welcome to yet another edition of v!be.

issue #16 (long overdue!)

Last week I was asked to co-judge a poster competition at an all-india science conference. Now, I have always been at the receiving end of judgements- at home, at school, in college, from my teachers, parents and peers- on my character, my work and what not. And sure enough I have come to hate them all. All along I have borne a grudge against these "judges" and "jurors" who are incapable of understanding my "true" worth and I have questioned their decisions(of course the ones unfavourable to me) as being ad-hoc or biased or plain downright incompetent.

Now here I was, part of a team of three responsible to select a winning poster, all geared up to do the "right" thing. We were handed out sheets of paper and there were columns pertaining to attributes like "content","verbal presentation","display" etc. and we were supposed to mark them on a scale of 20- all so very nice and proper. I generally assumed that finally we would sum up all our scores for all the contestants and then rank them and so went around the exhibition with a lot of zeal, giving scores as I felt "right". A total of 14 exhibits and half and hour later, the three of us gathered together with the coordinator to deicide upon the winners. One of the judges handed over his marksheet and went off on an important call. So there we were, 2 judges, a coordinator, 3 sheets of paper and a total of 14(participants) x 5(attributes) x 3(sheets) "handwritten"(no "ms-excel" magic to add them up) numbers!

So we came up with what in the scientific community they call "heuristics" - a process that is fast, approximate, devoid of any reason but works!(hopefully). We did a quick mental addition of marks (and none of us were good at that so god knows how many errors we made) and listed the top 3 contestants from each of the 3 sheets. Now, the first problem arose. It seems the judge who had left had given 20 out of 20 in each attribute to a participant and he had even voiced how impressed he was with that guy "and", most importantly, that judge was an important professor! So, even though that particular participant was nowhere in our lists of top three, we "had" to include him. Now we had two more to choose (we had decided to declare 3 joint winners). So the two of us tallied our rankings and there was noone in common! So we went back to our original score sheet and did a real mess of finding out near-common rankings and by the time everything was done, the two names that we finally came up with was nowhere in my "real" list of top three (or top five for that matter!).

I finally came out of this frustrating experience with a new perspective to contests and judgements, and now I can say that it's true judgements are seldom right but it's not the judges' fault! So here are my sincere apologies to all those who I have mentally cursed for having done me wrong in all the judgements I have endured.


issue #15

Moms are a curious lot, and mine is no different. For all those dumbing soaps that she watches on the telly, her mind is as razor sharp as ever; her reasoning just too perfect. I have never won an argument against her; I guess no son ever has.

As usual I called up home last week and at the end of our conversations she was chanting her usual list of "take care of"s -

"...and take care when you go up and down the stairs..."

"mom, I shifted my place yesterday, and its now on the ground floor of the same apartment. So you can rest assured, no problems with climbing stairs!", I said, relieved that I had finally put my mom's mind to rest, only to find out how wrong I was!

"The ground floor did you say? Take care not to keep the doors and windows open all the time...what with insects and snakes and stuff!..." and on and on it went :-)

And then one day she tells me "It must be dull living all alone in the city...try going out and making friends...It pains us to know our son is lonely, you should interact more with people...".

So I call her up yesterday to tell her how the bunch of guys who have recently moved in to the apartment next to mine had invited me over for lunch and I had a great time; and I am thinking that NOW she must end all her worries about my loneliness, and pat comes the reply-

"New guys?...Where do they work? Do you know them well?...How do you know they are "good" company? Take care of yourself from the people around you son, the times are really bad ....". You absolutely can't beat her, can you? :-).

And for all of that, I simply LOVE my mom!


in today's issue:
rags2riches | victuals | poetry | shorts | critique

issue #14

India is still riding high on the BPO wave and it has brought about a sense of well-being among a sizable population. However, though "outsourcing" is a relatively new term for us, Indians are not knew to the "concept", which has been prevalent in several quarters of our society in different guises, and not always with benfecial results.

The first thing that comes to mind is the "outsourcing" prevalent among teachers in government sponsored schools in rural areas. For a long time now, many of these teachers are in the practise of recruiting local youth (of questionable educational background) to take charge of the school lessons for a small fraction of the money that they are paid by the government, while they live a dual life in the city and own flourishing businesses. That is one outsourcing that has cost our education system dearly.

And then, there is my housemaid! For months I have wondered why is it that she piles up my clothes dumped to be washed for a whole week (citing one excuse or the other- and I don't even understand her language enough to retort) and then, over the weekend the clothpile simple vanishes, and on Monday there are my clothes neatly laid out on the rack- not only cleaned but also ironed (of course she charges extra for that!). And then I managed to find out the truth- she outsources her work to the local dhobi(washerman) and manages to make a decent profit out of it!

On hearing this, my friend tells me that he's seen such incidents among municipal workers in his locality too! At B-Schools they say "delegation of work" is the key to management. I guess we Indians know that only too well.


PS1: thought you all should know, rags2riches predicted the FM's rehaul of all tax exemption sections, much before the budget proposal (in the new year resolutions article)! kudos to jksherdiwala.

PS2: please please please... comment on the works you read- even if it be a simple "good work" or "crap".... all of us here simple wait with bated breath for every single comment. thank you for helping us write better.

in today's issue:

shorts | rags2riches | critique | victuals

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