Le Ombré at IBM Pulse

Fun general session opener at Pulse 2014. Check out how Le Ombré spells innovation and IBM to high energy percussion http://youtu.be/1QZQcH5tXXU

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Building the IBM Connect 2014 OGS

Have you ever wondered how those beautiful grand stages get produced. This is a fun time laps peek into how it all gets done.

Bruce Elgort


Wonderful video by Luis Benitez!

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Aging and Permanence

Working on the Smarter City Challenge in Ahmedabad has given the team an opportunity to look at some historic sites in and around the city – probably more in the last week than I would see in a year normally, and it has set me thinking. We visited the Adalaj ni Vav– a stepped well with beautiful carving and an interesting tale about some local beauty – it was built in 1499 as a key water source in an arid region.

A view of the Adalaj stepwell

Thanks to tubewells and irrigation projects, the people there now have the convenience of piped water. Wandering caravans of camels that stopped at Adalaj for water have long since been replaced with vehicles zooming along on the nearby highway, so the well is now mostly a tourist destination. It still has water in it – we descended to the lowest level, but fences prevent us from touching the water.

On a heritage walk through the walled city, we saw the elaborately carved Jama Masjid– built in 1424 and still in use as a place of worship.

Carving on wall of Jama Masjid

It lost its minarets in the severe earthquake of 1819, but otherwise has withstood the tests of time very well. The sultans apparently built it for their private use, and it looks like they did a good job. It was fairly hot in the sun outside, but quite cool within the masjid as we walked around and took photographs of the interior full of carved pillars.

During the same walk we also saw the unique traditional housing clusters called “Pols“. The neighborhoods sadly seemed mixed, with many old houses and doorways in varying states of disrepair. The houses there are now a mix too – heritage dwellings several hundred years old looked charming from outside, but I have no idea what they are like to live in, and they are often juxtaposed with new cement and brick structures.

Jain Temple in the heart of the walled city

They even have underground covered drainage several hundred years old, still in use many lifetimes after the farsighted planners and builders passed on. The Pols have endured, but clearly not as gracefully as the Vav or the Masjid. They now seem very congested areas to my tourist eye.

Another outing took us to the banks of the river to the Sabarmati Ashram and we relived the challenges and sacrifices of Gandhiji and many others over sixty years ago that gave us the free nation we live in today.

The heritage walk tour guide said the city was “living history” – which I think is a pretty good description, but not everything we visited was a part of history. On a field trip to the riverfront, we saw the new embankments created in the last few years, walked through the space cleared by moving slums out, and learned about the new developments planned there. Ahmedabad also has new layouts being added on the periphery as the city grows and transforms.

Which brings me to the questions I’ve been thinking about for the last few days. Can our cities like Ahmedabad, with 500 year legacies, last another 500 years? What does it take to build cities that last over 500 years? Institutions? And then nations – is our nation capable of lasting 500 years? What smarts do we need to build into the fabric to ensure that permanence?

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Gain the Lift


As we continue our work working more closely with people and administrators trying to understand and solve some of the issues an underlying pattern a syndrome that typically signifies us is becoming more and more obvious. While we see wealth and poverty thriving together, as we see goodness and badness woven together, as we see selfishness and selflessness coexist in any society, it makes us wonder as to why more people do not wander into the better side of life. What is the thin line that separates self focus and societal focus? Do people have to achieve a level of self achievement before they can think about others? Is accommodating somebody, something else difficult even if it is as simple as yielding to a traffic signal to let other people the way of right?


We as a society need to develop a better sense of abundance and feel more secured about ourselves. We need to understand that there is enough room for all of us to win. There is enough room for all of to share the wealth of this country/world.  Societal rules exist so that we can coexist in a healthy way. It just takes a small realization in each of us that we are both good and evil and the more we practice good, the more we become good and make others good. Let us compete but as humans we have to become complete. Let us aspire to win, but our life cannot be an uncontrolled wind. Spirituality is not what we practice within the walls of our house; it should also be about how we treat each others. The traffic on our roads is an indicator of our opportunity to mature ourselves spiritually. If we can fix this at our individual house then we are not far from making our place a living heaven.

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Stepping Out

One of the benefits (and challenges) of our project is the opportunity to step out of our daily roles, separating ourselves from the supports and constraints that may be essential to our every day success but also constrain how we see and interact with the world around us. Some of the steps have been very visible: the blood rush excitement of riding an auto rickshaw; crossing the street through the whirling swarm of cars, motorcycles, cyclists and autos; the food, hot, frequent and fulsome; the depth of understanding that comes with working together in a small space rather than the distracted , fragmented chatter of email, text and instant messaging.

Other steps have been more subtle. Adapting to the subtleties of communicating in another culture, the nuances of understanding and agreement. A growing appreciation of how different life is outside of the bubble of our hotel. A deepening appreciation of the incredible value of things we take for granted such as the ready supply of clean water.

This morning, two of our number took another , tentative, step out of our normal selves with the aid of a local Yoga instructor. Just after dawn , in a small park by the local mosque, we sat on the grass and began a journey of self awareness, oblivious to the awakening bustle of the city around us. Despite a slightly painful recognition of our own physical inflexibility, we relaxed our bodies and our minds,becoming more aware of how our mental and physical states interact.

Our instructor talked about how changing our breathing would help us focus on whatever task we needed to perform that day, how a particular “asana” would sharpen our attention and help us be more productive and confident. While open to the idea in principle, I did not appreciate how immediate the impact might be until our group assembled for the first working session of the day.

Perhaps our first step was not quite so small after all.

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In the name of love…..

Two stories that illustrate the power of love…..

The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen. In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire‘s period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their 14th child. In an act of absolute love he got the job done!

Another piece of beautiful architecture is the Adalaj Stepwell in Ahmedabad. In the 15th century, Rana Veer Singh of the Vaghela dynasty, a Hindu ruler, reigned over this territory, then known as Dandai Desh. His kingdom was attacked by Mohammed Begda, the Muslim ruler of a neighboring kingdom. The battle resulted in the Rana king getting killed. Consequently his territory was occupied by the invader. Rana Veer Singh’s widow, a beautiful lady known by the name Rani Roopba, though in deep grief at the death of her husband, agreed to a marriage proposal made by Mahmud Begada on the condition that he would first complete the building of the stepwell. The Muslim king who was deeply enamoured of the queen’s beauty agreed to the proposal and then built the well in quick time, and with great interest. Once the well was completed, Begda reminded the queen of her promise to marry him. But the queen who had achieved her ambition of completing the stepwell started by her husband, decided to end her life, as mark of devotion to her husband. She circumambulated the stepwell with prayers to God and jumped into the well, thus ending the saga of building the well in tragedy

Our daily lives are full of balancing the management of rational data and the more intangible emotions. Within the work environment we are often driven by very rational metrics to achieve objectives. The two stories above highlight the enormous length human beings will go to achieve an outcome if they are emotionally committed.

Capturing the hearts of minds of the people in our lives and connecting them to a meaningful purpose is critical step in unleashing the potential energy reserves we all have.

In the name of love!

File:Taj Mahal 2012.jpg

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A walk into the future

After spending the last few days hunkered down reviewing information and discussing ideas, the team was in desperate need of some outdoor time. We needed to stretch our legs and clear our minds in preparation for the days ahead. While the idea of a Cricket match was floated and eagerly accepted by a few, the consensus was that a walk along the river would do wonders for both our mental and physical condition. We exited our hotel and walked to the corner where we were met with the unexpected sight of two donkeys standing in the street seemingly oblivious to the cars and motorbikes zooming by them.  Taking our lives into our own hands, we crossed the main street in front of the hotel and ventured forward looking for the river walk we had seen from a distance.  We passed through a working class neighborhood filled with people who were probably wondering what we were doing there.  However, it was the children who were curious enough to actually come up to us to ask our names. When we engaged them in conversation, their smiles seemed to bridge the gap between our world and theirs.

Ahmedebad River Walk

Ahmedebad River Walk at night

Traveling on we reached the water only to find ourselves in the middle of a construction zone built upon the reclaimed land of the river. Walking towards the finished sections of the river walk we walked by homes that reflected both newer and no-so-new homes. However, the constant was the friendly children who greeted along our walk. We reached what appears to be an unfinished gate  to the river walk and a new water filtration plant also unfinished but filled with new water pumping equipment. Our walk continued down a new, but also unfinished, concrete road that eventually rose to meet an area filled with people enjoying the evening company of friends and family. We crossed a small, dirt field that we envision will be filled with soil and we hope will be left as open space. We could already see how the future plans for the water front were starting to meet the reality of what was in place. Taking steps down from this open area, we finally found ourselves on the river front we had seen so often in pictures. With its breath-taking views of the river, we found all people doing much the same thing as us, enjoying the evening with friends while marveling at the new walk along the river. Families with children playing mixed in with couples walking and talking. Peering over the edge of the railing, we noticed that there is still work to be done in getting the river completely clean. But nothing could take away from the beauty of the river walk and the lights dancing off the water. Small boats passed by as everyone seemed to be content to enjoy this modern marvel in their own way. After a few hundred meters we arrived at the boat launch and elected to climb the steps back to the roadway. Leaving the calm of the river walk, we were once again back to the city life and crazy traffic. While our walk back to the hotel along one of the main roads was not without interest, it so paled in comparison to what we had just seen. Who knew that something as old as a river could be made to look so new.

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