Today, the cook had not shown up and the cleaning lady was on leave. It was going to be a busy day, so I had called my old maid, Maya, for help. I reached home early at around 5:30pm and as agreed, Maya came with her sister, Vatsa, and the two together took care of cooking and cleaning as I continued working from home. They called for me as they got ready to leave. I tried to pay them their due, ‘tried’ because the lady refused to take money, “Bai tumcha karza aahe aamchya war. Tilaa dya, tilaa garaj aahe” (Madam, we are indebted to you.  You can pay her as she needs money), she pointed to her sister. “Karza vegada aani kaam vegada” (Lets not mix your loan and what is due to you) I told her and forced her to take the money. Vatsa readily took the money, “Tai thodi madad hote, naahi tar tumhi Priyachya babanaa odhakhta”. I nodded, the two of them took leave promising to come over again if there was a need.

The conversation got me thinking.

Maya’s only daughter, Anita, worked at my place for 2-3 years before she got married.  I helped them financially and with gifts to get her married.  The help that came from various quarters wasn’t sufficient to fulfill their heart’ desire to wed their only daughter in style, so they took additional loan from me promising to repay me gradually.  For that they feel indebted to me till date.  Though they have not been able to repay the loan, Maya always comes over whenever I need help.  We have a established protocol, I call her husband and she is there at my house around 5-5:30pm.  Maya can take care of cleaning, washing etc., but for cooking she always gets her sister Vatsa.  Vatsa has four young daughters, a drunkard, gambler for a husband who is mostly out of work.  Vatsa is almost bringing up her daughters single-handedly.  Naturally bare necessities score over schooling.  The two older girls, Priya and Priti often accompanied Anita to my place to play with my daughter.  It ached my heart to see them out of school, so I convinced Vatsa to enroll them in the Municipal school in their basti and promised to take care of all their education related expenses.   Vatsa got them enrolled in school, but she does not think much about it or may be she is beyond thinking about it.  When she comes for work, the school is safe place for them as opposed to home where her husband lies drunk, they get a meal, milk – so she is okay.  But, she is not really convinced that we will always take care of the school expenses.  She believes we working, educated women have our own loafty ideas on educating girls and hence we are doing it to please ourselves.  Neither do I try to convince her, I’m just glad she has been able to resist her husband’s demands of sending the girls to work.  Vatsa, keeps worrying about her daughters’ marriage, though they are not even in their teens.  ‘Would she find someone like me to help when it comes to their marriage’, she often wonders aloud.

If I care to do the math, I have probably spent more on Vatsa’s daughters’ school fees, school uniforms, occasional gifts on festivals etc.  While Vatsa is grateful, she doesn’t really think about it as any sort of support.  Maya on the other hand feels indebted to me even today, 2-3 years after her daughter’s marriage.  For them, being able to marry their daughter is so much more important than getting a decent education for her.  I’m certainly not saying I want Vatsa to feel grateful or anything, its just that their attitude towards their daughters makes me really sad and brings back some really unpleasant memories of my village some 20 years back.

I remember another similar case.

When the little one was born one lady, Sunanda, used to come and give the little one and myself a massage.  Sunanda had a sixteen year old daughter who was extremely good looking, interested in studies and she also did very well in her school.  No wonder the lady was perpetually worrying about her.  Gauri wanted to study and become a nurse.  But, Sunanda was always faced with a steady stream of suitors wanting to marry her daughter – some from the neighbourhood, some proposals forwarded by relatives etc.  Though Sunanda maintained she wanted to let Gauri study, I knew the proposals tempted her to marry off Gauri.  When she came for work, leaving her daughter all alone at home, it constantly worried her.  Her daughter expressed her desire to go to a boarding school.  I was impressed by the girl and hence tried hard to find such a school.  Luckily, I found out that one of my colleague’s mother-in-law was a Pricipal of such a school.  I did a lot of followups on my own and assured Sunanda that Gauri would get through.  While I was pursuing her admission with single-minded focus, Sunanda got another proposal from a relatively wealthy family.  The groom was a middle-aged man more than twice her daughter’s age.  One day Sunanda casually asked me if I would help her financially if she wanted to get Gauri married to this person.  I remember losing my temper and telling her that I was ready to bear the expenses for a couple of years if Gauri went to boarding school, however, if she was contemplating getting her married to this man who was almost her father’s age, she should forget about getting any help from me.  On the other hand the admission procedure for boarding school had to be completed, but I was unsure if Sunanda was really serious about it.  I did not have to wait for long to find out.  Sunanda stopped coming to work suddenly.  Lateron, I learnt from other maids that she got Gauri married and that she was cross with me as I had refused to help her.

Even today, whenever I remember Gauri I have this strange, sad feeling of helplessness.  Of not being able to do anything about it.  So many years, so many generations, but things just refuse to change.

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Sometime back we were interviewing for the position of a junior developer in my group, at my place of work. One of those days the HR called as soon I reached office and said a candidate was waiting in the lobby and would like to leave before lunch. As I gathered pen, paper, marker , I quickly browsed through the resume in the email. The objective caught my eye. It read something like this-

“To secure a challenging position in the field of software development where I can effectively contribute the best of my abilities, and proficiency in the growth of the organization with the same of myself, to furnish new heights.”

The candidate did not make the cut for various other reasons, but that particular resume got me thinking.

Why do so many resumes look like they’ve been scribbled (okay, what is e-word for that?) in a hurry? Why do people invest so little on making themselves presentable on paper? People get extremely creative while listing ‘Other Interests’ or ‘Hobbies’, but forget to mention the name of their college 🙂 Spelling mistakes, bad English, bad formatting, over decoration, atrocious font selection, lengthy project description with absolutely no details about their own contribution – majority of the resumes have these problems.

So, what makes a good resume? What do interviewers look for when they short-list candidates based on resumes? How should one go about creating that favourable first-impression with the aid of resume? What are the “dos and don’ts” while writing a resume?

Heres are a couple of things that I care about and look at when I’m looking at a resume-

  • I care for correct spellings, correct language, good formatting and the document format. I think they speak a lot about an individual. Of course they are not above the content of the resume, and you can probably ignore them if you are a genius, a geek or a guru in your area. But, I doubt any real geniuses, geeks or gurus would really ignore them.
  • I personally prefer resumes in dot text or HTML, even PDF is acceptable. But, the world being what it is and where it is, a well written resume in MS Word format is okay too provided the individual does not consider the resume as a place where she needs to showcase all her Word skills!
  • I care for the ‘objective’, _if and only if_ the person knows what she is talking about. A crisp, clear, unambiguously stated objective can go a long way in creating a favourable impression. But, vague and paragraph-long objective written in flowery language only serves as distraction. If you are not sure what to write, jut skip it. No point in copying a seemingly impressive objective that your friend herself picked up from elsewhere.

And objectives have to be line with the position you are applying for. It is heart-warming to see a junior developer trying to align his interests with the goals of the organisation, but it just doesn’t ‘cut’ in a resume. I would rather prefer more direct, but honest objectives where you may simply desire to use your skills and strengths and learn new skills, technologies, work on new platforms etc.

  • Summary of work experience/skills is what I look at next. That gives a good starting point while conducting an interview. But, a summary should really be a summary. The space should not be used to list all the cool sounding acronyms used in the industry, or to list ALL the tools you’ve ever used in your life time. Write what you really know, and only that which you know really well.
  • A listing of _relevant_ degrees, diplomas and courses undertaken, year of passing and the college attended also help if the candidate is a fresher in the field. Sometimes people wonder if the school one attended should also be listed. Well, I don’t have any opinion on it. It makes sense for a fresher to list it, but after a couple of years of experience it can probably be dropped. Personally I would just leave it there, no harm.
  • Finally the details of the work-experience or the projects executed. It helps and makes more sense if it is listed in reverse-chronological order. I mainly look for a short description of the project or the scope of the project, but I’m not really interested in the project itself. My main interest lies in knowing the individual’s role in the project and her contribution to the project. So, naturally I look for a detailed description of the roles played, responsibilities handled and the individual contributions made to the project. But, contrary to my expectations, I mostly find resumes where the projects are described in great details, but the contributions or responsibilities find very little space or sometimes they are completely skipped! I just don’t get the logic. And if you try to get the details during the interview itself, people again start explaining the project. I don’t understand how hard can it be to put what you yourself did on paper!

Thats it. Thats what I look for in resumes. What about you?

Darr…

May 18, 2008

Babes : Mamma cycle nahin mil rahi. (Mamma, I can’t find the cycle)
Me : Store room mein hai. (Its in the store room)
Babes : Tum chalo na, wahan andheraa hai.  (You come along, its dark there)
Me : To?  Jao jaldi se le kar aao.  Brave girl. (So?  Go get the cycle quicklyBrave girl)
Babes : Nahin, mujhe dar lagata hai.  Light jala do pehle. (No, I’m scared.  Switch on the light)
Me : (getting up to switch on the light) Ok…
Babes : (shrieking) nahiiiin, mujhe aata hai…main jalaoongi.  (Noooo…I know how to switch on the lamp.  I’ll do it myself)

(Runs off and fetches a small stool from the store room, the same room where she was scared to go. Climbs the stool to reach the lamp switch and rides out triumphantly on the tri-cycle.)

Me    : ?????

The little one has a companion – a dear friend who is always there with her. He sleeps with her, plays with her, fights with her, accompanies her to the day care, shares her books/toys/dolls/everything, joins us for walks in the evening and best of all, takes all the blame whenever she is naughty or does anything wrong. I’m sure all parents of three year olds would describe this as an ideal situation! And all three year olds would long for such a companion. Only the companion here is a tiger!! No, we don’t live in wilderness or anywhere close to forests or woods. This is a imaginary tiger and a imaginary companion!! I mean, imaginary for the outside world. For us, he is a very real person, a family member!

The little one has been talking about a tiger ever since she started recognizing animals and started talking in sentences. I don’t remember clearly when she chose a tiger over all other friendly beings from the wild. But, its always been – tiger ne paani gira diya, tiger ne book phaad di, tiger ko music sunana hai, tiger ko baahar jana hai (tiger spilled water, tiger tore this book, tiger wants to listen to music, tiger wants to go out). Back then, this Mr. Tiger used to be green in colour. He wasn’t little one’s age, but slightly older than her. Maybe a couple of years older, or may be in his teens, I’m not too sure. And if he got angry, he’d run away to his jungle. But, he spent most of the time at our place. And just in case you’ve started wondering if he lives in my imagination too; well I used to keep probing the little one to see how far this would go and she would keep giving me these tiny tidbits.

Not sure its just a coincidence that I used to be, and for that matter still am, a great lover of Calvin and Hobbes. I particularly loved Hobbes and his pearls of wisdom. Now I have one staying in my very own house 🙂 To complete the picture, I actually got a stuffed tiger home last month. Not sure if it sounds way too wieird? Ah, well. By the way, the stuffed tiger has been a favourite at home ever since he arrived. And needless to say, he isn’t only little one’s favourite 🙂

Over the last year, things have changed. The tiger is no longer green, but he has turned nice golden yellow with black ‘lines’. When I told her, her tiger used be green when she was small, she laughed and said, “Tiger bhi kabhi green hota hai he he he. Mamma buddhu.” (Is the tiger ever green? Mamma is so dumb). And it is no longer about one little cub, sometimes it seems we have an entire family of tigers living with us. Its almost feels like a joint family! We have two “bada tigers” (big tigers), who I suppose are mamma tiger and papa tiger, and two “chotta tigers” (small tigers). Somehow these tigers don’t have a name. If asked about the name of her tiger, the little one responds – “woh only tiger hai” (he is only a tiger). Whatever that is supposed to mean! And we are spinning stories around these tigers day-in and day-out. “Mamma tiger ko bhi chocolate chahiye”, “Tiger ne newspaper phada, who suntaa hi nahin hai”, “mera tiger mujhe bahut pyaar karta hai”, while returning from the day care “Aaj tiger ki mamma tiger ko jaldi lene aayi thi”. I play along. Mostly.

At times the water starts flowing above the head when Mr. Tiger starts becoming a scapegoat for everything that’d raise mamma’s eyebrows. I couldn’t bring myself say there is no tiger. So, one day mamma got her very own companion and calls him ‘Ram’. Ram gets cross when the little one doesn’t do things she knows how to do, like – wearing her shoes, keeping her books in place, eating at the table, drinking from a glass without spilling. So, we have our house full of people, real and imaginary, all bumping into each other. Who said we are a small nuclear family?

A lesson learnt…

May 11, 2008

When the little one started sitting up, often I would doodle for her or sit with her and turn pages of some picture-books. I would normally sit in front of her with the slate/picture-book between us. And in order to keep the drawings straight for her, I would draw upside-down. That is, if I were drawing a balloon, I’d draw the balloon on my side and draw the string upwards, going towards her, just so that she would see it correctly. Similarly, for the picture books, they were always held upside-down just so that she would see the pictures correctly. Correctly? Yes, if only I knew!

When the little one started scribbling/drawing lines on her own, I noticed her strokes would always begin closer to herself and move upwards. I was amused, but I did not realize what was happening 😦 Then one day she called me excitedly to show me a picture of a balloon she had drawn. The balloon was hanging upside down, or so I thought. Same with flowers, they were drawn upside-down. The flowers were at the bottom of the page with the stems going up. Exactly the way I drew 🙂 And it wasn’t only the drawings. Left on her own, she would hold the picture books upside-down 😦 Always.

One evening I tried to reason with her and tried to show her why the balloon should be drawn the other way round. She promptly drew it upside-down, turned the page and said ‘Dekho correct ho gaya!’. Hmm…this wasn’t going to be easy. Even to this day, she holds the book both ways, and mostly in her first instinct upside-down, and goes about turning pages and merrily spinning stories around pictures.

I’ve learnt my lesson and stopped sitting in front of her whenever we do any activity together. We sit together. Side-by-side. Period.