Monday, May 07, 2007

The delivery

He had only been driving for a minute before he came to a stop again. The road in front of him looked like a series of red lights. He again read the address on the paper and felt he needed another 15 - 20 minutes to reach the place if the traffic felt smooth. He had been to that same place a few weeks back. The fourth exit and then second right from where he was, would take him to a lonely stretch. A mile on that road and he would be at the place. He still had about 25 minutes but the traffic in front concerned him.

Though it was the shortest route, he always wanted to avoid this road due to the crawling traffic. But it was only now that he realized he’d been counting on it. He looked at the square box next to him. He had to deliver it to the address on the paper and he had to do it in the next 25 minutes. It suddenly looked like the world was trying to stop him from doing it and it frightened him more. He decided to take the first exit he reached and then make through the smaller road to that lonely road. That first exit was on his immediate right and he was already ahead of it by a few feet. Without wasting any time he took a sharp risky turn barely missing the concrete wall and tried to join the exit lane. A ticket was sure, if a cop had caught him in the act. He could sense the anger of the drivers from all the honking cars around him but this “had to do” situation had left him with no option. He drove fast to smoothly merge into the exiting traffic. His noisy rattling car had carried well. Again he started driving in the direction of the address and this time it was better, he was moving.

He drove for the next few minutes and the road seemed to be becoming lonelier. He wasn’t sure whether he had already reached or was yet to reach somewhere near, where the fourth exit would take him. The highway was no where in sight but he felt he was still in the right direction. He had never done this road before. The only part of the road he could see was lit by his car lights. Every thing was pitch black on each side with black lines extending into no where. Once in a while when he was closer he could make out the trees around him but there were no signs of any human life. He had another 10 minutes left with him and he knew he was lost.

Where was he? He should have at least brought a map.

Soon he knew he was just driving in the dark, heading no where. He had only 4 minutes left and the only way he could deliver the box in time was if a miracle happened which would put him right in the door way of the house he was searching. He gave up all hopes and decided to go back and take the crawling highway again. This was the only option left and he knew he had lost on the delivery. He stopped the car to look around him. There was nothing except darkness. He turned the car to head back to the highway when something shiny caught his eye. It was a sign board.

The road name on the sign board was same as the road of his address and directed towards his right. There was no sign of any road on the left. He realized the road he had taken had brought him at the other end of that lonely road and he now had to take that road but check on the opposite side for the house.

He started driving in that direction and he was once again in the dark country side. He drove for a few minutes when he saw a light at a distance; a trace of life, at last. He immediately recognized the house as he approached it. It was the same house he had come a few weeks back and it was the same house that was on his paper.

He parked the car in front of the house and walked towards the door with the box in his hand. He pressed the door bell and waited for the door to be opened. A lady opened the door and seemed to point towards the wall clock in the neatly laid room.

“You are late. I cannot pay” she said as she took the box from him.
“Enjoy your pizza ma’am” he said, and turned back to drive into the darkness again.

~Narendra V Joshi

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Perils for a Software Engineer

I was trying to negotiate a deal for a new apartment with this sales representative. (SR)

SR: No, sir you don’t know the prices at which apartments are sold these days.

Me: But this is stupid pricing. How can you expect a common man to pay such huge prices for an apartment?

SR: Sir, this is a great deal. We have lots of customers who are ready to pay more than this. If you lose this, you will repent later. You can never again get such cheap deals.

Me: This is not cheap. You are trying to sell me something between earth and sky. I can understand if this was for a piece of land but if this is the price for some space in air, this is ridiculous.

SR: Sir, there are lot of people willing to pay more and buy this apartment. More over you say you are a software engineer. You should not be the one complaining about high prices.

Me: What do you mean I should not be the one complaining about the price? I am struggling day in and day out to make a living.

SR: I know; even we struggle. You work in software; your salaries will be very high compared to ours. And if you people start complaining what should we do?

I fell silent. His words were not uncommon. The land prices, house rents etc in Bangalore have become really absurd these days. The land lords check if you are working for a software company and if you are, the prices are doubled and more so if you are working for a famous company. They don’t want to know what your salary is, but just want to know whom you are working for. And if yours is a variable pay structure, you are doomed. You should rather go to the next apartment on your search list, than stand there and explain the concept of variable pay to these people.

Even if you make up your mind and take out your most recent pay slip to explain, can you really do that? Variable pay constitutes 30-40% of the salary and the pesky gross salary which people outside refer is really what you get when your variable component is 100%. How can you expect somebody to digest the fact that your company always makes profit and exceeds market expectations but the variable component is mostly 60-70%? It doesn’t matter how the company performs, bonus is a small fixed component in the salary. Gratuity is also a part of the gross salary and very few people are aware of the fact that an employee should have completed a minimum numbers of years of service at the same company before he can get his gratuity amount. If he doesn’t stay that minimum number of years, he will loose that entire component. Then there will be those interest free loan components. If you take a loan you cannot quit the company till you repay it, and if you don’t take the loan you have to take pains to explain the huge difference between your gross and your net salary.

At least this concept of variable pay should be adapted through out the system. Everything should be made variable. Home rent, apartment price, land price etc. If your company pays you 70% of the variable components then your rent should also be cut to 70%. If you by chance get 100%, then you will pay 100%.

Anyway I did not have my latest salary slip on me nor was I in mood to explain all this to the sales representative. I told him that I will get back to him on this in a few days and ended the conversation.

~Narendra V Joshi

Sunday, March 04, 2007

And the headlines…

I was talking to a friend of mine and came to know that there was a proposal to tax the ESOP’s under the new budget proposal in India. I came home and got down to read the details on an online newspaper.

And there it was; the headlines of the day “Anna’s body flown in to Bahamas”; in bold. I looked around for the budget news and found this “Blair’s love Indian food”. The billion dollar question for the day was quick to find. It was “Abhishek-Ash to marry in Jodhpur? ” Finally I found the much needed topic “India Inc disappointed with Budget”.
It was really annoying. A very important topic like the budget and other finance news are at a corner. You have to really search to find them. News such as “What happened to Britney’s hair” or “Why is restaurant food bad?” is more prominent. I am not saying that nobody in the world is interested in these but, they are definitely not so important compared to the news of ESOP tax or stock market index. And it is not only with this newspaper nor was this the first time. I have faced this situation earlier too. I would want some important info, but will have to search through a maze of junkies. What has a common man got to do with where will Abhishek and Ash get married; unless of course he is invited for the marriage.

I think there is a problem with the way the media thinks and portrays the world to us. They design and tell us what to read and what is important for us. If the editor feels who wore what at the Oscars is more important than which highway is closed due to a car crash, then that is the headlines for the day. If the editor has a personal grudge against a political party or hates a sport, they stop at nothing to bad mouth them. A prominent news channel had predicted that the ruling party would lose the Gujarat state election in India. Even after a year, articles and news bits continue to appear in that newspaper trying to demean that government which won with a clean majority; many a times I have noticed, for no apparent connected reason. What this means is that people who are loyal to one newspaper would be spoon fed to think in the way the editor or the columnists wants them to think. Readers will skip a movie, or, go to a restaurant blindly based on the rating given in their favorite newspaper.

Maybe, blaming the media is not fully correct. The media focuses more on things which are in demand. If the public demand for what Angelina wore in her latest movie is more than how many people died of starvation in a remote country, then Angelina’s dress will be in the headlines. Leave an old copy of a film magazine and a new copy of a science magazine on a park bench and go back after an hour. You will find the film magazine missing but nobody would have even touched the science stuff. How many times have you found yourselves in parties or get together where you discuss about state laws or university education? Most of the time, discussions will revolve around the football team or a favorite show on TV. With this being the case who has the time to read the new laws or the budget highlights I was searching for?

The public accepts what the media gives and the media gives what the public demands. Blaming the entire system for this sorrow state I got back to the news on the Indian budget. It was a lengthy article with some bulleted items. I finished the first paragraph and thought to myself “Maybe the Blair’s might have found Indian food spicy”.

~Narendra V Joshi