An issue that needs everyone’s attention.

Back in the year 1998, I was a 10th grade student and I had a routine following every morning. Get ready by 8 am, pop in some upma or an idli for breakfast, not to forget the calcium needed – a large glass of milk. Rush to school with those heavy backpacks which contained the whole year’s syllabus. Getting into the crowded city bus with the bags that weighed close to quarter ton - of course with some struggle. Ensure to keep the uniform still in its clean and pressed status. Making sure the polished shoes did not get dirty. Then the straight 7 hours of interesting and boring lectures. (You definitely have this mix wherever you study). At the end of the day, cross the hurdles again to get back home the same way as in the morning.

While heading back from school one fine evening it was late and I could not wait for a city bus. So I got into an auto to reach home in time. It was the first time I traveled in the auto alone. You can imagine my state of mind, a young girl taking an auto ride at 6 in the evening. I tried hard not to think of anything evil or bad but damn this human instinct, every breath I took was shaky and every tick of my watch was a hammering on my head.

Why should one be so scared to travel in the auto rickshaw? This is nothing new to any commuter in big cities of India. It has been a massive problem from over a decade now, but do we see real action in place? There are a few initiatives taken on this account but it really does not bother the rikshawalas who fall into the category of problem creators.

I would like to narrate a few instances which have inspired me to write this article.

I was with my sister in the heart of the city. We were totally tired walking up and down the roads with heavy traffic, so we decided to hire a rickshaw to commute a short distance that would not cost more than a minimum fare (Then the min fare was 7 rupees). We were glad that the driver agreed to take us to the asked destination, but the surprise came by when I saw the meter showing a good 35 rupees when we reached. My sister and me we engrossed in a conversation and did not pay attention to the meter jump. When questioned, the driver started shouting in an abusive language. After a 10 min heated argument, finally we had to give up as we did not have any proof of the distance covered. (It was barely a 2 km stretch that we traveled but ended up paying 35 Rupees). – Day time robbery.

Next experience with the rude driver: On a rainy Sunday afternoon it was difficult for me to get back home after a relaxing movie in one of the famous multiplex in the city. So I decided to take an auto back home. I fairly had an idea of the fare as I had traveled the same route a few days before. But when I asked the driver right in front of the Mall I was shocked to hear the rate he asked for the trip, a decent 200 rupees where it just costs a little over hundred. I gave a blank look at him and immediately his reaction was to start a lecture about the IT professionals who earn so much but think 10 times to pay the rickshaw fellows…. Blah blah blah… he continued. To my luck I carried my umbrella that day. I walked a distance of about a kilometer and hired another auto who charged me just what the meter display showed. – Fooling the knowns.
My uncle and aunt once came to our city to visit us during their vacation time. Also with them came their 4 year old daughter Trisha. Since it was their first visit they did not know the route and also did not know the distance between the city bus stand and our house. The driver had asked them that he would charge a double on the meter as it was the wee hours in the morning. My uncle had accepted it as it was under the policy.But the driver had a clue that this couple was visiting this place for the first time from the conversation between Trisha and aunty. He took advantage of this situation and you would not believe that the trip cost them nearly 300 rupees where the normal fare is not more than 45 rupees.( Even with double rate it should not cost over 90 rupees. I wonder whether he took them for a real ride in the early morning.) – Taking undue advantage of the innocent.
It’s not only me who has faced issues with such irritating auto drivers but a lot of my friends and relatives have much more instances to iterate.

When I stop an auto driver and ask a trip to “XYZ” location he either does not stop or he claims a ransom amount which is way above the normal fare. Most of the times I wait for about 20 min to get an auto to my destination, meantime not less than 10 rikshawalas would have declined to take me to where I need to go. Have you faced a similar problem? I am sure you would have at one time or the other.

There are a few exceptional drivers who do not belong to this group. They make you reach your destination in a comfortable way. But the tagline for auto drivers does remain branded with the corrupt ones alone.

Its better we start revolting against these corrupt drivers in a silent way. Stop using rickshaw if you have the energy and time to take the bus. It would be the best way to retaliate against them. This way you also contribute a little towards environment saving.

- I pledge to use auto rickshaw only when it is required.
Ashwini Nagaraja

Technology growth!

What’s new? A techno geek walked into XYZ shop and asked the attendant – Hello what’s new today? This is a common scene one can observe in most of the outlets growing in various parts of the cities also expanding the horizon slowly into the rural parts.

Technology is growing every day, new discoveries and inventions making a strong mark in every field of life. Today it’s so easy to talk to your dear ones who are miles away in a part of the different world by just dialing a few numbers. Ordering your favorite Pizza’s and getting it delivered to your home is just a few clicks on your computer screen. Life is getting to such a level where everything seems automated and the most admiring fact is that you can still be grounded at one station.

Today’s world has products ranging a wide spectrum that is cutting time and energy on most of your daily routine activities , be it your morning brushing using the battery operated brush or your bedroom mosquito repellent that is switched on at night. Life gets adapted quickly to each of these new products in the market which makes everything seem easy going. The question one needs to answer at this point is - are we becoming slaves to these technical products with days passing by?

From my point of view – Yes we are! The machines are gaining an advantage over human intelligence. With the advent of artificial intelligence, robotics and in the world of today where scientific advancement has reached its maximum level, anything is possible to happen. Anything means really anything!

There are developments in various fields of technology - advancement in medicine and hospital support, advancement in communication, advancement in agriculture, advancement in infrastructure and what not. It’s a never ending list. We can term it the “Technical Volcano”.

As a child I would wonder how those live pictures get captured into a frame and could be revisited whenever required later – yes I am talking about the photos and videos. But now if you see the advancement photography has reached to, I am surprised even more. A decade ago could you ever believe that a day would come when the camera could automatically capture a picture when it detects your smile? It is possible! Thanks to the technology having opened up its arena in the direction of “Digital” mode. It’s so easy and handy for everyone to operate the digital devices available in the market. I feel proud when my granny takes a perfect picture with an easy click, when my mom and dad are able to operate the high end gadgets.

The thought of cooking in India in the olden days reminds me of the kitchen filled with the spicy aroma, where women involved in the preparation of the delicious items using those different hand operated mixers and grinders (made of stones usually). This is not something that has completely vanished but still it’s not a scene in most of the cities anymore. Thanks to the invent of electricity and the present day power operated mixers, choppers, processors and microwave oven – cooking is so easy but not as delicious as olden days. Ask an old aunt of yours to taste something you’ve cooked with the same ingredients as they did in their old kitchen, you’ll get to know!

There were days not so far ago when you had to stand for long hours in the queue to withdraw cash from your bank account. Now with the ATM’s cropping up all over, withdrawing cash can’t get any easier.

A recent visit to the grocery store kept me amazed when I saw square watermelons and baby carrots. Agriculture is not in the loosing game either. Various techniques to improve the growth of the harvest have been considered to obtain quality vegetables/fruits. Tomorrow if there is an article on red mangoes and green oranges I don’t think one would be surprised.

Science and technology growth has helped in various other aspects of life. The geo satellites which transfers the data about changes happening on earth and the anticipation of any danger or calamity is a gift to mankind I would say.

I’ve tried to pull in this short article some of the great deals of life that has been made so easy using advanced technology. This is a highly debatable topic and there are a lot here confused at this point of time deciding whether to use any automated devices that make life easy or whether to go back and lead a primitive life. I would like to make a valid point at this junction of my writing to clear the thoughts of all those who are reading this through – Use machines and its advantages when necessary and when not please avoid them.

Finally another machine is helping me wind up this article! Ironical isn’t it? But I am grateful to the advantages it provides me with.
Happy to be a part of this world filled with technology!
Ashwini Nagaraja

Can I live it once more?

Gone are those lovely schooldays. Wonder if I can live it once more.

It wasn’t very long ago. Memories are fresh, lingering around my mind. There are a lot of things I will never forget in my life. It may sound a little funny as I go on; you are welcome to have a hearty laugh. There is no objection at all.

A cozy bed making you sleep as long as you want, but there comes the Hitler of your home (Mom) shouting and giving an order “It’s time baby .Wake up!”

I am damn sure; no one cares for this wake up call. There is an alarm ringing every 5 minutes. Hmmm right! Snoozed and snoozed and snoozed. Then there is this final call from your Mom, if you don’t wake up you know you will be late. Suddenly you get up and rush to get ready. Those neatly pressed uniforms, clean and polished shoes, neatly cut nails, oiled and combed hair. I remember those funny pony tails for girls and those joker shorts for boys. Sharp at 8 in the morning breakfast is ready on the table. The schoolbags are packed with books arranged as per the timetable. Finally all set to leave for a big day ahead.

Those cranky benches, wounded blackboards are part and parcel of everyone’s life. We run into the classroom, drop the bags at the designated desks, and move to the prayer hall for the start of the day in school. “Oh my God...... I begin my day….” - The prayer in chorus and the tune that gets on so well ends with a patriotic “Jai hind”. Automatically makes you bow a salute to mother nation. Isn’t it? With this monotonous morning event coming to an end we are still not finished, we have the newsreader of the day step up the stage to read a few shocking headlines from the “TOI- Times of India”. [A part of the newspaper in education (NIE) workshop].

Getting an awareness of what’s happening around the world, though not able to understand everything that was read out to the assembly (students group in the prayer hall is addressed as an assembly – a school term) we move back to the respective class rooms. There’s a monitor in the class making a note of all those involved in mischievous acts, making noise or playing any pranks. I would be on the top of this list.

It was a boring history class and the teacher walks in. She was tough lady with an attitude who never tolerated any indiscipline in the class. A classmate of mine played a silly old prank on her for fun (Threw a hand made paper rocket to the black board when she was pointing at the Chola Dynasty reigns) and guess what happened - he was standing outside the class for the whole of that lecture.

There are multiple such instances we can remember and cherish, Home work not completed - get a thrash, nails not cut - a scale on the knuckle. (It brings a chuckle now when I see my long, shaped and well groomed nails.) White shoes almost looked brown – no polish – run 5 rounds in the ground – a neat 2 kilometer exercise. (No wonder I am a good athlete and have great stamina, Thanks to my brown shoes.)

Lunch hours were another sit together event where the boxes were emptied in minutes and it was time for some gossip. Do you believe - the guys enjoyed this bit so much until they grew up? (Laughter for sure I know.)

The Physical training period was one leisure hour which turned all our stress into sweat. I owe so much to those sunny afternoon PT periods for my great complexion (Sarcasm indeed!)

Those annual day preparations every year - can never forget getting dressed like a film hero or heroine, dancing to the famous numbers of the year, singing in ones own Raaga, Taala and Shruti. Becoming a tree or a vegetable – ultimately making a fool of one ’s self – yet being so proud to have been appeared on stage . I don’t regret any of those moments as they are the stepping stones of whatever I am today.

At the end of a tiring day with over 6 hours of continuous listening its time to get back home. Evenings snacks and get to play outdoors obviously after you are done with homework. (I don’t see much of this now). Getting dark, its time to get back home. There were times when my mom came in search of me as I never returned from the neighboring playground. Now you get it right -- it was really difficult to get up early in the morning after such a long and tiring day. Still I enjoy the whole stuff of being a school kid. Can I live it once more? I would love to.

No matter how old you grow, keep your mind at age 10!
(Secret of being young at even 80)
Ashwini Nagaraja

Precious 20 days ….

You have crazy drivers here but none can beat one from India” – Stacy a tough lady in her mid forties made this comment as one speeding car passed us.

We were seated on a bench waiting for a bus on a mid summer afternoon in Seattle, US. I acknowledged “That’s true.” She picked up the conversation and went on about her experience in the early 90’s. She was in Chennai in 1994 for a span of 20 good days on a business trip. Peter, Rebecca and Frank accompanied her. This is how she describes her experience. As I landed in the Chennai airport I could feel the heat from everywhere. It was pricking me. I hoped not to turn into a boiling chicken by the time I check into the hotel booked for a group of four who flew down all the way from Kansas city to this well known city in India - Chennai, the then Madras.

The fun had just begun. People stared at us as if we were directly out from an animal park or probably we were the missing clowns from the famous Jumbo Circus running in the city. I could not concentrate much of this as my body temperature was rising with the humid climate. Rebecca, my fellow colleague was looking at the handborads to see if any name sounds familiar. But she was finding it difficult to read the names out there. I remember one of those names with great difficulty Vijayakrishnan Balachandran T .Oh my God! I wonder how difficult it should be to remember the names of its kind. Isn’t it easy to have Jim, Tim, and Pat around rather?

When we were almost lost, there was a sign of relief - finally a short dark guy with a huge mustache shaped in a funny way, dressed in a white coat ,white trousers and a white hat on his head , approached the group silently and said “Madam, (pause) Sir, I will take you alllllll to hotel. (Deliberately stressed the word “all” to get the accent right, the way Stacy put it) I am Kesavan”. Only thing that kept me still refreshed was that there would be an air conditioner in the hotel room. “I am dying”, I cried. Frank added “Is this where I am going to work for the next 20 days of my precious life” Chorus came in “NOooooooooo!” But there was no go.

Finally we got into the cab (Stacy said it looked like an old big pumpkin – probably she was referring to an ambassador car the only famous ones then for the cabs). The first ever experience on the Indian road. My goodness! Am glad that I’m still alive today. That took the death out of me. I still get a cold shiver down my spine when I think of that incident. We just hoped to reach safely without hurting any fellow passenger on the way.

And here we stood at the entrance of the Challenger Inn hotel in some Kum…kkaam. (She could not recollect that place and I doubt the Hotel exists).

Rebecca and I walked towards the reception and there was a young lady standing next to an antique wall clock as if eagerly waiting to greet us a welcome. She smiled for everything possible and I too faked a smile back. Soon we were done with the paper formalities and checked in, yes I finally found the air conditioner; much to my relief .It is the best possible invention to mankind.

Jet Lag! And you know I did not get proper sleep. I was missing my home sweet home already. Next day I was up early and was heading towards the block where I was supposed to work. It took clean 10 minutes when I finally was able to make it to the other side of the street. As I approached the building entrance I was welcomed by the group with which I was working for the past 2 years from Kansas. Names were familiar but faces were new. It was a memory game for the initial two days. I was calling Nalini, but found wrong face turning to me. She was Nandini, I got mixed up. That’s how it is right? You know it better. The team enjoyed my company as much as I did. The mornings and afternoons I spent my time in office and almost everyday I visited Indian restaurants. I like my dinner light. So idly was my favorite supper menu. They planned for an outing a day before our departure. It was a visit to the seashore – the famous beach down then, not sure if it is still so. I was completely excited. I asked Rebecca, Peter and Frank to join us and they were glad to. We had to take cab as it was a cool 30 minute drive from our office. This time I enjoyed the drive. It was Kesavan again trying to be more skilful in his driving . It was much better than the expensive rides of Universal studios or any theme parks, more exciting and thrilling than the X scream or the Insanity ride on the Stratosphere tower in Vegas. I could feel the cool breeze and there we were at the beach. Kesavan dropped us at the entrance to a quarter mile pathway that was supposed to be walked to reach the shore. There were stalls on both sides of the pathway and we stopped at most of them. We liked the ear rings that were so delicately crafted and took away my attention. The ancient Japanese fan with wonderful paintings on it was attractive. Of course Peter and Frank still recalls the taste of the crab masala they had in one of the food outlets there as Rebecca and I were busy shopping. Nalini forced all the four of us to have an amusing evening snack that’s famous in India - a plate of Bhel puri. I liked it as it was customized to be bland enough for my taste glands to accept. I wonder how people eat so much of spice at a go. (There was a chuckle).

It was indeed a beautiful calm evening when the Sun kissed the darling Earth to bid a good bye for that wonderful day and whispered to her that he is going to come back soon with another morning of new life and excitement. Moonlight and the low music of drums from a tribal band on the shore made it perfect for the night. We saw them dance to the tunes and of all the things in the evening I loved the stall which carved our names on the sea shells. I remember the whole episode everytime I see my name “Stacy” on that beautiful Shell safely preserved on my drawing shelf.

As she said this we heard a screeching sound of a bus. It came to a sudden halt in front of us. Both Stacy and I smiled and walked our ways. I admired her narration and that is why I pen it down here for you all to enjoy!

Life is exciting; you need to adventure a little!
- Ashwini Nagaraja

A typical IT experience!

A newbie fresh out of College is happy to be placed in a reputed firm. Family and relatives are happy on this achievement. This fresh face enters the heaven (then) which will be paying out the defined salary on the last day of the month. Yes this is definitely going to be lot more than the pocket money he/she got in college. The smile on an employee face is self-explanatory for his/her status in the company - Fresher.

Introduction, orientation, meeting colleagues, paperwork and the trainings are marked on his/her calendar for the initial few days to make him/her familiar with the work culture. He/she finds friends who have similar interests. Everything seems to be colorful and joyful. The lunch breaks are more than an hour. It isn’t easy to get rid of the bunking habitJ. Enjoyment is the only thing on their minds and that is what they will be surrounded with. How long?? Soon the Fresher tag goes away. He/she becomes a part of the industry.

Though one has fun filled days in the initial months of joining any company, slowly this phase (known as the honeymoon period in IT terms) fades and the routine sets in. True colors appear. Monotonous days, nothing seems to be happening around you except that you see an elderly man in his forties or fifties, THE MANAGER gazing at his monitor, the inbox is open which has a thousand unread emails stacked up. I wonder if they are able to read them all in a day. Hats off to them if they do. On the other end of the room there is a software developer who is scrolling down his code multiple times to locate the root cause of the issue assigned to him. There is another guy screaming at his pager” Oh no not again. I finished with one production issue just now. This is disgusting, I need to have my breakfast.” Also in the same room there is a testing team struggling to test a requirement but the database is down. A HIGH severity defect is raised. This is the usual morning scene in any software company.

In the cubicle next to you sits a girl who spends most of the time talking to someone on her cell phone so softly as if she is whispering into the mouthpiece. There are many colleagues and friends of mine who have asked this one question several times for which I have no answer till today. “What do girls talk about for hours and for god’s sake why on the phone?” I say bluntly “Do they really need a topic. No not necessarily “. But what do we girls talk. I am not that fond of talking for long hours. So am out of this branded tag. There are exceptions on all statements people make you see. Of course!

By the time everybody settles in for the day it’s almost noon and that’s the perfect time for a team discussion. This is just another chance for the team members to get away from work. A face always filled with ??Questions?? walks into the chamber. Mostly the leads are a he not a she, so I shall start addressing the team lead as a he. No offence to fellow colleagues! He then starts with percentages, dates of completion, RTM, Designs, template, artifacts … the list never ends. From day one this is Bullshit to me as No one follows process the way it has to be. I understand the scenario completely. It is not as easy as it appears to be! Final tag line the lead makes before leaving the chamber “The Audit is scheduled for …..” Am sure no one from the team ever hears the complete sentence he makes.

When you walk by the coffee pantry (I call it the Gossip center) you get to see a group hanging around to discuss many things from politics to fashion, X generation to robotics, Mainframe to Dot net and what not. A lot of talking happens over a coffee. I steal the tag line here from the favorite coffee shop in town - CCD (Café coffee Day).

Its time for lunch and the stomach bell starts ringing when clock strikes one. The cafeteria is the next hang on place. The non-localites have no option but to eat the food that tastes the same everyday. Even with all the hating they stuff in the same thing unless they find a better place which serves good food.

A lot of these techies spend their Quality time post lunch to resolve the issues on hand, develop new stuff, and enhance the existing functionality, creating document for recording the details etc. The seniors with expertise come in for rescue when a situation goes out of control or when there is an issue that needs immediate attention. That is how one learns the criticality of the problem and modules they are working on.

It is almost the end of the day, when creeps in silently the need for status updates with the counterparts who sits thousands of miles away. I forgot to completely mention about one important gift in any company – Instant messaging. Yes the means of communication between anyone in the company is possible through this technology. No wonder how all of them in the floor appear to be busy the entire day. However in its real usage, a message comes in at the time you are about to pack your bags and leave. It typically starts with:
Abcdef: Hello Good morning.How many ever times we correct them that “it’s good evening here “there are a few of those who don’t get this right even the next day.
Reply goes back:
Xyz: hiAnd the conversation continues … If needed there will be a meeting arranged to clarify the doubts and to get things flow in the right direction, the way it has to be.
Abcdef: Thank you for sparing a few extra minutes on this. Good night.
Xyz: thanks
Conversation ends:

The tired employee finally leaves his desk and moves towards the door only hoping for a better tomorrow. As I have said there is always an exception to this scenario and I would really be happy if there is a better one.
- An experience really counts!Ashwini Nagaraja



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