Vantage point

Monday, October 10, 2005

An Update

Some developments have taken place recently which, if relayed in a chinese-whispers-ish manner, can lead to a lot of unnecessary misunderstanding. Therefore, this post is an endeavour to clear the air and put some important things on record.

I have resigned from IBM. The decision is entirely my own and I was not asked by IBM to resign, nor was I pressured in any manner by any executive from IBM. I took the decision in view of some really bizarre threats that were apparently made by IIPM to IBM.

On Saturday I got a call from a Senior Executive of Lenovo(formerly IBM PC Division). Apparently, IIPM called him up, complaining about my posts. He asked me what the matter was. I explained to him that the posts were made on my personal blog. They had nothing to do with IBM. It was strictly my personal opinion and if he wanted I could put up disclaimers on my posts saying that IBM does not necessarily share my opinions. He was satisfied and the conversation ended there.

The next day, i.e Sunday morning, I got a call from him again. He said that he had communicated to IIPM that I had made a personal post and IBM could not be held responsible for it. But apparently, the Dean of IIPM wrote him a mail saying that the IIPM Students Union had decided that if my blog posts were not deleted, then they would gather all the Thinkpads they had been given by the institute, and burn them in front of the IBM office in Delhi. Yes, that's right. Burn laptops!

Needless to say I was aghast. The Senior Executive from Lenovo, I must stress here, did not ask me to remove my posts. He asked me whether my decision remained the same in light of this communication from IIPM. I said I would get back to him after talking over the matter with several people, including my Manager in IBM. I spoke to my Manager who also confirmed that IIPM had given IBM a deadline of Monday morning, i.e morning of today, 10th October, to ensure I deleted my posts. Failing which, they would burn the laptops.

At this point, after thinking things over carefully, and consulting some people close to me, I reached a conclusion. As of that moment, two things were very vital to me, neither of which I wanted to compromise -

Firstly, my intention to stand by my posts, since I believe in freedom of speech. I have written nothing that can be thought of as libel. IIPM is an organiation in free India which makes some claims in its advertisements. What I did was exercise my right as a citizen, by responding to the information contained in the ad. I stand by it. The language used may be a bit harsh, with words like "screw around" and "crap" which may hurt some people's sensibilities, but I think they were appropriate in the context. IIPM never communicated with me civilly saying that I was wrong. Nor did they provide any evidence to show that they were wrong. For instance, if they had sent the complete details of Arindam Chaudhuri's educational qualifications, including the years of passing out, universities, and even grades, I would have gladly eaten my words, and posted an apology.

But they did not do that. They threatened me with a ridiculous "notarized" mail which is there for all to see. I even replied to that mail, to which I am yet to get a reply.

So as I said, the first thing that is dear to me, is my freedom of speech.

The second thing dear to me is IBM's well-being. IBM has been a good employer to me. I have no complaints about them. Even in light of these events, they did not pressurise me to go against my principles and hush the matter up. Yet, IBM was being dragged into this unnecessarily. It was being made a target of bizarre pressure tactics. If even one Thinkpad laptop was actually burnt, it would cause a lot of bad press and nuisance for IBM. So I did not want IBM's well-being to be compromised in any way.

So I had to find a path which could help me accomplish both things. The only option was to resign from IBM voluntarily. It would absolve IBM from being targeted by IIPM by virtue of the fact that I don't work for them any more. I could look for employment elsewhere, in an organisation which can not be targeted by such nuisance. I have tremendous faith in my own abilities as well as the IIM Alumni who, aware of my case, would surely help me get a job.

I told my Manager about my decision to resign. He asked me to reconsider it, and even sleep over it. I did so, and realised that the decision was correct. In the morning I spoke to him again and confirmed my decision, resigning from IBM, and wishing him and the entire team the best of luck. My request to be relieved with immediate effect was acceded to, making today my last official day in IBM.

I realise that this has been a very major decision. It can be interpreted in different ways if taken out of context. Which is why I have written this elaborate mail to clear things up.

I wish IBM and my former team-mates all the very best, and am sure the company will continue its victorious strides.

I would also like to thank the numerous bloggers and blog-readers who mailed me in support. Several have also made blog posts in support, ensuring that if IIPM decides to sue bloggers who don't praise it, then they will have tens, even hundreds of lawsuits to file.

And finally, a personal communication to each and every IIPM student out there - I did not start this thing. It is not my intention to damage your careers or reduce your worth. All I did was link to an article which examined the veracity of IIPM's ads, and seek some more info. I did so hoping that those evaluating IIPM as a place to study in would have all the information at their disposal, something which the ads clearly were not in favour of. The several changes made in IIPM ads over the months are a tacit admission of guilt. I believe that if IIPM reacts to the JAM article and several blog posts in the right way, i.e. actually living up to the promises and claims made in the advertisements, then in the end it is the IIPM student who will benefit.

Remember, truth never hurts those who are right.