Techie turned entrepreneur, Sarath Babu

Pix Credit : A Muralitharan | The Hindu

His first brush with limelight was when he rejected a big pay packet in 2006 as an IIM (Ahmedabad) alumnus, expressing his preference to be at the giving end of jobs. The press gobbled up the story of this techie from a Chennai slum who recognized his man-management skills as a BITS Pilani student organizer of a youth event and belled the CAT to study MBA. Continue reading “Techie turned entrepreneur, Sarath Babu”

An unkind sting

(This appeared in The Hoot , May 2009 Edition)

In February this year, I came across an ad on Craigslist.  ‘Reporting for an American Newspaper on the East Coast’, which if I remember right, was in the Bangalore page in the writing editing section. (The job id is still with me, it was job-1029130779, but the Craigs ad has been taken down for a good reason, which you will know soon). The advertisers were looking for Indian journalists to handle stories in the U.S., sitting in India. The pay offered was ‘competitive’, but it wasn’t mentioned how much it would be. Continue reading “An unkind sting”

Dr. Sujit Saraf: Scientist and successful author

Photo credit: Divya Satia

Another IITian turned writer, he has traveled all the way from Bihar to Darjeeling to Delhi to NASA to Palo Alto. But his heart and soul have remained Indian, so Indian that he writes commentaries of even politics in India. Meet Sujit Saraf, author of ‘The Peacock Throne’ and ‘The Confession of Sultana Daku.’

Techgoss (TG):
The basic questions first. Tell us about yourself, your education, your career so far and currently what do you do, where are you located?
Sujit Saraf (SS): I was born in a small town in Bihar and went to school in Darjeeling and Delhi. After graduating from IIT Delhi, I received a Ph.D. from Berkeley. Over the last few years, I have done research for NASA, taught at IIT and worked in a software startup, and am now a research scientist at a defense company in California, where I live.

TG: What was your first book? Has it been published? When and why was it written? How many books have you written in total so far?
SS: My first book was a mishmash of Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” books; I am glad it was never published! My first published novel was Limbo, written when I was a student at IIT Delhi. I have since written many books – some incomplete – and a few have been published.

TG: Your credentials are very impressive… IITian, NASA scientist, how come you chose the label of a writer?
SS: I’ve always thought of myself as a novelist. Publishers disagreed.

TG: Why social fiction and why not sci-fi, since you seem the ideal candidate for SF?
SS: I’ve never found any joy in science fiction.

TG:
You have a lot of social commentaries in publication in the form of articles, what is your pre-occupation with Indian politics and society, in spite of being in a career so removed from the same topic?
SS: Perhaps a paraphrasing of an old adage will do: you can take the boy out of India; you cannot take India out of the boy!

TG:
What is your background in theatre? How was the transition from writer to dramatist effected? Could you elaborate on why the theater has become a passion?
SS: In 1995, a friend and I founded Naatak, a theater company, to stage Indian plays in California. Naatak has since flourished. Through Naatak, I have written, directed and produced many plays. I am not a professional performer, but Naatak provides something enjoyable to do with friends over weekends.

TG: Tell us about your writing process? What is your current project?
SS: I write methodically and mechanically, without anything that could be called “creative passion”. Chapter 1 is written first, followed by chapter 2, chapter 3 and so on. Perhaps I approach writing as an engineer approaches a project. Currently, I am at work on a novel based on my grandfather’s life and travels.

TG: In spite of being away from the country, you are still very involved with the logistics of living in India, any reasons? How does it fuel your passion in theater and writing?
SS: My books have all been set in India, perhaps because I have still not come to the US in “storyland”. While my early plays were set in India, the last two are firmly rooted in the San Francisco area, where I live. Because a play is more direct (it is being performed right in front of you) while a novel can choose to be indirect, I find myself increasingly writing plays that relate to the life I now live, rather than the one I have left behind.

TG: You straddle two languages and two genres of writing, how do you manage these plus your career in space science?
SS: I don’t sleep much these days!

TG: What do you plan to contribute to India in terms of your expertise in space science?
SS: Nothing. No one working in America contributes anything to India.

TG: You have two unique gifts – binary logic of computing as well the artistic skills of writing. Do you have to make an attempt to balance the two? Or can you just switch off one and switch on the other?
SS: I have often felt that the two are the same.

TG:
Indian tech firms have won billions of dollars of American business based on their talent and competitive costs. But there is a dark side to the exploitation of Indian workers in the US as well. How do you see the future of the outsourcing industry? How many more years before we lose our cost advantage?
SS: I do not think that Indian workers – either in the US or in BPOs in India – are being exploited. In each case, people have used their skills to ensure a more prosperous life; in each case, this transition was made voluntarily.

I think India will retain a cost advantage in outsourcing for at least another decade. Of course, I am not a BPO expert. I deal with BPOs only when I call my bank to complain about an unfair fee on my monthly statement, and am connected to an Indian in Bangalore who calls himself Max.

Software Sitarist speaks

Sameep Kulkarni
Pic courtesy : TechGoss

Call him a ‘Software Sitarist’, a ‘Corporate Artist’ or a ‘Mathematical Musician’; Sameep Kulkarni remains the maestro who juggles embedded software by the day and the sitar strings at night, with perfect balance. Sameep Kulkarni is a person who ‘sticks on’. This young man from Pune started his ‘affair with his Sitar’ at the tender age of six, and has never let go. He forayed into the world of software a decade and a half later and has stayed on with his first job too. He has given over 500 concerts so far and thinks music is on the way to being ‘globalized’.  Sameep doesn’t want to be a full time musician; he is as passionate about his work as he is about music. Continue reading “Software Sitarist speaks”

Orkut | Any Fraud Mallus out there?

Wait! Before you call your lawyer to sue me for libel; I am not talking about your er…character or qualities! Nor am I making war on the inhabitants of Mallu Pradesh! ‘Fraud Mallu’ for your information is an Orkut community of Mallus, for Mallus and by Mallus, only you need to be a pardesi mallu or Marunadan mallu as they say in Malayalam.

In other words if you speak good Malayalam, sorry you aren’t an FM, you are a RM or a PM (real Mallu or pure mallu) and you don’t qualify. But in case your Malayalam is pathetic and mallu grannies look at you with sympathy oozing from their sensibilities, welcome “aliya” (means brother-in-law literally, but here the call is for ladies too) you are in. And please don’t take the literal meaning of Fraud here, it is just an evidence of the evergreen sense of humor of the Mallu, in laughing at themselves that allows this title to survive. Which other ethnic group would have allowed the MTV ‘Lolakutty’ to go on and on? Continue reading “Orkut | Any Fraud Mallus out there?”