Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kaze @ Zen

Deepak, Harpreet and me went over for dinner at The Leela this friday and it was one of the most sumptous dinners I have ever had in Bangalore. After gulping down a couple of drinks we drifted off to one of these personal tables which are very cozily poised on the second floor of the restaurant. There was a crackling fire on the heart in one corner of the room (sorry no pics...) that gave it a very homely feel. And then there was the FOOD. There was a serving of garlic chips, which I savoured pretty much. Harpreet and me started talking about Kanpur with Deepak's racist(Delhi v/s Kanpur) remarks thrown in. We talked about the swimming pool that was started while he was there way back in the late 70's, the canal at the back which I know most of my batchmates won't know about, the SAC and so on and so forth :) It always great to meet someone from your college who graduated so many years back and even better to work with him. And quoting him "Delhi guys were quite an unmannered lot back then", well somethings never change (yeah Deepak sue me :p). We talked quite a bit about how things are changing there, academic rigor going down, lack of faculty. Though there was a brighter side about students willing to stay back in India, lot more enthusiam and the willingness to take risks. Now coming back to the food, we had yummy Japanese food, scampis, chicken, some Japanese soup. And the best part of the dinner as ever was the dessert. Thats what you see getting cooked in the pic. Caramelized fruits with ice-cream. HEAVEN !!!! An extremely filling and delicious dinner though pretty expensive. Well the most expensive I have ever had in India. But, Go EAT !!!

Update: And I forgot to mention our charming hostess Bharti who cooked for us :D Thanks to the "kind-hearted" Deepak for reminding me :p

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Extremely succint and so true...

The world survives by those that have generosity of spirit.
But it is owned by those that have none.

-Tarun Tejpal

Jamshedpur again :-) !!

Sometime ago I was reading a book on Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata that was written about 80 years ago. It gave me an inkling of the foundations that makes the Tata Group what it is today. Companies like TISCO and TELCO transformed the landscape of a predominantely tribal region in the the Chota Nagpur region. Unlike the IT industry of today which touches the lives of the educated elite, these pillars of modern India also transformed the lives of the uneducated, underpriviledged sections of society. Tatas do only make steel or machines but they transform the lives of thousands of people who work with them. These industries have not only made profits but have also altered the landscape of this region, making it one of the most evolved regions in the country. I believe India needs more corporates like the Tatas who not only contibute enormously to the economy of the country but do it fairly too. For me the Tatas represent the pinnacle of industrial rigous and social responsibility. Will write more on this later...

Here is a talk that L.N. Mittal delivered when he visited Jamshedpur this year.

"I visited Jamshedpur over the weekend to see for myself an India that is fast disappearing despite all the wolf-cries of people like Narayanamurthy and his ilk. It is one thing to talk and quite another to do and I am delighted to tell you that Ratan Tata has kept alive the legacy of perhaps Indias finest industrialist J.N. Tata. Something that some people doubted when Ratan took over the House of the Tatas but in hindsight, the best thing to have happened to the Tatas is unquestionably Ratan. I was amazed to see the extent of corporate philanthropy and this is no exaggeration.

For the breed that talks about corporate social responsibility and talksabout the role of corporate India, a visit to Jamshedpur is a must. Go there and see the amount of money they pump into keeping the town going; see the smiling faces of workers in a region known for industrial unrest; see the standard of living in a city that is almost isolated from the mess in the
rest of the country.

This is not meant to be a puff piece. I have nothing to do with Tata Steel, but I strongly believe the message of hope and the message of goodness that they are spreading is worth sharing. The fact that you do have companies in India which look at workers as human beings and who do not blow their software trumpet of having changed lives. In fact, I asked Mr Muthurman, the managing director, as to why he was so quiet about all they had done and all he could offer in return was a smile wrapped in humility, which said it all. They have done so much more since I last visited Jamshedpur, which was in1992. The town has obviously got busier but the values thankfully haven't changed. The food is still as amazing as it always was and I gorged, as I would normally do. I visited the plant and the last time I did that was with Russi Mody.

But the plant this time was gleaming and far from what it used to be. Greener and cleaner and a tribute to environment management. You could have been in the mountains. Such was the quality of air I inhaled! There was no belching smoke; no tired faces and so many more women workers, even on the shop floor. This is true gender equality and not the kind that is often espoused at seminars organised by angry activists. I met so many old friends. Most of them have aged but not grown old. There was a spring in the air which came from a certain calmness which has always been the hallmark of Jamshedpur and something I savoured for a full two days in between receiving messages of how boring and decrepit the Lacklustre Fashion Week was.

It is at times such as this that our city lives seem so meaningless. Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata had created an edifice that is today a robust company and it is not about profits and about valuation. It is not about who becomes a millionaire and who doesnt'. It is about getting the job done with dignity and respect keeping the age-old values intact and this is what I learnt.

I jokingly asked someone as to whether they ever thought of joining an Infosys or a Wipro and pat came the reply: "We are not interested in becoming crorepatis but in making others crorepatis."

Which is exactly what the Tatas have done for years in and around Jamshedpur. Very few people know that Jamshedpur has been selected as a UN Global Compact City, edging out the other nominee from India, Bangalore and only city of India and 2nd in Asia who has got ISO 14001, Selected because of the quality of life, because of the conditions of sanitation and roads and welfare. If this is not a tribute to industrial India, then what is? Today, Indian needs several Jamshedpurs but it also needs this Jamshedpur to be given its fair due, its recognition. I am tired of campus visits being publicised to the Infosys and the Wipros of the world. Modern India is being built in Jamshedpur as we speak. An India built on the strength of core convictions and nothing was more apparent about that than the experiment with truth and reality that Tata Steel is conducting at Pipla.

Forty-eight tribal girls (yes, tribal girls who these corrupt and evil politicians only talk about but do nothing for) are being educated through a residential program over nine months. I went to visit them and I spoke to them in a language that they have just learnt: Bengali. Eight weeks ago, they could only speak in Sainthali, their local dialect. But today, they are brimming with a confidence that will bring tears to your eyes. It did to mine.

One of them has just been selected to represent Jharkand in the state archery competition. They have their own womens football team and whats more they are now fond of education. It is a passion and not a burden. This was possible because I guess people like Ratan Tata and Muthurman havent sold their souls to some business management drivel, which tells us that we must only do business and nothing else. The fact that not one Tata executive has been touched by the Naxalites in that area talks about the social respect that the Tatas have earned.

The Tatas do not need this piece to be praised and lauded. My intent is to share the larger picture that we so often miss in the haze of the slime and sleaze that politics imparts. My submission to those who use phrases such as "feel-good" and "India Shining" is first visit Jamshedpur to understand what it all means. See Tata Steel in action to know what companies can do if they wish to. And what corporate India needs to do. Murli Manohar Joshi would be better off seeing what Tata Steel has done by creating the Xavier Institute of Tribal Education rather than by proffering excuses for the imbroglio in the IIMs. This is where the Advanis and Vajpayees need to pay homage. Not to all the Sai Babas and the Hugging saints that they are so busy with. India is changing inspite of them and they need to realise that.

I couldn't have spent a more humane and wonderful weekend. Jamshedpur is an eye-opener and a role model, which should be made mandatory for replication.I saw corporate India actually participate in basic nation-building, for when these tribal girls go back to their villages, they will return with knowledge that will truly be life-altering.

Corporate India can do it but most of the time is willing to shy away. For those corporate leaders who are happier winning awards and being interviewed on their choice of clothes, my advise is visit Tata Steel, spend some days at Jamshedpur and see a nation's transformation. That is true service and true nationalism.

Tata Steel will celebrate 100 years of existence in 2007. It won't be just a milestone in this company's history. It will be a milestone, to my mind of corporate transparency and generosity in this country. It is indeed fitting that Ratan Tata today heads a group which has people who are committed to nation-building than just building influence and power. JRD must be smiling
wherever he is. And so must Jamsetji Nusserwanji. These people today, have literally climbed every last blue mountain. And continue to do so with vigour and passion. Thank god for the Tatas!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Images from back home

I went home after a long time, tried to capture some pics that took my fancy. The resolution is horribly poor because my cell-phone camera is totally screwed up but I kind of liked the eerie affect it gives to all images.

Man on a cycle, life passing by

A flock of birds flying over my house in Jamshedpur. Something that I was so fond of earlier and never realized it went out of my life without me even noticing it.

Taxis awaiting their turn on Howrah railway station.

A rikshaw puller resting after a tiring day. They STILL have hand pulled rikshawas in Calcutta. So INHUMANE !!

It was a rushed trip home. Could not get to meet my friends, a very handful of who are still there in Jampot. Had a nice chat with Parnil, she is joining HLL this June. Was missing Soma aka "Chomraj". But all in all a good journey home :D

PS: My MOTO RAZR works like a charm with my Powerbook :D My earlier Nokia 6600 was totally diagreeable... And balls to Nokia UI, this phone has a much better and well thought of interface.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Back to the basement !!

I went over to meet Obaid today in the basement Lab 001. Its been more than 2 years since I last set foot in the lab and most of it came back like it was yesterday. The faint smell of agar, bottles of fly culture, chemicals and of course the EP lap :)

But some where I realized how naive and unsystemmatic I was when I first started working there. I wish I had been more organized, and then maybe I would have stuck to neuroscience. But then again that was a field where I was completely overwhelmed by the amout of information (NOT knowledge) and the monotony of the work. Though while discussing several problem with him I was able to realize how my problem solving process has evolved considerabley over the years, asking specifics, on the toe thinking, more mellowed and deep analysis. Quite unlike what I was like when I was in college, where anything and everything seemed possible. I have become more result oriented in my approach to things, personally and professionally. And I believe the transformation is a good step towards the "consolidation" of my efforts.

Anyways got to see a lot of familiar faces. Some pretty ones too that I remembered from some distant past. After a long enough time has passed all most people can say is "Hi" and move on with a smile... Like a great abyss of time seperating people, they can see each other, but only so vaguely that all that comes back is a faint recognition. Saw some new ones too that were prettier than the old ones :) Well girls is one reason I should have gone into Biology in the first place ;)

Apart from that the place pretty much remains the same. Like what it was when I went there for the first time with Madsy. Just a little more crowded...