Wednesday 9 November 2016

Currency Change in India

The decision to account for the 500 and 1,000 Rs. note, the new counter-feit control measures in the new currency, the entire set of plan, the obvious and the not so obvious is all welcome as a national and political decision.

However, pessimistic as I am, here is what I feel about the very compromised state of democracy in India, in general and I do not think any currency reforms can change this.

Chand kaagaz ke tukde the,
Suna hai ab bekaar honge.
Kya fark padta hai yaar,
Pehle 1000 the ab 2000 honge.

Mujhse poocho to lagta hai,
Sirf dhandhe ki nayi tazveez hai ye,
Pehle chhote khareedar the,
Ab mote dukaandaar honge.

Dhandha to tab bhi chaalo rahega,
Imaandaari ka, neeyat ka, ehsaas-faroshi ka.
Kya hua gar kuchh log,
Kuchh gaahak imaandaar honge.

Ahle-hukum koi bhi hon,
Aur faisla kuchh bhi karein.
Ghulaami barkaraar rahegi,
Koi na koi to sarkaar honge!

 चंद कागज़ के टुकड़े थे 
सुना है अब बेकार होंगे । 
क्या फ़र्क पड़ता है यार 
पहले 1000 थे अब 2000 होंगे ॥ 
मुझसे पूछो तो यूँ लगता है 
सिर्फ़ धंधे की नयी तज़वीज़ है ये । 
पहले छोटे गाहक थे 
अब मोटे खरीदार होंगे ॥

धंधा तो तब भी चालू ही रहेगा 
ईमानदारी का, नीयत का, एहसास-फ़रोशी का । 
क्या हुआ गर कुछ लोग, 
अब की तरह तब भी ईमानदार होंगे ?

अहल - ए - हुकुम कोई भी हों, 
और फैसला कुछ भी करें । 
ग़ुलामी बरक़रार तब भी होगी, 
और कोई न कोई तो सरकार होंगे ॥

© Anupama 2016 

Friday 7 October 2016

Questions, answers, Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa

Kyun Ziyaankar Banu, Sood Faramosh Rahoon?
Fikr-e-Farda Na Karoon, Mehw-e-Gham-e-Dosh Rahoon?
Naal-e-Bulbul Ke Sunoon Aur Hamatan Gosh Rahoon?
Hamnawa Main Bhi Koi Gul Hoon Ke Khamosh Rahoon?
Jurr'at Aamoz Meri Taab-e-Sukhan Hai Mujhko!
Shikwa Allah Se Khakam Badhan Hai Mujhko!
(Muhammad Iqbal)

The first time, I ever heard a musical rendition by Tina Sani; of this beautiful piece of poetry by Iqbal and also the story behind it from a friend of mine, I instantly gravitated to read the whole text. Since I cannot not read Urdu, I read translations after translation, only to find myself getting attracted to this profound dialogue between the man and God.

I could relate. I felt betrayed after a series of accidents, a lot of debt, careers gone for a toss, family scattered, drinking sinking in me. I felt desolate. I felt deserted. The God that I believed in, had prayed to, for years, suddenly felt non-existent.

Iqbal seemed to be asking the same questions as I had, in different context though. Jawab – e- Shikwa seemed to be answering the questions the same way, as I answered my own. It sounded hollow, it sounded fake, it sounded incapable of providing me with the much needed solace.

It just wouldn’t get fixed, until last year. However, accept it or not, even when life wasn’t turning around, I was apparently constantly dropping pins all over; dots that I now seem to be connecting slowly. Life is slowly turning around and it seems that finally answers to my questions are coming through as well.

Over years, I have also realized that the ways to find answers to questions are varied, diverse and specific to each individual. For some answers come through meditation, for others through activity, for more through chanting, deity worship, astrology, art, science and what not. I still don’t know what helps me find my answers, it’s such a mess at times. As long as I find them though.

I have further realized that everything in this world must be questioned. If it is meant for you and if you ask the right questions, the answers will come. As I ask my questions, I hope you ask yours too and find answers to those questions that really matter.

And of course, in the meanwhile, here's the Tina Sani rendition that got me hooked to the beautiful verses above. Enjoy!

© Anupama 2016 

Monday 3 October 2016

Latest Achievements and Projects

It is interesting how life has taken a turn in an unprecedented direction. This blog was originally meant to be a journal, then a place where I could collate all my writing as a central platform and now it seems to be that one space where I share with the world a summary of all those bits and pieces I keep sharing at all other places.

A lot of good changes have happened over the last few months. This post is meant to count blessings :)

  1. I managed to publish 3 books in the alternative lifestyle space. I am working on three more.
  2. I also managed to quit a full time job and sustain for six months while working on some extremely exciting projects.
  3. I continue to ghost write and build my writer portfolio, but I finally have a vision and a clear sense of direction.
  4. I am taking up a few new projects and once they reach their first milestone, I will love to share them with you all.
  5. Most importantly, I'm able to make a living through writing and also able to be with my loved ones. I am able to pick up my life where I left it almost a decade ago :)

A big thank you to all of you who have stood by my side in solidarity. A big love you to all those who've stayed on the fringes while still watching my back.

Do keep reading and sharing feedback. DO keep requesting for what you would like to read.

© Anupama 2016

Sunday 8 May 2016

5 reasons a socio-culturally messed up nation like ours should not celebrate mother's day!

"Happy Mother's day Mom ! Is there a small gift I can give you today please?" 

My mom hugged me, smiled in my eyes and shook her head. Next I knew we were playfully bantering about how it should be me getting gifts for being her first child and thus causing her to be declared a mother once I was born. Dad, brothers, all of us busy teasing her. I digress, I will return to this at the end of the post again.

Later that night, I wondered if it really made sense? All this mother's day hullabaloo everywhere. I'm not going to go all fundamentalistic, only because I know I would be judged, but here are a few questions:

  • Indians celebrate two navratras and Durga Pujas. Do we really need an extra mother's day? Even symbolically, I feel more connected and more child - like to the divinity that a lot of us Hindus call 'Maa'. We have The Yashoda Ma, The Sita Mata, Mother Mary, Mata Parvati, Maa Saraswati. But we also have Maa Lakshmi, who does not have a mythological son. What does that indicate?
If not symbolically, what exactly is it that we do to feel entitled to celebrating Mother's day? We're socio-culturally messed up as a nation! I wonder if we even deserve to have mothers and if we do, then have we earned the right to call them parents. For those of us who ARE mothers ourselves, are we the mothers that deserve being called mothers?

I see facebook pages swarming with mother's day posts; I see various organizations with a mother's day theme, I see businesses trying to sell me pizzas, cakes, flowers, cards, food, clothes, interior decoration, health check ups and what not for my mother; I see friends flaunting how their kids cook for them. I mean serious ladies? A lot of us used to cook AT LEAST 3 days a month for the whole family in tier 3 cities, even if our moms did not let us cook the rest of the time.

Even beyond all this, I personally feel that as a community, a nation, a people, a society, we've lost the right to celebrate mothers and motherhood, here's why:

  • We do NOT WANT or DESERVE mothers to begin with.
With female foeticide and infanticide rates still on a high, do we really want mothers in our society? I mean keep killing potential mothers even before they are born, and then go around selling to me the concept of 'Happy Mother's Day'! And don't even get me started about mothers who abort their own girl children! Hypocrisy much???

  • We do not want to talk about how girls actually become mothers.
We do not talk about sex, periods, menstrual cycles and pregnancy. We do not prepare our girls to be mothers. We believe in - 'bachchha to time aane pe ho hi jayega'! With that sort of hypocrisy, a lot of women are not even prepared to be mothers. Forgive me, but no matter how happy motherhood maybe, unplanned, really?

  • We HAVE FAILED our mothers by our inability to provide proper maternal health.
Oh, I wish I didn't have to mention this one! There may be costly nursing homes, doctors, experts on prenatal, neonatal and postnatal care, but what percentage of women actually have an access to the maternal care before, during and after their pregnancy? Read a report here1 But so what? We're better than Pakistan! Yo baby!!!

If businesses had SOME shame, their products would be around cheaper sanitary napkins, easy access to medical facilities, provision of transportation in rural areas for pregnant women (do you hear the Ola and the Ubers of the world?) I don't think so. We claim we respect mothers? Like, really?

  • We discriminate against our mothers!
Oh yes! We do that all the time! I've seen caregiver discrimination of this form for so long. We want women to be machines producing babies, taking care of them AND performing the best at work. Yet, we continue to be prejudiced against working mothers.

Oh the child's skirt isn't the best pleated? 
"Iski maa ko naukri aur office se fursat mile tab to!"

There's food to cook, homework to finish, bag to pack, lunch to make AND a job to do.

Maa to Main hi hoon na!
And at office?
"Kya madam, apko itni chutti kyon chahiye? Abhi last fortnight to PTM tha na! "
"Please make sure we don't end up hiring someone who's planning pregnancy or is returning a short while after their maternity break!" (Internal hiring discussion)
"Oh you've just returned from your maternity break? Wonderful!". After 3 more rounds of interview - "Sorry, but the Ops manager has rejected. Better luck next time!" 

I mean woman, was your ops manager not capable of reading the CV when she'd applied?

  • Most heinously? We discriminate among our mothers!
Widow mother? - Bechari dukhiyari!
Divorced Mother?  - Pati ke saath rehti to bachchhe to nahi bigadte!
Single / Unmarried mother ? - Saali Besharam! (oh and do grind your teeth and grunt a bit when using this language)
A working mother ? Kya ghar ka dhyaan rakhti hogi yaar!
A woman who doesn't want to be a mother - irresponsible, selfish bitch!

I mean wow! Perhaps I'm pessimistic. I have loads of happy friends, happy to be mothers! All power to you ladies! However, a batch of 100 women I know isn't sufficient percentage for me to celebrate mother's day !

I told you I will return to my family banter again at the beginning of the post. Here's what happened...

Me: Dad, is it not hypocrisy to be celebrating mothers' day when we as a society are so messed up.
Dad (sigh): Unfortunately, yes it is.
Me : I am sorry mom, I took so much time to actually realize your value in my life. Now that I do, will you be happy if I still did not wish you a 'Happy Mother's Day!"
Mom (with a smile) : I'll be happier if you wish me after earning that right like you say. Go change the world, talk, write, do something. Do your bit and then come and wish me, I'll be happy!

With this thought, on this day - A Very Happy Mother's Day to All the Struggling Mothers out there! May you shine and May you help your sisters shine!

©Anupama Garg 2016, May

Thursday 14 April 2016

Writing Update

Hello Lovely People! I know I've been away for long now and a big warm thank you to all of you , who read my posts, waited around for me to write again.

I've been very caught up with a new work situation, travel, home, family, festival, my book writing and much more.

I'm yet to give you part 3 of the Uber Exchange program.

But I've also been writing a wee bit on Linkedin. Here are the links:

Lessons Taken and Discarded
The power of 120 seconds - Pitch off your ideas
Explain to me like I'm a four year old - My acid test for recruitment 

I've also been working on a few poems, a few audio scripts, a few books and soon I should have loads to share. Till then, please watch this space !

Lots of love.

©Anupama Garg 2016 April

Monday 14 March 2016

Thuan Pham, Uber CTO - "Don't take Anything for Granted" - at Uber Exchange Invest India

I know this post comes after a long time, but I've really been occupied with work, my books, family, festival and so much more. Life is good and I'm grateful.

Now to the main story that I want to share....

It was an extremely empowering and enlightening experience to hear Thuan Pham talk about so many practical challenges that I have faced in a lot of my previous jobs with smaller setups and startups.

I won't get into any further introductory details of the venue, etc. But let me tell you how I got an opportunity to listen to Thuan mentor a bunch of startups. I was representing  Projects for School  at the Uber Exchange Invest India in the month of March.

To begin the interaction, 3 questions from the startup scenario were given, startups had to begin the participation by answering any of these questions and then Mr. Pham would share his insights / inputs. Eventually it was to become an open questionnaire.

The input questions were as follows:

1. How do you continue expanding / scaling in line with profitability?
2. How do you hire and / or develop external and / or internal leaders?
3. How does a startup ensure that they do not over hire?

Someone began with the second answer and shared their HR and office politics woes. If I understood it correctly, Thuan gave a very insightful, almost flowchart like answer. Seemingly very simple in its approach, it looked like the one thing almost all business leaders in the startup ecosystem constantly deny.

The steps are:
  • Identify your skill / talent need.
  • Do you have an interal leader fitting that bill?
    •     If yes - problem solved.
    •     If no - Is there someone who can be groomed? How long will it take to groom them? Can my business wait that long?
      • If no - Hire the next best fit
      • If yes - You groom, those who potentially fit in.
If I understood the gentleman correctly, he said, do not  take anything or anyone for granted.

Your people are the key resource you have. While they are dispensible, do not take them for granted is my learning from the whole event.

A business can only continue to scale in line with their sustainability and profitability if they do not over hire. As a result, it is important to know when you may be over hiring. For that matter, it is important to know when you may be overdoing anything which amounts to investment. The only way around is - Titration. The only way is to evaluate every thing and "Don't take Anything for Granted". Interesting that very soon we all heard Leonardo De Caprio say the same words in an entirely different context and from an entirely different platform though.

Launch your plan on a small scale, measure impact against the effort, scale up a bit, retitrate, rinse and repeat. The more capability a business has to do this, the better it is and the more sustained growth they achieve.

Thank you for the insights, Thuan.

©Anupama Garg 2016 March

Sunday 13 March 2016

Uber Exchange Invest India - Part 1 - Inaugural Session

I recently attended one of the Uber Exchange Invest India Programs in Delhi, combined with IIT Delhi’s e-summit. Uber CTO, Mr. Thuan Pham interacted with around 20 shortlisted startups and his session was followed by a fire side chat with Anand Chandrasekaran, CPO , Snapdeal.

In my new and exciting role as the CCO for a young startup ProjectforSchools, my social and business networking activity has recently increase manifold. As such, I look forward to a lot of learning opportunity all the time and am always full of questions, taking copious notes as my questions are answered.

This series of blog posts will primarily focus on my learning from the interaction with Mr. Thuan Pham, Mr. Shankar Aggrawal, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, India, when Ms. Shanno Beghum, one of Uber’s first women driver partner/s and Anand Chandrasekaran, CPO , Snapdeal.

I must make it clear that I am going to focus on what I learnt as a young female aspiring / acting CCO without a technical background from at least 3 of the most technical brains of the industry and bureaucracy. Also, that the more consolidated versions and focused write-ups around these lessons can be found on my LinkedIn profile.

Inaugural Session:

In the inaugural session, Thuan indicated Uber’s visionary approach towards building a technology platform / market place to create entrepreneurial spirit and empower young startups and entrepreneurs, to invent things together.

It was heartening to see Mr. Aggrawal, talk about the commitment of the Indian government to empower the market and change the overall employment landscape. Together, they also demonstrated the National Career Service Centre portal which is a one stop shop for job seekers, job providers, career counselors and entrepreneurs together.

The change was certainly evident, when Ms. Shanno Beghum, Uber’s driver partner shared her story of empowerment facilitated by the disruptive market leaders.

However, my question to Mr. Aggrawal was as follows:
“I hear a lot of woman empowerment, I see it happening too, I also see the evidence in ladies like Shanno Ji. But I also realize that this empowerment is focused on the lower and middle socio-economic strata of our women population. On the other hand, we have very few role models as successful women entrepreneurs, CXOs etc. more so in technology – driven setups. Does this portal, at some point aim to address specific needs of people like me – the young, ambitious, woman entrepreneur?”

It was very encouraging to see Mr. Aggrawal openly admit that the portal as well the visionary program is young at this moment. While specific needs for young, ambitious women like me may not be addressed today or in immediate future, they certainly look forward to my generation paving the way for our successors. An honest, transparent and yet encouraging response. Thank you Sir!

Reference Link on The Economic Times

Look out for part 2 on specifics around Thuan Pham's talk and interaction with the selected startups.

©Anupama Garg 2016 March