Assets and Disabilities

A rich man who had worked hard in his youth now wanted to enjoy the best of his life. He got a beautiful house built, a green lawn to go with it and a powerful vehicle. He had a vast area of land around this house. There were a few servants at his beck and call. He was now reaching his sixtieth birthday having retired a few years back.

His devoted wife was always concerned about him and their children who were well settled in life and lived in different parts of the world. Everything happened to go well for him and it appeared to all that he was living happily. But of late he was not feeling as of old. He wasn’t happy about this phase. He had no health issues yet he was feeling a bit low.

He travelled to places of scenic beauty in his car. He had the best fruits brought to his house. He was still caught in the web of money. His mind was busy calculating how much his investments gave back in return. Exploring new vistas of financial planning was becoming his best loved hobby and he had gotten used to measure everything in money. A person walking by his house was measured by him whenever they got a chance to speak to him.

He still read the newspaper before the breakfast was laid out for him. He read some paragraphs from priceless books written by successful men. Walked around his garden inspecting the trees whose produce gave him good money.

His lunch had the best dishes though he partook very little from each of them. He surveyed his workers at work in the large tracts of land and came back home having lived yet another day. But as said earlier, he wasn’t sure if he was happy in spite of having what he had wished for.

One day a famished dog with a wretched look came to the gate. The gate was half open and the dog looked at him in anticipation but he raised a hue and cry and the poor dog took to his heels. His wife who was him chided him gently for not helping the dog.

A few days after, a man came during noon time asking for something to eat. Even though he knew lunch was almost getting ready, he shooed away the poor man who had come with great expectations. This also was noticed by his wife.

The same day evening his chartered accountant came and laid before him the income statement. He was highly impressed and rewarded him and showed the statement to his wife. The assets column was overflowing whereas he had no liabilities. See Rumi, he told his wife, no liabilities. Yes!, she remarked sadly, “but you have a disability. You have lost the ability to move even a mustard of these earnings to those who need it” .

Escape to Eternity

burnt forest
Courtesy; Gettyimages

I took off fast on my horse
when I saw the forest on fire

You, who had ventured deep
amidst the pines, a while ago
dried as they were in the heat
scorching it was, this summer
a fire had started somewhere
had built itself now into a crown.

The logs of timber reduced to tinder
the horse though nervous did speed
through streaks of fire amid crashing pine
the dense smoke had made us to wheeze
wasn’t getting difficult for us both
could we surrender to the elements?
when you were there somewhere
lost yet near, waiting to be found.

As we gate crashed the rising flames
we did spy a patch of grass where
you were seen lying unable to move
with a heavy branch having fallen
that felled you as it came down
Tying the rope to the half burnt log
I asked my dear steed to back off
And then was, the tinder got moved.

I pulled dear you from underneath
Just as the fire seemed to engulf us all
‘Down you kneel’ I cried out to the horse
Helping you who could not now stand
to mount the stallion who was once
a part of a long forgotten battalion
then I jumped on to the stirrup
And how we sped, only the Lord knows.

With the fire singing on our heels
He stopped only when we were out
of the woods which had caught fire
But it kindled the lost love in us
never any fire can burn it down
nor the earth can engulf us down
partners we were, we will remain
Till these burnt woods remain…

Clouded Vision

monsoon-6
Pic Credits: Indianlifestylez

The kid on the balcony was looking out at a bunch of twigs on fire
apart from that, what would enliven her otherwise sultry afternoon?
the cool wind gushed through the trees dousing out the feeble fire
people started hurrying, sun scampering, as the place turned dark.

She looked up wondering what was it that caused it, an eclipse?
her sight met dark clouds now gathering fast from all quarters
full of moisture, laden by weight, not knowing if they could continue
or should they stop awhile and lighten their load of life giving water?

In full array, they came and converged in a circle around the place
it would now rain at any moment, the girl thought, with sheer joy
She ran down the  stair rails to enjoy the first rain of the season
the monsoon had arrived with all paraphernalia, ready to deliver.

The streak of lightening greeted her as her feet touched the ground
thunderclaps resonated notifying that the act was about to start
army of clouds now started to pour their oblations upon the place
this ritual always appeared in time to drench her, so she thought…

Indian Monsoon

Wandering miles through burnt grass
in search of the elusive water source
the animals all huddled up, look for signs
that can only herald the arrival of
their perennial savior from the skies.

One fine day, a cool breeze starts to blow.
The hot air now becomes the hunted
looking for dear places to hide
for death is certain with the arrival
of the Great Indian Monsoon.

The small streams and the rivulets,
pour their volumes into rivers beds
that were once sand banks and ponds
and playing fields to kids in summer
now slushy fields with the downpour.

Life is back to normal now that nature
has bestowed its blessings upon the
region that gets its bountiful rain
for which man was ready till now
to barter with gold and riches he had.

So much is at stake, thus spake the
economists whose misty vision
revolves and evolves on the
aspects as well as the prospects
of an advancing and retreating monsoon..

Calamities

A calamity befell me when I stayed in a big city
I thought of leaving the city and reached a village
It seemed to be a safe place till an earthquake struck
I ran to a safer place where I built a house of rags
only till an angry fire consumed it when it got hungry
I shifted my base to a cold serene place near a river
and lived happily for a while till a flood took everything
and left me stranded on a rock alone with my thoughts…

Why there is amity whenever a calamity befalls us
Why there is enmity among us when things are fine
Why can’t people understand good old theme of unity…

Root Cause Analysis

I met Asiri when he joined our hardware support team, the same time I had been inducted into the documents clearing software team. There were around 10 engineers in hardware support and were quite busy with the numerous installations we had in the emirates. Most of them were either on a call with a customer, or driving to a customer site or was already at the site. It was not that they were busy all the time, there were days when most of them were seen in the department, carrying out the process documentation or inspecting faulty equipment in the lab by wearing anti-static aprons or even vetting newly arrived equipment spares at the store. We, the payments software team gelled well with them. Both teams, the hardware and software support, used to rush to assist each other whenever required at various sites. Those days in the late 90’s, Dubai was devoid of much traffic and we could cover Bur Dubai and Deira within a matter of few minutes.

There were times or days when most of the incidents would happen due to hardware glitches and while some clients thought it was a software problem, others blamed it on the equipment. On such occasions, our support departments wore a deserted look. I thought of writing this post today to highlight the ways and means used to uncover the root cause by our engineers especially Asiri also referred to as the ‘Doctor’. Asiri used to wear his anti-static apron more than anybody else and that is how the term ‘Doctor’ stuck to him. One more reason was due to his style of functioning whenever he reached the site. He used to sit or stand patiently beside the faulty document processor, maybe touching it all the time and getting valuable feedback from the customer as to what caused it to malfunction. He would appear as a doctor posing many a question to the client to understand the root cause before he even thought of opening or checking the machine.

One day, a bank called him while he was on the way to office in the morning, saying that one of their document processors was rejecting all the cheques/checks instead of processing them. He thought it could be a sensor failure issue and reached the client in 20 minutes. In Deira Dubai, those days, you might take only 10 minutes to reach but you may need another 10 minutes to find parking for your car. By the time he reached the site, the document processor which was acting weird was now back to its normal self and processing them without any issue. Asiri cleaned the sensors at the reading bay and watched the machine for another 15 minutes and finding nothing unusual came back.

The next day more or less at the same time, another Engineer received a similar incident call from the same bank around 11 am and rushed to central operations and by the time he reached, the machine as earlier had shook off its symptoms and was processing the cheques at its standard speed of 250 documents per minute. He also sat for around 15 minutes and finding nothing unusual left the client. The client also joked saying that when you doctors come, the machine doesn’t show any symptoms. This incident, if memory serves me right was not communicated by the second engineer to Asiri the same day.

The third day, Asiri is in office and waiting for any potential incident to happen and perhaps working on one of the defective document processor in the lab when he got a call again for the same issue. Since the client had a backup machine and it was not a peak volume day for the bank, he took some time to get out of the lab. By the time he reached his car, the client called back again saying the machine was working fine now and he need not come.

Asiri walked back from the parking space to the office and that is when he met the second engineer who told him about the call he made the earlier day to the bank and how he had to come back since there was no problem with the machine when he arrived. “So that means today is the third day, the machine is behaving this way” said Asiri and checked the time. All three incidents were pointing to the time around 11 AM.

The next day, as was his usual wont, Asiri did not wait for the customer to call but made himself present at around 10:30 AM at the site. Fakhruddin who was managing the clearing operations at central operations welcomed Asiri by saying “today nothing will happen since you are here”. Asiri smiled and asked for a chair and got seated with his eyes riveted on the reading bay sensor where each speeding cheque on the track is sensed and stopped. He just sat there looking at the sensor, who he rightly thought was the root of the cause while the minutes ticked away. At around 11 AM, he saw the rays of the sun striking the sensor through the venetian blinds of the cabin, and the sensor along with the machine went haywire as the cheques on the track started getting rejected and Fakhruddin had to stop the machine by pressing the pause button. A smiling Asiri pointed out to Fakhruddin the root cause which was the venetian blind slanting position and moved across and closed them completely. On the way out, he told Fakhruddin, “You won’t face this issue anytime soon unless someone plays with the blinds again“.

NDP 250
NDP 250 Document Processor

Food for thought

The divine Sage was in deep meditation for a few hours and as he got up from his seat, he could sense that his beloved wife had prepared the noon meal. There were a lot of guests who were waiting for that moment when they would be called to partake of the meal after the Sage and his beloved disciple Makarand would have finished their meal. But as usual, Makarand was not to be seen nor he was responding to the call from the Sage’s wife. He fulfils all his duties perfectly but when it comes to having his food we have to call him many times. Shouldn’t he respect the food that is served to him or haven’t you taught him that. Look at the birds and animals waiting patiently for you both to finish the meal so that they can have theirs. I just have to call them once and they will come running to me. You are right devi, I need to teach him this aspect soon. He closed his eyes for a moment, said his prayers and started on his meal. Markand came late just when the Sage was getting up.

A couple, Malhar and Gauri lived in a small town. They were devoted to each other. They didn’t mind sharing food to anyone who came knocking at their door or came calling in the case of animal kind. The wife used to make rotis(flat bread) and some vegetable as her husband was a daily wage worker. Some days he used to get some work, sometimes he returned by lunch time and they would have their tiffin together.

Apart from the poor who visited their homes during lunch time to get a share from their scanty store, there were visitors in the form of a pigeon, a crow and a dog who used to visit by morning. The dog used to get half a roti and the pigeon and the crow, pieces from the other half. After having that, they would disappear. Not all days they used to visit but those days when they didn’t get food elsewhere one or two or all three would be present. The lady was very happy to feed them as if they were her own children. She used to be sad on those occasions where one or more wouldn’t turn up a particular day.

Not one who came to them went empty handed. One day she prepared 5 rotis as the flour had finished and the husband said he would bring it on his way back from work. She packed 2 rotis for him, kept one for herself and one for any guest who might turn up. Another one was for the dog and the birds.

On the way to work, the husband kept one roti back for her or any additional guest who might turn up. If any one so did turn up he very well knew she would give her share and go hungry.

The Sage and his disciple had decided to visit the home of Malhar today. Such visits benefited Makarand and also the host. They entered the house invisibly just in time to find Malhar putting one roti back. The Sage with his divine power added one more roti to the basket and one roti to Malhar’s lunch box. They then came to the door of the house and sat there waiting. Are you waiting for Malhar to leave? asked Makarand. Yes and then we will have some visitors to this house, came the Sage’s reply. They waited patiently. Malhar had left for work a few moments ago. Then one dog appeared at the door gave a small bark calling out for food. Shortly a pigeon flew and landed a few feet away from the dog making a guttural voice. Then there appeared a crow who sat on one of the branches of the guava tree in the courtyard and started calling out for food.

Are these the visitors to this house that you were referring to? Makarand’s question added to the clutter. Yes and we two also will make our presence felt now, replied the Sage. The lady opened the door and found an elderly mendicant and his disciple seeking food at her doorsteps. Her attention also went to the dog and the 2 birds. Today is a blessed day certainly. She went inside to open the food basket when she remembered that there were only three rotis left. It is fine she told herself, I can go without food till my husband comes in the evening.

She opened the basket to see 5 rotis intact there. Why, she had forgotten to put the two rotis in Malhar’s lunch box! Oh, what will he feel when he opens his box during lunch time. She got disturbed but couldn’t remain so for long. There were people waiting for food and she couldn’t keep them waiting. She went out, gave one each to the Sage and his disciple. The leftover roti, she broke in half and gave to the dog. The other half she broke into two made them into small pieces and gave it to the Crow and the pigeon who were crying all the time for food.

Isn’t it strange for these birds and dog to cry so desperately for food when they should wait for her patiently. I am sure she feeds them most of the time they come here..the disciple cut himself short as he saw the lady coming out with another box with the remaining rotis.

Please have your food. I need to go out and search for my husband. He has gone empty handed, she told the guests. Do not worry lady when this dog can help you seek him. Go with him and he will help you find your husband today. Saluting them, she hurried out into the street with the dog running after her. The crow and the pigeon after having their food also flew away.

Now that we are left to ourselves, could you let me know why you chose this house today. The couple so loving and yet they do not have any child. Aren’t they blessed or were they cursed in their previous birth? The lady wasn’t cursed but her curse is working now for her three sons. The lady in her past birth was just like this, doting after her sons and their father. Every day she used to prepare delicious food for the family. But most of the days they didn’t come to her for lunch. They found it worth while to visit many of the houses in the locality or cheap rest houses and found happiness in such food they offered. Even if they were at home she had to call a hundred times for them to have their food on time. Many a day in despair she had muttered to herself that it would have been better preparing food for the animals seeking food at her home.

Now in the present, they go in search of food at various houses and restaurants but most of the time nobody gives them anything and they come here to their mother who always has food for them.

So how have you blessed her by our visit today, asked Makarand. From now on her flour will never get over like it did today and she will have enough rotis in her basket when the situation demands and yes she will have these sons back and obedient in their future birth, replied the Sage. And I think I have learnt something today, said Makarand, I will take my seat on time whenever food is lovingly served by mother…

Writing a Story

Writing a good story is similar to preparing a good dish. A good story should have all the possible ingredients to help the plot. While starting to write a story, you have an outline and the main content that you intend to serve to your readers just like a recipe does. Therefore the storyline or the theme, whether it is a sweet story or an emotional one has to have the right ingredients. Each ingredient has to be added in the right measure lest that very one if added in excess might spoil the story. There is no harm in experimenting by adding new thoughts and sub plots to the main story as you write, but the main structure should be able to hold on its own, however much spices or sugar you are going to add to it.

The serving part is also important. The story has to be properly packaged and the sweetness or the spicy nature should unfold slowly to the reader as they savor the story bit by bit. Some stories need to be rewritten and corrected and may take time to publish as it needs to blend properly just like good old wine. The writer also should take care to read the story from a reader’s perspective and see if the reading experience was what was intended for the reader fraternity.

The reader also has to be hungry enough when he or she sits to read. Too much stress and too many things on the mind does not help one to understand or enjoy the story as the writer had intended to. Also, the story should be a healthy one that supplements our mind with the right nutrients and adds to our visual and mental experience. So for those who have ventured newly into writing stories, you may not always get your story right the first time, but as you make these small adjustments and improve over time, your stories would prove to be a delightful experience to your readers as you churn or serve them out…

Funding the Refund

When I was a Centre Coordinator of a training institute in the early 90’s, we had advertised for a six month diploma course and got quite a good number of registrations with the first installment of 3250 rupees if memory serves me right. We had got the required number for the new batch which was to start in a couple of days.

It was then a student’s father came to meet me with his ward who had enrolled for the course. She had got admission in a teachers training course for which she had applied earlier and wanted to join it. So taking it as a special case, they had requested to refund the first installment amount.

But having said that I had a tough time convincing the franchise to proceed with the refund. Since it was advertised that the payment was non refundable it was difficult for him to process the refund. This went on for a couple of weeks. The girl’s father came to me a couple of times in that fortnight and I had to send him back on both occasions assuring him that there would be a solution. It was clear to me that the franchisee would not budge and was not willing to forego what he had collected. I could sense how much that money meant to the poor father. It could have been from his savings of maybe 6 months or more.

When the third time he came to meet me, I was at my wits end and consulted my inner self asking what can we done for this poor man and I got the reply as a fleeting thought. It had to be kept a secret, not even the accountant should know lest the franchise come to know about it through him.

I wanted to kick myself for sending him away a third time but this time told him that the management had agreed to his request and he may collect it next weekend around 6 pm. The next week when he arrived, he was not sure, who knows perhaps I had another excuse or a tale to tell. It was evening time and the administration and accounts team had left for the day. I had received my salary of 3800 the same day morning and I had put 3250 in an envelope and kept it ready.

I asked him to sit down and told him how the management was kind enough to consider his application and agree for the refund. I opened the drawer and handed him the sealed envelope and asked him to sign the receipt form which I was to file later somewhere in my home. He muttered many a thanks to me and the management as he left, a relieved man. I too left for home after a few minutes where I could catch a sweet well gained sleep.

The Cordless Projector

Some time ago in the late 90’s a new bank being setup in Abu Dhabi was going through a lot of meetings and demos with suppliers for the various systems needed.

I was working with a firm which was a distributor of a leading document processor company. Myself and our sales guy Raheel had started out early morning from Dubai and reached well before our presentation time at the bank’s make shift office. We found to our surprise that our only competitor team had arrived even before us and they looked professional to the core, all dressed in blazer suits and having a couple of laptops rehearsing their presentation.

Cheque Document Processor

Here we were with an old desktop computer and an equally old cheque clearing document processor and with no presentation except the demo software which we were supposed to present. We certainly looked out of place when the competitor guys looked at us handling all the hardware and the cables. Raheel asked me to leave all the hardware and rushed out with myself to our regional office which was luckily a couple of buildings away.

We paced into our office with a running request for a computer, where Raheel prepared a quick presentation having 4 or 5 slides, copied onto a 3.5 inch floppy disk. We asked Siddhique, the office assistant to come at around 11 am to pick the hardware and help us load it in our car on our way back.

We raced back to the bank office just in time for our demo. The competitor guys were still working on their presentation, making it slick minute by minute. One of them was walking to and fro and doing a shadow presentation. We said our prayers and hoped to do our best we could in the time we were allotted and entered the meeting room. There was an oval table, a white screen and a projector with around 4 people from the bank’s team eager to watch our presentations. Raheel’s last minute slides were equally important as my demo with the hardware and software. Just as we gave our thanks and came out, we chanced upon Siddhique looking out for us, and asked him to help us take all the hardware and load it into the car.

The document processor modules, the desktop computer, the RS232 serial port and power cables had to be removed and we entrusted that task to Siddhique. On the way back to Dubai after a quick late breakfast, Raheel made a call to the bank’s coordinator just to check how the competitor’s demo had been. The friendly voice at the other end replied,”we had to cancel that demo as your guy who came to take all of your equipment also took our projector’s power cable. I hope it was not done by you guys on purpose”.