Friday, September 26, 2008

The Appraisal - Part 3

"He has a problem attitude towards seniors..." , says he..

I have chosen this moment to take a status review of my fingernails. "He will have to take the company's value set seriously." It continued.
I feel a strange sense of joy when I discovered that the number fingernails = number of fingers!

I was done with my glaring . It was time that I realised that my fingers were infinitely more interesting.

I had made amply clear that walking into this project is like approaching a wall. You might greet it enthusiastically. Wave and dance and Cheer. Wax eloquently for hours. Waste time in petty conversations. But it still remains a wall.
But there comes a time when you realise its forever going to remain a wall. So I guess TheWall knows that I know that its a wall.

Conclusion : Any discussions on appraisals done post appraisal are a prime example of an Exercise in Pointlessness.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Movie Preview

Switched on the TV today, and saw the trailer for this AWESOME movie, DeshDrohi.
It completely blew me off!!! The movie stars Gracy Singh, Roza, Kamaal Khan and many other extremely talented people.
Manoj Tiwari is sensational. He plays an immigrant Bhaiyya in Mumbai in this film. And ofcourse, gives a riveting performance. Gracy Singh (of Lagaan/Munnabhai fame) , thankfully, acts sensibly and has chosen this fantastic movie as her comeback film.
The gripping storyline mainly dwells on the 'plight' of being a Hindustani, yet not being regarded as one in ones own country.
I do not know when it will be released, but it will surely be one blockbuster of a movie. Cant wait to see that one and a full review!

Behold ladies and gentlemen, the trailer to this awesome movie :

Do watch it and let me know your reactions..

PS :
Do they have openings for Movie Reviewers anywhere?

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Appraisal - Part 2.

So it happened. My grading and appraisal for the year. Got the fateful letter on Thursday evening. Didnt know what to make of it at first.
Then the whispering winds told me about the raise others who had started out on the same baseline had received within the team.
And I turned incandescent with rage. I had been shortchanged. Again. By a huge margin.

I used to think most of my adult life that, I rarely let anything provoke me. But a year with this project has shattered that belief.
I might add at this point that mere numbers mean nothing to me. Its the discrimination that gets to me.
Some observations I made :
- Uniformly, girls had an easy sailing.
- Guys which he (Mr.Manager) thought would raise hell have been taken care of.
- Guys which he thinks could be trampled upon without a murmur of protest have been trampled upon. (Like yours truly, who has been mute throughout the year) .

The page on our intranet which announced the increments talked about a certain link elsewhere on the site which would allow us to raise concerns about the appraisals.

But surprisingly, the link was not enabled for me at all! How effing communist is that??!!
Not that it put me off, I immediately dashed off a mail to Comrade HR , with CC to Comrade Manager.
Other people have adviced me to just go and talk to the manager and the HR, instead of going through all the hassles. But in my past experience, things are not taken seriously unless they have an official premise to it.
Watch this space for further developments.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


IT companies have taken a bad beating. America's ripple effect was felt on our stock market, and particularly my company's shares, which I believe fell to its lowest point ever.

When it reached just over half the value it had in January this year a few days ago, I went about telling everyone whom I met to get the shares, as there was no way they were going to fall any further. I even used words like 'deal pipeline' and 'corrective actions' to make people think I am talking sense. Some people fell for my pitch and did indeed invest.

I might add at this point, that I have absolutely no knowledge about stocks. I have never dealt in them, bought them, traded them or even understood them. Whatever I doled out was always on 'gut feeling'.

Ofcourse, what I feel is completely irrelevant, and the stock value plummeted by double digit percentages. Thus, since yesterday evening, I have been telling all I meet : "Yes, I know for sure, this is the lowest the share will ever go".

Even my dad fell prey to my entusiastic advice and went ahead and bought a few of the COs shares. Or Maybe he just didnt want to disappoint someone who had uttered his first words of financial relevance.

Ofcourse, the market responded to my enthusiasm by promptly shaving a few more percentage points of The Stock. This was bad.....the first ever financial 'advice' I gave to a family member resulted in an instant loss :(

I believe, this puts an end to my career as a stock advisor :( .

PS : Why did I do this ?
As an ITDonkey, out of necessity ,I have to keep exploring other career options.
Watch this space for more of my 'explorations' into unchartered waters.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Dispensable Donkey

"After delayed appraisals and cut in payouts, India's fourth largest IT service provider, Satyam Computer is reported to have handed pink slips to about 400 engineers and associates in Hyderabad, Pune and Visakhapatnam centers."

"The bad news has come from India's third largest IT outsourcer, Wipro Technologies too. The company has already laid off 1,000 employees, and another 2,000 employees have been put on scanner."

"IBM had reportedly laid off 700 entry-level trainee programmers (ELTPs) across its offices in India. Zensar too had reportedly given pink slips to 2 per cent of it staff, again the company claimed that it was on performance basis."

" TCS planning more layoffs.."

Even my relatively small(ish) co fired around a 100 people last month. And around a 100 more will be, I hear, by the end of this quarter.

PR blabber might indicate that it is a "routine" thing, done after every appraisal cycle. According to them, the low performers are 'released' every year.
I personally know a few of the people who were booted out in my organization, and they were not bad people at all! Most of them were decent folks, with pretty decent skillsets and in some cases, a decent, if not exceptional track record too. Many were having between 1 and 2 years of experience. Some were as high up as Vice Presidents and delivery managers.

Rumours were floating around of the boat going under, a belief reinforced by the fact that a few weeks ago the President, VP and the Operations Controller went to each and every floor requesting everyone NOT to believe in the rumours.

I believe the management enjoys having the people living in the state of fear. If the herd spots an apparently wayward donkey being ruthlessly beaten up by its keepers, others will automatically fall into line, they believe.

If even these people were fired, what hope does a mere ITDonkey have ?
Which brings me to another question : Just how indispensable (or otherwise) is a Donkey to a project ?
I dont know about others, but being in an application support "project" , the effort expended on training a new resource on the 'application' may not make it worthwhile to get rid of existing donkeys. So I am being assured that I am 'safe'. But I am not sure.

Also, as I sit in front of my workstation with glazed eyes, typing unenthusiastically into my old keyboard, I wonder if getting fired from here is really a bad thing.

But being a bonded donkey, the company has also tied a two lakh rupee shackle around my legs. Am I despensible ? Yes.
Will they do away with me ? Probably not.

It has been with great effort that they manage to trick resources into joining, and they are not about to let go of them without a fight.

"Support" Projects are really the mainstay of my company. So I guess they are an assured source of income atleast for the immediate future.
Most of the people I know who were fired were from development projects. So I guess its safe to assume for the time being, that only Monkeys are being fired. Donkeys are being held on too.

But what would I do after getting fired ? I have no special skillsets which would land me another job, not with the market slowdown anyway.
In the absence of Plan B , I think for the time being, I will continue going through the motions.

EDIT : Prat gave me this link the first thing in the morning : Motivational Stuff.

I think I will drop my idea of ever getting to own/run personalized transport :(

No wait.... Do they sell Bicycles on Installments ?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Test Drive

"Hey, you out of bed yet...? Me and N are going to test drive a car, you coming along ?" , V was yelling into his mouthpiece. How do I know this ? Well, it was me at the other end he was yelling at. Ofcourse, I was up. Enjoying the the simple pleasure of lazily going through the Times of India with a steaming cup of strong yet sweet chai by my side. 'Well...yeah...okay...'.

You see, my friend V happens to be in the market for a compact car. N happens to be a die hard car lover. I happened to be around with no work.

At the designated time, got the 'missed' call , indicating a that others were ready. I stopped looking for pictures of pretty women in the Pune Mirror and reached for the cupboard (closet, for American readers) to change.

Shit! No jeans in sight. Bad sign for someone who happens to have only jeans and neatly pressed office formals. Managed to dig out an long forgotten pair. Glanced at the waist size. 32", it said. Ohh Dear.No wonder I was forced to forget about them. Managed to finally squeeze myself into it.

Also managed to slow my breathing down, because if I did breathe any harder, the massively stressed out button on pants would surely pop out. Managed to stumble out and squeezed myself into N's silved Accent. Nice car that. One of the last of the endearing (to me) classic low slung sedans in that segment. And Hyundai does pay careful attention to quality.

Arrived at the dealership, and soon had the attention of a salesman. Formalities completed, got to inspect a red display Indica Vista.

Now I might clarify beforehand, after more than 8 years of using Tata cars in the family, I am more than a bit skeptical about them. Dont get me wrong, I really like and respect them as a company. But the cars....well... lets just say that they have a long way to go.

Butttt...there was something different about this vehicle. Let me start from the door handles. Gone are the plasticky bits you tuck your fingers under found on all of their earlier vehicles. These were proper grab type ones, making it seem upmarket.
The long, sweeping headlight design is dramatic and eye catching , and so are the integrated indicators just below the RV mirrors. Surprisingly for a Tata, the shutlines were pretty good too. And the paint finish was fantastic.

But the real goodies werent on the outside. It was inside. Man, the car was SPACIOUS. With a capital S in bold. A lot airier than even our Indigo. And thats pretty big on the inside.
Even more stunning were the seats. Big and spacious and very very comfortable, for a car of this category. The two tone interiors were made of good quality plastic, and it was more carefully put together than any of its predecessors. There was an integrated audio system in the topend model. And the driver's seat and steering column was adjustable for height and rake. The red showroom car was shod with 14" tubeless tires on alloys. So far, so good...

Now came the time for a test drive. We were handed over the keys to a black Demo Car, which had..err...Demo Car written all over it. I did the honours by climbing into the driver's seat first, with V next to me and N and the salesguy behind. After I was done fiddling around with the seat, I turned the key on in the ignition....and.... was this really a diesel vehicle ? The small 1.3L diesel is truly good, with no vibrations and/or clatter or even noise creeping inside the car with the AC on.
I slotted into first and released the pleasingly soft pedals, and wow, this was indeed good. The gearbox is good. As in very good. You have no idea how much of improvement I found it over the previous Indixx series. It was fantastic. But it wasnt the best bit.

It was the engine. A slick, smooth operator that it is, you dont get a sudden rush out of it, just a steady wave of acceleration. And it feels faaaaaaantastic. All the gears slotted in with a precision as of yet unseen on any other Tata vehicle. (by me). It even smooths out the road imperfections with a great degree of success which only a Pune based company can build, maybe because it can test it so comprehensively here.

Hence I now say something I never thought I would say about a Tata vehicle :
Its smoooth and refined car. More importantly, it feels good, a trait so far unseen in that company's vehicles.

I earlier said that the Tata vehicles have a long way to go. If this is anything to go by , they really are there, atleast in the Indian context.
Ohh, and it costs five lakh forty three thousand rupees, in Pune. Which is pretty good for a car in this class. And pretty much beyond my means for the foreseeable future.

Need to get a bicycle.Its within my means. If I cycle to work, I can salvage more old pants. Which saves money. And eventually scrounge together enough to get my own car. A Tata Nano.Second hand. In 2013.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The machine.

60kb. That was the amount of free space left on my work computer. I mean, on its primary drive. Innumerable disk space/page file warnings werent enough to effect a corrective action from my side. It had slowed down to a crawl, but then, so had I. I just figured that when it stopped working, so would I.

What finally spurred me into action was how extremely slowly [windows]+D and [alt]+[tab] did their stuff. That, coupled with my usual tendency to be doing the wrong things at the wrong moments. Not that I manage to do the right things at the right moments, but that will be the subject of another discussion.

Today, as usual, I was staring intently at pictures+info of some of the 6x4 Tippers available in India. So much so, that I wasnt aware of my manager and HIS manager standing behind me.
It wasnt until I realised that the "Arrey woh Receipt Generation Document ka kya hua ?" coming from somewhere behind me was directed at me, that I realised that I was being observed. The panicky me, immediately hit [windows]+D , which went about doing what it was supposed to do with such agonising lethargy, that my manager had all the time to go through three gtalk chat windows and AMW's ( tipper page.

I decided then and there that after I was done giving ambiguous answers, I would free up space on my hand-me-down machine. Managed to clear around 700 MBs of space just by ridding my desktop of unnecessary stuff. It is now probably the cleanest it has been since it left the factory sometime in 2004.

This is how it looks (briefly,before slacking and resultant clutter set in again) :

When I say it is a hand-me-down, I might add that had passed through some real important hands before that. I found documents like minutes of the lunch meeting with the CEO and old recruitment and deployment targets. It also has some interesting tidbits left behind by its (many) other previous owners. Like a girl's Infy offer letter. Some long dissolved team's mahabaleshwar trip pictures. Loads of fresher resumes.

Now that I have taken some improvement actions about, I might as well take some more. Like shutting down the thing once in a while. Dubbed the 'the server' , my machine hasnt been shut down ever since I restarted it after a week's leave in June.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Phantom Brake

Cant get enough of cabbies.. can I ?
Anyway, this is a common occurrence for me. As usual, I am in the cab, barrelling down the highway. This time, in the front seat. A couple of trucks are driving parallel to each other in the front. My cabbie has his eyes focussed, left hand firmly on the horn, right foot buried deep. 30..20...10 feet apart, yet there is seemingly no letdown in the acceleration. I curse under my breath and brace for impact. I slam my right foot hard into the carpet, as if slowing down was in my hands. After what seems like an eternity, my cabbie realises that there is now way he can drive through the truck and decides to slow down. I relax a bit and start breathing again. Slowly, ease my right foot off the imaginary brake. The Phantom Brake.

In another instance, we were once travelling in internal colony roads, early in the morning. Seeing the deserted roads, my driver had got into the highway-mode right in the city. The road was pretty twisty, full of blind turns. I started to get the familiar sensation of being hurled down something. As we approached each corner, I instinctively tensed up, since we were surely going too fast to corner safely. Each time we approached a twisty, I mashed my foot deep into the Phantom Brake, hoping to bring things back into control. I have lost count of the number of early morning joggers/dudhwallahs/compound walls we narrowly missed.

Curiously though, I have observed that none of my fellow passengers suffer from the Phantom Brake Syndrome. People are happily staring out of the window, listening to music, yapping on the phone or dozing. Do let me know if anyone of you also suffer from the same.....

Also, in my experience some of the best maintained cabs are also the worst driven. I actually feel safer in the older, more beaten up variety, since they tend to be driven carefully, lest some of the trim falls off. Many of the vehicles have a surprisingly high figure on their odo. I have been in a vehicle whose odometer read 2,65,000 kilometers, and thats when it had stopped working. Many of the fairly new vehicles also routinely have 1,00,000 kilometers.
One of my best cab experiences though, was in a white DLS model with red(ish) vinyl seats. It had 192,000 kilometers on the clock. And not a squeak or rattle to show it.


Let me continue my rant on donkey carts.
Cab drivers are a reviled species. And rightly so. You do not commute in them. You cling on for dear life.

I remember one of my first cab rides ever. The time was 6.30 am. We had just done our final pickup and were heading towards the office in Hinjewadi, using the Pune-Bangalore bypass highway. I was seated on the rear seat, sandwiched between 2 ladies on either side (oh dear!). 2 seconds after we hit the highway, the cabbie decided to step on it. I mean, really stepped on it. We were hurtling down the highway at 100+kmph. But that wasnt the worse part. It was his weaving in and out of the lanes, overtaking trucks and other slower vehicles.
Sitting next to a lady, I was instinctively sitting as though I was making an effort to shrink myself (I always do that, dont ask me why, I dont know). Since my (rather big) feet were placed on the transmission tunnel, I couldnt get a proper grip with my feet.
As a result, everytime the car swerved, I desperately groped for something to hold on to, to stop myself from rolling over on either lady.
By the time the 20 or so kilometer journey ended, I had developed a bad ankle pain, from trying to awkardly grip the floor with my feet. If I was stronger, the hump would be squeezed in the middle.

Lesson learnt : The front seat is the best seat. It also has seat belts.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Donkey® Cart

No, the Donkeys dont really pull them, but they are used to cart donkeys too and from work. My carts usually include a Tata Indicab or a Tata 1510 Bus.

Though the cab gets me there (and back) quicker, for a myriad of reasons I still prefer the bus. Some of them are because :
1.It seems a lot less call-centre-ish
2.Its a lot less riskier.

Example of a donkey chariot :

The bus I travel in is exactly the same spec, but has a different colour scheme.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


A few week's ago, yours truly got appraised. Not monetarily though (Though its about time, its been 14 months :( ) , just the evaluation.
In one of the "Areas of Development" , he had marked :

"Need to improve on self-drive".

lol! Mr. Manager, ever seen an excited donkey?? Do they ever go "Ohh yeaahh.... I will make 10 pointless trips carrying bricks and sand today, which would result in a few blades of grass for me today EOD ! Yipee!! Life's so exciting!" D'uh.

Predictably, we (me and manager) are not expecting much from this appraisal.

Monkey v/s Donkey

"it refers to a person only capable of grinding out code, but unable to perform the more intellectually complex tasks of software architecture, analysis, and design."

That's how wikipedia defines a Code Monkey.

"It refers to a person who works in (fairly large) corporations doing the grunt backend processing for clients (IT enabled support), at odd(ish) hours, and forever hoping for better things to come"

Is how I define an IT-Donkey, for the time being.

I look up to Monkeys as more gifted beings than Donkeys. I hope to be promoted to a Monkey someday.
In my tenure as a beast, I havent written a single line of code. Nor have I seen anyone from my team writing code.
Ohh..I do (occasionally) write a couple of queries here and there, which anyone with around 30 days of education can write.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Yep. Thats what I am. An IT Donkey®. Probably one of the hundreds of thousands of them in India. People who work in big offices of IT Companies, doing all the grunt work for their mostly foreign masters.
The kind of (mostly) menial work that the companies realised wasnt really worth spending so much money on getting it done in their home countries. And hence decided to ship it to places like India, where more than willing companies gladly accept it.
That results in people like me, the IT Beasts of Burden. Doing a large amount of work that seems fairly pointless to them, but there is a chance that its important in the overall scheme of things. Just like donkeys being used to ferry large amount sand/bricks/mud etc. at old time construction sites.
I feel just like the above donkey. He cannot sit back and marvel at the creation that is unfolding in front of him. Ferry things all day long without even remotely being interested in the proceedings.
I have been an ITDonkey® for more than a year now. If you havent already guessed, the experience has left a fairly sour taste in my mouth.


Actually, the "Life" of an IT-Donkey® is a bit of an oxymoron. Thats because they dont have any. Atleast....This one doesnt.
Life can be defined in a few keywords :
Err...thats it.
Colleagues at work ask me (usually on fridays) ask me Where am I going on weekends... And my reply is 'Online'. That usually stumps some of them, for a moment, but most usually laugh it off. Nobody believes that going online and doing nothing is indeed what I do on most weekends.