Gandhi on Agni V

April 20, 2012

Well, Gandhi was lucky enough, not to live this long to say anything about the chest-thumping around the launch of Agni V. But, the book I was reading yesterday, gave me enough indications on what he could have said.

‘My days with Gandhi’ by Nirmal Kumar Bose is a very unusual book on Gandhi. It is unfortunate that Nirmal’s book is often used to sully the Mahatma, but it paints a wonderful picture of the man, Gandhi, and demystifies him for us, even while exalting his principles higher.

Nirmal, an anthropologist who acted as a translator and secretary for Gandhi in Bengal during 1946-47, narrates a meeting with Raymond Cartier, a French journalist.

‘Cartier asked him, how could France survive if it didn’t defend herself against the Germans? Gandhi retorted by saying that the Maginot Line had failed in its purpose. Cartier remarked that the fault was not in the principle but in some technical imperfection. “Yes”, Gandhiji quickly replied, “that is what I mean. Unless you can beat Hitler by superior violence, you cannot obtain victory. But then Hitlerism wins. That can be liquidated only by something which its opposite in character, not by superiority of arms.” ‘

There is another incident where Gandhi is forthright in his views on what should be India’s stance on  nuclear weapons.

‘One professor of science asked Gandhiji what scientists should do if Free India ordered them to produce atom bombs, for instance. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied : “Resist them unto death. Scientists to be worth the name should only do that.” ‘

Before we dismiss his statement as coming from an impractical old man, who was anti-science, we must know that some eminent scientists and thinkers, including none less than Einstein, had come to a similar conclusion with the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

Even in those dark days of partition-related violence, Gandhi had the conviction to hold strong views on the efficacy of non-violence. He was only ready to concede the imperfect implementation of his non-violence.

“It was the duty of Free India to perfect the instrument of non-violence in resolving collective conflicts if its freedom was going to be really worthwhile.”

Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) proposed meeting Chinese aggression in 1962 with his non-violent Shanti Sena. It didn’t materialize then but that must be the last brave proposal at confronting violent, external aggression with peace. (The Shanti Sena : The philosophy, history and action by Thomas Weber is a wonderful book on this subject.)

We started burying Gandhi long before he died, and having gradually buried all claims to moral superiority on the world stage, we are only digging the grave deeper now. Hitlerism rules.

Sweat, stink and some management gyan

April 20, 2012

A 50+ year old man sat next to me on the Volvo bus. The first thing that struck me was the stink. It was a hot afternoon in Bangalore and it showed in his sweat. The driver had not yet started the bus and had not switched on the AC. I am sure he must have felt the same about me.

“What a pain it is to sit in an AC bus without the AC on…with all these sealed glass windows!”.

Both of us didn’t have confirmed tickets yet, and so didn’t venture out.

I told him there was also a private Volvo bus outside the bus stand, with tickets costing Rs.50 less. He exclaimed, ” Oh, had I known, I would have taken that bus! I could have asked them to boost the price on the ticket by Rs.200 and claimed it.”

Ah, finally, the driver had come and the AC sprang to life.

I asked him, if he was working for the government.

“No, no, I have worked in private companies for the last 25 years.”.

He is now in a company that is primarily into manufacturing transformers.

“I am travelling to Chennai, and have to take a train to Delhi early in the morning. From there, a bus to some place in Haryana.”

He then talked about various other places he has visited in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat.

He didn’t have the polish of a Sales guy. Are you in Sales?

“No, I  travel to attend to service calls. To fix our machines that have broken down”.

But he wasn’t a full-time service person. When he was not on the road, he was working on the shop floor, in production.

“If I work for a full day at my company, I bring in Rs.13 lakhs of revenue. Look at what I am doing now – travelling to an obscure place in Haryana and then to Gujarat, spending most of my time on the road. All this is because our middle management doesn’t care about process and quality.”

He also feared that they would soon need a full-time service team.

“Some of the problems that I am fixing at customer sites are very basic. There are new machines that have broken down because there is no oil. The seal is intact, there is no way the customer could have tampered with it – it is a clearly our fault. This is absurd. I have no idea how these machines were cleared to exit our factory. Our managers, with their fancy engineering degrees care only for the revenues.”

But before we jump to the conclusion that this is typical anti-management mumbo-jumbo, expected from any factory worker and even IT professionals, he is in awe of his MD.

“Our MD is a good man. He is young and wants to build a top-class company. He is willing to listen. He gave us Rs.30000 hike at one shot after one of our discussions. He is always willing to be convinced. But that works to his disadvantage too. He is easily convinced by the managers. He is open and I have personally hinted about the attitude of managers to him. But I can not talk more than throwing some hints.”

He thinks money is the root-cause of all problems.

“Including me, I think we are being paid too much. It kills the desire to work hard.”

I didn’t ask him, why was he then ruing the missed chance to claim Rs.200 more, wrongly.

Despite everything, he believes the workforce is motivated and loves his organization.

“We have a very good workforce. Even a person, about to retire, works at 120% productivity on the last day. If only we had good managers…”

Gems and potatoes

April 14, 2012

They are digging for potatoes.
The gems that come their way
they cast aside with their iron bars,
and keep digging for potatoes.

– translated from an obscure Tamil text (திருநாகைக்காரோணப்புராணம்) quoted in U.Ve.Saminatha Iyer’s  autobiography. (உ.வே.சா – என் சரித்திரம்). I am glad I didn’t shove away this gem.

The full poem in original:

புன்மை சால்கிழங் ககழ்ந்திடும் போதெதிர் போதும்
அன்மை தீர்மணி சுரையிரும் பாலகற் றிடுவார்
வன்மை மேவிய தாயினு மாண்பறி யாரேல்
மென்மை மேவிழி பொருளினு மிழிந்ததாய் விடுமே.

The library

April 6, 2012

Awesome. Anna Centenary Library at Chennai. It is so good that Jayalalitha has no option but try to destroy it. (Since, it reminds us that Karunanidhi was not all evil).

After 6-7 hours of walking around (to cover hardly 50% of the library so far), I could spot many, many books I’ve been wanting to read for ages…in Tamil and English. From Kumudam to Granta, most magazines are there.

For a government institution, it is still well-maintained (and air-conditioned). There are comfortable sofas and chairs, table lighting. Books can’t be rented yet but I think that is more of a blessing.

Braille section and an exclusive colourful Childrens’ floor are indications that somebody had been thinking.

The most crowded part was the ‘Own books reading section’! Must be the AC.

Of course, now and then, you get the welcome comic relief of finding a book by Thol Thirumavalavan on Tamil Tigers in the Biology (உயிரியல்) section, or a travelogue by Thi.Janakiraman, on his trip along Cauvery (நடந்தாய் வாழி காவேரி), in the Water Resources (நீர்வளம்) section.

And, it is only a 10-minute walk from home; and, laptops are allowed inside….hmm, work-from-library seems to be an appealing option for me.