Saturday, September 7, 2019

In Love With Death

In Love With Death

I am crying to release myself
From the shackles of death;
My tears are turning into vapors
Against my warm cheeks
That are burning because of
The salt in my oozing sweat.
I am barely able to take a step;
And yet I am pushed to walk
To feel the bruising pain of
The fetters around my ankles.

Holding an old and rusty cup
Of a few gulps of dirty water,
And walking with clumsy steps,
With my hands inside the cuffs:
Which are designed such that
The fingers turn hard and stiff;
They cannot clasp anything
Except for heavy rocks of burden.
After a lifetime of carrying them
I am thrown in a deserted land
Like an unfed defenseless animal.
My mouth is parched of thirst,
And I cannot even bring the cup
To my lips as it cuts my wrists
That will make me bleed to death.

I want to take a few breaths
To live a few moments more,
Even in this dying hope
To get a glimpse of you.
Because you know my darling,
You are worth dying for.
Even a hazy memory of you
Adds a drop of life in me.

It is time; I surrender to death
By getting fed into the inferno.
I shout and scream for mercy;
My screeching throat tears open
Until it exudes tiny drops of blood;
But they are vaporized instantly
Due to the blaze of the raging fire.
But something flashed before my eyes
A moment before my last breath;
Then I smiled and embraced my end.

With you always by my side,
I was never left alone!
You were my guardian angel.
So I was not unfortunate after all:
To have no bonds, no memories,
No sorrows, no joys, no love -
A life without struggles or feelings!
If I had absolutely nothing to lose,
I would have left empty-handed
Except for loneliness and regret.
Instead, I realized how lucky I was:
With my share of love and joy,
I had something precious to lose,
Something which I left behind;
That made my life worth living.

This poem is inspired by the lines in the movie: Kingsman: The Golden Circle. When I was watching the film and saw these lines delivered, I was awestruck. Then I wrote this poem later that night at 2 AM.
Harry Hart: When I was shot, can you guess what the last thing was that flashed through my mind? It was absolutely nothing. I had no ties. No bittersweet memories. I was leaving nothing behind. Never experienced companionship, never been in love. And in that moment, all I felt was loneliness and regret. 
[Harry pours the martini in two glasses]

Eggsy: I'm sorry.

Harry Hart: Don't be. Just know that having something to lose... 
[hands martini to Eggsy]

Harry Hart: is what makes life worth living. Now, lets go and save your girl.

Eggsy: I missed you, Harry.
Secondly, the reference to the 'companion' is not to be taken literally. It is not just a lover or a life partner that we lose when we die. But we also lose what we passionately love doing. Like the poet leaves behind his lifetime of poems, the artist leaves behind his paintings, and so on.

September 7, 2019

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On The Contrary

On The Contrary

It appears that the clouds have wrapped the hilltop,
But a massage of cool mist is being done over its head.
And the groves are swaying in pain wanting it to stop,
Instead, they are dancing in the rainy winds on the moist bed.

The roar of the thunderstorms is as horrifying as a monster,
Without which there won't be a grand welcome of the rains.
A deadly threat to the farm fields is the leaf-eating caterpillar,
Without which the sky and the rainbows are just the remains.

If you are chasing a thief for some cents and a few dollars,
Should the ailing mother of that criminal die of starvation?
If a corrupt leader is running a nation wearing a white collar,
What should the people vouch for: governance or destitution?

If sitting in utter silence is taken as an act of ignorance,
Then who will care about his struggle of looking up to you?
If a man with persuasive skill utters words with elegance,
Will you trust his words or his devious actions against you?

Plenty of trees are cut down for the sake of ambition,
But the revenge of Nature is looked upon as bad luck.
When a loud voice of anger leads to violent commotion,
Just listening to its pleading undertone can prevent havoc.

If fame pours in a lot of fans and fills up the cup of glory,
Then why is it sitting in the darkest corners of loneliness?
If gold coins and silver platters are treasured to curb misery,
Then why are they just covered in cobwebs of uselessness?

Now that I am clueless about what my next lines should be,
I decide to end it as there is no more juice left in the can.
On the contrary, is this poem as mindless as it seems to be,
Or is it the embers flickering from the whims of a mad man?

August 28, 2019

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Subtle Art of Conducting Job Interviews

Conducting a job interview is an art. A company looking for good candidates will have to master this art. 

I was unemployed for five months. “Unemployed” is a heavy word if you have lived through it. I had applied for numerous job openings. But, I got only a few calls for interviews. It really took a toll on my emotions seeing every minute of every day just pass by without bearing any fruit. Having financial commitments and a family to support, believe it or not, it's tougher than it sounds. As time progressed, in spite of keeping my mind occupied with interview preparation, I began to lose focus while anxiety overpowered me gradually. The feeling of idleness was even harder to get rid of.

Now I have finally got a job and I thought: why not share my interview experiences? There are tons of resources available on how job seekers should prepare for interviews. This post tries to give a guiding light to the recruiters and highlights some of the good practices to follow in order to unleash the potential of job seekers.

When the candidate gets a call for the interview, it is safe to say that his profile was screened and the hiring manager found it to be suitable for the company's needs. As a preliminary step, it is crucial for the recruiter to set the agenda for the interview. Let's admit that there isn't a company that works on all the science and technology in the market. The candidate should be briefed about what areas will be focused on during the interview. And if possible, study material should be provided. This will set the expectations correctly. (Mind you, this is not to be mistaken with the skills mentioned as part of the job description.) Then it should be up to the candidate to choose the interview date. Top companies like Google, Atlassian, and Amazon follow this step diligently.

Some companies do telephonic interviews before they call the candidates for in-person/face-to-face interviews. Prepare only those questions which could be answered over the phone. If it's going to be a programming question, let the candidate know well in advance that a laptop and an internet connection is required. But please do not ask system design or software architecture related questions. He will neither be comfortable to answer them nor will he answer them convincingly. Such questions are best answered on a whiteboard in an in-person interview. That's why it is rightly said that a picture speaks a thousand words. If you are looking for logical answers to programming puzzles when the candidate is not equipped with a laptop and internet, then be satisfied with the approach; don't expect him to dictate the program statements over phone.

Personally, I dislike telephonic interviews. In my experience, the calls disconnected in the middle of ongoing discussion or the interviewer's voice broke in between. Then I had to shout, "Hello? Can you hear me?" many times. It was quite embarrassing. Just when I thought I could get back in action, the flow was lost. It was annoying. There was one occasion when luck favored me. When the recruiter scheduled a telephonic interview with me, I asked him if I need to be ready with a laptop and internet. "No need. There will be no programming," he replied. But then my sixth sense told me to be ready anyway. And it happened just as I anticipated. There was a programming question; the interviewer had assumed that I was in front of my laptop connected to the internet. Fortunately, I cracked that telephonic interview round.

On the day of the in-person interview, you should be compassionate enough to understand the state of the candidate's mind. It will be nervous and messed up with unwanted thoughts. It will be relentlessly seeking for peace. For experienced professionals, getting a call for the interview itself is difficult; because, the candidate might have applied for more than 50 job postings in many months and this could be his first interview. So, it is very important for the interviewer to make him comfortable. Just before the interview begins, make the candidate feel more at ease and completely at home by offering a glass of water, tea or coffee. Ask him if he wants to use the restroom. Give him a moment to collect his thoughts. Treat him as a valuable guest and casually express that it has been an honor to have him for the interview and you are eager to know about him and his professional journey. This kind of hospitality will help him relax. He will give his best shot in cracking the interview. Therefore, it makes a big impression on him. It reflects your company's culture. Think of the candidate as a potential team member, not as someone who has come to challenge you. It should be your objective to understand his strengths, not his weaknesses. Don't make him feel inferior to yourself.

On a few occasions, it has so happened to me that the interviewers didn't show up or didn't show up on time. And even when they showed up, there was that unwelcoming attitude with their faces bloated with ego. (Yes, as a candidate, I am quite observant.) They didn't even wear a smile. It turned me off. I felt like I was treated like garbage ready to be broomed out fast. They didn't even care to ask me if I wanted to have some water. It just shattered my hopes. Come on people, we are humans first, professionals later!

Now let's start with the interview. Irrespective of candidate's experience, always begin with simple and fundamental questions, then gradually raise the bar with subsequent questions. Then you will have a fair idea on where the candidate stands on a scale of ten. You will understand his strengths. With this progressive way of evaluation, the candidate's self-confidence will be restored, and he will be able to think right. With bar raiser questions, give him hints. It's just because of the interview environment, he could be just missing a tiny bit or trying hard to recall. Secondly, ask him to explain the current project or the most exciting project he has worked on. He will be happy to answer it if he has really worked on it. Start understanding more about it by probing deeper. Don't assume or expect that he will cover the entire journey all by himself. He needs signposts. This will bring out how well he is able to structure his thoughts and communicate them to you. You will really learn whether he fits well in your team or not. You will learn about his proactiveness - whether he was able to stretch and deliver. After the interview, with such hospitality, even if the candidate is unable to meet your expectations, he won't have bitterness in his heart. He will remember you for the positive experience and will try again to join your company.

Instead, I was asked a single question directly from the advanced topics of computer science. It was about a subject I was not comfortable with. When I didn't answer, I was shown the door. They did not care to learn about my past experiences or my areas of expertise. Then I wondered, how is it even possible to gauge me only on one question? It was like I was in an exam with only one question to be answered which I don't know! It felt awful. This happened because the recruiter did not brief me about the focus areas although I had asked for them well in advance. This feeling of bad taste made me decide that I will never try for that company again even if they are working on rocket science or paying me millions of dollars a month. In another interview, when I began to answer, I was interrupted many times and the questions were simply thrown at me. Ultimately, I was never allowed to finish my answer. I couldn’t help feeling that the interviewer was trying hard to get rid of me.

Given any software engineering problem, there are various possible ways to solve it. If the candidate comes up with his own way to solve the problem, learn the solution. Be happy that he was able to come up with an original solution. Open your mind and imagine the possibilities of the candidate devising elegant solutions for your company. Secondly, don't expect him to answer all your questions. It's not going to happen. It's wrong because there will be many things that you wouldn't know if you were in his shoes. If he is able to answer 60% of the questions correctly and he makes me feel that he could add value to the company, I would hire him. You have got to trust your intuition about him.

On the other hand, in most of the interviews I faced, the interviewers were looking for those solutions which they had in mind. Then I discreetly told them, "Sorry dude, I can't read your mind! How can you be so narrow-minded?" You cannot have predetermined answers set as expectations from the candidate. You have to be open to understand his approach. It may turn out that you end up learning something new. I feel pity for the company that such interviewers work for. On another occasion, I was being hammered with questions for which I didn't know the answers. I easily sensed that they were making fun of me as they chuckled and giggled because they enjoyed pulling my leg. To me, it just reflected their character.

After the job interview, let the candidate know that you were pleased to meet him, thoroughly enjoyed conversing with him and thank him for his time. Tell him you will get back to him in a day or two with the feedback. Then respond promptly - this is non-negotiable. Responding with a result - be it positive or negative - and providing feedback is a must. Otherwise, the candidate will cling to the hope that he has made it. If he knows that he hasn't made it, he will look forward to attending other interviews that may be lined up for him with a clear mind. Your response will give him the benefit of doubt. It is frustrating and depressing when the candidate does not get a reply, especially when he's waiting for days to hear back from you assuming that he has done well. Trust me. I know how it feels. If he hasn't made it through, write an email to him informing the outcome, with a personal touch. Believe me, it will mean a lot to him. He will appreciate you for the mail and will thank you for the opportunity. Don't worry about how he feels. We're neither children nor savages; we are all professionals.

Some might ask: why follow these practices? Let me tell you why. It's obvious that the candidate feels bad if he doesn't clear the interview. But nothing hurts him worse than being treated like a jerk. These practices are about bringing fairness to the interview process. Following them will lessen the effects of failure and disappointment like, frustration and depression. This will help the candidate introspect on the areas of improvement and he can face interviews with renewed confidence. Moreover, these are simple guidelines that are certainly not difficult to follow.

Well, there you have it. I just wanted to bring out the incorrect practices that I have faced and briefly touch upon how to improve the interview process so that it helps both recruiters and job seekers. I attended interviews for software engineer positions at Google and Atlassian. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. But, I will fondly remember the interview experiences and how nicely they were carried out.

The bottom line is, in India, the interview process needs transformation. Interviewers need to be trained. Conducting workshops is even better. They need to evolve to become better human beings. Remember that no one is immune to joblessness. It's impossible to evaluate a person in a few hours against a lifetime of effort he spent on a job. It's not just the skills that matter, but also having good people. So be nice. It costs nothing.

An interviewer can become a candidate anytime. So be mindful about how you want to be treated by others.

Further Reading

Friday, May 24, 2019

Modi 2.0 - 2019 And Beyond...

It's a huge victory again for the NDA and Narendra Modi is set to become the Prime Minister for the second term. Being a Modi supporter since 2014, I am ecstatic about this landslide win. It was even overwhelming to see the Congress-led UPA utterly vanquished by the BJP juggernaut. Here is my perspective on why the NDA won this national election easily.

Image Source: Google
Ever since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014, he pledged to work for this nation with his motto: "Development and good governance," and the objective for his cabinet ministry was crystal clear: "I need results." So he formed a team of ministers who could progressively drive this country. Each of the ministers went to the grass root level, understood the problems of the people and began fixing them. I am not saying he has fulfilled all the promises. It's not easy to clean up the mess of the previous governments and moreover, it's a herculean task to run a world's largest democratic country. When there was not a single scam against him, people began to trust him. The major steps he took to curb corruption shook the nation. Flowers of confidence began to bloom in the hearts of honest people. But a fire of hatred ignited and raged in the hearts of the corrupt. Initiatives like Swachh Bharat (Clean India), Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, and many more schemes are a super hit as they benefitted everyone. The monetary benefits were directly credited to people's bank accounts without middlemen, who used to misuse their power to exploit the benefits. Then there was a dire need to strengthen national security. He took some bold decisions to improve defense infrastructure and launched non-military preemptive attacks that neutralized terror outfits which made even the world superpowers gasp in surprise. This kind of retaliation was sorely missed after the horrific terrorist attack on Mumbai in 26/11/2008.

This kind of result-driven government showed its citizens that caste-based politics, pseudo secular bureaucracy, etc are all a sham. Before the 2014 elections, political leaders displayed sycophancy just to get votes and be in power. Once they got elected, they used to swallow all the taxpayer's money for their own selfish advantage. People had lost faith and had thus become ignorant. But after 2014, people became responsible citizens and stepped out of their comfortable homes to cast their votes. Narendra Modi, known for his extempore public speaking skills, had successfully planted the seed of faith and restored trust in the hearts of the people by reaching out to them in person from every corner of the nation. He briefed them about various schemes the government had launched, the groundwork that is being done, and how to make use of them. This is how he became the man of the people; the spirit of Bharat. By the time 2019 election was around the corner, people became vigilant. They knew, if they don't act responsibly, the nation will collapse in the hands of incompetent leaders with no objective or vision. In this way, Narendra Modi has set a benchmark in Indian politics. The goal is simple: If you want to be in power, then work for the people from the ground up. That's it. 2019 election has put an end to dynasty politics. It's history now.

Now I want to express a few words about the downside of this election result. It is clear that the parliament house is now one-sided. There is no strong opposition. In my school days, I was taught that the opposition is like a watchdog, overseeing the proceedings of the government. It should provide constructive feedback on the things that are deviating from progress, the issues that are being neglected or sometimes forgotten. Sometimes, it has to support the ruling party to make the nation stronger. The Congress-led UPA, with its members already offering to resign, is not fit to be in opposition. I see this election is an end of the Congress party. There is already news that its party president may resign. Even though BJP-led NDA has an impressive image, it needs a strong opposition on the floor of the house. Only then it will be called democracy. I really hope a new party or an existing party makes a fresh start and challenge the government for the growth of New India.

I am eager to witness some more development initiatives and pleasant surprises in Modi 2.0.

Jai Hind!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

In Love With The Dark

This is a verse I came up with last night when I was in bed.

In Love With The Dark

Being in the light -
I don't get sleep
Even if I want to!
Or I see many faces
Which I don't want to!
It allows unnecessary focus
That is uncalled for;
Making my soul go sore!

But then, there is darkness -
Waiting for a warm hug in its bosom.
It engulfs me like a blanket,
Without needing a real one.
It keeps me nice and warm,
Mesmerizing me to sleep,
Making me oblivious to
The unending stream of
Irksome thoughts and memories.
It never lets me down;
Never letting the world know
That I am around, in some corner,
Shielding my soul from the misery
All around.

May 5, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Book Review: Sons Of Gods - Mahabharatha by Sharon Maas

It was a coincidence when I was browsing through my news stream of and a post caught my eye. It was the announcement of a free giveaway of this book: Sons Of Gods - Mahabharatha posted by the author: Sharon Maas. Since I was disappointed with C. Rajagopalachari's version of Mahabharata, I was keenly looking for a better work of the great epic written in English. I wasted no time in showing my interest in reading her work. She sent it to me right away. When I read the prologue and I thought: Wow! It's amazing. This is the one! I am and will be grateful to her forever.

Book Cover
It overwhelmed me right from the start. The writing style, the apt use of poetic words, the conversations, the dialogues and the way the story eloquently flows like a calm river has made me fall in love with it. It's aesthetically appealing. The beauty of the language is experienced throughout the book as it weaves through all the episodes covering the substance of the original epic. I can imagine how difficult it was for her to first read the other versions of the great epic, then analyze them, and then meticulously extracting all the essential details and to finally come up with something as priceless as this, is nothing short of a literary marvel. (As a matter of fact, she has watched TV series of the epic. It really shows how interested she was about Mahabharata.) It's not just the beauty that appeals to the reader, but also that it misses nothing important; thereby doing justice to the original epic nonetheless.

There are 72 chapters. The chapters are more or less equally spaced. Each chapter is about ten minutes long. So, it will help you keep up with it without boring you even for a minute. Therefore, you can easily read a chapter or two during a break from your busy work schedule.

The aesthetics in defining each of the great characters, for instance, describing the charm of the heavenly maidens, their relationships with the kings - the conspiracies and fight scenes, and the principles of wisdom, makes the reader fondly remember all the episodes and the epic as a whole. It's truly a commendable effort. Well done, Sharon!

I want to urge all the people who are interested to read Mahabharata in English, buy this version without a speck of doubt. You won't be disappointed. I'll give you my word for it. It is prose poetry in the form of a novel.