Sunday, February 24, 2013

Veda Vyasa's Executive Summary

Some have the habit of saying "Where is the time?" at least a dozen times in a day.  They have no time for anything.  If you observe them carefully, they are too busy.  Too busy doing nothing most of the time.  Some busy people truly have no time for certain things.  They always manage to find time to do things they want to do.  All of us have no time to do what we are not keen to do.  Time Management is the subject of many training sessions and workshops.  Expert trainers in "Time Management" are themselves found to be poor managers of their own time.  That is quite understandable.  They teach others; not themselves.  As Laurence J Peter mentions in his famous book "Peter's Principle", "They saved others; themselves they could not save".

The real pressure on time is on the housewives or home makers.  Their peak time arrives much before or just before their children leave for school and other members of the family go for work.  If they themselves are also working in some office or establishment, the pressure is even more.  They do not even have time to eat a proper breakfast.  They could be seen eating their breakfast in the buses or vehicles while commuting to office from home.

There is true pressure on time in many work situations.  Persons occupying high positions have to attend to many important things at the same time.  They are required to read, understand, evaluate and act on voluminous reports and proposals and decide in quick time.  Over and above this, meetings eat away most of their time.  In order to remedy such situations and aid in fast decision making, the concept of "Executive Summary" is put in place.  It has become customary to prepare an executive summary, sometimes also called "Management summary", with every report or proposal.  Preparation of such a summary needs skill and experience.  Otherwise, instead of putting things in nutshell, the nut will remain in the shell - the big report.   

An "Executive Summary" is a short document that summarizes a longer report or proposal to enable the reader to understand a large body of material without having to read it in its entirety.  It differs from an "Abstract" often used in academic research, that helps the reader to decide whether or not to read the document.  An executive is condemned to read the  "Executive Summary" and decide on the underlying issue based on it.  Even if the final decision is not to decide or return the file with some queries that aid in postponing the decision.  As one of our former Prime Ministers said, not deciding things is also a decision.  It works many times; issues get solved before a final decision is taken.  Thus rendering decision making redundant.

In my post titled "Learning and Teaching" (Please click on this to read it), I had made a mention of the contributions of Maharishi Veda Vyasa to the cause of universal knowledge.  It may surprise many, but the original author of an Executive Summary is also Veda Vyasa himself!  In fact, a reference to Veda Vyasa's executive summary came up in the Constituent Assembly discussions when the various articles of our constitution were discussed and voted by the Assembly.  The discussions in the Constituent Assembly held on 19th May 1949 was presided over by Dr. Rajendra Prasad.  Those who took part in the debate included illustrious names such as Prof. K T Shah, H V Kamath, Tajamul Hussain, Nazimuddin Ahmad, T T Krishnamachari, K Santhanam, Dr B R Deshmukh and M  Ananthasayanam  Ayyangar.   Dr B R Ambedkar was replying to the debate and intervening as the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.  While moving an amendment to Article 80, H V Kamath mentioned about the bulkiness of the draft Constitution and referred to Veda Vyasa.  He mentioned about the famous Veda Vyasa's statement as under:

श्लोकार्धेन प्रवक्ष्यामि यदुक्तं ग्रन्थ कोटिभिः |  परोपकारं पुण्याय पापाय परपीडनम् ||

Shlookaardhena pravakshyaami yaduktam Grantha Kootibhihi
Paroopakaaram Punyaya Paapaaya Parapeedanam!

Vyasa is the author of voluminous literature that includes the four Vedas, eighteen Puranas and many other works.  Someone like the modern day executive went to him and told him that he does not have time to read and understand them.  He wanted Veda Vyasa to summarize all his works in a "Executive Summary".  Veda Vyasa said he would do even better than that.  Why only his works?  He would summarize the writings in millions or billions of books in half a verse.  The executive summary given by him reads thus:

Whatever is done for the benefit of others (meaning the general community) are good deeds (Punya).  Whatever is done to harm others are bad deeds (Paapa).  Simple Executive summary of a billion books!

Executive summary is not an invention of the west.  It is truly an Indian art and science.  Panini's "Shivasutras" sums up entire Grammar in some formulae that can be easily remembered.  Amarakosha or "Naamalingaanushaasana" is a full dictionary that was known to every child by heart.  "Brahma Sutras" summed up the essence of  Indian Philosophy.  These were easy to remember and retrieve.  Come with you wherever you go.  No need to carry the physical books.  No cartage or taxes.  No threat of termites and mice; no fear of a friend borrowing them and never remembering to return!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Painter meets Musician

In the post titled "Ovation for over 15 minutes" (click HERE to read it) I had mentioned about the encouragement given by the audience to the performers in a ballet show at Opera De Bastille in Paris, France on 13th July, 2008.  The ballet was titled "Signes" in French, meaning "Signs" in English.  It was a delightful show and the Director and artistes won the hearts of the audience.  The show itself  was wonderful in concept, design and on-stage execution.  The director and artistes who performed on the stage received standing ovation for over 15 minutes by an appreciative full house audience.

In a music concert, each performer uses a different instrument that has its own characteristics and special features.  A number of instruments, say five violins or trumpets, may also be used to provide enhanced sound effects.  There may be moments in the duration of the concert when the individual  brilliance of an artiste may be savoured by the viewers or listeners, but the emphasis is on the overall impact of the blend of the output of various instruments as planned and executed.  Likewise, when there is a confluence of two or more forms of fine arts, their collective impact gives out an exhilarating experience.  A layman would certainly derive some pleasure out of such concerts, but a trained mind would be able to appreciate the finer aspects even better.

Literature and forms of Performing and Fine Arts like Music, Dance, Painting and Sculpture have their own intertwined relationship, though each one of them have their own domains and individuality.  There are innumerable instances where a piece of literature has inspired a host of artistes like dancers and painters to convert words into visual form of expression.  This enables the content of the literary piece to reach a far wider audience who may not know the original language of the literature or may even be illiterate.  A combination of two performing artistes in different disciplines has often enthralled the audience by their expertise in the fields chosen by them.  One such attempt called "Geeta-Chitra" is very popular in our part of the world.  In such an exercise, as a poet recites his poem, an artiste starts painting the theme of the poem on a canvas in full view of the audience.  Just as the poet completes a poem in five to six minutes, the painting bringing out the essence of the poem is also ready!  Similar attempts are also made in other parts of the world.  The versatility of such artistes often leave us dumbfound.  A standing ovation is probably the only possible way in which we can appreciate their talents.

As we entered the Opera de Bastille auditorium for the ballet titled "Signes" and collected the tickets booked earlier through internet, we were given a booklet with each ticket.  The booklet contained all the information about the show and included details about the artistes and the director.  We were led into the auditorium five minutes before the show to allow us sufficient time to find our seats and settle down.  The  2,703 seat acoustically consistent hall is a magnificent sight.  When we go to concerts and shows, we often pray that a short man or woman should occupy the seat in front of us to save us from the prospect of moving our heads in the alternate directions every time the person in front of us moves his head for his convenience!  There is no such problem in Opera de Bastille.  Even if all the seats are occupied by Amitabh Bachans, there is no need to squirm in our seats since all spectators have a clear view of the entire stage.  The entrance doors were closed one minute before the show began and there was no disturbance from late entrants.  There were no announcements and the show started on schedule, continued and ended as planned.  Not a soul stirred and coughed during the entire period of 90 minutes   

The ballet "Signes" is the result of the efforts of three artistes, musician Rene Aubrey who designed the music, choreographer Carolyn Carlson and painter Oliver Debre who designed the sets and costumes. The effect of the paintings was transformed into visual and audio treat to the viewers.  The ballet is divided into seven paintings on the theme of smile, as under:
  1. The sign of smile
  2. Loire am
  3. Guilin Mountains
  4. Monks of the Baltic
  5. The Spirit of the blue
  6. Colors of Madurai
  7. Victory Signs
The unique stage facilities of Opera de Bastille were fully exploited to provide a product of exceptional quality.  The 45 meter high and 30 meter wide stage with its 25 meter depth and the scenery turntable were used to provide continuity without break as well as breathtaking viewing of change in scenes with least disturbance.  The 9 elevators used in creation of several levels in the show and the three main elevators fetched the required scenery up from below stage to provide the sequence. The effortless movement of the hundreds of artistes was like movement of hundreds of parts of a complex machine; each doing only its part by own rotation and yet providing the ultimate effect for which the machine is designed.  The orchestra pit that accommodated as many as 130 musicians gave a wonderful audio support to the great show on the stage.  The circling and floating artistes and their many complex movements was a visual treat.  The sixth painting titled "Colors of Madurai" was a bonus for us and India's contribution to the ballet made us proud.

The combined effect on the audience was reflected in "Standing Ovation" for over fifteen minutes and was indeed well deserved.

Visit to historic Bastille site, view of the Bastille building and sitting through the Ballet "Signes" was a memorable experience and is still fresh in our minds, even after five years.   

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Are you really Born?

If someone confronts us and asks "Are you really Born?", what is the answer? We may not answer the question and instead think that the one asking the question is really mad.  "How can I be standing here if I am not really born?" could be the counter question.

"The Day of the Jackal" is a famous novel written by Frederick Forsyth and was made into a highly successful movie by the same name with Edward Fox playing the role of "The Jackal". The story revolves around an attempt by the French dissident group, OAS, to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle by hiring a professional killer. Lt. Col. Mark Rodin of OAS and his two deputies meet the contract killer in Italy and agree on the code name "The Jackal". The code name is known to only these four. The assassin obtains a legitimate British Passport  under a false name and embarks on his mission. Two efficient police officers, Superintendent Bryn Thomas of the Scotland Yard at the UK end and Deputy Commissioner of Police Claude Lebel of the Paris police on the France side, attempt to trace the identity and track the movement of the assassin. London police raid the house of one Charles Calthrop suspecting that he is the hired assassin and find his passport there.  The first three letters of the words in his name CHA-CAL in French or Spanish translates to JACKAL in English. Jackal's attempt fails and he is killed by Claude Lebel.  As the coffin of the Jackal is being lowered in an unmarked grave on the outskirts of Paris, Calthrop, who was holidaying in Scotland, walks into his house and demands to know from the British Police why his house is being searched. The identity of Jackal is never known.  The officers are left wondering, "If  Jackal was not Calthrop, then who the hell was he?". The Jackal  was buried as "an unknown foreign tourist, killed in a car accident". As per the records, Jackal was neither born nor died as his identity was never known. His identity was never known since he did not have either a birth certificate or a passport with him!

A few decades ago, one could take birth and die, and lead a happy life in between, without any problem. That is not the case today. We need a proper document for everything.  And passwords for almost everything. A person cannot be treated as actually born unless there is a Birth Certificate. Death cannot be accepted without a proper Death Certificate. Life between birth and death cannot be recognized without a Passport, for most of them. Thus a proper Birth Certificate and Passport have become the documents on which a smooth life floats. As regards Death Certificate, the dead body cannot be buried or cremated without a death certificate.  It may not make life any different for the dead man, fortunately. In many cases, a proper death certificate for the dead is very important for smooth life of the living, especially if the dead has left behind some property. It is, therefore, necessary for us to understand how to obtain a proper, legally accepted and valid Birth Certificate and Passport.

Gone are the days when a child could be admitted to a school based on a horoscope given by the friendly neighborhood astrologer. A Birth Certificate issued by the Registrar of Births and Deaths is required for admitting a child to school. In the context of our custom, a child is usually named on the 11th day after birth and sometimes even later. Hospital or Nursing Home authorities are duty bound to inform the Registrar about the births (of course, death also) taking place in their place every day. They do their duty and the birth of the child is duly recorded in the registrar's office. A birth certificate issued based on such information does not, naturally, carry the name of the child. Added to this is the practice of writing names with multiple spellings.  (One of the finest All India Radio Drama producers, who later retired as Director of one of AIR's stations, had a letter head with a note:  Wasant Kawli - please note the spelling of my name!  He used to receive letters addressed to him mostly as Vasantha Kavali).  It is very common to find names being spelt differently. Such a birth certificate is incomplete and creates many problems during the course of education, employment and other stages of life. In western countries, it is mandatory to give two names for the arriving child well before the time of delivery, one name each for a boy and a girl. The name of the child is recorded in a tag attached to the arm or leg of the new born. Reporting to the registrar will include the name of the child and mother. A birth certificate issued based on such information automatically includes the child's name.

What is the solution for such a problem? How can we get a proper and valid birth certificate that can save the child and us from unwanted problems later in life? The following  steps can help us to obtain a proper Birth Certificate:
  • Be ready with a name for the expected baby - one boy's name and one girl's name.  (If you are able to find a name that can be used for both, even better!).  If twins are expected, have two sets of names ready. This takes care of a contingency if both are boys or girls!
  • The name chosen should have three parts; first name, middle name and surname. This facilitates issue of a proper passport later.  If the family does not have a surname, invent one!  (This will avoid a visa later on with a name such as NIL NIL KUMAR.  One Kumar with his name as just "Kumar" and no surname was issued a visa with the name NIL NIL Kumar). 
  • Have a sheet of paper on which the father's and mother's name are also written in Block Capitals so that they are not spelt wrongly. These should be as you want them on the Birth Certificate.
  • Have the full postal address of the parents written on this sheet, with PIN Code. Admission of the expectant mother is usually done by a close relative or friend. They should be advised to handover this sheet to the Hospital/Nursing Home at the time of admission.
  • Mere handing over such a sheet of paper does not suffice.  Hospital staff are experts in messing up these details. Make sure that the details are entered properly in the computer system or registers, if done manually. The entry in the records of the hospitals should be seen and checked, even if the new born baby is not seen properly. Earning the displeasure of the hospital should not really matter. It is better than facing multiple problems later on.
  • Visit the Registrar's office without delay, apply for a Birth Certificate and verify the details in the certificate very carefully. More carefully than you count and check cash when receiving it from a bank cashier.
  • Apply for multiple copies, say five copies, and keep them in at least two different places.
What about the certificates that are already obtained and does not have the child's name on it or details are not correct? There is a simple procedure to rectify the deficiencies. Simple to explain but often complicated to execute.
  • An application for amendment is to be made to the Registrar in the prescribed form giving details of amendments to be made.
  • The existing certificate has names of parents but not of the child. Hence an acceptable document linking the date of birth of the child with parent's name is to be produced. A School Leaving Certificate or SSLC marks card would suffice.
  • If the names of parents are wrongly spelt or details are incorrect, an affidavit is to be sworn to before a Magistrate and original affidavit is to be produced. An affidavit before a Notary Public is not acceptable. 
  • Meet the Registrar, explain the case, persuade him by producing suitable documents and  advancing logical and reasonable arguments, and obtain an amended certificate.
  • Certificates are now issued with digital signatures and are not signed manually.
Issue of Passports is now done only on production of a Birth Certificate. Hence ensuring that your child has a proper Birth Certificate is of paramount importance. A valid and proper Birth Certificate is the first gift from the parents to a new born child !    

Friday, February 1, 2013

She won't cry, again!

It was a challenging posting and his authorities had told him that he was being sent there with very high expectations.  Posted as the head of a large Region in a distant state, he left his family behind and moved alone to that place to take charge of the new assignment.  After landing in the new place and assuming charge, he set out to see the flat allotted  to him as official quarters.  The residential complex had many flats and the bank had hired some of them to house its managers and executives.  Other flats were occupied by local residents, some owned and some rented. The flat allotted to the Regional Manager was compact yet adequate, required amenities available and the locality was also good.  A comfortable place to get back after a grueling day's work is what every one looks for and having settled down in the furnished quarters, he felt relaxed and retired for the day.

He was woken up suddenly early in the morning due to the shouting and fighting in the adjoining flat.  There was continuous shouting in a high pitched voice of a man and the crying of a woman.  This continued for some half an hour and and there was no use in attempting to get some more sleep.  He got up and and went on with his daily routine and left for the office, looking forward to another long day at the office.

The flat was quite comfortable, but the shouting and crying in the adjoining flat was indeed very disturbing.  It would start every day early in the morning without fail.  He observed that residents of other flats too were unhappy with this disturbance, but were taking it as an unavoidable nuisance and tried to ignore it.  Having put up with it for about a week, one day he asked the security guard who were the residents of that flat and what was the reason for the regular fight in it.   The guard told him that the flat was occupied by a man and his mother.  The son was about thirty years old, tall and well-built man.  The mother was about sixty years old and there was regular shouting and crying in that flat from the time they moved into the flat a few months ago.  Some neighbors tried to intervene but were shouted down by the man.  They were strictly advised that it was a matter within the family and others had no business to interfere in it.  The matter ended there.  What continued was the shouting, crying and disturbance to others.  The security guard even advised the Regional Manager that it would be better for him also to forget the whole thing!

The repeated instances of shouting and crying did not provide any chance to forget the trouble.  Something should really be done, thought the Regional Manager.  Being one to always take the bull by the horns, he was not ready to compromise with the situation.  He decided to act firmly and see the outcome.  Next Sunday morning he walked casually past the open door of the other flat when the shouting and crying was in progress.  The door was open and he could see the six feet tall giant standing before a frail looking lady crouched in the corner of a big sofa, crying and trembling.  He would shout at her again and again and her only response would be crying and more crying.  Unable to contain himself, the Regional Manager barged inside the house and queried: "What is going on here?".  The giant had his back to the wall and had not seen the intruder.  He whirled around to see a stranger who had not only entered his den without permission but also had the temerity to question him!

"Who are you and why did you enter my house?  What happens here is a family matter and you have no business to interfere.  If you do not go away immediately, I will physically throw you out.  This is not a mere threat and I have done it before.  Neighbors will confirm it, if you so desire", shouted the giant.  This is no time for thinking but for action, decided the Regional Manager.  But what action?  That was the big question.  Years of experience in deciding things and acting swiftly came to his aid.

"What did you say?  Is it a family matter?  Who says that?  This is an "Affray".  If you do not know what is affray, it means "When two or more persons, by fighting in a public place, disturb public peace, they are said to commit an affray.  In terms of Section 159 of Indian Penal code, such an act is punishable with imprisonment of either description up to one month, or fine or both.  I will file a police complaint, get you arrested and put you in Jail",  said the Regional Manager.

The giant was taken aback as he had not anticipated such a response.  He did not want to yield ground to the intruder.  "What you say may be true if it happens in a public place.  But this is my house and a purely private place.  Your law is not applicable here",  shouted the man.

"If you are under such an impression, you better know some more law.  It is a private matter as long as it is confined to your house.  But this is a residential complex where many people live.  The moment your shouting voice crosses your doors and windows, it becomes a public nuisance as this is a residential complex.  A public nuisance is causing annoyance to the public or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, as defined in Section 268 of Indian Penal code.  Continuance of such nuisance is punishable with imprisonment of up to six months, says section 291 of IPC.  I am not interested in providing free legal advice.  This is not just an advice to you.  If this nuisance continues, I will ensure that you are behind bars, using every provision in the IPC".  Having said so, Regional Manager walked away from the scene without providing an opportunity for the giant to respond.

There was no shouting and crying on the next day.  Or on the day after.  For the next few days.  Next Sunday morning Regional Manager heard his door bell ring.  When he opened the door, he was surprised to see the mother and son duo.  The mother asked for permission to come in and permission was duly granted. The mother handed over a small packet of sweets and said:  "Sir, thank you for finding my lost son.  We live on the savings of my late husband and the family pension that I get from the Government.  My son is unemployed and for the past several years has been blaming me for the bad turns in his life.  Your intervention has made him realise his mistake.  Three days back he fell on my feet and cried like a baby.  He has promised me never to treat me badly again.  He has now secured a job now in a private firm.  It is a low paying job, but he is determined to work hard and come up in life.  I am satisfied that he will live up to his promise."

The giant spoke only a few words:  "Sir, I assure you I will treat my mother like I should have done all these years and as a grateful son behaves with his mother.  She won't cry, again."

As he watched the mother and son leave his flat, the Regional Manager was satisfied that she would not cry again, in her life.