The Unsung. The Unwanted. The Extinguished.

It’s been an extraordinary week of grim reality in what has been an extraordinary year full of grim news so far. We approached and then surpassed 100,000 coronavirus/covid-19 related deaths; more than 40 million Americans are now unemployed; one life needlessly lost due to force which was clearly avoidable. Take it all in.

The Extinguished: One life lost needlessly. Gone forever
The Unsung: 100,000+ lives lost to coronavirus/covid-19 related deaths and counting. Gone forever
The Unwanted: 40+ millions Americans now unemployed. Jobs and livelihoods gone. Hopefully not gone forever

We may have come a long way but there is no starker reminder that we have a long way to go.

We have multiple crises on our hands. Some who are tasked to lead are shying away, some who are tasked to protect and enforce laws are breaking them instead.

The world is watching America. There are fires raging all across the land. The need to act is urgent. We may have been viewed as too self-absorbed, short-sighted in our actions with a tendency to show off but the world still looked up to us as we were considered open, generous, flawed yet precociously talented and leading the way. The need to lead and act is now. Will we find a way to dig ourselves out of the mess we find ourselves in? Time, already in short supply, will tell 🙏

2020 Memorial Day weekend thoughts

Memorial Day weekend sure feels different this year. In years past in addition to remembering and honoring those who served the occasion also symbolically marked the start of summer translating into more outdoor activity, travel, shopping and eating out. This year spread of novel coronavirus / covid-19 across the globe has ravaged health, upended normal life leaving behind savaged economies in its wake everywhere. Lockdowns and stay-at-home while good at containment play havoc with the economy.

Leaders’ (both public and head of corporations) choice come with poisoned chalice: enforce lockdowns/stay-at-home orders for longer period to increase safety OR lift lockdown to allow businesses to open and add risk to safety.

Employees/workers are left with Hobson’s choice: Stay employed with a price to pay (could be a combination of reduced work hours/pay cut/furlough/compulsory vacation) or in the worst case scenario being let go.

It takes gallows humor to get through this extremely difficult time.

One silver lining at this time is that nature is showing some signs of healing. Cleaner air, clearer water and sightings of rare birds and animals have been reported with reduced industrial activity and reduced outdoor activities.

Set against this backdrop this Memorial Day weekend certainly is and feels different. Whether it turns out to be sign of better times depends largely on human nature: Will this crisis bring out the best or worst in all of us?

Meaning of some of the phrases used above (this time for a change decided to use the phrases first to express my thoughts and add the meaning later)

poisoned chalice : an assignment, award, or honor which is likely to prove a disadvantage or source of problems to the recipient.

gallows humor: grim and ironic humor in a desperate or hopeless situation.

Hobson’s choice: a choice of taking what is available or nothing at all.

silver lining: a metaphor for optimism which means a negative occurrence may have a positive aspect to it

Different walks of life

People come from different walks of life
People go for different walks in life
Some walks, like catching a beautiful sight, are inspirational
Some walks, like walking across a parking lot, are functional
Some walks, like charity walks or a sportsperson walking across a ballpark, are purposeful
Some walks, like seeing a homeless person holding a sign, are learning experience

Few sights are as awe-inspiring as that of a view from top of a hill
Few sights are as colorful as catching glimpse of a perfect rainbow
Few sights are as calming as seeing a body of water
Few sights are as rewarding as seeing perfect sunrise, sunset or clear, azure sky
When I am not visiting a place with family I prefer to walk alone
Gives me opportunity to quietly contemplate and reflect

These days my walks are mostly between my office room at home to kitchen or other rooms
Couple of times in my inter-room trips I may make a detour to the backyard
To catch glimpse of the plants and greet them “Wassup buddy”
Those flowering plants cheerfully bloom
In solitude I bloom!

P.S. Was meant to be more of a photo-essay with just a short intro to display nature unfurling its magnificence for all to behold and enjoy as a picture is said to be worth a thousand words. However, me being me, couldn’t resist 🙂 While words may try to capture the spirit the pictures capture and convey the full essence! Meant to be first watched as a collage and then as montage as each individual picture plays in the attached youtube URL!

Living on borrowed time?

Starting with a story about a fictional company, We Are The Best (WATB) Inc. WATB is a construction company that has been doing roaring business past few years. Employees were gainfully employed and eyeing more work to follow steadily as demand was at a high level. It appeared that the good times would last for the foreseeable future at least. Few months ago couple of employees fell sick in what appeared to be seasonal flu. After taking a few days off they returned to work hoping to ride it out. In the meanwhile some more employees fell sick. The # of employees with illness increased higher in a short period of time. When the HQ folks in a different city heard about this their initial reaction was “This season the flu is more severe and appears to be lasting longer than usual”. As days and weeks passed a handful of employees passed away first and the # turned into tens of them in the days that followed rattling the top management of WATB enough for the CEO, who also held the position of President, and the VP of Operations and Finance to fly in and assess the situation for themselves. To improve the morale of the employees the CEO and VP first visited the company location and assure the employees they would be taken care of and there was nothing to be alarmed about. Next they visited the hospital where many sick employees were admitted. Among the patients was one of the earliest employees who had been battling the mystery illness for many weeks and showing signs of recovering. He still had quite a few tubes attached to his body and was breathing with assistance. To help the recovering employee communicate with the CEO and VP more freely the breathing apparatus was disconnected briefly. As the execs were leaving the room after few minutes of encouraging talk the employee experienced acute difficulty in breathing and passed away. Seeing this the CEO remarked to the VP “Too bad he couldn’t fight anymore. It’s a pity after all the money the company has spent on his hospitalization, medications and expensive equipment to assist with many bodily functions including breathing”. To which the VP solmenly responded “Yes Sir, you did all you could. We are WATB for a reason and we are the best in everything we do”. After visiting a few more employee patients the CEO expressed concern to the VP on the return flight about increasing cost of treatment amid plunging revenues due to so many employees not showing up for work. With extension to their positions in the hands of board members just a few months away and the overall health of the company a primary factor in that decision the CEO wondered aloud if it might be better to let go of some of the sick employees.

The above story was to lay the groundwork for describing the current situation. In times of crisis citizens of all nations are prepared to make personal sacrifices for the greater good and support the leader. Political affiliations and leanings take a back seat and we want our leaders to succeed. As their success means a more more secure and prosperous future for all. Honest Abe, Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and FDR come to mind when considering leaders that are viewed favorably by history. Whatever their personal strengths or weaknesses when they were confronted with the biggest crisis they rose to the occasion with words and deeds that inspired their fellow citizens to trust them enough to willingly do what was asked of them. In short crisis appeared to bring their best qualities to the fore.

That raises the question: Why are our current leaders not able to unite everyone to fight a common unknown enemy at this time of crisis. The answer is simple: trust and integrity issues. The leaders of the fictional WATB come across as petty, too money minded, eager to claim credit, very concerned about being viewed as being successful and lacking in empathy. Consider all the citizens to be employees of WATB, many needing help as they are going through physical, mental, psychological stress along with financial difficulty at this time with a very shaky current and a very uncertain future. Words and deeds from leaders matter lot in such situations. Words of calm and actions that convey assurance make a difference. Leaders can’t be repeatedly complaining about the money being spent in recovery. Empathy is key along with humble recognition of the enormity of the task. This is a war of multiple battles. Shouting “Victory!” after winning one battle is premature ejaculation. To the families and friends of those who have lost a loved one or have someone fighting for their life boasting losing ten of thousands of lives is so much better than hundreds of thousands or millions is like adding insult to injury. Their pain is real. Likewise for those who have lost jobs or had to shut their business. Any positives from steps taken will be erased if the leaders come across like the top execs of WATB Inc.

Yes, the economy grinding to a halt is a valid concern and can’t go on for long. The domino effect on many industries is almost unimaginable and the ripple effect very dangerous. Yes, the Chinese Government and the authorities at the local level in Wuhan all the way up the chain owe answer to the rest of the world for simple questions like “Who knew what and when?”, “When did they realize the enormity of the situation?”, “When and to who did they raise alarm?”, “What did they do to contain the spread inside?”, “What actions did they take to prevent the spread outside?”. The actions/non-actions of those responsible doesn’t make everyone of Chinese descent suspect or justify abuse. As it’s said when one finger is pointed at someone there are more fingers pointing back at oneself. Which means the same questions that are valid for the Chinese Government and health authorities are valid for the other countries too. The next few months are going to be very tough as everyone navigates through the difficult times. Yes, some have lived on borrowed money to add to their misery. The words and actions of those responsible for citizens’ safety and security may very well determine if we are living on borrowed time

Corporate Rajisms

Starting a new series: Corporate Rajisms!
Just general observations, no company in particular.
Feel free to add more 🙂

1) It takes a Herculean effort to prevent a full scale disaster resulting from half-baked design and half-hearted implementation
2) Creativity and problem solving die a natural death at the altar where compliance and cost cutting meet
3) If all it takes to succeed is making a few heads roll the biggest suggest stories would be dictators, tyrants and despots
4) ” ‘Tis a lesson you should heed: Try, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” goes a saying. Did someone forget to add the caveat it doesn’t apply to companies that resort to serial layoffs?
5) If it’s employees who breathe life into any enterprise why do companies hope to thrive cutting the oxygen supply by laying off employees?

Smart and right thing: My 2 cents

In all the drama over the Chief Minister (CM) position post-State election in Maharashtra last month one thing that is forgotten is that doing the right thing also tends to be the smart thing to do most times IMHO. Below is my attempt to explain.

Facts: No single party emerged with majority after last month’s State election in Maharashtra. It was a fractured verdict by the voters. Pre-poll alliance of of BJP and Shiv Sena (SS) did have a combined majority which would have allowed them to form the next Government if they could have come to an agreement on power sharing and who would assume the CM post. Sadly that did not happen.

What happened immediately after election?
BJP, by virtue of being the party with the most seats, got the first crack at proving they have majority support. Differences between BJP and SS simmered to the fore and turned irreconciliable. Each party went their separate ways trying to cobble together a majority with other parties.

Why was SS insistent on getting CM post and other major portfolios in the new Government?
SS essentially perceived BJP as an existential threat. Both parties tried to appeal to the same slice of voters, with BJP being the bigger party in the State in recent times and nationally too. The alliance was always strictly a business transaction as both parties on their own could not get majority support in the State. Reason SS decided this is the right time to strike is because BJP has gotten much bigger in the past few years and along with it their ambitions have grown too. This election pretty much would have been the last election both parties fought together before BJP decided to go it alone. SS feared getting subsumed by BJP and felt their future existence was threatened in the scenario their party members moved over to BJP if they sensed wind blowing in BJP direction. To put it in business context BJP is the equivalent of a big company trying to get a foothold in a local market by initially partnering with a smaller local player SS with plans to either buy the local company in future or competing directly with them.

What happened next?
BJP tried to get support of other parties to form Government. At first they appeared to be successful till the hastily pulled together agreement came apart with the result BJP not being able to prove majority support. SS meanwhile jumped into bed with other parties to stake a claim to form Government

What is the current situation?
SS has appeared to string together an alliance with majority of sorts and has formed a minority Government

Who is the biggest loser?
BJP undoubtedly. First their pre-poll alliance with SS comes under question for values and judgment. If they knew their core values did not match with SS and still continued with the alliance for ~ 30 years their values are suspect. If they did not know about capricious nature of SS and convinced themselves they could prevail upon SS it reflects poorly on their judgment.

What should have happened for BJP to come out with some positive?
After their failure to show majority support BJP should have chosen to sit in the opposition. This would have made them come across as a party with values and with some of their tarnished judgment restored after the fact. By trying to get their bean counters cobble together a majority with fair weather friends they have come across as just another opportunistic party. Potential practical gain of the SS post-poll alliance imploding on its own due to the incongruities of the parties involved has been lost for now as the new alliance will be determined to make it work at least for the near future. Opportunity to look principled has been lost too

Bottom line: Voters’ fractured mandate should have acted as a wake up call for all political parties, especially the BJP, that voters expect results and none of the parties were considered good enough to get majority support. Past few years BJP has been daring voters to vote for other parties and predicting gloom if they did so. It has been willed to existence by voters precisely doing that. At least now BJP should go back to the drawing board and try to come up with positive message about what they achieved and what they plan/planned to achieve. Avoid portraying anyone with different opinion as opposed to development, anti-national etc. Sitting in opposition by choice would have been the right thing. And a smart thing too. Most times doing the right thing is the smart thing too!

Remote control covers / cases

This is the age of ubiquitous remote controls and pretty much every appliance comes packaged with one. Nothing appeals to human beings as much as reclining on a couch and pushing the buttons on those controls. Especially men watching a game eating popcorn with their favorite sports team playing 😀 It’s one of the most prized possessions in every home 🙂 Few decades ago when I was growing up in India as TVs with remotes were introduced in the market they were objects treated with the most reverence. So much so one of the first buys after laying hands on a remote was buying a case/cover to protect those much treasured objects. If a case/cover was not readily available people used to go to great lengths covering the remote with ziploc like transparent plastic and taping it to fit it snugly with the remote. Personally those cases or covers never appealed to me much. Using remote control with cover on is like having protected sex, not quite the same experience as one without 😀 Only reason I can think of for buying those covers/cases is protection from liquid spills while using them. Even that reason doesn’t hold much water as one shouldn’t be handling remote controls and liquids at the same time. Finish with one before handling the other 😉 Another explanation is fear of the numbers or letters on those buttons wearing off. The doesn’t make sense too. Wear off suggests user is very much aware of the function of those buttons and can handle those buttons blindly. Besides if there is so much wear and tear it may be time to replace the remote at least (if not the appliance itself) 😀

Google and pretzel logic

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the pretzel and it couldn’t have come at a more fitting time!

“Pretzel logic” is the phrase that came to mind when I looked at the doodle.

Macmillan dictionary defines that phrase as “faulty or circular reasoning that does not stand up to scrutiny”. In other words reasoning that doesn’t have much truth or logic baked into it! Which is what the high and mighty do when they try to rationalize their actions 🙂

Nothing more fitting to describe the times we live in 😀

WhatsApp and Water: What’s the connection?

I checked WhatsApp on my phone this morning after a few days. In couple of bigger groups I am in there were 100+ unread messages/posts since the last time I had checked. As usual many were forwards and forward of forwards and so forth. Quite a few were video clips and of course no morning is complete without some folks posting Good Morning messages with pictures 🙂 Some interesting, informative, important posts lost in the overall clutter 😦 A thought struck me. WhatsApp is like water!

On the surface there is not much in common between the two. Water is nature’s creation that’s a wonder and WhatsApp is man-made that makes you wonder what was it created for. But then I discerned the similarities!

1) Both are free
2) Both can be shortened to WA
3) Both consumed mainly through pipes, fatter the pipe faster the receipt
4) If not monitored both can easily overflow their containers
5) Just as water gets polluted with release of effluents WhatsApp posts also get polluted by people forwarding posts and adding their own tweaks to make it more “interesting”, the original losing whatever charm it had in the process
6) Both are subject to wanton misusage. Those who have access to either in plenty prone to use it like there is no tomorrow
7) Those with scarce availability dig deeper, quite possibly depriving others of their fair share
8) Unfortunately both end up in a sea of bilge quite often
9) Anything that is free and not properly used eventually comes with a big price for all

What is true for WhatsApp is also true for other social media tools like FB, Twitter etc. What say?