Friday, December 16, 2011

Please don't ask me to sing....

As I'm standing close to the sofa, with what I'm picturing as the worst imitation of a smile across my face, there is only one thought on my mind, "How in the world did i get myself into this!!"

Its sunday afternoon, and my initial plans of getting off work early yesterday were rejected in favour of taking the day off. Obviously the occasion called for preparations of epic proportions. Clothes that are to be sanctioned for approval by my dad and a dozen other relatives, clean shave like i'm auditioning for a Gillette ad, perfumed in case they wanna smell me and hair, cut short and neat just in case the country goes to war tomorrow and there is an urgent need for not so tall army men. My future fiancee's relatives are coming to see the boy and family that their girl is going to deal with for the rest of her life. Whoever said that marriages are made in heaven was probably not from India. Here, marriages are not merely made, they are manufactured. The raw materials (boy + girl) enter the process and go through a million steps before they take the first step together. Each step requires agents (family, relatives and friends) and there are a hundred ways of doing every step. Of course, there are some basic rules that apply. Like today, they didn't bring the girl along (according to tradition, i'm told). I guess our ancestors got tired of girls complaining that things are completely different from what they saw before and after marriage.

The thing about marriage, be it love or arranged or 12 different combinations of these words that people come up with, is that it puts the raw materials (boy and girl) through so many weird and awkward situations. Its like falling in love. You end up doing a lot of crazy stuff and later laugh it off or feel good about it. Like the day when we first went to her house to see her (as if we haven't seen her before). The point to be noted here is that the girl is first hidden. After initial round of discussion on the weather and how politicians should be assassinated, there is a request from our side to see the girl. She responds to her father's call and presents herself in front of us. Now this is the most awkward moment even for the guy, I can't even imagine what she is going through. At this moment, all the people gathered around take a good look at the girl. Even her own people take a look from head to toe, just to make sure the face, hands, tummy and other parts are her own. Then, normally there is a question to the guy if he wants to talk to the girl alone. This did not happen in my case, since we had already passed that awkward moment a few weeks back. As i said, there are a hundred ways of doing each step of the process. After a few more of those embarrassing minutes for the girl and "am i supposed to do or say something" minutes for the boy, the girl is sent back in. Hidden safely from the world till the next step where her presence is required.

You would think that it is very unfair on the girl and she is being treated like some "thing" which is showcased. But on the contrary, these procedures are followed because the girl is of immense value to the family. Any guy intending to take her hand cannot just come and see her. The family hides the girl and makes sure that the boy and his family are worthy enough to even look at her with the intention of marrying her. Only if they feel that the boy is up to their expectations, that their daughter would be happy with this family, that these people could be trusted, they let them see the girl. And when the boy's family looks at her, its not just her physical beauty that they study. This girl is the one. What their son becomes tomorrow, depends on this girl. The world will see his achievements, his failures, his character, his financial status, his talents, his mistakes. All of which are not his but theirs. She is the other half of their son. So i wouldn't blame them for ogling at her. If you observe closely, all the undocumented steps in the manufacturing process (marriage), have an inner meaning similar to this. Everything in India is not against women. There are crap like female foeticide, sati and dowry that are seriously sickening. But in most parts of the country and in all the family matters, women were, are and will be of prime importance.

The awkward moments of silence and my chain of thoughts are suddenly broken by her father's casual voice "So... This is the boy." motioning me to come to the centre, so that they can get a better view and also check if I walk normally. The tricks these agents play... "If you people wanna ask him something or make him do something like sing or recite a prayer, Now is the time". My smile growing wider, i pray they don't spot my false tooth....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Power dressing

I'm not the kind of person who's into fashion and stuff. Not very concerned of what dress i wear to what occasion. Well, that was what i thought, but recently i've realized that i was like that a couple of years back. A reflection on my recent buying habits reveals quite the contrary. I'm quite specific about my clothes. There was a time when my mom used to curse me for not dressing appropriately for church or any other occasions for which i had to tag along with them, but that was some time back. I think the transition started when i started buying clothes with my own money. I already have a plan of what clothes i'll be buying next. It has to be a dark blue jean, a fitting all black kurta and a t shirt with light purple horizontal stripes and yellow collar. Not to be worn at the same time of course. I have picked up the idea from various sources, some of which are figments of my imagination.

There is an idea that has been fascinating me for quite sometime. One that i find really amusing and would like to try out sometime. I like the idea of over dressing. completely inappropriate dressing actually. Imagine a few neighborhood friends just randomly decide to go to the local restaurant for dinner. One that serves only a handful of dishes and with a maximum of one waiter. All of them would be in their bare casuals, shorts, sleeveless, bathroom slippers, etc. Now imagine one of them turns up in sherwani. Gold colored with all hand work done in silver. Or imagine a guy wearing a king's attire complete with the sword and turban going to a mall to meet his girl friend waiting for him in t shirt and jeans. Or a guy wearing a full suit for playing football with his son. Wait a minute, i think raymond took that idea for an ad. And then, this one i actually witnessed, a guy working in a corporate, wearing a red t-shirt and blue jean mechanic uniform (See attached pic, remove the helmet) to a colleague's wedding. I could not resist the temptation to click a photo with him.

But it all ends there. Come to think of it, boys have shamefully less choices for clothes. No wonder we don't take time for shopping. Just think about it, if a guy wants some clothes to adorn on the lower part of his body his choices are two. Trousers or shorts with a combination of materials varying from cotton to jean to baggy. I'm not counting 3/4ths. They look good * provided you are the beach and topless with a body that you can dare to flaunt. But look at the choices a woman has. There is micro, mini, short, 3/4ths, full length and extra length. And there is a choice of pants or skirts in all those sizes. Don't even get me started on the choice of salwars. There is a new salwar born with every new actress in tinsel town. Thats more than the number of movies released in that period. There are even different ways and styles of wearing a saree. Try wearing your t shirt inside out and people are thinking you are having a hangover. In fact, i think the sherwani was a desperate attempt to catch up with them ladies. More of a revenge for stealing the lungi and calling it a skirt.

I think there should be some progress in the evolution of our clothes. All those sci-fi movies about the future show awesome cars and buildings and electronic devices but the guys are almost always wearing the same old shirts and trousers. Time for a change.

Monday, September 19, 2011

4700 kilometers from home...

"Slow down." My dad said to my brother, who was driving us to the airport. It was 4:30 AM in the morning.
"Some smart ass cops wait just around the airport at this time, waiting for people like us. They are sure to extract some cash, given that no one would like to miss a flight." he continued, "And, make sure the plumber comes and repairs the motor today. Take care of your mother and sisters"

Myself and my father are to board a flight at 6:30 AM from Chennai to Delhi and a 12 noon flight from Delhi to a foreign country. My first trip abroad. It was an official trip. We were importing some machinery for our industry. There was some excitement before the trip but as the day of the trip comes near, there is this lazy feeling to pack and leave. Happens to me on every trip. The same feeling recurs when coming back from any new place. Feel lazy to pack and go back home. A silly desire to procrastinate the journey.

Waiting in line for the security check at Delhi, i noticed this lady walking across counters showing some papers. I'm guessing, she had missed her flight and checking for the next flight for her destination. She was a little fat and as if carrying herself around was not stressful enough, She was carrying this heavy duffle bag which her 8-9 year old son was constantly kicking from behind. She must have been cursing herself for buying him those shoes with lights on them. He was apparently under the impression that the lights blink brighter based on the intensity of the kick. Mothers..... you got to hand it to them (leg it to them in this case). There is something with lines/queues in India. There should be a survey to find out what percentage of lines actually move. Either there are people constantly cutting in between, or one person standing to represent his whole joint family, or the people at the counter are working two jobs, one of which is outside the counter. Next was a 6 hour flight. The choices on the in-flight entertainment were so many that i opted to sleep rather than decide and sit through a whole movie. Sometimes i wish i knew just one language. We reached the destination and a long drive to the hotel where we settled for the night.

Next day we had a heavy continental breakfast at the hotel since my father had warned that getting "our kind of food" would be difficult for the rest of the day. We met the exporter who is sourcing the machines from different industries in his country. He took us to the bus station, booked us on a 3 hour bus to a nearby town where one our machines were ready for trial. Waiting for the bus to arrive, i casually glanced around and felt, "This is strange, i don't feel like i'm in some other country." Apart from the faces around us, there was nothing noticeably different. It was as if i was in a different city in my own country. A more developed city perhaps. Huge, creatively designed architectural sights were everywhere. It looked a lot cleaner than my city. Not that i'm complaining. One thing that i felt strongly was that whatever was done in this country was done well and complete. For instance, every street light worked and they glowed with the same intensity. Whereas, from where i come from, there are no street lights in some places, half of the available do not work, some of the other half are stolen and the very few that work glow with different brightness and colours. That description actually sounds like a city of disco lights. Anyways, the point is that even though there were these differences, i didn't feel alien here. i did not realize that my skin colour was different from theirs. There was no awkward stare from anyone. Seemed like a very comfortable place.

Then it happened. My first purchase. We needed some water for the journey, so i went into a nearby departmental store. Chaos. There were so many 500 ml / 300 ml bottles of substance that looked like water but the fancy labels and writings suggested that they were something else. Except for the numerals, nothing else was in English. I took one of them and went over to the counter and asked the lady (a pretty one) if this was indeed the elixir of life. For which she typed the numerals 2 on her calculator and passed it on to me. I tried my hand at sign language for which she raised her hands in surrender. Lesson learnt: English is not their second or third language and the calculator is a very very effective tool for bargaining in a foreign country. I took 2 of those bottles along with a soft drink which i identified by a familiar logo and a packet of biscuits who's manufacturer got a wild idea of having a picture of the biscuit on the wrapper rather than pictures of dolls and rabbits like the others. Then we were off on our journey. the bus was scheduled at 11:30 AM and when the digital clock in the bus struck 11:30, the bus started backing out of the station. Out of curiosity, i tried to switch on the reading light over my head. They never work in the buses in my country. And what do you know, it did not work there either. I had a silent fist pump before moving the curtains to get the view of the city and the journey ahead.

On one of these bus journeys, i was seated next to one of the locals. I had this app on my mobile which translates from english to their language. Tried my hand at that for a while and made conversation but it was only one way. By the time I figured out a way for him to type in his language, he seemed annoyed by my enthusiasm. By the time we reached our destination, I ended up spending around 700 bucks on the gprs used for translation and download to know that he was 30 years old, was married and had a girl child. Who said information is cheap??

Through this visit to this beautiful country there were a number of things that i observed. First, the architecture is just amazing, an uncle traveling with us had said, "Whatever images or ideas these people get in their wildest dreams, they just build it". There is a 34 kilometer bridge across a water body and at 17 kilometers from either end, attached to the bridge on one side is this beautiful looking complex. I was wondering how they bought the area to build it? The buildings on normal land were no less. All the places we visited made us feel this presence of human creativity and hard work around us. The lights, the cleanliness, the way trees were uprooted from someplace and then planted as a whole in the place they desire, how they managed to grow plants around concrete posts at heights of 7 feet from the ground. A treat for the eyes. There were so many unique sights that would have looked so awkward and out of place in my country. Sights like men rolling up their t shirts till their chest to showcase their paunches (it was end of summer time), mini skirt and shorts were the uniform for the ladies, Queues at bus stands, small Children with their clothes vertically slit at the bum portion so that they can pee or take a dump comfortably when they want, large smoking population (smoker's paradise actually. every building, office, meeting room is built in such a way that people can smoke inside. And the people we met, offer cigarettes even before we shake hands), sexy looking cars of a million brands, two wheeler taxis, Chicken legs (not the type we get here in India), multi level bridges, bus stations where you board on the second floor and the busses come straight out from there and join the road through a bridge, large number of electric bikes, warm tang juice at buffets, etc. By the time I started noticing these differences and to enjoy the sights and sounds of this country, we were back at the airport staring at similar looking faces which were to travel back with us. Business trips suck. Sometimes I wished I had my whole family with me or a group of friends. I guess a place is defined or remembered by the people around and with you as much as the buildings, geography or climate. Thats why they say "Home sweet home".

On a serious note, during a recent flight, my father lost a gold chain he had kept in the check in luggage. I heard a similar story from another person about his watch and camera going missing from the check in luggage. I think there is something fishy going on in the airlines. Wonder if this is how they make their ends meet!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What I expect in heaven...

The concept of heaven is like a sweet blurry dream from last night. We do not remember it clearly but we're sure that it was good. Similarly, There is no accurate description of heaven but we all know that it is the best place to be. There are certain illustrations of heaven in movies and childhood stories that come to mind, like blue skies with dense silver clouds, clouds all around you as if you are walking on one of them, almost blinding light everywhere, beautiful trees bearing fruit, every person in the surrounding in white overalls and calm faces (to show that they have attained "inner peace" - though i frankly think that word was created by people who do not like to have fun)

From childhood, i have been taught, through my religion as well as from other sources, that i need to be good and do good things to be in this bright, beautiful place for eternity. These illustrations do make heaven an attractive place to be, but for how long? The movies and stories do not last for more than a few hours, What would you do in a place like that for whole of eternity?

Then what should heaven be like? what can make it pleasant and joyful for whole of eternity? First requirement would be people. People i love and like to be with. Parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, uncle and aunts, grand parents, friends, colleagues, class mates and some acquaintances. And walking in the clouds all the time would be really boring. I would like to visit different places like waterfalls, lakes, beaches, my native, my house, my room, watch a movie, eat out etc. Speaking of eating out, how long can one just live on apples and oranges? I don't see any chickens walking around in the clouds in those illustrations of heaven. The more i try to draw this picture of heaven, the more it resembles my real life. I'm surrounded by people i love and like to be with. I can visit any place i like, and I think i do that quite often. And there is no limit to the choice of food available these days. Some may argue that when you enter heaven you lose all these worldly desires. You would not want anything. But then, it should not make a difference to such a person if it is heaven or hell. He doesn't want either.

What is it then that would make the difference? A natural desire would be to remove all the negatives in life. That would make the difference. A life without failures, sickness, and arguments would be very close to heaven, one may think. But doesn't failure increase the joy of subsequent success? Doesn't sickness increase the value of good health? Don't arguments and fights help us understand each other and ourselves? So i wouldn't want them to be removed. I would like to feel sad and happy, be healthy and sick, fight and make up. and fight again. The point is that i firmly believe that heaven is here, right here, right now. Right now, the joy that i get from writing this blog and posting it on the internet with a belief that the very few people who would read it, are reading it not just to pass time (if you are reading this to pass time, you have really bad taste) but because they think i'm important enough to them to spend a few minutes of their time on. And it is these people who make this place as heaven for me. It is my duty to make this heaven for them and everyone around which is why one one should do good and be good. not in return for some dream called heaven in the future.

Moral: I love my life. Go hug yours.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tea time


I recently resigned my previous job at one of the leading vehicle manufacturers in India, to join my family business. While there is no scale of comparison between the two and both have their own advantages and headaches, there are somethings about my previous job that i would miss. A Lot. Some of them, i've tried to elaborate as a tribute to the great work experience they gave me.

Tea Time:
This in one of the most important contributors to an efficient work environment. If insufficient, it leads to fatigue and job stress and at the same time, if more than required, leads to increased gossip affecting productivity. There should be a subject in Human Resource Management at B schools on how to manage the refreshments and their intervals.

There was no specific time for tea at my previous employer. We could have it any number of times a day and anytime of the day, within office hours that is. ALL FREE. We could not carry the beverages to our desk for obvious reasons but we could have them brought to meeting rooms. Initially it was just the usual varieties of tea and coffee but later we had the choice of lime tea, tomato soup, horlicks and badam milk added to the menu. Believe it or not, this added feature was a cause for some excitement at the highest levels in the organization. Every meeting had the head of the department usually asking around which was better, the tomato soup or the lime tea, before ordering some to be brought to the meeting hall. Lime tea was my personal favorite.

Though the options and the taste are memorable, the time that i spent at the fire exit having the refreshments were more so. Sometimes with department colleagues, sometimes with friends from different departments, sometimes alone, on rare occasions with my boss. 

With colleagues, the discussion usually started with some recent news or the cricket match the previous night but always ended with everyone laughing out loud at some joke. Usually its this one person who turns out to be the butt of all jokes. Not that there was something wrong with him, i guess we just liked him a lot. Not sure if he shares the same feeling though. Similar to us, there are different groups within the office. We somehow manage not to crowd the fire exit. Not that we discuss it but its like an understood agreement. Rarely, we bump into the other groups, sometimes older ladies talking in whispers on how one of the ladies (who is obviously not in the group) got her promotion or sometimes older gentlemen discussing the dress worn by the heroine in a recent item song.

All our weekend plans were made at this very fire exit. Usually followed by one of us going back to his seat and booking movie tickets. Movie reviews, love life, higher education, irritating bosses, latest songs, the HR intern, hangovers, cars, pay hike.... you name it and we have discussed it here. Some of the discussions are carried over to our work stations. 

Then there are those lonely tea breaks. When we just need some time alone, to think, introspect, and reorganize ourself to tackle the issues at hand, sometimes official and sometimes personal. Sometimes we just end up alone, because your boss had something very important (from his point of view) to discuss when your colleagues were having a break. Such breaks were times when i would be reminded of old memories, of close friends, some happy times, past achievements, little mischiefs. Usually the break ended with me  in a conversation with one of my partners in crime during school or college.

I will miss those tea breaks. Now when i see the employees in our factory during the tea breaks, i realize one important part of those tea breaks, "the smile". Those few minutes with the cup in your hand are when you are happy, when there's a smile on your face, when you forget your tensions and deadlines, when your colleagues become more than just colleagues, when you feel light. And it is this feeling that remains common across all the employees everywhere. Be it huge corporates, or the people who take out your trash. We all have our little tea break. Cheers!!

I Loved My Job.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The HR intern


I recently resigned my previous job at one of the leading vehicle manufacturers in India, to join my family business. While there is no scale of comparison between the two and both have their own advantages and headaches, there are somethings about my previous job that i would miss. A Lot. Some of them, i've tried to elaborate as a tribute to the great work experience they gave me.

The HR Intern:
What i'm talking about here is not a specific person but a phenomenon that occurs in most organizations and even colleges.

Being an engineering company, the female to male ratio was somewhere around 1 : 123456 and counting. With all the female population concentrated at the head quarters where i was stationed. Now that would sound so much like paradise, until you consider the age spectrum. If built a little differently, the office could be easily mistaken for an old age home.

Rarely could we spot good looking females who were not married. There was a good chance that they were in relationships, but hey, who cares?? Anyways, these occasional sightings would mostly be college students doing their internship in the HR department or the likes.
Advantage: you get to see different females every 2-3 months.
Disadvantage: There was no scope of an actual relationship. Not that it was achievable in a longer timespan, but it sounds like a really good excuse.

We didn't know her name, or her college, or any information. in short, we couldn't even find her on facebook. but we knew the one most important information. The time she has lunch. I think the only good thing about our canteen was that everybody was forced to eat there. Even if we had brought our own lunch, we had to sit in the canteen and eat.

Our whole group ensured that we were in the canteen at the exact same time that she had lunch. We would enter as a gang and crane our necks in all directions to locate her and sit at a table closest to where she was sitting or where she would probably sit, if we reached before her. If you are a lady reading this, let me tell you that we are not as cheap as you think. it would usually be one of us who would be interested in the female and not all. we are just there for moral support. its part of team work i guess.  But it is also true that it is usually that one shameless guy who is interested in all the interns. And i'm not that guy.

Well, moral of the story is that it was great fun, something that i will miss. And i'm sure it happens everywhere. Sometimes its the HR intern, sometimes that new recruit from a rival software company, sometimes the fresher in EEE.

P.S. if you are a lady reading this, please do leave your number.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Boss


I recently resigned my previous job at one of the leading vehicle manufacturers in India, to join my family business. While there is no scale of comparison between the two and both have their own advantages and headaches, there are somethings about my previous job that i would miss. A Lot. Some of them, i've tried to elaborate as a tribute to the great work experience they gave me.

The boss:
           Yes, i will miss my boss, in fact all my colleague's bosses. The pleasure we get in abusing each other's bosses over tea would be greatly missed. Sometimes, the insults would be so bad that you would reject a promotion if it were handed to you at that moment.

I would like to think that we are different from our bosses. We wouldn't be so bad or that we wouldn't be abused so much. But the fact is that the abuses do not depend on your behavior but more on the number of subordinates you command and frequency of tea breaks at your office. If refreshments are free, God save you.

It is a very common misconception that only bosses take credit for all the achievements and blame the incapability of the subordinates for the shortfalls. The fact is that they do, but so do we. We do the same thing to our bosses. How many times have you praised your boss for his achievement? How many of you responded to the previous question with "let him achieve something first"? How many times have you complained to your colleagues about how your boss doesn't get his priorities right? Its all in the game, a part of the corporate life. The entertaining part if you look at it that way.

I will never forget an incident with one of my colleague's boss. I had forwarded him an automail with details he had requested for. He called on my desk phone and invited me to his cubicle, popularly known as "torture cell". He had my mail open in his laptop (a waste of company resource).
He asked me, "Where is the customer's name and number in the mail?"
"Its in the mail, let me check." i said, scrolling down the mail on his laptop, a really old one but still a waste of resource.
I showed him the detail in the mail for which he replied, "See, its somewhere down there. now i know that the detail is available in the mail, but my mental ability does not allow me to scroll down. instead i opt to call you on the phone and ask for the details."
I was shocked. I looked at his subordinate standing next to him. He was smiling at me. Here was a man telling me about his mental incapability in front of his subordinate and expecting me to be sorry for it. I have been a fan of my colleague ever since.

This is just one of the incidents with one of the bosses. My suggestion would be that the company should start a TV serial like "Friends" by compiling videos captured through the CCTV cameras. it would run for 20 seasons and we could sell the DVDs later. we could name it "Yes, we get paid for this."

P.S. This is my first blog. Hope to improve in due course of life.