When a senior person goes “When I was your age …“, what do you think a Gen Y really wishes to say? “You know what – you were never my age!“. When Ganesh Natarajan (Zensar CEO) told this story – it reminded me of the school counselor who told us parents – “You know what – you were never teenagers!“
Ganesh went on to claim that the single biggest obstacle in having a harmonious relationship between Gen Y and Gen X is the inability of the Gen X to “let go“.
The Gen X is often left wondering why the Gen Y isn’t excited by the great stuff offered to them. The catch, according to Prakash Iyer (Kimberley Clark Lever) is – what is “great” in the eyes of Gen X is hardly so for the Gen Y.
And then there was Mohit Gundecha (Jombay), a Gen Y himself, who put forth the best advice.
When talking to Gen Y just be 100% transparent. Give them the advice that is best for them, not for you or the company. They are just too smart to not understand if you are anything but transparent. One can’t afford to be reactive with them – you have to be predictive. Don’t go by what they did in college – it will most probably be (at least in India) not by (their) choice. So let them do what they want to do.
And then came the killer, that could only be believed because it came from a Gen Y himself.
Don’t think that “command and control” strategy is irrelevant for Gen Y! The old-fashioned managerial behavior is okay, nay even necessary, if the context is right.
Anshoo Gaur (Amdocs) declared that Gen X and Gen Y are not different. He set out to explain, in engineering-speak, that we ought to compare Gen X and Gen Y along two orthogonal axes, viz. “what” and “how“. On the “what” axis, they are the same, and differ only on “how“. So, his advice was, identify the invariants (i.e. “what“) – e.g. values, performance – and work on them. Don’t fret over the “how“.
The tail-piece was a story narrated by Ganesh about his conversation with the management Guru (late) C K Pralhad about education in India. On a Delhi Mumbai flight Ganesh rued about the Indian education system (rote learning et al) and Pralhad shot back – “As a thought leader, never ever think of persuading the Government to change our education system. If they do that, they would ruin the India story!” To oversimplify – Pralhad’s rationale was that it doesn’t make sense to be liberal with the youngsters. The Indian system, that stuffs student’s head with rote learning, is okay – as the students get ample time to ruminate over it later to make sense of it! Now that’s a kind of shocker, right?
Thank you NASSCOM for a thought provoking, and entertaining, evening!
Disclaimer: This note is my interpretation of what I heard which may or may not be what the concerned speakers meant!
Religious Geography of Maharashtra – now that’s one scary academic sounding topic! But after I skimmed through a delightful note by Prof Anne Feldhaus, I decided to attend the talk and boy was it wonderful! Here are my notes. Disclaimer: I have paraphrased what I heard and I am no academician myself.
As Prof. Suhas Palshikar spoke in Marathi about late Prof. Rajendra Vora, in whose memory the talk was organized, the sari clad elderly Caucasian American lady with snow white hair was seen nodding appreciatively. A small disappointment then when Prof. Palshikar announced that Ms. Feldhaus would be speaking in English.
Ms. Feldhaus talked about six patterns that have created regions bound by common threads of faith. These patterns were stories, body images, goddess sisters, numbered sets, biography of saints and pilgrimage.
She narrated the story of the birth of river Karha. Arjun and Nakula in search of water, toppled the kamandalu of a sage and thus was born the river Karha. They ran for their life with the sage in hot pursuit. Whenever the sage would get close, they would throw a rice grain behind them. The grain would turn in to a shiva-linga and the sage would stop in his tracks to worship it! That explains the Shiva temples along the bank of Karha. The villages around Karha, in a sense, signify a region defined by this story.
The Purush Sukta in Rigved uses the metaphor of human body to describe rivers. Interestingly, eight locations of the river Godavari have been likened to eight angas – body parts – of a woman; from head to toe.
Then she talked about seven goddesses, the Malai sisters, who once in a year visit their maher, i.e. home of their parents, from seven different locations. This religious event binds the eight locations.
Then there are these numbered locations – the ashta-vinayak, the 11 Maruti, the three and a half shakti-peeths and so on. These sets too define a region.
The holy places of he Mahanubhav panth are all about the activities of their founder, Chakradhar Swami, and his guru. The place where he slept, where he delivered his message – even where he went to the bathroom – are enshrined as holy places!
And the last, and the most significant, pattern that creates religious regions is the pilgrimage. The wari of Pandharpur being the most significant example.
At this point, she came up with two key observations.
Some of the regions overlap geographically, but, interestingly, they don’t meet! She cited Jejuri as an example. It happens to be near Karha, the annual palakhi of Janai originates from there, the Morgao of ashta-vinayak is not too far, one of the Malai sisters belongs to this place and the Pandharpur pilgrimage passes through Jejuri. However, folks who are passionately involved in one of the regions are often found to be completely oblivious to the other regions which exist there!
Her second observations was that, with one notable exception, none of these religious regions has metamorphosed into any administrative or political entity. The glorious exception being the wari of Pandharpur which united the Marathi speaking folks not withstanding the cast and class differences. She credited the wari with the creation of the state of Maharashtra.
Personally, it was a very different perspective for me, coming from an American scholar who has almost adopted Marathi as her language. To know more about Anne, do read this immensely entertaining note she wrote for her colleagues at the Arizona State University.
A few days ago I was asked to inaugurate the Jigyasa Techfest at IMCC and I chose that occasion to revisit some of the quotes by an eminent computer scientist Edsgar Dijkstra. I decided to take help of another eminent person, but from the arena of probability and randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (NNT), to highlight one of the quotes by Dijkstra. I decided to begin the presentation with a poll based on a thought experiment by NNT.
Say, you are a cancer specialist. You have the the investigation report which shows no trace of cancer. Now, is it evidence of absence of cancer or is it absence of evidence of cancer? The show of hands in the auditorium indicated that the opinion was evenly divided.
The answer is: it is the absence of evidence of cancer. As there is always a finite probability that the investigation report may miss something, it just can’t be evidence of absence. All we can say is there is absence of evidence.
“Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence”
Get it? When you find bugs, that’s obvious. But if you don’t find bugs, it means exactly that and nothing more – you did not find bugs – period. You can’t vouch that the program is bug free just because you didn’t find any bugs.
Edsgar Dijkstra has some pretty entertaining quotes to his credit – more about those later in this blog. Right now let’s see some that relate to computer science, design and learning.
“Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes”
Will you call surgery “knife science”? No! Isn’t the term Computer Science a misnomer then? Think.
“Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability”
How does one craft a good design? After asking this question, I stunned the audience with the answer: KISS! As you know, it’s an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid! So, when in doubt, always choose simple over complex. The problems we face are surely complex, but it is a well accepted principle that you can’t fight complexity with complexity. Simplicity is the right weapon.
“Perfecting oneself is as much unlearning as it is learning”
My programming mother tongue was FORTRAN. Later,the teacher who taught us Pascal warned us that unless we unlearn our FORTRAN ways, we won’t be able to exploit Pascal fully. Otherwise, he said, we would join the tribe of programmers who code in FORTRAN in any language! With so many new languages and programming techniques coming our way, it is absolutely critical that we develop the ability of unlearning old ways to meaningfully embrace the new new things.
As promised, let me quote three of the more famous, and entertaining, utterances of Dijkstra that amuse me no end.
“It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.”
“The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense.”
“The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity”
Hmm. Think hard about the last one.
Postscript: I found another gem, that generated a great dialog when I posted it on Facebook.
“Besides a mathematical inclination, an exceptionally good mastery of one’s native tongue is the most vital asset of a competent programmer.”
Read this paper if you want to know how do we tell truths that might hurt.
I recently heard Prof. Deepak Phatak (IIT Mumbai). He envisages a scenario where MOOC becomes the backbone, dramatically changing the role of a traditional University. Here are my notes from the talk he gave at the recently concluded TechForSeva conference held in Pune in September 2013.
A lot is talked about the access to knowledge. Prof. Phatak emphasized that access is not the problem. It’s about assimilation.
In this new world, role of the teacher is set to change – or has already changed – dramatically. The teacher’s job is not about teaching anymore. They have to be the facilitators. They need to help students apply the knowledge, explore the knowledge and use the knowledge.
No matter how advanced the technology or how easy the access – the human intervention is still critical.
Integration of MOOC (Massively Online Open Courses) and teacher interaction is the key. At IIT, they now use the “Flip Classroom” model. In olden days one attended the lectures in the college and did homework at the hostel or at home. Now, with MOOC, you listen to the lectures at home, hostel or anywhere you choose and solve problems in the class. The class is where you would have the facilitator teacher in person to work with.
Today teachers spend up to 90% of their time in preparation, delivery, setting question papers and evaluation. In the new model, all that time could be saved! With MOOC, the best of the best lectures would be available instantly and the teacher will no more be required to prepare and deliver in the first place. Even the setting of question papers and evaluation is part of MOOC. All the teacher’s energy can now be spent on solving the problems and applying the knowledge in the real world.
With this model, some questions that are worrying teachers can be answered easily. Will MOOC make the professors redundant? No. Will that lead to the loss of self-esteem of regular University professors? No. Earlier, the good teacher was supposed to prepare and deliver. Now they will need to mentor, guide and discuss. Note that the new responsibilities will have a far more impact. The new role is far more challenging too.
Our Universities will have to adapt to this new model. In fact Prof. Phatak envisages a scenario where a typical University STOPS creating curriculum and even conducting examinations. They can use the MOOC of world’s leading colleges – and use the physical space of the local University to collaborate, discuss and solve problems.
In the course of his address, Prof. Phatak quoted Sougat Mitra. When asked if the current education system is broke, Sougat Mitra replied, “no it’s solid. Actually it’s so solid and unyielding that we can’t even break it. So – it is better to bypass it”.
More about Prof. Deepak Phatak
Prof. Phatak narrated an encounter as he opened his talk.
He was once invited to a tribal area near Thane to deliver a talk to the school students in that area. When he landed there, he was told to talk on “Information Technology” – in Marathi! “माहिती तंत्रज्ञान”. That was the first time he spoke in Marathi on that topic. He was pleasantly surprised by the intelligent questions asked by the young students.
After the talk he was surrounded by children – jostling for his autograph! That was a first again. He saw a boy standing a little away.
Do you want my autograph?
No sir, I want to talk to you.
OK, I will be with you in a few minutes.
And then a few volunteers came to Professor and told him that the local politician (MLA) was waiting for him at the snacks table. As Prof. Phatak was about to leave with them, the boy grabbed him by his sleeves.
Sir, you promised to talk to me.
Yes – but the MLA saheb is waiting for me.
Sir, I have walked 10 kilometers to listen to you.
What? Don’t you have any public transport – bus or tempo here?
We do have. Not affordable though. I walk 6 Km everyday to my school.
By this time Professor had lost his interest in the politician.
Sir, I am in 8th grade. I always stand first in my class. What would it take for me to become an expert in IT?
Professor gave him the usual spiel on the entrance exams, engineering colleges and all that. And then asked.
Why do you want to become an IT expert?
Your Nandan Nilekani founded Infosys, right? I want to found a company like that.
Here Professor Phatak shared that it was such incidents that made him make “access to education” his life mission.
Thou shalt never visit the land of plenty
Home then appears still more sordid and old
It just isn’t every Sudama’s destiny
That a boon will turn everything to gold
(Reference: Sudama, the childhood friend of Lord Krishna, on his visit to his friend, is dazzled by the opulence of Krishna’s capital. He returns to find his humble home turned in to palace thanks to a miracle wrought by Krishna.)
Here, I take the meaning of “sordid” as moral sordidness – and not the material poverty. And by moral sordidness I mean our bankrupt public life.
When in India, I had got so accustomed to seeing and reading about the terrible poverty and corruption, that my mind had become desensitized. I remember having read about a statement made by a foreigner traveling in India. He says – “People ask me if I am not shocked by the terrible poverty, lack of cleanliness, neglect of basic necessities and corruption in this county. Of course, I did feel shocked – but not by these things. I was shocked by the indifference of the well-to-do Indians to these realities of India.” I think this is a very precise observation. My state of mind, when I returned to India, was the same as that of this foreign traveler.
My long stay in America had lowered my immunity, both at the level of body and the mind. I realized that the things which others could take as ‘normal’ troubled me no end. In a way it was the proverbial ‘loss of innocence.’
I realized that many of those caught in this mess decide to go back in a fit of frustration. It did not happen to me though. One cannot bring about a change in one’s environment if one refuses to even look at it. I was sure that I could make a difference – however miniscule – in my surrounding. I was also convinced that my best chance at it was by living in India.
By the way, I also must put on record that neither me nor my family were inconvenienced in anyway as we settled in India.
Born Again Citizen (Concluding part 5. Unpublished).
सोन्याच्या द्वारकेत शहाण्याने जाउच नये
आपले घर अंगण अधिकच कंगाल दिसते
पुन्हा पाय ठेवी पर्यंत सर्व व्हावे सोनियाचे
प्रत्येक सुदाम्याचे एवढे भागधेय नसते
(प्रवासाच्या कविता, १९८२, वसंत बापट)
या ओळीतला “कंगाल” पणाचा अर्थ मी भौतिक दारिद्र्य असा घेत नाही- तर आपल्याकडची सार्वजनिक आयुष्यातील दिवाळखोरी असा घेतो.
भारतात असतांना रोज भयानक दारिद्र्य बघण्याची, त्याबद्दल वाचण्याची, एवढी सवय झालेली होती की मन त्याबाबतीत desensitize झलं होतं. एका परदेशी प्रवाश्याचं केंव्हातरी वाचलेलं मनोगत मला नेहमी आठवतं. तो सांगतो- ” लोक मला विचारतात की भारतातलं भयानक दारिद्र्य, अस्वच्छता, मुलभूत गरजांची होणारी हेळसांड आणि भ्रष्टाचार पाहून तुम्हाला धक्का बसला का? हो मला धक्का बसला हे खरं- पण तो या गोष्टींचा नाही. सुखवस्तू भारतीय माणसांची या गोष्टींवर जी प्रतिक्रिया असते ती पाहून मात्र मी नक्कीच थक्क झालो.” मला हे निरीक्षण् खूपच नेमकं वाटतं. भारतात परतलो तेंव्हा माझी गत या परदेशी माणसासारखीच झाली. अमेरिकेत राहून जशी शरीराची प्रतिकारशक्ती (immunity) कमी झाली होती, तसंच मनाचही झालं होतं.
“नेहमीच्याच” गोष्टी पाहून आपल्याला जरा जास्तच त्रास होतोय हे जाणवलं. एका प्रकारचा हा loss of innocence चाच प्रकार होता.
लक्षात आलं की बरीच मंडळी अशा परिस्थितीत तिरीमीरीत पुन्हा परत जायचं ठरवतात. माझं मात्र तसं झालं नाही. केवळ दृष्टी आड सृष्टी झाली तरी परिस्थितीत काही बदल घडत नाही. आपल्याकडून झालाच तर सकारात्मकच- मग तो कितीही छोट्या व्याप्तीचा का असेना- बदल घडेल, आणि ते इथे राहूनच जास्त जमेल हे पटलं होतं.
या ठिकाणी हे ही नमूद करयला हवं की व्यक्तीशः मला आणि माझ्या कुटुंबियाना काही त्रास होत नव्हता.
पुढे (शेवट्चा भाग)
बॉर्न अगेन सिटीझन! (अप्रकाशित)
“अजब देश गजब तऱ्हा व्यक्तीवरती सक्ती नाही
सहस्रशीर्षा पुरूषा! तुझी गणवेषातून मुक्ती नाही!”
(कवी वसंत बापट, प्रवासाच्या कविता)
या सुरक्षित, सधन आणि सुसंस्कृत अमेरिकन आयुष्यात मनाच्या एका कोपऱ्यात, नकळत, “आहे मनोहर तरी” असे विचार यायला सुरूवात झाली होती. हे असं वाटणं दोन पातळ्यांवरचं होतं.
एक म्हणजे चाळीशी जवळ दिसू लागल्यावर येणारे- आपल्याला नक्की काय करायचय, कमवायचय हे नियमित प्रश्न. आता आपलं यापुढचं आयुष्य जिथून आलो तिथेच घालवावं असं वाटायला लागलं. भारतातल्या वातावरणात, सामाजिक आणि सांस्कृतिक क्षेत्रात आपण जास्त रमू असं जाणवायला लागलं. भारतातल्या सामाजिक क्षेत्रात काम करणाऱ्या लोकांशी आपल्या कुवती प्रमाणे, जमेल त्या पध्दतीने जोडून घ्यावं असं वाटायला लागलं.
दुसरं म्हणजे, त्याच वेळी आयुष्यात एक अस्वस्थ करणारा तोच तोच पणा येत होता. अमेरिकेत बऱ्याच वेळा असं वाटायचं की आपण बेटा बेटांतून रहातो आहोत, जगतो आहोत. म्हणजे घर, ऑफिस, मित्रांची घरं, वीक एंड्सच्या सफरी, सांस्कृतिक कार्यक्रम, मुलाची सॉकर मॅच अशी चाकोरीबध्द बेटं आणि ती तरंगतायत विस्तीर्ण आणि अनोळखी अमेरिकन अंतराळात. म्हणजे तुम्ही एका सेट वरून दुसऱ्या सेटवर जाताय, असं. तसं पहायला गेलं तर हा देशच मुळात एक सुरी. ऐंशीच्या दशकात कवी वसंत बापटांनी लिहीलेलं आजही पटतं-
होटेल मोटेल खेटर मोटर देशभर करा प्रवास
एकच रूप एकच रंग एकच रुची एकच वास
अजब देश गजब तऱ्हा व्यक्तीवरती सक्ती नाही
सहस्रशीर्षा पुरूषा! तुझी गणवेषातून मुक्ती नाही!
आणि हे फक्त मलाच वाटंत होतं असं नाही. माझ्या पत्नॊच्याही मनात असेच विचार घोळत होते. एकेदिवशी अगदी प्रतिक्षिप्त क्रियेप्रमाणे आमचा परत जाण्याचा प्रवास सुरू झाला. निर्णयाच्या क्षणापासून प्रत्यक्ष पुण्यात पोहोचेपर्यंत दीड वर्षाचा कालावधी गेला. अमेरिकेत येण्यापुर्वी आम्ही मुंबईत होतो. पण परत गेल्यावर पुण्यात रहायचं ठरवलं. मग परतायच्या काही महिने आधी शाळांना भेटी आणि प्रवेश, शाळेजवळ भाड्याने जागा. नोकरीचं पुण्याला गेल्यावर बघू असं ठरवलं होतं पण योगायोगाने जायच्या काही आठवडे आधीच नोकरीचं पण नक्की झालं.
सोन्याची द्वारका. (भाग ४)
बॉर्न अगेन सिटीझन (भाग ५) अप्रकाशित.