Sunday, August 26, 2007

Inspiration can come in from any direction...

My associates at Nashik, as a company, must seem to an outsider like me, a gangling teenager, full of itself and usually unable to learn much from the daily knocks that life deals us all regardless of our power, prestige and station in life. They are indeed at a delicious juncture in life.

I have often discussed the vital importance of HR -creative approaches, incentive, motivation and all tha jazz which generally fail to impress a small scale industry -regardless of its position, potenital and potency, if that is the word I seek. Hmmm, yes -that's it.

Frankly I had several friends in the corporate training world who may have shown a keener interest in doing to this company what I would have certainly loved doing, if I were not positioned as a technical wizard offering consultancy. No matter how creative I am, howsoever intuitive, insighful and even effective in 'prognosis' (ahem, a word I picked up from my friend Dr. Ram Chattopadhyay, one of the pioneers in advanced surface engineering, now teetering on the last phase in retirement... once a deadly foe with blind power who refused to help me -but then, what's the point. Past is relevant only if it brings a smile to your face. The rest is junk. Unless you are a masochistic junkie.)

So they gave me a pleasant surprise by showing me, along with 70+ other colleagues some with kids in tow, the new hit Chak De India! I whiled away the Saturday by doing odd jobs like getting my prepaid 'e-charged' and wearing my shoes out in the process. Yesterday was uncharacteristically hot and humid, with a fierce sun showing off its unmatched power. Today it is back to dark clouds and occasional showers, the sort of weather I have come to love very much.

I have a poor memory for faces, and of late my short term memory has been shot. Reaching the cinemahall Fame something like 45 minutes early was a 'faux pas' indeed. I got embarrassed umpteen times by strangers smiling, saluting, even offering a hand to shake... for they were all workers from the Precise group. Out of context, I didn't recognise a single face! Their dark green overalls and bright yellow helmets were missing, and they all looked 'scrubbed' free of oil and grease and worse, that their hands show me. Like Benazir Bhutto the ex-PM of our naughty neighbours, I generally hide my dainty hands behind my back to avoid getting greased. Wilson, came early too. He is a truly kind soul whose help to me in fabricating a complex piece of machinery has been precious. When the boss is away, it is this shy-ish middleaged man who drives to the Nasik Club, by now my second home, and picks me up on the dot. Once he found me a laundry too, when I had extended my stay and ran out of clothes.

Now he has a college going daughter whose name I didn't catch but she reminded me (again lets blame my short term memory having deserted me wholly) that she was a final year student in mechanical engineering. Thus we had a nice little tete-a-tete, I had to keep telling her to do some post graduation in CAD/CAM i.e. computer-aided design/manufacturing. She stressed her drawing is good, which on her third repetition, I had to dilute a bit by saying drawing is the language of engineering. I think she wasn't sensitive enough to take umbrage, indicating how simple a soul she must be. We had to chat for a long time, for the show seemed delayed. Well, in good time the show started.

I found this movie quite good -it's rare that I find a movie so good I don't sleep thru' it... I am banned by wife and daughter from snoring thru' movies, so they leave me tinkering with the computer and assault quite a number of movies. Chak de India, has been directed well, and Shahrukh Khan the current heart-throb about whose movies I have never been too encouraging, seemed to have executed a complex role well. One lives thru' the story, as it were, and that's saying a good deal indeed.

I was more astounded to find a serious meeting at the factory next day, and even another day after that. Six workers had to get up and speak for 90 seconds, too brief I thought, but many struggled after 30 seconds flat and had to give up. Public speaking does not come to most folks. Period.
More later... as this practice continues.
(c) Max Babi

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Not Being Able to See The Mountain

When Dr. Murray Banks, one of the top speakers on psychiatric problems, who combines his wit and acting talents amazingly said : eight out of ten Americans are neurotics, it shook me up. Personally I would have put the figure at four at the most -but reality is always waiting round the corner with a sockful of sand to hit me hard at the medula oblongata and knock me out.

Now the logical corollary to this finding would be : if the average person is mad (sorry I am not using 'neurotic' to be politically correct, for this sounds to me like a catastrophy rating 9.5 on the much-abused Richter scale, God help those poor two, who think they are sane. When a majority thinks you are mad, even when the majority itself is quite mad -you have the chance of a snowflake in an overheated steel plant to survive. It can be so darned hot there people often remove their shirts and vests, and walk out in the mid-day sun even if it is the Mid-may scorching heat. It is a relief beyond the pale or words and phrases.

So when a mad world, or a representative chunk of the world declares you are mad, just because you happen to be one of the two sane persons being judged by an overwhelmingly insane crowd, what do you do? Rather akin to facing a murderous crowd of people hellbent on killing you, and not in the mood to listen to logic or explanations or prayers or pleading or invoking the name of God either. You get killed.

Some really great scholars have been butchered this way by a transient wave of insanity that goes through like horizontal lightening through a crowd of good for nothing rioteers : and no city in the world has the mesmerizing fascination for rioting than Ahmedabad. Some celebrated Gujarati journalists cum authors have admitted, gloatingly, that the public there loves a riot now and then... given a free hand they could have a year long orgy of attacking, maiming, killing, raping, shoving impossible objects into the genitals of a person (this shocks you? Then you don't know much about our illustrious past. The Hindi saying 'Shooli par chadhana' always foxed me till I asked my good ole mother about it one day. She said in her matter of fact tone that it was a punishment where the offender was made to sit on a sharp pointed cone of steel. With his -never heard of a woman having suffered this ignominy- own weight, he would feel the point piercing his anus and slowly sink downwards. The crowd of idle onlookers, and there has never been a dearth of them anywhere in India at any point in time, would cheer lustily as the slow progress to death would go on...the more he writhed the faster he sank, the wider his arsehole got. I nearly retched -but reality has managed to stay a step ahead of me in this respect. The brutality, the cruelty and the raucous laughter at someone dying shorn of all human dignity seems to have fascinated mankind above all pastimes. My head usually hangs in shame, every single day, because the TV channels today are showing much more shocking reality with a benign sumptuousness, a smug orgy of reporting minus emotionality. Tchah!). Riots have their own un-pretty history.

Why do people fail to grasp the enormity of a catastrophe close at hand?

Like most of us are least bothered by scientists warning us about the ozone layer depletion or worse still, the global warming. I have been sneaking into seminars and reading up material on all this and as a human being capable of thinking, I am disgraced every moment by the smug callousness of a wide majority of people. No one seems to think it is right to believe that because the arctic snow is melting, or the Ganges Glacier is melting, there could be floods devastating enough to destroy millions upon millions of people.

I got a similar feeling when I saw a forest fire for the first time, in the Saputara jungles, in south Gujarat. There was a raging fine measuring sixteen kilometres by six or so, and it was rapidly coming towards a settlement of tribals. The heat was so intense, standing two kilometres away we were feelng singed, but even then most of my friends refused to believe the fire could reach the village in a few hours. I believed the forest officer who predicted that. In fact, it reached much earlier, fanned on by a strong breeze.

I feel, this is rather a stupid human failing. If you walk in the shadow of a mountain, and if you have just been transplanted there without knowing even an iota of the local geography, chances are when I tell you : " Look at the mountain....!" You will whirl around and ask me the inevitable question : " Where, where, where?"

We have always failed to know trouble, real soul-curshing existence-smashing trouble, if it is standing next to us. Homo sapiens, after all.

Einstein rightly said : " Two things are infinite. The universe and the human stupidity. And I am not too sure about the former."

Welcome to a mad mad mad world, getting madder by the moment.


(c) Max Babi
Nashik 230808

Friday, August 17, 2007 Calls This A Premier Blog...

Hi Folks! chose this blog as one of India's premier blogs !

I received this bit of glad tidings with a mixed bag of emotions, akin to slurping an icecream cone and banging your head against a low entrance. Frankly it came as a shot in the arms to a writer who had given up on the fickle crowd reading his raves and rants. No matter what you do, writers, your readers will not be faithful or loyal to you. Remember these prophetic words... it will save you heart-burn.

Thank you, I needed your support. I had been neglecting this blog for too long. Now I shall write more regularly. Hopefully.

It's been almost a year now since I relocated from Chennai, despite several warnings and oodles of well-meaning of advice, I continued with the name which surely is highly misleading for I haven't seen Chennai even once during the intervening period. Am likely to be visiting it very soon, but that's an another story. So the name shall continue.

There indeed are some loyalists amongst my well-meaning friends who tell me they enjoy reading my rambling thoughts about various travels. 'Zen Writer' aka John Mathew, suggested I call it 'Max Tracks'. My wife said I run into trouble every time I travel so the name 'Travel Travails' would be more apt. I guess so. Why travel travails, you will get to know by and by, there are stories crawling out from the basket like restless eel-like fish one sees jumping up and about in an open rectangular tray under a Pipal tree, on the road to the Anna Nagar East side Poonga (the park for the Tamil-challenged).

The latest story here, is my trip to Ambernath -where I had been in Feb. this year and written a detailed couple of blogs -never posted. The laptop that supported me brightly through my Chennai days, concked out in the cooler confines of the hill station-like ambience of Bavdhan, the valley wherein we stay, in Pune. It didn't die out like a man with a massive heart-attack. It died slowly like a chronic case of diabetes, funnily, it revived itself so often, I erroneously concluded it was a mechanical fault. According to several repairers it was not a loose connection or some such mundane thing. It was the 'motherboard' -I have become a bull to tht red rag of a tag, 'motherboard'. There are lusty swearwords prefaced with 'mother' and I know several of them in several languages but none makes my bile levels hit the roof like 'motherboard' does. God help the next pretender who wants to take my Toshiba Satellite laptop and come back saying the 'motherboard' has kicked the bucket. It can't I keep telling them.

The first such adventurer was a UP-ite running a so-called 'we do chip-level repairs' sort of laptop repairer. It took me hours to reach him and since I have done extensive electronics repairs, even manufacturing, something no one will believe, I could see they were under pressure. Under way too much pressure to be free to do chip-level repairs. It is an easy way out to replace whole cards rather than replace chips... it was plain to see. I left the laptop with this young dark and ugly specimen, who said he would keep it for four days minimium. We were to go to Goa for the X'mas holidays, so even a week didn't matter.

His 'take-it-or-leave-it; attitude, coupled with a superb arrogance befitting the Prince of Xanadu, that only easy money, ill-begotten wealth can breed, didn't go down well with me at all. 'The motherboard is gone.' he said when I met him next. He said it pontifically, a statement five other guys with very different looks and outlooks on life were to repeat as shamelessly as experienced street-walkers. The cost would be Rs.19,000/- he also added. Since i had bought the laptop at just Rs7,000/- more, it sounded like the engine of my second hand car had conked out. I tried every trick with him but he clung to this mother-freaking motherboard like a desperate lizard sticking to the outside wall in a cyclone. I gave up.

Next to get my goat was good old Lalit, my hardware man who fixed my PC so well, I sent him to three more friends. He avoided looking at my laptop the way one avoids looking at the luscious sister of a new friend on the first visit. Instinctively I knew something was amiss. When a guy doesn't look you in the eye there's mischief afoot. Something terriby dishonest. He sat on my poor laptop for another two weeks and finally rang me up : 'The motherboard is gone.' I whispered extremely naughty words beginning with mother- but he was deep into some hardware explanation that sounded like a fairytale.

The third torturer exists in Nashik. I lugged my heavy laptop -why does it get heavier when it doesn't work? And he came to the factory where I have spent months designing, assekmbling and now testing India's largest and most sophisticated plasma ion nitriding system -fully automated. He seemed in charge of the seemingly advanced 'bluetooth' multistation internet services etc. I gave him the laptop and it rotted further for nearly a month with him. Today, tomorrow he went onmakin excuses and giving false promises. Whenever I increased pressure he sent the laptop back saying he was not free to look into it. Finally he too rang up and told me what I didn't want to hear :' The motherboard is gone.'

Now the mother of all hopes is gone. I have learnt how to live without a laptop.


(c) Max Babi