Certifiable Test Case

Confused employee wading through Nerd Nirvana

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Location: Hyderabad, AP, India

Program Manager Microsoft IT India

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I've been working on the railroad...

Making long trips to Bombay every summer of my schooling, I have always been found of Indian Railways, which I have always believed was an extremely well oiled machine, for the sheer volume of the people and goods it has to handle on an hourly basis. Albeit one of British legacies to India, it is one of the best maintained, and we Indians have every reason to be proud of the world's second largest railway system.

Therefore I was quite heartened to year that the turnover of Indian Railways for the year 2005-2006 was close to 9800 crores, and that the railways has been consistently making a profit, having generated Rs 13,000 crore worth internal resources as also surplus revenue of Rs 11,000 crore over the past three years.

And the man responsible for this sterling performance is ironically a politician reviled in the popular media for his "dacoit" image and total lack of "savoir faire". Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

On May 4, 2006, the PTI reported that Lalu Prasad Yadav had declined ideas from a delegation of IIM professors on how to run his ministry. IIM-A don Professor G Raghuram was the head of a committee that had predicted the railways would incur Rs 60,000 crore debt in the next 10 years and slip into bankruptcy,and had suggested that Prasad appoint an advisory board for efficient functioning of the organisation.

To which the erstwhile Lalu replied "No thanks, I think I can run the ministry myself"

And by God, he can!

Being naturally curious, I researched up on Lalu's three year stint as Railway Minister, and it seems high turnover and reserves is not all this spunky demagogue can be proud of. Lalu, as Railway Minister has a tradition of soundly punishing imcompetent bureaucrats in the Railways. Sample the following:

Laloo suspends railway official for ‘harassment’ - May 4, 2005 Deccan Herald

Laloo turns back late employees, Laloo Prasad Yadav raids goods train - July, August 2004

I plan to continue this post...so just save it here for a while...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Give me a reason

Monday, May 22, 2006

Which left hand?

I have mastered a new art. The art of typing left handed on the keyboard.

Why? The inquisitive reader filled with curiosity, looks askance.

Because my right hand is in a sling. A curious contraption, this sling: it covers my arm from my hands to my elbows, forcing them horizontal, and has a long Velcro arm that wounds round my neck and holds itself in place.

Why? (why the sling, not why does it hold itself in place) The inquisitive reader raises his/her eyebrow as a polite gesture for me to continue.

The sling arose as a result of a small disagreement between my bike and me on Wednesday last in Virugambakkam, on the busy thoroughfare that is Arcot Road at three in the afternoon. After feeling my back tire wobble, I thought that it would continue in uniform motion along the straight road, as per Newton’s I law. My bike said, whoa, no way. It couldn’t care less about Newton’s I Law. It skid to a not-so-graceful halt, depositing yours truly on the side of the road upon his left side. And it (bike) fell upon me to boot, as my head lay on the road.

Luckily, my helmet saved my face from meeting a needle.

I was, of course, immediately helped up by the drivers behind me, and whisked away to the side of the road to recuperate. Which I did, and drove back home, feeling not so en bon sang but quite all right.

Of course, the doctors at the Emergency Ward at Ramachandra Hospital thought differently. After examining a couple of X-rays they came to the conclusion that what I had was an undisplaced fracture in the shoulder. What this means in layman’s terms is that a piece of bone over there wants to break off, but my skeletal system is being rather firm in holding on to it.

Way to go, skelly. Hang in there!

And so I have to wear the sling till this obstinate piece of calcium sees the flaw in its philosophy. Which, the good doctors say should be anytime in the next two weeks.

Until then, of course, I am left to explore the left-handers’ way of doing things. Isn’t there a Southpaws’ club somewhere here? Where do I sign up?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Minsara Kanna

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board has been computerised.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I must be slightly wrong in the head. (My friends, the ones who know me well have long since removed this from the realms of supposition and transferred to the realm of cold plain fact). But I assure you, gentle reader, that I am as sane as you, but have a desire to start from the very beginning.

So, the TNEB has been computerised.

This, of course meant that four sparkling new PC's found their way into the electricity board's office in Iyyapanthangal, where I reside. Now where is Iyyapanthangal? Have you heard of rural India, as in debates like rural v/s urban India? Iyyapanthangal is rural India. Iyyapanthangal is hoping someone will call it urban India but that is another story.

The PC's fascinated the simple village folk around the EB office. "Kampyuter vandhudchu..." (Computer's come) was the refrain heard from the old roadside paan chewer who makes an occupation of jeering at those who visit the EB office. "Engavana kattalam, kampyuter irruku.." (You can pay anywhere, there's a computer). The simple rustic folk that lend Iyyapanthangal its rural colour were awed and fascinated.

Till they went to pay their bills.

I was there, dear reader in the crowd in front of the EB office on the 15th of June, trying, like all good folk of this neighbourhood to pay my electricity bill.

Even as I walked toward the building, I knew something was wrong. The crowd was humongous. The EB in Iyyapanthangal has two queues. Both of them had overflown to the road adjacent to the EB building. I took my place at the fag end of the queue and waited.

After 15 minutes of reflection in which I had roamed the world mentally about thrice, something struck me as odd. Bringing my mind back to where my body was, I found the answer. In a quarter hour, the queue hadn't moved.

An officer then proceeded to come out of the building and exhorted everyone in chaste English to "come tomorrow" as the kampyuter was repair. Of course, I quote verbatim. Kampyuter in repair, come tomorrow.

The misguided officer had not counted upon the single minded dedication to duty of the rustic Iyyapanthangal folk. No one gave a damn for the "repair kampyuter". They had come to pay their bill, and by god they would pay their bill. A few opinions were flung around, saying that paper and pen was probably better.

The queue inched forward. No sorry, millimetered forward. For the first two hours I checked my watch every 15 minutes. Then, of course, I stopped checking. My watch, clearly insulted by my apparent apathy, promptly stopped working.

I spent the last 45 minutes at the front of the queue. Of course, when I say that, what probably appears in your mind is that I was standing in front of a long orderly line, and the official at the counter was getting ready to take my card and do whatever it is that officials in the eb do.

No, you're wrong. It was more like Tirupathi darshanam. 25 square inches were occupied by 25 people. The small square in the counter, meant for passing 1 card to the officer, was filled with 15 hands, each holding a card. The women were screaming at the men and other women, the men were screaming back at the women who screamed at them and supporting the women who were screamed at by the other women, and the babies, not yet aware of gender problems, were just screaming.

By some stroke of luck, the officer at the counter grasped the card in my hand. I smirked at all those around me. I , not they, after an agonising wait of 3 hrs 45 min., had given my card in.

And the officer returned it, saying "Card yerale, pa" (The card's not rising)

I must have looked bewildered, because she felt it necessary to elucidate "Kampyuter le yerale pa" (The card's not rising in the computer)

I must have now looked completely clueless, because she now made a vague irritating gesture in my hand. Immediately, those behind me in the "queue" managed to lift me right out of the throng, and push me into a side door. (Quite a feat, I weigh close on 70 kilos)

And then I understood. My card had not been entered into the database yet. Of course "yerale" should have given it away, but I am rather dumb.

Another official gazed at me, and proceeded to yethufy my card. Of course, typing at the rate of finding one key in 30 seconds is bound to reduce entry time. And how dare I suggest that this official use the number pad on the right of his keyboard. No, his job was to enter the details and he made quite a job of it.

But after yethufying my card, I was able to pay the bill in 5 minutes.

I hear my milkman is getting a computer. Oh God! I used to like my morning coffee so much!