Monday, November 18, 2013

Line of Fire

Request : The story may seem to be long for some. Please read through till the end.

Vivek Pradhan was not a happy man. Even the plush comfort of the air-conditioned compartment of the Shatabdi express could not cool his frayed nerves. He was the Project Manager and still not entitled to air travel.
It was not the prestige he sought, he had tried to reason with the admin person, it was the savings in time. As PM, he had so many things to do. He opened his case and took out the laptop, determined to put the time to some good use.

"Are you from the software industry sir," the man beside him was staring appreciatively at the laptop.

Vivek glanced briefly and mumbled in affirmation.

"You people have brought so much advancement to the country sir. Today everything is getting computerized."

"Thanks," smiled Vivek, turning around to give the man a look.

The man was young and stocky like a sportsman. He probably was a railway sportsman making the most of his free traveling pass.

"You people always amaze me," the man continued, "You sit in an office and write something on a computer and it does so many big things."

Vivek smiled sarcastically. "It is not as simple as writing a few lines.

"For a moment, he was tempted to explain the entire Software Development Lifecycle but restrained himself to a single statement. “It is complex, very complex."

"It has to be. No wonder you people are so highly paid," came the reply.

This was not turning out as Vivek had thought. A hint of belligerence came into his so far affable, persuasive tone.

"Everyone just sees the money. No one sees the amount of hard work we have to put in. Indians have such a narrow concept of hard work. Just because we sit in an air-conditioned office does not mean our brows do not sweat. You exercise the muscle; we exercise the mind and believe me that is no less taxing."

He had the man where he wanted him and it was time to drive home the point.

"Let me give you an example. Take this train. The entire railway reservation system is computerized. You can book a train ticket between any two stations from any of the hundreds of computerized booking centers across the country. Thousands of transactions accessing a single database, at a time concurrency; data integrity, locking, data security. Do you understand the complexity in designing and coding such a system?"

The man was stuck with amazement, like a child at a planetarium. This was something big and beyond his imagination. "You design and code such things."

"I used to," Vivek paused for effect, "But now I am the Project Manager,"

"Oh!" sighed the man, as if the storm had passed over, "so your life is easy now."

It was like being told the fire was better than the frying pan. The man had to be given a feel of the heat.

"Oh come on, does life ever get easy as you go up the ladder.

Responsibility only brings more work. Design and coding! That is the easier part. Now I do not do it, but I am responsible for it and believe me, that is far more stressful. My job is to get the work done in time and with the highest quality. To tell you about the pressures, there is the customer at one end always changing his requirements, the user wanting something else and your boss always expecting you to have finished it yesterday."

Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading with self- realisation. What he had said, was not merely the outburst of a wronged man, it was the truth. And one need not get angry while defending the truth. "My friend," he concluded triumphantly, "you don't know what it is to be in the line of fire."

The man sat back in his chair, his eyes closed as if in realization. When he spoke after sometime, it was with a calm certainty that surprised Vivek.

"I know sir, I know what it is to be in the line of fire," He was staring blankly as if no passenger, no train existed, just a vast expanse of time.

"There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture Point 4875 in the cover of the night. The enemy was firing from the top. There was no knowing where the next bullet was going to come from and for whom. In the morning when we finally hoisted the tricolour at the top only 4 of us were alive."

"You are a..."

"I am Subedar Sushant from the 13 J&K Rifles on duty at Peak 4875 in Kargil. They tell me I have completed my term and can opt for a land assignment. But tell me sir, can one give up duty just because it makes life easier. On the dawn of that capture, one of my colleagues lay injured in the snow, open to enemy fire while we were hiding behind a bunker. It was my job to go and fetch that soldier to safety."

"But my captain refused me permission and went ahead himself. He said that the first pledge he had taken as a Gentleman Cadet was to put the safety and welfare of the nation foremost followed by the safety and welfare of the men he commanded."

"His own personal safety came last, always and every time. He was killed as he shielded that soldier into the bunker. Every morning now, as I stand guard I can see him taking all those bullets, which were actually meant for me. I know sir, I know what it is to be in the line of fire."

Vivek looked at him in disbelief not sure of his reply. Abruptly he switched off the laptop. It seemed trivial, even insulting to edit a word document in the presence of a man for whom valour and duty was a daily part of life; a valour and sense of duty which he had so far attributed only to epical heroes.

The train slowed down as it pulled into the station and Subedar Sushant picked up his bags to alight.

"It was nice meeting you sir."

Vivek fumbled with the handshake. This hand had climbed mountains, pressed the trigger, and hoisted the tricolour.
Suddenly as if by impulse, he stood at attention and his right hand went up in an impromptu salute. It was the least he felt he could do for the country.

PS: The incident he narrates during the capture of Peak 4875 is a true-life incident during the Kargil war. Capt. Batra sacrificed his life while trying to save one of the men he commanded, as victory was within sight. For this and his various other acts of bravery he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra the nation's highest military award.

Live humbly, there are great people around us.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

End of the Day

Once upon a time there lived in a Forest, a learned Guru along with his disciples.

One day the Guru began his class by holding a Stone in his hands and keeping it just above the ground.

He held it up for all his Disciples to see & asked...“How much do you think this stone would weigh?”
Disciples: '50g!'.... '100g!'..... '125g' …..

Guru: Is it difficult to lift this stone
Disciples: No……(giggling)….

Guru: What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?
The Disciples: Nothing….

Guru: Ok what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?
The Disciples: Your arm would begin to ache' said one of the Disciples.

Guru: You're right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?
The Disciples: Your arm could go numb…you might have severe muscle stress & even paralyze it!

Guru: Very good, But during all this, did the weight of the stone change?
The Disciples: No…..

Guru: Then what caused the arm ache & the muscle stress?
The Disciples were puzzled.

Guru: What should I do now to come out of pain?
The Disciples: Put the stone down!

“Exactly!” the Guru smiled and continued…

Life's problems are something like this.
Hold it for a few minutes in your head & they seem OK.
Think of them for a long time & they begin to ache.
Hold it even longer & they begin to paralyze you.

It's important to think of the challenges or problems in your life,
but it is even more important  to ‘PUT THEM DOWN’ and not carry them to your bed...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Domain Knowledge

One day Ravi came home from office completely exhausted after the days work. He removed his shoes, placed his kit on the stand and threw himself on the couch. His daughter who had just turned 2 years was playing with her TOY KITCHEN SET. Seeing her father’s condition, she came over to him and helped him remove his socks. Ravi’s mother had died just two days before his daughter’s birth. So he was moved by his daughter’s gesture and visualized his mother in her.

Sometime later the kid came and offered some “TEA” (just water) which she had prepared with her TOY KITCHEN SET.

Ravi had no words and his eyes watered automatically. He drank the TEA and thanked his daughter for it.

The Child became happy and ran back to her TOY KITCHEN and brought him one more cup of TEA.

Ravi drank it again and said it was it was delicious….

The Child ran back and brought him another cup of TEA.

This time Ravi drank it, hugged and kissed her and appreciated the aroma….

This went on and on, till Joe (Ravi’s wife) stepped in with the real cup of Tea that she had prepared for Ravi.

Ravi annoyed yet very proudly told Joe, "This is the way you take care of me. My daughter has already given me 20 cups of TEA in the time you have taken to prepare one”.

Joe was perplexed. She called her daughter and asked her if she could bring one cup of tea for her too…

The Child was extremely happy on hearing this….

She ran back to her TOY KITCHEN, took a toy cup and kept moving….

Joe grabbed Ravi’s hand and secretly followed the child into the house.

The child went to the toilet, opened the closet and made a cup of “TEA”, but this time for her MOM.

Joe told Ravi…. I knew that the only place where the child could reach for water is the closet.

Epilogue :  Domain Knowledge is important.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Task

A man was sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and God appeared. 

The Lord told the man that he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. 

So, this the man did, day after day. 

For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Since the man was showing discouragement, the Adversary(Satan)  decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind.

Satan said, "You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn't moved."

It gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. 
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. 

Seeing this it again said, "Why Kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough." 

That's what the weary man planned to do, but then he decided to make it a Matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

"Lord," he said, "I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?

The Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was only to push.And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. 
But, is that really so? Look at yourself....

Your arms are strong and muscled, 
your back sinewy and Brown; 
your hands are callused from constant pressure, 
your legs have become massive and hard. 

Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have.

True, you haven't moved the rock. 

But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. And that you have done. 

Now I, my friend, will move the rock for you.

At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants, when actually what God wants is just a simple obedience and faith in Him. 

By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God who moves the mountains. 

When everything seems to go wrong ................................ just P.U.S.H !
When the job gets you down ...............................................just P.U.S.H !
When people don't react the way you think they should....just P.U.S.H !
When your money is "gone" and the bills are due.............just P.U.S.H !
When people just don't understand you ............................ just P.U.S.H !

Epilogue : Activity is more important than the result. Most of the strategies fail for two reasons, one is failure to implement and second is misconception of the strategy. Act without question and give your feedback once the activity is over - That's how strategies become more effective.