Mahadevan's Monologues

If we had the vision and feeling of ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. – George Eliot

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


(With malice towards none)
TIME AND SPACE have been the area of speculation for Philosophers from days of yore.

From the time Corporate started looking for outsourcing many of their activities as a major cost cutting measure, BPOs started growing in geometrical proportions. As they crossed over geographical boundaries and time zones in their areas of operations, ‘Time and Space”, the Philosophers preoccupation, have almost become plaything for the BPOs.

As the locals apprehend that Indian BPOs would rob them of their jobs, the BPOs have started incurring the displeasure, if not wrath and fury, of the locals everywhere. To win over the loyalties of their customers in distant habitats who belong to different races, the BPO boys and girls, like Jeeves (the P.G.Wodehouse mascot) try to serve them, imbibing their culture, with great élan, without losing sight of the fact that thy do not belong to their customers in their class or race. Thus, an Yadugiri Rao would acquire Yorkshire accent and a Mangalore boy Mahesh would familiarize himself with Manchester Station train timings in the British Rail and a Radhika would explain the significance of riders to customers of Prudential Insurance.

Unlike the IIT, IIM products, that aspire for and occupy the high end of the Organizations they serve, the BPO boys and girls, being average academics, are vanguard of the lower ends. If in the campus selection, the IIT and IIM graduates walk over with a hundred thousand dollars of package from MNCs and over a million rupees from Indian Corporate, in the BPOS, a few thousand rupees are available for a grab, even for the graduates with grace mark. The graduation from a few hundred rupees of pocket money to a few thousand rupees of monthly salary, transform the BPOs boys and girls who now have money to spare, but struggle for minutes. The available time they spend in Café Coffee Days or in selecting CDs in Planet Ms, though they may be aspiring to spend an evening with a girl/boy of their choice, in a Star Hotel discotheque. Mobile Phone with a camera and FM radio facility, is the only luxury they boast of. As many of them work during the night time, and as they are being picked from their place of stay to their place of work in Tata Sumos and Tat Indicas, they do not meet people except their colleagues sitting in front of the PCs with earphones intact, and in the process a few also develop intimate friendship, leading to wedlock failing which waylaying and wounded heads. Career life among BPO boys and girls is short lived and they constantly look for pastures new. To have spent three years at one place for them is as tedious as living for a millennium. Their world shrinks to the size of their domain knowledge. As a BPO is an area of exuberance for youth, middle age is a misfit here.

If in the earlier decades, to serve coffee in a Café was a condescending reference, today, Call centres have taken the place. If you don’t do well in your studies, you would end up in a Call centre only, an anxious mother would warn her ward. In the marriage market, call centre boys’ and girls’ credentials are not cared for, as if they play for the B team. The IT and financial guys have a halo around them and they score over the rest. BPOs get only the left over. Many of the IT Companies have their own BPOs as appendages and their employees are looked upon as underprivileged ones. ‘Is your son only in the BPO of Infosys?’ proud mother of a Wipro Software engineer would ask, inquisitively, if not impetuously. Start your career in a BPO, but don't use it for settling down, a seventy plus would give sagely advice to his grand children.

Today BPOs have come to stay. They have transformed colleges into catchment areas for jobs. A few may find the BPOs as areas of darkness, and yet, the vast majority finds them as spots of illumination to bask, at times a little boisterously too, perhaps to the bewilderment of those around them. A country of a little over a billion, certainly looks upon BPOs as Saviour.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

CANTEEN BOYS FROM CANARA ( With utmost respect to the specie)

(The purpose of this post is just to amuse and entertain and not to hurt or evaluate).

If you scratch some of the Officers and employees or even executives of banks, in particular the Karnataka based ones, you will find innocent looking, half pant clad, ‘Back Street Boys’ from Ballard Estate.

These young boys from distant villages around Mangalore like Karkal or Mudbidri, hailing from economically under privileged families, descend in Mumbai even before their teens, seeking shelter and security in ’Shetty Canteens’ and ‘Sadanand Cafes’. Ill equipped in Hindi and English, with Tulu alone to turn them around, yet, inspired enough to survive and sustain themselves, these twice-born boys, begin their second life in Mumbai.

Condemned to slog from dawn to dusk, serving endless cups of tea with bread, butter and biscuits to supplement in Office canteens, ensuring that the employees do not snore away their hours in their seats, these young boys use night schools in their neighborhood as a platform to progress in education. On holidays, they spend their time in playing football with tennis balls in the by lanes of Ballard Estate, Bazaar gate and Bora Bazaar Street. One group, soon realising that SSC certificate would be proving elusive, change the channel to suit the situation by switching over from Sun mica tabled Shetty Canteens to Rexin and Foam Restaurants, serving Medu vada and Mysore Masala – certainly a graduation from Masala tea with measured sugar. The left over at the Shetty Canteen’s ambition would be to take over the joint or to start similar one, elsewhere and the supply chain from Mangalore would continue. The Mysore Masala lot’s mission in life would be to start a Sadanand Restaurant in any street corner, preferably a busy one and meander towards ‘Bar-attached’ facility and reach Nirvana thereafter.

The brighter ones, collect their SSC certificates from the night schools and continue studies in morning colleges. As their aspirations are limited, to cleanse themselves of office boy image and to become officers instead, they devote their leisure hours for studies. Thus, atta -grinding boys (no disrespect meant) would progress towards Adam Smith and Ricardo’s Rent Theory would reverberate in the minds of Rexin cleaning boys. It is this group that meets the needs of the Banks and the group looks after its less fortunate brethren in the dingy canteen rooms and nearby restaurants, with warmth and well wishes.

Till the introduction of Konkan Railway, Ballal Transport and Britto’s buses were inseparable from the lives of these Mangaloreans. One could see daily, hordes of them behind Rallis, at Fort and in front of Hanuman Café at Sion Circle. During his high days as a militant Trade Union leader, George Fernandez was their icon as he hailed from their neighborhood, was easily accessible and he championed their cause.

One certainly can trace striking similarities between these canteen boys and yester years’ Palghat boys, who raised ‘degree coffee’ to dizzying heights and stirred our souls through softest idlies in their Ambi’s Cafes, be they at Trichy’s Theppakulam or Chennai’s Broadway. They distanced themselves from the Uttaranchal boys, that man the Company guest houses in Mumbai and who specialize in pouring over Patiala Pegs, peanuts and pakoras.

To escape from penury at home, these canteen boys from Canara, showed an inspired willingness to work in any conditions and moved ahead, and distinguished themselves. One shudders to imagine a situation when the supply of Gattu look-alike would cease. Offices would starve of canteens, street corners would be severely short of restaurants, Banks would be bereft of Managers in the making and Mumbai, meal less in Midday and young minds everywhere, deprived of examples to emulate, leaving society to degenerate and decay.

Let the Canteen boys from Canara continue to deliver us.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Very often when I am entrusted with a work by family members, friends or colleagues, in order not to rely on memory, which fails me frequently, I always look for the ‘rationale’ behind the work or action. As many of our actions are not driven by ‘reason’, but arbitrariness, mere dependence on “reason’ alone would not take us far, I learnt to my dismay.

Why we are not rational? When we act on emotions, reason disappears. Emotions are powerful feelings that overwhelm us and there is suspension of human intelligence of which ‘reason’ is a part. The Ratio Emotive Theory (RET) says that one should detach himself from his emotions and view it independenty. When likes and dislikes, drive us, they drive ‘reason’ too. Likes and dislikes come out of experience and often from inaccurate application of logic. From a mere two or three incidents, we tend to generalize and tab them. To borrow a term from logic, we make an inductive leap without establishing causal connection. When we are intoxicated with power, we fail to act rationally. We believe, power gives us the sanction to act in a manner we choose to, whether with ‘reason’ or not. Power induces fear in others and when they act under fear, they act disastrously. Confidence, when it borders on rashness, deviates from the path of reason. Misplaced confidence too is a sort of intoxication. When we act on pre-conceived notions or when we act with a mindset, we lose our power of reasoning.
In one of my blogs I wrote that 'allow your knowledge to be questioned, else it would degenerate into belief'. Reason can withstand questioning and can get strengthened in that process. Faith is an unquestioned belief and to make rational, it needs to be questioned. One certainly can find enormous reasoning power in Sankara's Philosophy. In Socrates's dialogues, constant questioning and answers lead to a finding.

At times, we act not under reason ( I would like to avoid the word ‘irrational’), knowingly, for a definite purpose. In one of her classic blog “Poochandi” USHA VAIDYANATHAN shows that how knowingly we conceived the idea of “Poochandi”, to instill fear in the minds of young children so that they would not do what we do not want them to do. Here the end prevailed over the means. I said I would like to avoid the word ‘irrational’ because, ‘irrational is logically not conceivable’ like a square circle. An ill clad man, with a fear inducing look and a potential for kidnapping children( the definition of a Poochandi) is conceivable and his existence, within the realm of possibility. Acting not under reason is different from acting irrationally.

Edward de Bono gives an example, where we are so obsessed with the means that we lose sight of the objective. A man wanted to drink wine from a bottle and was struggling with opening the lid. Bono says that the objective was to drink the wine and not to remove the lid and this could have been done by just putting a hole on the lid.

Bono gives another classic example where even a perfectly rational act, is difficult to decipher. A young man, works in the fifteenth floor of a building. He would go by lift upto the 10th floor and the remaining five floors he would climb through the stairs. He has no qualms in using the lift to come down to the basement. Different explanations were offered for his strange behaviour. One explanation was that he wanted to do his morning exercise through climbing the stairs and he did not have enough energy to climb all the fifteen floors. Another explanation was that he had a girl friend in a tenth floor office and he wanted to whisper sweet nothings into her ears before he went to his office and having done that, with rejuvenated energy he could climb five floors. Another man, contested this theory saying that he would have had energy before meeting his sweet heart and having met her, he would have had no motivation to walk through the floors. Bono finally comes out with a simple but perfectly rational explanation. The man is short and even in full stretch, his hand would reach only upto 10th floor button. This would be the position, in whichever floor he gets into the lift. After coming out of the lift at tenth floor, he is under compulsion to walk through the remaining stairs. While going down, he has no such compulsions and therefore he uses the lift.

And finally, the advantage of acting rationally is that one need not rely on ‘memory’ and also one need not put in efforts to be consistent. If one chooses to follow the deductive method of reasoning, one needs to have a strong premise and sound inference tehnique and in the inductive method, causally connected inductive leap. Reasoning is not an ornament to decorate an argument. It is the soul that sustains it.

Friday, February 02, 2007


The title of this little piece is borrowed from the autobiography of Cardinal Newman.

I often used to wonder, why do I write.

Somerset Maugham once said that when we grow old, what would oppress us most would be not failing health or decreasing mental faculties, but the weight of memories. As I grow old, I gradually realize the significance of what Somerset Maugham said. However, instead of allowing memories to weigh me down, I thought it a little prudent to record them. Perhaps, it also satisfies the irrepressible urge to express oneself. Initially when I chose to write, I shared them with a few friends and as the response was less unfavourable and as a public domain was available, I decided to post them on a blog.

Our memories often consist of impressions about our relations and interactions with people. Therefore I started with a portrait of some of my friends and colleagues both alive and dead. Instead of merely recording facts and events, I added a tinge of humour by exaggerating a little here or twisting an anecdote there and in the process have attempted to make them more readable.

I have always been fascinated by the personal essays of Addison and Steel, A.G.Gardiner and Robert Lynd and in recent times, that of R.K.Narayan and Shobha De. To quote R.K.Narayan, ‘In personal essays you could see some of the author himself from the theme. The personal essay was moré enjoyable because it had the writer’s likes and dislikes, his observations always with a specific flavour or humour, sympathy, aversion, style, charm and oddity’. In these writings, my oddities would be clearly visible, be they my style of writing, method of observation, manner of description, pattern of mistakes or short comings. I also believe that our writings should reflect our personality, adorable or abominable they may be.

A man at my age should have the privilege to pontificate ‘Polonius’ like and therefore you will find aphorisms scattered in my posts and comments. As mere portraits would be biographical sketches, I have also drawn upon what is happening around us and have also been inspired by a few blogs I read and continue to read.

And finally, I realize that in the world of the Immortals, I am a lesser mortal, ‘beating in the void’, my ‘wings in vain’.