Good morning … Tatkal

The calling bell by the maid was the awaking call in the morning. I got up and instantly realized that we need to go for railway ticket booking for my in-laws. As planned a day before, I made my wife leave the bed without any further delay. We both decided to go for the booking as there is a dedicated ladies queue. Booking ticket using tatkal services at 8 AM is something that everybody should try at least once in their life time. I am sure it will give you immense pleasure of your patience and will also enforce your believe that life with family is no less meditation than that of a yogi.

We started our mission in the chilled winter of Delhi in January using a auto rickshaw. The driver as usual refuses to use meter. Probably, this time he had a good reason to say that he can not drive auto as per government fixed meter in winter. Me and my wife started in the auto at 6:30 AM in the morning. I was covering my nose with the monkey cap and inhaling the hot moist air of my mouth. The winter in open auto rickshaw was a good enough punishment for anybody.

We reached Sarojini Nagar railway booking counter at 7:10 and I was quite happy to see there were only three women in the ladies queue with the hope that we will get the ticket in 15 minutes and I will be able to reach office in time. My wife stood in the queue without further delay and I started looking out for the reservation form. I got it quite quickly and than started filling the form. Suddenly my wife left the queue and called me. To our surprise, we got to know that the photocopy of identity card of traveling passenger is required to book the ticket.

“Ohhh…” something which came out of my mouth by default.

“what to do now..” Trupti asked.

“Let me check with some more,” I said as I had the recent experience of AIIMS, where a gentleman gave a good piece of knowledge to leave the queue so that he can avail the ultrasound test service.

I went around asking few people about the new rule of photocopy in the complex process and to my surprise, most of them seemed to be aware of this. With utmost disappointment, we returned home. I was thinking of going to a Internet cafe as I had left the data card in the office. I reached home and started calling my junior colleague of my previous jobs to request for a ticket booking.

The first one said that his internet data card was just over last night and could not manage to send his CV to a prospective employer. The second one was quite brave to say that he slept last night late and was not feeling well enough to book a ticket. The Internet connection of the next two people were also not working. The fifth person, who is a system admin guy gave me a very good reason that there is a fiber cut in South Delhi and nowhere it would be working.

I was quite disappointed with the behaviors of my old colleagues. I was introspecting while walking to the internet cafe. I was searching for a cafe after three years in Delhi as I had internet connection all the time and to my surprise most of the cafe were closed at 7:55. Three years ago, there was cafe every where and student living in hostel used to stay the whole night in internet cafe for obvious reasons. Apparently one of them is a coaching centre, two of them are gym. Thanks to open telecoms policy (big scam) which made internet connection affordable to households.

Finally, I found a cafe in one of the corners of the village. When I entered, to my surprise there was only four persons in a 30-seater internet cafe. I purchased a coupon and started logging in. The railway booking website opened at 8:25 after waiting for 30 minutes. By that time I had checked my personal and official email account twice. I logged in and entered the passenger details and selected the payment gateway.

“You are being redirected to … ” Message got displayed. My pupil size increased with the hope that I will be able to book the ticket now. But the astrologer again proved to be right that if you work for 100 you will get 70.

“Session expires……..”, I started remembering the story “the old man and the sea”.

Closed Internet explorer and opened Chrome with a hope that it will do better. Sent an SMS to my new Boss “Will be late .. Busy in some personal work” and instantly got a message OK.

By the time I managed to enter ticket details for the second time, it was 8:56 AM.

“Beep… Beep.. Please save all your work, your time will be over in next five minutes.” The computer screen displayed the message.

“Boss .. one more coupon” I gave 10 more rupees and give it to the cafe boy. By the time I entered the coupon, the computer was logged off.

“Back to square one…” Started cursing myself for not extending the timing before.

Finally after 30 minutes of taking the second coupon, finally I had the ticket. I was quite happy that I was able to book the ticket. I was quite cool by that time and was realising the reason why all my old colleagues were giving technical reasons for not booking the ticket and the fact they are people with helping attitude. We have given blood to the needy in the past. So the moral of the story is, ask for a bottle of blood, you will get it easily, but not a tatkal railway ticket booking.

I was thinking of my first ticket booking in 1998 in Rourkela, I went to the railway station with Sushant and Probir and got the ticket. Two piece of paper, one was a small card (something that we get while checking weight in railway platform) and the other one was a carbon copy of white paper. Life was cool..

Now after 15 years, With broad band.. online booking…tatkal …

My attention was brought to focus when my mobile vibrated.. Three SMS, one from ticket booking, one from credit card and the last from my wife “Get half KG tomato”

By Kedar Dash
Katwarai Sarai, New Delhi
Author may be contacted at kedar dot dash at gmail dot com

Gold plating in project management

Innovation is the critical success element for gaining competitive advantage in knowledge based economy. Out-of-box thinking, fusion of existing attributes and experimentation are considered as some of the building blocks of innovation.
There is no doubt in my mind that innovation is a must to build an excellent institution and ensure sustained business growth in the current scenario. But, it is not an easy option, in fact, if not managed strategically right, it is could be counter productive.
I would like to share my experience of not dealing best possible way..
Case I
It was the development of an e-Governance portal and contract was to develop a Content Management System and dynamic website being rendered from a secure database. The project had to go for security audit in next couple of days. We were working hard beyond office hours.

One day late evening, Subhendu, my colleague came to me with an idea of capturing the IP address of the browsing machine so that a location based analytics may be developed. His face was full of excitement and I too got excited and asked him “How long this will take”.

He in his own optimistic style responded “one and half person day”. Instantly, I multiplied it by 2 as I had clear idea that 100% padding is required for his optimism.

The idea was great and agreed by all stakeholders and subsequently implemented. After a couple of days, the project was submitted for auditing and the initial audit report came with two pages of summary substantiated with 100 page of possible security vulnerability and most of them are on the module that was dealing with capturing of the IP address.

The subsequent processes were followed to address the issue, which took couple of sleepless nights to resolve. One day, after the project was completed, I was standing on the roof top of our office and was asking myself

  • Capturing of the IP was not a part of the scope so why we did it?
  • If I would have said that this is not a part of the scope and we should not do it… than what would have been impact on his motivation..
  • Was there a better way to deal with this?

Case II
It was a small research project to understand the impact of funding on the living condition of organic cotton farmer. We had been to Kalahandi, one of the beautiful and green places of Orissa, which is globally known to everybody for all wrong reasons. Thanks to emerging media reporting.

We interacted with the farmer community and took the video of all possible things ranging from peeing of a small child in a bucket to the ginning factory. On return, we completed the reporting in two weeks.

On the date of submission, we saw the edited video having nice cotton tree, women plucking cotton, cultural programme and ginning factory. The team was quite happy with the work and we sent it to the sponsor of the project with a delayed deadline. At the date of submission, we had the third reminder from the our finance manager to submit the report soon so that he can raise the invoice.

After two days, we received an email from project sponsor

———————Email Starts here————————-
Hi Team,
Great work done. The impact study is very well captured.

Need a small clarification.. is the ginning process that you have shown is certified by a textile engineer. Would appreciate an acknowledgement from an engineer working there.

Best regards,

————————email ends here ———————
We were taken aback. At that point of time, we had no option to say that this was not a part of the Term of Reference (ToR). We were very sure that, it will not be appreciated internally as it is going to delay the payment.

We started contacting the engineer at the ginning factory. The chief engineer was in a marriage ceremony of his sister-in-law and was supposed to be back after seven days. His juniors were not willing to say either “Yes or No” as they were very much aware of the implication of this.

Finally the engineer came after seven days and saw the presentation. He said

“very good video” and requested to courier his video interview in particular.

On asking specifically about the technical appropriateness, he responded saying

“Perfect Sir”.

I was returning from the office in the late evening after sending the final email to our finance manager. Word that were hitting me were “Scope Management”, “Gold Plating” , “Innovation in Emerging Economy” and “prioritising Deadlines”…