Being a sport?


I am quite certain that once in four years, many of us Indians have little pondering sessions that last at least for a month. There is this one more topic that we are bound to add to our list of general discussion items. Evidently, we get pretty passionate about it during this brief period because we are not going to think of it for the next four years! If you are thinking like me, you have guessed what I am talking about, Olympics and Us! Well, I would rather like to put it as ‘Sports and Us’.

Thanks to my pressing need to blog every week, today, in light of the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing, I gave the topic a lot more thought than usual. This year’s Olympics can teach us many more lessons, simply because it is hosted by China.

India’s participation in the Olympics is undoubtedly pathetic. But in this piece, I don’t want to elaborate on things we already know or have been debating about time and again, like our lack of societal and parental patronage or government backing, an average Indian’s physical and mental toughness, whether we were ordered to be an unathletic nation by God and so on.
In earlier attempts to argue and counter argue with myself, I had always concluded that we have the potential but not the infrastructure or financial backing. A little bit of research about China has convinced me that we lack the most vital factor – Passion. No matter what other reasons we debate and come up with, unless there is soul-backing, there is no point.

So instead of looking at our failings, lets for a change look at how we can reflect from China’s experience. After all China is a developing country too. They have a 1 billion plus population. They export goods just like we export our services; they have a growing middle class similar to us. They have corrupt politicians too, who are not even Democratic! And both China and India have been competing fiercely for the tag of “next super power” or “emerging economy” or whatever you like to name it.
Then what is different? The Chinese are relentlessly passionate! They are working their souls out to emerge a super power in every sense of the word and the entire nation thinks sports and games is an inevitable part. In their country, every soul is backing.

In Indian cities, how many people do we see walking, jogging or working out unless they have a health problem, want to reduce weight or feel they are getting old? A recent study in China showed that 60% of their urban population is fitness conscious.
The Chinese Government has been working on a 15 year long program to promote fitness, sports and games among their people. In 1995, they adopted a Physical Health Law. A survey conducted 10 years later showed that about 40% of their population exercise regularly and almost all of their students meet their National Physical Exercise Standard.
There are more than 6 lakh gymnasiums and stadiums across the country, which are open to the public. All schools have excellent trainers and infrastructure is not only confined to schools and colleges but also to every neighborhood and community.

So where does all the money come from?

Since 2001, China has been conducting what are called sports lotteries. All the proceeds from the lottery participation go to building public sport facilities. Since the prize money is attractive and the cost of each ticket is very less, the people’s interest in betting is high. And given the population of China, the total money earned in proceeds is phenomenally high!

It would be amazing to note that all the spending doesn’t go to one sport or game like cricket but is distributed among a wide range of them. Lot of new sports that are mostly followed by Western countries is being taken up in China.
The life expectancy of an average Chinese has gone up in the past few years and people have been channeling their household spending to health related activities. Even the decision of hosting the Olympics has totally worked in favour of the Chinese in spite of the enormous spending because for the last seven years it has united people for a common cause and brought in a lot of team spirit. The Government has directed a lot of spending for infrastructure build up, which will not only please its visitors for now but will create a lot of brand image for their economy in the long run.

A very determined nation indeed!


Check before you ‘Alt+S’


These days a lot of things are just a click away, your credit card payment, money transfer, a movie download, gifts to loved ones, some porn 🙂 and even some bad manners.


Remember how we spent all those classes in school learning how to write business letters? And remember how we struggled to memorize the letter format of from, to, date, dear sir, subject, body, salutation, name and designation? And no matter how well we learnt the formal letter format, our hands still trembled when it came to writing real letters to Principals, Teachers or job applications.

We were still confused – “do ‘from and date’ go to the right?” “Should I include ref: after subject?” “Should the subject be underlined?” “Does the salutation at the end come to the right or left?” “Do I say thanks or regards or thanks and regards?” “Are all these formats just fancy stuff they teach in school or do we really have to follow them?”

But we took them pretty seriously. For me, the worry of losing marks in an exam paid off in real life situations as I always had this habit of referring back to my textbooks before I wrote a formal letter, just to make sure!

I guess things changed quite a lot as we got introduced to the Internet and emails. With all the smileys, font colors and sizes, bolds and underlines, the letter writing act became a lot lighter, ‘kooler’! J Making spelling mistakes became a part of the style and lingo. Using ‘…’ instead of commas or semi colons became the in-thing.

No doubt emails are known for their speed, reliability and versatility, but are we forgetting that it is just a modern version of letter writing? Don’t we realize that formal letter writing is still needed for impressive business communication?

From what I see at work, not many companies are training their staff on email etiquette. Sometimes we fail to understand that what we communicate is a reflection of our feelings, and expressing everything we feel is not exactly the best way to do business. Because written communication is a risky affair; we are not sure if the receiver reads our bit the way we want him to. And emails and all the options that come with it, makes the process all the more tricky!

I know, we cannot be perfect, but we sure can learn a great deal from keeping note of the certain things that annoy us in emails we receive and the certain things we learn from annoyed receivers of our mails!

These are my top 7 annoying factors in a work mail –

1) Using capital letters in messages

2) Using red color fonts

3) Using multi-colored fonts

4) Adding “…..” as fillers

5) Very long subject sentences

6) Using too many abbreviations

7) Using high priority all the time

Even Scott Adams has put a good spin on email communications thru Dilbert. Check this out –



I know business schools lay stress on communication which involves emailing but I am not too sure if our high schools have updated this as a part of their written communication lessons. I think they should. Emailing has become such a common communication tool even for school goers that learning the Netiquette at an early age can help strengthen the basics to a great extent.

Here are a few references I found useful –
So next time you hit the send button, pause for a moment and imagine yourself as the recipient. If you don’t get put off by it, chances are others wouldn’t either! Happy emailing!

US- IT job market situation – part 2


Nowadays, I find that a large chunk of traffic to my blog comes from H1 job market related information searches.

First of all, I love this feature by wordpress that lists the traffic source and the exact search phrases if it is through a search engine. I guess most blog providers do offer this facility. Seriously, hats off to them! It helps a blogger know what kind of information his visitors seek and what percentage of his visitors seek that information thereby enabling him trigger his forthcoming posts in that direction. I had also received a comment from a visitor seeking more information on the current state of the IT job market.

Now coming to the point, it is really interesting to see how attentive people are, to events in the US and how concerned they are about the scheme of things that may have effect on their American dream.

In March, I had written a post on the IT contract job market situation in the US as a result of the slowdown that I (like many others) have been noticing. The past few months have not been the best for IT job seekers in the US, be it contract or permanent. The reasons certainly track back to the mortgage meltdown and the consequent slowdown in the American economy. The slowdown has affected many companies across industries that have led them to cut down in projects/project allocation and overall spending which in turn has been having its effect on hiring.

From my experience in marketing consultants, the situation does not seem to have gotten better yet. Like I mentioned in my earlier posts, we can see an evident increase in companies that prefer hiring people with skills and experience in multiple technologies thereby saving the cost of hiring multiple people. Not many people are prepared for this kind of a demand; hence, consulting rates have gone down.

On the other hand, because the number of H1 visas processed has been increasing on a yearly basis, the supply of resources for any particular IT position is generally high.

In the meantime, we are also seeing positions going on hold or hiring being held up for unexplainable reasons (unexplainable by recruiters/ outsourced hiring companies). I am guessing the reasons could be as I mentioned earlier, scrapping of projects or cost cutting initiatives.

I would not like to inject any negative feelings or approach that may hinder one’s decision on what future course of action they would like to stick to, because my post is really not worth that much. But I would like to inform readers about the factors they might want to take into account for making an informed decision in considering coming to the US for a fulltime or contract job.

As I would prefer doing, writing down or just copy-pasting the following 10 questions and trying to answer them might be helpful –

  1. Why am I currently looking to move to the US? What could be the benefits as against staying back in India?
  2. What is my current area of expertise/ technology?
  3. Am I an expert? How can I differentiate myself against the hundreds of people in the same field of technology/expertise?
  4. In the present market situation, what are the basic and additional skills being asked for by companies who are hiring people in this technology?
  5. Which industries are hiring the most? Do I have experience in those industries? If not, in my area, are my chances good even if I don’t have industry specific experience?
  6. Can I consider coming on an H1/L1 from my current company and then move when the market is better?
  7. Does my intended profile require very good communication skills? Or does it ask for more technical certifications and versatility? Which should I focus more on? (Of course both are necessary for any kind of job, but the degree of compromise from the hirers may vary depending on the need and nature of the profile)
  8.  What is my flexibility with regard to rate, location, working hours?
  9. Do I know people who are in the US now, and are seeking jobs in the same area of technology as I am? Can I contact them for inputs?
  10. Do I have an alternative option or exit plan in case things don’t work out as planned (that is, I don’t end up with a job until a certain period of time)?

I have heard from experienced people that at least a couple of years ago, one didn’t really need to think too deep into how things would turn out during their job search in the US. The market was doing so well that there was a confidence that things would fall in place sooner or later.

I can say for certain that it is not that easy now.

I am sure answering the above questions carefully after good research can surely help one make a more informed decision and build confidence in oneself about his decision. One can check out popular job sites like dice, monster and careerbuilder and do a detailed analysis of the jobs pertaining to one’s area of interest. Getting first hand information from friends or relatives who already are in the US will also help a great deal.

Of course, there may be more questions that may need to be answered. I will surely add more if I can think of any. Meanwhile, people who find the above information useful (or not), please feel free to leave your thoughts, suggestions and opinions.

Good luck!


Musing or amusing?



I fall into this category of people who think that they are so far away from being perfect and that there needs to be a constant (as in, all the time and forever) review of themselves and people around them in order to get to that goal; the category of people who love to listen, read and ponder about life, situations, psychology, philosophy, principles and inspiration.

When I was a kid and I became aware (at least I thought so) that these thoughts dominated my “think time”, unlike other girls of my age who thought a lot about how to dress up Barbie, I felt I was gifted! Like I was going to be a next generation Vivekananda or Gandhi! I remember sometimes I behaved like I was a saint, telling my brother that if he lied, god with a capital G would punish him.

I even attempted to read huge philosophical books that my father bought; I thought big words didn’t really matter since I could easily grasp the context and message (because I was ‘gifted’!)

After 10 pages of knowing the truth (with the capital T), reaching out to god (with a capital G) and understanding the self (with a capital S) I would just close the book once and for all, forcing myself to realize that I already have it in me, then why read? But at that age, philosophy is a keyword that I learnt; and I liked it you know, sounded sophisticated for my age!

I grew up listening to class discussions and extempore by friends, slowly recognizing that my philosophical thoughts weren’t really growing beyond a level and that a lot of kids around me picked up the concept lot faster than I did! What was going on? I thought I was gifted! Are they too? Should I have read 10 more pages of the big fat books? Why am I not able to speak?

Since then, my idea (now, strategy) about being philosophical changed a little bit. Quotes still inspired me, but simpler ones. I chose to avoid the capital letters and go by the ‘do good and be good’ types. I was self-enforcing the idea that there was no capital or small letter god and no heaven or hell; its all about what you are and what you can do for the people around you. It is about character, nature, morality. No, not personality, but individuality.

I didn’t need to talk about good stuff as long as I was “doing” them.

Oh, and I still liked those books, but I didn’t call them philosophical anymore, I called them “inspirational”.

Years passed by and it was time to get married. When I met my husband, and we were trying to carry out a casual conversation during our preliminary rounds of interaction, I was confronted with the usual question “So, what kind of books do you like to read?”

Oh yes, I was ready for this. “Inspirational, motivational books” I said.

“Oh, you mean self help books, good good”, comes the reply.

What? self help books is what they call them now? What does that mean and why is that so? Is that a new terminology? Where was I?

Is it the self with a small or a capital S? Because, if it’s the capital S then I can understand but if it is small, come on, why would they do that? It is not that I need help for myself. I don’t need help at all. “I am what I am”!!

I hated that term. I still do. It is like saying, “nobody else can help you so why don’t you help yourself, please.”

Hmm alas! My strategy has changed again. I read less of what the world now calls self help books and have shifted to bio and autobiographies. These can be motivational; these can be inspirational too right?

I look back and realize that over the years, all that I considered musing has been nothing less than amusing!

Greasy affair – Oil prices and economies


I try my best to understand international affairs, economics and foreign policies but sometimes I simply don’t get it. Are policies formed and strategies built to make life easier for people or what?

Take a look at the latest global oil crisis. Oil prices are at an all time high. People all over the world are suffering (except probably the people in OPEC). Within and amongst countries the blame game is on about increasing demand, falling supply, declining production initiatives, and so on.

Saudi Arabia (which is the largest producer) says it will increase the production to meet higher demand; US blames its oil companies for making windfall profits and still not doing anything about the prices; the companies in turn say they are reinvesting the profits for exploration. Meanwhile US imports of oil have risen to 65% of its total consumption (witness yet another George Bush-ism – “It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas”)J ; India, China and other developing countries are being pointed at for their outrageously (!) high quantities of oil consumption; suddenly press and people of the developed nations are accusing Governments for not being concerned about developing other sources of energy.

Interestingly, the story in India goes like this – In spite of the record oil prices abroad, Indian oil companies in the public sector are on the verge of bankruptcy. The Government decides to subsidize fuel prices, which means that the petrol sold by the likes of IOL and BP in India, is much cheaper than the petrol sold by Chevron in the US; meaning, IOL makes a loss every time it sells fuel to the Indian public.

When oil prices went up further, the Government had no choice but to hike the prices by an average of 13% at one go which came under sharp protests by the Opposition. Between soaring prices and subsidies from PSUs, the private players like Reliance are having a tough time too because if they don’t lower prices, they remain uncompetitive. With oil prices still soaring, the Government’s lack of nerve (in view of coming elections) to remove subsidies, the PSU oil companies road to bankruptcy and the private players not able to do anything, there is no doubt that the economy is in turmoil. Rate of inflation will soar, stock markets will suffer and the dream run part II of the sensex will become more and more elusive.

All said and done, the fact still remains that there is no short term solution for high oil prices and at least 90% of the world’s population is suffering from it. Given this, I can’t help wondering, “Why can’t we just lower the prices? I mean, what’s the big deal? If everyone faces the problem, nobody would not want to see the prices go down, right? So let’s just bring them down!”

Alas, if only it were that simple.

When such crises occur, I think Governments everywhere can(rather, should) learn some lessons – about making compromises, about understanding the importance of being interdependent, about reminding them that they are representatives of a large population and that there needs to be a human aspect to everything.


“The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man, the reflection of his own face.”


Reflections are mysteriously impounding; I remember spending hours during my childhood vacations, endlessly looking at the reflections of beautiful trees, busy birds, moving clouds and even my Self in the serene waters of the pond in our ancestral home.

I am just back from a holiday to Yellowstone National Park, WY. The sights were simply amazing. A dreamer’s paradise! It took me back to those days where the only thoughts that occupied my mind were the whys and hows of Nature and Creation.



We drove around the Park early one morning to snap some sunrise shots. Yellowstone’s lakes are very beautiful and sunrise was the best time to capture reflections on it’s calm and still waters. 


Reflections,  I decided that morning, will have to be the theme of my next post.





Macro magic




Someone once said, “All great things are only a number of small things that have carefully been collected together.”

When we take a picture of a mountain, a garden, a farm or the sea, we sometimes overlook the small flowers, dewdrops, rocks, pebbles, animals and insects that also, along with others make up these beautiful landscapes.

A macro photograph is a style that focuses completely on one subject. Say you are taking a flower; everything else other than the flower is left blurred. Meaning, the depth of field is narrow.

For a macro photograph, either the lens is used to the optimal to get a large image of the subject or the photographer simply gets as close to the subject as possible.

In my experience, a macro photo that I just clicked typically leaves me getting all philosophical, thinking about life, God, creation, existence, and so on.. 🙂