Recently, I attended a Seminar on Software Testing by Mr. Srinivasan Desikan , at Hyderabad. He is working as Director for Agile Software Corporation, and is the author of the best-seller “Software testing – Principles and Practices”. He has a great way of teaching testing principles – he teaches them with stories, one for each principle. I liked one of the stories a lot – “The Saint and the Cat”. Here it goes…

In the olden days, there was a saint and had a lovely cat as a pet. One fine morning, when he was about to start his morning prayer, the cat, in a playful mood, was disturbing him. He asked his disciples to put the cat in the basket, finished his prayer peacefully, and asked the disciples to take the cat out of the basket. That’s it! The disciples understood their Guru’s word. Everyday, one of the disciples will search for the cat before the Saint went for prayer, put it in the basket and took it out after the Saint was done with his prayer. The episode continued. Generations passed and the temple saw several generations of the Saint as well as the cat. One day, the disciples of the current Saint were trying hard to find the cat, but were unable to find it. The Saint did not go for his morning prayer because the cat was not put in the basket!

Desikan beautifully concluded this story by saying – “Why to test” is as important as “What to test” and “How to test. I would like to extend the idea here. Even if the testing is mandatory, and we have an answer for “Why to test”, still the way we test it is an important factor. Putting the cat in the basket was the way that suited the old Saint’s requirement for a morning prayer, it might not be the current saint’s requirement. So, the way things usually happen, the processes which are in place and the way the standards have been set may not be the answer to every problem. Every problem has its own solution. We might tailor an old solution for a new problem, but sometimes it might not simply fit.

So, I would conclude by saying that in today’s software testing world, where there is a ready made template for almost everything in the name of established process, we as testers should look at the real problem and then work on the solution. Next time you choose to solve a problem with solution A, just because that is how people around you do it, just think once – “Am I putting the cat in the basket?”.

Rahul Verma

7 Responses to “Am I putting the cat in the basket?”

  1. Anonymous

    I’m totally agreed with you, but there are some issues why people are like copy cat.
    1. Don’t want to take risk
    2. Don’t get encouragement from management
    3. challenging time line

    I personally feel one should always advocate for any good initiative.

  2. Rahul Verma

    Thanks for the comments and for your analysis of the problem.

    In continuation to your comments, the best what I can say is that the first thing that any professional should understand is “taking ownership”. What we should suggest to our peers and the management is that –

    1. New things always involve a calculated risk, and so do old solutions for new problems.
    2. If one finds that management is not encouraging, so do his/her subordinates feel, when he puts the cat in the basket and demonstrates the same to the team.
    3. Sometimes the traditional processes turn out to be more time-consuming. Moreover, it’s not only about time, ultimately quality suffers!

    Most of the times, we end up blaming one thing or the other and ultimately stick to the same old stuff which we inherently do not like. So, if we love experimentation, we should experiment. There is a lot happening around us. People are talking new and great things. We should learn them, analyze them, enhance them and put to work.

    I really appreciate your thought about advocating initiatives. That’s the positive word that we should spread around.

  3. Srinivasan Desikan


    Thanks for posting my story and extending it further to add more value. The reasons why people keep doing the same thing are

    * The questioning pattern is missing in individuals at regular work. Asking “Why am I putting the cat in the basket” would have brought the answer.

    * Few organizations are not allowing people to think beyond. In all the companies people are innovative but management in few companies wants people to be rubber-stamps as Anonymous reader spelt out here.

    Making people to ask questions to themselves on “Why we are testing?” and creating a testing community outside the organizations (“we can’t change few companies but definitely few people in it”) for people to ask questions and finding answers will take Testing to a greatest Height!. Let us give Anonymous users some courage and make them ask questions and provide answers on “why we put cat in the basket?”.

    Thanks again for your contribution to Testing Community in India.

    Srinivasan Desikan

  4. Rahul Verma

    It’s my pleasure to see you commenting in my blog. I feel honored to have you as a visitor here, especially for an article which was based on your seminar.

    “We can’t change few companies but definitely few people in it” – Very well said. Your idea of building testing communities outside the organizations is a wonderful idea. Having said that, now on I will try to be one of the testing practitioners contributing in this aspect. Though this blog is already a step towards that, but I understand that I have to do a lot if I want to be one.

    Thanks for acknowledging my simple efforts, as a contribution to testing community in India.

    Keep visiting. I look forward to your advice and guidance.


  5. Sreenivasa Pisupati

    Your blog is good. Where are you now? I heard that you have moved out of Applabs.
    Sreenivasa Pisupati

  6. Ben Simo

    The story of the cat in the basket reminds me of a story I’ve often heard. (Although, beef-eating Americans are more likely to relate to this story than many in Indian culture.) Vegetarian or not, this story demonstrates that we sometimes need to ask why.

    A newly-web husband noticed that when his wife cooked pot roast she cut about an inch of meet off each end of the roast before putting it in the oven. When he asked why, she said “That’s how you’re supposed to cook a roast. My mother taught me.”

    When the wife’s mother visited, the husband asked his mother-in-law about cutting the ends of the roast. The mother simply said “That’s how you’re supposed to cook it.” The husband pressed the issue and the his mother-in-law admitted that she learned it from her mother.

    When the husband finally got a chance to ask his wife’s grandmother, he asked about the roast. He asked why meat should be wasted and cut off the ends.

    The grandmother laughed and explained that she only cut the ends off the roast when the meat was too big to fit in her pot.

    Sometimes we testers need to be like the husband and keep asking questions until we find an answer.

    Ben Simo

  7. Rahul Verma

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for sharing the story. I found it very interesting.

    You have correctly pointed out that a tester must ask a lot of questions to unearth the answers. Mostly, the information is not readily available and most of us, to save time, try executing the project without digging any further. It leaves things half-cooked.

    Rahul Verma.

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Am I putting the cat in the basket?

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