Call for Papers and Articles for Journals – Infoquest (Information Security) and Free Space ( Freelancing)

Wordsmith Team is editing two journals going to be published in July / 2017

Infoquest – 3rd Edition – is a Journal on Information Security

Freespace – 2nd Edition – Freelancer’s Journal

Last date of submission extended to 25th June 2017.

infoquest - freespace

THE EMI LIFE by Mallikaa Chaaterjee

A guest post from a full time entrepreneur.

For non-Indian readers, EMI = Equal Monthly Installments.  EMI in another way can be to be “addition to easy credit” where the barrier of affordability is instantly bridged and instant consumption happens.

All EMIs are front-loaded with interest and is a legally enforced claim on the payer’s future earning (and labour) and the future may be 20-30 years for EMIs servicing larger borrowings. In ancient times, when average lifespan was smaller and 20-30 years and it was a time when slavery was rampant. So 20-30 years for a slave meant his whole life. If we are allowed to think so, paying EMI for 20-30 years, the situation is not fundamentally different. Things do change but…..

This promise on the part of the borrower is also based on the assumption : “past performance is indication of future performance.”

The story below narrates what happens when this assumption proves to be Utopian and not realistic.


THE EMI LIFE

One fine morning when I was sipping my hot cup of tea like any other day and was day dreaming of going to the Himalayas to beat the heat of summer, I got a call. My friend of past 18 years was calling me. Though it was my “me-time” and the time to avoid any calls but as it was one of my close friends and so I took the call and all I could hear was “sobs” and some swear words. It took me some time to calm him down and to console him by saying in next 30 minutes I would be there with him.

I drove to his flat which was in a high-rise complex. The flat was fully furnished with all modern amenities bought from all parts of the world. He was working with a TOP IT company of India and had spent most of his career abroad in different parts of world on various projects that the company had allocated him. He used to find projects by bidding to get into that team ( it is the rule of a company, while sitting in bench as reserve, it is employee’s duty to bid on various projects through company’s portal and if one can break through, I mean, if the order is acquired, then the employee will be made project lead or manager of that project and he/she will be sent to that location).

Almost all the people of our country study with this single dream in mind, “One day I shall join this XYZ or ABC company and will soon fly to the USA, the UK or Australia and my life will be set.”

Anyway, coming back to the present situation: I went up to the 9th floor where my friend stayed and knocked at the door. His 9 years old daughter opened the door and I was shocked – my friend, his wife were crying like baby rolling over the floor. I thought that some serious accident had happened. When I asked them, he showed me a letter; well it was a pink slip or in short it was a termination letter from the company. I became quiet while looking at the letter and allowed them cry for some time as it was needed and I went on thinking while seeing beautiful water land from their balcony.

How things change with time ! Every seed of destruction gives birth to a new creation and vice versa. It started with introducing computer in late 80s, when many people who were not ready for change lost their jobs but a huge number of jobs were created for younger generation and almost for 2 decades huge employment has taken place in these IT companies. Now after two decades we are standing in front of the same mirror but in a more horrific condition.

As for myself, I never chased white collar IT job. Instead I wanted to make difference in the society we are living in. So, I tried out something else. I never had credit card, I don’t buy anything in credit, my needs and wants are realistic. My friend who is crying today, bought a very high end car in just two years after joining an IT giant, but became prematurely bald, bought designer furniture but was diagnosed with high BP, bought two flats within 7 years and was diagnosed with diabetes, kidney problem, eye problem and was diagnosed to be suffering from mild depression. His attitude also indicated the same. He used to party every week-end, sometimes used to take me but my life style didn’t allow much of this and so I avoided it as much as I could. Long tours, short tours etc were very common to them but he used to look always lost. I wanted to ask him many times but didn’t “You have everything but where is that sparkle in your eyes when you were in college ?”

Today I came to know the reason; his life was going on EMI, house EMI, Cars EMI, all electronics gadgets EMI, Parties, outing, tours, travelling, and birth day parties – all were on EMIs. Now with pink slip he doesn’t know how to breathe because his breathing was on EMI !

It was a bubble that had been forming for two decades and that had to burst some day or the other, and it did. Today people who are so used to urbanization and high-end life style that they forget the thin line of difference between Reality and Utopia. It’s good that the bubble has burst, let the cry grow louder so that everybody can face the reality and take a route to live life fully without selling one’s very soul to EMI.

Job cuts are natural phenomenon which had happened earlier, will continue to happen. One has to choose the right path, one has to have a right vision, the right motive to live life realistically. Grow from inside and not from outside.

Mallikaa Chaatterjee, Guest Writer for Wordsmith University Press (www.pentasect.com) , chattmallika@gmail.com

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[A full time entrepreneur by choice with MCA degree to back my knowledge base and industry experience of 9 years to back my skill who gave birth to GOOD CAUSE TECHNOLOGIES; a 360 degree tech company catering across the globe. A full time mother and also a full time wife define me as a person and as a business woman too.]

1997 – 2017 : An Indian IT industry veteran’s nostalgia

Wordcon –  Platform for Indian Freelancers received this work from a veteran who chose not to be identified. ]


“In 1997, I was in Bangalore – a freshly minted B.Tech. At that time, the word was “software”. Later, it became IT. I started as a coder, then I became a TL, then Manager. Baas. Everybody (almost) went to the industry to become a Manager. There was no coding except writing text codes like ASAP, EOB, SOB, SLA, TAT and so on.

I was fortunate to have been a multiple-time return passenger of the picture of the Bangalore-Frankfurt-San Francisco  shuttle below in these twenty years.

Shuttle

Bangalore – Frankfurt – San Francisco shuttle (Courtesy –  vadakkus.com as advised by author)

I also became what a colleague of mine told: “3 BHK, Wagon R, 2 private school kids, 2 credit cards” man in Bangalore. By 2015,  I had had many health problems and did not find much interest in my work. I used to drag myself to office, navigating traffic and pollution – air and public transit- both third class to deliver mandated first class work, simply for paying my EMIs. The motivation was very low.

In the winter of 2016, I was “guillotined”. I was an aristocrat (high cost and long tenure) to the company and the judgment was swift and sure. Almost instantaneous with not minutes for self-defense.

LIFE-OF-AN-INDIAN-SOFTWARE-PROFESSIONAL.jpg

Image Courtesy – http://vadakkus.com (as advised by author)

Presently, I and my wife run a catering service and although our net worth is much lower now; our life worth appears to be higher. Strange.

The picture below is a hilarious remembrance and joke on something which none as ever seen and will ever see – General Public – a pure abstraction and this is the safest target of all jokes.

Hence, when I was a regular passenger of the shuttle I mentioned earlier, “general public” (perhaps) used to think what our life was (glamour and Photoshop added)

This is a catharsis for me – a veteran, in the corporate graveyard, who can neither fight with robots, artificial intelligence, cutting-edge codes and immigration law, geo-political reconfiguration of the world.

I remain – a survivor in the smoke and mirror show called our world”

The Famous but Poor

Fame per second and $ / sec are not necessarily correlated. I recently conducted an empirical survey and very interesting results followed.

First, let me explain the methodology :

  1. A Fame quotient is created by checking social media followers, likes and visibility in online media. For off-line visibility/fame there is no quantitative measure available.
  2. I had asked the “famous” whether they are rich and / or whether their fame was consistently converted into money.

THE RESULT

  • Less than 1% of “famous” freelancers* tell me that that they find that their social media fame has directly helped them make money.  The percentage is not very encouraging, even taking into account the sample bias.
  • A business owner who has 30k+ follower in facebook alone tells me that he has not generated a single monetized business from this network.
  • An “entrepreneur” with 4000+ follower and high activity in social media says that he did not get a single business crystallization even after pitching proposals in the network.

THE WORDSMITH TEST OF FAME 

I propose the following test – a litmus test sort of.

1. Spread a message in your fame network to the effect that since people have followed your activity for so many days, let them send a donation in paypal

2. Check total Paypal balance after 3 days from the post

3. If you see a balance of $ 1000+,  there is a connection between fame and money.

In pre-online world, there were writers and artists who were famous but many were very poor. There still are. However, now the situation is different. Now, non-artists and non-writers can also have considerable “fame” but my research indicates that Fame is not so easy to convert into money.

For a “Famous and Poor”, the more heart-breaking news is that there are many people who are not famous but this lack of fame does not prevent them from becoming rich.

It is provocative to ask whether the search and hunt for social media fame is triggering some process which is diverting us from becoming less poor.

I have no idea but the idea is worth pursuing.

[Non-fiction] The Converted Freelancer Journalist

Last week, I met a journalist with experience of 15  years just after I returned to Calcutta from Silchar. He was until two months back an employee of ABP / TT, the largest media group of Bengal and one of the largest of the country. Not anymore. Two months back, he “resigned”, so the story went in paper (that carries his signature) and for the future historian of the type that swears by the archives.

The Group streamlined its businesses and the vortex flow thereof carried him off from the roll and he became a freelancer. He is neither happy, nor sad but in a state of confused excitement. He learnt of Wordcon – Global Platform for Indian freelancers and as recent convert, he was very excited to learn more about “the potential of freelancing.” Before I narrate the discussion, a flashback.

FLASHBACK  : Kalada (কালাদা) of The Dainik Prantajyoti (দৈনিক প্রান্তজোত্যি), Silchar

My first exposure to journalism and print media happened through a very interesting journalist and editor – Kalada of Silchar.  My first published work went through his large and magnanimous hands and I consider this as a badge of honour.

He had a formal name, for sure but the whole town called him as Kalada, even by those who were at the age of his grandchildren. He used to roam around the town in a bullet motorcycle and there are fascinating stories. Journalism was his passion, mission, vocation, digestion and everything. His newspaper was always cash-strapped, so was he, the technology he used was of the letter-press (off-set was yet to arrive) but the Daily continued daily.

There are so many small town stories about this remarkable man with which we grew up. At a certain stage, the print quality of the daily became very poor and sometimes, whole letters were so worn they that they gave up the ghost and that created the story below.

This story was  told sometime in 1980s in my hometown which is so distant to me now that I must write a list of mostly negatives to create the photographic positive image of that time in my mind – no cable TV, no mobile, no Internet, no ATM, Ambassador,  plane tickets in 7 pages in multi-coloured paper, train tickets in cardboard colour chit, no sms, no bar coded cheque book, only maruti and bajaj scooter, no time zone, Test and one day matches only, no service tax). The prankster said, “Did you see the headline in the paper ? Oh, miraculous news : পুলিশের গু  খেয়ে    বকের মৃত্যু – Crane dies after eating shit of  police. !!!!

It is highly likely that this is a made up story or may be not. The newspaper might or might not have reported – পুলিশের গুলি  খেয়ে   যুবকের মৃত্যু –  Youth dies at police firing – tragic but nothing miraculous and we could see the randomness of the Universe in removing two letters from the sentence  and a miracle happened, in agreement with all the laws of grammar, phonetics and perhaps of politics !!!

Those of us who lived in small towns in 80’s might remember that police used to check late night movie returnees  and demanded to see the counterfoil of the tickets and it had happened with me many times.  A new Superintendent of Police arrived in town and perhaps he was young and he was told about Kalada and his bullet motorcycle. Kalada used to roam around the town and outskirts with his bullet. At 3 am, he could be spotted with his bullet, traveling 30 km off to report something and in one such missions, a rookie police beat challenged him. He politely told that he was a reporter. The policeman did not understand and detained him.  Kalada did not talk much and engaged them. In the morning, the SP got the report and he arrived. Kalada introduced himself and the whole affair became a story.

Kalada never became rich. I suspect, he borrowed heavily to run his paper and he did continue with his mission. He did not leave any fortune to his family. In spite of being owner and editor of a daily that ran for so long in a small town, he was remarkably accessible and easy to be with.

Society of that time was fast changing. In late 1990s – an altogether new age was on the horizon that was going to consume many things, including printed newspaper.

But without the passion of man like Kalada, any age or place – small or big is not worth living.

His press and office was not very far from the place where I was born and grew up till I was eighteen (The Heritage House) and sometimes in the early morning or late winter night, I used to hear the boom-boom of his bullet and I knew and everybody knew that Kalada was on his mission.

I still miss this sound along with my childhood – never to return and my small town memories are all squeezed into such a deep recess that only some music, some prose, some poetry, some painting or some smell only penetrates  that cavern and that too, not at all times.

My advice to the converted freelance journalist 

I have no experience as a journalist. Hence I cannot say anything about the profession. However, I can say something as a freelancer. In 2006, on my 31st birthday, I found myself sitting in my flat ( it was then I took the nick name as ফ্ল্যাটপেঁচা- (The Owl of the Flat), having left the corporate cubicle which smelled the deodorant of mine because I was more of less like a furniture there.

  • Once a democracy attains a certain level of maturity and evolution, media will be captured by “special interests.” This is as sure as getting only the option of Rs 2000 note in an ATM nowadays.
  • In a democracy, since no one can either earn money or get power without the co-operation of  equally powerful (or powerless) fellow citizens, professionals of all types have powerful psychological incentive to help the dominant “special interest.”
  • Since all forms of special interest and power – political or otherwise must understand, modulate and channel public consciousness to continue the status quo, media will reflect the course of this modulation and will be eventually modulated.
  • Twenty years back, Indian fathers did not so happily choose a journalist as a groom but now the sentiment has slightly changed. Living in India for last forty years and reading some of her greatest lovers and observers (not the analysts and think-tanks or economists and bestselling authors), journalism was perceived something by our old Litmus man as having serious potential of “social mobility.”

Rx as  Dr. Philo 

My recommendations below will sound and feel “strange” and “shocking” but the situation is also extra-ordinary.

  1. Passionate journalists have only option now : to appeal directly to the people and continue creating stories. They must become a true public intellectual – a true Brahmin, who will demand from the society donations to have a basic level of  living. He/she must live below his means and must re-design his life.
  2. It is highly likely that his/her call to donation from the public will not be responded ( go raas gali gali phire / sura baithi bikay  – Milk is to be sold from going door to door, alcohol gets itself from a single point) and hence he must get any job – menial, abominable, drudgery. His whole leisure must to dedicated to his craft.
  3. Does this picture resemble more and more like those mad pioneers of early journalism, early film industry, early Renaissance period of Calcutta where a genius like Vidyasagar was crafting the very modern Bengali language in a hello hole in North Calcutta. He could maintain his integrity, first because of the innate strength of character and secondly, he became a writer-entrepreneur and built a fortune. Frame his picture and keep this in front of your desk. There are very few man, in Bengal and in the entire history of the world like him.

The Future is very grave indeed. For print media journalists and those who write in vernaculars, the fate is similar to the scholars and teachers of Sanskrit, Arabic and Farsi around 1820 in Bengal when overnight, their skill became obsolete in the market. A new world-view was emerging and was adopted passionately – the modern Indian population.

But there are tremendous opportunities. We shall see some men, by Nature’s own mechanism who will be pioneers and heroes and through their efforts the whole vocation will have a Vita Nuova.

Some of the young journalists who got off-loaded from 6, Prafulla Sarkar Street and in all likelihood, for good stand at the entry of the Great Historical Lottery of being true heroes and the glory of being remembered alongwith Young Bengal of 200 years back.


Further Reading 

  1.  Mr. Biswajit Roy, a 57 year old journalist who was one of the 700 people who  “resigned” during the business re-structuring  reports the event in his facebook page.  I did not find any other voice.
  2. রামতনু লাহিড়ী ও ততকালীন বঙ্গসমাজ – শিবনাথ শাস্স্রী
  3. Democracy in America – Alex de Tocqueville
  4.  আমি কেন লিখি ?– নীরদচন্দ্র চৌধুরী
  5.  An Intimate History of Bengal – Pritam Bhattacharyya

 

 

The River Sutra

Though I always regretted for not being born in a great city, this is partly compensated by Providence as I was born in a house which is very close to a river – the Barak. The good fortune appeared to be part of my horoscope as I continued living near rivers continuously for last twenty years – the Ganges, the Bharatpuza, the Alua(Kerala), the Sangam (Pune) the Clyde and the Kelvin(Scotland), the Thames(London). I have also observed that I find a strange unease living in a city which does not have a river or is not by the sea.  I always felt a strange kind of repulsion in cities – Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Durgapur. As a matter of fact, I could not ever consider working in Bangalore, Hyderabad when I was in my early twenties although I lived 500 km from both of them. This temperament has no logical explanation.

A river for me is a constant reminder of our mortality and also a faint echo of our reaching out to some unknown. As a private citizen of Calcutta, I have direct experience of the urban agony and the Ganges at many number of Ghats have always redeemed me. A decade ago, I was roaming on foot in the streets of Calcutta – unemployed and un-employable and this was the time, the river Ganges was kind of a sanctuary for me.

It is impossible for a non-lover to have any idea of the undercurrents of love and care Calcutta hides under the authentic “third-world-ish” chaos, crowd and noise. He/she will only observe a spectacle – a haunting one and will find consolation to consider that majority of our countrymen  live in rural or semi-rural areas.  I longed to return to my boyhood small town home. In summer days, I used to sit for hours in the Ghats and that amplified my longing – to escape this exile. I understood why the exiled Jews remembered their homeland in Babylon as they saw the water of the Euphrates. The Ganges helped me to keep my sanity.

assistants

The River Ride with two  young assistants

Today, I woke up early, gathered two young assistants and went for a ferry ride over the river Barak. I used to be here – swimming in the river when I was of their age.  A river is also like a vein – the blood of young or old flow – the flow is ever fresh, ever new.  The greatest and the craftiest teaching of a river is to be aware of one’s mortality and also of its transcendence.

The Galleon

Taking a boat over a mountain

In one of the greatest works of fiction of this century – One Hundred years of Solitude,  we suddenly encounter an abandoned Spanish galleon – visited by young boys. They speculated as how this came and we can also speculate – may be thousands or million years back when the mountain was under the primitive ocean. May be.

We just saw a retired ferry – very strange – on a raised land as if it either going to drop to the river or just threw up by the river over there. The rusty structure reminded me of the great work and I mentioned this to the young boys. They became interested. They even inquired of the work which they need so badly but are unaware. The ferry of imagination that can only redeem them.

There is a folk song in Sylheti which captures the sense of exile from home for a young bride and she sings softly with the invaluable melancholic sadness of a girl of Bengali origin

“কে যাও রে, ভাটি গাঙ্গ বাইয়া..  / আমার ভাইধনরে কইও নাইওর নিত আইয়া”

She remembers her father’s home – her home in her husband’s house and as she senses a boat passing, she sends her longing in the eternal text, her father perhaps no more and wishes her brothers takes her to her home.

We are all searching for our home. In a fundamental sense, we are all in exile.

[Treat in Retreat] Fishing, Food and Star-up Ecosystem

Foreword : The post is indebted to a very detailed analysis on the present market situation presented by Mr. Sushobhan Mukherjee, Chairman, Infoconglobal here : https://sushobhanm.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/market-mystery/]

As a small town boy of Greater Bengal, I always liked punting, rowing and fishing. In my personal opinion, fishing is one of the best ways to mix purpose, leisure, concentration and hopeful imagination. Jim Corbett wrote such a piece while he caught a mahasheer in Kumayaun and the narration has such an excellent literary quality that we can read this again for pleasure.

Fishing and food are closely related, especially for people of Bengal, Kerala, Japan. In Japan, there is a religious reverence for food and its freshness. The fish should carry a bit of the sea. In Bengal and Kerala, the synthesis happens – the fishiness of the fish is masked under a miraculous canopy of layer and layer of spices and fragrances. Just like a Bengali tongue cannot speak Japanese easily and vice versa, a Bengali tongue will not be able to appreciate the taste of Japanese fish dishes immediately and vice versa. Why ?

Culture’s ultimate and concrete handle is  neither the research of tenured professors, nor of the tales of the travelers or  the tome of the culture scientists but an organ each one carries – our tongue.

I have the experience of fishing in deep sea, in lakes, ponds, rivers in various geographies but mostly in the backwaters of Kerala. I have forgotten completely the catch (output) part of all of them but vividly remember the sunlight, the dark shade, the waves in water, sometime a drizzle. Once near Allepey, I was fishing in brackish water and the backwater was something like a circular area surrounded by coconuts. Suddenly, the sun was covered by a cloud, a magical shade came, in the distant, I could see a ship sailing far away towards Western, only its starboard side visible. In the pale blue water, seen through the coconut foliage, I “felt” as if I am fishing 500 years back and the ship is that of Vasco Da Gamma !

This brings me to the philosophy aspect of fishing. Fishing business for pleasure is a business where output is immaterial if one conducts the business in the right spirit.

Catching fish is a very low end objective of a true fishing enthusiast.

IMG_20170317_172423

Meditating on Fishing Business

We seldom approach our business with such a spirit.

When we were younger, start-up was a verb, not a noun as it is today.

Since 2013, I have been observing “start-up ecosystem” and as a fishing enthusiast, I can claim some expertise in understanding “ecosystems”. What do I observe ?

In brief, I find that most of the start-ups are not interested to internalize the wisdom of the fishing business.  Venture Capital is their fishing rod and fish feed, the pond is the world that needs to be rocked or changed and fish is the valuation. They are burning Venture Capitalist offered feed with an exotic burn rate in a tower by the side of the pond and hoping that the smell and smoke thereof will hypnotize the fishes deep below  and they will soon come in shoals and in millions and billions.

Just like fishes cannot be bribed, so are customers. It is against all known laws of physics, chemistry and consciousness that one can become rich by burning money to get paying customers.

To catch a fish and continue catching fishes, one needs to catch and control three inner fishes first : greed, hubris and ego.