Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Without music, life would be a mistake – Sivamani makes an appearance at Ganesh Kumaresh Celebrating 50 years of Musical

One of my resolutions for the New Year was to take a few spontaneous breaks from my daily routine. I decided to act on this yesterday when I saw an article in the local paper announcing a concert by the Violinists “Ganesh Kumaresh Celebrating 50 years of Musical." I immediately went online and booked a ticket for the show  scheduled for the evening.

Ganesh and Kumaresh are noted Indian duo of violin players best known as proponents of modern contemporary a.k.a fusion genera of music. The dynamic brothers, who grew up as child prodigies, carved a niche in the  contemporary Carnatic genera. The brothers have gone deeper into the realm of the music and brought out a refreshingly original content and instrumental style. Fusion style includes ‘western style’ of percussion, guitars and drums played alongside modified Carnatic Ragas. The duo began the concert with a few of their popular compositions from their albums and went on to mesmerize the audience for a couple of hours. 

At the end of the first half of the concert, a previous unannounced “special guest” made an appearance and the crowd burst into raptures. Indian percussionist “Drum” Sivamani took to the stage in his signature style, switching between drums, cymbals and other instruments, enthralling the audience. It was fascinating to enjoy and see the showman in action. 

As the old adage goes, Music speaks the language of the soul. And I was glad I took the spontaneous decision to attend the concert and to be lost in the music.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Narayana Murthy and Narendra Modi: Two unlikely examples of extremes in work-life balance in modern India?

 Towards the end of 2022 came two stories demonstrating distinct tradeoffs of work-life balance in modern India that make one reflect. Here is my video on the topic



The 76-year-old godfather of Indian outsourcing, Narayana Murthy, spoke about the time he devoted to building Infosys and how it came at the cost of spending quality time with his two children. In interviews, was quoted saying he was so dedicated to building the software services company that for years he would reach his office every morning at 6.20 am and work till 8 or 9 pm into the night. Mr Murthy was reflecting on the growth of the company and how it came at the cost of spending quality time with his two children.

Another story is that of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose mother passed away at 99 a few days ago. Immediately after attending to her funeral rites, Mr. Modi resumed his official duties.  A few hours after his mother’s cremation in Gandhinagar, PM Narendra Modi virtually flagged off a host of infrastructure projects, designed to galvanize West Bengal and Kolkata.

In my years in the corporate world, I have worked with scores of middle-managers and executives who have dedicated their lives to being “corporate men,” foregoing their personal commitments. Like Mr Narayana Murthy regrets in his sunset years, spending quality time with his children. They are driven to the extreme and don’t mind hopping on a plane at a day’s notice for the next bid or client project. They are willing to get on calls at 6AM or 9PM and just don’t let their personal life come in the way of their work commitments and more.



The fact is that leaders like Mr. Modi, Naranaya Murthy and the workaholic colleague are outliers.

Most of us are not. We rightfully strive to balance our work-life priorities. Quoting eastern philosophy, most of us strive to balance the Yin-Yang of life without getting into extremes.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Musing on the year that was: goodbye 2022

Hard to believe 2022 has finally come to a close. 

I have been observing that we are all successful losers. We are all losers because of the setbacks and failures we encounter in a life journey. Successful because we eventually overcome loss and failures. As we come to the end of another eventful year, a few of my musings on balancing it all

Loss and failures

  • My MF, investments and assets have been flat. The global stock market tanked, and they are talking about recession. Indian stocks aren’t doing great either

  • I have been working through the maze of agents, lawyers and officials on the paperwork for a piece of land my dad bought years ago. The issue keeps dragging on since I am hesitant to pay a “huge” bribe before assurance of approval.

  • At work, I see laggards regularly suck-up to the boss and get nominated for trivial awards that they post on LinkedIn. These ‘humble brag’ posts generate likes and shares, further reinforcing this charade

  • Few of my elderly relatives including grandma passed away this year





Successful

  • After a 2-year pandemic and slowdown, and got to travel a bit and meet with family and friends

  • I paid off our mortgage this year and resolved to live a debt-free life. Credit cards are handy to earn points or discounts as long as I pay it off monthly.

  • Despite a few minor bumps, the family continues to be in fairly good health, which is a great blessing.

  • I have continued to read, blog and write. My book that was published on Amazon, with 20+ reviews is reasonably successful  (Amazon - Diary of a Successful Loser)

  • My job allows me to WFH, that gives me a work-life balance


So, how have you been a successful loser in 2022?

Friday, December 9, 2022

I decided to use an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software for a promo-video for my new book. Here's' the result

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies and tools have been advancing at a fast pace. Many new tools continue to evolve and they are increasingly targeted at improving productivity of end consumers. 

After my book - Diary of a Successful Loser - was published last month, I had been reaching out to reviewers and bloggers. Along the way, I decided to explore the use of of Text-to-Video AI software to generate a promotional video for the book. 

Here is one version of a resulting video : What do you think?




While the resulting video is not bad, it is not as slick as one from a creative team or professional videographers. On the flip side, it is much better if not similar to what I would have got by paying a gig worker on Fivrr or Upwork 

After researching for a bit, I decided to use the freeware version Steve AI an online Video making software that creates Videos and animations in seconds. The UI is intuitive and easy to use after a quick signup. 

The challenge with Text-to-AI software is the human element and creativity - the creator (you and I) need a robust yet simple script with the right keywords that we can feed into the AI software. One can choose from a variety of templates, video and voice formats. After that, it is a matter of playing around with different formats, voiceovers and narratives. 

Bottomline: Image synthesis has great implications on creative arts and creation of visual art similar to what smartphones did to still camera. I came away impressed with the ease-of-use of such Ai software, and how they can be a powerful aid to less-creative people. With software like With steve AI’s video maker one can quickly create Facebook ads, video slideshows, newsfeed videos, stories, and cover videos. 


There are a number of 'Text to Video' AI software with varying levels of usability including 

  • OpenAI's DALL-e AI - Open AI announced that it removed the waitlist for its DALL-E AI image generator service. More than 1.5M users are now actively creating over 2M images a day with DALL·E—from artists and creative directors to authors and architects—with over 100K users sharing their creations and feedback in our Discord community.
  • Make-A-Video - Meta's Make-A-Video is an AI-powered video generator that can create novel video content from text or image prompts, similar to existing image synthesis tools like DALL-E and Stable Diffusion. Make-A-Video research builds on the recent progress made in text-to-image generation technology built to enable text-to-video generation. The system uses images with descriptions to learn what the world looks like and how it is often described. Link to Meta's research paper 
  • Stable Diffusion - A newly released open source image synthesis model called Stable Diffusion allows anyone with a PC and a decent GPU to conjure up almost any visual reality they can imagine. It can imitate virtually any visual style, and if you feed it a descriptive phrase, the results appear on your screen like magic.
  • Imagen Video - Google’s newest AI generator  that creates HD video from text prompts. Google's engineers claim it is a text-conditional video generation system based on a cascade of video diffusion models. Given a text prompt, Imagen Video generates high definition videos using a base video generation model and a sequence of interleaved spatial and temporal video super-resolution models. According to Google's research paper, Imagen Video includes several notable stylistic abilities, such as generating videos based on the work of famous painters (the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, for example), generating 3D rotating objects while preserving object structure, and rendering text in a variety of animation styles. Google is hopeful that general-purpose video synthesis models can "significantly decrease the difficulty of high-quality content generation."

Friday, November 25, 2022

My new stealth-help book - Diary of a Successful Loser

I invite you to review my  new stealth-help book - Diary of a Successful Loser  

If you are looking for a non-preachy self-help book with motivational stories, you are in the right place. This Kindle eBook is a Stealth help* book. The bestselling book with life stories that will leave you inspired.

All of us are successful losers – Losers because of the setbacks. Successful because we have overcome setbacks, loss and failures. This book is targeted at those who find typical self-help books - with preachy quotes and advice off-putting. 



In the narrative, I have picked up a few failures and setbacks that have been part of my life journey in ways that I didn’t anticipate. These stories hold a mirror to typical experiences that we are likely to encounter in a life journey
  • Bullying, teasing and jibes
  • Setbacks that reshape one's career
  • Breakup of a relationship
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Difference of opinion with a boss or colleague

These chapters in a life story, when stacked on top of one other. make for a memorable layered cake.

The book is available for Kindle Unlimited download on Amazon and on popular Amazon portals


In a span of a few weeks, the book has gathered nearly 50 reviews on Amazon






Stealth help book do what self-help books do - inspire and motivate - while they may not make you cringe or gag A mix of memoir and self-help genera, stealth help uses a person's experience to inspire readers to better their lives or themselves.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Sharing my experience with RTI Appeals: You need to be persistent

I have shared snippets of my legal fight with bureaucracy in Bengaluru in an attempt to avoid a huge bribe (link to twitter campaign - Land registration pending for 25 Yrs with Bengaluru Deputy Commissioner ).




In order to find out the latest status of the case review and why it was stuck, I decided to bypass agents and filed an RTI application
  1. The RTI application was specific with Information requested:
    1. I wish to have information on the review of my file relating to case RRT.XXX
    2. I wish to request information on the status of review of this issue by the Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban
  2. The initial RTI went unheeded by the designated Public Information Officer (PIO). No response even after I waited for over 30 days
  3. I filed an RTI First appeal with First Appellant Authority (FAA) and waited for 45 days but didn’t receive any information
  4. I filed an RTI Second appeal with the State’s Information Commission (in triplicate – copy to PIO, FAA. Had to redo the application after it was initially rejected since I sent copies directly to PIO/FAA not the three copies to SIC)
  5. After I waited for several weeks, the State’s Information Commission scheduled a hearing and sent me a letter about the Webex meeting.
  6. A week after I got the letter from State’s Information Commission, I got a bundle in registered post. This was the entire copy of my case file along with notations and filing by my attorney
  7. I decided to attend the State’s Information Commission hearing by Webex VC and when my turn came, I confirmed that I received the case file, but the case hadn’t been reviewed yet. (Note to self: I was impressed with the use of Webex and remote case hearing at local administration)
  8. The SIC officer said their focus was on making sure I got the information, not following up on the case.
Bottomline: Filing RTI is any day better than running around bribing local babus asking about your file that may be stuck
  • Was it an easy journey? No. There were lot of missteps in between and duplication of paperwork, but I was persistent.
  • Does this mean my case is being resolved? No. I will have to pursue it with the authorities.
  • So, what does it mean? I have reviewed the case file and know exactly where it is stuck. This information, while dealing with government officials is the key to moving forward! 

Friday, July 8, 2022

RIP Rukmani Patti


Rukmani Patti's 90th birthday

This morning, my aunt called me to say that Rukmani Patti* (my *maternal grandmother) had passed on to the other side, peacefully in her sleep.

This news wasn’t exactly shocking since I had visited Patti just a few weeks ago when doctors had recommended palliative care.

The 91 year old feisty lady had lived a full life, experiencing the joys, trials and tribulations of an eventful life before settling down with her daughter, granddaughter and great-grand daughter.

 

Rukmani Patti with her Daughter, grand and great-grand daughter

My earliest childhood memories were of spending summer vacations visiting Patti and cousins down south, while our lives took us around the country wherever my dad happened to be posted. In the nineteen-seventies, Patti even boarded a flight to far-away Bagdogra to be with us while my mom gave birth to Manoj, my younger brother. Mind you, this was a generation before commercial aviation took off in India and Air-travel was really a novelty.

Born to a Brahmin agriculturalist family in the small southern town, she was married off to a reputable government contractor. The couple was blessed with three kids, including my mother who was the eldest. Life took an unexpected turn for Rukmani when her husband passed away, leaving the young widow to fend for her three little  kids.

Destitute, with few social benefits, Rukmani wasn’t going to be bowled out by this curve ball life had thrown her way. Demonstrating grit and determination, she focused on ensuring her daughters and son got a strong educational foundation. Even far back in the sixties, the astute widow realized that a solid education would be their salvation.

My dad, then a newly commissioned officer in the Air Force, who was related to Rukmani set his eyes on her eldest daughter. It was love at first sight and they tied the knot when my mom turned nineteen.

With the eldest daughter married off, Rukmani focused on the other two kids – the daughter joined the Indian bank after graduating with honors, and the son went on to serve in the Indian Income tax department.

Patti also came and lived with us for a couple of years after my mother’s untimely death providing much needed moral and logistical support to my newly widowed dad. After spending a couple of years, nurturing my brother and me through the loss of our mom, Rukmani Patti went on to live with my aunt, taking care of my young cousins too.

My life and career took me globe-trotting and meanwhile I would periodically catch up with Patti during visits back to India.

Vijay and I catching up with Patti during a recent visit

She continued to be mobile through her eighties, spending time with her great-grand-daughter. A couple of months ago, a fall during her morning stroll knocked her down and she didn’t get back to her old self even after surgery and therapy.

I visited Patti a few weeks ago, when they were getting ready to move her to Madurai to spend her sunset days with her son. In the back of my mind, I knew it may be the last time I’d see her, and sought her blessings.

Until next time Patti. I’m sure you are smiling back from ‘up there.’  

RIP Rukmani Patti