Posted in Life Gyan

Communication Before Internet

I remember very vividly the day when I first surfed the net. It was the last quarter of 1998, I was in Kolkata, West Bengal. A few cyber cafes had mushroomed in few neighbourhoods. Getting a first hand experience of the internet, to understand what was “surfing the internet” was on my bucket list for sometime. However, there was no pressing need to really “surf” the net. Also the budget was tight – i was fresh out of college and did not have any source of income yet . Also internet access was pretty expensive and almost prohibitive at Rs. 2 per minute, that is a whopping Rs. 120 per hour. Rs. 120 was a big amount back then and people without any income were not expected to squander it away just like that for “experience”.

Today internet is ubiquitous and inevitable. It is nearly impossible to imagine life without internet access . However, about 25 years ago, internet access was still in the nascent stages in India. People were still trying to grapple with the idea of internet and the possibilities it offered.

I smile when I remember those days – there were so many myths and stories about internet at that time. People were in awe of what could be done with the help of internet. Sending emails from one end of the world to another, almost instantaneously was considered pure magic. Everyone talked of Hotmail and Sabeer Bhatia.

Politicians, leaders, media and tech evangelists were unequivocal in narrating bold visions of 21st Century and what it had in store for the masses. Everyone talked about the 21st century as the Holy Grail. The mobile and the internet services were launched in 1995 in India. However, both mobile and access to the internet remained out of reach for majority of people in India for a good decade after their initial launch mainly on account of two reasons (a) infrastructure (b) costs outweighed the benefits.

In those days, sending letters by mail  (now referred to as snail mail) was the preferred and most affordable mode of communication. Business establishment would often send business communication via couriers (these were faster than snail mail but still took a few days to deliver) and for urgent matters there were overnight couriers to select cities. 

There was another form of communication which was fast but you could only send a short message (like a tweet) – it was the Telegram. A telegram could only be sent from one post office to another. It was transmitted by the use of morse code. It was expensive and was supposed to be used only in case of emergencies. More often than not the arrival of Telegram to anyone’s home would be assumed to be containing some bad news about family members from other cities.

Back then, mobile phones had not yet arrived on the scene and not all had access to a land line phone. Also most telephone exchanges used to be manual with operators connecting the phone line on request in real time. For those who had a landline, or had access to one in the neighbourhood could place or receive long distance calls called Trunk Calls. These calls would be of fixed duration (3 minutes to be precise) and had to be pre-booked with a telephone operator at the exchange. And the funny part was that the operator would be listening to your entire conversation all throughout the call and would alert you when few seconds were left for the call duration to be over.

Between the landline and the mobile, Pager was another popular device. However, it was short lived once the text messages were made affordable/free on mobile phones. The pager was a small match box sized device which people clipped on to their belt. It used to beep when a new message arrived. In my case, my pager was linked to critical client systems in production. A beep on the pager meant trouble. I had to login immediately to check system health no matter what time of the day or night it was.

As the communication revolution continued, PCOs became very very popular. Anyone who could not or did not want to own a landline, could go to a PCO to make phone calls. Though the PCOs were common sight , the call rates were still very high and you would be billed by the second. In those days if we were staying in a different city we would call our parents only once in a week. In those days hardly anything was “instant” and there was no pressure to share minute by minute updates of one’s life with others.

Coming back to my story of my first “encounter” with internet. Let me tell you that this was the pre-dot com bubble and pre-Y2K fever days. Cyber cafes were slowly getting popular. And they started a variety of paid services. Here is a glimpse of the services they offered –

  • Email ID creation – Rs. 300 (in reality creating a Hotmail ID was free but since common people did not know, these shop keepers would make most of the opportunity)
  • If you did not know how to access email or did not want to create a mail ID – you could receive email on the cafe’s email address. If you enrolled for this service, the cafe owner would call you on your landline to inform you if any email was received in your name.
  • If you wanted they would print the email and delivery it to you at your doorstep for a fee.
  • They would help you send an email to anyone – again for a fee.
  • And if you knew how to use a computer and navigate the internet, you could pay Rs. 2 per minute and surf the internet yourself.

Anyways, one fine day I made up my mind and went to a nearby cyber café. Asked him if he could show me what actually “net surfing” was. I told him to sit at the keyboard while I would sit right beside him and watch. He showed me some of the popular sites like Yahoo (the world had not heard about Google yet) Then the cyber cafe guy gave me a demo on sending and receiving emails. I might have spent hardly about 10-15 mins in the cyber cafe before I ran out of options of what to do next. So i concluded my session early, paid the Cyber cafe guy and walked back to my room thinking about the new questions that had now started popping up in my head.

Surprisingly these memories are still crisp in my head. And when i look back I am amazed to see how the world has changed over these years. For those who are born in the 21st century, it might be difficult to imagine how life was without 24×7 internet access or how people would meet at busy public places without having mobile phones or how people would wait days and weeks to receive the reply of their letter.

I am sure you might also have memories and experiences to share from that era. Please do share in the comments below.

Posted in Fun & Humour


By the time you read through this you will understand the meaning of “TANJOOBERRYMUTTS”. And only then will you be ready to take on China! Believe me…you WILL understand!!!

Here it goes…The following is a telephonic exchange between a Hotel guest & a room-service agent in China…

Room Service: “Morrin. Roon sirbees.”
Guest: “Sorry, I thought I dialled room-service.”
Room Service: “Rye, Roon sirbees… morrin! Joowish to oddor sunteen?”
Guest: “Uh… Yes, I’d like to order bacon & eggs.”
Room Service: “Ow ulai den?”
Guest: ” …….What?”
Room Service: “Ow ulai den?… Pryed, boyud, pochd?”
Guest: “Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry.. Scrambled, please.”
Room Service: “Ow ulai dee bayken? Creepse?”
Guest: “Crisp will be fine.”
Room Service: “Hokay. An sahn toes?”
Guest: “What?”
Room Service: “An toes. ulai sahn toes?”
Guest: “I…. Don’t think so..”
RoomService: “No? Udo wan sahn toes?”
Guest: “I feel really bad about this, but I don’t know what ‘udo wan sahn toes’ means.”
RoomService: “Toes! Toes!… Why Uoo don wan toes?… Ow bow anglish moppin we botter?”
Guest: “Oh, English muffin!! I’ve got it! You were saying ‘toast’… Fine…Yes, an English muffin will be fine.”
RoomService: “We botter?”
Guest: “No, just put the botter on the side.”
RoomService: “Wad?”
Guest: “I mean butter… Just put the butter on the side.”
RoomService: “Copy?”
Guest: “Excuse me?”
Room Service: “Copy.. tea… meel?”
Guest: “Yes. Coffee, please… And that’s everything.”
Room Service: “One Minnie. Scramah egg, creepse bayken, Anglish moppin, we botter on sigh & copy… Rye?”
Guest: “Whatever you say.”
Room Service: “Tanjooberrymutts.”
Guest: “You’re welcome”

Remember I did say “By the time you read through this… YOU WILL UNDERSTAND ‘TANJOOBERRYMUTTS’ 

Posted in Leadership

Keep Your Flame Burning !

A man, who regularly attended meetings with his friends, without any notice stopped participating in his activities. After a few weeks, one very cold night, the leader of that group decided to visit him.

He found the man at home, alone, sitting in front of a fireplace where a bright and cozy fire burned.  Guessing the reason for the visit, the man welcomed the leader.  There was a great silence.

The two men only watched the dancing flames around the logs that crackled in the fireplace. After a few minutes, the leader, without saying a word, examined the embers that formed and selected one of them, the most incandescent of all, removing it to the side of the brazier with a pair of tongs.  Then he sat down again.

The host was paying attention to everything, fascinated but restless.  Before long, the lone ember flame subsided, until there was only a momentary glow and the fire suddenly went out. In a short time, what was a sample of light and heat, was nothing more than a black, cold and dead piece of coal.

Very few words had been spoken since the greeting.

The leader, before preparing to leave, with the pliers returned the cold and useless coal, placing it again in the middle of the fire.  Immediately, the ember was rekindled, fueled by the light and heat of the burning coals around him.

When the leader reached the door to leave, the host said: Thank you for your visit and for your beautiful lesson. I will return to the group.


Why are the groups extinguished? Very simple: because each member that withdraws takes fire and heat from the rest.

It is worth reminding members of a group that they are part of the flame. It is good to remind each other that we are all responsible for keeping each other’s flame burning. We must collectively promote the union between all so that the fire is really strong, effective and lasting.

Sometimes we feel all lonely and depressed and withdraw from active participation. It is during these times that other people of the group must reach out to them and bring them back to the mainstream.
In social groups whether with family members or with friends and colleagues, some of us are silent, others very active and others report sporadically. Everyone has their own way of contributing and staying connected. The friends that we meet here are to meet, learn, exchange ideas, or simply know that we are not alone and feel secure in the thought that there are people in our lives on whom we can count on and reach out to.

Let us keep our flame alive and help others keep their flame burning!

Posted in Leadership

Abilene Paradox

The Abilene Paradox refers to a situation when a group makes a collective decision that is counter to the thoughts and feelings of its individual members.  

The Abilene Paradox was introduced by management thinker Jerry B. Harvey, Professor, Emeritus of Management at The George Washington University, in an article on the subject. 

It occurs because human beings have a natural aversion to going against the feelings of a group – they want to conform socially. According to Harvey, the paradox may be driven because individuals believe they will experience negative attitudes or feelings if they ‘speak up’ on a topic. And if no one ‘speaks-up‘ then the group ends up  making a decision that is quite opposite to the wishes and feelings of the group.

The below example illustrates this concept beautifully – 
On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner.
The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.”
The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.”
The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?”
The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic.
The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.”
The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.”
The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

In groupthink theories, the Abilene paradox theory is used to illustrate that groups not only have problems managing disagreements, but that agreements may also be a problem in a poorly functioning group.

There are three things that leaders can do to avoid their teams being a victim of Abilene Paradox – 

  1. Create a safe environment where team members are encouraged to voice divergent opinions freely
  2. Expect disagreement in teams – that is the reason why diversity is encouraged in teams so that you can get different perspectives on critical issues. 
  3. Actively listen to feedback – leaders must be willing to listen to feedback and not surround themselves with only the “yes” men

Do you want to share any of your examples?

Posted in Life Gyan

How to Take Control of Your Fast Paced Life

The days are long but the year seems to pass very fast. You may be slogging thru the day but when you look back the year seems to have gone by rather quickly. With every passing year we feel that the pace of life is getting faster and faster. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed. However consider this, if this gives you any solace, today is the slowest day of the rest of your life. Which means that there are crazier times ahead and the rate of change is only going to head north. So it is better we learn to deal with it rather than play catch-up.

The biggest reason behind always feeling busy and not having time for anything is our desire to stay “connected” always, on multiple channels mobile, WhatsApp, Twitter, email and various other social media platforms. A few years ago you had to wait for weeks before you got a response to your handwritten letter sent to parents or friends or even for any official communication. For urgent stuff only people used Telegram. Even when phones arrived, only a few had it and again it was used for important communication only. For all other stuff one had to use hand written communication. 

As communication channels multiplied and became faster and cheaper, things that took weeks now take a few seconds or even less. Also all communication whether urgent or trivial happens at the same pace via the same channels. So you have to look at all the hundreds of messages, whether you like it or not, before you can get to the message that you are looking for.

Also every event, small or big, happening across the world is being reported without filters. In the name of having choice you have to decide which news or information is relevant and important for you. The various channels keep pushing you all that they have.  If you really want to get a handle on your time and quality of life here are a few things to consider – 

  • It is OK to not read or respond to all the social media posts shared by your friends or family members. Value your own time and use it wisely.
  • Mute all message notifications on your mobile except any critical ones. This will help you reduce the distraction throughout the day and as a side benefit also improve the battery life of your mobile.
  • The real life is happening NOW all around you not on your mobile screen. Take a break from technology every once in a while. Learn to keep the mobile aside when interacting with people. If it is very important excuse yourself from the conversation but do not multitask. 
  • Resist the urge to post every trivial update about yourself on social media unless you are a celebrity or a public figure. 

With our current levels of addiction, this is surely not an easy ask but if you really want to reclaim your life, you have to control the amount, quality and pace of information you assimilate and consciously use your energy towards your life’s objectives. In other words, we need to go back to the basics –

  • Practice mindfulness 
  • Spend some time alone
  • Reconnect with nature
  • Nurture your relationships
  • Spend time on pursuing your hobbies
Posted in Books

Life’s Little Instructions

“Life’s Little Instructions”  –  This is the title of one of my favourite books. This book was originally written by H. Jackson Brown. The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book contains the 1,560 entries found in all three volumes of the New York Times Bestselling Life’s Little Instruction Book series.

This book like other books does not contain a story or a lot of text. It is a collection of one or two line sentences which originally were written as a gift from a father to a son, however its simplicity and practical advice is so appealing that it has been enjoyed by men and women of all ages. Even the lines on the cover page after the title reads…

Suggestions, Observations and Reminders on
How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life.

My Story

I love reading and I first read this book during my college days. I was so inspired by its simplicity and relevance that I decided to gift one copy of this book to each of my friends as a parting gift towards the end of college. Though you may agree that it was a good idea but I was in college and had limited resources. I did not have enough money to buy a copy each for my friends.

To say that inspite of this shortcoming I was still determined would be an understatement. I wanted to share this treasure with my near and dear ones so badly that I decided to reproduce the whole text…manually.

I realised that it was not possible to write so many copies with hand so the other option would be to get it done on a computer. I am taking about the year 1998 in India and not many people would own a computer like today. I did not have one too.

But to my good fortune, one of my close friends Suyog Hebbar, who was pursuing Computer Science Engineering, had a desktop. And the icing on the cake was that he shared the apartment with me. So I discussed this idea with him and used his computer to key in the contents patiently. Slowly over a period of few days I was able to complete the typing, designed the cover page and saved it to a floppy disk for printing.

In those days mostly everyone used the dot-matrix printers. However I wanted a better print quality. So I decided to get one printed from the printing shop. I knew that Inkjet printing was very costly those days and as students we had limited funds for our monthly expenses. So all I could afford was one copy. Using this as the master copy I got multiple other copies xeroxed (photostat) and got them spiral bound and then gifted a copy to many of my friends with the hope that the gift would be valued not for its cost or beauty but for the content and underlying effort and feelings.

One such copy I also gave to my sister and she recently shared the cover page of the same with me which I am reproducing below.

After reading all this with patience you might be wondering what really is inside the covers of the book. So let me share a few of my favourite “Life Little Instructions” below. As you read these, pause for a moment before you move on to the next one.

Compliment three people every day.

Watch a sunrise at least once a year.

Remember other people’s birthdays.

Have a firm handshake.

Life is short.
Eat more pancakes and fewer rice cakes.

Sing in the shower.

Use the good silver.

Buy great books, even if you never read them.

Say “thank you” a lot.

Say “please” a lot.

Plant flowers every spring.

Be the first to say “hello.

Live beneath your means.

Drive inexpensive cars,
but own the best house you can afford.

Be forgiving of  yourself and others.

Learn the rules.
Then Break Some.

Learn three clean jokes.

Wear polished shoes.

Ask for a raise when you feel you’ve earned it.

If in a fight,
hit first and hit hard.

Return all the things you borrow.

Teach some kind of class.

Be a student in some kind of class.

Plant a tree on your birthday.

Make new friends
but cherish the old ones.

Keep secrets.

Take lots of snapshots. 

Never give up on anyone.
Miracles happen everyday.

Don’t waste time learning the “tricks of the trade.”
Instead, learn the trade.

Surprise loved ones with little unexpected gifts.

Stop blaming others.
Take responsibility for every area of your life.

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.

Use your wit to amuse, not abuse.

Be brave. Even if  you’re not, pretend to be.
No one can tell the difference.

Demand excellence and be willing to pay for it.

Don’t take good health for granted.

Someone will always be looking at you as an example of how to behave. Don’t disappoint.

Write “thank you” notes promptly.

If you haven’t read this book already, I strongly recommend you to try it. If you have read it long ago, you may gain some new insights by reviewing it again. Happy reading !

Posted in Life Gyan

Build Relationships, Not Just Contacts

In the material world where we focus on goals like financial growth, better health, professional growth and success, let’s also add one for our relationships.

The year was 1990.  I was returning from Delhi by flight with a monk of the RamaKrishna Mission. A  journalist from Chile was there with us . He started interviewing  the monk, as had been decided earlier.

Journalist – Dear Sir , in your last lecture, you  told about Jogajog (contact) &  Sanjog (connection ). It’s really confusing. Can you explain it to me ?

The Monk smiled a little but apparently deviating from the question,  he asked the journalist: Are you from Chile ?

Journalist( J ) – Yeh…

Monk ( M ) – Who are there at home ?

The Journalist felt that the  Monk was trying to avoid answering his question since  this was a very personal and unwarranted question. Yet the  journalist  said: “Mother has expired. Father is there. Three brothers and one sister. All are married…”

The Monk, a smile on his  face, asked next: – “Do you talk to your father?” Now the  journalist looked visibly annoyed…

The Monk  – “When did you talk to him last?”

The journalist suppressing his annoyance said:  “May be a month back.”

The Monk:  “Do you brothers and sisters meet often ? When did you last meet as a family together?”

At this point, I saw  sweat on the journalist’s  fore head. I wondered who was taking whose interview. It seemed that the Monk was taking the interview of the journalist.

With a sigh , the journalist said: “We met last at Christmas two  years ago.”

The Monk: ” How many days did you all stay together ?”

The journalist ( wiping the sweat on his brow) : “Three days…”

Monk: “How much time did you  spend with your Father, sitting right  beside him ?”

I saw the journalist looking  perplexed and embarrassed and scribbling something on a paper…

The Monk:  “Did you have breakfast or lunch or dinner together ? Did you ask how he was? Did you ask how his days are passing after your mother’s death ?”

I saw the journalist’s eyes sadden.

The Monk placed his hand on the journalist’s hand and said: “don’t be embrassed or upset or sad. I am sorry if I have hurt you unknowingly… But this is basically the answer to your question about “contact and connection ( jogajog and Sanjog)”.  You have ‘contact’  with your father but you don’t have ‘connection’ with him. You are not connected to him.

Connection is between heart and heart… sitting together , sharing meals , caring for & hugging each other. Touch , shaking hands, having eye contact,  spending some time together…Your  brothers and sisters have ‘contact’ with each  but you have no  ‘connection’ with each other….”

The journalist wiped his eyes and said : “Thanks for teaching me a fine and unforgettable lesson”

This is the reality today. Whether at home, in society and elsewhere everybody has lots and lots of contacts but there is no connection. No communication…   . Everybody is in a his or her own world.
Let’s not be well “contacted” – let’s be well “connected”,  with each other …… caring , sharing , touching , hugging , spending time together with all  our near and dear ones, and other co-passengers in our life travels.

Posted in Tech Gyan

Google Local Guide 2018 – My Contributions

Received the below stats from Google for my contributions in 2018. I am very happy to be able to contribute towards the community in some way helping people with information enabling them to take the right decisions.

Thank You Google for providing thoughtful ways in which we all can contribute to help make the lives of each other easier.

Posted in Leadership

Tappers & Listeners

As leaders, many of us have to manage a diverse group of people who are often scattered geographically and throw in the various modes of collaboration like text chat, emails, team meetings etc into the mix and you will realize the need for effective communication to get your ideas across to your teams and other stakeholders.

In 1990, a psychology student at Stanford University, conducted an interesting experiment.  It was referred to as the “Tappers & Listeners” experiment.  The rest of the world first heard of it when the authors Chip and Dan Heath started talking about in public.

For her PhD dissertation, Elizabeth Newton invited her peers in college to participate in the study.  Each student was assigned one of two roles: ‘Tapper’ or ‘Listener’. 

The tappers were given a list of twenty-five popular tunes, such as “Happy Birthday to you” and “Jingle Bells”.  They had to tap out the tune with their fingers on a table, and the listeners had to guess the song.  As you might have guessed, this was not an easy task at all.  Of the hundred and twenty times a tune was tapped, the listener could guess the tune correctly only thrice.  That’s a success rate of about 2.5%. 

But here’s the interesting bit.  Before the tappers began to tap the tune, Elizabeth asked them to predict the probability of the listeners being able to guess the song correctly.  The tappers predicted a 50% chance that they would be able to get the listeners to guess the tune correctly. 

So while they thought that they would be able to get the listeners to guess correctly one out of two times, the reality was that listeners could guess the tune only once in forty attempts.  How come?

Well, here’s what was happening.  As the tapper taps the tune, he can hear the song playing in his head  His fingers seem to be tapping the tune in perfect sync with what’s playing in his head.  And he just can’t understand what the listener is not able to pick up such a simple tune!

And what about the listener?  Well, she doesn’t have the tune playing in her head, without which, she has no idea what’s happening.  She tries as hard as can to make sense of the bizarre Morse-code like tapping that she hears.  Alas, to no avail.  This results in utter frustration. 

As leaders, we often fall into the tapper’s trap!  We give instructions which seem very clear in our heads but our colleagues may have no idea what we want them to do.  Has it happened to you that you called a young trainee to do some work, and when he got back the next day – having slogged all night to finish the task – you were disappointed?  He hadn’t quiet done what you were looking for.  You probably felt a bit frustrated too, that he ‘didn’t quiet get it.’

The next time that happens, do remember that the problem is with the tapper – not the listener.  Because you knew what you wanted to get done, you assumed it was clear to the young trainee too.  That is seldom the case. 

The next time you are communicating with a colleague, think about the “Tappers & Listeners” experiment.  And remember, what’s obvious to you may not be so to the other person.  When the listener says he doesn’t get it, that’s not a signal to get irritated.  It’s probably telling you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and try and be more explicit.  Don’t assume that knowledge levels are the same. 

One more thing. Tapping harder or Tapping repeatedly won’t make it any easier for the Listener!