, only to understand the emotion when she becomes a mother.

Seeing the stress that my wife undergoes, one day I  told my wife, “Why are you chasing him? He does not want to eat.”

I know women can kill by their looks, but this one was of a different kind. Standing few feet away, I could feel the embers. The fire in the eyes was slowly sucked inwards into the forehead, and then gravity took over. It travelled down and before it could reach the throat, with godly powers, it was channelled into the mouth. The lips slowly widened as the mouth needed more space to hold the embers. Standing a few feet away, it looked like a smile. Instinct told me I was going to be in big trouble. There was a nanosecond between the smile and the words coming out of her mouth. Never ever has a nanosecond been longer.

“Okay so it is your job to feed him lunch today. Best of luck.”

I was not prepared for this. It was completely out of syllabus, below the belt. But then the male ego took over. I decided to take it up as a challenge.

Lunchtime arrived and I was handed the food plate.  Firstly my son was very happy that for a change his father was feeding him. The first two morsels were eaten out of novelty (I prefer to think respect for the father). Then he just went to another room. The third morsel was interesting. I moved my hand towards his mouth and there came a counter punch. Literally. He lashed out at me with his right hand throwing all the food out onto the floor. Son 1- Dad 0.

“I dont want it, it is spicy.” I immediately kept the plate down, rushed to get some water. After drinking two sips, he says, I am done and moves to another room. I take the plate, try to balance the food while walking. My expertise in spilling the food from the plate to the floor throughout the house comes to the fore. I never knew I was so talented. Thirty minutes later, only four morsels down, I lose it and get angry and start spanking the kid, who now starts howling and runs to his mother. My incompetence is completely exposed.

Suddenly from the Random Access Memory of my computer the first story book that I read as a child flashes in front of me. It is about an indisciplined kid who goes to stay with Aunty Sue. The aunt calls him for breakfast, but he is sleeping. After the designated time, she takes away the breakfast and the kid goes hungry. She does not scold the kid but uses timely schedules to discipline the kid. After one day of going hungry, the kid learns the lesson.

I decide to use this technique. I shout at the kid and tell him that if wants to eat, he will eat on his own, nobody will follow him. My wife smiles, ignores my diktat, takes the plate from me and feeds the kid. For someone who is very senior at work, it is very humbling to note that his diktats have no value at home.

My stint at feeding the child ended there. That night, my wife took me out for dinner. Over a glass of wine, she started discussing my profession. I am in the Learning and Development Space.

“So Meghdoot, how many of your people ask to be trained?”

“There are a lot of people requesting for training programs”

“Do people ask for themselves to get trained, or do they ask it for their employees”

Those words had me thinking. In most cases it is the managers who request training programs for their employees. The L&D team thrusts training because it is mandatory. Hardly 1% of the people ask for training for self development.

“Don’t you specify a minimum number of training hours which every employee needs to undergo? What will happen if you don’t mandate the same?”

“They will not undertake any training. Their development will be stopped. They will stagnate.”

“Now do you understand, why your Auntie Sue theory will not work? Children are like your employees. They do not know what is good for them. If they don’t eat, they will suffer from malnutrition and their immunity will be weak. Food needs to be pushed down their throat.”

That evening, I learnt a huge lesson on Corporate Learning from a mother. I now wonder whether online learning is effective. The narrative is that it is available in small chunks, at the time the learner wants it. The question is, if you don’t feed the child, and leave the food on the table for him / her to eat whenever it wants; will it go down the throat or the drain?

Mother always knows best. Happy mothers day.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Winning isn't everything

24th March 2018, will go down as a monumental day in the history of cricket. On this day, sometime in the afternoon, a visual came up on screen of Cameron Bancroft, a young Australian cricketer trying to use a yellow coloured piece to alter the condition of the ball. A few minutes later, another visual came up on screen, where he was trying to push it down the front of his trousers.

A huge uproar broke out in the entire cricketing fraternity. It was speculated that if a young Mr. Bancroft was trying to alter the condition of the ball, this would never be without the knowledge of the team think tank. In the evening, the smokescreen cleared. Steve Smith the young Australian captain confessed that it was a plan from the team think tank to try and make some impact on the game. He confessed that some senior players in the team were in the know of the plan, and that they acted out of desperation.

While it was extremely brave to come out and confess, their hands were forced by damming circumstantial evidence. As an immediate impact, Smith and his deputy David Warner have been stripped of their captaincy and vice captaincy respectively. Australia as an entire sporting nation is in shock at this development. Even the Australian Prime Minister Michael Turnbull is outraged at this incident. At the time of writing this, the cricketing future of both Steve Smith and David Warner is uncertain.

The similarity of this incident to Corporate Behaviour is unmistakable. To me this incident isn’t any different from a Company trying to cook its books to show better profits. Or any policy to bribe an official to get that favoured contract. Or an action to mis-sell the product to achieve sales targets. There are two elements that need analysis.

Whatever the outcome, one cannot dispute the fact that Steve Smith is an extremely talented batsman, maybe among the best among his generation. While he has definitely put in the hard work and hard yards, there is no mistaking the fact that he is used to winning; used to get great returns from his batting. He sets very high standards of himself. This in itself is a double edged sword. When the expected results are in danger of not matching to the expected high standards, is there a fear of failure?  And if so can a high achiever cope with failure? If not, will he resort to unfair means to pre-empt failure?

A similar danger is very evident in Corporate Life where the high performer gets into a leadership position. For a supremely talented and intelligent person, initial success comes very fast. He / She is a high achiever both in school as well as University. Even when they come into the workplace, they are the ones who achieve targets, and even get promoted faster. However as levels rise, the challenge starts getting tougher. These super achievers are so talented that they will even surmount the tough challenges. However there will come  a time in their careers where the next target isn’t easily achievable. These people aren’t used to ‘not achieving’. I will not use the word failure but use it as ‘under achievement’ as per their standards. It is when these people may try to use different, maybe unethical methods to achieve their success.

So my piece of advice to managers and HR people is this. Whenever you see a super talented person and a super achiever, go slow on him or her. Delay that promotion. Tell him / her that even though their performance was great, they need to spend more time before they are eligible. This will be their first test of ‘under achievement’. See how they deal with this. It will be a test of their resilience. If they survive and come out with flying colours, you are creating great talent. If they leave in pursuit of greener pastures, be happy, you have protected your organisation from potential future damage.

The above is a generalisation, and some people will always do the right thing.

Let us now examine the role of Cameron Bancroft, the youngest player of the team. I am not sure whether he was entrusted with the task, or he overheard the conversation and decided to do it on his own. A lot of young leaders will blindly follow the instructions of the boss even if they are border on the infringement of the law or morality. Or some of them would try and achieve success to please the boss. As young professionals I would request them to use their judgement. Please do not do anything wrong or morally incorrect just to get success. It will impact you in the long run.

If I were part of the Indian cricketing fraternity, this would be an opportunity. As I say, Steve Smith has already stepped down as captain of Rajasthan Royals. If I was in charge of Indian cricket, I would recommend rescinding the contracts of Smith and Warner from the forthcoming Indian Premier League. Would the punishment be too harsh? Maybe yes. But for a sport which is flirting with controversy, it is time to send a message.

After all, winning isn’t everything. Winning in the right manner is.

Monday, 15 January 2018


The new year began in  a very interesting fashion. At one side there were people celebrating the victory of a 200 year battle. Then there was a spectrum of people wondering what was there to celebrate when it was a victory of the British against Indians, thereby colouring the event as anti national. This led to protests and the financial capital of the country coming to a halt. There was a disturbing video which was circulated on whatsapp where one of the rioters was a small boy who would be no more than seven years young. On a day when the streets are infested with rioters,  and heavy police patrolling, which parent would let their small child out on the streets. The whole episode was very clearly politically motivated.

Does the seven year child understand caste? Very clearly he has been brainwashed and tutored. Impressions made at these age are lasting and I am extremely sad to see, a young mind being poisoned – for life.

It is a political game, and I don’t know which end of the political spectrum indulges in this. The fact is it is an extremely dangerous game played by the politicians to foment sectarianism. I think a large part of the public recognises this game and the verdict will be out at the ballot booths

In the midst of this, I came across another event. An acquaintance who was once a relative was anticipating a surgery.  I would have met this lady maybe half a dozen times. However a bond was formed by interaction through social media. It was simple respect for each other, nothing else.

It is through facebook, that I came to know of this lady’s surgery. Simple courtesy and natural curiosity led me to seek more details. The answer came as a shock. This young lady in her thirties had decided to donate a portion of her liver. Along with the liver, even the gall bladder is removed. I later came to know that the liver grows back. It would be a life threatening surgery.

Think of it, she didn’t need to do it. There was no pressure from anybody to do so. Which sane person in his / her prime of health decides to give away a part of their body? I know people who have donated kidneys, but then the body does have a spare kidney. And most of the times kidneys are donated to blood relatives.

Here she was having a great career, a full life to live up to, deciding to undergo a part of her body just to save someone’s life. Knowing fully well, that there could be complications. The surgery could be life threatening, The predicted side effects would be hernia, jaundice, hyper acidity and other digestive problems. Some of these side effects could be life long. Her normal movements would get restricted for some point of time, if not permanently. There will be pain, infections. Anything could happen.

We live in an era of instant gratification, crass capitalism and materialism. Success is measured by the size of your house, model of your car, cost of your mobile phone and dream vacations at exotic destinations. In this era, someone decides to risk her life for someone else’s is really special.

I asked myself the question, would I do it and the honest answer is no. In times where people make impressions on social media to advertise their success, Pranali has achieved greatness. No amount of growth in the career, money, fame etc. can match what Pranali has done. Pranali, take a bow, for me you are my heroine, my inspiration.

In this era of vitriolism, it is important to tell stories which make lasting impressions. Between caste divides and sacrifice, I choose the story of selfless love and sacrifice – towards another human being. May god give me and others the strength to take a similar decision if the time comes.

Makar Sankranti, marks the first day of sun’s transit into Capricorn, marking the end of the month with winter solistice and the beginning of longer days. May the sun keep shining bright in your life, Pranali.  Here’s a toast to your good health. Cheers

Sunday, 31 December 2017


It was an innocuous Thursday evening. Schools and colleges were closed for Christmas vacations, people in corporate jobs were on their year- end leave. A nice time to have a quiet celebration. 

Parel in Mumbai was once upon a time a hub of flourishing activity with quite a few textile mills situated there. However the textile mill strikein the 1980s  ensured that most of the mills never opened. Slowly the mills were sold and Corporate Offices and Shopping Malls started coming up in these mill compounds. Lower Parel regained its status as a hub of economic activity in Mumbai. Most Television Studios are located here. Quite a few Corporates have their head office here. It is but natural that the locality also morphs into a party hub. After all people working more than ten hours a day need to let their hair down. A whole lot of fine dining restaurant and bars have mushroomed in the area. Being centrally located, it ensures a decent footfall.

Communist ideology which once flourished in these mills has given way to crass capitalism.

However 28th December wasn’t another Thursday. A few minutes past the hour when the dates change, there was a spark. Suddenly one of the restaurants caught fire, and spread. Fourteen innocent lives were lost, mostly women.

The standard blame game has started. Corrupt municipal officials, politicians, fire department the promoters of the restaurant have been blamed. Some people will be arrested, some will be suspended and after a few days everything will be forgotten.

I personally think it is we as a society who is to blame. When I say we, it means you and me. We patronize corruption, right from childhood. On a daily basis I see a lot of people driving on the wrong side of the road. These are educated people and the vehicle ranges from a motorbike to auto to even a car. The perpetrators of the offence (in their minds it does not qualify as one) range from teenagers, middle-aged women, to even senior citizens. We have scant respect for the rules. Many times I have stopped people and admonished them, only to get varied reactions. Some are sheepish and apologise, but a majority respond arrogantly with “Mind your own Business.”If a father takes his child on a bike on the wrong side of the road, the child never realises that it is wrong. Now if this person meets with an accident, we will always blame the bigger car, and the police for not doing its duty. We sympathise with the aggrieved person even if he / she is wrong

Similarly I see people littering on the road, when dustbins are nearby. I have seen people who are in senior positions in corporates, throw the soft drink can out of the running car, throw the toll receipt at the toll station itself. In spite of strict enforcement on drunken driving, we still have people who drink and drive. Those who refrain from driving after a drink only do so out of fear and not out of concern for fellow drivers or passers by.

I have seen people disappear during fire drills in corporate offices. It is considered a colossal waste of time. I have rarely seen a fire alarm taken seriously. People don’t even stir when the alarm rings. I wonder whether they even recognise the sound of the fire alarm.

You will ask, how is all of  this connected to the fire. It is part of a larger malaise. We simply don’t follow rules. We take pride in boasting about how we have bent the rules. How can children who have grown up seeing their parents break the rules, be expected to follow the rules.

Tomorrow when our children grow up and are setting up an office or a restaurant and the department throws them the rule book, they will throw it back with a wad of notes. Because rules are meant to be... bent, broken, twisted – but not followed.

Today as we get into the new year, let us take a pledge – to follow the rules, not bribe officials, pay our taxes, not litter on the roads, stop jumping red lights even when no one is watching. Let us take the pledge to be a model citizen... so that we leave this country as a better place for our children. Let us stoke the fire of compliance within ourselves. We need to make the beginning ourselves. Charity after all begins at home.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Match Referee

Game. The word represents a contest. Two teams playing against each other or two individuals matching wits and skills. However, there is one game which you actually play against yourself – golf. It is an ultimate test of concentration and trying to focus on your abilities and routine and get a better score than the last time you played the same.

When you play the game on a weekend, you are not offered solitude. The club pairs you with different people. One such pairing, found me playing with a lady who was had represented India in cricket. For someone whose long cherished dream was to play cricket in whites at Shivaji Park, one of the nurseries of Indian cricket, it was a dream come true. What more can a cricket fan; no a fanatic want than to spend four hours in the company of someone who has played cricket at the highest level? Of course at the age of 45, the fanaticism has been converted into admiration and I began picking her brains. About the sport, the concentration levels, fitness, staying motivated and the love for the game.

It turns out that the lady in question is also a Match Referee. Now that is interesting. For me a match referee was someone who has a very cosy and dream job. Wear a tie and suit, go out for the toss, get paid to watch a match and then hand out a few fines.

As a child, we were told that the grass is always greener on the other side. I understood the meaning of this statement, when the lady explained to me her duties.

She is a match referee for domestic games in India. Her job begins a few days before the match. It starts with inspecting the arrangements for the players, in terms of accommodation, food, travel etc. No, as a match referee, she is not responsible for the same, but is responsible to report on the appropriateness of the same. She then has to inspect the ground conditions and also the equipment like rollers, super sopper, scoreboard, sight screen etc. After all the Board has paid for the equipment and she has to report whether the same is in order and fit to use.

She then has to inspect the cameras, whether they are placed properly as per standards. She also had to interact with the cameramen, to check facilities and arrangements for them. We take a lot of things for granted when we watch the matches on TV, but an incorrect placement of the camera by even a few degrees can impact the outcome of a match. She has also to check about the availability of a doctor at the ground and whether an ambulance is present at the ground.

Once she is convinced that everything is in order, she has to convene a captains’ meeting. She has to explain the basic behaviour and the code of conduct. She conveys to the captain cases where a certain player cannot bowl, as they have been reported for suspect actions. She also conveys the disciplinary history of players coming into the match and the impact a violation of the code can have on the team, or the player concerned. She has to handle super sized egos. The bigger the player, the bigger the ego. She also mentioned that she has to play the dual role of the third umpire.

At the end of the game, she has to prepare an umpire’s report, which is a very critical part of the job. This reports the decisions they made on the field, the quality of decisions, errors if any, how they handled player pressure, enforced discipline, ensured speed of play etc. Over and above they also have to report on the facilities, the equipment, the conduct of the match as well as handing out disciplinary actions against the players if any.

On the whole it seems to be an enormous job. She says, that in India the system is more difficult, as the match referees also have to double up and play the role of the third umpire and adjudicate on decisions referred by the on-field umpire.

So it is a tough job, where the match referee cum third umpire has to concentrate on every ball, at the same time, focus on the conduct on the ground. The match referee for international matches has an easier role, as there is a separate third umpire.

I was told that India has only one match referee for international matches. One of the reasons is that to be an international match referee, one needs to have played international cricket. Apparently most of the male match referees in the domestic circuit don’t have international experience. Hence they are not on the international panel. But the lady match referees in India have played international cricket. They can qualify as international match referees.

Very recently, Claire Polsak of Australia became the first woman to umpire in an Australian men’s top level fixture. Another glass ceiling broken. As a follow up of that, why can’t women be nominated as match referees in international cricket?  They have inbuilt softer skills to handle delicate situations better.

Since the 1983 Cricket World Cup, the BCCI has had a great impact on international cricket administration. With the amount of cricket being played today, there is going to be a huge pressure on the existing pool. It is time to expand the pool.

The BCCI should moot the idea of Women match referees in international cricket and begin by referring some of its own woman match referees on the international panel. Time to break another glass ceiling.