Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ant & Grasshopper

I was on vacation and had gone to Delhi to meet my fiance - Esha (remember that I got engaged a few weeks back?). It was simply beautiful spending time with her. Once I came back to office today, I had this huge pile of emails that I had to read (and in some cases, respond to them). While digging through the pile, I stumbled upon this email from one of my colleagues. The Subject line was "Ant & Grasshopper". I thought it would be some silly old story. But still, I went ahead and opened it. The first few lines were pretty standard (and boring because I have read it so many times). But as I read on, it became pretty interesting. I thought its worth posting it here.

So here you go... Read it and let me know what you think about it

Ant & Grasshopper

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.
Come winter,the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

Modern Version

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The Grasshopper thinks the Ant's a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.
Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.
NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.
The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?
Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the Ant's house.
Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter.
Amnesty International and Koffi Annan criticizes the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper.
The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance).
Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for "Bharat Bandh" in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry.
CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers.
Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named as the 'Grasshopper Rath'.
Finally, the Judicial Committee drafts the ' Prevention of Terrorism Against Grasshoppers Act' [POTAGA], with effect from the beginning of the winter.
Arjun Singh
makes ' Special Reservation ' for Grasshoppers in Educational Institutions & in Government Services.
The Ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes,it's home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV.
Arundhati Roy calls it 'A Triumph of Justice'.
Lalu calls it ' Socialistic Justice '.
CPM calls it the ' Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden '
Koffi Annan invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly.
Many years later...
The Ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi-billion dollar company in Silicon Valley .
100s of Grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere in India...
As a result of loosing lot of hard working Ants and feeding the Grasshoppers, India is still a developing country !!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sir I am calling from ABN Amro Bank

I get 2 calls per day from ABN Amro Bank (without fail). It’s been a while that I have been getting these calls. I was sick and tired of getting calls. So… I went to the ABN Amro website, and entered my name in their DO NOT CALL registry and I was told that they will take care of it.

It’s been a month that I did it. But I still get calls from ABN Amro. From the same number, different people calling. Today, I ran out of patience and had an argument with the CSR. Here is the conversation:-

(Smart) Caller: Sir.. this is (someone) calling from ABN Amro Bank.

(Poor) Me: How many times do I have to tell you that I am not interested in your credit card? I get 2 calls every day and I say the same thing every time. Does that not make sense to you?

(Smart) Caller: Sir. I am sorry sir. Bye sir…

(Poor) Me: No… wait… I need to get this cleared out today… I have even registered on your Do Not Call registry. What else do I have to do in order to avoid calls from your bank?

(Smart) Caller: Sir… you cannot do anything sir… you will get calls… just say that you are not interested.

(Poor… and surprised) Me: What? That’s ridiculous. What do you mean? Are you punishing me for having a cell-phone? This does not make any sense to me… From where do you get these numbers?

(Smart) Caller: My manager Sir.

(Poor) Me: I want to talk to your manager. Transfer the call to him.

(Smart) Caller: No Sir… he is not available here right now.

(Now aggressive) Me: Okay. Let me talk to his manager then.

(Smart) Caller: No Sir… even he is not available.

(Puzzled) Me: What the heck is this... Is there anyone who is superior to you that I can talk to?

(Smart) Caller: No Sir… right now no one is available sir.

(Now going insane) Me: Okay, give me your manager’s number. I’ll call him on his mobile.

(Smart) Caller: No Sir.. I don’t have his number Sir.

(Again puzzled) Me: What do you mean you don’t have his number? You have the entire world’s number by not your manager’s. Don’t lie to me.

(Smart) Caller: No Sir. I don’t have his number. How will I have his number Sir.

(Totally aghast) Me: Look…. I don’t know what your process is. This is completely insane. I don’t want to get anymore calls from your bank. Please mark me in your database and tag it with “this guy does not want a credit card”.

(Smart) Caller: Ok Sir

[Hang Up]

30 minutes later… I get another call (only this time from a different number)…

(Another Smart) Caller: Sir.. this is (someone) calling from ABN Amro Bank.


You think I need to file a lawsuit or something?

BTW, you may have noticed that I have put different qualifiers to my expressions. But I have not changed anything for the caller. Do you know why… because… it was just me who had any change in expression (tone I mean). The telesales caller was the same… in every sentence.

Visiting Devnar Foundation

Last Saturday, October 13th, myself and Sudhakar visited the school being run by Devnar foundation. It was amazing to know the kind of things that the students have achieved even when they have one of their critical sense organ not functioning properly. Not to mention other limitations such as scarcity of resources and non-acceptance from the mainstream society.

Most of the students are on vacation but still we got a chance to meet two of them – “Rajshekhar” and “Deekshit”. Rajshekhar is doing Chartered Accountancy. He is the first blind person to have cleared the entrance exam and now he is preparing for the mains. Deekshit has just cleared his 10th and is not studying in a reputed college. He is studying science and aspires to be an engineer. The principal of the school later told me that many of the students are preparing for IITs. Some of them have got admission in prestigious engineering colleges across the state and most of them are securing first ranks in their respective colleges.

Rajshekhar and Deekshit took us around to show their school. When we entered the laboratory, I was amazed to see several scientific models made up of clay, wires and other day-to-day household items. Rajshekhar told us that their Egbert sir had made all those models for them to touch and understand (Egbert sir is a 76 year old man committed to the cause). Rajshekhar also explained to us one of the clay models depicting the flow of blood (and the purification system in the heart). And he was just fabulous. Later he proudly told us that he got appreciations from the Govt. of Andhra Pradesh when he had explained the same model to him during a science exhibition. Next up was the printing press. They showed us the Braille printers that could automatically translate English characters to Braille and then print them. They also told us that the foundation prints Braille books and provides them for free to all the schools in the state. Next thing that we saw was the computer room. The school teaches computers to the students after 5th class onwards. The students use some special software that converts text into speech and they can listen to the messages, text etc. They use the same kind of keyboard that we use (They don’t have special Braille keyboards).

I am in discussion with the school and some of my friends from Microsoft here in Hyderabad and we are trying to find out ways to get engaged with the foundation and help them. Meanwhile, for those who are unable to contribute directly by being present, here are a few things that you could do.


  • Meals - one time:
    • Vegetarian: Rs. 3000/-
    • Non-Vegetarian: Rs. 4000/-
  • Breakfast: Rs. 1800/-
  • A sum of Rs. 50,000/- can be deposited as FD. The interest accrued will be utilized for meals on any day of your choice during the academic year
  • Snacks: Rs. 1800/-
  • Sponsor a child's education - Rs. 6000/- per annum
  • A sum of Rs. 1,00,000/- can be deposited as FD. the interest accrued will be utilized on permanent basis
  • Sponsor a teacher's salary - approx Rs. 4000/- per month
  • Sponsor a student's uniform (two pairs of dress, shoes, socks, tie and belt) - Rs. 1500/-
  • Provisions (monthly requirement of the school) - These can be donated in full or part
    • Rice -1500 Kgs
    • Dal - 150 Kgs
    • Oil - 45 ltrs
    • Sugar - 45 Kgs
    • Wheat Rawa - 100 Kgs
    • Idly Rawa - 100 Kgs
    • Urad Dal - 50 Kgs

Other ways

  • Work as a volunteer teacher to teach the students
  • Arrange for computers for the students
  • Arrange for Talking dictionaries (these softwares are costly and not easily available in India)
  • Arrange for voice enabled scientific calculators (the school has a few... but they need more of these)
  • Voice recorders with large memory - the students who go to higher classes need to record their lectures so that they can revise things later.
  • Scanners and OCR software with higher accuracy

And most of all, they need our moral support.

NOTE: All donations to Devnar foundation are exempted from Income Tax (in India). Contributions should be made in favor of "DEVNAR FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND"

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Let there be light

Today is a very special day for me. As you may have guessed from some of my previous posts, I am a person who is easily moved with emotions. Today, something happened that ripped my heart apart. This would definitely bring a major change in my life. Or at least the way I look at things.

Microsoft as an organization has been committed to give something back to the society so as to empower the weaker sections to come up and help them shape the future of mankind. As a part of this, we have something called as "Giving Campaign" through which employees can contribute money, time towards this noble cause.

Today, we had people from India Literacy Program who had come to the campus. We could buy things from them (adding our contributions to the base price) and that would help empower the mission. I bought a T-Shirt with a small little contribution towards the fund.

This had again brought me into the "social" mood and I kept thinking about various things that we could do to help such initiatives. In the evening, we had kids from "Devnar Foundation for the Blind" visiting the campus. They were here to show us some of their talents. They were singing, dancing (group dances with amazing synchronization), playing musical instruments. It was an eye opener. And after watching them all, I hate myself for having thought of these bright kids as disabled. They are not disabled. We are. We do not see all the amazing capabilities they have.

There were a few very touching moments. One of the kids was asked what would he want to be when he grows up and he said "I want to become the President of India. We don't need your money. We don't need your sympathy. All we want is for you to share your knowledge with us. We can do everything that you can do. Just open your heart towards us". Have you ever imagined of a blind child having so much of confidence? Leave alone a blind kid, do we see this kind of confidence in ourselves? No. We are nowhere close to how courageous these kids are.

In closing speech, one of the kids (his name was Shrikanth) said, "I want to thank you all for spending your valuable time with us and for giving us a chance to perform in front of you. I know you have to work till late in night. Still you spent your time with us. That is very much encouraging for us. Maybe after 5 years, when I will be an employee of Microsoft, it would give me a lot of pleasure organizing such programs. I cannot describe in words how happy I would be to so. Have a nice day... or night". His last words struck me the most. I just don't know what to say for it. It was just very emotional.

I am moved with this and to start with, I have decided to spend 2 days every month with these kids and try to help them achieve what they want to. I will also sponsor a child's education through the foundation. The reason I am stating this here on my blog is that I know there are few people who read my blog. I want to use this as a channel to ask everyone to try and do their best to help these kids realize their potential. Please come forward. The world needs you.

If you wish to know more about Devnar Foundation, you can visit their website - http://www.devnarfoundationfortheblind.org/.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Things to Consider Before Getting Married - Dumb Little Man

Today, I got an invitation for lunch from a colleague of mine. The occasion is - She is getting married in December.

On the same email thread, another colleague of mine forwarded a link to a blogpost which I found particularly interesting. So I thought of sharing it with all the readers. Its something interesting (particularly for those who are going to get married soon)

Things to Consider Before Getting Married - Dumb Little Man

Friday, October 5, 2007

Its s(h)ame again

Yet another one-day match. Yet another triumph. And the result is the same - yet another defeat.

A few days back, I was actually thinking of going to the stadium to watch the match. Thankfully I decided otherwise. Yesterday my manager said he would be on vacation as he is going to watch the match. Jokingly I had said "I can't watch India loose on TV. Watching them loose in front of my eyes would hurt me even more. I am not going." But you know what... I didn't mean it. I really had hope from the team. Alas... nothing came out of it :(

Just like any other cricket fan in India, I am wondering

  • What has happened to the top order?
  • Why is Gautam Gambhir in the team? Why can't we replace him with Saurav or Dinesh Karthik?
  • so many other questions that I am unable to blurt out right now...

I know writing a blog post when you are upset is not a very good idea. But I can't stop it coming out of me.

Yeah... one good thing that I liked today was the way our bowlers performed during the mid-overs. Also it was pretty nice to see some of the middle-order batsmen doing a good job chasing the hefty target.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mahatma - from my perspective

As a youngster, I always hated Gandhi. For reasons that do not seem too obvious to me now. I just could not understand why someone would not support Subhash Chandra Bose when he was engaged in gun-battle with the British. Why would someone not retaliate when innocents were being jailed, tortured and even killed? These questions were coming from a child who could not understand the greatness of the principle of Non-Violence. At times, I would even go to the extent of endorse Nathuram Godse for killing the Mahatma.

I don’t exactly remember when this happened. I was talking to someone about Gandhiji and was exchanging heated arguments (to be true, it was just me who was arrogant). He then said something that struck my mind really hard. He said, “Take a plain white cloth and sprinkle a little bit of ink in the middle of it. Ask anyone to take a look at it and ask them what they see. They would say – ink spots. Hardly anyone looks at the white cloth but nobody fails to notice the ink spots”. “Gandhiji is a personality far beyond our analysis. We often ignore plethora of things he did for the country and keep our eyes fixed on some of his mistakes”. This thought kind of enlightened me. It was nothing miraculous or anything even close to being miraculous. But it gave me a different way of looking at things. Some people choose to call it as “Dimensional Thinking” or “perspective thinking”.

This incident forced me into reading more about Gandhiji and the history of those times. I read almost everything that was accessible to me at that point in time. Ranging from criticism, third party view, views of some of the British officers, praise etc.

Now I think, to some extent I understand what Gandhiji was and the difference he made to our society, our nation and to the entire world at large. While trying to understand a personality as great as Gandhiji, we must keep one thing in mind – Gandhiji was not GOD. He was a human being. And it is unfair if we expect a human being not to make any mistakes throughout his life. Everyone makes mistakes. We need to be wise enough to look at the larger picture and not confine our vision only the mistakes that he made (if I can take the liberty to say so).

As I write this today, I know and I understand that there are many (not just youngsters) who do not think Gandhian principles are applicable now. Today, on his 138th birthday, I am announcing a series of essays that I am going to write on my blogs about Gandhiji. This is an attempt to make people aware of what Gandhi was and how his principles can still change the way we carry on with our lives and how we can use them to make the world a better, safer place to live in.

Hindi version of this essay is available on my other blog.