Thursday, 28 November 2013

I am able to Manage my Life: a Glimpse into the Life of an Auditor

"This tea is hot as hell," says Ramanuj Venkatesh. That sums up the sort of person he is: to the point, matter-of-fact, and with little room for facetiousness.

His job, however, requires a little more decorum. Based in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, Ramanuj is an auditor for Deloitte and Touche, a premier financial consultancy firm.

He's not used to people asking him in detail about his profession. Those who work in the financial world often have rather large, unwieldy titles that go some way in putting off a person regarding what is that a Hedge Fund Risk and Asset Management Analyst (for example) does. 

Ramanuj Venkatesh, Senior Analyst, Deloitte and Touche
Reproduced with permission

'I got the best start'

Growing up, Ramanuj loved numbers. "I learnt accounting to go to university. My goal was to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which is the reason why I pursued accounting as a profession," he tells me between mouthfuls of chocolate biscotti. 

"It was really very nice to apply those concepts in the later parts of my studying," he adds. "It was easy for me to grasp it and I was able to move on along with it." 

Ramanuj loved the field of finance, and he credits his dad for supporting his career choice. "He told me: son, get into accounting, study accounting, if you like it, just go ahead with it. If you don't like it, shift into another career."

"I got the best start that I ever wanted."

'Do you have evidence: yes or no?'

Ramanuj  is clad in a well-worn grey tee and a pair of stonewashed jeans. In the background, a coffee grinder whirrs loudly, but six years of working in the financial world have taught him to meticulously ignore distractions such as this. 

He's only too happy to talk about his job.

"What we do as auditors is we meet our clients, we basically get all the client records," he explains. "We check if there is substantive evidence on every single information that they have in their records."(I know, tedious, right?)

Finance runs in the family: Ramanuj tells me his two siblings and his father (extreme right) are all employed in the world of finance.
Reproduced with permission
"We're going to basically see that those financial figures [are] properly substantiated.

"Do you have an evidence for it? That is what is audit. Audit is 'do you have evidence: yes or no?'," he says, his voice gathering fortitude as he finishes.

Ramanuj tells me that Deloitte also reviews feasibility studies of projects to see if a particular endeavour can be carried out successfully in the long-term and analyses financial models of clients to see how best that client can grow as a company.

The tax bills that companies present at the end of a financial year are also normally put together and managed by such firms, says Ramanuj.

'We're here to serve the client'

He tells me that dealing with a client always comes first. "We first check what emails we get from our client and we also go through our pending items, what we have to do for the rest of the week," he says, taking me through how a standard workday at a financial firm begins.

"At the same time, we also need to schedule certain meetings with the clients during the week. We also need to make a note of certain reminders and certain pressing issues that we need to address with the clients."  

"At the end of the day, we are marketing our services to the client, and we're here to serve the client."

Ramanuj with his colleagues. He says that his job brings with it a lot of pressure, which can lead to people picking up bad habits.
Reproduced with permission
Ramanuj is leaning forward in earnestness, his voice clear, his brow furrowed in concentration as he explains to me the nitty-gritty of what he does. His tea may (still) be too hot but Ramanuj is loving the biscotti in front of him. 

To combat the immense stress at work, Ramanuj makes it a point to go to the gym regularly. He agrees with me when I say there are those who live life as though they are married to their jobs. 

His tea is (at last) the right temperature. He pauses to take a sip. "That is the one thing that makes people go into bad activities like smoking, drinking, or doing certain really bad activities that would spoil themselves

"Cases where you have things like peer pressure, pressure where you have to meet the deadline or otherwise you are kicked out of your job, that kind of a thing," he tells me over the clatter of spoons on plates as the rather large party next to us tuck into their chocolate tarts. 

"That is one thing that really, really sucks."

What he's saying is right. At a recent event in London, finance firm KPMG held a session to discuss the implications of mental stress at work.

What is more worrying is that the heads of several financial firms committed suicide due to the demands of their jobs. One such firm, Hogan Lovells, decided to employ a full-time health adviser after a partner of the company committed suicide.

'In terms of a life skill, I am able to manage my life'

Ramanuj brings lunch from home. He says it's a lot more viable than going home to eat. Some days require him to stay well past the five o'clock, when he normally goes home.

But he looks to glean as much life experience as he can from his work.

"Take for instance the normal work which I'm doing during the work week. If I were to put it into a life skill, I would say it really has helped me a lot in managing my stuff," he opines. 

"Managing everything: managing my time, managing my daily routine, setting time schedules, which is very important and setting deadlines, which is most important. In terms of a life skill, I am able to manage my life.

"I've been more alert and more careful than what I was before."

His finger is now sweeping the plate for crumbs of biscotti. He wants another piece, but after what seems to be a short, but sharp mental struggle, decides against it.

'We're not fooling around over here'

As we wind up the interview, Ramanuj says his job is a huge responsibility. "If I am dealing with clients where we're charging in terms of fees nearly seventy to eighty thousand rials, it definitely gives us a huge responsibility."

"It also gives us that crunch situation where we really need to pull [up] our socks and deliver what is required," he says. 

"It gives us the opportunity to be firm with the client because we're not fooling around over here. Along with knowledge comes responsibility and that is the same thing that is applicable over here."

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Mind over matter, says fitness trainer

Nandana Dissanayake, Fitness Trainer, Al-Falaj Hotel Gym
A veteran fitness trainer with over fifteen years of experience in his field has said that it is important to be mentally strong if one is to develop a physically fit body.

"If you want a strong body, [it] means hard work is [involved]," says Nandana Dissanayake, a fitness trainer at the Al Falaj Gym in the Sultanate of Oman.

"You need [a] strong mind, too, because with hard training you have to feel - always, just not do it (for the sake of doing) - you have to feel your exercise, too."

"When you feel your exercises, always challenge yourself," he explains. "Just challenge a little bit more, there's always hard-earned pain there. If you [have to] take that pain, you need a little bit strong mind. 

That is always there, but with positive thinking, you can [achieve that]."

"You should know your purpose of coming to the gym, you should know your goal," he says

"People will always talk [about you], but if you can explain to him 'these are my goals', some people will advise you.

"People can talk. You know your purpose, carry on," he says.

Training with a partner

He also recommends training with a partner. "[If] somebody is staying with you, [the] motivation is there. Somebody is always there to motivate you and spot you" says the 40-year-old. "Always at some stage, it is helpful for your mind too."

Related article: Lifestyle responsible for present generation being unhealthy

Nandana, who is a certified trainer from the International Sports Sciences Association of the United States, is of the opinion that people who go to the gym have to leave their attitude at home.

"Inside the gym, the friendship, you have to maintain," says the Sri Lankan. "So accordingly, you can share your techniques, you can share your methods, you can share your programs. Their techniques and methods, you can take.

"Always, you have to be friendly in the gym. When coming to a public place, you have to be friendly," he finishes. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Sheffield University students protest visit of high-profile Israeli diplomat

About 30 students of the University of Sheffield's Palestinian Society protested against Israel's Deputy Ambassador to Britain when he visited the University on the 15th of November, 2013.

Alon Roth-Snir had come to Sheffield to give a talk to student's during the University's model United Nations summit at Firth Court but found himself on the receiving end of a protest that had been organised by the Palestinian Society just that morning.

File photo: Deputy Ambassador of Israel, seen on the right here, at a function hosted by the British-Israeli Chamber of Commerce. Image courtesy The Jewish Chronicle


Originally, the visit of Mr. Roth-Snir had been kept under wraps in anticipation of such a protest, but this information was leaked to the Society that very morning.

Its members then tried via social media, phone and email to get as many people as possible to come down to Firth Court and protest against the ambassador 'justifying the existence of the Zionist State' according to Oliver Clay, a society member.

By the time Mr. Roth-Snir had arrived for his scheduled speech at 1:30 pm, students had already taken up positions in front of the building. 

"Four students were able to evade security guards and get into the same lecture theatre," says Oliver.

"The (society's) former president Abdi-Aziz Suleiman gave a speech in which he highlighted the crimes of the Zionist state in Gaza and the West Bank.

"Those who were unable to get inside gave a noisy demonstration outside which succeeded in repeatedly forcing the deputy ambassador to stop his speech," he added. "The chants could be clearly heard by the attendees inside.

"[We] also managed to build awareness of the occupation and hand out a great deal of literature to students and other passers-by."

The Deputy Ambassador was held up by protesters who were blocking his car's exit route on his way out of the premises.

Similar protests

This however is not the first time Mr. Roth-Snir has been faced with protests. Similar demonstrations were targeted at him when he had arranged to speak at both the University of York and the University of Essex.

Sam Rae, Sheffield University's Education Officer, had been in favour of the protests. Five days after the incident, a petition requesting a vote of no confidence was circulated, asking him to step down as Education Officer.

"Mr Rae humiliated not just himself, but the name of our University and I am ashamed to consider him a representative of my Students' Union,"  wrote Matt Brown, who proposed this petition. 

"I therefore call upon fellow Union members to sign this petition to mark their vote of no confidence in our Education Officer and to support a referendum to remove him from office," he continued.

The motion was voted against overwhelmingly.

The Palestinian Society in Sheffield was formed five years ago, and actively campaigns against the existence of Israel via film screenings, demonstrations and campaigns in favour of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.

So far, says Oliver, the University has not sanctioned the students who took part in the demonstrations. In addition, he says the Society's actions have received an outpouring of praise from other campuses in Britain and on social media.

Related Reading: An Insight into the Life of a Student Protester

Sunday, 24 November 2013

We need proper histories for optimum patient care, says Doctor

A doctor at the University of Sydney has said that detailed, honest patient histories have to be provided if doctors are to provide the best care for their patients.

Zarshis Avari, Medical Student,
University of Sydney. Reproduced with
"We need to know everything in as much detail as possible to figure out an accurate diagnosis that will affect their (the patients') management," says Zarshis Avari, who is currently doing his MBBS at the University.

Avari, 23, said that without the correct medical history, all he and his colleagues can do is make patients as comfortable as possible, without actually treating their ailments.


"There will always be patients who will not listen to your advice," he says, speaking from Australia. 

"If you have a good rapport it is very unlikely the patient will be uncooperative," he adds. "In such cases, we can always ask their spouse, relatives or friends too."

"If the patient and their relatives still refuse to answer questions then we can only help them in the most basic of ways," he explains.

"Almost every procedure requires consent, and without that there is nothing left to do but ensure that the patient does not suffer."

Related article: Ethics paramount while dealing with children

Check List

He also shed some light on the procedure of taking a patient history. "[A patient history] is much more than a check list," he says. "It will be different for each patient. It helps us figure out the best mode of approach. For example a persistent fever can be due to a multitude of causes. 

"With an accurate history, we might uncover that the patient has travelled to a high risk area and treat him for appropriate infections," adds Dr. Avari.

"An accurate history also helps the technicians such as the radiologists and the microbiologists."

"Taking a patient's history is a lot like detective work," he confesses. 

"More often than not we have to tease out pieces of information that we as doctors think are important but may not be so for the patient," he continues. 

Related article: Old people need company

"We also have to enquire about their surgical history, past medical history, any history of disease that run in the family along with a detailed description of their social life which involves questions on their living status, finances, travel, immunisation, pets, etcetera," he adds.

"Of course, as you get experienced you tailor the questions. You wouldn't ask all of these questions to an 18-year-old man with a sniffle," he finishes.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Lack of football dev't in S.Asia due to politics: fmr. Bangladesh Federation employee

A former employee of the Bangladesh Football Federation has said that the lack of development in football in South Asian countries is due to the involvement of politicians in the field of sport.

Ahmed Sayed Al Fatah, who was Media and Communications Manager of the Federation from 2005 to 2011, says that those who run South Asia's organisations do not wish to take advice from either FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation when it comes to developing the game.

Lack of vision and growth

Ahmed Sayed al-Fatah, FIFA Regional
Instructor for Football Administration
and Management
Reproduced with permission
"Football leaders don’t know the way to develop but know only to run the current activities with no vision for the future," says Ahmed, who is now running his own football academy.

"They don’t want to take advice from FIFA or the AFC Because the committees are elected for four years and the election is full of corruption, so it is people below standard who run football. 

"Most of them don’t understand the FIFA and AFC-directed future plans," adds the 33-year-old, who also worked with FIFA as Regional Instructor for Football Administration & Management alongside his job at the BFF. 

During his time with FIFA, Fatah, 33, conducted FIFA-approved courses is India, the Maldives, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, in addition to his native Bangladesh.

"It had no growth, no job safety, no provident fund, bad management, low salary, bad working environment, no plans, no vision, nothing," says Fatah, referring to his job at the BFF.

Lacking ideas

Former Indian footballer Baichung Bhutia
Image courtesy Ritwik Bose
These words were echoed by former Indian football star Baichung Bhutia, who had stint with English team Bury FC.

“The right people, right professionals need to enter Federations. Right now they are lacking ideas," he was quoted as saying on

Kalyan Chaubey, the academy head of Indian football club Mohun Bagan, agrees with him. 

"I think a lack of international matches [is] a problem and our neighbouring countries Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan are not strong enough, so we are not getting competitive matches," Chaubey told CNN.

"[But] the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has restructured their administration and recently money has been pouring into the game, so more windows of opportunity are opening up."

Related Article: Football development in the USA and Middle East shows the sport's popularity