Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Road To Tokyo: Episode 17

We are heading closer to the Olympics with crossed fingers that the Games actually happen. Vaccinations have started rolling out in various parts of the world and some have also prioritized their sportspersons in this regard. On the other hand, many parts are facing a second wave and mutant versions of the virus. The various qualifiers are still being rescheduled due to with lockdowns and travel restrictions of varying degree in different regions. With this backdrop, the Olympic Torch relay has resumed, and the Japanese government has decided to ban foreign spectators. A collateral impact of this ban is the reduction in personal entourages of the athletes as only the accredited support staff can be part of the delegations. 

Well, all this is still a bridge too far. Meanwhile a few more Indian sportspersons have qualified for the Games 

Fencing: Bhavani Devi became the 1st ever Indian to qualify for Olympics Fencing. Will be participating in the Individual Sabre event. 

Athletics: M Sreeshankar qualified for the Men's Long Jump event after creating a new National Record in the Federation Cup. Kamalpreet Kaur qualified for the Women's Discus Throw event with a new National Record in the Federation Cup 

Table Tennis: Sathian Gnansekharan & Achanta Sharat Kamal booked spots in the Men’s Singles from the Asian qualifying event. Suthirtha Mukherjee and Manika Batra qualified for the Women’s singles category. Sharath Kamal & Manika Batra upset the Top seeds to win the sole Mixed Doubles Quota at the Asian Qualifying event. 

In other news 
Boxing: The Final World Qualification events have been cancelled and instead the Quotas will be allocated to the top-ranked boxer yet qualify from each continental region. India had already qualified 9 boxers (an all-time high) through last year’s Asian qualification. However, in the other 4 categories, the quotas have gone to other nations. 

Athletics: New National Records for already qualified athletes Neeraj Chopra (Men's Javelin Throw) & Avinash Sable (3,000m steeplechase). Both of them nicely warming up for the Games.

Shooting: At the New Delhi World Cup, the Indian contingent returned a rich haul. Although the field was depleted but it was good to see the shooters strike a rich vein of form in the run-up to the Olympics. Special mention of the Manu Bhaker-Saurabh Chaudhary duo who have now won Gold at their 5th consecutive World Cup! 

Archery: The team has been announced. Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai & Pravin Jadhav who had earned the Quota will be representing in the Men’s team and Individual Events. Deepika Kumari will be representing in the Women’s individual event. India is yet to qualify for the Women’s Team event. 

Indian Contingent: Sports - 9, Events – 42, Entries - 58, Participants – 84 


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Corona Chronicles – WFH/Office Edition

It has been over a year since that fateful day in March of 2020, when the office issued a “temporary” Work From Home orders. It was extended by a fortnight, then another fortnight and then sine die. Over a year of working from home has been an interesting experience. 

The biggest realization has been that what is referred to as "work" comprises of sending emails, checking calendars, arranging and attending meetings and finally preparing documents (excel, powerpoint, word and then transforming them to pdfs). In short almost wholly dependent on the power of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Teams! 

The commute disappeared (not a bad thing given the Mumbai traffic) but with it also went away the buffer zone between office and home. Earlier we used to get ready for office, travel to office, settle in and start “work”. Now we switch on the laptop, connect the internet and the vpn and then maybe “get ready” while simultaneously cleaning up, preparing meals and entertaining the kid. 

Office attire has changed to Polo T-shirts & pajamas/shorts. As for the usual work clothes – the shoes are gathering dust in the shoe rack, socks have gone into the deepest recesses of the cupboards and the shirts & trousers are lying neatly ironed and folded. All of them wondering if their wearer has vanished altogether! 

And office meetings & calls keep getting interrupted. Because the little one likes to make their presence felt. Meanwhile the office colleagues actually welcome this interruption. 

Meanwhile meetings have developed their own idiosyncrasies. 

One can join multiple meetings simultaneously – one from laptop, one from phone; maybe take another call while being “present” in one meeting. Sometimes “move” from one meeting to the other and find almost the same group present there as well. It has also resulted in meetings mostly starting on time, because you don’t have to physically move. 

Speaking up and making a point and then wondering why no has responded, and realizing you forgot to "unmute" yourself. Then repeating the same point after unmuting (with lesser effect) while the the opportunity has already sailed away. 

Using backgrounds when you switch on the camera and realizing multiple people in the meeting are in the same setting. After all not everyone has the luxury of a well-stocked cupboard filled with photogenic books in the background! 

Multi-tasking in meetings is something we have become adept at – working on another document or reading something else or watching the game on TV or maybe chopping vegetables.  

The golden words oft heard during the past year – “Am I audible?”, “Is my screen visible?”, “I am sorry I was on mute”, “Are you there? You seem to be on mute”. “Can those who are not speaking mute themselves”. See, getting the hang of the mute button is the skill!

Meanwhile the responsibility of the HR team has increased as they have to now organize virtual Fun sessions as well! 

While these are the fun aspects, there are a few on the flip side as well. 

Somehow the meetings have just multiplied. And more meetings leading to more fatigue. The number of visitors to the ophthalmologists would have seen a drastic jump given the increased time spent staring at a screen. 

Then there has been an exponential growth in Webinars (a parallel pandemic in itself). Can’t even give the excuse of having a meeting in another city these days! Attended more conferences and industry meets – without leaving the chair/desk/floor/bed. Yet what we got was just the boring part of the meet – listening to presenters & not the fun part – going somewhere! And all this while still being in the regular day job environment. Overall, making things more tedious. 

Increased hours and disappearing holidays. How to take a leave is becoming a challenge in itself? And there is the lack of informal connects, in the absence of face-to-face interaction it takes more effort to ping/call someone than just corridor talk. 

Then there is that MS Teams ringtone – tun tung tun tung tun tung! Sometimes coming from multiple devices simultaneously. There is simply no escape! 

And finally no coffee and snacks! If you want to have a hot beverage go and prepare it yourself, a process which starts with cleaning the bartan! 

Not for nothing is this being referred to as the “New Normal”. Wondering how it would feel when we return to office and actually see the same people face to face!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

BookMarks #81: Think Straight

Title: Think Straight 
Author: Darius Foroux 
Published: 2017 
Genre: Non-fiction, Self-help 

The book keeps it short providing a mix of ideas on thinking straight, focusing on whats important and touching upon the philosophy of pragmatism. Although the book hardly goes in-depth on any theme there were a few ideas which I liked, . Here are some key takeaways. 

Cogito Ergo Sum - I think therefore I am. Hence thoughts should serve a useful purpose. That’s why it is critical to control your thoughts or rather decide what to think. Certainly not an easy ask, given the way our thoughts have tendency to run all over. But "watching" them and deliberately making yourself focus can be good starting point. Achieving this is not easy but one can always start. 

Getting a clear purpose out of the chaos of thoughts cluttering the mind should be the chief goal. After all, the quality of our thoughts determines our decisions and subsequently our actions. The author suggests to focus on useful thoughts which he has categorized into (a) Thinking about how you can solve problems and (b) Understanding knowledge for improving your life, career, work, relationships, etc.

While not easy, the author has given some actionable points which need to be reinforced.
  • Before making any decision/commitment take time to think. (Very useful in chess.com games where you have a day to make a move)
  • Read & take notes. Also keeping a journal of thoughts and going back to them. After all what is not written is forgotten. 
  • When the learning hits a wall, take a break, recharge and come back to the task.
  • Visualizing ideas before detailing them out.
  • Learning to relax. Something which most of us forget.
  • The choice of "this or that" vs "this and that".
  • Look back, learn and move forward (don't live in the past)
  • At the end of the day, thinking by itself is useless without action. But actions must follow thoughts.
And finally finding inner calm or as Master Shifu would say "inner peace"

Overall an interesting book from which a few ideas resonated well. 

Previously on BookMarks: Biting the Bullet 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

BookMarks #80: Biting The Bullet

Title: Biting The Bullet 
Author: Ajay Raj Sharma 
Published: 2020 
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoirs, Crime-fighting 

Biting The Bullet is the narrative of the professional life of retired IPS officer Ajay Raj Sharma. During the course of the book, he tells the stories of his career journey, in different parts of Uttar Pradesh to Delhi and finally to the Border Security Force. The prominent cases from his time are covered in the narrative. 

The highlight of the book is its crisp narration. And the repeated focus on the fact that policing is many a times just a waiting game and not all action (as the many crime shows would have us believe!). 

The book is not an autobiography but more of a narration of major career achievements. 

Overall, an interesting read with insights into actual job of policing the country, a herculean task in itself!

Previously on BookMarks: The Nice Guy Who Finished First 

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

The Human RAM

Remember the early days of "Computer Science" teaching in school. Amongst others there was also a list of abbreviations to be remembered. And also differences between things like RAM & ROM. 

RAM - Random Access Memory 

Not sure about computers but human brain certainly work in random fashion. Memories & names just flit in and out for no apparent reason and without any trigger. Something the philosophers and scientists have pondered about since time immemorial. 

Now why this sudden realization? Because suddenly three random unrelated names popped up in my head.  Carl Uwe Steeb, Floris Jan Bovelander and Madhusudan Tantubai. Except being sportspersons of varying ability in different sports, couldn't really link them up. 

Now who are they? 
  • Carl Uwe Steeb (Wikipedia) - German tennis player of the early 90s, who reached a career-high singles rank of 14. 
  • Floris Jan Bovelander (Wikipedia) - Dutch hockey legend known for his penalty corner conversions. Part of Olympics & World Cup winning teams and over 200 international goals. 
  • Madhusudan Tantubai (Cricinfo)- Jharkhand wicket-keeper who replaced Dhoni when he got his first national callup. 
An above average tennis player, a hockey legend and a first-class cricketer. Now I know who the names are but why did they jump out of the subconscious mind into the active one? And in a series at that? I guess the eternal unsolved mysteries of nature and human mind. Truly the human brain sometimes works in the most random fashion, accessing memories buried somewhere in its recesses. 

Funny to recall and write about. And having a quizzard's mindset, surely more such will names will burst out in the future. Certainly made for an interesting rewind. 

All this while there is pile of work waiting to be tackled!