Managing the Indian Programmer Murali Chemuturi Disclaimer The views expressed in this article are purely my observations

, which no doubt are limited to my experiences. I do not claim that they are applicable universally to all Indians in all regions either of India or the world. I also acknowledge that the reader may have totally different observations and I respect them. If the reader feels aggrieved, please feel free to send me a stinking email. If my observations hurt the reader, I offer my apologies in advance. Finally, please use your own judgment to accept or reject the wisdom offered by this article and I accept no liability resulting from actions taken based on this article. Introduction One can never understand the Indian society, unless one reads the Maha Bharatha. Maha Bharatha is a history written by Veda Vyasa in Sanskruth (Sanskrit, if you prefer) language. It is the story of a royal family who are called Kuru aka (also known as) Quru. The king Dhrutha Rashtra brings up the five children of his dead younger brother, along with his one hundred sons and a daughter. Due to a set of circumstances, he gives a small kingdom to his brother’s sons (the eldest of them was Yudhishter) and makes them independent. Yudhishter, with the help of his younger brothers expands his kingdom and conquered from Scandinavia, Russia till Indonesia and collected tribute from all those kingdoms. Rest of the story is about how his cousin cheated him out of his empire and how thru a major war that saw 730 million warriors perish, Yudhishter reclaims his empire. This in a nutshell is the story of Maha Bharatha, which was narrated in about 100,000 couplets. The populations that were specifically mentioned as part of Quru Empire in Maha Bharatha are Huns, Barbara (Romans), Yavana (Greeks) Mlecha (Egyptians / Arabs), Bahlika (Russians / Caucasians), Kambhoja (Cambodia), Gandhara (Afghanistan), Madra (Iran / Iraq), Sumatra (Indonesia), Malaya (Malaysia), Sindhu (Pakistan), and Panchala (Byzantium). Quru kings ruled that empire for 174 generations. The Quru dynasty ended in India approximately 2,500 years ago but flourished in Middle East as Quru Aishi (meaning just like Quru). What has that got to do with managing Indian Programmer? Good question. Maha Bharatha describes in great detail the principles based on which this Quru dynasty ruled for 174 generation. One third of Maha Bharatha was dedicated to events after the war concluded out of which two major chapters were dedicated to these principles. One of the major principles, which still today exert great influence on Indian society, is the caste system. They implemented a barter system based on the castes. All services were free in that society. Brahmins provided spiritual guidance and prayed for all and shouldered all sins of the society. They performed all religious ceremonies for all. All others are expected to give the family Brahmin a portion of their produce. In return for that, any sin committed by that

family was absolved by the Brahmin thru appropriate ritual or penance. That is, if a family member tells a lie, the Brahmin brands himself. Kshatriyas protected all people from external aggression and administered law and order. Vaishyas were the traders and producers. Shudras served all the above three castes of people in their duties. Woman is pious as long as she served her husband. There was well-understood and respected hierarchy in the society and each one’s duties are set out clearly. These were passed from father to son. There was no religion as understood in the present day with a prophet and a book as set out by Moses. Brahmins took care of the prayer part. Everybody followed his or her regimen. Many believe that Plato’s Utopia describes the Hindu Society of yore. Buddha and Moses started two religions to be followed by others like Maha Vira (Jainism) Adi Shankara (Advaitha), Ramanuja (Dwaitha), Madhva (Visishtadwaitha), and Sikhism within the present Indian borders. Islam though started in Arabia landed forcefully in India and the European traders brought in Christianity and English rule established it firmly. Thus India is a confluence of religions and the caste system is still relevant. Added to religious multiplicity is the linguistic multiplicity. Perhaps India is the only country that speaks the maximum number of languages. Sixteen languages are recognized as official. The link language is still English. Present Indian constitution confounded the confusion by a system of reservation in educational institutions and Government jobs to, so-called, backwards castes. The reservations were extended to those sections of society that were not felt backwards at the time of independence in 1947 and also Muslims in some places. Now, on paper, all people are equal before law with some exceptions. This has given rise to certain prejudices among people. All these prejudices would not be apparent to an external observer. These are rather covert and nobody would admit to these prejudices in public and most would not admit to them even in private. They are beneath the surface. Religious Prejudices Hindus and Muslims distrust and hate each other. Muslims feel that they are superior and must be so treated. Hindus feel that Muslims are barbarians bathing only once a week while Hindus take two (or at least once) baths a day. Another grouse of Hindus against Muslims is that they (Muslims) carved out a separate country from India exclusively for Indian Muslims and are still staying in India. They ask “Why are you still here after carving out your own country from our land”?

Hindus and Christians distrust each other. Christians feel that Hinduism follows discrimination based on birth. Hindus feel that Christians are converting Hindus into Christianity using money power. Jains want to be declared a religious minority while all others (Muslims and Christians) consider them as Hindus. Sikhs are clubbed with Hindus but they managed to be declared as a religious minority. Jains and Sikhs feel that they are superior to all others and expect all other religious groups to extend them the due respect. So one thing is clear – each religious group thinks that they are superior and that others must extend them the due respect. That is every one suffers from a superiority complex. When religious riots break out, it is always between Muslims and others – the “others” include Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Christians and branded together as Hindus. Caste Prejudices One thing peculiar only to India – the Christians and Muslims also follow Hindu caste system! They even maintain separate churches for different castes too. Marriages are performed within the same castes. Well these are never admitted to an outsider. These are handled in hush-hush manner, beneath the surface. Brahmins are wise and quickest to learn. They are also very upfront and straightforward. They stand on commitments. These people are also highly temperamental and are not likely to brook insults. Brahmins are excellent in concept but low on stamina and sustained effort. They are best suited to short-bursts of high quality work in cutting edge areas. They are weak on run-of-the-mill routine work. They are often selfless when it comes to tough times. Their loyalty to their employers is of the highest order. They are also God fearing. They are self-learners and self-critics. They will be found mostly in employment in all positions. They are brutally and bluntly honest. They are harsh of tongue. These people are generally timid. Most Brahmins are poor to upper middle class. Kshatriya caste people were traditionally rulers and show leadership qualities but they expect leadership to be bestowed on them. While they do not exhibit imitative and drive, they stand on their commitments. They are intelligent and quick to learn. They rarely commit themselves. They however are staunchly loyal to their employers. They would like to be very independent and generally do not brook breathing-down-the-neck supervision. They expect training by a higher-level person. They run organizations. These people are honest and are very soft of tongue. These people are very brave. Most Kshatriyas are upper middle class to rich. Vaishyas are smart and quick to learn. They are very good with numbers. They can excel in routine work. They are rarely interested in new concepts. They are also moneyminded. Their loyalty is towards money. It is almost impossible to get firm commitment

out of them. It is also rare to find them in employment – they rather prefer to be on their own. These people have integrity and can get along very well with two warring factions. These people are not very brave but not timid. Most Vaishyas are upper middle class to rich. Fourth category is Shudras – these people have a multitude of castes on the trade they practiced before independence. These are smart people. These people are capable of producing results. These are capable of sustained effort in routine works. They make excellent workers. Some of these people are wealthy and are running organizations well. These people are clever. Their loyalty is to their caste. Their integrity is dependent on the scenario at hand. These people are brave depending on the scenario at hand. They are sweet tongued. Here the economic situation is diverse. They range from extreme poverty to extreme rich. All the above four groups are found allover the world in employment. Exceptions to the above-described qualities are to be expected. There is a fifth caste group – these people were untouchables before independence. Unfortunately, they are slow to learn and are less intelligent. But they are improving. They are unlikely to be found among computer programmers. Economically they are poor to lower middle class. Indian Muslims can be placed along with Kshatriya caste. Only exception is that they do not wish to be subordinate to a Hindu. They are comfortable reporting to Christians. Then come the prejudices of Qualifications Qualification Prejudices There is a caste system in educational qualifications in India. At the top are Graduates from IIT (Indian Institutes of Technology) and IIM (Indian Institutes of management) and a few other institutes of equivalent stature. In the second rung are the NITs (National Institutes of Technology). In the third rung are University Colleges. In the fourth rung are colleges affiliated to some university or the other. In the fifth rung are colleges affiliated to some university but are located in rural areas. This system is rigorously implemented in the work place and discrimination is shown based on the caste-of-qualification and rarely based on performance. On the job performance is rarely the criteria for advancement. Reporting-Hierarchy Prejudices An IIT / IIM person would not like to report to a non-IIT / non-IIM person. If he is forced, he will create politics and generally create bad blood in the department or organization.

Others expect that the boss ought to have a higher-qualification than them. Experience is no supplement for educational qualification. Brahmins report without hesitation to all others. Kshatriyas report to Brahmins and Kshtriyas without hesitation. They do not like to report to others. Shudras report without hesitation to all others. Vaishyas report to Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas without hesitation. They do not like to report to others. Muslims do not like to report to any others except Muslims and with some hesitation to Christians. In general, Indians like the boss to be older than the subordinate. Rarely do they agree to an younger boss. All Indians love to report to whites. In fact, they give their best under whites. None of the Indians like to report to African-American bosses – rather they detest such a scenario. Work Prejudices Indians also suffer from work prejudices – that is they do not wish to perform certain tasks. Brahmins do not like to do any menial tasks that require physical labor. They also do not like to perform any cleaning/washing tasks. They may clean their own cups but abhor cleaning others’ dishes. They like table-bound jobs. Best suited for Research & Development and staff-roles. They also refrain from confrontation. Kshatriyas are also like Brahmins. They do not shy away from confrontation. They like executive roles – line jobs. They do shop floor jobs. These people are good for applied research. Vaishyas are also like Brahmins. They do not shy away from confrontation. They are not thinkers and good at line jobs. These people are also very good at money management. Shudras are good at most jobs except Research & Development work. There is absolutely no work that is below their dignity – they have true sense of dignity-of-labor. They only shy away from cleaning lavatories. Indian Muslims are akin to Kshatriyas in work prejudices. Regional Prejudices In addition to the above prejudices, Indians also suffer from regional prejudices.

In general, Marwaris (hailing from Marwar region of Rajasthan state), Tamilians (speaking Tamil Language as mother tongue) and Gujarathis (speaking Gujarathi as mother tongue) are looked at suspiciously by other Indians. North Indians (that is mostly Hindi speaking and north of Vindhya mountains) do not trust South Indians in general, and call them “Madrasi” in a derogatory manner. The feeling is not reciprocated by South Indians. South India speaks four languages, namely, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Each distrusts the other. Boss Prejudices Indians in general do not like to report to women. In most cases, Indians think only of sex when they see women, even if they do not appear to be so. They like white bosses while they dislike African-American bosses. If the boss is Indian, he needs to be superior in terms of age, educational qualifications, caste, religion, educational institution from where they graduated and so on. Response peculiar to Indians It may often become necessary that an unpleasant assignment needs to be executed – this brings out different responses from different people. This is best explained by an anecdote. An army commander orders his troops to march forward and there is a wall obstructing the path. American soldiers look at the wall and say, “Boss there is a wall in our path. What do you mean?” British soldiers march forward, halt at the wall and then request for orders on what to do with the wall. German soldiers march and press on till the wall gives in and continue marching. Israeli soldiers go into a huddle on how to accomplish the objective; then come to a collective decision and take action. Indian soldiers march till the wall and then break ranks and take rest. When the commander asks what is happening, they salute most respectfully and say “Sir, here is an obstruction. Your instructions do not say anything about it. So we are waiting for your further instructions”. When Indians are given an assignment they don’t like, they do not refuse; they simply do a half-hearted job. Final words

How, with so many prejudices, work gets done in India? It really doesn’t, on its own – it needs to be pushed. The law prohibits prejudicial behavior of any sorts. So, people resort to various flimsy excuses for delaying or preferably not doing the work. So, someone with power, obtained thru law, money or muscle, pushes the work and it gets done. Now you know why India occupies one of the top places in terms of corruption. So to get the best out of Indian programmer, you need to acknowledge the prejudices and work within that framework. *************************************************************************************** Author can be reached at, if you wish to communicate. All queries for clarifications or more info would be responded to within one business day. All criticisms would be humbly accepted. ***************************************************************************************

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