to be at home
pill to swallow
the Guru’s ashes
of the glitter is gold
More and more information technology companies are offering work-from-home options to their employees for better productivity. Tripat Kaur finds out that women are making the most of this option even though the fear remains that such an arrangement could restrict the growth of an employee.
WITH the workforce becoming a key resource for the IT companies, they are offering flexible workplace options to retain and attract the best resources. This is a particularly happy situation for women who aspire for a healthier work-life balance.
"I have been working from home for the last eight months and everybody tells me I am extremely lucky. I also believe that my productivity and loyalty has increased tremendously since I started working from home. I am grateful that my company helped me solve the problem of looking after my kid," says Pooja Sehgal, who works for Delhi-based Impetus Technologies.
Although this option is offered to all employees, it is usually take up by the women, especially after or during pregnancy, when their home responsibilities are increased.
"We roughly have about one to four per cent of our staff working on this mode on an average. A majority of the women avail themselves of the flexi-time option," says Kalpana Srinivasan, Head-HR, Aspire Systems. Aspire Systems is a firm helping software companies create innovative products.
The concept of office time itself is undergoing a dramatic change. Companies are no longer interested in employees who come and serve ‘chair time’ with not much involvement in work and then head back home.
It is clearly a win-win situation for both the women employees and their employers. It helps the employers attract a wide calibre of employees and reduces employee turnover. Flexible workplace also reduces absenteeism, increases employee morale.
The concept was initially started by IT majors. "We believe that flexible work environment gives employees more flexibility and control over their work and this is an important means to achieve greater work/life balance and enhanced productivity. We (at IBM) are flexible in how and where the work gets accomplished and are focused on results and positive business outcomes and not ‘face time/chair time’. Flexibility at the IBM workplace is a big attraction to new talent and increases effectiveness, focus and productivity," says Martin Appel, Country Manager, HR, IBM India.
In fact, IBM offers four types of work options: Compressed/flexible work week, which entails that the full, regular work week is compressed into less than five days; individualised work schedule, where employees have flexible timings; part-time reduced work schedule; and lastly, a work-from-home option where an employee performs a majority of her primary duties from home.
However, the picture is not all rosy. There are some issues which have to be worked out before the concept is accepted as a regular practice. "The days I have some responsibility at home, like taking my son to a doctor or picking him from school (for some reason), I take the work-from-home option. Although this option certainly makes life easier, one cannot always follow it, especially if one wants to climb the corporate ladder. The more you grow, the more one has to interact, attend meetings, etc, and all this is not possible from home," says Sanjeevani Mahajan, Project Manager, Manufacturing Vertical, KPIT Cummins.
There are practical difficulties. The difficulty of managing home workers; monitoring their performance; and the complexity of maintaining staff development. There is also a risk of information security and difficulty in upgrading skills through training or knowledge sharing.
"This option may hamper the growth prospects of an employee especially if the employee wants to play a managerial role later. However, if the role is of a single contributor, it doesn’t matter," says Girish Wardadkar, President and Executive Director, KPIT Cummins.
People working from home also have to struggle against challenges. "Initially, it was difficult to do the balancing act. Somebody would drop by to ‘see’ my child or for some other reason, but now it is very clear. I have decided not to get up for everything that is happening in the home. Initially, I used to go to office once in a fortnight but now I go once a week. I plan to continue with this option till my child starts going to a play school," says Sehgal.
However, Sehgal does not believe that this arrangement is going to hamper her growth prospects. The company has been very supportive. "When I started working like this, there were two people in my team and today there are six, so obviously my profile has increased."
Most people say their productivity increases when they work from home. "I am comfortable in my home. I believe that productivity increases since I am at peace that my child is well taken care of. Moreover, I save on travel time. I am connected to my office all the time," says Mahalaxmi Santharam, Project manager at Chennai-based Aspire Technologies. She has a three-month-old child and has been working from home for the last nine months. She is four years old in the company. — WFS
A sweet pill
THE word ‘homoeopathy’ conjures up images of sweet white pills. To many they are just that and they question: ‘How can sweet pills cure fevers, infections, and other serious diseases like cancer?’ This sort of ignorance about the homoeopathy system is, unfortunately, common all over the world. Not many know that this system of medicine was introduced in India in about 1810, when the founder of homoeopathy, Dr Samuel Hahnemann, was alive.
When cholera broke out in Bengal, two German geologists cured many sufferers through homoeopathy, and they came to be known as Cholera Doctors. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh was suffering from a certain ailment, Dr Honigberger, a student of Hahnemann, was invited to his court. It is the first documented instance of official patronage of homoeopathy in India, and Honigberger’s portrait can be seen in the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum in Amritsar.
Today, 251 years after Hahnemann’s birth, India has one central council, two research centres, 180 undergraduate and postgraduate colleges and two lakh practitioners. It has practitioners in almost all the countries of the world. The World Health Assembly has accepted it as the largest alternative system of medicine.
Although many might dismiss the efficacy of homoeopathy, recent research has shown that it is a effective medical system. Two research scholars from Zurich, B. Hochstrasser and P. Mattamann, in their scientific paper Homoeopathy and Conventional Medicine in the Management of Pregnancy and Childbirth published in 1994 in Switzerland, observe: "Studies on homoeopathic interventions in obstetrics report positive influence of homoeopathic remedies on uterine contractility and the evolution of childbirth. The only study comparing homoeopathic and conventional therapy in women with increased risk for contraction abnormalities found few differences between the treatments, except fewer cases of haemorrhage and decreased abnormal contractions in patients treated with homoeopathic remedies. Methodological difficulties in comparing homoeopathic and conventional medical intervention require specific research designs, taking into account the different theoretical and practical approaches of the two disciplines."
Hahnemann was born in West Germany on April 10, 1755. A trained allopathic doctor himself, he soon realised that the standard treatment created artificial diseases that were more harmful than the natural diseases. Worried at this sad state of affairs, he stopped his practice, and began searching for a better alternative. After a long struggle, and with the help of several students of his, he came up with a totally new system of medicine, which was cheap, effective, and did not resort to the then barbaric practice of bloodletting.
Hahnemann’s attention was drawn towards nature and he reflected on the earth carrying the moon around it and the effect of waxing and waning of moon on the level of the sea. He further observed that a child suffering from chickenpox transmits chickenpox to another child coming near him (without touching). Hahnemann finally drew the following inferences:
All medicinal substances should be tested on healthy human beings.
The similarity between the symptoms produced by the medicine and that of the disease is the only guide to the prescription.
Only potentised medicine, the dynamic power of which is obtained, should be administered in a slightly higher potency than the strength of the disease to enable the medicine to overpower and nullify the disease symptoms. When all the symptoms are removed, health is restored. Homoeopathy has an answer to all diseases the human race can be afflicted with and helps improve the quality of life of HIV/AIDS patients.
K.S. Bains on Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, which stands where Guru Teg Bahadur was cremated. This is the sixth of the nine-part series on important Sikh shrines in Delhi
THE place where Gurdwara Rakab Ganj is located was initially a storehouse of rakabs (stirrups) for the Mughal cavalry. Around it was a small locality where a cotton trader named Lakhi Shah lived.
Lakhi was present at the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur with some carts loaded with cotton. It is said that immediately after the beheading of the Guru Tegh Bahadur, there was a violent storm. In the confusion that followed, Lakhi hid the body of the Guru in his cart. According to another version, the Guru’s body lay unguarded in a dungeon and Lakhi managed to get the body to his house. In order to save the Guru’s body from being dishonoured, he cremated the body by setting on fire his thatched house. The next morning, he collected the ashes in a copper urn, which he buried where the Guru’s body had laid. Another follower of the Guru, Bhai Jeta, had carried the head of the slain Guru to Anandpur Sahib.
In course of time, a mosque came up at the spot where the Guru’s body was cremated. In the late 18th century when Baghel Singh, head of the Karorsinghia misl, learnt about the copper urn, he pleaded with Muslim leaders that the place be dug up. On digging, the sacred urn was found and Baghel Singh built a gurdwara there. He also attached a jagir to the gurdwara for its maintenance.
After the First War of Independence in 1857, Gurdwara Rakab Ganj was replaced by a mosque. The matter was taken up by Sikhs in the High Court. Their case was rejected by the court and was taken to the Privy Council, which ruled in favour of the gurdwara. The gurdwara was again built along with a boundary wall.
Since the gurdwara was in an impressive location, with striking buildings like those of Parliament, Central Secretariat and Rashtrapati Bhawan near it, it was decided to reconstruct the gurdwara in the 1960s.
One Harnam Singh Suri, a dry fruit dealer from Iran, offered to mobilise Rs 30 lakh and build the gurdwara. His request was accepted, and thus came up the present Gurdwara Rakab Ganj.
Built on a 10-foot-high pedestal, the gurdwara has a wide parikrama on all four sides. In the four corners of the parikrama, are four chabutras. The gurdwara has three receding storeys. The height of the first storey itself is more than three storeys of a normal building. The gurdwara, with a chajja around it, sports the same fa`E7ade on all four sides. Its high gate displays two parts: the lower part constitutes of the entrance darwaza and the upper part comprises a protruding balcony with a typical dome on a rectangular base.
There are four domes in the four corners of the first floor. The second storey is about half the height of the first one. Again, there are four domes in the four corners. These domes are much smaller than those on the first floor. The central dome, in the middle of an arcaded square on the roof of the second floor, is surrounded by smaller domes. The various sizes of the domes at different levels present an artistic picture. All the domes are ribbed with inverted lotus leaves on the top.
The gurdwara displays delicate jaliwork in marble, which is somewhat similar to the work done on the tomb of Salim Chisti in Fatehpur Sikri. The side pillars bear elements of Persian architecture. Inside the gurdwara is the spot where the actual cremation of Guru Teg Bahadur took place.
The main entrance to the gurdwara is on the side facing the Parliament building, but the entrance that is commonly used is the one near the parking area. There is an impressive flight of steps with marble colonnade on both sides.
Bhai Harbans Singh, who has devoted his entire life to the construction of gurdwaras in Delhi and Punjab, approached the organising committee of the IX Asian Games in 1981-82, of which Buta Singh was chairman, to help him design a big congregation hall in the gurdwara complex. The location of the hall suggested, however, did not fit with the overall design of the structure.
Thus came up the Lakhi Shah hall in Rakab Ganj Gurdwara. Both architecturally as well as in terms of the material used, the hall doesn’t jell with the main Gurdwara building. The hall is mostly used for celebrating Gurpurb or conducting kirtan and marriage ceremonies.
The office of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee on the gurdwara premises also does not conform to the architectural ambience of the rest of the building. It squarely faces the approach to the gurdwara and spoils the overall character of the place. For, as you enter the gurdwara, on your left side is a beautiful marble structure that holds great religious sanctity, while on the right side is the office with its regular stream of visitors. The contrast between the two sides is rather stark and avoidable. A langar building is also coming up.
According to Sikh parampara, gurdwaras once constructed can be improved upon or re-constructed. All Sikh shrines, including the Golden Temple, have undergone restoration and even construction at some point or the other. There is still time to redesign some of the buildings and make them architectural wonders.
How much of
the glitter is gold
THERE is one hi-tech programme of a nuclear research institute in Kancheepuram (Tamil Nadu) that may not have figured in the much-debated India-US nuclear deal but is of great interest to housewives—literally worth its weight in gold.
Zari, or wire thread made of precious metals and woven into the intricate and stunning patterns on traditional sarees, has gone hi-tech, thanks to a Tamil Nadu Government project supported by the highly regarded Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam.
For centuries, zari was laboriously handmade and lacked any uniformity and standardisation. The quantity of precious metal in one kilo of zari thread varied from source to source.
But from now on anyone buying an exorbitant Kanjeevaram saree will know exactly how much gold, silver, copper and silk there is in a ‘pattu’ (silk) saree.
"The silk in a saree worth Rs 50,000 and Rs 5,000 is almost the same in quality and quantity. It is the zari that adds value. What the buyer does not know is that the zari in her Rs 50,000 saree may contain less than 25 per cent gold and less than 50 per cent silver. The customer can be duped by the glitter," said N. Nagarajan, manager at the government-run Tamil Nadu Zari Limited (Tanzari) in Kancheepuram.
Since zari making in India began in Surat district of Gujarat, all zari before the 1970s was only made in that town and traded to saree-makers throughout India. But since 1971, zari-making was taken over by Tanzari.
"It is, however, still an art made with great deal of love and care by a handful of men," said S. Kuppuswamy, the accounting officer at the factory.
And for those treasuring that piece of silk with intricate zari work, handed down by mothers and grandmothers, it may be a good idea to find out if it is worth more than just the sentiment.
The testing of zari samples and zari-made fabric is carried out by non-destructive testing (XRF analyser). One machine is already in use at Tanzari’s factory on the outskirts of the town and the other is being used in Kancheepuram, a primary sales hub for weavers of Tamil Nadu.
Zari is sold in a measure called ‘marc’ with one marc being equal to 242 gm.
Theoretically, one marc of pure zari should contain 55 to 57 per cent of silver, 22 to 24 per cent of silk, 20 to 22 per cent of copper and between 0.59 per cent to 0.60 per cent of gold. — IANS