Posts Tagged ‘Shishir Gupta’

My 8 Month (- so far) Onsite Diary !!!

Posted: February 19, 2013 by Shishir Gupta in India, Just For Fun
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Yesterday, I completed 8 months of working at the onsite office of our client. It is not literally the ONSITE as an IT professional would refer to. It is not much different in situation because my onsite location is not in any other country but it is in the same city, in fact in the vicinity of 2-3 kilometers of Cybage. So I would term this experience as onsite, with a difference. The overall experience in the past six months has been endearing to say the less, but to be honest it has nothing been less than a roller-coaster ride. It has seen many ups, and a few downs as well.

To be honest, when I started off, on June 18 2012, I was feeling jittery. It felt as if I was about to join a new organization as a new joinee. There were completely new set of people that I had to deal with, and since they all were our clients it seemed to be scary, and all the known face around I had was another of my teammate joining with me with whom I had never worked with before. So I had to adjust with this teammate as well, and then with the entire new client team.

As a few days passed by, we were loaded with a huge amount of work, something that could not have been handled with 2 people. And the biggest challenge was that we were asked to complete the work in 3 months. When I sat down to estimate the work I realized that 4 people would require around 6-7 months to complete the project. But probably, the client at that time did not understand what we were trying to explain. However, we started work, and we were always behind the schedule, and not just behind far behind. At the end of 2-3 weeks when we saw the task progress, we were not even 40 percent of where we should have been by then. By now the client understood our situation and reduced the targets to 50 percent as they could not reduce further as they too had budget constraints.

The task was still very much difficult, but by now I had managed to increase my speed and was able to achieve the targets, but as a team of two we were still behind the changed targets. Also, there was some friction that was getting created between the clients and the second resource which started to hamper the progress of the project. After near two months of work/struggle finally we managed to get two other resources on board for the project. Ideally we should have completed about 45-50 percent of the project by now, but we had not even crossed the 20 percent mark. I believe these statistics compelled the client to add two extra resources.

But I guess it was a bit too late, as now all four of would have to achieve the same targets (actually more) since we were way behind the schedule. The work went on well from there for in the third month, though the friction between the client and another of our team members only increased, and it did to such a level that the client wanted to replace her immediately. In all this time I had somehow managed to gain the confidence of the client by some consistent performance and dedication, but then as luck would have it I fell ill. I fell ill to Typhoid and then managed to get make it into a life threating illness (I believe this is something only I am capable of doing). I missed out two and half weeks of office for this, by one week being admitted in ICU, and the rest to hospital and bed-rest.

When I returned, we were about to complete four months, and with just half a month left for completion followed by one month to review and rework (as per schedule). When I was back, I realized that client had by now understood the situation and had already added a few more resources onto the project. And the biggest surprise was that with nearly 6 people working on the project in the two weeks behind me, we managed to get close to 75 percent completion of phase 1. And with 5-6 people still onboard after I joined back, we got back on schedule and finished the phase 1 in the next 15 days. This was something I guess, no one had expected, neither us nor the client. But then as the resources started getting removed from the project due to work on other critical projects the schedule was hampered again. The task of review and rework that was estimated for 1 month took us about 2 and half months, as we had to manage the change requests, new additions, and then since so many resources were working there were differences in the process of everyone’s work which led to a bigger amount of rework. And also eventually it was only two people who were working on the project for the last 2 months.

But finally at around the end of seven months we managed to deliver the project. I was very happy of this because I had initially estimated that the project would take 6-7 months with 4 resources, and we did deliver in 7 months, and the average number of resources on the project per day would have somewhere been around 3, not even 4. So this really made me happy.
But during all this all the resources who were hired on contract were let off (while one resource left the organization), with only I being the one who was retained of the total of 7-8 people. I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad of this, as yes my work has been appreciated and I have been retained or now I will be all alone and my task is going to get much tougher.

Later, having been assigned a new project (smaller and easier than the previous) felt good, and so the work continues. But this is not the reason why I have actually written my diary of last eight months here. I have probably done this, because in all this time I have managed to create a certain rapport with the team here. And I definitely understood many facts and cleared few myths.

And most of my realization happened, when my client manager asked me whether I would like to continue after 10 months contract is over (of course if the opportunity is given), to which I immediately responded to a “Yes” (without giving much of thought). And then after that I went back to think of why would I have responded a yes, when I am sure had it been any of the other resources the answer would have been a certain “No”. And then I understood that the team here at the client end is also very well bonded, something that is prevalent back in Cybage, so they really don’t corner you. This is something that other Cybage resources who were here would want to debate on for sure, but then I feel, we have always misjudged the team here. They are very caring and understanding. And I have also realized that we too need to understand their situation. They had tight budgets, and they took us on board with a certain level of expectation. At the start even they were not sure of the amount of difficulty and the work load that we would face, and this project has also been a certain level of learning for them as well.

They have definitely been supportive, as they did acknowledge are efforts, and even went out of the by adding extra resources whenever possible in spite of stringent budgets, so that some burden could be removed from us. I don’t think an unreasonable or a rude client (as most of the other team members perceived them to be) would do all this.

And probably the most important aspect is that the team here is small and all come from different backgrounds, and so suddenly they do not start conversing in their local languages (something that is very common in Cybage). Now this may sound stupid, but then a person who cannot understand what the others are talking about can feel left out, which unfortunately happens quite often back in Cybage (I am not saying with me, because I do understand Marathi – though I do not converse in it). But this can surely leave a lot of people offended. Specially, since what we are working is an MNC (a multi-national company), and so I ideally all we should do is converse in a language that people from all nations can understand and then interact, but most of us end up interacting in our mother tongue, which quite a lot of our colleagues, don’t understand forget about clients or people from other countries.

To be honest I actually wanted to raise these two points (1. Not to perceive about clients and their attitudes very soon, as that can lead to a lot of friction, and also finally to loss of work for the organization. 2. Secondly, I think we should see at the group and then interact with everyone in a language that everyone is comfortable in, and not the one we are comfortable in and that can lead to a discomfort amongst our colleagues). I believe these two reasons are the ones that led me respond in a “Yes”. And surprisingly, I have even started to realize that I might end up feeling a little awkward or out of place when I get back to my team and friends in Cybage, and be a lot more comfortable working here at the client office, were I really don’t have many people whom I can literally call friends, but then can call them as a lot more than acquaintance – as funny as that sounds. And now all I can do is wait to see if I am retained for a few more months or not.

Note: I have purposely not mentioned any names in this one, as the last time I did many of the friends whose names I had mentioned felt offended. So I really wanted to keep that aspect out, and actually I think I haven’t written anything that would make anyone feel offended, or have I?  


Sincere Apologies to Readers!

Posted: January 27, 2012 by Shishir Gupta in Author
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I have been an ardent blogger for the past three years. In this time, I believe that I have evolved into a blogger, who writes out his true emotions and is yet politically correct. In the three years of my blogging I have not written anything for the sake of creating controversies, or trying to gather more visitors to the blog, or try and make my blog popular among search engines. It is not that I have not made mistakes in this period, but definitely I have learnt from them. In fact I have learnt a new aspect of blogging from almost every post I have written, especially in the past 1-2 years which has helped me emerge as a better blogger. Most of my posts, especially in the past 1 year or so have been based on my personal things or a few incidents narrated through my vision and perception. I have tried to write what I believe is correct, and also not try and hurt and disappoint or to some extent not many anyone happy or excited either.

However, at times I do believe to have gone overboard a few times while expressing. Though, most of the times it has been unintentional and has surely not been written to hurt anyone, yet I have had a few friends telling me that they have been hurt by the content in some manner or the other. Just to clarify my stand at this, initially I really did not take it very seriously as 1 odd incident can always happen but in the last couple of months, two of my close friends have said this to me that one of my posts have been a little insidious. This has made me to think a little, and concentrate of what I have written and try and rectify my mistakes.

Another important thing that I would like to clarify is that I do not write any of my posts to make fun of or intentionally hurt anyone. I know the limitations and the power of a public portal, so surely I can never write anything that would offend anybody, especially friends. And yes, as a blogger and a writer one can never be perfect in his writings and is surely bound to make mistakes. Therefore, I request all my readers (especially my friends) to write into me whenever you are offended by any of the content posted here.

I am completely aware that these kinds of situations can spoil relations, and that is why I was obligated to write this down here to avoid major damage.

Again, I am not writing this specifically keeping my friends in mind. It is just that, it has been my friends who have come back to me with feedback. There can always be a possibility of other readers finding some content objectionable and not coming back to me. So this post is intended for everyone. I will try and avoid any of such content from now on, yet if anything does offend anyone, please come back to me and let me know of it.

In the end I would like to apologize to people if I have hurt them through any of my posts, and also urge them to let me know where I have offended them. I will try and rectify the content as soon as possible.

Year 2012 for Me

Posted: January 15, 2012 by Shishir Gupta in Just For Fun
Tags: , , , ,

A new year brings a lot of joy, big expectations, resolutions, and high hopes along with it. Also, how the New Year start depends a lot on how one ends the previous year, irrespective of how the complete year had panned out. For me this year 2012, will always be a little sad for many aspects. And amazingly it has nothing to do with my 2011.

2011, was a mixed bag for me had some good moments and some bad as well. Though my professional career was at bay, my personal life had some big moments, a few very good, and a couple of them bad as well. Though I must admit that the good moments were a little to many, to write out of which a few of them where: I earned an Erdős Number, made some great friends at office in Achyut, Sandip, Moiz, Firoz, and Sandeep, joined an executive MBA course and have been performing well in it, and many more. The sad part were probably the only accidents that happened to me, as one of them was a major one and pretty serious (in fact this too can fit into the happy zone as there were only one accident as I call it, which a pretty good figure as compared to the previous years). The other only sad story can be that my good friendship with Umesh has probably been going through a few turbulant times.

The entry into 2012 hasn’t really been good as I fell critically ill, but this is not what the major setback is for me. The biggest problem will be that I would turn 25 this year in May, probably this a great figure and people look up for it, but that not in my case. This number is what I have been dreading for past many years, as 25 means that I am officially no longer dependent on my father and with that I will have to do away with all my army background benefits that I have been enjoying for more than 24 years. Probably this is the most dreaded number amongst the army kids, and unfortunately for me it has to come this year. Now no more army canteen, no more airline/train discounts, no more free entry into army clubs and sport centres, and probably no more army hospital treatment (and I am really scared of this). I am already getting scared with just the thought of losing all of these privileges, and turning completely into what we used to “a civilian”.       

Apart from these two probable “dreadful” events life looks pretty comfortable in the coming year, unless the first two weeks of the year repeat itself again and again. Though the start has not really been good so far. Also this year is termed as year when the world will end, I am not sure of the world, but surely I came close to see my life end in the past two weeks. Hopefully this year will bring very few accidents and lot of success. I was also able to keep up to most of my resolutions taken last year, hopefully I will able to keep that trend up this year as well.

Well honestly, a meeting of such a kind is something not very new to me. I have had a couple of opportunities in the past where I had just managed to avoid it. But I guess this time I got the closest to meet my end. It surely has not been a good start to a new year, but that something that is not new to me. In the past 12 years (including this one now) 9 times I have been admitted to the hospital in the month of January, of which 5 times I had to be admitted in the ICU of the hospital. In fact for the past two years the trend had changed and I believed that I had finally got over with this “January issue” of mine. But it has come back this year, and is back with a bang. The last time I came as close to death was also around a similar time 4 years back. It was on 9th of January 2008, when my bike skit while I was performing stunts, and I was majorly injured. After a 5 day battle, I had finally survived that time, but my injury to the intestines that time has now come back to haunt me, big time, and had been the major cause for the events that occurred this time.   

It all happened on the Wednesday night 11th January 2012. To give you a small background – I have had a little problem with my small intestines, as they had developed so ulcers within them which had been bleeding for over 10 days by then. The medicine I was taking was somehow not effective at all till that day. When I passed motions, fresh blood also accompanied making me weaker and weaker as every day passed by. But on the morning of 11th for the first time in 13 days I had not lost blood, this event itself caused me to get charged up and excited. I believed that finally after a fight of 12 long days the medication had worked. That day, just out of enthusiasm and excitement I took things very casually, especially my health. And all that over enthusiasm backfired.

That night I lost a huge amount of blood making my blood pressure fall to a very low level. I was immediately hurried to the hospital by my brother, mother and my cousin. My condition was in a kind of a critical state. I was in such a bad shape that around 2 a.m. in the morning I had to be transfused with a bottle of blood. That probably got me back to the normal. In fact a laser surgery was already planned for Saturday, but seeing my condition the doctors thought of not delaying the surgery that further, and have it on Friday itself. As time went by my condition was getting better, and then I took probably the most stupid step, a decision I probably regret all life, or I can say had it got a little more worse I would not have remained to regret it. I had not applied for leave for the coming days in office, so I thought of going to the office for some time, so that I could apply for leave. That act of mine took a lot of toll on my body, as I had exerted a lot already. And though my trip to office and back was very short, for just around two hours including the travelling time, that exertion was enough to be nearly fatal. After reaching back home, once again when I passed motions I lost a huge amount of blood, and for me it felt as if all the blood that was transfused in the morning had been lost. My condition had worsened, and was even worse than it was in the previous night. When I reached the hospital, the doctors took the decision of not even waiting for the next morning and operating on me as soon as possible. I was finally taken into the Operation Theatre around 7 in the evening, and by 9 the operation was successful.

I don’t know whether this was my victory over death or it was a great escape from one or I was just lucky to survive. But one thing that confuses me the most was that was my condition really that bad or was it just my carelessness and foolishness that set up my meeting with death. I really know whom to blame for all of this, my condition or my attitude towards my condition. I remember my office colleagues asking me all those 10 days to go home and take rest, but I just did not listen and probably got myself caught in such a situation.

But I must say that the 5 hours from the time I reached the hospital, till the time the operation was over were really terrible. All that time, I had this feeling that I had touched my end, and it appeared as if all the life was getting reflected before me. And after that all I don’t know but I believe I am a changed man now. I have suddenly started respecting life a little more. I have always been very careless when it comes to my health. In fact health has always been very low on my priority list. In fact the 2008 event also did not teach me much on this front. All it taught was that I had to ride my bike safely, nothing else. But this time around I have a feeling things have changed, and I believe that I will have to change my priority list for sure, getting health somewhere towards the top from bottom.

I hope that all the events that occurred during the past two weeks change my perspective towards life and that now I have no more such “lovely” trysts with my end in distant future.

It’s been very differing and varied kind of 40 months that I have had in the IT industry, or I can say that I have what you call as the IT industry (motley) kind of days,as IT industry is known for indifferent kind of ways. At the same time and situation, an IT industry can be at its pleasing best as well as for someone it can be at its chafing worst. I have kind of witnessed both these aspects in these 40 months, through mine as well as my friends’ eyes. As written earlier the first 20 months of this journey was like a roller coaster ride the next 20 months  have been the opposite, very clam and serene. In these later 20 months I have been more at bay all the time, and these months have really been fruitful and enjoyable. There have been a few forgettable days, but they been so less in magnitude that probably do not need a mention here. But seeing the nature of an IT life, I tend to get scared even more, as probably one feels that this can be the silence before a big storm. One of the biggest achievements I can boast about is that I survived the unforgiving recession period in here, but that was generally during the first 20 months, these 20 months can majorly be marked as the recovery period from the recession. Another important thing I would like to add over here is that I have managed to complete 40 months in a single organization, whereas many of friend are already into their second or third organization. But most of that was becauseof the recession that took us head on in the very late 2008-early 2009. I was hardly 5 months into the job that I got the first sight of the effects of recession way back in January 09. It was like one of the worst starts of a year, for a blooming career. In fact if I see it through many of my friends’ eyes I can say that it did sweep away many dreams, and it was only afterprobably a drought of one year that things started to get normal.

The team pic on the traditional dress day

In my previous post on this topic 20 months back, I covered my side of the journey of first 20 months. My story how I survived till then, and how many of my batch mates lost their jobs or how they quit for better opportunities and other aspects of that unforgiving recession. So now I don’t want to discuss it any further here. And in this post I will try to take my journey forward from there. If I remember correctly, I had stopped in the post around 28thMarch or so, and now I will try and carry on from there. That period again started will IPL and appraisal meetings. IPL was not as fun as it had been during the initial first year, as all the friends by then were very busy into their projects, and we hardly got time to meet during the day, leave the opportunity of watching the matches.  Yes the appraisal meetings were better, as by now I had somewhat gelled into the new department and the new project well by then.

My team

Then came May 1, the results of our appraisals were announced. After getting an increment last time around (or I can say getting the reimbursement of the salary cut) most of us were not really expecting a huge increase, but to our surprise we did end up getting a decent rise in money. Something the Cybagians were not really used to. I cannot say that it created goodwill amongst the employees, but yes it did reduce the bad feelings to some extent. However, even after this I noticed a very high attrition rate in the organization in the coming months. July, August, and September were three months where I saw almost half the team changing.  There was not really anything happening as such in those six months as such apart from seeing many teammates and friends leaving the companyand many new faces joining the team. And yes the biggest thing to happen was as I saw many close friends leave, Vishal who joined the team sometime around February became a real close friend of mine in that period.During that period, my mentor, manager, a close colleague Bharati left Cybage. That came in a more of a shock, not only shook me or my project team, but the entire department and even the client. I took the team some time to recover from that loss, and amidst that the appraisal results for the next appraisal cycle were announced. Once again to the surprise of everyone, we all had monetary increments and that too what we call the decent hikes. But I was even more surprise, when I was handedover my promotion letter by my department head. Well, I am not really sure whether I deserved that at that particular time, but nevertheless it was welcome.Things changed, scales grew higher, and so did theresponsibility with that promotion and finally after a couple of months it led to my project change. Then that was again a big shock (I have written about this here already), as I had been in that project for almost 19 months by then.

Me with the team in one of the outings

And then came the probably the biggest change, I was shifted to the West Avenue location, and that opened a great opening for me. That stint of 5 months there probably revamped me completely. I was not the old Shishir my team knew, or I can say that helped me introduce the actual me to everyone. In that period of time I made many very good friends, something that I had hardly done over the last many months.  Also, during this I did attend almost every team outing possible, something I had not done during the earlier period for some or the other reason. But yes all those events helped me bond better with the team.Another thing, that probably helped me bond better was that this time around in the previous few months the attrition rate has been pretty low which meant that I got more time to adjust and interact with people. I believe the biggest reason for this low attrition rate has been the appraisals at Cybage in this period. For the last four appraisals (after every six months) continuously, everyone has received increments probably which has managed to build a certain faith in the organization and can be seen in the low attrition rate.

But as time has passed by and another appraisal cycle has come round the corner, the attrition rate is high again or I can say has come back to normal.  Since this time around everyone is aware that there will not be any monetary increments people are probably searching out for better opportunities and definitely better pay packages. It looks like the IT life is again coming back to normal after a very long hibernation.

My team in one of the team outings

Apart from all of this another change that happened during this period of 20 months was that our late night coffee meetings were changed to weekend trips. These trips were more fun as well as gave us a lot more time to bond. After the first couple of trips I and Vishal decided to carry out such trips every month, but we have hardly been able to go on 9-10 trips in this period. Nevertheless, all these trips have been highly entertaining and definitely full of adventure. Also, these trips gave us opportunities to go to various unseen locations for trekking and also enjoy the scenic beauty. Suddenly I have found another and a better way to enjoy with friends. Unfortunately the group is not the same, and it is only Raman and me that remain in common. Bhadre has sometimes made an appearance in these trips, but certainly that has been a rare (earlier too he was not really regular to our meetings but did manage to make on more occasions than he has done now). Mihir, who once used to be a regular member of our meetings, has not been able to join once the late night coffee meets got converted to weekend treks. But yes, Vishal has become a very regular member of these trips, and now Achyut has joined the bandwagon too.

Team's traditional Day

Apart from thesethe great moments with my team in the various team meetings, whether they are knowledge sharing sessions (or the fun sessions) or they are monthly birthday celebrations, or they are team lunch outings, or even the Diwali funfair organization committee meetings, all of them have continued to be very entertaining and exciting as they were in the first 20 months period. And all I can say is that the life has been very good so far, except for a few instances when some of my good friends parted ways in search of a better living somewhere else. Lot of my friends left in this period, in fact my fresher’s batch which had 46 of us is now only left to 9 people as we complete 40 months. The latest and probably the closest casualty amongst them being that of Mihir, who left Cybage last week.

Another important thing that has started in this period has been the tie-up between Cybage and SIBM for the Executive MBA course, which I have enrolled for. Now that gives me the opportunity of completing my MBA which I was thinking of last time I wrote this blog post.

The Cybage SIBM Batch

So overall I can say that this period of 20 months has been a much better one for me professionallythan the previous period. And as I have said that this period was probably the one where I was sailing through very easily through these calm times, but I surely hope that in the coming months I will soar rather than just sail.
And on this thought and hope I would like to close my post for now. Hope to update on this very soon.

Well, this post had to have one from our bike treks.. so this is one of them...

These days communication is an important aspect of life. It was always a very important aspect of professional life but it does play a huge role in personal life as well. Not only communication, but effective communication is something that is very important, as bad communication or no communication can be disastrous at times.

I have a good example to explain this situation, when a bad communication and later no communication led up to a very embarrassing situation, for both me and my friends. This made me realize that one cannot and should take things for granted unless they are being explicitly conveyed.

It happened on a Sunday a couple of weeks back. Two of my friends (Tejsweeta and Tejaswini) wanted to visit the army shop to buy a few things. I had to accompany them so that they would be allowed to enter the Army shopping premises. So they had informed me about this well in advance. An evening before this they even confirmed with me of this, and I too fixed up the meeting time (it was for 10 o’ clock in the morning if I remember), and asked them to give me a call once before leaving from their place.  

Unfortunately, a got an urgent call late in night and I had to rush to my friends place in the wee hours of the morning. A lot of time went by at my friends place getting things in order; I did not realize that the shopping time was approaching. In the meanwhile due to all the stress since morning I almost forgot about this shopping plan. I realized that only around when it was around 10:30 that day. I thought of informing my friends to delay this shopping idea for a couple of hours as I would get late as I was engaged in some high priority work. But it is at that time I realized that run out of my mobile battery. My phone was not working, which meant that I could not communicate my situation to them anyway. I was in a little disarray, but then I felt that even they cannot contact me anyhow, and in such a situation they would not have left their place. That thought did relax me a little, and after sometime I headed back home. I reached home around 12 o’clock, and it is at that time a saw many missed calls from Tejsweeta on my other number.

Even after looking that I was not really disturbed as I believed that probably she has been trying to contact me since morning to confirm about this trip. But it is only when I contacted her I feel into a state of shock when she informed me that she along with Tejaswini were waiting for me at the decided place for the more than two hours. Not that really disturbed me a lot, and I was not in a state to respond at all, as anyways it was late to go out for shopping (as the army shops generally close by noon on Sundays). I probably had no words to speak at that time, as to some extent I had goofed up this plan. But as time has passed by since then, there has not really been much to worry about that day except a little embarrassment I got into because of that miscommunication or rather no communication.

To be honest, I been particularly thinking about this incident for the past two weeks and even analyzing it, and I almost every time I come up to a conclusion that whatever happened that day was hardly my fault. To a major extent it was the miscommunication and wrong assumptions made more from my friends rather than me.

To speak a few of them firstly, I believe they should have called me up before leaving. I believe they tried to, but since I did not respond to any of their calls they should have left at the first place. My not  picking up their call should have been an obvious indication that I am stuck up somewhere and should have waited for me to respond, I think they should have been intelligent enough to understand this sign or lapse of communication. As it is always better to wait at home rather than wait at some unknown place in scorching heat.

Secondly, what was the point in waiting at the place for over two hours is something I don’t understand. I can still somehow agree (contrary to my first point), they felt that something must have gone wrong and wanted to stick to the plan. But in that too, I really don’t see a point in waiting for 2-3 hours. I think it makes sense to probably wait for someone for only half an hour, definitely not more than that unless you have some sought of communication going on. I don’t know what exactly was going through their minds which made them wait for so long, get more and more frustrated as time passed by and then probably take out all of that on me the next day. I am very precise with my timings, I hardly get 5-10 minutes late, so probably even 30 minutes was a lot of time taking me into consideration (and they being my good friends and knowing me well should have taken this point into consideration).

To be honest, I really cannot figure what I did wrong, but for sure something was there. All in the end I can say that probably it was a day when quite a few things went wrong. What I am actually sad about that it kind of effected my image and probably even caused a small dent for no mistake of mine (at least I have not been able to figure out any). That is why I planned to write this here as maybe I might be able to get my side of story clear to people and also this will help me get some feedback as well. Maybe I must have gone wrong somewhere, something that I have still not considered.

And the most crucial part is that this, a very simple incident of a common day life can explain the disastrous outcomes of a bad or no communication or as we call it “MISCOMMUNICATION”. Also, this does explain in a way how important it is to interpret the communication correctly as well.

Disclaimer: I am not really sure whether what I have thought of writing and have ended up writing in the blog post actually fits under this heading. After completing this blog post I am really confused of what I actually intended to write and what have actually written down. However, I feel that the content is still good enough (though not structured as well as I would have liked) to be posted. Also, I now feel that however most of the content is from my experiences and more of my perception at the topic, still this is very much debatable and I would be very happy if I do get such debates happening for the post here.

The Concept

I have been hearing this every now and then about good and bad managers, and to be honest mainly about bad managers. Also, now days the term “manager” itself is meant or probably is replaced conveniently for bad managers. Everyone talks about managers – bad managers, they all say they aren’t any good managers, all a manager is, is bad.

I am not sure if this is really true, as so far my experience has been, I would actually go on an exactly different story about managers. In a short career of about 3 years, I have worked with 7-8 managers and surprisingly all have been good somewhat, or I can say is definitely none of them would come under the BAD category. I don’t know how has this happened, maybe I have been very lucky, or maybe my way of looking at things and judging them has been different. Certainly one of the two has to be correct. Also, I feel that these days everyone has a perception that the managers are bad, and then they start judging people, and probably so they end up having differences with the manager and them term them as bad. I believe that having a perception and then judging someone is not correct. If we believe that the manager should think about our situation and then judge us, then the other way round should also hold good certainly. It has been really disappointing to hear everyone speak negatively about their managers, and especially when I don’t have much to say bad about a few of them, definitely makes me a little wary of either my thinking or my of that of my friends.

Because of this I have been thinking on writing something on this for a long time, but I was not able to create enough content that could or should go in here. But after attending a lecture on leadership, that included the McGregor’s theory X and Y, I got motivated to definitely write something on this. As per the wikipedia, here is an explanation of both the theories:

Theory X

In this theory, which has been proven counter-effective in most modern practice, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can and that they inherently dislike work. As a result of this, management believes that workers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. A hierarchical structure is needed with narrow span of control at each and every level. According to this theory, employees will show little ambition without an enticing incentive program and will avoid responsibility whenever they can. According to Michael J. Papa, if the organizational goals are to be met, theory X managers rely heavily on threat and coercion to gain their employee’s compliance. Beliefs of this theory lead to mistrust, highly restrictive supervision, and a punitive atmosphere. The Theory X manager tends to believe that everything must end in blaming someone. He or she thinks all prospective employees are only out for themselves. Usually these managers feel the sole purpose of the employee’s interest in the job is money. They will blame the person first in most situations, without questioning whether it may be the system, policy, or lack of training that deserves the blame. A Theory X manager believes that his or her employees do not really want to work, that they would rather avoid responsibility and that it is the manager’s job to structure the work and energize the employee. One major flaw of this management style is it is much more likely to cause Diseconomies of Scale in large businesses.

Theory Y

In this theory, management assumes employees may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that employees enjoy their mental and physical work duties. According to Papa, to them work is as natural as play. They possess the ability for creative problem solving, but their talents are underused in most organizations. Given the proper conditions, theory Y managers believe that employees will learn to seek out and accept responsibility and to exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives to which they are committed. A Theory Y manager believes that, given the right conditions, most people will want to do well at work. They believe that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivation. Many people interpret Theory Y as a positive set of beliefs about workers. A close reading of The Human Side of Enterprise reveals that McGregor simply argues for managers to be open to a more positive view of workers and the possibilities that this creates. He thinks that Theory Y managers are more likely than Theory X managers to develop the climate of trust with an employee that is required for human resource development. It’s human resource development that is a crucial aspect of any organization. This would include managers communicating openly with subordinates, minimizing the difference between superior-subordinate relationships, creating a comfortable environment in which subordinates can develop and use their abilities. This climate would include the sharing of decision making so that subordinates have say in decisions that influence them. This theory is a positive view to the employees, meaning that the employer is under a lot less pressure than someone who is to be influenced by a theory X management style.

My Take at the Concept

Why exactly I have explained both of these management styles is so that I can draw equivalence between theories and the current day managers. If I have to conclude on the two theories then I can say is the manager with theory X is the one who follows Autocratic style, and demands respect (or more respect than he hardly deserves). On the other hand the manager with theory Y is the one who follows a Democratic style, commands respect (rather than demanding it), and definitely fits into the scales of a good leader.

But to be honest having managers of these styles is more of a concept than practicality, and I believe today’s managers are more of a combination of both the theories than following just one of them. It is only the percentage they follow each of the theory is what makes them different from others. Now if we have to make a consensus then I would say that having more traits of theory Y makes a manager good and more of theory X makes him bad. So if this is to be believed, then I can say that most of my friends have managers who tend to have a lot more traits of theory X than that of theory Y. But this does not mean that they do not have or exhibit some traits from the theory X, it is only the viewpoint of others who cannot see this aspect of theirs clearly (or at all).

I am not sure if anything else apart from these two is required to make it to the list of qualities of a good manager. I don’t know what it is but there is certainly something else too that is required, and this I am talking from my personal experiences with my managers. I have worked under quite a few managers, to name a few they would be: Anisha, Bharati, Aman, Neel, Aditya, Qais, and Antara. To be honest I hardly had any issues with anyone, and this is what surprises me the most. Especially since all of them were different form each other in nature.

My Experiences

My first manager with whom I worked was Anisha, she was certainly a good manager, and had good balance of both theory X and Y. She knew how to get things done, apart from that she was very caring and supportive, something that definitely qualifies her to be a good manager. I never had any issues with her, honestly under her I knew if I do my assigned work in time, and then surely all would be well. She would never put any unwanted pressure to get things done.

Bharati was my second manager. I worked with her closely for a long time (initially she being the lead and then later graduated to become the project manager). To be honest she commanded a lot of respect, and not only from me but from the entire team that worked with her. I believe she was much inclined towards the theory Y, which definitely makes her a good manager if not an exceptional one. I believe her graduating to a manager level worked in both positive and negative way for her. Positive, since before becoming a manager itself, she commanded a lot of respect due to her technical knowledge and helpful and an understanding behavior, which made her job a little easier as she moved to the next level. The negative thing would be that a few times we unknowingly or inadvertently took some liberties under her (though to be honest at that time they certainly did not qualify as liberties, but now after having worked with a lot more people I feel that they could go under them). But she never censured, because I think that those things hardly affected our productivity at work. But to add all I can say is that those were still early days for her as a manager, and with time surely she would become a little stricter (something that is required as a manager), and maybe even strike the perfect balance of both the theories that is required.

My latest manager Antara is also on the same lines of that of Bharati, another very helpful and a very understanding manager. She too has risen to the position of a manager recently and so she too is in that period of transition as I had explained about Bharati. After working with her I realized, that team members actually don’t take managers like her and Bharati very seriously early on (luckily I am not one of them) as they were peers and leads not long ago. But I am very happy that neither of the two had tried to impose their seniority on the others as that could have easily damaged a few relations. It is very good that they are giving everything time, and surely they would be able to acquire the command, respect, and to some extent the fear of manager that a manager needs to have in very less time.  I have written about both of them together because I don’t know why but I can definitely draw a lot of parallels between the two. On second thoughts, I would like to add is probably they are only missing on the fear of manager as of now. To be honest, this quality definitely should exist otherwise manager will not be able to manage really very efficiently (I will surely talk about this a little later).

Now I would like to talk a little about Qais, definitely the most dignifying manager amongst the ones I have worked with. I believe he has all the qualities (have managerial skills, good decision making, command respect, technical knowledge, and also command fear of manager) in him. Though I would add that he does really possess the perfect blend of both the theories (he tends to be more towards theory Y, which is good for a manger), but still qualifies to be the best amongst all, given his attitude towards things and the way he solves issues. Why I say that he does not have the perfect blend of theories is that I have seen people sometimes take the undue advantage of his kindness and liberties, but surely he is good since he does not allow anybody to really go overboard on that. I guess working under him has really changed my perception on various things in a professional career. Though, I could not work with him for a long time, yet in those few days his comportment has been a good lesson to be learnt from. He surely fits into a role model as how a manager should actually be. On similar lines to Qais was another manager, Neel. Though again I got to work with her just for a few days, but that experience was definitely awe-inspiring.

With all of the managers one common thing was the comfort level. I believe you need to have someone who can actually tell you, “It’s okay, don’t worry about this, but try not to repeat the mistake again”, when your task assigned can go horribly wrong for the first time. I guess, especially as young team members one needs to have such managers around you. Because I believe one cannot really learn until they make mistakes (but yes one cannot keep on repeating the mistakes), and that’s where the managers need to be strict and draw the line. I think I have been very lucky with this aspect, as almost all the managers I have got were of this kind. And I guess, probably most of my friends have not had the luck to have worked under such managers and so they have been cribbing.

Now this is all about the good managers, what about the bad ones? I am sure there are plenty of them in the industry; it is only that I have been very fortunate not to have worked any such one. But yes, under this maybe as a greyish part I would like to talk about one manager I worked with, Aditya. Though to be honest, he surely does not fit into the bad category, but almost every other person in the team had a different perception of him than that of mine, so I decided to write about him separately. To start with Aditya did not mix with people easily (though he did become friendly with people once he had worked with them considerably). Secondly, it was very difficult to explain him your point of view, even if it was correct. He had his own perceptions at things, and to some extent was adamant on them. And if one did succeed in explaining his point of view, he would suddenly change priorities to suit that viewpoint (sometimes that too becomes an overload). Apart from all of this, after working with him for a few months I realized that he did not really possess very good technical skills. However, his HR- team management skills were great. He was very caring, kind and supportive, few aspects of his I don’t think many people have seen other than me. But then his technical perspective (as that hurt the project as a whole) negated that quality of his to some extent. Other than that, he had his own gimmicks to deal with the clients, which were appreciated (surprisingly) by the client but did not go well with his seniors and also landed his team in a few serious issues. To write it in short, I would say he had decent “managing skills”, but lacked on the technical perspective, unfortunately which did not make him a good manager amongst his team members. He definitely acted as a leader for the team, took decisions (I believe, decision making is very important aspect of a manager) , responded well and quickly, but unfortunately for him, all that generally back-fired. Probably these are the reasons why he was not popular in the team.

Even I had issues with him early on, but then managed to get along with him very well in the later stages (and because of this point I have actually written his description in a little detail). From this I wanted to raise a discussion that even we need to manage our managers effectively. Sometimes, we need to change in order to settle down with a manager. This is something I learnt while working with Aditya. Initially it was difficult adjusting to his style of work, but then things smoothened up with time. I think this is also an important aspect that one should take into the picture when we talk about manager’s attitude towards us. To cite another example, I have seen another colleague of mine having problems with his manager. Now other members of the project also had issues with the manager, but they somehow were in decent terms with her. But this friend of mine was having tremendous issues with manager, and the problem had reached to such an extent that he was ready to leave his job, even at the terms of his career for that matter. This example of mine corroborated my thought that some effort needs to be applied by us as well, we too need to understand the situation of the other side, instead of expecting everything to be done by the manager.

Manager vs Leader

Now another concept I wanted to talk about is the difference between Managers and Leaders. Now ideally all managers should be leaders, though practically it is not possible. But I do feel that somehow every manager is a leader at times, it is only that good managers have a lot of following while the bad ones will hardly have a few of them. I believe that managers are not leaders only when, they don’t take any initiatives, they always blame the team members for each and every fault, and probably also are not good at all in decision making.

To summarize I can say is that I believe that the issues people have with managers is more because of the perception rather than the actual attitude. Though I do agree that definitely many bad managers may exist, but it certainly is not true that most of them are bad. Also, it is important that we cite their good aspects, and maybe that would help us bond with them better and make working much easier. Apart from that I believe a perfect manager should have managerial skills, good decision making, command respect, technical knowledge, and also command fear of manager.

A Thank You Note to a Manager

I come from an Army background and have studied my college life in an institution run by army people. Because of this I always believed that a senior always remains a senior throughout life. And I entered the IT industry with the same perception, and since then I always felt that a manager is a senior and they cannot really be friends and definitely some distance must be maintained with the manager. Here I would like to thank Qais a lot. I learnt a lot under him on this perspective as well. Working with him I actually realized that managers are seniors and yet can be friends. The barrier that I always believed existed between a manager and a resource is not really that huge (maybe it does not exist also sometimes). This has worked very much in my favor as suddenly there is a huge change in interpersonal skills and the way I handle things at work. And definitely Qais (maybe unknowingly) has played a huge role in this, because I feel those two-three months I worked with him brought in a huge change in my attitude at work (again if I have to relate to the topic then, it was my perception about managers which was eventually broken, so having a perception on things can actually be dangerous). Also, now I feel that I actually could have become friends to my earlier managers as surely that would have been of a great help to everyone (me, the manager, and the project as well, as I think that would have increased my productivity to some extent). So I would really like to thank him for the change he brought in me (if he does manage to read my post).

Here I would also like to thank Anisha’s and Bharati’s efforts, especially initially when I had joined the team they really tried hard to help me break free, become friendlier with everyone in the team around. Unfortunately I could not respond to their efforts. Had I done the situation could have been much better. So here I would really like to thank both of them for their efforts in helping me break free (hopefully they too will be able to read this sometime).

TREATISE Turns 3 Today!

Posted: October 8, 2011 by Shishir Gupta in Just For Fun

It has been a great journey so far, definitely a very exciting one.  It was exactly 3 years back that I created this blog and today when I see back I can see that the growth of this blog has been overwhelming.

I have tried to catch the eye of the readers all around the world and I can say I have been very successful, when last year I saw an exponential increase in the viewership of the blog and this year too, the blog viewership has grown considerably.  If I talk just about this blog I started it basically only for television shows and television personalities and now it covers almost every aspect of my blogging and has now emerged as TREATISE over the past few years. This blog recorded a lot of hits from India, US, UK and Pakistan showing how famous the blog and especially the Indian television show are all around the world. For the record, my blog received as many as 965 hits on 1st July 2011.

This blog has so far recorded “241080” hits in the 3 years (it is nearing the 2.5 Lakh mark or the 2500 thousand mark) while my other blogs the technical one had 4513 hits in about 5 months and my sports blog recorded 1823 hits in about 6 months of their being in existence. It has been 24 months since I had combined these three blogs and since then this blog has recorded “236464”hits. In the past one year I have recorded “132009” hits, while in the second year it had recorded “92775” hits, which means more than 40% growth in the viewership of the blog. Well “132009” hits in a year at an average of more than 361 hits a day is something very good to be happy of. Also this means that this blog has got more than 220 hits per day so far taken as an average of these 3 years. This is the figure that really makes me feel proud of the work done by me in the past 3 years, since if I remember correctly the average was around 63 hits a day at the end of first year and around 150 at the end of second year, and now it stands at over 220 at the end of 3 years.

Now coming to the individual posts. The blog has 210 posts posted live out of which 43 posts have received above 1000 hits and of them 17 posts have received more than 2000 hits. As many as 6 posts have received more than 5000 hits, and in fact of them 3 post have managed to receive more than 10000 hits so far which is something I did not believe will happen during the start of the blog. But the most staggering figure has been of the “Shraddha Nigam on her divorce with Karan Singh Grover” post which has crossed the 25000 mark, which is definitely mind-boggling (definitely this post has been the major contributor towards the hits on the blog, almost contributing over 11 percent of the total traffic towards the blog). Apart from this as many as 89 posts have received more than 500 hits while 190 posts received over 100 hits. Well I think in about 210 posts 190 posts have received above a 100 hits is a very good sign for the blog (especially since now it is more than 90% when it was around 85% last year). Well all it indicates is that a lot of the posts have been viewed and it’s not just a couple of them have been very famous. On second thoughts I can say that a couple of them have become very famous, especially that one post has, while the others have also been viewed decent enough.

I had written about 160 posts in two years, but this year I have only written 50 new posts taking the tally to 210. Though the number is good, but I am still a little disappointed since the second half of the second year itself saw publishing of 60 posts, and the second year in total had seen publishing of 98 posts, and then the complete third year has seen only 50. I have a lot busy throughout the year, but yes I definitely have managed to post at least 1 post in a calendar month if not more. But what I am really happy is that I have been able to touch many aspects in terms of topics and many more facets of mine while blogging (not concentrated towards one topic).

I hope that I can continue the good work and hopefully I will be able to attract a lot of people to my writings in the coming year, and I hope that the fourth year will be even more fruitful in the terms of number of viewership.

Torna Fort

I publish my trip diaries over my blog here, so that years later when I read it, I would be able to remember and cherish the moments of the trip. But this trip has been somewhat different, as even if I do not write about it here, I will surely remember it for a long time to come.

Again another Sunday, another fort called in for a yet another trek with my friends. As usual this trip too had to be covered over the previous weekend, but again due to various circumstances it had to get postponed for this Sunday (18-Sept-2011). This time we went to Torangarh (Torna Fort) which is one of the first of Shivaji’s fort, and definitely is known for its tough climb. I and four other friends (Vishal, Achyut, Firoz, and Imran- Firoz’s brother) went for the trip. I and Vishal have made it for almost every trip, and Achyut too has become a regular in the group now.

Also, I don’t know why 2-3 days before we started for the trip, I was having an intuition that something bad was to happen over the trip. I really don’t know what exactly it was but it kept cautioning me, and asking me to skip this trip. But I am somewhat happy that I did go for this as it was definitely a life time experience.

Torna Fort in Clouds

After the bizarre planning that went behind our Korigad trip, this planning was way better. I Vishal had been planning for the trip, but we were not really sure of the destination trip. It is at that time, when I saw a few images on my friends Facebook profile when he visited Torna fort recently. The images made me consider the place as an option, and I suggested it to Vishal, who readily agreed and so the place was fixed. But he did mention it to me that the climb to the top is one of the toughest around Pune. After circulating the email about the trip, Achyut and Firoz to confirmed for the trip. Apart from the two there were others like Eshanku, Umesh, Sandip, Aman, Raman, and Bhadre who all enthusiastically agreed and wanted to join for the trip. I was happy the count for the trip had for the first time touched to 10 people, who at that time were surely going to come along. But as the date neared we as usual had a few dropouts due to prior commitments and we had to postpone the trip. Again at the start of the next trip, I circulated the same email all over again. Again this time we almost had everyone agreeing for the trip, but it is at that time Vishal sent a caution email (with text in red) to all. The email read as follows:

“Before you make your mind to Torna, let me threaten you all. The fort is very well known for its toughness. It is one of the toughest and high-risk forts for trekking around Pune. Many people find this fort very difficult for trekking in summer and we’re going in these rainy days. So the recent rainfall will intensify the difficulty of your trekking.
The purpose of above threatening is to warn the faint-hearted people of our group.    (The adjective faint-hearted should not be taken personally. I am not referring to any individual………… but to all of us :D) Therefore the faint-hearted people must not come to this trip.”

This email actually worked and we had a few dropouts initially. I was a little unhappy with that at the time, but Vishal did tell me about the details of the trek. After that discussion I made up my mind that at no point of time, I am going to convince any tentative people to join. By the end, we were 6 of us who finally agreed to go ahead (Vishal, Firoz, Aman, Eshanku, Achyut, and Me). Raman had fallen ill, so he was not sure and said that if he does recover he would surely join. Bhadre too agreed, but he said that it would be difficult for him to climb as he has somewhat injured his leg. At that point of time I asked to drop the idea of coming, as there is no point in aggravating your injury. The rest I believe got scared by the email and backed out of the trip. 6 was always a good number, but I and Vishal were somewhat skeptical about Eshanku joining the trip, as we felt his built would not really allow him complete the trek successfully and then his probably if that does happen, the others would also lose their determination to complete the trek. So by a heavy heart I had to drop the idea of taking Eshanku along with us.

The Group (Achyut, Firoz, Imran, Vishal, and Me)

The night before the trip, Aman too had to drop out as he had to urgently go to Mumbai for some work, which left us again to the count of 4. But finally, we decided to go ahead as we did not want another trip to get cancelled due to the count falling. The plan was set to meet at Swargate around 6.30 and then head towards the fort. Also this time we decided that we all would take our bikes, avoiding pillion riders.

The trip started on a good note. Firoz got his brother Imran along with him and the count increased to 5. Though we started about 20-25 minutes late than the scheduled time, but considering that everything else was going fine, the delay did not worry us much. Imran decided to come on my bike as my pillion rider. After about a drive of about 35-40 minutes we stopped at a McDonald’s outlet on the Mumbai-Bangalore highway. Another group of bike riders had stopped there. All of them had very costly super bikes, and looking at them somewhat charged us as well. Though we did end up spending (wasting) almost an hour. In the meanwhile, charged by seeing that bikers groups we also discussed the possibility of starting our very own bikers group (maybe consisting of only our team members). A team that would undertake such trips at least once a month, I knew that straight away I could see 4 enthusiastic members for the group. And after some breakfast and a small photo session we started our journey ahead. We had barely moved for 10-15 minutes, we again took a break for tea. After a hot cup of steaming tea we headed towards the fort. After we left the highway, the road to the fort (almost 30 odd kilometers) was not in a very good condition, so we drove slowly through. The road wasn’t very good, but the scenery on both the sides was immaculate. We all enjoyed the drive and reached the foothills of the fort by 9.45 AM.

The Bikers Group

Almost immediately after parking our bikes we decided to ascend to the top without wasting any time. The walk initially was good, a little slippery but as we walked through beautiful farms, it was exciting. We could see the fort on top of the other hill, and the walk up to the top was around 5-6 kilometers. As we started moving ahead, the climb got a little steeper and difficult. Luckily there was not much rain till then, so the path was not very slippery, and was manageable if we were careful. While moving ahead, we moved ahead and met a kid called Ramesh. He was a local person and generally guided travellers like us to the top of the fort. He said he would escort us to the top, and informed that he generally guides trekkers like us and also carries a bottle of buttermilk along (he does not charge anything for the guidance, only did for the buttermilk on per glass basis). We were joyed and happily took him along as we all had forgotten to carry any water or any other drink along with us. And even with less than a kilometer we had started feeling the need of water so he along with us was like a god sent. We started climbing up the top, but the climb was getting tougher and tougher with every 10 minutes. Since the climb was steep, I discussed with Vishal that dropping Eshanku was a good idea, though had Umesh and others come it would have been great. Vishal who probably had knowledge of the area said that this was just the beginning. Whenever I felt that this patch was a little difficult, another ever more difficult patch would follow. The path enroute to the top was very narrow suitable for a single person, and the dangerous level increased since this track was just a few centimeters away from the edge of the cliff. We all held our nerves and moved ahead, but the due to the excitement none of us were actually afraid of the situation. In fact we kept on clicking photographs of each other and the nature around. Suddenly we reached the top of the hill (the fort was on the hill on the other end). The view was breathtaking from there, with a narrow track to the fort and cliff on both sides of the track. But the view on both sides was amazing, and we could not stop ourselves from clicking photographs. After some time we started to move ahead and kept on jokingly motivate each other as the route got tougher and tougher. I suddenly realized that in my previous post about Korigad, I had mentioned that climb as very tough, but seeing the situation as till then, if the climb of Korigad fort was tougher this climb was way-way tougher, and I thought about this not realizing that even tougher times were yet to come (though to give my Korigad post a little justification all I can say is that the climb up to that fort was not very tough, however the heavy rains did make it very tough and risky).

The route up to the fort

After sometime we reached a point which I can call the foothills of the fort. I could see the fort at some height, but then the climb from here was almost 80-85 degree climb, and I joked that the trek was suddenly changing into rock climbing now. That sight did scare me a bit as with rains this path had got a little slippery and it had got dicey and risky. But the feeling having reached so close to the fort somewhat blooded some new freshness into all of us and we moved ahead. I can never forget that climb in my life, it was really enthralling. Though to be honest, it was not very tough especially since I know rock climbing, but it was the weather that made it very tough and risky. But that atmosphere had pumped too much of adrenaline into us that nothing could deter us from climbing. In fact we had situations where we were almost hanging on the rocks still I and Vishal were trying to capture everyone’s photographs. Then there was a patch where had to walk around a little, and not climb. That gave us a relief for some time and also in between we managed to spot a waterfall, where we enjoyed for some time and again clicked pictures (some videos too) of each other.

The steep climb

Once we left the fall, we again faced a steep (around 80 degree) climb. But that led us to the top of the fort (within the walls of the fort). The experience up till then was superb and was worth taking the risk. We all had the buttermilk that was given to us by Ramesh and that energized us and after that we let him go back. By that time I had realized that dropping all the others was a great idea, and why Vishal was insisting on not to take friends like Bhadre, Umesh and Eshanku along. Having reached the top was an achievement in itself. Maybe Aman and Raman missed this trip big time as I probably feel that they surely could have accompanied us to the top. Though I am not really sure about the others, as I do feel that it would have been difficult for them to climb, and even one person at that time could de-motivate everyone else. We reached the top around 12, and it took us more than 2 hours of walk to reach the top. The weather on the top was not very good, there were dense clouds and visibility was very low. However after roaming atop for about half an hour, having some fun, and clicking some pictures we started the descend towards our bikes.

On top of the Fort

While coming down we realized that due to the slight drizzle in between, the track had become even more slippery. And once again we faced to steep climb (now turned into steep falls). It is that time I realized that climbing up took a little toll on our knees and legs, but descending downhill would very difficult and dangerous. On most of the occasions we had to sit down (in fact almost lie down) with are backs touching the ground and then try and push our body down. This was the toughest part if the trip I suppose, and as we got used to it, we increased our speeds and then started coming down quickly. While coming down Firoz spotted a crab (it was huge in size) and indicated to Vishal. Vishal’s eyes lit up seeing that and he instantly leaped towards the crab and caught it, and he knew he had his dinner well earned. 

Vishal with the crab

It took us a little time to descend as the track down had become slippery, and we could not really keep our foot steady on ground, and almost everybody was slipping. When we were about to reach the starting point we realized that we had to cross a stream. Vishal entered the stream and we all followed him. The water gushing into our shoes was really soothing, as our legs were very tired, and I almost had blisters in the toes (as while climbing and descending to maintain steadiness all the body weight finally comes on the front toes). After spending some 5-10 minutes and clicking pictures we moved ahead towards our bikes. It was about to touch 3.30 and it had almost taken us 3 hours to touch back from the top of the fort (in fact Vishal had estimated it to be around 1 and a half hour). We all were very hungry and tired, and more than anything else our legs had almost given up. At that point of time I rued the fact that we came on bikes, and that too all alone. This meant that all of us had to drive back and none of us would get the respite of taking some rest.

While entering the Torna Fort

We reached near are bikes and then straight away headed towards a restaurant to have some food. We sat down and, to be honest that moment felt like heaven to me, as I had not sat down anywhere since the start of the trek. The food was simply amazing (to be honest at the moment anything served to us would have been great, but the quality was good). We ate stomachs full and around 4 o clock we got up to head back home. We all started are journey back on bikes and as earlier Imran was once again my pillion. The 30 kilometers drive to touch the highway was tough as the roads were not very good, and also our legs had literally given up. But somehow we managed to touch the highway in about 40 minutes.

The drive on the highway was smooth and very good, though none of us were speeding, actually our legs did not allow us to exceed the speed of 50 (I don’t remember the last time I actually drove that slow on a highway), but to be honest that speed too looked pretty good at that moment. At around 5 o clock we stopped for a break and had a cup of tea. The tea somewhat managed to get some life back into our bodies. All of us were talking about how we are going rest once we reach back home and our plans for the next day. We all were talking about a possible unplanned leave from office, and if I remember I was the only one who was very confident of not applying for one. In the meanwhile we also discussed the plan to visit as many forts possible around Pune before the next monsoon. Though this looked a little difficult, but surely was very much possible especially if I, Vishal, and Achyut were available for every future trip plan.

After a small but refreshing break, we started our way back home. This time Imran decided to accompany Firoz, as that would enable them to directly head back home and no more stoppage.

The day was great so far, but just then my initial intuition of something bad going to happen on the trip made way. I was driving constantly on the left-center of the road and a speed of around 50, a scooter driver who was standing in between the center of the road turned left (my side). To avoid him I applied brakes, but I guess since my legs were as good as dead the brake was ineffective, so I had to apply my hand (disc-brakes) brake and the bike skit and hit the scooter, and I fell on the middle of the road. As I feel down the first thought that came to my mind was who was behind me, and as I realized that Achyut was behind (I was constantly monitoring through the rear mirror so that everyone was together) and bike came and fell over me and hit my chest. It almost pinched me hard, and for a few seconds I almost lost consciousness. But at that moment I felt a little happy now that since it has been a few seconds no big vehicle would come near me a very serious injury had been avoided. I suddenly saw Achyut and Vishal picking up the bike the bike from over me, and then picking me up. But that time Firoz and Imran had helped pick me up and that is the time I realized that the bike that skit and fell over me was none other than Achyut’s. When he saw me falling he tried to help me by moving the other side and while applying the brakes his bike too skit and fell over me. I had a few bruises on my knee and my elbow, but I did look a little uncomfortable. Achyut to had a few bruises over his knee and shin, and at that time we realized that a major mishap had been avoided. After a small break and a little quarrel with the people there we headed back home. Despite the injury I once again the group as I knew that driving at a constant and my comfortable speed is the best bet I had.

The group - I like this pic even more now, since had we been not so lucky in the accident, a few faces could have gone missing from this for ever!

As I moved ahead, the pain in the chest and elbow started to increase and I knew that I was in a tough situation as I had to cover around 18 kilometers more to reach back home. By the time I entered the city (about 11-12 kilometers to home) my hands had started trembling, and I had started to feel the pinch. But somehow I managed to reach home safely (no more mishap). Once I entered home, I showed my mother the bruise on the elbow. There were no lights in the house at that time and so she asked me to the injury with hot water. It is when the lights came on I realized the swelling on my elbow and chest. My mother got scared and took me to the hospital for an X-ray, which finally showed that I had two fractures in my elbow and three in my ribs. And now I ended up the only one to go on an unplanned leave the next day, unfortunately and unintended though.

And thus a very enjoyable day had ended on a miserable note. Though I believe this trek and the accident both will be engraved in the minds of my friends and mine for a long time to come.

Inside the fort

Similar to my last post of an adventurous trip, I would highlight a few points from the trip:

  • I have realized that it is good to have all friends come for the trip but sometimes not having the wrong person at the right trip is also good. And I did learn that I can manage people well as I did manage to get some friends off board as they could have unknowingly spoilt the mood of the rest of the group had they backed off half way during the trek.
  • I would remember the trekking experience all my life, as climbing steep heights (almost cliffs) was a completely new experience.
  • I learnt that traveling on bikes is great fun, but when one has to go for such tiring trips it is advisable to take a four wheeler or a cab. Or at least have a pillion rider, with whom you can share half the burden of the journey. As I do believe had I been not that tired I could have managed to avoid the accident.
  • When Achyut met me the other day, he felt guilty that had he been able to avoid his part of the accident, more than half of my injuries could have been saved. To be honest I was happy that some bike was behind me and no heavy vehicle was as that could have caused major injuries if not any extreme condition. Also his bike somewhat shielded me for any other mishap. Also I can understand what he must have been feeling. Even I was sad that he fell trying to save me. Had he got a major injury, I would have really felt guilty too.
  • I was a little sad that Aman did not make it to the trip, as he would have definitely enjoyed the experience. I later realized that had he made it he would have been my pillion and this accident would have been much more dangerous for him, than it was for me.  
  • I believe we must sometimes do need to pay heed to our intuitions, they can definitely give a good hint, if not completely be true.
  • Also our plans of a bikers group and of the fort trekking group have been postponed for a long time seeing this mishap. As seeing what happened this time I am not really sure, how often and quickly we will get back into action.

    That's me after the trip

That’s it from me know, hope to write on some more forthcoming trips very soon, though seeing my condition I don’t see such a trip in very near future but I hope that whenever it does happen it will be a great one and a safer one.

I have an Einstein number as well!

Posted: September 9, 2011 by Shishir Gupta in Awards, Just For Fun
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Einstein number is something I was not really aware till long back. However, having your name to get associated with Albert Einstein is something any budding science student, for the matter of fact any student in the world would aspire to have. And I am no exception to this. Well having got to know that I now have an Einstein number has elated me more than ever, though honestly I did not know of this concept till a long time back.

As I had written earlier, Erdős number is something that I have always have dreamt of having. The concept of Einstein number is similar to Erdős number, with the difference being that Erdős number is the collaborative distance between the person and Paul Erdős, and similarly Einstein number is the collaborative distance between the person and Albert Einstein.

I got to know of this concept, when one of my school friends got to know of this informed me that I probably have an Einstein number of 3. That got me little curios, and when I researched over the internet, I got to know of the concept of Einstein number. But after calculating a lot of permutations and combinations the lowest I could achieve is an Einstein number 4. This can be calculated as follows:

Albert Einstein had an Erdős number of 2, which automatically gives Paul Erdős an Einstein number of 2 (since the concept behind the two is the same).

Now I have an Erdős number of two, so with the above link I automatically attain an Einstein number of 4 (2+2).

Now another path, the one that was calculated by my friend, is through Marcos Moshinsky. My college guide, in his college days (studying PhD) had worked with him. And since I also have a paper published in collaboration with my guide, this gives me a collaboration distance of 2 units from Marcos Sir. Now the confusion I have is with the Einstein number of Marcos Moshinsky, of whether he has an Einstein number if 1 or 2. There is no proof of his exact number; also I could not find much of the details of people having an Einstein number.

But yes one thing is true, that I do have an Einstein number of at least 4 and that too by 2 paths. Having my name associated with “Albert Einstein” is already a huge achievement for me. As with a good Erdős and Einstein numbers, make me feel I very much closer to Physics and Mathematics….

Well this post should have been posted almost one and a half month back, but due to some mysterious circumstances this could not be posted in time. In fact I had written down this post immediately after the trip and even had tried to post it (created a post and tried to publish it), but due to some technical issue it could not be posted on the net, and after that its posting has been getting postponed.

I have always believed that posting the details of the trip here is more my our groups rememberance of the good times we spent that day, so that years later when we read this we could fall in nostalgia and remember those great times. So even after getting so delayed I thought of posting this now, especially since one of my another big trips is planned for this weekend. I also did go to NDA, along with my friends, I will surely try and write the tour dairy of that day before the end of this week, hopefully.

Well I had written this post the very next day after the trip, and so I haven;t made any changes to the content.

Another Sunday (16th July 2011) and it was yet another adventurous trip (and again I am a few days late to publish this post). This time we went to Lonavala, a hill station close to Pune. We can say that probably this was again one of those trips that I had gone for just for the sake of going out with friends, after all the previous plans were getting cancelled. Also the most interesting aspect of this trip was that out of the 5 people that did go only two were actually destined to go for this (and surprisingly I am not part of the two). Also, Achyut, who was one of the two people, ideally should not have made it to the trip, but just because of his sheergrit and his friendship for us, he did.

Korigad Fort

It is not that this trip was not planned for; in fact this had to be one of my office team outings. This trip was being planned as the team’s annual monsoon trip, and after a lot of discussion and debate this trip was decided to take place on Saturday, 16th July and the venue was decided for Korigad and Lonavala. The team was enthusiastic about the trip and as many as 29 people had confirmed their availability till the start of the last week. This list included me as well, however, I knew from the very first day that if the trip did go on that day, I could not be a part of it because of my prior commitments (I have joined an MBA course and its classes happen every Saturday).

Anyways as the last week started and as the day for the trip was approaching the number of dropouts started increasing (that included me as well). In fact, even after a lot of persuasion by my friends and especially my manager could not help me convince myself to miss the class (however, that definitely left me into the dilemma).  On Wednesday I got the news that the number of the participants for the trip had fallen from 29 to almost half its number – 15. At that time I jokingly told to my friend that if the count falls below 12, I would join the trip. In the meanwhile since I could not go for the trip, I and Vishal planned for a Sunday trip to National Defense Academy (NDA) (since he was going for this team trip, we could not go any way far on Sunday). Agonizingly, the count for the team trip fell to 11 by Thursday afternoon. Now, after getting to know of that I got a little uncertain about my status to the trip. Somehow I thought a lot over it and managed to convince myself to miss the class for the trip on Saturday. On Friday, just when I was about to tell my friends that I would join for the trip, I got to know that due to very less participation the trip has been postponed to September.

A pose with bikes

Almost everyone was disappointed, of not being able to go for the trip. I was not really disappointed since I did not want to miss my classes, and had only somehow managed to convince myself to do that. And now when the trip got cancelled, it was more of a blessing in disguise for me. Anyways, Vishal was really disappointed with the trip not happening; he somehow still wanted to go for this. That time I and he planned out for the trip to Korigad and Lonavala (the original venue) but on Sunday. This plan came into existence at around 4 pm on Friday and within two hours we were a group of 4 people ready for the trip. Although the plan was yet not confirmed and was in its nascent stage.

But the main planning of this trip started on Saturday night, when I called almost everyone up and managed to get the count to 6 (Me, Vishal, Umesh, Raman, Bhadre and Aman). But the problem with this was that we did not have enough bikes (just 2 of them), and with six people it was not possible to go then. Then after a lot more chatting with other friends, I managed the count to 9 (Achyut, Moiz, and Dushyant joined the group). But this time we decided not go on bikes but cars, and I and Moiz were the ones who decided to drive. This list somehow included Achyut, as he was down with fever for the two days and was on his way to recovery, and only agreed for the trip as we were going by cars and not bikes.

Finally the plan was ready by 11 in the night and we nine people had to leave by 6.30 early morning.

Fort in heavy rains

The day started on a deplorable note, which Moiz not able to join in. With that it meant Dushyant too will not be able to join and it was left with 7 of us and only one car. And above all it was raining heavily since night which meant there was no chance of taking bikes. I was in a quandary of what to do, as all 7 of us could not go, also since it was raining heavily there was a doubtfulness of whether we should go. I called up Vishal, and we decided to go (removing that doubt of the way). But then the big question was who goes and who doesn’t as 7 cannot go in a car. Now Vishal, Aman, Achyut and I were apparent choices, and it was all down to take the decision of who will be the fifth person. After a small discussion I and Vishal decided to ask Umesh to join in. I with a heavyheartinformed both Raman and Bhadre that probably we will not be going, which unfortunately cut them out of them picture.

After that we all started on schedule, I left my place to pick up Aman from his house, and then reached the spot where I had to pick up Umesh by 6.45 AM. Achyut had already reached his picking up point at 6.30 (15 minutes early and was waiting for us), while we were waiting for Umesh. But he arrived at 7.20 and that too I had to pick him up from a place close to his house rather than the actual picking up point. And the reason he gave for this ridiculous act was that there was no water at his place and so he could not take bath. I found that explanation really crackbrained, and at a point I was fuming since Achyut, who had just come out of fever, was on time and waiting for us for almost an hour in the rain. While waiting for Umesh, I and Aman were losing our cool every moment and I was also feeling guilty of Achyut having to stand in rain for almost an hour. In the heat of that moment I even called up Vishal, to discuss the idea of dropping Umesh from the trip. We almost agreed but then since I had waited for more than half an hour for him, I thought of waiting for five more minutes. And just when Aman said that we should leave I saw Umesh coming from a little distance away, and he just managed to make it in the nick of time. And then after picking him up we immediately left the place to reach where Achyut was waiting (In the meanwhile Vishal was a bit lucky since he had to be picked up last, and since we were waiting for Umesh, he too waited for us at home rather than at his pick up point). As we left, he too left for the pickup point. After that small hiccup everything went smoothly, as we touched the highway by 7.45 after picking up both Achyut and Vishal. The drive on the Pune-Mumbai expressway was nothing less than amazing. With the picturesque scenery all around, lite rain all the way, and with me being able to touch the speed of 130 km/hr very consistently, I could not have asked for anything better. 

A cup of hpt tea at Lonavala

Anyways we touched Lonavala by 8.30 (it just took us 45-50 minutes for us to cover a distance of over 60 kilometers). Also on the way to Lonavalaat a toll stop, we also managed to obviate the toll tax, after a lot of persuasion from all 5 of us. After reaching Lonavala, we took a small break and had snacks and a cup of steaming tea (both the Wada-Pav and tea were steaming hot) which charged us up and we moved ahead towards Bushi Dam. We stopped at a waterfall before the dam, and managed to click a few pictures and had a lot of fun near the fall. Though then we decided we would not get wet in the fall, since travelling everywhere wet would be very difficult. So after some fun we moved ahead towards Bushi Dam. The weather was getting a little bad with the rains getting heavier. As we reached the dam the rains had got very heavy, and due to dense fog and clouds, the visibility was very low and so we decided to move ahead towards Korigad and to stop at the dam while returning.

The drive to Korigad was absolutely amazing though very scary as well because of the high density fog and clouds coupled with heavy rains, reduced the visibility to almost nil. Driving was really dangerous since suchconditions were very new for me and with no visibility all I could refer were the markings at the edge of the road. However I really enjoyed driving in those conditions and now I feel I can drive in any given condition.  Anyways driving through, we reached Korigad around 9.45 AM. It was raining heavily and there was no way we could trek up to the fort. So we decided to go to Amby Valley in the time being.

View of Amby Valley from Korigad

We reached Amby Valley in 15-20 minutes from then but since the cost per person to enter the premises was too high, we had no other option than to return back. After reaching we were getting a little frustrated with the rains, as the rains were heavy and there was no way we could trek up to the fort. However, since the original plan was to go to Korigad we anyhow wanted to go up to the fort. We waited for some time for the rain to stop, but that did not happen. But yes it did get lighter which was enough motivation for us to get out and climb up. Initially the way up to the fort seemed easy but the way only relapsed.

Way up to the fort

The way up was muddy and with rains and water flowing around, became very slippery. We did not know the exact route to the fort so we continued trekking with more of a hit and trial method. The rains were getting heavier, and with we having no clue of the actual route up, and also there was no sign of people in near vicinity (it looked as if only the 5 of us, were in that area) it was getting scarier. We even quite a few times thought of abandoning the climb and returning back to our car, but somehow we always managed to convince ourselves to continue for some more time. After some time, we saw two people coming from behind. They were probably local people and knew well of the route up to the fort, and so we started following them. The way they took was more of a like the one through the forest, with a very narrow path. The path was so narrow that the shrubs on either side brushed as we moved ahead. Also there were branches of trees that had fallen, for which to cross them we had to either jump over them or bend and cross from beneath them. All this reminded me of the Man v/s Wild episodes, as the scene was nothing less to the forest expeditions executed by Bear Grylls on that show. Again as I said, all that environmental setup coupled with the rainy weather looked dangerous but was very exciting, and the level of excitement grew even further as while walking on that path we lost sight of the two people we were following. And all of us were once again confused of whether we were on the right track and at that moment all we could do is either return back or just keep on walking ahead wherever the track would lead us too. After 15-20 minutes and a total of about a 40-45 minutes’ walk we reached the foot of the fort were the steps were there that ascended to the top of the fort.

Steps enroute to the top

The steps were very slippery as there was constant flow of water over it, and it appeared as if there was a waterfall that was flowing over the steps. Anyways after a climb of about 15-20 minutes we managed to reach the top. The feeling of having scaledKorigad was amazing, as earlier after every few minutes we were losing are motivation, but just for sheer grit and for the sake up trekking up to the fort we managed to reach. The view from the top was fantabulous and was definitely worth the effort we took to reach the top. We could see the entire view of Amby Valley from there; it really looked amazing from the top. As it was raining very heavily, we could not manage to click many pictures of the beautiful view (also due to the density of rains we did not carry our cameras with us to the top, all we had to click were mobile phones). But I must say we did manage to click some nice pictures of the small lake at the top and the view of Amby Valley from the fort.

Amidst heavy rains in the top

In sometime it started raining cats and dogs, so we decided that it was time we descended to the car, as we all were tired by now and were also feeling hungry. Coming down did not take a lot of time, as now we were well versed with the way route and managed to reach the car in about 35-40 minutes. But by the time we reached the car we were completely drenched in water. We were wearing jackets but still the shirts inside too were drenched (I still remember Aman took out his handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his head, but before he could do that, the moment he squeezed it, the water just streamed out of the handkerchief, such had been the intensity of rain throughout the trek). Anyways we left the place around 12.30, and since we had immense time in hand we thought of probably spending some time at the Bushi Dam or maybe we could go to another fort, Lohagad, if we had enough time in hand later as we approach close to that place. But just before we reached the dam we got stuck in the traffic. There was a complete mess of traffic at that time, because of which we could not stop at the dam, since neither there was a place to park the vehicle nor was there any space to maneuver it out of that mess. So we decided to head towards Lonavala, as we all were a little hungry. But at that time we did not know that we would require 2 hours to cover a distance of 8 kilometers. The traffic condition was pathetic, and I hardly got to drive a distance of more than 10-15 meters at a stretch. And the stoppage interval after every movement was yonks’ for a lifetime, unbearable, and very frustrating. But Vishal did manage to lighten the mood with his didoes.  Anyways we did manage to touch the expressway by 3 o’ clock. But as we all were hungry we decided to take the highway rather than the expressway as the highway goes through the city of Lonavala, and that would enable us to eat something. But at that time none of us knew that we would again be entering the atrocious traffic jam all over again, something that we had managed to get out off after a couple of hours trouble.

But then such situations are inevitable, and we all over got stuck in that traffic mess all over again. Again the situation was similar, in fact even worse than before. It was very difficult for me to maneuver the car around and we could not park the car or stop anywhere in between. So in the meanwhile we decided as there was no chance for us to stop anywhere, one of us could get down and get some snacks, that could at least satiate our stomachs if not fill them completely. Then Aman, Achyut, and Vishal took turns and managed to get something to eat. Luckily that was enough to subsideour hunger for some time. And then finally we managed to cross the city after over an hour and a half struggle, sometime around 4.45. This left us with no other choice than to return home, as we had got over all the extra time we had managed to spare during the entire day.
And finally we took the national highway, instead of the expressway to head back home (as all that traffic which we had avoided all the way so far was heading to the expressway, I thought the highway would have been a better option). To be honest I really don’t know whether this option was better, but certainly it was not bad, as the scenic beauty on either sides of the road was fabulous. There wasn’t much traffic either, and I did manage to drive consistently in the speed range of 80-100 km/hrs (which is not bad at all, however it is less as compared to the expressway).

Anyways, we touched Pune in less than an hour and after dropping Achyut and Vishal I headed back home (Aman and Umesh accompanied me home so that they could transfer all the photographs they had, and I could leave them a little later). I reached home by 6.30 PM (a little over 12 hours when I had started, but the journey was brilliant except the frustration we had during the traffic jam in Lonavala).

The drive to the fort

Similar to my last post of an adventurous trip, I would highlight a few points from the trip.

  • I believe the decision to take the car rather than to go bikes was brilliant for the first half, but while returning as we were anyways drenched, it would have been better on bikes in that traffic (but I don’t think we could have enjoyed that much on bikes as we did in the car).
  • I got a great driving lesson that day, driving in zero visibility conditions, gripping road curves on the hill range, and then immoveable traffic, all of that has made more confident a driver than ever. Now I believe I can drive in any given condition. 
  • Had an amazing trekking experience (I have been to many forts around Pune), but this experience is definitely the best of all. It was actually adventurous and what we did was trekking in true sense.
  • It was good that the trip with the office team did not take place due to two reasons. Firstly, for a large team we would have needed a bigger transportation which would have meant that had we got stuck in a similar traffic then it would have been more agonizing and frustrating. Secondly, I am not sure with a large group would have everyone been motivated to scale the Korigad fort given the route and the conditions that day. 

Once again I have adopted a different style of writing the tour diary, as I feel that there should be a change every now and then to keep the interest of all the readers. Please let me know how you all liked this kind of writing.

That’s it from me know, hope to write on some more forthcoming trips very soon.

New Achievement- Erdős Number

Posted: July 5, 2011 by Shishir Gupta in Awards, Just For Fun

Erdős number is something that as a high school student I have always aspired to have. In fact why me, it is something any science student must have dreamt of, especially a mathematics or a physics student, since these are the two fields one is likely to get a lower Erdős number (lower the better). To be honest, I never believed I could ever achieve an Erdős number of 1 or 2. In fact during my engineering days, I had managed to achieve an Erdős number of 5 which is very good and an achievement in every respect. But a few months back when one of my recent papers got selected to be published, I realized that when it does get officially published I will attain an Erdős number of 2. This will happen since for this paper I got an opportunity to work with Endre Szemerédi sir who has an Erdős number 1, thus automatically giving me a number 2.

Once this paper gets published, and once I officially attain my Erdős number of 2, every co-author of mine will attain the Erdős number of 3.

Let me explain a little about what is Erdős number.  According to Wikipedia –

“The Erdős number describes the “collaborative distance” between a person and mathematician Paul Erdős, as measured by authorship of mathematical papers. Paul Erdős was an influential and itinerant mathematician, who spent a large portion of his later life living out of a suitcase and writing papers with those of his colleagues willing to give him room and board. He published more papers during his life (at least 1525) than any other mathematician in history.

To be assigned an Erdős number, an author must co-write a research paper with an author with a finite Erdős number. Paul Erdős has an Erdős number of zero. Anybody else’s Erdős number is k + 1 where k is the lowest Erdős number of any coauthor. Erdős wrote around 1,500 mathematical articles in his lifetime, mostly co-written. He had 511 direct collaborators; these are the people with Erdős number 1. The people who have collaborated with them (but not with Erdős himself) have an Erdős number of 2 (8,162 people as of 2007), those who have collaborated with people who have an Erdős number of 2 (but not with Erdős or anyone with an Erdős number of 1) have an Erdős number of 3, and so forth. A person with no such co-authorship chain connecting to Erdős has an Erdős number of infinity (or an undefined one).”

Now with Paul Erdős not alive, my Erdős number cannot improve further. So with this being the highest I can ever achieve, and the fact that I have achieved it, the feeling is nothing less than great.  Also, I am very happy since one of my role models Richard Feynman has an Erdős number of 3, and I have surpassed that.

I do not know how much this achievement will help me in my current work scenario, but maybe it can act as a catalyst to help me get my life back on the path that I have always dreamt of.

This Sunday, I visited Mahabaleshwar, a hill station close to Pune, with a group of my office friends and colleagues. Well, this is a very memorable trip for me for quite a few reasons. Firstly, it was the first trip for me with friends this monsoon season. Secondly, the participation in this trip was the maximum we have ever had. And thirdly, this time we did not go on bikes (as usual), instead we hired a mini bus (this is my first such instance after a very long time).

Though this was not my first planned trip for this season, I and a few other friends had planned our annual monsoon season inauguration trip the weekend before this one to Sinhgad Fort. But due to very heavy rains, that plan had to be shelved.  In fact this trip also happened after a lot of confusion. Both the day and venue for the trip were not our first choice, but due to various circumstances that arose, we finally decided to visit Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, and Tapola. And amazingly all these changes were decided just one day before the trip. Also the participation for the trip kept on reducing as time neared. If I remember correctly, a group of 15-17 people should have made it that day, but finally 10 was the number that actually went.

As it always happens in India with the trip starting at least an hour late than the schedule time, this trip was no different. But astoundingly, this time everyone in the group reached on time (I think I was one of the last ones to reach, anyways but that too wasn’t very late) and it was the bus that got late and eventually delayed our start by an hour. We finally started a touch before 6 AM (we had planned for 5 AM) but as I had said before, that we do get late, we had kept a buffer time of half an hour for the start time. And looking at that I guess we were not really strained at being a little late.

The Gang (Ananda, Moiz, Umesh, Qais, Me, Firoz, Tejasweeta, Sandip, and Achyut). Vishal misses out from this one since someone had to click as well.

The journey started well as we left the city and touched the highway in half an hour. We all had woken up early and so were just relaxing, listening to music, and watching the green scenic beauty along the highway, when suddenly from nowhere, Ananda broke the ice with his scintillating dance moves. This got everyone in the mood, with Vishal and Qais joining in the fun (not dancing but they too got everyone in the mood). And suddenly the mood in the bus changed, from slow to full of exuberance.

Then at around 7:30 we halted for some time to have breakfast. The quality of snacks was good, and was more than enough to fill in life into everyone’s body (though most of us were already into the mood thanks to Ananda, Qais, and Vishal), but the timely snacks did get everyone going from there on. After that we headed towards Mahabaleshwar, leaving the highway and driving through the Ghats. We were having fun on the way, but the boring and limited collection of songs was just somewhat stealing the mood. Then suddenly someone suggested playing the even more boring game called Antakshri. But we IT professionals certainly have a quality where we can make any activity fun and entertaining without much effort. And this time the way we sang songs, and the way we actually contorted the tunes and wordings of the songs was great fun. And this all started from the very first song where Moiz sang the song “Hamma Hamma” on the tunes of “Yamma Yamma”. I cannot really explain the feelings in words, but all I can say the least is it was really entertaining. And as there is line in a Hindi song “Aaghaaz yeh hai to anjaam hoga haseen” meaning (when the start was so brilliant, the ending had to be beautiful). And it definitely was in that way.

Me and Umesh

Just singing along and in a time we could hardly notice, we reached a place very close to Panchgani, where paragliding is done. There were a lot many other groups there as well due to which the place was a little crowded. Due to the monsoon season, we were not allowed to do paragliding, but since there was hardly any cloud cover we got a great view of the beautiful valley. This was a place where all of us extensively clicked photographs of each other.  I have a camera which has got a very good zoom, but unfortunately till then I was not very confident of clicking pictures on full zoom. As on most of those occasions the pictures would get distorted. But to my amazement that day, I managed to capture some great photographs of the beauty around (I will never regret coming to the place especially because of the quality of photographs I was able to capture) with my viewfinder capturing at full zoom, and I was even happier since my success rate was almost a 100 percent. This actually made me realize that I am not a bad photographer at all. And astonishingly this luck of being able to capture some fantabulous beauty stayed with me till the end of the day.

That's Umesh, Firoz, Me, Sandip, and Achyut

After a small and refreshing halt at that place we moved ahead towards Mahabaleshwar. As the weather got cloudy and scenic, we reached Mahabaleshwar, but due to dense clouds and zero visibility we decided not to visit any points at the place (since it might be useless to visit in these conditions), we decided to head towards Tapola, locally also known as mini-Kashmir (another scenic valley, having one side completely filled by enthralling flowers). On the way we did stop at the Venna Lake, but due to very low visibility and very high water level, we could not do boating (in fact had we done, it would have felt more like river rafting seeing the conditions), so we did not waste time there. But yes I did manage to click one of my favorite pictures.

One of my best clicks trying to capture a Rang De Basanti moment (Umesh, Vishal, Moiz, Firoz, and Achyut).

After this as we were heading towards Tapola, we stopped at a waterfall, where I, Achyut, Firoz, and Vishal rushed towards the top to enjoy in the fall. Seeing this Umesh got over enthusiastic and followed us and then there was no stopping him and his antics. I guess with that act Umesh had finally announced his arrival at the trip (I guess, we were waiting for such a trigger, because with Umesh’s enthusiasm no trip can ever go boring).

When we reached a point close to Tapola, we got to witness picturesque scenery. We all again took out our cameras and extensively clicked photographs of each other. I again managed to capture some great views with my viewfinder. After a very good photo session we headed back to Mahabaleshwar, as we realized that since it had started raining heavily going to Tapola would not be much fruitful. While en route to Mahabaleshwar, we suddenly realized that we had enough time to visit Pratapgarh Fort, which was about 25 Kilometers from Mahabaleshwar (thanks to the dense clouds and rain in Mahabaleshwar and Tapola which prevented us from spending time there). 

TAPOLA from my viewfinder..

In between we did take a small break, and managed to have a cup of tea. I must say, a hot and steaming cup of tea at such a cloudy, windy, and a wet day is the best thing anyone can have. The road to Pratapgarh is a little risky, as the width is comparatively small and has a lot of traffic. And the weather (very low visibility) that day made it even more dangerous and to top it all the way the driver drove the bus made the level of affright touch its limit. But, we did reach the fort safe and sound. However, in the meanwhile Sandip (our group’s major prankster and the one who changes everyone’s mood with his witty and great comic timing) fell ill. He was feeling dizzy and could not join us for the walk up to the fort (this was a disappointment as his presence could have taken our enjoyment to another level). But certainly by now Umesh was reaching his best, and he somewhat managed to fill the void created by Sandip’s absence on the fort.

That's Vishal, Moiz, Me, Qais, Ananda, Umesh, and Firoz

The Pratapgarh fort is a very beautiful structure (definitely one of the better forts around Pune). Though the fort is full of commercial shops, still that does not take anything away from its natural beauty. We managed to capture some good pictures, and I once again with my viewfinder was at my best, able to capture some really great snaps (I will never regret coming to the place especially because of the quality of snaps I was able to capture). Finally after roaming around the fort, we decided to head back to the bus. This is when Tejasweeta, suggested to have some snacks, which is when most of us realized that we were hungry. I guess, the enthusiasm had got into us to such an extent that we could not feel any hunger or thirst that time. But I must say, the tea and snacks that we had were very good, and they energized us all over again (only if we had lost some energy so far, I don’t think most of us had lost any), and all thanks to Tejasweeta.

That's Firoz, Me, Umesh, Vishal, and Achyut

After the break, and avoiding the heavy rain, we reached our bus by 2 PM. It was time now that we moved back towards Mahabaleshwar. After reaching Mahabaleshwar, we stopped at the Mapro Garden to have a shake and sandwich. This was one of the reasons why we only stuck to snacks and not have lunch at Pratapgarh. But all I can say is that the wait was worth the effort, and it is all thanks to the perseverance of Qais and Moiz (this was one of the major reasons of selecting Mahabaleshwar as the venue when the venue change was being discussed) that we managed to have those delicious grubs. But whatever anyone says, I would have regretted had we not stopped there for the meal. I guess, suddenly this place was turning out to be the only one where we did not go crazy clicking photographs. But, to the cease that record from being created, we clicked a few photographs (yes crazy ones) towards the end, definitely for memories sake.

The mini meal at MAPRO

Then we all started to head back to Pune, and as we sat reclining thinking of the great times we spent and of course resting, none of us knew that one of the most entertaining part was yet to come.  Umesh was at his act once again, his innocence, his antics, his expressions, and his movements, entertained everybody… I guess, he also enjoyed as much as we did that time. And by then even Sandip also had recovered, and in fact had reached in his best form. His and Umesh’s syndication was probably the highlight of that part of the trip. Their antics together almost rejuvenated everyone else, and all of us joined in the fun. And suddenly what was looking to be a tiring end to a wonderful day, turned out to be a exulting one. With all that fun and enjoyment we reached back our starting point at 7PM. We wanted to anyhow reach back by 7-7.30, and the way we managed our time to precision was something brilliant. I guess this is something what does happen when you have managers and team leads in the group.

That's Firoz, Umesh, Me, Moiz, and Achyut

It has been a couple of days since the trip, but none of us are yet out of it till now. The feeling is still in the air around us. In fact we have already started planning for the next. I hope that one happens soon, and we enjoy it to a similar extent if not more.

That's Firoz, Me, and Umesh

I would like to end this post in a different manner as I generally do to my other posts of different trips. In the end I would like to write in a few positives of the trip.

  • I always believed a small number is the best to enjoy in an outing; well this myth was definitely destroyed.
  • I realized that I am a good shutterbug, having capability of capturing some absolute natural brilliance.
  • During the start of the trip, Moiz asked me whether I was into wildlife photography seeing the zooming capability of my viewfinder. After all the events of the day all I can answer is, that zoom is not always to capture wild life… it can also be used very effectively to capture other life around you.
  • And yes, Umesh has become an overnight star amongst our team. For the last couple of days, we have only been praising him all the time.

That’s it from me know, hope to write another tour diary very soon.

When your old teachers remember you…….

Posted: June 15, 2011 by Shishir Gupta in Just For Fun
Tags: , ,

For some time now I wanted to visit Mrs. Bhawana, my junior college Physics teacher, but I just did not get the time to do so. Yesterday was the day when I somehow managed to go and meet her. In fact this opportunity was not created because of my efforts; she had invited me for dinner along with my other close friends from school. It was an offer that I could not miss at any cost, as it was over 4 years that I had last met her, so this one came like a blessing in disguise.

The plan was to reach her house by 6-6.30, but since I got late at office I could only reach by 8. The moment she opened the door, and when she saw me, she was almost in tears. The happiness I saw on her face is something I will never forget for my life. I too was very excited and happy to meet her, but my expressions of happiness were nowhere close to hers. And that made me realize that it is not just the students that remember their teachers for a long time, it is the teachers as well who remember their students very well.

And again as everyone would have thought that the talk between us would have started with an inquiry as how and what I have been doing. But that was not the case, she was very well aware of my whereabouts because of my friends, and so was I. In fact our talk started with a scolding of why I did not come for such a long time to meet her. All I could reply was “I wanted to achieve some success in life before I could meet you”. I told her that I had just completed my Masters, and the results were out about a month back, and since then I have wanted to meet her. To this she had no reply, but just a smile, and all I can tell is that smile said and explained her state of happiness to me very clearly.

When we were talking I told her about my feat of having achieved an Erdős number. I guess that was the happiest moment for her at that time. She said she could not really explain how proud she was. And her tone at that time made me realize really how proud she was.

After that we all chatted of our old school days, and the current school days as well. The changes that have been made both in the architecture and at the academic level as well. It was really nostalgic going back into those old memories that were hidden in some part of my mind.

Yesterday I not only got to meet mam, but also met a couple of my friends after a very long time. Though I was in contact with them over the social network sites, but had not met them in person for a very long time.

But yesterday I realized two things. First, how important “being social” is in life, being in touch with friends, and other people who care about you, and you care for. Second, it is not that only students remember their teachers, but the teachers also remember and care for their students for a very long time.

Life Back on ‘the’ Track…..

Posted: June 3, 2011 by Shishir Gupta in Just For Fun
Tags: , ,

After a long break from my morning jogging schedule, I am back on the jogging track. Though I did enjoy a lot in this break time, as it gave me that extra half an hour to one hour of sleep and relaxation. But with having come back to my jogging schedule it feels even better. It has been over 20 days of that I have regularly going for the early morning run, so I thought that is the best time to write this post. I had unsuccessfully tried to get back on this schedule a couple of times earlier as well, but both the stints did not last over a week or so, and a break for a day led to weeks. But now, since I have been regular for over 20 days, I can say that I am back on track.

I had almost spent all my mornings last year on the running track, and then I took a break for some time starting in December last year. And after returning to the previous schedule after almost 5-6 months feels great, and feels that I did miss something in these months. I have already started enjoying my running, then early breakfast and tea with friends at an eating point near the jogging track. It is really great fun.

But I am not really sure how long will this last since monsoons are about to arrive, and they definitely will be a block to my schedule. Though they were very generous to me last year, by staying away during early mornings, and I hope that their generosity will continue once again. Or else this time I will be forced into taking a break again.

And I have to agree that coming back from a small break also is very tough. One might have followed a schedule for years, but a break of a month or so can hamper it badly. Coming back to the same schedule is very tough, it really takes a lot of effort all over again to get back (this is something I recently realized when I was trying to get back on track).

Anyways, now all things in my life are getting back on track… and this definitely one of those things.