Counter Strike
My take on the things and events in the world.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009
I was quite busy for the time that I recently spent in India. The training in Bangalore was really time-intensive. It has been two weeks since I have come back. I feel kind of "settled down" in Chicago as I have unpacked most of my stuff and setup my room :) I am raring to go on a project, but (un)fortunately I am on beach. I am not talking about sea shores, not even lake Michigan, "beach" is just a euphemism here at ThoughtWorks for "bench". So, I have a lot of free time and as a result I am indulging in many things that I used to dislike such as Facebooking, going to bars etc. But hey... I also did something that I used to like and was missing when I was busy. Just finished my new Ghazal. Mulahiza farmaiye:

Woh khwaabon ke jahaan mere nahi they
Zameen-o-aasmaan mere nahi they

Woh meri anjuman meri nahi thi
Woh mere aashiyaan mere nahi they

Main unke saath chalta ja raha tha
Magar woh kaarwaan mere nahi they

Main unke paas jaane kaise pahooncha
Woh kadamon ke nishaan mere nahi they

Woh mere hum-nafas they hum-zubaan they
Magar woh hum-nawaan mere nahi they

Jo mere gaal se tumne they ponchhey
Woh ashkon ke nishaan mere nahi they

Woh khwaabon ke jahaan mere nahi they
Zameen-o-aasmaan mere nahi they

Anjuman = Mehfil/Consortium
Aashiyaan = Home/Nest
Kaarwaan = Caravan
Hum-nafas = Companion, Of the same breath
Hum-nawaan = One raising the same voice
Ashkon - Of tears
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Woh Afsaana...

Sunday, August 09, 2009
Sahir Ludhiyanvi wrote this couplet in one of his best nazms for movie Gumrah:
Ta'arruf rog ho jaye toh usko bhoolna behtar,
Ta'aluk bojh ban jaye toh usko todna achha.

Woh afsaana jise anjaam tak lana na ho mumkin,
Usey ek khoobsoorat mod de kar chhodna achha.
Ta'arruf - Acquaintance
Ta'aluk - Relationship

Listen to this timeless master piece here.

Some relationships don't pass the test of the time. We feel the need to end these rotten relationships and move on. When that moment comes, how easy it is to take that decision. And how difficult to be firm on the decision. Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jayein hum dono. It is not as simple as that. As the relationships that cause so much pain are the relationships that are very near and dear to us.

Can we turn our rotten relationships into new relationships with no baggage as the poet proposes! Can we really end something really painful on a positive note! Sometimes yes. I always like to end relationships with a smile on my face. But at other times it is just not possible. It also depends on the other person and on the circumstances. But we should always try. My gray hair tell me that the emotional baggage of ending something with pain and anger keeps tormenting us for a long time. My litmus test for such relationship is this beautiful sher by Nida Fazli:
Dushmani jam ke karo, lekin yeh gunjaaish rahe,
Ki jab kabhi dost ban jayein, toh sharminda na hon.
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Day 5 - The End of the Innocence

Sunday, August 09, 2009
Good, bad, bright, dull, interesting, boring, are all relative terms. None of these could be defined in isolation. However, most of us don't realise this fact when we use these adjectives. I think it makes our job easy. Our daily exercise of passing judgments, scrutinizing people, criticizing others actions, feeling superior and declaring ourselves unique becomes much easier. The exercise of self-glorification is very important for our positive self confidence. It is a reason for our existence, defining our identity; although flawed most of the times.

Another interesting thing about relativity of adjectives is that the scale against which we compare keeps changing. More often faster than we think or estimate. Although, we might not always do the comparisons explicitly, but at the back of our minds we unknowingly measure things against a scale. And our mind, depending on many things, keeps updating the scale.

The culmination of first week at ThoughtWorks University's six weeks program in Banglore is the time for updating this scale. First week was surprisingly exciting. Interactive sessions, positive energy all around, perfect weather, spicy food, new friends and a new beginning. All of these defined by relative adjective terms. All of this is beginning to change. Remember, change is inevitable! For good or bad, it is going to change. No one can stop it and its never coming back. The end of the beginning, of the honeymoon period, of novelty, of novice positivity. The end of innocence! Now we know the truth, or are beginning to know the truth. At least we think, we are.

Putting things in context, we all have experienced the first week. And it has been good in terms of most things. However, now the good in the second week would be defined by a new scale. The scale that has been set in the first week. Every session has been interactive so far. Breaking in teams to do activities is no longer as exciting as it used to be. That is now expected. Interactive might become new boring. The positivity in the team has also beginning to fade somewhat. A correction was due in this regard. Optimism, followed by pessimism normally gives birth to pragmatism. The end of the innocence, usually makes us mature, wiser and more responsible.

No one knows what lies beyond the horizon, but lets keep working hard. Hard enough to be ready for anything. At the same time let's not forget to enjoy this time. Future would reveal itself when it becomes the present. Sooner than later. As one of my new friend here noticed, let me finish this post with a couplet as I always do:
Sarakti jaye hai rukh se naqaab ahista ahista,
Nikalta aa raha hai aftaab ahista ahista.
                                                -- Ameer Minai
Aftaab - The sun
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Day 1 - Don't Worry Be Crappy!

Monday, August 03, 2009
I always knew ThoughtWorks as the company where Martin Fowler works. I had some idea about the cool stuff they were doing around Agile. Aaaah, those were the good old days of 2003-04. That was the time when I was exploring Agile and playing with it. But I really got to know TW closely, when I had an opportunity to engage with them as part of CETI research group during my graduate studies at Ohio State. I was impressed with the kind of work they were doing. Practically everyone that I talked to at TW was really good. When I use that word in describing technology people, I mean it. So, things worked out well and I joined ThoughtWorks after a going through a recruitment process that I would rate very high.

ThoughtWorks has presence in 8 countries now. All the fresh graduates that they hire all over the world have to attend a program called ThoughtWorks University (TWU) in Bangalore. It is 6 weeks training program for introducing TW, Agile and consulting practices to the new recruits. Although I have some work experience under my belt, techinically I am a fresh graduate. I like that tag. It relieves me of so much of baggage and expectations. And with all these young people around me, I am feeling quite young and fresh.

First day was good. There is so much of energy in the room. Even sessions like TW values and TW history were so lively and interactive. In one of the sessions, it was quite interesting to listen all these young folks talking about issues like "revolutionizing" the IT industry.

The very first thing that the trainers tried to convey today was TW's attitude in dealing with mistakes. "Play it safe" is the motto of most people working in the IT industry. I think, one of the major issues crippling the industry is this fear of failure. People don't want to try out new things because of that fear. Jaisa chal raha hai, chalne do. And companies want you to be just perfect. Make a mistake, you would be penalized. Don't make a mistake, you are in good shape. At least you didn't screw up. This attitude needs to be changed if we want to bring innovation and quality back to IT. I am glad that TW recognizes this need. The message was loud and clear. "Don't worry, be crappy!". This is the thing that I liked most today. You would make mistakes if you are trying something worthwhile. Everyone makes mistakes. It should not be a crime to fail as long as you have the ability to get up, learn your lesson, keep your chin up and move on. But the bigger challenge, for both organizations and individuals, is to balance this appetite for mistakes with performance evaluations. I am sure TW wont disappoint me in this regard even in real pressure situations.
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New End and an Old Beginning

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Life creates chapters. It forces us to move on to the next chapter once we have spent enough time on the previous one. It is up to us then to do a little exercise at the end of a chapter to see how much have we learnt. These exercises are different than the exercises that we used to do in school but a lot more important. The difference comes from the fact that there are no preset questions, you yourself are the examiner, you are the student and you are the evaluator. So questions can be as tough or simple as you like. I often do these exercises to figure out what would I be taking away and what have I lost in the last leg of my journey. And I don't believe in falsely pretending that everything that happened was good or we should forget about negative things and emphasize more on the positive lessons. To me, my failures are as important and dear to me as are my successes if not more. I like to "feel" the pain of my failures.

My last chapter was called "Grad School" and it was a wonderful learning experience. Unlike many other chapters, I chose it myself. But like many other chapters, results were mixed. Academically, I achieved well over my own expectations and targets. But even then it only left me wanting for more, especially in the last few months when I lost my motivation for various reasons. Personally, I met a lot of interesting people and my sense of the world seems much more complete now. On the positive side, I met two persons that I became very close to. On the negative side, none of these relationships could survive. One of them just fell apart towards the end and the other can't be taken forward to the next chapter. Aaaaah… such is life!

Anyways, I am moving on. Joined ThoughtWorks in Chicago today as Application Developer. Frankly, it was not my first choice but is definitely among the companies that I would love to work with. I am really looking forward to it.

If you think about it, all the beginnings are alike. You don't know what lies ahead. You have same kind of anxiety, fear and excitement every time you make a new beginning or should I call it the old beginning. Ends, on the other hand are always new. At the end of every endeavor, you will learn something new; end result is always something different. I find this idea of "New End and an Old Beginning" philosophically interesting. In the words of TS Eliot:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

It also reminds of a beautiful song sung by legendry Noor Jahan that goes like this:

Le aayi phir kahan par kismat humein kahan se,

Yeh toh wahi jagah hai guzre the hum jaha se.

Listen to it. It is worth it.

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