From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Life and times in #116: Working from commute

In blah, rant, travel on September 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

8.50am Regular weekday: The car lurches to one side to avoid the foot-deep depression, classified for some unknown reason as a pot-hole, to promptly descend into one only half a foot deep. Settling onto a luxurious stretch of unbroken asphalt, nearly three car-lengths long, the cab driver proudly grins and remarks by way of explanation; “New flyover, was commissioned yesterday” as he expansively upshifts to 3rd gear for 5 seconds before moving back down to 2nd to navigate the broken surface. Honeymoon over, he applies the brake to settle in behind a beat up van after craning his neck to confirm that there was an operator in the vehicle, not making the rookie mistake of assuming that just because a vehicle was in the middle of a major arterial road in peak-hour traffic, it wasn’t parked there while its occupants enjoyed their breakfast in the adjoining udupi joint.

I observed the occupants of the vehicle on either side of mine, the distance between our respective vehicles a good three coats of paint, so that if we rolled down our windows and faced each other, oral hygiene habits would become a consideration.  Both occupants had their laptops open, tapping away with verve, as they sat, wreathed in the black smoke emerging from the do-it-yourself four-wheelers that are part of this city’s landscape. That’s when an opportunity presented itself. Not the kind that Zuckerberg unearthed when coding facemash at harvard. More the kind that will get an HR professional an “Above Average” in his annual appraisal.

Introducing ‘The WFC’: While cutting-edge organizations have instituted the employee-friendly “Work From Home” policy that can typically be utilized once every year, on an even date that is not a monday or a friday and does not begin with a “T”. Here’s an opportunity to earn some points for the “best places to work” surveys:

Introducing the “Work from Commute” policy. It will allow employees to accrue as hours spent working, those spent in enclosed metal cans while being shaken vigorously along at least 3 axes, namely their mode of transport. To participate in the program, employees would need to call their HR manager while commencing their journey, the background orchestra of horns could serve as evidence.

(Signing into Google maps was considered as a way to let HR track the movement of employees automatically, but rejected when the Bangalore position indicators refused to budge for inordinate lengths of time thus eliminating the distinction between those lounging on their couch and those hurrying to the office).

Imagine the hordes of satisfied employees trooping into office knowing that they have already clocked in a third of their work-day, spending another third in office before departing on their return commute to round off a productive day. Needless to say, this policy will only be worth the administrative effort in the major metros and would be a joke in cities like Hyderabad, where the employee would call in to announce the start of his commute and be in office before ending the call. That wouldn’t do at all. So, HR Managers working in prized locations of Bombay, Bangalore, the United Regions of NCR. You are welcome.

p.s: #116 refers to the enviable position that Bombay holds on the “Livable cities” ranking (link: http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2010/02/liveability_rankings)

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India’s Olympic Dream

In airlines, blah, travel on August 10, 2011 at 6:31 am

We’ve tried things the hard way. And it hasn’t worked. If there was a time for India to assert its growing influence on the world stage, it is now.

When the International Olympic Committee next convenes for the arduous task of planning for the next games, the Indian representative should table a proposal, not requiring major overhauls, but only the renaming of the 100 metre dash; To “Flight XYZ now boarding”.

This seemingly innocuous change would guarantee permanent ownership of the top podium position for the next few decades. To be completely transparent, some administrative changes would need to accompany the name change, like replacing the starter shot with a disembodied announcement on the PA system, of dubious sound quality with only the words “now boarding” being clear and distinct. The Indian Olympic Federation wouldn’t even need to go through the grind of actually investing in training for a sport, thus assuring huge returns on little investment, consisting of laying down ugly carpeting around the track and maybe recording an ambient soundtrack consisting of hollering babies. These changes done, all one has to do is sit back and jeer at the supremely trained athletes from the developed world struggling to stay in the frame as they get left behind.

Of course, like any potentially great undertaking, there are risks. If the PA announcement is mis-recorded to somewhere include the words “infant” and “preboarding”, the Indian challenge might well end prematurely with disqualification from jumping the gun as families with teenage progeny hurry to the gate, the said progeny, who are supposedly the cause of their disadvantage, sauntering a good 4-5 paces behind, chewing gum.

Then there is the risk that the Indian representatives might be afflicted by that deadly and unknown disease, “requiring wheelchair assistance”. Generations of scientists will puzzle over the outlying high percentage of 50-somethings in wheelchairs on flights originating or terminating in India. And they will stay puzzled as they will not have access to footage of the 50-somethings laughing and chatting away as they are wheeled to the gate, then springing with Carl-Lewis’esque agility to clamber into their seat once on board.

Not all is doom and gloom as the change might allow for the unleashing of that WCD (weapon of cabin destruction), the wailing baby. I’d challenge any fine-tuned athlete of bristling sinew and muscle to withstand the onslaught of the bawling of a baby that will just not subside. One might raise an eyebrow with the thought, might the opposition not retaliate with their homegrown toddling terrors? I say any such attempts will be akin to pissing in the face of a gale. I doubt that any parents of foreign nationality can show the equanimity that those of our great nation show as their descendant hollers to high hell at 2 am as the other passengers risk inner ear and cerebral damage in trying to stuff the airline pillow around their head.

And why stop at the 100 metre dash, there is scope to take over all the athletic events with some careful renaming of the events to indicate departing modes of transport. I think we have a winning idea here.

Tally Ho and all that jazz

In blah, life, travel, work on March 9, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I’m not a well-travelled person. In a little over three decades I’d only been on three countries other than the one that issued me my passport. With a niggardly number like that I was tempted to think like the bankers who stamped AAA on the tranches of home loans given to the impeccably credential’ed jobless population. Add the countries I spent time on travellators between terminals on stopovers, and voila, we double the number! I knew I should’ve been a banker!

The United Kingdom. My knowledge of this country was built from a combination of Enid Blyton, Frederick Forsyth, Arthur Conan Doyle novels and James Bond movies. So, in essence, I figured everyone to be dressed in Savile Row suits stepping into Aston Martins (or Jaguars), roaring around the cobblestoned streets named after circuses and squares, while keeping a few yards ahead of pursuing german-made sedans in which large men in suits alternate between taking potshots at the car ahead and exclaiming in dubious eastern-european accents. If the chase lasted a while (and if it started to rain which as I found out is inevitable), they’d politely stop off at a farm where they’d be served scones with golden pats of butter and other assorted baked goods with tea. How wonderfully quaint.

Two weeks and five cities later I might not be in a position to corroborate a lot of my impressions, though I am the authority on conference room furniture and office coffee machines. Week 1, London. Leicester Square, cabs and the tube. Once I recovered from the dizziness due to the roundabouts (wouldn’t ‘Stop’ signs have worked equally well?), turns out the city’s quite nice. Lot of activity, a centrally located hotel facilitated walks to most of the places Yashraj cameras rove; Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Eye. Nice bunch of pubs, dinners of fish and chips and an assortment of bitters and ales courtesy some of the local colleagues. Getting around the city means the tube or cabs. Convenient and all that but what with all sorts of monetary discouragements for people to bring their cars into ‘Zone 1’ – yes, very imaginative, I was thankful for an expense account, specifically when learning that train tickets to other cities cost nearly as much as flight tickets to do back here, yes, including the 37 different taxes and surcharges. Week 2. Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Leeds and Newcastle. It’s like the colonists forgot about their other cities when putting all of the shiny stuff in their capital. Spent not more than a night in each of the others and seems one would scratch one’s head about looking for things to do after the customary stop off at one of the local pubs.

All in all a nice l’il whistlestop tour of the country and would’ve been better if I hadn’t had to cancel on meeting friends.

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