Those 3 endangered words – Work Life balance

21:30 hours – 40% of the office is still working hard, burning the midnight oil. Do you think the balance 60% not sitting in office are the lucky ones?

Wrong! Chances are that half of those at home would be working or coordinating work from home, while another 10-15% would be giving commands or negotiating deals over the phone to other unfortunate people. On one hand we keep saying that we need a work life balance, but on the other hand money and designation always win over family, friends, and hobbies. We work to fill our stomach’s, but we can neither find the time to sit and peacefully have a decent meal (even dinner or breakfast) or have accumulated so much money that we can feed an entire 20 storied building for a month, however, we just don’t quit.

Numerous colleagues over the years have cribbed about the work they do, their bosses, their co-workers, stating that they will quit in a months’ time. However, they do not have the drive to quit or have just fallen in love with their so called ‘work life’. It’s not clients that are to be blamed as much as the fault also lies with the top level management. In their quest to take the organization upwards, they often push their teams to meeting unreasonable deadlines and giving everything on a platter to clients. They only have one ambition, one hobby in life. Work. Or should I say two – work and making money.

Little do they realize that at the first opportunity the company that they work so hard and with such dedication, would not hesitate to cut off all ties with them if it would suit them. To the company all that you are is a money making machine. The moment the cash flow reduces or stops, you are not seen as being productive in the eyes of the top management.

Wouldn’t it be great if one would, in addition to working the mandatory 8-hour time lines, also hone a skill, nurture a hobby, or find the time to spend with those near and dear? Wouldn’t it help if they would let their careers take a back seat for 3 months (a paid sabbatical as most place now do have) and concentrate on looking at the natural color of the flowers, the white puffs of clouds moving across an azure blue sky or smell the Earth hit by the first rain showers?

No one stops us, but ourselves and our love for making more money than necessary.

With spouses (mostly the women of the family in traditional households) at home to do the house work, Indian men seem to be hell bent on raking up money and accolades by the truckload. And this doesn’t help those that want to have a life beyond the cubicle. But again money is the ugly monster that all want to tame, making sure that you must work to pay the bills, splurge a bit, and most importantly save for the future (since no government since Independence has ever rewarded the tax player).

In Japan, there have been instances of people dying at their work desks, with people so busy that they don’t even know the person next to them or realize that the person sitting next to them have left this world. In India we well be heading towards this work culture with people being evaluated with the amount of work that they get done, over the quality or creative content of that work.

So while our bank balances might get larger, our office space bigger and time spent outside the climate controlled glass structures lesser, our creative bent of mind is being suppressed each day, to the point of being killed. And we still don’t realize this, until we are at the ripe old age of sixty (if we live until then) and then crib about what we might have done differently if we only knew that money was not the answer to living life.

There have been times during my career in media, that clients pressurize the agency with unreasonable deadlines, stating that the outcome of the project is very critical. So I asked myself, what made this project achieve code red criticality, overnight? Didn’t the client know that there was a long weekend coming up? Or maybe he forgot that Republic Day falls in 26th January in India? Or, if the ad for the new fridge didn’t go up by Tuesday, instead of Thursday, consumer would not only switch to buying the competition, but never buy my client’s product ever again!

A wise professor in my college, once stated that even when you copy in an exam, put some thought to it. Just because the person ahead of you writes black as the answer, even if you are sure that it is the wrong answer, do not follow that person blindly. Alas, when we get confined to our glass enclosures, we forget this rule and blindly follow or adopt the strategy that the competitors put up, without thought that the strategy should be vetted first or if it works for the brand.

The result?

Within six months or less its back to the drawing board, the long nights on the agency and client end wasted without anything constructive drawn up.

If only our clients had a little patience, a little faith in their teams both internal and external; if only our bosses would not just be ‘yes’ men, but professionals who had the power to turn down meaningless work and put their team members first, then perhaps work life balance would become a reality and attrition rates at an all-time low.

But alas! We live in a world where the person next to you is willing to work at half the pay and double the hours, where weekends are just another two days to get work done and sleep can be caught up once you are dead. It’s this vicious cycle that is slowly putting work life balance on the endangered list.

Can we do something to stop it from going extinct?


A crazy passion called Football

It’s that time that comes up every four years (or every two years, if you are a true football fan), that gives us late nights and turns everyone, including my eighty-year-old grandmother into a football pundit. Yes, it’s football, World Cup time (or soccer for those American wannabe).

But stringent training schedules, peak fitness, and multiple strategy scenarios aside, what exactly makes a winning team? How is it that at every World Cup or European championship or even at a Club level there always is one major upset that must occur? Is it plain luck or complacency by the opposition? Or is it something else. Is it reveling in the hopes and dreams of thousands of your fans, is it having that extra drive to excel that does the trick?

According to me (and yes, I am an avid football viewer and couch pundit) the team that performs, regardless of the training and money spent on them is the team that plays together like a team. A team is one that stands up when another is down and takes on greater responsibility. A team that plays to the strengths and weakness of the other members and works those disadvantages to their advantage. And in this sport we have seen countless number of times that the team size or player reputation does not guarantee success.

Here is a list of how teams playing in the World Cup this year are starkly different, but gel together through teamwork.

  1. Portugal: Apart from Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal has not had and still do not have any proficient strikers. However, the team rallies behind their superstar, feeding him long balls, short balls and defending in numbers. They make up for their lack of goal scoring abilities in open play, by winning penalties, free kicks and try to push decisive games into shootouts. This strategy has not only won them the European Championships in 2016, but make them a force to reckon with this year too.
  2. Spain: Quick, nimble passing, relentless buildup and holding the ball for long periods of time, Spain have become an expert in the art of Tiki-Taka. Their entire team rises to the occasion with forward passes, back passes, passes across the pitch, biding their time, until they create either a gap in defense or frustration in the opposition ranks.
  3. Germany: The power house of precise strategy, German defense can lock down mostly any team. Even in losses, their margin of defeat is no greater than a 2-0 on their worse day. Stocky and tough central defenders, a burly holding midfield and quick wingers ensure the lone striker is always fed balls into the danger zone.
  4. Brazil: Lightening quick moves are what all South American teams are known for. However, Brazil takes this up another notch, combining pace, skill, and the love for football. The major issue that they have is that most players in the team are individual players and not contributors. This leads to many shots on target with little to show for.
  5. Belgium: Young, skillful, they are the opposite of what Brazil is on the field. Making use of the Spanish quick passing, this youthful squad is a force to reckon with. Their major is issue is a lack of trustworthy strikers who can provide the firepower up front. However, their flamboyant mid field makes amends for this shortfall.
  6. France: When the French team play together, they play extremely well, making it difficult for the opposition to grab chances. However, on most days they do not bring their A-game to the field. A good thing about this team is that the entire team either play very well or very bad, together. In that they have good teamwork!

In every World Cup there comes a team that causes upsets of magnanimous proportions. Underrated, with nothing to lose, these team gel together in ways that no one would ever expect them to, taking down the high and mighty and mostly complacent over achievers. In the first week of World Cup 2018, we have already seen some startling upsets and there surely will be some more in the weeks to come, because when a team works together, they mostly win together (unless everyone in the team has their own agenda, like the English!)


The Musically Dead

Eight minutes and fifty-seven seconds.

That was the length of Guns N’ Roses massive 1991 hit song November Rain. We loved the epic song and the much more versatile video and might also have been able to sequence each scene in our minds even before the video came on screen (and probably can still do!), but we didn’t know that the video was eight minutes and fifty-seven seconds. We knew that it was long, but we didn’t know exactly how much (that we learn from online video services like YouTube). But did we mind that we were ignorant about the length of the song?

No, we were not. Because those were the great old days of MTV. Even though the channel is still around in India and in most parts of the world, the ‘M’ that used to stand for Music has now dropped down to zero music played on the channel. We were entertained, hummed along to the tunes, without having or Google help us to decipher the heavy Americanized accent. But we didn’t care.

We didn’t care when we sang “We are going to eat pizza”, only to later learn that the girl was headed to Ibiza and it had nothing to do with food. We used to rewind, pause, write, play, and then redo the whole action again when we wanted to jot down the lyrics to Richard Marx’s Hazard, nearly scratching the tape in the process or out gun the number of clicks the C.D player button had been programmed to take.

But we turned to the music, because music made us happy.

And while the older generation berated us on our choice of loud, cross dressed and fast talking ‘colored’ men (it was called rap in those days and not ‘hip hop’), we still tuned in picking up the styles and the dreamed that we too would have a band like The Wonders that would one day be seen on TV.

Maybe it’s the fast paced world that has left us with very little time to plonk ourselves in front on the idiot box, but reality, like that sung by The Buggles is that after Video Killed the Radio Star, it is now the turn of Music itself to slowly move into oblivion. Don’t get me wrong, music has always been around and stood the test of time and will continue to do so; it’s just the traditional way of arranging music that is changing. Music is now manufactured and not played in the way that it used to be with a traditional band made up of a drummer, bassist, lead/ rhythm guitarist, keyboardist to name a few key members. With Auto tune and various other software’s, people with hardly any musical inclination are ‘making music’ which is mostly nothing but various sounds merged to form notes that defy the very definition of the term music. The so called music, heavy with bass undertones and ‘drops’ are fed to a perennially ‘high’ generation that trips on the sounds that seem to have escaped from a dying cat.

Gone are the grand guitar riffs, the piano solos, the heavy thump of the bass drum and the tingling snare, along with a voice that could make the Sultans of Swing tap their feet and make you miss wearing Black Velvet.

The essential point is that artificially produced sounds are replacing the good old instruments. One now doesn’t need any skill to play live on stage. The entire ‘set’ can be pre-recorded and no one would ever know the difference. It’s good to see music evolve

In February of 2018, news that the iconic American guitar company Gibson, faced bankruptcy filled the news headlines. Many teenagers would not even know or care that after 116 years in the music business the company decided to shut down a couple of its factories due to low demand for its instruments. Log into YouTube and check how many ‘bands’ actually play their own music. Even popular rock acts like Imagine Dragons and Maroon 5 are slowly moving to synthesized sounds. How many of our younger generation know to hold, forget, play a guitar or a drum?

With the advent of VIVEO, the music video industry will certainly still be around but will the full ensemble band slowly fade in a Blaze of Glory?

P.S: to listen to some real and wholesome music search the artist known as Passenger (the link to his latest song is mentioned below)


Worldwide Suicide

Last week my FB page was hit with RIP messages about Anthony Bourdain, a man that I’ve never met (and unfortunately never will now), but who I have been following on his travels around the world in the quest of great food. On the surface, Mr. Bourdain had everything going for him with a stable job, doing the thing that he must have loved the most, envious to some people. However, it is what lurks under the surface that can drive you to what drove this man at age sixty-one to commit suicide.

What drives a person to Suicide, I asked myself? Is it a lack of money, friends, despair at losing a loved one or just being negative about the general outlook towards life? The answer, however, cannot be a standard one. Circumstances change from each person, the wants from life alter and the signs are often ignored by those even around the person. Helplines do what they are supposed to, and while I have never been through such a phase in my life fortunately, the thinker in me would attribute that support groups can do their job only if the victim themselves felt the need to ask for help.

But do they ask for help? The stark answer is no. They feel that they have no other option but to end life. And hence, begins the great debate of ‘if’s, when’s maybe’s and but’s’. However, the argument is the same – the victim felt  that there was no other way out and this is brought about by the pressures of society, the pressures to get educated, find a “good” job, find a good life partner, get married by a certain age, have children at a certain age, the number of children, getting children settled, judging people by how much they earn, spend, save, how they dress, walk, look, what they eat, the amount they eat, their weight, height, personality and the list goes on. Yes, society truly is demanding.

But who comprises society?

People like you and me. That’s right – YOU and ME.

Someone, sometime in life (including me) have all been guilty of passing judgment upon someone who just couldn’t help being or acting the way they were. Hopefully for us, that person was not driven to suicide because of our actions. But before we pass judgement upon others, let’s take some time and think about what the other person may be going through and if we cannot be there for that person (because let’s face it, all of us, including I, are self-centered at least to a certain extent), let’s not make life worse for them.

And if you can help, listen to what they want to say. Do not judge them or preach advice that you would want them to follow. Say your piece, but let them decide.


Future Automated Vehicle

In 1978, when John Travolta sang about tweaking up his car in Grease, the most futuristic fittings were fuel injection cutoffs and chrome plated rods. Throw in an automatic gearbox and you would really have a car that seemed to have come straight out of Back to the Future.  Cars have certainly come a long way from when the Ford Model T rolled off its production line, with on board computers tracking every component of the vehicle and now even can diagnose issues and even repair or inform the car company about the problem.

But can they evolve even further?

Presenting the FAV or Future Automated Vehicle, a concept vehicle which may or may not ever see the light of day, commercially at least. However, as a work of fiction, it seems to be on par with travel to the moon.

Firstly, the FAV would be the size of a regular SUV or MUV, so there goes the tiny Japanese or Korean workhorses out of the window. The paint would be self-healing so also the body, so you can say goodbye to regular touchups at your local garage. I guess nanotech might help achieve such fictional body works, but who knows what the science nerds have in their developmental store! If it can heal itself, could the FAV also change color depending upon your mood? Now that’s certainly a thought to carry forward.

Speaking of mood mapping, the interior of the FAV would do just that. It would delve into the mind of the driver, so much so that it would make Siri or Alexa seem like kindergarten versions of itself.

The FAV would act as a personal assistant, screening through your smartphone and directing you to your dentist appointment or to pick flowers for your wife on your anniversary that you forgot, until the onboard FAV system reminded you of. In fact, if you would try to get avoid such situations that have been keyed into your digital organizer, the FAV would override human intervention and automatically drive you to the location.

Gauging your mood, the FAV would play the type of music best suited, rock when you are happy, heavy metal for those days you want to beat up your boss or client and love songs on those rainy days. There would be no turning stalks or headlight switches. The FAV would gauge your thoughts and automatically signal left or right turns in advance, also switching on the headlights when it sensed that you needed it on. And don’t even try to ‘accidentally’ try and wreck the FAV to claim insurance. The vehicle would sense the destructive mode you were on and stall in neutral. Drunk driving would be a thing of the past, with the FAV either acting non-cooperative and stall itself or override the human intervention and drive you home. However, it might also alert your loved ones at home that the party animal is on their way back, so you could either have a nice strong cup of coffee brewing when you got home or an irritated spouse!

Speaking about irritating, the FAV would eliminate unwanted honking, especially between another FAV. It would gauge your mood and send across a message to the vehicle ahead, that would be relayed on the other vehicles entertainment system. So depending on what you are thinking, the messages could be sarcastic comment about their driving, angry comments involving their parents or funny comments revolving around their physical skills. And if that’s not enough, the FAV would also send a back message to the other driver’s smartphone which they can use as feedback!

Nothing is too tough for the FAV. Weather it is generating a toll pass while approaching the booth (wireless through your smart wallet) or figuring out which street or floor would have vacant parking (through geocentric maps), the FAV would do all this at a drop of a hat. But what about maintenance? Capable of diagnosing issues is something that even cars today do, however, the FAV goes one step ahead with repairing itself and sending a copy of the treatment to a cloud based server for future reference. Leaping forward, the onboard 3D printer would print the new part and replace the same also. Goodbye greasy mechanics. We would only have suited programmers sitting on some tax haven island going through the schematics of the vehicle.

With a vehicle like this, comes the urge to carjack, right? Wrong!

The FAV can only be handled by its owner, the owner’s family, or someone the who has been given authority to use it after recording the statement made by the owner, that too taking into consideration pupil dilation, temperature, and gestures of the decision maker, thus eliminating car knapping. If the FAV doesn’t sense all it right with the orders, it will take matters into its own engine and trap the perpetrator in the vehicle before calling for backup.

Fancy owning a FAV now?

Well, it might have not even reached the thought stage of the major auto companies, however, it has caused your light bulb to activate.