Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for December 2014

Meeting is supposed to start at 11 AM. But one person walks in at 11:15 AM with a standard comment, ‘Sorry, traffic was too much!’

That’s obvious. Everyone knows traffic is too much in peak hours. What’s the point in stating the obvious? He should have started earlier knowing this would take longer than usual!

It is a psychological factor that makes us say such answers. ‘Traffic was too much’ is not a lie. No one can deny it or prove it wrong.

Instead, if you say ‘I got delayed because a seven legged monster stopped me on the way’, no one will believe you. If you tell the truth, ‘I overslept’, no one will respect you.

So, tell a lie which can’t be detected. Easy. As long as you are productive on the meeting from 11:15 AM onwards, it shouldn’t matter you told a lie in the beginning.


In Tamil there is a famous poem written many centuries back, ‘தன்னெஞ்சறிவது பொய்யற்க, பொய்த்தபின் தன்னெஞ்சே தன்னைச் சுடும்’.

This loosely translates as, ‘don’t tell a lie if your mind knows it is a lie. If you do so, it will not leave you peacefully!’

When I read it in school, I felt it is a realistic poem. I could imagine someone telling a lie and then feeling bad about it.

But, what is a lie? Or rather, “how much” is a lie?

For example, assume your boss asks you to write a report by 5 PM. He asks you around 4 PM, ‘how is it going?’

Oops. You forgot all about it!

So, you give a response, ‘It is almost completed, I just need few more minutes to organize it and send it!’

Immediately, you jump to work, spend next 60 minutes completing the report. Boss is happy. You are also happy.

But the statement you made at 4 PM, ‘It is almost completed’… is it a lie?

Technically speaking, it is a lie, because “0%” can’t be called “almost completed”.

But, you did submit the report before 5 PM. So does it really matter you told a lie at 4 PM?

This is where it becomes very difficult to say what is a lie and what is not. Many times I feel the result matters, whatever we do or say before that shouldn’t be considered a lie.

What if the result doesn’t happen as expected?

Then the entire blame falls on that person. I am ready to take that risk and that’s why I am telling a lie, do you have any problem?

To put this in different words, lying and then making sure that doesn’t have an impact: does it cancel out the lie?

Someone who takes this risk every day (many do!) should have lots and lots of discipline (and luck). They need to wake up at the right time so that the lies become irrelevant with results.

Kinley’s recent TVC talks about this interesting topic. A daughter tells a lie to her father and then calls him to tell the truth. It seems the Tamil poem I quoted above works fine for her.

God bless her, and few kind souls who still think telling a lie is wrong, even if the final result makes it irrelevant.



The Flying Bananas

By N. Chokkan, N. Nangai

Pasu and Hasu are cows who love bananas!

One day, Pasu decides to eat bananas in a different way. What happens next? Find out in this delightful story!

Available in Kindle:

Google Play:

Google Books:

Club Mahindra has asked an interesting question in their website When you are travelling with your children on a vacation, how would you ensure that they have the best time, while ensuring you would also have a good time!

This is a tricky question. Choosing a right vacation spot which satisfies both kids and adults is the big challenge.

For example, I prefer cities which have historical significance. My wife prefers places where lots of temples are there. Kids want amusement parks or play areas where they can have fun for hours.

Fortunately, in India, it is not very difficult to find a city where these three circles intersect. Almost every city will have some historic place, few temples around and amusement parks.

But the point is how do you balance these places? If we keep visiting temple after temple, kids get bored. If we spend a whole day in an amusement park, I get bored 🙂

So, this can’t be an “OR” problem. It should be handled with the power of “AND”.

For example, if I am in a historically important place, it becomes my additional responsibility to ensure I find some interesting stories to tell or things to show the kids and explain to them why history can be fun too. Similarly, my wife ensures she reads all the stories about every temple we visit so that they are learning something new in every trip.

Another thing I have observed, Kids can find new ways to play in almost every area. For example, inside a fort, they can find one open space where they can run around. Inside a temple, they can find a platform where they can climb and slide.

But most parents don’t encourage this. They simply want their kids to behave the proper way. ‘Shut up and look at this painting’ they say. Such force fit won’t work. Either create genuine interest, or let them do what they want to!

One important factor we ensure during travels is food. Eating in hotels can’t be avoided, at the same time we should make sure that kids don’t eat something heavy that can make them sleepy or tired. Wherever possible, we take small breaks in between two tourist spots, without rushing. Because, if the kids lost motivation, most of the times, parents won’t be able to see the places with full interest as they need to take care of them, and they are constantly worried about ‘why they are so tired? We only saw 24 temples from morning while eating two heavy meals!’

It may also help if you let them chose what places they want to see. Their choice may not be perfect. But they are willing to listen. It is your duty to create interest. If you can genuinely co-create the travel schedule, I am sure it will be a fun filled vacation!

I just saw a fantastic AD from Mountain Dew ( which was in my mother tongue Tamil.

Releasing an AD in a local language is not big deal. Many companies do this, but the best thing I liked about this video is that it makes fantastic use of a classic Tamil poem by Bharathiyar (அச்சமில்லை அச்சமில்லை அச்சமென்பதில்லையே). In fact we can even see that the AD seems to be inspired by this poem.

We take risks every day. Of course, those risks are not as big as the ones these three youngsters in the video take. But we sure see risk element in doing almost everything in life. It can be as simple as walking on the road, or as complex as entrepreneurship or getting married 🙂

While I think back, my biggest risk was participating in a half marathon, with a big fat tummy!

There were people around me who were fit and perfect. They ran at lightning speeds, while I had to manage with a mixture of walking, jogging / slow running. I felt so bad when everyone overtook me.

After few minutes, I was the last person on the track. I lost all motivation and wanted to return back.

When I cross the 10 kilo meter mark (which I have done many times before), I was thinking, ‘should I continue for another 11+ kilo meters? Or just stop here? I can always try a half marathon later, when I am fit and ready.’

Frankly speaking, I was not physically tired at that time. I felt confident that I can do another 11+ Kilo meters, but being the last person on the track was mentally tiring. I felt bad for even opting to do this.

But for some reason, I continued. I refused to look around (fortunately for me, I was running on an elevated flyover, so it was an empty road, no one can make fun of this last person on the track, except myself!)

While I was in 18th Kilo meter, a vehicle came near me. They asked me if I am interested in getting a ride to the finish point.

I told them, ‘No! I will complete the remaining 3 Kilo meters myself. Thanks!’

They told me that they have closed this entire elevated flyover for the half marathon for few hours. Now, everyone has completed it and I am the only person. They can’t keep it closed for a single person. They need to open it for traffic.

So, they insisted I get on their vehicle. They told me 18 kilo meters is as good as 21.

I refused to listen to them. I told them to open the traffic without waiting for me. They told it will be dangerous and once again asked me to get on their vehicle.

All this conversation happened while I was running (OK, I admit, it was walking!) and fortunately, they didn’t forcibly make me stop. I did complete those three remaining kilo meters and did my first Half Marathon. Organizers were kind enough to keep a busy flyover closed, for the sake of one person!

Of course, this is not a big risk according to its dictionary definition. But it was big for me 🙂 I hope someday I will be able to write a similar article about my first Marathon experience!

I type a lot (Both in and outside office), and it is tiring. Many times I felt ‘won’t it be cool if someone is with me always, records what I say, types it neatly and gives it to me?’

Practically speaking, that ‘someone’ should be ‘something’, that is a voice to text software that works in English and Tamil (the languages where I write). I wished someone will make it for me and save me some time and energy.

Today, I tried dictating an Email to tablet using my Evernote Android application. Speech to text worked perfectly, But the problem was somewhere else: I didn’t feel comfortable “Telling” the computer what to type, After struggling for 15 minutes, I typed the letter in 3 minutes.

It is not the matter of typing fast / slow, when you are used to controlling what you write by physically touching the pen or keyboard, doing it yourself is a lot easier than telling someone what to write.

I hear few writers dictate a whole novel in this method, they must have trained their brains for that I believe.

Till few minutes back, I was thinking a ‘perfect voice to text software’ will be the greatest gift to me. Now I don’t want it.

Human brain is strange, really!


Naga Chokkanathan …

11 12 2014

Booked a Taxi @ “Taxi For Sure” today using mobile. Driver reached our place within 5 minutes. We were very happy (and surprised).

But, we were not ready. So we took 10 minutes.

Once we reached the taxi, we apologized to the driver for making him wait. He said, ‘No issues sir, in fact I must thank you for this.’

We were surprised why he must thank us for making him wait. He narrated an interesting story.

When we booked the taxi, he was in a tea shop, just ordered tea and was about to take his first sip. His mobile app instructed him to rush for the customer instead.

So, he didn’t drink his tea and reached us quickly. May be his company expects him to reach the customer place in “X” minutes. He didn’t want to wait till finishing that tea.

Or, maybe he genuinely wanted to serve us better and reached our home quickly.

Either way, we felt very bad as if we took away that simple pleasure from his daily routine.

But, no issues. Once he reached our home and realized we will take 10 minutes to start, he had his cup of tea in a nearby shop. I voluntarily paid him extra for wasting his first tea 😛

Now, the big question: Taxi companies ask drivers to carry GPS enabled smart phones and be “Available” any time, so that they can promise their customers “quick pick up”. While it is important to provide quick service, isn’t it wise to let these drivers take such small breaks in between? It is not a machine which you want to use 100% of the time to get quick returns, a human being is driving that machine.

When we go on long trips, I ensure the driver takes his tea / coffee / lunch with us and has good sleep in the night. But I rarely think about those things in short trips within the city. I must.

Today I had a meeting at 5:00 PM. Let us say the meeting title was “Discussion on New Project”.

During the meeting, I wanted to take notes and opened my “Evernote” application, clicked on “New Note” button.

Immediately, a note opened with the heading “Notes from Discussion on New Project”. I was amazed at this cool UX trick.

So, Evernote talks to my tablet’s calendar, knows that I am having a meeting from 5:00 PM to 5:30 PM, In between if I try to create a new note in its application, it assumes that I want to make notes on that meeting and creates a note with appropriate title. Wow!

May be 99.99% of the users (including me) won’t even notice / understand this useful addition to their application. But its makers were thoughtful in imagining / adding this simple feature to their App.

When it comes to customer experience, such small things matter a lot, Well done Evernote!


N. Chokkan …

05 12 2014


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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