Monday, May 28, 2018

On dealing with the 'personal effects'

Above all else, every parent must deal with the embarrassment of having their secrets unfold - after they're dead.

What is driving the automation epidemic?

Where automation is driven by humans

Last year, we let go of our part time cook. That was just 72,000 pa clean out of the GDP. Not a big amount by any standard. Last month, the maids took a month off to go vote in the state that thrives on illegal migrant voters.

The result: We bought a robotic vacuum cleaner and a dishwasher. When those maids return, they will find that their jobs now pay less because a part of their work has been taken up by the machines.

In both cases, what led to the automation was not a love for robots. It was, quite simply, the unprofessionalism of the human workers. Not their productivity, but their unprofessionalism. We only looked for options when it became impossible to continue with the human option.

I suspect something similar is happening in the manufacturing space too. The automation is a result of our inability to do things as they need to be done (at the very least). And perhaps, this is also the reason that there is so much algorithm driven trading, automated data analysis and other white collar jobs that are now automated and handed out to algos.

And where it is not
But there is one more area where automation and bots are taking over. The area of affection. And in this domain, I think we need to make an important distinction.
The reason that someone would replace automation for affection and s#$, imho, is simply this - an unrealistic need for compliance.

Biologically, we cannot exist alone. Yet, over the last few decades, we have almost made a religion of "individual self actualisation" - that a person must reach their pinnacle of self satisfaction. This self satisfaction must happen, even if it is at the cost of social isolation. We have forced infants to sleep alone without the warm snuggle of another human body (while entire tribes sleep in 'sleeping huts') - teaching their subconscious minds that it is every man for himself.

This then, leads to a situation where the individual finds it impossible to make the necessary bends required to sustain a relationship. Our need for compliance is so absolute that we have forgotten the fine art of "getting along".

A love poem

When you fall in love with me
It will not be
for my eyes (beautiful though they are)
or lips
or the shape of me.

When I fall in love with you
it will not be
for your kurta (though I dig them so)
or the shape of your jaw
or the shape of you.

When we fall in love
it will be
for reasons unknown
and never understood.

When it is over
That, too,
will be for reasons unknown
and never understood.

Some people,
they write
long, long love poems
God knows what all.
You and I
will be
a saga
of reasons unknown
and things never understood.

Sunday, May 27, 2018


जब कोई नहीं होता है पास
तब तुम्हारी याद बिलकुल नहीं आती.
जब किसी का साथ होता है
तब समझ आता है
कि तुम
कितनी ज़रूरी हो 

Friday, May 25, 2018


अरे तुम! इतने साल बाद!

हाँ. बड़े साल हो गए न! कैसी हो?

अच्छी. और तुम?

मैं भी ठीक ठाक. अच्छा तुमने वो कमरबंद खरीदा?

तुम पागल हो गए हो? उस चीज़ के बारे में पूछ रहे हो, जिसकी मुझे १५-१६ साल की उम्र में चाह थी?

हाँ. १५ - १६ साल की उम्र के बाद, तुमने छोड़ जो दिया - चाहना।

Thursday, May 24, 2018

एक हमारा छोटा बाल

एक हमारा छोटा बाल 
करता देखो कई कमाल 

बस्ता, मेज़, खिलौने, किताब 
किसी चीज़ का न कोई हिसाब। 

सुबह से शाम तक बस शैतानी 
सब को सताने की इसने है ठानी 

न खाने की सुध है, न पीने का ध्यान 
माँ को बस करता हैरान। 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What do you think?

All professionals learn from 2 sources - the formal (aka, the degree or the certification or the conference) and the anecdotal (aka, experience).

The formal is generic. Anyone can read the same books and become a doctor, engineer, IT person or CA. Everyone who holds that degree knows the exact same things that you do.

The latter - the anecdotal, is where things get really interesting. Doctors learn from listening to patients, that what the pharma company tells them is not true. The medicine does not work as intended on some patients and instinctively know when to not prescribe that drug in the future. Consultants learn from businesses how processes actually work and how every workplace does the same thing differently. Automation experts learn from clients about all the small things that make each assembly line unique. We, the IT professionals, learn from our clients how they can use the system to do the things that the user manual said the system cannot do.

Which is why, the breakdown of listening skills, in the long run, hurts the professional more than it hurts the client. The doctor brushed off my concern that this vaccination did not work so well for my child the last time. I change the doctor, but the doctor has lost an opportunity to understand when a vaccine will not work. The IT consultant who just shook his head and said, "The system does not allow for reference check data" missed the chance to learn that the applicant quiz functionality can be applied to report ref check information easily.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Elements again

There was a
 shaped hole
I was trying to fill it
With 'Anyone else'
Sized peg.

Didn't work.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Butterfly Effect

The IIP was at 4.4% for the April-Mar2018 month. 

This was the result of a long journey, as macro numbers usually are.

A couple of years ago, a need was felt to increase tax collections. There were 2 obvious ways to do it - 1. Increase the tax payers' base, and 2. Keep tax rates high or raise them further on at least some items.
Obviously, the most direct effect of that was on the middle class.

Here are the 2 things that the government did not prepare for:
1. Faced with a strange tax regime and the suspicion placed upon all high value purchases, the middle classes will pull their purse strings tight.
2. The sheer magnitude of the Indian middle class, and the butterfly effect action(1) above will have on the rest of the economy.

The squeeze was on the individual, but observe the Domino effect...

The Domino Effect on the economy of squeezing the middle class under taxation

Everyone made small changes. Someone stopped eating out as often. Someone else postponed a big TV purchase. Someone stopped the tuition teacher. But the numbers of the Indian middle class are such that even one action by one household (and it was not as tiny as that) led to a huge overall impact.

How big is the Indian middle class? Find out for yourself:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


मुझे लगा था तुम भी कवि हो 
तुम तो यार, सयाने निकले

दिल का बक्सा खोल के देखा

सौ-सौ दर्द पुराने निकले 


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Indus Valley Civilisation - More questions

This evening, one attended a very informative and thought inspiring lecture at the National Museum. (Cities of Indus Valley Civilisation). One of the questions asked after the talk was - 'How did the cities die?' The answer was rational and well balanced - different cities died in different ways and for different reasons. But most of those reasons had to do with the environment. Either the rivers dried up or they changed course.

That got me thinking. We know that in Rakhigarhi at least, DNA material has proved that there is continuation of the genetic stock from at least later Harappan period - 2500 BC. Which means that the skeletons received from the Harappan period were the direct ancestors of the current residents of Rakhigarhi.

What if...
What if, there was no vanishing? What if the citizens who remained, merely migrated? And took the civilisation with them?

When I discussed this with another person who was present at the talk, she said, "But the next urbanisation in India does not appear until 600 BCE. If the people did not perish, where were the city building skills for that whole time?"

So now we have the following statements:
1. There is continuity of genetic stock from at least 2500 BCE to present day.
2. There are many, many elements of cultural continuity - the shapes of cooking pots, the bangles and the adornments, the bullock cart designs and the images of the Gods.
3. Yet, the next urbanisation is not found until, as the lady suggests, 600 BCE.

So, where was town planning during this period?

On another note, the speaker did say some things that gladdened the heart:
1. They were largely a mercantile civilisation (I have maintained earlier that the inscriptions we have seen on the seals are positively mercantile in nature and since there are so many of them, mercantile activity had to be the economic backbone of the civilisation.)

2. While there was an astounding standardisation of weights and measures across vast geographical regions, the political leadership does not appear to be imperial or monarchical. I also feel that the earliest political establishment, and one that sustained, was of janapadas - republics, with ministers/ representatives of various citizen groups making it to seats of power so that all interests are safeguarded. (as indicated in the movie Mohenjodaro)

I think what happened then was very similar to what is happening now:

The janapadas were from various mercantile groups. They did not pay attention to the ecological price of their frenetic economic activity. They grew more and more prosperous and less and less sustainable.

Slowly, the inevitable happened. They had ravaged their ecological balance so completely that no U turn was possible.

So, as indicated, they migrated. And this is where it gets interesting. The migrating populations were not homogenous. Both, in their skills, and their ability to move, there were many classes. But broadly, I see at least 2 categories of people - the knowledge workers (the white collars) - the merchants, bankers, quality control state executives and the implementers of 'the system',  and the hand workers (blue collars) - the artisans, the bead makers, the farmers and the plain labour.

There was, therefore, no single, homogenous migration. As it would happen today, different people migrated to where they thought they could survive. The knowledge workers had the resources and the inclination to move to a place where they had contacts - the West. The hand workers, on the other hand, had no way to move to the West, and didn't know anything about whether they would be welcomed. They were more likely to choose the path towards the East - where there were denser jungles, more water and perhaps, lands to grow crops on and someone to use their pottery and jewelry.

Some classes definitely moved towards Central India, and perhaps the boat makers went further South.
Even if some people with knowledge of town planning did move to Eastern and other parts of India, they moved to agrarian or primary sector based economies. Primary sector/production based economies have neither the need nor the resources to invest in town/city planning. (As we also know in modern times).
Since it takes only 2 generations to lose a skill entirely, it is safe to assume that those sections who had knowledge of city planning did not retain this knowledge for more than 2 generations. A similar parallel would be people who migrated from Bengal and Punjab. Some skills were native to the lands they came from. In the new country, there was little opportunity to practice or bequeath those skills to the next generation. So now, even though we are descendants of the same people, we do not possess the entire skill set of our grandparents.

To sum up:
In short, the people migrated - short and long distances. So town planning may not have survived as a skill in this part. But the people did not just up and go. They are still here. There wasn't a vanishing act. There was, just like in a magic show, a change of place. We have to find out where all they went, and then, a lot of the things that appear disjointed today - the Dravid origins of IVC, the Gond script connection et al, will make a lot of sense.

Post notes:
1. There was, a 900 year long drought between 2450 to 1450 BCE, which was roughly the period when our civilisation died. This drought was apparently caused entirely by weather conditions. The study does not mention any human causes of this long drought. But maybe there were. Water is, after all, a cycle, and we, the people living today, know exactly what it means to lose sources of fresh water due to "weather disturbances."

2. Another hypothesis that we are familiar with, is that the saline content in the land grew because of the crop mix, and little was done to restore the alluvium of the soil. This led to gradual depletion of ground water.

3. The largely mercantile nature of a civilisation cannot be unique to the IVC. Why is the IVC among those that did not survive climate change?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

On kicking the bucket

I think
We all need
One final human connection
To say 'Goodbye' to.

Edited to add: Little did I know that within 3 days of writing this post, I will have to deal with the loss of a very respected person in our sector. Time has stood still since last afternoon, when a simple, one line message appeared "He expired today. Funeral tomorrow." The voice that answered the phone when I called back resembled my friend's voice so much, that for a minute, I thought that a practical joke has been played just to see who calls back to check. But it was his brother on the phone. The joke was played by God. He really was gone.

The world needed you a lot. You were fighting on behalf of lots of people who cannot fight for themselves. You have moved to a better world, but this battered one was not ready for that change just yet.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Hindi Muhavare

भैंस के आगे बीन बजाये, भैंस खड़ी पगुराय .

He sits and plays the been (a musical instrument) to the buffalo, but the buffalo is only interested in her food.

Meaning: To try and educate/explain something to someone who is not interested.