Monday, January 07, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 8 (chapter 2)

(Use the navigation within this blog site to read earlier episodes)

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; designation: Senior Software Engineer
  • Merv - same team; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead
  • Colonel - another Team Lead


Vignesh was disturbed from his work when Sir Karthick stood up and announced, “Guys, we have team meeting now.” When no one from their team spanning across six cubicles reacted, he shouted, “Let’s go to Orion.”
After a delay everyone trudged out; many unwillingly. Vignesh stared at Sir Karthick for a few seconds. He wondered how he stayed in such good shape even though he never did any exercise. He was fair, well built with broad shoulders and smart looking. He could have easily passed off as a model. And to add to it he was getting promoted as well. Everything was going his way. Vignesh consoled himself saying that it was just his bad luck that his boss favoured Karthick. There were numerous reasons that he could come up with. 

They both come from the same place. Karthick had more visibility in the last few months while I was preoccupied with my home construction. Karthick made use of every opportunity to make his presence felt at the top. Karthick was included in all the meetings with the client while I was always kept out of them. Even on questioning, I was told that I didn’t need to attend them since it was a waste of time. And even team meetings are now run by him.

Vignesh joined Merv and Gokul in the elevator.
“What’s in today’s meeting?” Merv asked Gokul when the doors closed.
Gokul raised his eyes upwards while his spectacles slid down his hawkish nose. He spoke in a whisper as if the elevator had ears, “The farewell of course.”
“That I know. I arranged for the cake. What else?”
“Client downsizing. A couple of retirements. And more restrictions for our restricted area!”
“More restrictions?”
“Yeah. Some security thing – they may have heard about other clients and decided to fortify our area.”
Vignesh was surprised since he hadn’t heard anything about the restrictions and he wondered how Gokul knew about the downsizing.
“And our Colonel is quitting because he is attending this meeting.”
“Because he’s attending?” Merv asked surprised.
“Yeah. He’s attending means he doesn’t care any damn as to what happens in this team. Did you hear anything?” Gokul asked Vignesh for confirmation.
That was completely out of the blue for Vignesh. He was out of touch with office rumours lately since he was busy reading about tiles, paints, lighting and discussing daily with the builder on customisations for the apartment he had bought. To add to the list was the depression over his ex-girlfriend. Whenever he felt that he was slipping into a depression he reminded himself of the man in the underpass enjoying his cup of tea.
He responded, “Nothing confirmed yet.”
One of his maxims in corporate politics was that the senior should never be taken by surprise on hearing information from juniors. But the rumour was worrying because if it were true then he was certain who was getting promoted.
Gokul asked, “You know what Orion is?”
“It’s a constellation,” Merv replied.
“Yeah, the Hunter constellation. The people quitting are the ones hunted.”
“Maybe the hunted are moving to greener grass.”
“The grass is always green on the other side. But the hunted will always be hunted no matter which grass they eat.”

            Gokul switched on the projector and the agenda appeared on the screen:
- Project installs & learnings
- Client updates
- Organisational updates
- Farewell

They began with project installs but there was nothing happening for the next two weeks.
Karthick announced, “One update in our team. Basically we will not be allowed to bring camera phones inside our restricted area.”
Immediately there was a lot of murmuring.
“In 2 weeks this will be implemented. Basically camera phones will have to be kept outside in a security locker. Like other clients area.”
There were a couple of basic phones available in the market without a camera; most people in other restricted areas used two phones for personal use.
The murmuring continued but Karthick just increased his voice, “Moving on… err… basically from the client side there are some changes.”
The murmuring stopped. For those who weren’t in touch with the rumours they wondered if there was some impact on their work. They had heard from friends that this was how a contract termination was also announced – start by saying there are changes, then talk about the client organisation and then slip in the bad news.
“Umm... Two people are retiring next month – one is a senior person. Basically they are expected to reshuffle the technology team. Considering the market situation there is a possibility of reduction in the US team size. We will have details in the next meeting. Basically it is an opportunity for us to increase team size... umm... Basically, the pipeline looks good for us.”
The team felt a little relieved. Vignesh knew that even during the recession, managers said the pipeline looked strong.
“Basically it is the culmination of the good work that you all have done. That’s why this opportunity has come our way.”

Why don’t we attribute it to being lucky? Our relative salaries are lower; so our billing rates are lower; and they are in a crunch to cut costs. It’s circumstance. How can we take credit for everything?

“Any questions?”
When no one replied, Sir Karthick continued, “Ok then. We will have the farewell.”
The farewell was that of the cadet, the one person whom the Colonel liked in the team and whom he had mentored. The team had to wait five minutes for their manager to appear. According to Vignesh’s theory of corporate politics, the more senior the person, the more accommodative others are when the person comes late. If someone junior came late, then they would be looked down at. If it was someone senior they would say ‘He is very busy.’

When their manager arrived he was lost in a different world. He had a 1-on-1 meeting with the Colonel before lunch and then two back to back meetings after lunch and they all drained him mentally – one was with his boss, the senior manager, and the next one was with the HR manager.

On seeing their manager, Merv started, “As you all know, today is the last day of someone special in our team. Everyone can share their thoughts and we’ll have the farewell speech after that.”
As expected, the Colonel was the first to speak, “I have enjoyed working with you. You were focussed on work. Your deliveries were perfect and you did exhaustive testing. Onsite also had confidence in you. I wish you the very best.”

The manager gazed at the Colonel and wondered if he had suddenly found peace. The Colonel was known to everyone as a disciplinarian who got worked up with the smallest mistakes; he was always full of complaints about everyone – associates coming late, associates wasting time chatting, associates spending too long in the cafeteria and how their team was facing the end of days. Today when he asked for a meeting, the manager wondered if he would complain about him – no one would dare complain about their boss directly but with the Colonel anything was possible. But instead of complaints, he calmly told that he was quitting.

“Thanks. And thanks for all your support and being my mentor,” junior replied to the compliments.
Once the starting trouble was taken care of, others shared their views. Merv said, “All of us will miss the technical tips he shared. We will miss the sort master.”
A lot of times during crisis situations, the tricks he did using the sort tool helped them fix issues quickly.

Sir Karthick said, “Adding to what others have said, actually I was very sad when he said he’s leaving. Having someone of his caliber is a great asset. Basically the client team is very happy with his work and they always liked him. I always liked having him because he would come with alternate ways to solve problems.”

Vignesh tried hard to control his sarcastic laughter; he still remembered a time when both of them had a heated argument over a problem. Junior was arguing that a simple sort was all that was required while Sir Karthick was saying that it could only be done by a change in the code. In the end junior quite literally pushed Sir Karthick and went ahead implementing his idea.
“When you have someone like that, you broaden your scope of thinking. Unfortunately due to personal reasons he has to move. All the best.”
“Thanks Karthick,” he acknowledged.

When the room fell silent, Merv looked in junior's direction and said, “Now it’s time for your farewell speech.”
He delivered a rehearsed speech. “MegaSoft has been a great learning experience for me. I was lucky to work with some great people and there are so many things I learnt. I’d like to thank everyone for their constant support.”

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 7 (chapter 2)

Prior episode

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; Senior Software Engineer; married
  • Merv - same team; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead
  • Colonel - another Team Lead

Chapter 2 - Another one departs


            Vignesh spent the night wondering what might have been the security breach. He reasoned that if Bob wanted him in the loop then it had to do with Lestitude’s customer data. Was the breach due to someone from Megasoft? If that were the case, Vignesh knew that things would go downhill for the company – even if one client were to raise a security concern, there would be a ripple effect across the firm.
Did Bob already know who caused the breach? 

The next morning Vignesh informed his manager he would be late to office since the meeting today would extend past midnight. But he knew he couldn’t sit idle at home till evening; ever since his ex-girlfriend got married he avoided being alone. After his roommate left for work, he headed to the Government school where a chess tournament was in progress.

With black’s first move itself he knew what the seventh grade player was trying to do. But the older opponent didn’t realise it. He played the wrong piece and on black’s next move, the game was over. The opponent was stunned when the kid excitedly announced, “Checkmate!” 
The older kid took a while to grapple with the defeat.
Vignesh commented, “That’s the shortest game you can play. It’s called Fool’s mate.”
“Sir, when did you come? It’s Tuesday. No office today?” the little kid asked with a wide smile.
“I bunked office to see you play.”
“Sir. Stop joking.”
“Just took a break. I’ve been working too much. Too much for the sake of others.”
“Fool’s mate is to fool the other person?” the boy asked while arranging the pieces on the board. His opponent surely didn’t like hearing the word fool.
“Yes, two-move checkmate.” Vignesh had played against the boy many times and had lost to him as well.
“How’s your girlfriend sir?”
“She’s doing good. But she’s not my girlfriend now.”
“Try again Sir. She will like you. Go to her house and ask again. Take a guitar and sing a song.”
“Na; she’s married.”
“She’s unlucky sir.”
Vignesh smiled; he still found it hard to console himself.

“Sir, is there someone to note the result?”
“Let me find someone.”

The most active person among the organisers was a middle-age lady with an id card around her neck that read ‘ATS’, directing a few people around. ATS was an IT service providing company similar to the company that Vignesh worked for. There was sweat all over her face but she was bustling with enthusiasm. In contrast to her, the school officials were happy chatting and sipping tea. Vignesh offered his help in the next round with recording of scores.

    At 1pm, after two rounds were completed, lunch was announced. Vegetarian and non vegetarian students were grouped separately; only 20% were vegetarian. The ATS lady stood on the small makeshift stage and announced, “Students please remain seated. We will serve food in your place. Don’t move around.”
The menu was simple: potato gravy, cauliflower fry, roti, chicken gravy, white rice, buttermilk and gulab jamoon. The trays with food were arranged on a table on one side of the hall. The school staff were piling bones of chicken on their plates as if they had never eaten chicken in their life. When Vignesh was about to pick a plate to eat, one boy called, “Anna, can you give me some chicken.”

Vignesh searched the tray but couldn't find any pieces in the gravy. The server said, “They’re getting another tray.” Vignesh was upset that the school staff were so busy eating that they didn’t care about the students. The ATS lady was visibly exhausted. She sat near the serving area with a little curd rice on her plate. She said, “You can eat something. We’ll manage till you finish.”
“It’s okay. No problem.”
Vignesh had an idea on seeing the students waiting for food. He took a plateful of cauliflower fries and went across tables asking if anyone wanted it. By the time he reached the last table it was empty. As soon as the caterer replenished the chicken curry, he picked the chicken pieces before the school staff could lay their hands on it. By the time he crossed the second table the plate was empty. The ATS lady took over from Vignesh after she finished eating. Vignesh was exhausted but satisfied. His lunch constituted of only gulab jamoons – his favourite sweet.

There were three more rounds before the closing ceremony. The ATS lady gave a short speech thanking all the volunteers and students. She added, “I would also like to thank Vignesh who wasn’t part of our volunteer group but still helped us.”
As she stepped off stage, she told Vignesh. “I know you didn’t have lunch but I hope you have a good dinner. I owe you a treat.”
Vignesh smiled.
“Which company do you work for?” she asked him.
“MegaSoft Solutions. Which technology are you in?”
“I’m a HR.”

His seventh grade friend finished third on the rankings. The boy was feeling the shape of each of the pieces and counting them before placing them back in his small backpack.
Vignesh waited in the bus stop with the kid. He was introduced to the boy and his school a couple of days after his proposal was rejected by the girl he madly loved. He used to visit the school on weekends and spend a couple of hours with the kids teaching or playing chess to divert his mind. He would start by reading something from their textbooks but invariably the kids would start talking about politics or technology. Seeing the kids being cheerful and cracking jokes made him happy on weekends. They helped him divert his mind from the rejection.

“Your bus is here. It came before mine.”
“Na Sir. You’re lying. You left your bus for me.”
Vignesh had a sheepish grin. “Go on.”
Before boarding the bus, the boy shouted, “Bye Sir. Come to school.” He used the aluminium stick in his right hand to locate the entrance to the bus. He didn’t need any help; he hardly needed a few seconds to hop into the bus unassisted.
The boy was completely blind.

While Vignesh was waiting for his bus, he noticed an elderly man near him reading the business section of the newspaper. Vignesh took a peek at the main articles – there was one about a European bank doing damage control after some of its customer information was posted online by a disgruntled employee who had recently quit. Vignesh pondered over the Lestitude situation – was it possible that the Colonel or his junior, the cadet, had done something? Both of them were openly in protest of everything that happened. And the Marshal did behave strangely during his notice period; the calmness in him was something Vignesh had never seen earlier. Was it possible?

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 6 (chapter 1)

Prior episode

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Bob - Vicky's client
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; Senior Software Engineer; married
  • Merv - same team; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead

(THE PAST continued)

While Vignesh’s phone was ringing, Merv noticed the instant messenger blinking.
Andrew: Looks like it’s stuck in the database
Merv passed the information to Karthick.
Karthick: oh
Karthick was someone who could talk on any topic for hours but judging by his response Merv realised that even he didn’t have any suggestions.
Andrew: DBA says database is fine. Some problem with the code
Merv: Ok

With the DBA (database administrator) saying nothing was wrong, it meant they were on their own. While looking at dependencies on this job, Merv was shocked.
Merv: there’s an SLA of 11am
Karthick: oh

An SLA (Service Level Agreement) was a binding legal contract between Lestitude and their customers. An SLA miss can lead to monetary damages and even lawsuits. And if Lestitude missed an SLA because of MegaSoft, the consequences would be drastic. Merv went through everything once again in the hope that something would strike him; but nothing did. With no ideas popping and his head aching, he stepped out of the cubicle again. He wished Vignesh were around because he would definitely have ideas. After trying Vignesh’s phone one more time, he took another break. This time he picked an umbrella from the stack that was kept at the entrance to DC3 – every DC had an umbrella stand with MegaSoft umbrellas that people could use while they walked between DCs.

    On the 3rd floor of the food court was a dormitory with 20 beds and a few shower rooms as well. Merv swiped his ID card to obtain access to the dorm. The dim light from the passage that led to the shower rooms was sufficient to identify the occupied beds. Merv had never slept in the dormitory but he had used the shower a few times. The usage of the dorm had dropped drastically after there was a strict policy of governance on dorm usage – in case someone used it frequently, they and their boss were questioned.

Picking a towel from the neatly stacked lot, he stepped into a shower room. Merv always felt better after taking a shower when he had these headaches. He adjusted the shower for warm water. The orange box was still running in his mind and he wondered what could be wrong? 
The code had never changed, volume of input hadn’t increased, there were only four places in the code that the database was accessed and they were never modified in the last few months. 

As he enjoyed the shower, it suddenly struck him.

Vignesh taught me this. Why didn’t I think of it before?

He was careful not to run into the dorm for fear of waking the two employees who were sleeping peacefully. He swiped his card to exit the room and dashed down the stairs. Thankfully the rain had stopped. Merv didn’t ping anyone; he checked the code and the database to confirm his reasoning. In his excitement, he quickly modified the code and tested it. The problem didn't crop up in development with the faulty code because the database had a lot fewer records.
Merv: we should include the new column in the four queries
Karthick: oh
Merv: the database was changed to add this column but this code wasn’t changed
Karthick: ok

He called Karthick and explained the problem. Immediately Karthick began lecturing about databases. But Merv was so excited that he didn’t allow Karthick to talk for long. He told him about the modified code that he created before disconnecting the call. With the help of Andy he got the new program executed in production. The SLA deadline was two hours away. After 58 minutes the orange box turned green. Karthick pinged asking him to go home. The time on the computer read 20:40 and the mess where he ate dinner would close at 9pm.

The roads inside campus and outside were contrasting. There wasn’t any water logging in the pathways in office but the roads outside had ankle deep water even though the rain had stopped an hour ago. This was supposed to be the grand IT highway but though companies were mushrooming on the main road, interior development was very slow. The Andhra mess with an asbestos roof was halfway between office and his home. The mess was packed to capacity even in this rain except for one vacant seat in the centre table. On seeing Merv, the mother of the household put up a big smile. She always liked to see Merv because he was one of the few customers who talked to her. 
Another call to Vignesh yielded a different response – the mobile was not reachable. Merv wondered where he could have gone for so long without informing anyone.

Monday morning Vignesh tried to start his day with a happy face. He reminded himself of how lucky he was; he reminded himself of the poor man in the underpass. There were 40 unread mails in Vignesh’s mailbox and many of them had a similar subject line. The first one was from Merv who had solved an issue and fixed the code; he had kept Vignesh in the loop. The second one was a reply of thanks from Sir Karthick:
“Thanks Merv for researching the problem. I will talk to the client about this.”

The third one was a reply from their client. The client appreciated Karthick and added a note for Vignesh on the last project that was successfully validated a few days earlier. On reading the mail a second time he noticed that Merv was not mentioned; the original mail from Karthick didn’t include him either. The next mail was from their manager, sent today morning, appreciating Karthick and Vignesh and also had their SPM, the Senior Project Manager, in the loop. The final mail on this thread was from their SPM who replied immediately. He was known to stay connected via his Blackberry from early in the morning to late at night all through the week.

A few minutes later when Merv came to office, he excitedly updated Vignesh about his learnings on Saturday.
“Ya, I saw the mail. Karthick was in office?”
“No. He logged from home.”

Did Karthick intentionally not include Merv in his mail to the client?

Karthick soon walked in, shook Merv’s hand and announced, “Well done Merv. The clients were very happy with your work. You ensured there will be no future problem. Good job.”
Merv felt proud as his team mates turned around to look at what was happening.
“Well done. Keep it up,” Karthick repeated.

This is what they call on the spot appreciation! ‘Give credit to your team; put the spotlight on your team; appreciate them.’ What crap; hog the limelight yourself and extract maximum benefits from the situation. This was a coverup.

Vignesh’s mood turned from cheerful to angry; he was furious and as if on cue, someone started clapping and everyone followed suit.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Corporate Politrics - 5 (chapter 1)

Prior episode

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Bob - Vicky's client
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; Senior Software Engineer; married
  • Merv - same team; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead

(THE PAST continued)

Merv hadn’t done much for the day but he felt tired due to the unsolved issue. Since they would have to wait a while to know if rerunning would magically solve the problem, he stepped out of the secured area in search of friends. Unknown faces looked up to see who was intruding their cubicle space. At this hour, the ones who remained in the building were those who were seriously working. The casual timepass employees were back home by now. Finally he saw a familiar face – Sreejith, who was part of their lunch gang, was slumped in a chair. Only his head was to be seen above the table.

“Hey, what are you still doing?” 
Sreejith’s cubicle had full attendance.
“We have a prototype demo on Monday.”
“Your boss is not around?” Merv searched for the friendly teddy bear face of Sreejith’s boss. 
“He never came. Told us to complete this by Monday. And told us to keep him updated throughout the weekend.”

Every desk had a small whiteboard near the computer and all four whiteboards in Sreejith’s cubicle were filled with data – grids, tables, algorithms and even some sketches drawn in frustration.

“According to Vignesh’s corporate politics theory, as they climb the ladder they work on only presentations and spreadsheets.”
Merv proudly said, “But my boss is online.”
“Don’t tell me he’s helping you.”
“He’s trying,” Merv defended.
“Nothing like that. You’re dreaming. Just because he’s logged into the machine doesn’t mean anything. He will be logged in but romancing his wife.”
“He’s not married.”
“Ok. His girlfriend.”
Merv shrugged his shoulders.
Sreejith said, “Our boss is also going to get promoted like yours.”
“To PL?”
“Ya. Crazy – he has years of experience but no skills. Look at his place; you will see a line of certificates as if they are Oscar awards.”

Merv peeped into the single seater cubicle; even training completion certificates were proudly displayed as if they were hard to get.

“We’ll do everything, all the dirty work. He’ll get an update from us and copy paste that to the world as if he knows everything.”
Obviously all four of them in the cubicle didn’t like their boss since Sreejith was talking loudly.

            Vignesh was completely drenched in the rain but he kept walking at a slow pace on the main road with vehicles on either side honking. On one of the main junctions on Mount Road there was chaos since the signals were not working and there was no traffic policeman. Vignesh continued on a straight line unaffected as vehicles swerved around him. Tears rolled down his face, mixed with rain water. He felt the rain Gods were also crying with him.

He found himself on the right side of the road near the Gemini flyover, a prominent landmark in Chennai that connected four main areas of the city; on one side was the American consulate and on another side a premium hotel. 

Many people huddled under the shelter offered by a bus stop. Vignesh instead sat on the footpath in front of the bus stop with his face buried in his palms. An auto-driver came very close to him and paused for a while. Vignesh certainly didn’t look like a potential passenger since he was already drenched. After a while, unaware of how long he had spent sitting, he walked to the underpass used for crossing the road. A few people were crowded at the entrance, peeking from time to time in the hope that a bus would show up. The steps heading down were wet and there was a little water stagnating at the bottom.

Inside the underpass there were a couple of men in ragged clothes lying on opposite sides. Vignesh wondered why there weren’t more such men in this place; it seemed safe to spend the night. The man on the left was well equipped; he was lying on a bed-sheet and had another bed-sheet to cover himself. The man on the right didn’t have any sheet; his torn shirt was a khaki shirt similar to the ones worn by bus drivers. Below his waist he had something like a half length dhoti. It was hard to guess his age because he had an unkempt beard and his curly blackish brown hair was falling over his face. His thin legs had open wounds, the sight of which pained Vignesh. The man used a couple of soiled Tamil newspapers as mattress. Vignesh walked slowly, observing every action. Behind the man was a partially squashed plastic bottle with some brown fluid inside that looked like tea or coffee. The bottle was between his back and the wall. It was as if he were guarding a precious possession because even if he closed his eyes, he would know if someone tried to take the bottle. The man suddenly bolted upright as if he had an urgent appointment and crossed his legs. He looked to his left to see Vignesh, a harmless passerby. He had seen many people today but seeing someone wearing a jacket and yet being drenched was something new. The world was crazy the man thought to himself. He picked the bottle gently as if it were fragile. Beside the bottle was a small white plastic cup that was smeared in dirt. Vignesh noticed a faint smile on the man’s face as he poured the tea slowly into the cup. No hurry, no wastage. The tea was adulterated with lots of water. He slowly sipped the liquid from the dirty cup which he must have used a hundred times. He smiled with each sip, unaware that the drenched passerby was staring at him. The man was lost in his own world of joy with his cup of tea. There he was lying in the underpass with stains on the walls, puddles of muddy water in front of him, mosquitoes buzzing around, open wounds that hadn't healed and there he was smiling with his watery drink.

Realising that he was staring for too long, Vignesh moved forward. Hardly had he taken a few steps when tears rushed down in full force matching the downpour outside.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 4 (chapter 1)

Prior episode

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Bob - Vicky's client
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; Senior Software Engineer; married
  • Merv - same team as Vignesh; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead

(THE PAST continued)

            As the Saturday progressed, so did Vignesh’s depression. He took a bus to Express Avenue, one of the biggest malls in Chennai. Given the large area, Vignesh wandered aimlessly – to a casual observer they would have thought he was window shopping but he was filled with thoughts about the girl he had been mad about. Whenever he saw a guy and a girl walking hand-in-hand he was pained by the sight. It was 2pm when the amount of walking took a toll on his body; the sight of a KFC counter made him pause. For many months he had avoided junk food as much as possible due to his girlfriend because the effect of such food would immediately reflect on his physique. But today he hoarded on fries, chicken nuggets, potato wedges and a glass of Diet Coke to wash it all down. Feeling satisfied with the food he looked around at the people on other tables. The feeling of joy was instantly forgotten at the sight of guys in the company of pretty girls. He immediately left the mall.

The skies looked threatening but he didn’t care. Even if an earthquake were to strike he would not have cared. He walked for more than thirty minutes in the direction of a movie complex on Mount Road. This was an underrated multiplex – except for the congested parking, the seats and theatre was as good as any other in the city. The first sight that welcomed Vignesh was a couple standing in the queue buying tickets. The guy held the girl’s right hand at the counter; he held it firmly and refused to leave her hand even while pulling out money to pay for the ticket. Vignesh looked away and waited till the happy couple moved out.

“Which movie sir?”
“For which movie now do you have tickets?”
“How many sir?” the lady asked him as if this were a normal request. For Vignesh this was the first time he was walking into a movie theatre without booking beforehand.
There were a couple of movies – one was an English comedy and the other was a Telugu one. His aim was to kill three hours and didn’t care how.

    The hall was only half full; but since it was running for more than a week he thought it must have been a decent movie. There were two words that he understood other than the regular usage of English mixed with Telugu.
“Ekadda?” the hero would ask and a friend would give him directions on where to find the heroine.
And there were instances when the characters would suddenly shriek, “Enti?”
This was supposed to be an action thriller but not knowing the language, Vignesh just went through the motions. For once he didn’t mind the loud jarring songs since they drowned the cries of his heart. A group of youngsters in front of him were laughing all through the movie; they were obviously making fun of every move made by the hero while one person in the group was trying hard to defend him. Everyone around was talking in Telugu. During the interval Vignesh realised that he had forgotten his mobile at home. He bought a small cup of caramel coated popcorn that cost an exorbitant Rs.150; people watching movies didn’t seem to mind spending money. 

And why not when you have your love with you? 

The boys in front obviously knew the sequence of scenes because even before the item-song started, they began screaming and howling. The skimpily dressed model was dancing in a bar; the audience in the bar and the audience in the theatre were whistling and applauding every move she made. The model was supposed to have been paid a crore for this song. It was quite a provocative dance and there was a mother in the audience who was uncomfortable with her young kid watching the so called dance steps. She took the boy outside and as soon as the song ended she returned with the boy gleefully licking on an ice-cream cone. The item-song certainly made everyone happy except Vignesh who was unimpressed. Item-songs had become mandatory in Indian films; some called it vulgarity while some called it art – in the end it was a simple case of catering to the demand.

    The staircase leading to the exit was crammed with people and moved very slowly because of the rain outside. It was 7:50pm when Vignesh stepped on the street wearing his jacket. He was greeted by a strong increase in the intensity of rain. The gully road connecting to the main road was flooded with water till knee level. Vignesh placed his right hand on a compound wall while wading slowly through the water by placing one foot ahead of him to test for open manholes. Open manholes had consumed many a life this year in the city. Till he reached the main road he had the hood of the jacket over his head. Once on the main road he wondered, ‘Why am I so worried of getting drenched in the rain? Is rain a bigger worry?’

He pulled off the hood wondering why he had even taken the jacket in the first place and why he was worried about manholes. If the earth wanted to suck him, he was fine with it.
He cursed himself for having believed things would change; he cursed himself for the way he behaved; he cursed himself for having cared for her even after being rejected.

Was it because of caste that she rejected me? Or was caste an excuse? 

He cursed the caste system. But he reasoned that if she really loved him, caste wouldn’t have deterred her. He knew people who had married across castes.

Why did I believe that she liked me? What’s the point of life?

            Gokul and Merv had lunch in the foodcourt and then played snooker in the second floor. Gokul said, “I’ve not defeated you even once.”
He envied Merv; not because of him being a better player but because of his independence – a bachelor who could do anything he pleased at anytime.
Both of them played till 3pm when Merv’s phone vibrated.
“Oh damn.”
Gokul teased, “Your wakeup call.”

When the red light started flashing on the dashboard, depending on the criticality of the job an automated message would be sent. The expectation was that the primary person should respond to the alert within five minutes. If they didn’t, then the alert would be escalated to the secondary and then their manager.

“Got to go.” Saying so he dashed down the steps and ran on the stone path to DC3. To his surprise there was no red box on the screen. In his hurry he hadn’t even checked the message. The dashboard had an orange box. Orange meant an unusual delay in the job. He had seen a few oranges in the past but they would disappear on their own. He hoped the same would be the case today.

Gokul received a call from his wife. He wanted to ignore it but finally decided against it because otherwise he would have had to put up with her lecture at night.
“Ok ok; I know.”
His wife was explaining which type of banana she wanted. Her shrill voice sounded like an opera singer on the phone.
“I won’t forget.”
Immediately after he disconnected the call, he got a message from his wife with the same information.

Merv was a little worried. The job was already 35 minutes late.
“Not solved?” asked Gokul getting up from his chair.
“Check if there was some code change.” There were instances when problems happened because of some goof up they did in the development team.
“Nothing in one year.”
“Maybe there is more data to process,” Gokul suggested.
“Input is smaller than last time.”
Andrew, from the system services team, messaged him on their internal messenger.
Andrew: Any idea about the problem?
He began typing Andrew but then changed it to Andy. He didn’t know why Andrew was always called Andy or why Robert was a Bob and not Rob. In fact he was told that a Robert wouldn’t like to be called Robert.

Merv: Andy, I’m not sure. The code’s not been changed
Andrew: Okay. Let me check where it’s taking time
Merv: Ok

Gokul took a look at the issue but didn’t have any clues. He suggested, “What about Vignesh?”

The phone kept ringing till it was replaced by a recording, ‘The subscriber you have dialled is unavailable. Please try again later.’ He tried again three times but to no avail. The next person he tried was Karthick, his boss. Unlike Vignesh, he responded immediately and connected to the network from home. Merv hoped Karthick would have some ideas.

Karthick: run the job in dev region
Merv: k

It took him an hour to setup the job and in 15 minutes it completed. He relayed the message to Karthick. He suggested to rerun the job in production. The production job was now running overtime for 150 minutes. Gokul had disappeared.

Merv: Andy, can you rerun the job? We ran in dev and its fine

Andy didn’t respond for a long time; he was unconvinced by the approach. Even Merv was unconvinced but not having any ideas of his own he thought of giving it a try. Rerunning worked whenever a job failed; but this job hadn't failed.

Andrew: Okay

Merv hadn’t done much for the day but he felt tired due to the unsolved issue. Since they would have to wait a while to know if rerunning would magically solve the problem, he stepped out of the secured area in search of friends. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Corporate Politricks - 3 (chapter 1)

Prior episode

A recap of the main characters who have appeared till this episode:
  • Vignesh (Vicky) - Team Lead. Hoping for promotion; competing with Karthick
  • Bob - Vicky's client
  • Gokul - same team as Vignesh; Senior Software Engineer; married
  • Merv - same team as Vignesh; hired by Karthick; Associate Software Engineer
  • Karthick (Sir Karthick) - Team Lead

(THE PAST continued)

            The following morning Vignesh was restless. He was someone who was late to bed and late to rise on weekends but today was different – he woke up early and was anxious. He struggled to eat cornflakes and kept checking the time frequently as if that would make it move faster. He had messaged her a few times but for three hours didn't receive a reply. There were a couple of times when people had rejected her saying she was dark or saying that she was too lean and he couldn’t believe that people could say such things to her. There was no one to disturb Vignesh since his roommate had gone to Bangalore for the weekend. Vignesh didn’t know what he wanted: one side wished that she would get married soon so that he could move on in life while the other side wished that he was the one for her. 
Finally there was a ping sound from his laptop.
gud news

Those two words were enough for Vignesh to guess how the morning went. Everything was finalised – marriage was within a month and they had even booked the marriage hall.
Vignesh: congrats

He thought over the months that had passed. Damn.

She messaged again.
u shud come 4 marriage. im booking ur time now itself

He had no idea how he would attend her marriage. The more he thought of it, the more angry he felt.

How could I see another guy holding her hand? Damn; it’s unfair. Two years mad about her has come to this. And the London guy did it through a webcam in ten minutes.

He was unsure if he was angry on her or on himself for having lived in an illusionary world, dreaming that someday she would change her rejection to acceptance. Or maybe it was anger for having been defeated – defeated in ten minutes. Thinking of defeat reminded him of his meeting with his manager yesterday; even there he had been defeated.

Vignesh was happy that they were chatting online. Even on phone one could guess the other person’s state but online it was very difficult to pick the signs.
chk his photo.. i sent u now..

This was one of the rare occasions where she hadn’t shown him the photo before the meeting. The guy was a little chubby with a nerdish look because of his round frameless glasses. Vignesh knew that she liked both those features and he had neither of them. Vignesh was skinny, average height, no spectacles and a slightly protruding waistline.
Vignesh: looks gud
Vignesh: hey I got to go now. Catch you later. Enjoy your duets in wonderland

There was nowhere to go but he had a fear that the longer they chatted, the higher the probability of him saying something inappropriate. He told himself that he had to move on in life. Sometimes it is choices that create confusions. But no matter how he tried to console himself, he felt hurt. He felt life was cruel to deal blows like this one after the other.

            Merv cheerfully wished the security guards in office as if it were a regular weekday. He was the primary support person for the weekend. Everyday there was a batch cycle that ran during the US night time. The cycle consisted of a sequence of steps or jobs. In case any job failed, the support person had to resolve the issue so that the cycle could resume. Due to the time zone difference, the Friday night cycle in US was effectively a Saturday morning cycle in Indian time. The time zone difference was one reason for US companies to outsource to India. Merv didn’t mind being the primary on weekends since he was anyway coming to office every Saturday. And weekend support earned him an extra allowance. He could have availed the cab service as well but having moved within a ten-minute walking distance of office, he considered it as indulging in excess. Office was already providing him a lot of perks: free Internet, unlimited drinking water that was the best water he could get, electricity without interruption while the rest of the city had daily load shedding and central air-conditioning to beat the Chennai heat.

Merv headed to the second floor of DC3. Their area was a secure area – only people working on projects for the client Lestitude Financials were allowed to enter. Certain clients who were worried of data security demanded such areas. There was a mini-lobby with a couple of security men who searched bags: backpacks, laptop bags and plastic bags were always inspected; no personal laptops or memory cards were permitted. Merv had a friendly chitchat with the guard before flashing his card against the turnstile to enter the secure area. The Lestitude Financials secured area was a little relaxed compared to other clients who didn’t even permit camera mobiles.

After picking a cup of coffee from the pantry, Merv went through his emails and checked the online dashboard where he could view the cycle execution. Saturday was when he caught up with the huge number of unread forward emails in his inbox. Many of them were pictures of actresses from different woods – Hollywood, Kollywood, Bollywood, Tollywood etc. There were some jokes while some that claimed to be life-saving tips were actually harmful tips that could kill a person.

Gokul came to office in a bright orange t-shirt. Though married, he was a frequent Saturday visitor and on Saturdays he always sported flashy colours. His wife hadn't woken up when he was getting ready and so there was no restriction on what to wear. Her waking up late on weekends was a constant complaint from his mom.
“Hi, how’s the cycle going?”
“So far so good.”

Gokul found the peace in office comforting than the commotion at home where his parents and wife kept nagging him. Either his parents wanted to go out or his wife wanted to go out; he was tired of driving within the city on weekends and the constant pestering at home.
“What forward are you analysing?” he asked Merv.
“The one on heart attacks.”
Gokul took his seat to the left of Merv in the same cubicle. “Ah; rub your heart while driving to save yourself.” It was an email that Gokul had sent.
“It works only for a specific type of heart attack; not all.”
“If it works, it’s good.”
“Yeah. People will keep rubbing instead of going to the doctor!”

These were the forward emails Merv spent most time reading on weekends – he’d research the information online, find sources that claimed it was false and then reply back to the sender as well as his group of friends highlighting the mistake. Merv felt obliged to reveal the truth.

A few minutes later the dashboard was flashing in red.
“Oh damn; first job down for the day.”

Over time Merv learnt that whenever a job failed, the first thing to do was rerun the job and hope it completed successfully. It sounded a ridiculously simple solution but that’s what worked often.

He called the system services team in the US which was part of the client’s IT workforce.
“Hi, good evening.” It certainly wasn’t evening for them but he couldn’t start the conversation with a good night. “Can you rerun a job?” He gave the job details and in a minute the red changed to yellow and then green.