Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Wipro is my favorite company; I have never worked there, but was associated as a service provider. I always admired the Wipro way, it’s has produced the most number of entrepreneurs and some of the best know CEO’s in the industry, it is also very institutional by DNA.

Wipro has an ID card tag color system, were a person who is 4-years old in the organization gets to wear a different color ID tag. I always felt that it’s a cool HR concept, just to look around and see how many people are there with purple tags and feel good that the organization has retained its people.

This week I got my own “Mont Blanc” with my name printed on it, it a sign that I completed 5-years in the organization. Otherwise overly enthusiastic me, was completely emotionless and did not feel anything at all. Madhu’s words echoed over and over making everything sound trivial.

Few weeks ago, Madhu, my ex-Boss called me over for lunch, as ever we both got talking a lot about everything including our ex-colleagues who have been in the same company for several years. “Companies feel that your ex-colleagues are not risk takers”, was Madhu’s response to my view on how companies would like to hire people with very stable profiles, it took me by surprise. My immediate question was “do you feel the same about me?” he tired to sound diplomatic, but I had his view on it already.

Not risk takers” haunts me every day; I tried to question my stand on this point in many ways and searched for answers.

- Will working in an organization for too long make your profile look like less risk taking?

As one spends longer time in an organization, there is always a comfort zone that develops, making you dependent and committed to it. Our social instinct of nurturing what we have takes away the imagination or the need to think out of the comfort zone making us less and less risk taking. But, is risk taking really positive, will it not be perceived as recklessness? Well, it’s as good as assessing a debtor’s ability to pay or willingness to pay based on past records.

- Are you able to do your job well or capable of doing your job well?

As the circle of influence develops over a period of time, ability to get things done becomes directly proportional to the time spent in the organization, undermining the actual capability of getting things done. No one really cares if it’s the ability or capability, if what ever has to be done gets done.

In the hindsight, when the best was about to come I had quit my earlier 3 jobs, did better than I would have in my earlier job. Never regretted, primarily, because I was determined to prove myself that I took the right decision and secondly because I was fearless.

Today, when I am convinced that Madhu is right, there is a sense of unwilling to try ‘living on the edge’, does it make me less fearless or more of a coward? What ever it is, it has shaken me up and is making me restless…..

- Kavitha Reddy

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fighting DREAMS

I read these news clippings that appeared back-to-back in a national daily for over 10 times, at last!!! I can see this happening in my lifetime; it made me happy but was angry at the same time.

The source of my anger was personal, for woman like me who ‘Dared to Dream’ of a combat career in the Armed forces 17 years ago, it just stayed as a dream. I was very proud when many of my college seniors joined the 1st batch of women pilots and the 1st batch of women officers in the army. I clenched on to the hope that, when my turn comes I will have a choice of being a Fighter Pilot or join the Infantry.

At 21, like many I wanted to change India, and tell the world that women in India are ready for the next career. With fire in my belly, determination and hard work, I gave my best, still did not get what I truly believed ‘I deserved’, I was not prepared to take ceremonial role in the Armed forces, thus ending my dream of wearing the uniform.

It was not about men v/s women, it was about how only ‘male’ dreams came true. Whenever there is a debate on women in Armed forces, the only conclusion that has been drawn is that women are not prepared for it yet, or the reality could be that men in Armed forces are not prepared for it?

In the last 17 years we have had four women chief ministers in the four biggest states, we have over 75 (recall names) women CEO, missile team at DRDO has women scientists and women joining the Civil Services had only doubled. What more should women prove to be accepted as equals in the Armed forces.

Yes, I do agree that whenever there has been a sexual harassment case lodged by a woman officer, it has got negative publicity for the forces and so called women groups get demanding for a better treatment or differential treatment, for god sake!!..they are not the aspirants of a career in Armed forces. These some time minor issues should not deter the Armed forces from opening up more demanding opportunities for women. I do believe that women who opt for a combat oriented role want to be treated equally and not differently, it will be only fair to give them the opportunity they have been deprived of and prepare them for the same.

A model claims, she was asked to sleep with a producer for a role in a movie; a male IPS officer made an inappropriate gesture at a female IAS officer, a male teacher molested his female student etc. There are many such incidences and situations where men take advantage of women and its not career specific, but it does not give anyone the right to tie a woman down or protect them by restricting, instead its an opportunity to prepare them to face it on their own and importantly with grit and dignity.

Times have changed; women are more self-aware and are more prepared than ever to live their dreams, and an acknowledgment to the changing times will only be appropriate if the ‘thought’ of the Armed forces, as said in the news papers becomes a reality.

Looking forward for the day, when India has its 1st woman fighter pilot and the 1st woman along the borders guarding the country.

When the dream of a ‘combat’ career shattered, every other career option just looked as a compromise, but I still ‘Dare to Dream’ many of im (possibles).
Jai Hind!!
-Kavitha Reddy

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Let the games begin!

Li Ning lit the Olympics flame in a breath taking trapeze act, the images of the torch journey across the world revealed on screen with ever leap Li took across the rim of the stadium, covering a distance of 350 meters. When every one wondered how the torch would be lit, he extended the flame that blazed to the top of the big torch on a trail smeared with gunpowder.

Protests against China, disruptions during the flame journey, charges of human right violation, free Tibet campaigns, world leaders refusal to attend the opening ceremony, nothing in the last few months was in favor of China, except for their determination to make Beijing Olympics ‘BIG’.

If ever there was one most powerful place on the earth, it was the Bird’s Nest on 8th Aug 08. World leaders including all those who threatened to boycott the opening ceremony sat through the grand start of the world’s greatest sporting event, making the motto of this Olympics “One World One Dream” a reality at least for that moment.

Watching the presentation of the journey of a 5000-year-old civilization, depiction of the spirit of China through its people and art forms, usage of technology in the best creative way, was the most humbling experience. The sound of ‘Fou’ (an ancient instrument) thundered and roared with great percussion welcoming the world to China, the fire works blazed across creating the 29-foot prints indicating the 29th Olympics.

Children from the 56 ethnic groups in China gathered around their national flag, and as the flag moved in, a chorus of 56 artists representing the 56 ethnic groups sang the national anthem in one voice, simply saying they all represent one great nation.

2008 drummers synchronizing movements & sound and the light effects there after, was a visual treat. It was paradise on earth, when the women dressed in white did the dove dance expressing peace, freedom and love with music playing in the background, the spectators imitating the hand movements of the dancers and cheering loud. Well co-ordinated firework lit the dark sky in colors, as the laser displays mesmerized the 91000 odd spectators in the stadium and billions across the globe watching it on television.

As estimated $40 million has been spent on the event, but the preparations to be the perfect host started the day China won the games bid. They left no stone unturned, be it making their people learn English, stopping the climbers at Everest camp 4 to ensure the Olympic torch reached the Everest summit without any disruption, diverting traffic to reduce pollution levels in their cities, ordering the restaurants in China not to serve dog meat, encouraging their people to prepare their businesses for the visitors etc etc the list can go on.

If the US flag bearer was Lopez Lomong, a refugee rescued by the US army from Sudan, who is also a 1500-meter medal hope for his adopted country, China had its ‘tallest’ Basketball star Yoa Ming carrying the flag, with a tiny little child who survived the devastating earthquake in China marching along. It was as expression of reassurance to its people that the country is with them during their difficult times, and also telling the world that nothing can deter the spirit of this 5000 year old civilization.

It’s a shame that, India with almost the same population, civilization as old as Chinese and technology better than the best in the world has a mere 56-members contingent as against the 639-members Chinese contingent. Discipline, Hard work, Determination, which I call the ‘Chinese way of life’, is some thing we lack as a country. Amaranth land row, name boards in Marati, Tamil protests against Kannada’s classic language status etc etc, is all we care about, wish we grew beyond these trivial things, and look at bigger challenges that are only getting bigger each day.

8 is considered the most auspicious number for the Chinese, the day was 08-08-08, time 08 pm, 8 runners in the flame relay, 8 flag bearers, and many of their themes revolved around number 8. It’s definitely an 8-on-8 for this Olympics games host.

If a four-hour long Beijing Olympics opening ceremony was one thing, it was the display of Dragon power.

For China, it just not Olympics, its also about telling the world that they have arrived and arrived with a big bang. They achieved what they set to, revealing all the mysteries behind that “Great Wall”.

I do wish China tops the medal tally, making them not just the sporting giants of Asia but the world too, which I believe they truly deserve.

- Kavitha Reddy

Monday, August 4, 2008

Being Vishal

Cut the crap, you guys are not here on a picnic” were his opening remarks the first time I met Vishal. He perfectly defines arrogance and can intimidate even the most confident person, yet simply loved by everyone he would have ever met.

Impeccable voice modulation, great narration skills or a speech in ‘shud’ Hindi can make you believe that he is a ‘voice over’ professional, but this Indian Military Academy (IMA) 97 pass out has more to his credit than what he really comes across most of the time.

Bike crazy Dehradun boy (not any more - he is too old for bikes) followed the family tradition and joined the Indian Army. IMA was just next door, all his miscreants on the camps just stayed within the camps at all times. Quite good at sports, he was part of the Boxing, Volleyball teams and did his company proud.

On passing out from IMA, he moved to the infantry attachment for 3 years with the 16 Grenadiers (Sholah), first at Pathankot and later went to complete his winter warfare courses (Basic & Advance) from High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS). He was on a normal posting at Drass and went on leave only to be called back, there was something big happening, his mom just kissed him good luck. It was firsthand experience of a war zone, en-route to Drass was the line-up of Bofors guns, which gave a 'teaser' of the events that were going to happen in the next few months, it was the Kargil war!!.

Many of us would have never believed that there would be a war in the 21st century between India and Pakistan. 16 Grenadiers were in the thick of the war, pushing back the infiltrators as they
scripted tales of courage.

As an Army outsider, I can never relate to war or ever imagine how selflessly the Indian Army fought to save our country on one of the most difficult terrains on earth. Vishal easily brushes it off saying they were trained and prepared to it, and they were doing just their duty – ‘save the country’. I guess that is the sprit of a true Indian solider.

What really touched me the most was what he said on NDTV (when Barkha Dutt covered the war), that, “during the war every one seem to be concerned about the soldiers, once the war is over the same concern has to be shown to those people who lost their loved ones fighting for the country”. Yes, we as a country have a very short public memory; there are many of those soldiers whom we have been forgotten forever.
Check NDTV interview in a bunker, in middle of the war

Post-war he completed the mountain warfare courses at HAWS, and later spent few years at HAWS as an instructor and running between ammunition courses, skiing, expedition and training. Not to mention that he is an excellent skier.

For someone who had such a long stint in the mountains and glaciers, a posting at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) was more of a natural progression; so Maj Vishal Thapa landed in NIM during the summer of 2006 as its Vice-Principal.

He runs his course in the true Army ishtyle, but I have not met a trainee so far who had nothing good to say about him or his way of functioning. He never compromises on the quality of training or on the delivery of results. He gives his best to every single course and drives everyone to do well; at the end of it the man has his heart in the right place!

If at all one gets to play Volleyball on his side of the team, then it's better to pull a chair and sit down as he will cover all the shots across the court. He spends his free time listening to music or beating someone hands down in a game of billiards, no one really takes ‘panga’ with him in a ball game.

At NIM he has quite a (female) fan following (fff), never realized the intensity till he gave his mobile number, standing on a podium (he refuses the podium part, so to be more accurate it was a 1.5 ft elevation). Point to be noted was the aftermath of his stupidity, for the next 45 days Shalini (his sweet wife) waited with an ice-axe each time he answered an fff call.

He did really survive a big bully like me, be it critics on his weather session or cocky questions on the GPS (which of course he took 3 days to figure it out), he took it all in the right spirit. The ‘Gang’ (Kranti, Bianca, Jigna, Deepika, Payal, Suchitra and Me) made his life miserable on the mountains in every possible way but he endured it all. We would never forget the support and encouragement he gave us at all times, that really pushed us to give our best throughout.

Aditi (his little daughter, affectionately called Adi) is probably the only one who can keep him ‘grounded’ or match his temper and Shalini is more than happy that Adi is his check-point :), for once the guy is under control.

Major Saab’ as I prefer to address him, is preparing for the Everest expedition in May 09. Wishing him good luck and hope he lights a cigarette on top of Everest in true “Vishal style”. Hope he does many more 8K’ers in years to come and be the “Real Mountain Boy”.

Many a times I feel that I live my dream through my friends in the Army. After all, that was the only dream, which stayed as a dream for ever.

- Kavitha Reddy