Thursday, December 27, 2007

Quality Built-in and Hinduism

Let me tell you a little about manufacturing and quality.

The main aim of every production line is to satisfy the customer with a quality product delivered at the appropriate time with the right cost.

If you visit any modern, mass manufacturing line, you will be amazed with all the gizmos, techniques used to manufacture the products. Each process in the line will have to conform to strict rules, sequence of operations, quality of parts used, etc. All these contribute towards building a quality product.

But, were the manufacturing processes like this from the beginning? Read on.

Stage 1:

When mass production was in its infancy, the focus was on producing the maximum no. of products and delivering to the market. If some defects introduced inadvertently or otherwise, all would not be caught in time. Only when the product reached the end-user would the defects be identified. Then the product would be repaired, mostly to the satisfaction of the manufacturer.

Stage 2:

It was recognized that passing defect onto customers was generating lot of bad image. Quality controls were set-up. The product after it was completed was checked for defects both visual and functional. If any defects were found, the product would be repaired and then dispatched for delivery.

But this had 2 main drawbacks:
There would be a delay in delivery to market, All the products had to be inspected. It took more time to repair the defective product.
It used up more parts/manpower to repair, making the product more expensive
Sometimes, it was impossible to repair the finished product due to the construction and hence had to thrown away. This again increased the cost on account of rejections.

Stage 3:

This stage was driven by the demands from Stage 2.
The main change was that quality checks were implemented in the production line itself.
The defects could be identified and repaired in the line itself. The defective product would not be allowed to proceed to the next station. There was no outflow of defective product.

But, the mass production line would slow down due to hold ups if a product was found defective. This led to the evolution of the next stage.

Stage 4:

The reasons why the defects occurred in Stage 3 pointed out to 3 main things
i. The focus was not to prevent defects from occurring
ii. There was no rigorous system to monitor quality
iii. The human factor was not considered.

So, people started think in a radically different way:
Include quality requirements in the product design stage itself.
> Design the process to prevent defects from occurring
> Standardise operations: Everybody had to follow these. If you follow these operations, the defects would not occur.
> Training the workers to act as the quality inspector himself
> Introduce a rigorous system to ensure continuous monitoring of quality
This concept was known as the Quality Built-in

This Stage 4 is the present condition and is still evolving. It is pertinent to mention that this evolution took place in the last 100 years.

(The evolution of manufacturing did not occur in just these 4 stages. For brevity’s sake, I have classified it into 4 stages.)

Now, let’s see what Hinduism has to say.

Hinduism, begins its recorded history from 4000BC. (If this were to be accepted, then there should have been a more older phase which did not maintain records. Well that’s besides the point)

It can be safely assumed Hinduism has been in existence for over 6000 years.

Hinduism, the very word conjures up images of strict rules, lot of restrictions, covering every facet of life starting from birth, youth to death. ಮನು, is considered to be the oldest law giver, in the form of ಮನು ಸ್ಮೃತಿ. The much older ವೇದ, ಪುರಾಣ, ಉಪನಿಷದ್ are said provide a map for a person to negotiate his earthly existence. These claim one can live a happy and peaceful life and allow others also do so, if all the instructions, rules are followed. I will not say more because we all know/heard about these things in detail.

In fact, these very rules have been used (Is abused the right word for it?) to portray Hinduism in poor light, making it look like the poorer cousin of the western religions which claim to be based in freedom!!

Compare the Stage 4 in manufacturing and Hinduism. Can you find the similarities?

Both stress on following a standard and rigorous process.
Both stress on quality
Both stress on a rigorous monitoring system

In Hinduism,
Manufacturing line : The world which the person lives in
Worker : The person himself
Quality : Happiness, Satisfaction
Product : Life itself

This demonstrates that Hinduism has adopted the quality built-in system long back, drawing from its rich experience of 6000 years. All the rules, systems etc. a person is supposed to follow has just 1 aim : Improve the quality of life.

Do not look upon Hinduism as a stagnant, repressive religion, as it is portrayed. It’s the world’s most dynamic, altruistic religion focusing on a person’s worldly existence as much as his afterlife.

“Hinduism is not just a religion, but a way of life”. Is it not true?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are you really from Bangalore, Sir?

What qualifies you to be ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು ನಿವಾಸಿ?

Chennai is one of the few cities I don't like to be in. The heat and the high humidity puts me off. The other important reason, the language. Tamil (or is it Tamizh) is spoken so zealously, they have forgotten other languages exist too.
Poor me, I can speak nor understand Tamil, even a wee
bit, not even "How are you" !!!

This Monday, I was forced to be at Chennai for some business meeting. As
usual, I had difficulties with my taxi driver. "Come to arrival gate with vehicle" was my request to him (in English!). I was surprised to find only him, not with the vehicle at the arrival gate!!!
Miscommunication or misunderstanding, I have never been able to fathom.

The next day, it was a different driver, who had done
previous assignments with our company staff. He could speak reasonable English and most importantly, could understand me!!

End of the day, he was driving me back to the airport.
He was a man with an encyclopedic knowledge about Chennai and Bangalore too. He was asking me some
questions about Bangalore, and suddenly, he asked me "Sir, are you really from Bangalore?" I was taken aback and asked the reason for his doubt. " Sir, everybody in Bangalore speaks Tamil. You say you don't know Tamil. So, I got doubt if you really are from Bangalore"

A simple, innocent question led me think "Is being literate in
Tamil, the important qualification to be a ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು ನಿವಾಸಿ?"

I know the immediate reaction to this. S
hould we take the opinion of a simple driver so seriously?
But please remember, these are the people who account for a large percentage of the populace. The educated hardly find time to peep out of their own ivory towers!

Bangaloreans proudly proclaim to the world, "Bangalore
is a cosmopolitan city". Whenever a ಕನ್ನಡ organisation protests against marginalisation of ಕನ್ನಡ, its culture, its people, they are assaulted by a barrage of verbal missiles, claiming how their actions are damaging ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು's cosmopolitan reputation.

1. Why is only Bangalore under pressure to prove its
cosmopolitan credentials?
2. Is this a de facto admission that other cities are not cosmopolitan?
3. Is being cosmopolitan is such an important virtue?
4. Then, why are other cities not encouraged to become

Answers, anyone????

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The rise of feminism: is it WYSIWYG?

We all hear about the neo-woman, see her, feel her power, the woman of the 21st century. She is independent, cool, savvy…….

I am proud of this development, particularly in the Indian context.

But is it just that? Nah, I think there is more than what meets the eye!

Let’s rewind our memories back to the '80s.

Stage 1: First murmurs- the early and mid-80s.
i. India is not brand conscious
ii. Difficult to sell a branded product in India.
iii. Customers decide on a product based on utility, not the brand or who endorsed the product.
iv. Family was first. Customer bought products only if they were a necessity.

All the spare cash went into the family savings, for a rainy day.

Stage 2: Grumbles – the late '80s and early '90s
i. Head of the family (invariably a male) controls the family purchases.
ii. He (family head) is not influenced by brands,
iii. The women of the household have no say in family purchases

Stage 3: Faint shouts - the early ‘90s
i. Women are not financially independent. They are forced to depend
on their husbands for all their financial needs.
ii. Women prefer branded products over unbranded products

Stage 4: Screaming from the rooftops - the mid and late ‘90s
i. Women are not treated equally with men
ii. Women are ill-treated.
iii. Women should have independence
iv. Women are not represented equally in all areas.

Stage 5: The Crescendo – Early and mid '00s

i. Women should have equal opportunities at work
ii. Women should go out to work and gain financial independence
iii.Women should lead life independently

Let’s come back to the present. Yes, the Indian woman has come a long way.

She is financially independent, has her own car, her own apartment, makes decisions about her life by herself…. No longer the helpless damsel depicted in Bollywood movies who screamed “मुझे बचाऒ“

At the same time, India has witnessed an unprecedented, explosive growth in white goods sales. You find more malls, shopping complexes, departmental stores than hospitals! The sales of branded products is increasing by bounds and leaps.

Imagine the days when all we had was the neighbourhood ಕಾಕ ಅಂಗಡಿ where we used to buy only what we wanted.

Today, we buy products, some of which we do not have the faintest idea about their utility.

And, who form a significant portion this “we”, women!! It may seem crazy, but true. Spend a few minutes at any shopping mall, you can see it yourself.

So, do you still think feminism is all about improving the woman’s lot?
It has more to do with market economics and corporate bottomlines!!

Food: Importance of eating the proper way

A rough translation of this Sanskrit word ಭಕ್ತಿ (bhakti) into English would be Devotion which means “Express total loyalty, a feeling of reverence and adoration….”

Sometime back, I read newspaper article about the effect of mental tension on the digestion of food. The article seems to suggest that the tensed mind has negative effects on the digestive system. The article claims that if you are tensed or too happy (The internal reaction of the body to both happiness and threat is similar), the enzymes necessary for the digestion are not released in the proper quantity. So, the food will not get digested and assimilated into the body.. The article suggests you eat your food in peaceful frame of mind, preferably silently. No distractions allowed, no listening to music, no TV!!!!

At dinner times, even at the slightest whisper, my parents used to say, “ಊಟವನ್ನು ಭಯ ಭಕ್ತಿಯಿಂದ ಮಾಡಬೇಕು. ಮತಾಡಿದರೆ ಅನ್ನಕ್ಕೆ ಅವಮಾನ ಮಾಡಿದ ಹಾಗೆ, ಮಾತಾಡದೆ ಊಟ ಮಾಡು”.When I used to gobble up food, they would suggest “ನಿಧಾನವಾಗಿ ತಿನ್ನು, ಹೀಗೆ ತಿಂದ್ರೆ ಅನ್ನ ಮೈಗೆ ಹತ್ತೊಲ್ಲ”.
Almost of all us would have heard this, with some minor variations.

Back then, I used to wonder why we need to show devotion to our food or why we need to eat with a peaceful frame of mind. On reading this article, I realized that what my parents said was not what they made up, but repeating what they heard from their parents who inturn heard from their parents, the chain continues (sounds similar to how the Vedas were handed over from generation to generation). This sounds very strange believing hearsay. But if you look back, the origins or this hearsay lie in our scriptures, the immense ocean of knowlegde accumulated over the millenia.

Our scriptures describe “ಅನ್ನಮ್ ಪರಬ್ರಹ್ಮ ಸ್ವರೂಪಮ್”. Food is the manifestation of Brahma.
You have eat it with
i) utmost devotion,(bhakti)
ii) with a pure mind,
iii) in clean surroundings.

The food should be first offerred to the "ಇಷ್ಟ ದೈವ" and then partaken as ಪ್ರಸಾದ.

This ensured that all the above 3 conditions were satisfied.

So, what is the relation of the these 3 conditions with the article?

1) Eat with utmost devotion : Focus on nothing but eating, no diversions
2) Eat with a pure mind : Eat with peaceful frame of mind
3) Eat in clean surroundings: This last condition implies cleanliness in all aspects, visual, aural,smell.

This ensures a peaceful environment to partake food.

Does it not sound similar to the newspaper article????

The main point I wish to put forth here is : There is a scientific background for what our scripture, our culture, our age old practices prescribe for us. Merely that someone called our traditions ಗೊಡ್ಡು ಸಂಪ್ರದಾಯ does not make it baseless.

Einstein is supposed to have commented " Science is too young to understand religion"

Is it too far stretched to suggest that we are too young to understand the truth in our culture???