Google Maps… and RMLB

Friday, March 25, 2016

“In 50 metres – take a left towards Borivali Station Annexe…”

Google Margadarshini… the Indian woman’s lithe voice on Google Maps… waxed eloquent… this Wednesday evening…

I was on my way to pick up my parents at the Borivali railway station… I was going about in circles for the last 5 minutes and I looked forward to the Annexe in 50 metres… amongst all the humdrum of 20 auto rickshaws lined up ahead of me in 4 haphazard lanes… when there was space only for a lane and a half available…

About 500 people and a BEST bus that loomed large in front of me… blocked all visibility of this left turn that I needed to take… towards the Annexe…

“In 10 metres – take a left towards Borivali Station Annexe…”

I was inching closer… Yesss… I could see the left turn now… and I almost turned…

…Into a lane in which there were two fat buffaloes walking in a single file… as they would not fit into the lane if they walked next to each other tail in tail… and a young man on a motorbike right behind the second buffalo…

I am sure the buffalos and the bikeman were going to receive their kin at the Borivali railway station… and they were definitely being guided by Google Margadarshini too…

——————–

“You tell me what needs to be done… and I will blindly follow the instructions… I have to get into this role as a Trainer into your team”…

I had said to Apurva Sharma… my first Boss in the Training, Learning, Development line of work – almost 19 years ago…

Apurva had rejected me the first time the role came up in his team… and after 6 months again when he was expanding his team… I was relentless in throwing my hat into the ring…

Perseverance… you may say… I guess, a dogged wanting to be in the Training zone kept pushing me to pester Apurva… I had already served Card customers for 2 years at the American Express Telephone Service Centre… and then 2 years in the Amex Travel Service… I was good to give back to the communities that I worked with…

After all… when you can’t DO… you TRAIN…

Gifted with some passable gab… this time around, I could convince Apurva… who put me through a half hour walk through explaining a Cardmember system screen… that was the easier part… but this was to a bunch of 10 seasoned Card Operations professionals who knew the system inside out… now that called for some preparation…

I passed the muster… got into Amex Cards Training… July 27, 1997…  

I had promised Apurva… I would be diligent in crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s… he just needs to tell me what, where, when and how…

There were occasions when I did not believe in what Apurva thought or did… at least, initially… and as my Boss he always had these two options – one, that of bullying me into doing without believing… and the other – which was so unique to Apurva… demonstrate what needed to be done and create that unflinching belief…

Apurva called that RMLB – “Role Model Leadership Behaviour”…

That was Apurva’s very early version of Google Maps… when Google was just about born and was walking its baby steps…

RMLB has stuck with me ever since… what was worth doing… was always worth doing well… but of course, I could never get closer to the way Apurva exemplified this through his own behaviour…

I recall I was very reluctant to go to Rishikesh on the first TeamExpress – the Team Building workshop which Apurva conceived… which eventually became a legend at Amex… I did not believe – primarily because I wasn’t sure taking people out for 3 days into wilderness would most likely feed them on weed but will never really bring them back transformed…

And in all his humility Apurva claimed he conceived this along with the team (of which I was an antipathetic part)… but the truth was… much of the thinking and the fundamental building blocks of TeamExpress were laid by Apurva…

The first workshop that he led in March 1999, was a complete eye opener for me… Apurva was a magician and he created what was expected of him… magic… and one of the magic potions that he used, converted me… into a believer and a doer…

If you are a principled taskmaster… you would train your Maps on yourself first… and Apurva was one who would always be willing to be in the test environment… and most importantly, as the creator of the Maps… he needed to know the lanes and the by-lanes… every nook and corner of RMLB…

Apurva was my Boss for 4 years… and in all those years we created a bond between us… a deep understanding of human emotions and behaviours… and as they say… familiarity breeds contempt… there were occasions when I did not follow the Maps… maybe took him for granted…

Like on this occasion… that Wednesday…

(Almost) every Wednesday we used to go to the venue of the TeamExpress in a bus… 2 trainers and 20 participants… Wednesdays were formal dressing for us and I would change into comfort casuals for the bus journey in the afternoon just before boarding the bus…

It has been some Wednesdays now… all of us knew the drill and the dress code… and it was a sacrilege that I turned up on a Wednesday into work, dressed in comfort clothing straight from home…

Maybe familiarity with Apurva meant – in my own mind – a blessing… a hope… a possible pardon for that offence…

Apurva looked at me toe to top as I entered our work area… that one glance had RMLB etched clean on it… a clear disapproval of the Maps that he had not written… the Maps that were not to be… the t’s were not crossed on this occasion… and the i’s were far from dotted…

I went to the nearest shop at Basant Lok and got myself some clothes that the Maps prescribed… saved some grace for myself… but equally importantly, upheld a workplace practice that Apurva approved…

After all… to me, my Organisation has always been my Boss… to start with…

——————–

Apurva celebrates another Birthday this week… a disciplined life… with Maps charted for many lives that he touches… like mine…

I did not take that left turn suggested by Google Margadarshini this Wednesday evening… it was another Wednesday in my life… but this time… I thought I would follow the Maps that Apurva Sharma had taught me to create for myself if Google fails me… chuck your male ego and ask people around for directions…

To one of the best cartographers in my life… and my mentor in life for 19 years…

Happy Birthday Apurva…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

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Hyderabadu…

Friday, March 18, 2016

“Papa – when I grow up, I will build a house on this plot…”

I was walking my son, Krtin, to the bus stop to go to school… so that he could get a decent education and realise all those dreams that he had started sharing with me…

We had just passed by a vacant plot in Palam Vihar, Gurgaon where I had lived ten years of my life… a plot, which was 6 slots away from my own… in the same row of houses…

Krtin… all of 7 years of age had started dreaming early… wanted to be Shahrukh Khan… a limousine – which he fancied he would drive himself… and a bungalow big enough for him, his wife and his two children… a boy and a girl…

But… he does not want to be a Software Engineer… sob…

——————–

“Softuwaeraaaa”…? (Are you in the Software Technology world?)

A typical first question that you get if you are from the hinterlands of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh… and where the hinterlands converge into the megapolis called Hyderabadu… and where the embryo in any womb is deemed to be a Software Engineer when the sperm meets the egg…

And where 4 questions are invariably asked at any public gathering… like a private wedding of your cousin where the person asking the questions is remotely… yet celestially connected to you…

In the Hyderabadu scheme of things… a private wedding is a public gathering primarily because you end up meeting hordes of your uncles, aunts, their cousins and their kids… half of who descend into Hyderabadu in a wedding season that cosmically coincides with the vacation time for schools in California… and where weddings are grounds to juxtapose the dollar lives in the Bay Area… over those that are lived by lesser mortals who got it all wrong right at the embryo stage…

If you answered Question 1 in the positive, the next obvious question does not stupefy you…

“Statesaaaa”…? (Are you living in Uncle Sam land?)

Well, if you are not… then you are computed toe to top in half a glance… and dismissed as a denigrated vermin… worthy of a wayward life no worse than a weasel’s…

Well, if you are… then let’s go to Question 3…

“Caru Emiti… Corolla aena”…? (What’s the car that you drive? Is it the Toyota Corolla?)

Now, that is a very intelligent question… the word has travelled fast… on the States-side, statistically… Toyota has sold more Corollas to the engineers from India… than any other virtuous holders of a Green Card or a Green Lantern… and in the hierarchy of the oft-compared dollar lives… much more than what Pinky Kapoor or a Sweety Khanna would compare in Delhi… you are firmly established as either a starter or a struggler… if you are on a Corolla…

And then the final probe…

“Ownu Housaaaa”…? (Do you own your house in the States?)

With this set of 4 linear questions duly dealt with… you may now go ahead and bless the bride and the groom… who are prepping to go to the Bay Area after the wedding… after their honeymoon in their parents’ Himayatnagar home in their very own Hyderabadu…

I normally do not find this Uncle or the Aunt who asked me these questions after the dinner… as their sole purpose of attending the wedding is to figure out how many amongst the gathering live a dollar life… and how their daughter – in particular – can find a prospect groom from the US of A…

And my children… now both in their teens… come out blessed and confused in equal measure after each of such occasions… they had some early introduction and orientation to the American accent in some of these weddings… where my cousins and their kids would talk in the accent… the first thing that they pick up when they land in San Jose… and the accent lingers on for a good few weeks after the wedding is done…

These days I find myself more in weddings of my cousins’ kids… a definite sign of me growing up… but the accents are stronger… as now it’s not just my cousins… but their kids who want to come back to their parent-land and experience a Hyderabadu wedding… the honeymoon destination has changed from Himayatnagar to Hitech City… and my children have now grown indifferent to the American accent…

Very early on in life… both of us having grown up and away from the most happening lives of our cousins in Hyderabadu… my wife and I had decided against Hyderabadu as a place where we would like to build our nest… solely relying on the statistics published in our family chronicles… categorically 75% of my wife’s and 50% of my cousins live there… and the rest of them get continually Californicated… moving on and living in the Bay Area…

Well… we have nothing against our cousins… we have enough love between us as long as we are seven rivers apart… and despite most survey results that keep pushing Hyderabadu as the most liveable city in the country… we just cannot seem to muster enough courage to think of the city for our probable current living… or even a retired existence…

——————–

“And why would you want to build a house away from our own house just 6 plots away, Krtin…?” I had asked my 7-year old son that morning…

“When I grow up, I would like to live by myself and my wife and 2 children… one boy and a girl…”, he replied immediately…

“But we already have our house here… you can always live with me when you grow up… and your family as well…”, I had said…

“But you do not live with Taatu (grandfather)… and Nannamma (grandmother)… they live separately…”, Krtin had looked into my eyes when he said this…

And he saw some mist… undeniably…

I thought of giving a justification… I have a job in Gurgaon… my father still works after retirement in Delhi and he finds it convenient to travel by the Delhi Metro and how Gurgaon would be inconvenient for him… how my mother’s life is entwined with my father’s… etc… etc… etc…

My parents went nuclear after they had 3 children… wholly owing to better job and career prospects… when they moved from a small town called Chittaranjan in West Bengal to New Delhi…

I went nuclear after I married Smee, my wife for 19 years now…

Is Krtin flying away too young as he goes to his residential school in 2 weeks from now… will he come back to the nest and live with Smee and I more permanently at any time in the future… will his life be around us… will our lives be around his… and his sister’s…?

“But don’t worry Papa… you can always come to my house sometimes and stay with me on Saturday and Sunday… like Taatu and Nannamma…”

Krtin had said… just before he boarded the bus… that morning…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula