The Moaning of Life #3 The Complex Question of Finding Where You Belong

Many years ago, author Shweta Taneja asked a pertinent question at the launch of her Krishna graphic novel. If a writer is born in one country and emigrates to another, which country does the writer belong to? She talked about Neil Gaiman, born in the UK and later emigrating to the United States. My lord and mentor Ricky Gervais lives in a US and UK mansion with a concierge and security team. He identifies himself as belonging to both countries.

This is the question I have been struggling with for a while now.

We always think of Albert Einstein as the founder of the theory of relativity, but only some acknowledge his country of origin; it's not common knowledge. 

So, does it matter which country you belong to? This question has come up a lot in recent days.

I have spent most of my life in India, visiting and working in multiple cities.
My friends in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai still swear by our good times and for the bad times. It has come to that once you identify a country, do you have to remember a city to be associated with? For me, the city to be associated with most is Bangalore; the casual racist auto-driver, the city rooted in tech, and the Blackberry police officers are all etched in my memory. 

I also vividly remember standing early in the morning, watching the Republic Day parade in Delhi, eating ras-malai paratha in the paratha gully in Chandni Chowk, meditating in a monastery in Manipur, binge drinking at Titos in Goa, eating a cheese club sandwich in Mumbai, visiting the Mahabalipuram temple in Chennai.

But then I also have vivid memories of eating the best pizza in Europe outside Italy, visiting the chocolate museum in Belgium, consuming a brownie in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam, scuba diving in Malta, of the gogo bar in Thailand and, of course, eating Turkish Delight at Istanbul bazaar but I never called these places home. I do not find solace in this place; I am a completely different person on a holiday.

So the question comes back to haunts: does it matter which country you belong to?

Some of my more right-leaning friends will scream that only one country matters, and it is the country they are born in. It could be Mother Russia or Mother India. They will try to convince me that I must be upright and stand for the country. Some other countries will want you to enlist in their armies when you turn eighteen.

Then again, a few days ago, a young lady opened a coffee shop trying to sell me Arabic coffee, a heap of coffee powder in very little water. My spoon was stuck vertically in the cup as I tried to gulp down the monstrosity. I have never been to Syria, where the girl was and was now seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, so I wonder if her claims were valid. She left behind everything she owned and knocked on the door of the United Kingdom, hoping they opened it for her. 
Her first act of freedom was to make that horrendous cup of coffee, which I gulped down with a smile to not let her down.

The bottom line is that the answer to which country one belongs to is complex. Some people feel deeply connected to their country of origin, while others find a sense of belonging in the country they currently reside in. For some, home is not a place but a feeling, a state of mind. As for me, I am still figuring out where I belong, and it's okay not to have a definite answer.

But here is a definite answer: after months of paperwork, endless queues, and drinking copious amounts of coffee, two days after I turned thirty-seven, I finally caved in, and I am now a citizen of the Great British Empire. I still guzzle tonnes of coffee like before, eat the spiciest meat you can find, and listen to desi Hip Hop Rap. And I still don't know where I belong.

Ultimately, the question of which country you belong to is a lot like trying to find Waldo in a crowded picture. You may have to search long and hard, but in the end, you realise that Waldo was inside you all along. So, if you're still struggling to find which country you belong to, just look inside yourself, and you'll find the answer. Or, you know, go on a world tour, eat good food, sip some coffee, and let the answer come naturally. 

After all, life is too short to take things too seriously.

When nothing else works- Kobayashi Maru

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

The environment was tense and nerve-wracking. Freshly dry-cleaned suit, neatly creased pants and lightly gelled hair, everything I could prepare for a new job was engineered for perfection. I even had a brand new ball pen with a brand of the technology I was here to consult about. The funny thing about the pen last evening: I travelled one and a half hours on the sweaty London Tube, battling my fear of bed bugs. As I said, I had everything engineered to perfection.

I was eager to impress my clients with my skills, but also aware that I could quickly end up in the doghouse. I approached the challenge with the same confidence level as a penguin in a tuxedo - not exactly built for success, but willing to waddle forward anyway.

I was the 21st team member; the last twenty filled multiple positions across the development spectrum. The project template was nothing new; Someone sold the idea of twenty people at different levels to the client. They bought it. There was just one problem - no solid requirements or plan. A vague idea that all the lines of business had to go live together.

This situation is not new. 

We have often landed in a position like this, where the client has a sliver of an idea; they have paid Salesforce billing but need to figure out where to begin. A Solution Architect is only as good of a help as the requirement provided for the project. There is only a solution if there are requirements.

It is a no-win situation- a Kobayashi Maru.

The Kobayashi Maru is a Star Trek training exercise designed to test Star-fleet Academy cadets' character in a no-win scenario. The test is famously unbeatable and is designed to evaluate how cadets handle a situation without a clear solution.

Captain Kirk famously beat Kobayashi Maru by reprogramming the simulation and winning the no-win situation.

And there is a lesson here. When there are no requirements but a vague idea of a project, there is a need to bring the concept of a minimum viable product. 

A minimum viable product is a basic version of a product with enough features to satisfy early customers and gather feedback for future development. This vital process allows clients to validate their vague ideas, reduce development costs, and make informed decisions on what features to prioritise. With an MVP, we can test the waters before investing heavily in development. 

More importantly, we can get a team of twenty-one moving in a direction. Planning an MVP is a small portion in the grand scheme of things, but it's a start. The stakeholders get something solid in their hands; they have a system to feel and explore, bringing out the picture even more clearly. The ever-daunting task becomes bearable, manageable and achievable. 

Suddenly, we see the end goal in sight.  

So, have you ever found yourself in a Kobayashi Maru situation before? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments below!


- When I was starting a new job as a Tech Architect, the project had no solid requirements or plan, just a vague idea.

- We created a minimum viable product scope to validate vague ideas, reduce development costs, and make informed decisions on what features to prioritise.

- Planning an MVP is a small portion in the grand scheme of things, but it's a start.

- The stakeholders get something solid in their hands, making the ever-daunting task bearable, manageable, and achievable.


An algorithm to make the perfect coffee

Photo by Malidate Van on StockSnap

The warm aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air, and as I take my first sip, I can't help but feel a sense of calm wash over me. The world outside is still and quiet, as if it's holding its breath, waiting for the hustle and bustle of the week to begin. You take a moment to reflect on the past week and set intentions for the weekend ahead while enjoying your coffee. It's a small yet meaningful ritual that sets the tone for the rest of your day. It's Friday after all.

A fellow developer had recently commented, "Why do I need to know about maps and sets? Flows will do most of the job for us..."

Why must we study programming fundamentals when we have a very powerful platform like salesforce focused on less or no code? And that is where the sip of beautiful coffee mingled on the tongue, and an answer came to the fore. We get so many good coffee machines in the market, then why do we need to learn how to make filter coffee?

We get amazing pod machines, professional coffee machines and even traditional press machines, so why do we still need to understand the basics of making coffee?

Just like how you need a proper structure to make a good cup of coffee, developers need to use proper data structures to manage and organize data in Salesforce effectively. In other words, Salesforce platform, flows are like the tools and equipment that help you make a perfect cup of coffee. You will get a tool to effectively replace one part of the coffee making process, but that should only aid your journey in making coffee.

And tools will break-down or wear out, what will remain is your knowledge. And that is why we keep the bare-bones as is. And that is why, even if Salesforce provides us with a nice shiny tool to build our processes, to model data, knowing the data structures is as much essential as knowing the tool itself.

Knowing that an array starts from zero is as much essential as knowing you can call a flow from another flow. If the goal is to make the system as efficient as we can, we have to use all the tools we have. And sometimes, we only get boiling water for our coffee.

And since I did write about the algorithm for making the perfect coffee, here it follows.

  1. Boil water in a kettle or on a stove.
  2. Grind coffee beans.
  3. Put a coffee filter or cheesecloth into a funnel or strainer and set it over your coffee mug or carafe.
  4. Put the ground coffee into the filter.
  5. Slowly pour the hot water over the coffee grounds in the filter.
  6. Let the coffee steep for 3-5 minutes.
  7. Remove the filter or cheesecloth from the funnel or strainer, and discard the used grounds.
  8. Give your coffee a quick stir, add any desired milk or sweetener, and enjoy!

This is a bare-bone of making a coffee.

Happy Friday.


What I learned from automating my house during the pandemic

An empty mind is an engineer's workshop. That saying is as old as time. Two things happened simultaneously in 2020 - The Pandemic hit, causing many jobs in IT to move from working from the office to working from home. We were expecting a baby and therefore had to take additional precautions, which meant a complete disconnect from human civilization, barring the occasional video calls.

The second thing during this period was moving into a brand-new flat. As you scour through manuals from Ikea, you start understanding the patterns. You can see which manual is copy pasted from other manuals; you can empathize with the manual-making team and how overworked they are to churn out new assembly guides for every new piece of furniture in the market.

That was when I looked at the house carefully and asked a pertinent question, why in the 22nd century, do we need switches? The light control is a stone-age activity; you move from your position, drop what you are doing, reach this non-descript mechanical plastic breaker circuit, and hit it with a click, causing the course to complete, and electricity passes through. Humans came to the moon in 1969; we have Voyager about to go to the outer edges of the solar system. Humans now can launch not one or two but 104 satellites in orbit with the mathematical precision in mm, so why on earn should I drop my cup of frothy coffee, rise and walk to the small plastic thingy on the wall to get more light in the room?

So I went complete hardware mode and picked up intelligent devices. 

  1. For GU10 Spotlights, I used the INNR multi-coloured bulbs for living areas connected with Hue Bridge.
  2. For the Screw Bulbs, I used TP-Link TAPO Yellow bulbs for the bedroom.
  3. For the smart blinds, I used Louvolite electronic blinds that can be configured and used the Louvolite hub.
  4. I have a Cubo AI camera for the nursery with motion sensing that detects when the baby moves closer to the edge of his cot.
  5. Everyone has a robotic hoover in the house, but if you haven't, I recommend you get one. For the robotic hoover, I have used the Ecovacs Deebot 920 for automatic cleaning and mopping the house.
  6. For orchestration, I had Alexa Echo for ages, but I decided to upgrade to Alexa Show, which is wall-mounted for the new house. Having Alexa Show, which is mounted on the wall, gave a sense of a control panel for the whole place when we did not want to use the voice command.

Here are some of the most comical takeaways I experienced along the way:

Compatibility is Key (But Not Always Easy): I quickly learned that compatibility is crucial for a smooth-running smart home. But, when I thought I had everything set up perfectly, one of my devices would suddenly go rogue and refuse to play nice with the others. It was like trying to herd cats, but with technology.

The Joy of Voice Integration (or the Lack Thereof): Integrating my smart lights and blinds with Alexa was much fun - when it worked. But, when Alexa refused to listen to me or misheard my commands, it was like talking to a stubborn child who wouldn't listen.

Scheduling and Automation: Setting up schedules and automation for my smart lights and blinds was a real hoot. I felt like a mad scientist, coming up with elaborate plans to outsmart my devices. Of course, they usually didn't follow my commands, but it was still a good laugh.

Debugging and Troubleshooting: This was where the real fun began. Debugging and troubleshooting my smart lights and blinds was like trying to solve a mystery, complete with red herrings and false leads. As a result, I learned to be creative in my troubleshooting methods, like shaking the device, shouting at it, or even trying to bribe it with treats (kidding, of course).

In conclusion, automating the lights and blinds in my home was a hilarious adventure filled with laughs, frustration, and much learning. 

And as I write this article, I can ask Alexa to turn on my living room lights or close the blinds without moving an inch from my seat; that gives a sense of power.

P.s. Many of my devices happened before Matter protocol came into being. Therefore, my devices were already orchestrated before 'matter', and consequently, it didn't affect me.


The moaning of life #2 Childhood Trauma

The entire shark family is out for a hunt, and the little fish are running for their life. We get to cheer as the Baby Shark does Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo with his family, calling on the family - extended family and sometimes robots on the 'hunt' because your offspring decides that that is the one song they want you to play or a tantrum follows.

Many of you will say it's not the content but the catchy tune that draws the babies towards the nonsequential song, but it's more than that. It's the sheer repeatedness that draws your angst towards the piece. And YouTube provides the music based on how much time you want your baby to be engaged to it. You have a 60+ minute version and a 120+ minute version. The same shark family going out on the same hunt.

And it's not just the Shark family. Weirdly, baby JJ and his family sing random songs, go on a holiday and even increase the family. I am talking about Cocomelon, which has arrived in your child's life as he murmurs the word 'co-co' in broken language, asking you to play his songs. And these multiverses interact. The shark family comes out to play with the melon family capturing the baby's imagination.

Go out in the market, and in some corners, some parents are desperately holding out their phone screens on their screens, and you hear the bee entering the watermelon, and you know they are desperate. When did these things come into existence? 

The vaguest memory I had of a cartoon that I had watched at this age was that of some weird thing that aired on DD metro. Some Civil Servants perhaps had this idea of copying tom and jerry and used stop-motion animation using puppets. 

You have this cat chasing after a fish, a mouse who looks at the fish as if he is in love. The fish, in turn, dresses up as a princess and a chase ensues. While all this fun is going on, the cat catches the fish, fries it, and eats it. The bones are then dressed as the queen in the mouse's imagination. That was the most traumatic experience of my childhood. 

So shocking it was that for many years I did not eat fish for a long time. 

The second childhood trauma came from the show Richie Rich, but later years in my life. I used to travel to school with this slightly more privileged kid. They had cable TV with remote control when we still used the button TV. One day on a casual walk to school, the kid happened to mention the Richie Rich cartoon, a show where the boy is so rich he has a robot as a butler.
For the little me, the boy is a bit more privileged than me. It was hard to distinguish between him and the Richie Rich kid. And the petty conversation followed, with me chiding the boy for watching unrealistic shows.
How can a robot change its appearance, I argued?
But you can program it to change its appearance, he argued back. So lost we were debating the abstract concept about a fictitious character that we never realised that the whole argument was moot. The entire premise was inconsequential and yet had grasped our imagination.
One who had seen the show. The other could just imagine it.

But like it or hate it, the shows do have an effect on your personality. That argument early in the morning while walking for the bus stuck with me. That evening I rushed home, opened the oxford dictionary in my room and ran my little fingers on the listing page for 'p'. 

For until that argument, I had never heard of the word programming. 

And perhaps in the little mind of the baby, the word 'Doo doo doo do do' has some significance. Maybe we will come to know in the future?


The moaning of life #1 Nerdgasm

Nerd culture has always been with us since the dawn of time. Those days when young boys and girls dreamt of walking into Mordor or chasing flying dragons, and this was necessary before the boon of modern computer design. Nerd culture hit its peak in the nineties when shows like He-man, swat cats, and G.I. Joe took a ripe audience for a ride. 

Moving away from Red Riding Hood and her impaired vision (I mean, who mistakes a wolf for her grandmother), we had cats who built plans in a junkyard. And the little me used the building blocks to assemble different items in my Mechanix box.

Nerd culture spun geographies, and I have a friend in London who grew up in Hong Kong and emigrated to England. Our upbringing has nothing in common, yet we spend hours discussing He-Man!

People have a passion for the pop culture and do not judge others. We do not fight if someone loves comics, board games, or even those who enjoy sewing. We appreciate all forms of nerdism and passion for different things.

The nerd culture hit me when I first saw the first spider-man movie in theatres. Here is a guy dressed in spandex, spinning webs from his hands, doing acrobats in the air. It was impossible to understand. And yet it made sense. It made so much sense that I watched that movie in the theatre three times. The Junior college (High School) student in me had saved enough money to do that. So what I go hungry for a week at college.

My girlfriend, now my wife, forgave me for taking her to the avengers' premiere for a date night and screaming in a theatre when I spotted Thanos on screen. 

Or when I promised her, I would walk into Mordor with her, when giving her a ring, not THE ring. She was the one, however, as she gifted me my first edition of Lord of the rings and the complete Sherlock Holmes as a gift.

Did we know back then that the nerd culture would hit us badly? It will decimate the entire movie-going experience. It will change the world during a pandemic. 

It was not a wave, and it was a big bang. 

And the Big bang theory had a big hand in it.

See, until the point when the show Big Bang Theory came aboard, we all went to comic cons, but we never celebrated the fact. So when I entered the entertainment store in Bangalore, I saw but didn't buy because until then, there was a premium on being different.

My parents didn't understand why a grown man would want to buy comics. However, I may try to explain about a man dressed as a dog wielding an MP5 gun firing through riots in Delhi (for an unversed, that's Doga, an Indian punisher who dresses like a Dog). A manager at a famous IT firm told me it didn't look professional that I had comics in my drawer, even though I spent more money on them than he ever did for an aftershave. A karmic balance was maintained when another manager exchanged Hush Hush with me for my Sandman overture. My mother questioned my collection of board games and wondered if they were for the kid.

And here is the thing, people told us to hide the fact that we enjoyed nerd culture. And yet, here was a show that celebrated the culture and showed the world it was as normal as people screaming for their favourite sports team. Sheldon Cooper, as a character, told us that it was okay to wear your justice league t-shirts out in public, and we did just that. And it said to the nerds that if you try hard, you can find your Penny, the girl of your dreams, and she will adjust with your nerdvana.

The nerds realised we were being lied to our whole life. That we were told to hide our passions for the greater good was a lie. Did I know I'll have a room full of board games professionally preserved in a bespoke made cupboard? I didn't. It was not hard to convince my wife, who had been along for the ride, to have the ONE Ring keyholder on the console table. She just gave up.

But, and here is the kicker, most of us nerds were more prosperous than other muggles (even though we spend our money on things many considered useless), and the world was watching.

So a movie producer could proudly announce, listen, we are going to make seventeen films in ten years, and I know this bunch who will watch them. When the world entered the pandemic, the nerds knew what they were going to do. We studied every zombie, alien invasion and apocalypse film. The world now caters for nerds and celebrates pop culture.

The nerdgasm hit.

And it will be hard for the world to reset. The clubs are failing, and going out is taking a hit, but today the sales of board games, comics and e-readers are through the roof. Unfortunately, PS5 are unavailable in the market; this is humanity's golden age. 

Since the dawn of time, humans revered the hunters and the gatherers, but the squeaky little guy who sat around the bonfire, telling heartwarming stories so that you do not fear throughout the night, had his only time now.


The tale of two biryani

Biryani image by Pixabay

Before we begin, let us address the elephant in the room - what is a Biryani? Those who have not yet faced globalisation at the scale the world is moving on. Biryani is a dish in which succulent pieces of meat are cooked to perfection sandwiched between multiple layers of rice that is lightly spiced with thirty-six different spices. Those who have had the pleasure of meeting me (before March 2020) know that I have this persistent dream of having all types of biryanis in the world.

But this is not a food post. This is a post about observation and the value of change management in business. I had a favourite biryani shop on my way home from work. I had to ration my travel to make sure I do not eat there every day. The chef had a knack for making Biryani. However, he had no business acumen. He decided to keep his shop low-key, he offered no credit/debit card facility.

He only offered Biryani, and he was good at it. There were queues outside his shop that blocked the entire pavement, to the annoyance of the travellers. Needless to say, he was popular.

His sous chef started a completing Biryani shop in 2019 in the same area. He was a good chef but he was not the best. His entire marketing strategy was to jump on the tailwind of the original Biryani restaurant. He upgraded the infrastructure, offered credit/debit card payments. He negotiated with food delivery agents. Still, there was no business, nothing compared to the original biryani shop.

And then everything changes. Someone tried to eat a bat or a pangolin or there was a freak accident in a lab somewhere. But Covid hit the world, faster than Sterling runs with the ball towards the goal post. And as lockdown shut the places and people crawled back into enclosed spaces, the original biryani shop started feeling the brunt.

The new Biryani shop already had the habit of deliveries, his revenue model changed, it was a very short trip for him to prep for the pandemic. I could now order biryani from the comfort of my house. No need to stay in the queue, no need to carry loose change to give in the shop. And by the time the original biryani shop caught up, it was already too late.

Few of the regular customers had changed their palette and moved to the new biryani shop. And as I gobbled on the succulent meat, I could not help but wonder. Having one good thing about your business is not enough in modern times. The one thing that you are good at is the icing on top. The cake is a robust infrastructure that is hazards and pandemic proof.

Now, a pandemic is a once-in-a-life event, and you cannot prepare for such a calamity. But using the tools that support your business process will open your business to better avenues. Falling behind the technical curve because you are unfamiliar is not an excuse. We live in an exceeding post-pandemic world.

If the pandemic has been hard on your business, you have fallen behind on the technology curve. Like it or not technology is now penetrating our life deeper than the needle of COVID vaccines enter. People are wearing devices on their bodies, we have come a long way from that lone telephone kept in the corner of our houses. Sixty years ago we used to carry a cheque book in our pocket, now we carry the entire bank in them.

It is time to reinvent your business for the modern world. Because in this world, doing one thing is not enough. You need the technological backbone behind your talent, else like the first biryani shop, you end up losing to the next big thing!

What do you think?