Archive for the ‘Random Musings’ Category

जगति की सुधि लीजिये, राम-राज घनघोर
साधू मंजन बेच रहे, न्यायधीश बने मोर

दरबारी बेज़ार हैं, राजा गाय के चोर
परजा जड़मत भोग में, जनमत भटका शोर


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The ‘bye-bye’ mail that I sent to my team at Microsoft. I guess a little late but perhaps a more permanent tribute to the wonderful people, place and time!

From: Tushar Malhotra
Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2011 4:19 PM
To: AppFabric ICB FTE (IDC)
Subject: Moving my cheese – So long and thanks for all the fish!


Unlike the false alarm at the social last week, this mail really is long 🙂 In fact, I think the best part about writing a bye-bye mail is that you get the license to make it *really* long and yet have a reasonable chance of people reading it!


For those with a short attention span / a super busy schedule / better things to do – the crux is, as you know by now, that after 5 delicious, cosy & fun years at Microsoft here in the CSD Edge à BizTalk à AppFabric ICB team, I have decided to (finally) pursue my Masters in Finland. (Yes, Finland! Yes, It’s right up there… no, further up… tucked-in between Sweden and Russia… Hint – Start looking down from the North Pole :)). It’s a multidisciplinary program, spanning the realms of Design, Technology and Business, called IDBM at the Aalto University. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I until about a year back, which was when I started researching. (Incidentally, Microsoft Europe’s Futures magazine recently covered the university – just in case you are curious!)

I guess 5 years ought to be a long time. Heck, it’s half a decade! When I joined Microsoft, there was not a trace of Building-3; Building-2 had just been completed. Hyderabad Central was the only mall in the city. The airport used to be at Begumpet. Ezeego & Cleartrip were not the names they are today – there was “indiflight.com” (Ask Mustansir and Mukul about it!) and we used to wake up in the middle of the night to book the zero fare tickets announced by Air-Deccan. And yet, clichéd as it may sound, these years have passed me by without so much as a whisper.

Yes, I have had my share of pangs of “Oh! It’s been ‘X’ years and I’m still here!” syndrome almost every year! The original plan, of course, like most people who join from campus, was to hang around for a year or two and move on 🙂 But I stayed back (partly because I’m super lazy but mostly) because Microsoft just seemed like the right place to be. It still does – keeps you happy and pays you well (the basics, of course). You don’t ‘work’ on features / areas / products here – you *own* them. So being possessive and passionate and fighting for them is fair game and expected. More importantly, you don’t need to wear shoes (or, God forbid, Ties!) and don’t need to iron your clothes or comb your hair! You can sleep in your cube and have your feet up on the table in the meetings, notwithstanding who else is present, as long as you have opinions and ideas and can wireframe / design / code to back them up!

Microsoft gave me a lot of precious ‘First Experiences’. My First job (of course, bummer!). My First flight (that amazing feeling you get looking at the bed of clouds beneath you!) First experience living away from home (I was a day-schy in college). My first trip abroad (and the feeling of sheer ‘awe-ness’ at how big everything in US was). First chance to be on the other side of the table and interview people (Yay! There are at least 4 people in the team now who I interviewed 🙂 Raise your hands please!). My first car (‘Sparky’, she’s called) and the love for driving!

But more than anything else, it gave me a chance to work with, absorb and learn from wonderful people – I’m not sure if they put that in the CTC!

I guess I shouldn’t miss this chance to embarrass some of you 😛 So here it comes…

Koushik – Thanks for being the most wonderful first manager and a great sponsor! I loved working with you – No frills, no unnecessary sophistication, deep technical insights, trust and personal interest in making me grow. If and when I decide to be a people manager, these are the things I’d remember to emulate! Sriram – I’m not sure if this happens elsewhere but I guess when you are couple of months out of college and the ‘top-guy’ drops by in your cube to see a demo in works or when he stops you in the corridor and asks about the color and make of the car you’ve just bought, you learn important lessons in leadership! I have immense respect for the empathy, trust, passion and honesty you have for the team and the people. Thanks for being a wonderful leader and thanks for all the sponsorship you have provided me. Jayanthi – Thanks a lot for being the great mentor, guide and friend that you have been to me!

Mukul – Thanks for being my first mentor and for introducing me to the ‘ways’ of Microsoft! Sreeram – Thanks for the 1:1 at the Mexican place in Seattle (Not sure if you remember it now!) and of course for being a great guide / advisor. Mustansir – Thanks for exchanging the windcheater! (The CSD Edge one, you remember? Mine was a couple of sizes bigger… ). Working with you on Adapters, EPM and now the integration service has been a wonderful, enriching ride! Sandeep – I absolutely enjoyed working with you on the AF Connect but more than that, I have absorbed and learnt a lot even when not working directly with you, all this while. Harsh – It’s been great fun working with you, brainstorming, ranting about what’s right and what’s not, bouncing ideas and personal decisions. Thanks for the companionship! Vikas – Thanks for being a great manager/guide. I love your approach to structuring problems and the effort you make in getting the processes right. Working with you gave me fresh perspectives on quality. Krish – The debates, dialogues and interactions I have had with you (both, work related and off it – say those on ‘Being at home’ and ‘Corruption’ J) have been deeply enriching. The most important personal lessons I’ve learnt from you are simple (they even seem obvious, but somehow aren’t :)) – that it’s ok to be wrong and that it’s important to strive to get the conceptual model right. Thanks! Sanjay – While I only worked with you closely for a little while, I have enjoyed that time! Thanks for being a great manager and for your advice, feedback and wisdom! Pravin – Thanks for being the fun, pragmatic and hands-on mentor and manager that you’ve been. I relished your nuggets on ‘What it means to be a PM’ J Jithendra – In the short time I worked with you, I have developed a lot of respect for your openness, willingness to listen and make things right for the team. Thanks a lot for your concern and advice at every point in helping me make my decision. Sharad – Thanks for the advice you gave me when I was confused about Teach For India. I guess I’m putting to use some of that now! Vasu – I enjoyed having you as a manager but even more working with you as a peer/colleague. Any more weird i-doc dreams lately ;)? Sudipta – Thanks for being a lovely manager and person. Keerthi, Bhuvanesh – I had a lot of fun working with you guys. Thanks!

Neha, Upendra, Anshu (Rajat & Arpit don’t really count, I guess or do they :P) – I wasn’t planning to put you guys in this mail initially but then, I decided otherwise! If for some reason I get to keep only one thing from my entire time here at Microsoft, hard as it would be to give up on all the precious experiences I have had and relationships I have forged, it’d have to be you guys!

I’m sure I’ve missed out important names above (Pipelines team, Deepak, Sameer, Manas, Sai and everyone else) – people I’ve worked with, learnt from and had fun with – Thanks for everything!

The vice of Facebook, I guess, has taken the romance out of the finer moments like farewells! Otherwise, the following parting lines are my favorite…

“We meet to part, that’s the way of life.

We part to meet, that’s the hope of life!”

Till we meet again,


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This piece has been accepted and published in the January 2010 issue of Cerebration.org (Am I happy :)). To respect the publishing policies of the webzine, I am deleting the article here. The same can be accessed here.

Please read this article and other wonderful works by authors from across the globe by visiting the magazine.

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Heads up

I am in the process of moving my blog from wordpress.com to my own hosted wordpress. Till the time the move is complete, expect some teething troubles.

For instance, at times http://totobogy.thoughtbubblez.com will redirect to https://thoughtbubbles.wordpress.com. At other times, there may be issues with the theme like misplaced or missing widgets, Hindi text not showing up properly, missing Header images etc. I’ll try hard to make sure that the blog doesn’t go down completely.


I like to think that a lot of people actually read my blog, so I thought I should give this heads up 🙂
I know it’s vain but I like it this way 😉

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Ever since my phone decided to go quiet and I became dependent on my earphones, I end up being frustrated every single time I have to attend or make a call!

No matter what I do, however neatly I fold the wires, every time I take the earphones out from my pocket, they are horribly messed up, with the wires entangled into such complicated knots, that untangling them is, I’d say, at least as challenging as, if not more than, solving a complex mathematical puzzle.

I wonder how these knots form!

One plausible explanation that I can think of is Entropy. My line of reasoning is similar to the one generally adopted to explain why things tend to break: There is only one way for the earphones to remain untangled but an infinite number of ways for the wires to be entangled.

I find it a bit strange, and funny, and yet awe inspiring!
Think of it, as if it’s God – the ultimate developer – proclaiming that all the chaos in the universe is ‘By Design’. Imagine if the developers at Microsoft (used here as a placeholder … it could have been Google or Adobe or Yahoo… 😛 ) could say something similar. Something like, “All the chaos in the software is by design, and it will only increase over time!” (Some people may argue that it is, in fact, already true, but I am discounting those protests here 😛 ).

If everyone realized that ‘chaos’ was unavoidable, the ultimate truth, God’s doctrine; we could perhaps save trillions of rupees, dollars, euros etc which are being wasted on futile efforts to overcome chaos like forming governments, putting in place ‘Law and Order’ systems, recruiting (and this includes the medal winners at the Olympics from Haryana!), transferring and dismissing policemen….
These funds could then be put to more meaningful uses like feeding the hungry and designing and manufacturing better earphones which don’t get entangled easily.

Coming back to my original problem, while it gives me some comfort to know that it is not a targeted attack to frustrate me but just another manifestation of a universal phenomenon, I wouldn’t mind somebody gifting me a pair of retractable earphones or a bluetooth headset. It is at the top of my wishlist as of now!

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This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I felt like crying after watching this. Thanks Rajat for the link. Here’s the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA&feature=related

“I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.”

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