Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Introspection for the New Year's Eve.

Examination of the year on a seven point Likert scale of expectations
(1-Far Below:2- Moderately Below:3-Slightly Below:4-Met expectations:5-Slightly Above:6-Moderately Above:7-Far Above)


Physical Health: 4 (Fitness consciousness has improved, as has eating healthy, and most importantly excercising regularly)
Emotional Health: 3 (Rocky patch at the beginning of the year - but improved marginally over time)
Mental Health: 5 (No smart alecy comments thank you pliss)

Marital Health: 5 (At least I dont get up in the middle of the night and jump out of bed wondering WTF is that and what is he doing here)
Filial Health: 5 (Ah the usual rating for this one)
Outlawndish Health: No comments (Discretion is the better part ....)
Friendtenal Health: 6 (Bless them all).

Financial Health: 1 (Why doesnt this ever change? sighhhhhhhhhhhh)
Professional Health: 2 (Pune. Pune. Pune.Count to 10)

Blogging Health: ??? (Comments people? fishes welcome)

May next year rate 7 on everyone's Life scales! See you on the other side folks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Use, Abuse?

So a few years ago, somewhere in the post-advent-of-Internet-era but pre-social-media-explosion kind of age (web 1.5?) I reconnected with an erstwhile friend from my 11-12th grade spent in an all-girls (*shudders*) school. Let’s call this girl T.

Now T was one of the members of the ‘group’ I used to hang out with (read: the crowd that sat down to have lunch together) – she was okay enough (except for a marked predilection for Mills & Boons - girls school effect *shudders*) and since she lived fairly close to where I did, she used to often hitch a ride with us (viz. my friend P and I who had a car-pool thing to school, and Goonda who pretty much lived at my house for four years). So we used to hang out and do all those things that 15-17 year old girls do together viz. gawk at good looking guys from HPS (girl’s convent hangover *shudders*), giggle at geeks, link each other up with any random guy in the right age bracket, sing tonelessly and loudly, blare music on the streets and deafen the old driver and generally feel very brave and adventurous and pleased with ourselves.

School got over, P and Goonda went to Delhi (and soon P moved to London), I left for Bombay and T remained in Hyderabad. And eventually while I remained in touch with the other two heroines and still do so regularly (the fact that P is also the daughter of a family friend not to mention that she is quite utterly insane, helped. And Goonda and I were er..BFF (Ugh. Puke. Yuck.) and shared a relationship based on a rock-solid foundation of extravagant insults which continue till this day, which leave our respective spouses rather bemused). (Also I need to stop doing these sidebars in brackets-for-background-colour things – I have almost forgotten what the post I set out to write was about), I lost contact with T until we got each other’s email ids few years later.

So I was happy enough to find her and we exchanged 2-3 ‘what have u been doing in life in the last few years ‘mails. Then suddenly one day I get a mail from her informing me that she is coming to Bombay to meet a prospective lover (which her folks don’t know about and the official version is that she is coming to Bombay to meet me) and will be staying at my house for a few days. Which was a little bizarre but since I have had sundry friends come and stay with me for many days at a time, I shrugged off the rather high-handed tone and said ‘sure’.

A few weeks went with no correspondence whatsoever and then again an unexpected mail came informing me that she would be reaching Mumbai at 10.15 and I should be at the airport to pick her up. By this time, Goonda (who has much shorter fuse than I do) was fuming at the rather arbitrary tone of the mail. I happened to have some function which I needed to attend to, so I wrote to her telling her that I would be unable to pick her up since I had to go to this wedding, but would leave the keys with the neighbour. She wrote back saying that she cannot change her flight timings and I should cancel my plans to go to the wedding and be sure to pick her up. By this time, I was also in a rather WTF mode while Ma and Goonda had smoke coming out of their ears.I said no go.

Then finally in the manner of one doing a great favour, she rescheduled her flight plans to arrive the next day and I went to pick her up at the airport (yes, I was quite a doormat and hated to give offense and hurt other people’s sensibilities. At one point (okay last sidebar, I promise), when I was in eighth grade, I used to carry two water bottles because one of my classmates used to drink mine. Why didn’t she carry a water bottle as well? Because it was too much of a pain/inconvenience to lug a bottle around)

So anyway, she came to my house, quite unchanged – as giggly, as loud as ever – I in the meantime had lost my father, had taken on financial and emotional responsibility so was not the carefree person of yore.

Soon after she landed, she called up a people and made plans for the evening to go pubbing with some friends and informed me that I should not expect her for dinner and so on; she left and then disappeared for the next two days. We were of course , frantic, as to where the hell a single girl in a unknown city, supposedly under our chaperonage had disappeared to. Finally we managed to trace her, figured that she had shacked up somewhere with the lover-boy .

The day before she was to fly back she called again to inquire whether I could see her off at the airport so that I could 'spend some time' with her. I politely declined the pleasure (working, had reduced the doormat quotient. Besides, I had Goonda threatening hell and damnation if I so much as thought of going)

Anyways, what was the point of this post and why am I thinking of it now after such a long time? Because someone else is attempting the same thing again. A person who has had my email id but had fallen out of touch. I reconnected with this person on a social media site again, and after precisely 2 mails, this person wrote to ask whether I could travel especially to Mumbai at a certain date to do something specific and complicated. And I don’t want to take that effort and I don’t see any reason for me to do so at the cost of being churlish ( Is the doormat dead finally? Yippie!)

So there are a couple of issues here.

The first one is that: - Yes. In friendships and other relationships, one person often has to put in effort, be inconvinienced for the other. That is the part of the give and take and the cornerstone of any meaningful relationship. but it is easy to abuse that relationship and get into a territory which is "using" the person. And hell, Im pretty sure no one likes to be used. T, this current person, (both might be rather extreme examples I know)I certainly felt like I was being suckered.

The interesting conundrum is WHY! I know, that with a different person, and exactly the same set of circumstances, I might feel completely different about it and take the effort gladly and willingly and unhesitatingly.

It's not even the fact that there has been a time gap in the relationship. There are enough and more friends who I havent seen for years, who I don't foresee this issue coming up with.

Is it the tone I wonder?

So the question is that why is it that for some people, one can go to extraordinary lengths to help and for others, even a minor detour seems like an imposition.

Is it the give and take thing? But then isn’t friendship supposed to be relatively altruistic? So if I am willing to take effort only for those people who reciprocate that becomes a contractual and not emotional relationship doesn’t it?

The other, is after saying “No” to people who fall in the latter category, how is it that one ends up becoming the churlish, uncooperative, unhelpful person?

Relationships are weird.

Okay very long and very rambling post.

Seasons Greetings to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Beauticians are in the eye of the beholder

Ed Note: The first of the beauty rants written in Jul/05 – forerunner to this. Recycling this since I am unwell(shameless sympathy fishing here) and am not supposed to be up and about..

There are three things in the world that I am afraid of - dentists, lizards and superior-young-women-at-beauty-parlours. Today's post is dedicated to the third.

A typical scene from a beauty parlour goes thus

I walk in (usually without an appointment - somehow this thing about taking appointments for parlours has never cut any ice with me - I don’t take appointments for doctors and I’ll be damned if I will take one for a parlour)

Usually two or three extremely superior young women will be standing there looking well, extremely supercilious. The minute I walk in they will turn around and look at me with a slightly contemptuous sneer on their face (I promptly feel that my hair is all wrong or my clothes are inside out or there is a zit on my face or SOMETHING!)

After about three minutes of looking helplessly around one will condescend to come upto me to ask what is it that I want to do. (Usually something very basic - a hair trim perhaps)

She will seat me on the chair (ah, that’s the reason I don’t like beauty parlours’ - the chairs are the same as those they have in a dentists consulting room!).

She stares at my face and asks me "what is your skin care programme"
Me: "Uhm skin care programme?"
She: “Yes skin programme - what all do you do to take care of your skin?”
Me: (Half defiantly, half sheepishly) “Nothing much really - just wash it and keep it clean and don’t experiment with my face wash/soap/cream”
She (rolling her eyes heavenward - one can almost hear her begging God to deliver her from these half-baked-skin-programme less-morons). “You should have a skin regimen - you need to take care of your skin - if you don’t you will end up with wrinkles and marks and look something like that” pointing in the general direction of the picture of an 87 year old woman with a pockmarked face.
She continues: “Look at this - you already have a blackhead here if you don’t take care they will go on multiplying”
I much shaken, peer into the mirror and see zilch: “Uhm where?”
She: “There on your nose! Can’t you see it???”
I peer more intently and manage to locate one solitary blackhead.
She: "You need to take care of your skin - you should have a proper facial and get your skin cleansed and toned - should I do it now?"
Me (feebly): “No- not today I am going for a movie in an hour or so - I just need a hair trim right now”
She (sniffing disapprovingly): “Ok. But I suggest you get some scrubs for your face”

(I have but a nebulous idea what a scrub is - I used to always think it is that thingummy one washes ones clothes with which they beat the dirt out- I have recently discovered it’s a walnut based or apricot based paste, which one is to apply. I haven’t seen it yet but I have just heard all these fancy descriptions from my cousins.)

She (looking at my hair from all angles): “Your hair - it’s so DRY”.
Last time I went there they told me my hair was too OILY - you never win do you?
She lifts my hair up and tells her colleagues “Look at her hair it’s so DRY”
I am ready to sink through the floor, for shamelessly walking around the world with DRY hair.
Then she starts to measure and cut and meanwhile continues her rant.
She: “What shampoo do you use?”
Me: “Head and Shoulders or Pantene”
She (aghast): “Those? Those are very strong! They will ruin your hair - it will eventually all fall off”
Me: (Quaking at the thought of my suddenly going bald):"Uh..what about Sunsilk? Which one should I use?”
She: “Tetra hydrox something something" (I don’t get the last part of the name but it sounds like a washing machine)
She continues: "You should colour your hair - that will automatically condition it and stop it from becoming dry"
Me: "Er no I don’t want to colour it - everyone I know who has coloured complains that it ruins the texture of the hair"
She: "Bah! They do lots of research and testing before they out it on hair - of course nothing will happen to your hair"
Turns to her assistant: "Get the catalogue of hair colour"
I flip through the catalogue - somehow my imagination balks at the thought of me as a peroxide blonde.
I tell the lady the same.
She: "Don't get a global hair colour get it highlighted - that will look nice"
Me:"Uhm but the texture - have been told that it completely ruins it"
She: (In an obvious effort to explain things to a cosmetically-challenged half wit ) : "If you are so afraid of it you should go in for the ammonia free hair colour"

Ammonia? They use ammonia to colour hair? ...Eeeks! I thought ammonia was used for disinfectants.

Me: "Er no ..I think Ill pass the hair colour for now- I just need to trim it you know"
She: "At least come for a conditioning treatment"
Me: "What is that?"
She:"You have to come here and we condition your hair"
Me (suspiciously): "How many times?"
She: "At least five times - you'll need to come every 10 days to sit here for sessions of 45 minutes"
Yeah right - here I barely manage to go to the damn place once in 5 months and she expects me to go there 5 times.
Me: "Isn’t there anything I can do at home?"
She (firmly): “Hmm...at home isn’t good enough you will have to come here"
Me (looking at her piteously):"Nothing whatsoever?"
She: “You can try this new L'Oreal shampoo-conditioner"
Me: "Where does one get it?"
She turns to her assistant who promptly gets it and puts it in front of me.
She continues:"You must use it - you really need to take care of your skin and hair you know"
Me: (meekly): “This is good is it?"
She: "Yes not as good as a treatment here but if you insist this is decent"
By this time my spirit is utterly broken.
Me: “Okay I guess I will buy this

All the while knowing I am being conned - hell I work in advertising I know how to con consumers into buying things they don’t need or want and I still fall for this!

By this time, the haircut is also done and I walk out the reluctant owner of a very expensive shampoo and conditioner

Beauty? Gah!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Minding the Mind

I was wondering the other day – does intellectual growth, the appetite to learn, also fall in a bell shaped curve – rises steeply for a while and then starts to peter down soon after?

This thought came from musing over my reading habits – I am and have always been a voracious reader. Books have been my addiction, my companions and my escape throughout my life (I nurse my emotional wounds not with food or alcohol, but with my well-worn, time-tested comfort books).
But if I look at the kind of stuff which I find myself reading these days, instead of scaling and seeking intellectually challenging books, I find myself unerringly aiming for the stuff which I used to read maybe twelve- fifteen years ago. (I have also noticed that I no longer pick up books which have very small font or are very bulky. But that might be just age and failing eyes). These books – my bubble gum reading of then, have suddenly become my staple diet – which leads one to wonder about brain cell atrophy or brain cell laziness and all that.

And this phenomenon seems to be happening across the board – be it the television shows, the magazines, or even the conversational ambit which I operate in.

I have been mulling over this and I believe that are three possible hypotheses.

The first hypothesis is the one I have already mentioned. Namely, like the physical growth-peak-decline (I would assume one hits the peak somewhere in the mid twenties), so with the mind. Thus, the athlete who is at the top of his prowess at 22 only to find that his reflexes and his strength are ebbing five years later – so with the intellectual who attains this pinnacle of cerebral attainment, only for it to de-grow in a few years. (And of course this happens with the lesser mortals such as yours truly, who are neither athletes nor intellectuals).

The other possible explanation for this could stem from the unique state of the generation – a generation brought up on Internet, leet speak and text messages which has been conditioned to use only a minuscule part of the brain and has been accustomed to get all inputs in a ready-to-eat, easily digestible format. This would in effect discourage any heavily intellectual pursuits because well – the value which is obtained is neither immediate and also, there is a definite benefit-effort mismatch – why spend so much time and energy pursuing something, where one can get distractions in a much easier format? The twitter phenomena as it were - not blogs, but micro blogs. Everything in byte sized pieces - caused by and resulting in low attention span.

The third hypothesis springs from a life-stage, age, societal flux kind of area. If real life, earning one’s livelihood, responsibilities are quite difficult enough without having to grapple with leisure activities which also task and challenge one’s mind. So the popcorn stimuli are exclusively escapist in their nature.

I would like to believe it’s the last one – well, because then it becomes a conscious choice rather than an involuntary (physiological or environmental as the case may be)and worrisome one.

What do you think?

P.S. all of you who are scaling intellectual Mount Everest’ as you grow older, kindly refrain from stating that – my lethargic mind has been tying itself into discomfited knots as it is.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Notes from the Guitar Class

In my old age, I suddenly decided to go and learn the guitar. Bucket list and all that.

So a few months ago, I toddled off to a class and registered myself. The spouse accompanied me and put on a long-suffering air stating that “Now you can’t say that marriage has stopped you from pursuing your dreams and hobbies”. Full melodrama this – I’m not really the martyr types who will sacrifice her life at the altar of matrimony.

So like I was saying I went and registered in this class in my neighbouring suburb and have been going there twice a week ever since.

This guitar class is a one man show run by an elderly-catholic-gentleman who from what I can gather has been playing the guitar professionally since 1950 or so. Being definitely old school in his approach to life in general and guitar in particular, he believes in all those old maxims of hard-work and practice makes perfect, 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, and no progress without duress ( is that a maxim or did I just make that up?) – Anyways you get the gist.

As an aside and for the record, I would have much rather had a hot, stubbly young rocker-teacher types but I couldn’t because a) I didn’t find anyone of the sort and b) S claims ( quite unjustly) that I need someone who will figuratively cane me into practising – and this gentleman seems to fit the bill.

He, let’s call him Mr. M was quite fascinated by me when I first started attending his class. A female keen to learn the guitar was rare, a person on the wrong side of ..well never mind the numerical age, but the wrong side of the guitar-learning age was rarer (most of his students appear prepubescent to me - smaller than the guitars they play on.) and a person who is married is also quite unusual. So a person who combined all three was an oddity quite deserving of deep suspicion and an unshakable conviction that “She won’t last for more than a couple of weeks” and I think the fact that I do turn up quite regularly, never fails to surprise him.

As I mentioned earlier , he is quite the old style school teacher – balding, be-whiskered, beer-bellied ( ah for the young rocker, sigh) - he regularly scolds and clucks around all the unfortunate students for everything – whether it is not doing homework ( which is practising some 4 hours a day) to smoking ( “Next time you come I will SMELL your mouth and if I think you have smoked you better ‘WATCH IT”) and for not covering notebook ( this last particular one was directed exclusively at me – I kept on forgetting to cover the damn thing ( incidentally the first time he told me to cover my notebook I gaped at him like a half-wit – no one had told me to do that for close on 15 years. I also spent some pleasant time contemplating what stickers I should put on them – the Hello Kitty ones or Snoopy. Ok. I am being nasty).

He is also exceedingly meticulous (although I suspect terribly dated) in his music classes – one is expected to write down the theory (and seriously, all you typer-sharks out there are you able to write extended passages even now? I seem to struggle to write anything more than my signature these days), followed by a long diatribe on lack-of-practise ( he firmly believes that practise is more important than other minor things like earning-one’s livelihood or preparing food) and then some exceedingly excruciating exercises’ for one or the other hand – yes, I am still stuck at those (exclusively-arachnidan named) exercises’ - I have been doing these for months now, and I suspect I will be doing them till the end of time.

Also Mr. M and I seem to have quite differing definitions of what constitutes a relaxed hand. He will contort his hand in a quite impossible angle and make me do that with mine and insist that the hand is not relaxed enough. Well, I agree with that – my claw looks like it’s in the throes of rigor mortis. But I defy anyone to hold the hand in those particular positions and be yogic-ly relaxed at the same time.

And I suspect my fairly flippant attitude to learning is something which he views with deep disapproval. He wants to make a professional guitarist out of me - despite all the odds and despite the unpromising musical raw material. He periodically drops broad hints about how a so-and-so- restaurant is in need of someone who can play and sing and how in a few months I might consider it (It might be worthwhile to broach this proposal in front of my Ma– I am sure her reaction to the news that I am considering singing and playing a guitar professionally ought to be quite interesting. I'm sure band bajega. Quite literally)

So anyways I plug (pluck?) on with the guitar. In a few decades if you see a white haired old lady standing and crooning on some stage with a guitar, stop by to say hallo, it just might be me.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Sixty harrowing hours afterwards - its finally over.

The Heroes - some sung, some unsung. The unnecessary martyrs. Those utterly wasted lives. How can one explain, justify, brush it away.

The Terrorists - Mumbai brought to its knees by teenagers, young men. How do they have so much hate in them? Why do they have so much hate in them?

The Stories - One degree of separation. The ex-colleague at Leopold (alive thank God), my maids employers brother, my friends acquaintance (dead), my other friend's boyfriend (NSG)

The Brave hearts - The tale of the Taj GM who was ushering out guests trying to save them, as his wife and kids were getting burnt. The superb ( by all accounts ) staff at the Taj - who stayed calm, professional and helpful even in the midst of this chaos. Beyond the call of duty. Grace under pressure. The real heroes.

The politcos - conspicuous by their absence - where is Raj T when people from "North" of India chose to lay a siege on his city? The babbling incompetence, the blame game, the finger pointing, the marked lack of solidarity even when India needed them to come together as one.

The Paparazzi - there is no way they can be dignified by being called media anymore - chasing TRP's even as a tragedy unfolded. The inane, insensitive questions. The dangerous "LIVE and FIRST ON TV" reporting. And also, their courage to stick it out for hours and hours in a brave, if foolhardy attempt to cover the incident.

The Armchair Experts - Trigger happy with the criticism, shooting their mouths off - while the real heroes were shooting the terrorists

The Heroes - The Marcos, the NSG, the security forces who risk their lifes under inadequate ( and often non-existent) support.

The victims - May your deaths not go in vain. May this be a long overdue wake up call. May you rest in peace

The City - Bruised. Bleeding.Shaken. Weary. Angry.But hopefully not broken.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dear God. What is happening to my city?

A blast so close to my home ( Vile Parle) that my mother heard it.
Leopold cafe - a five minutes walk from my home of four years.
Taj Hotel, the scene of countless official meetings.
Ramada Hotel - the usual meeting place for me and S, the place I have gone to countless times and more for work
Nariman point - a stone's throw away from offices of two of my close friends.
I could see Sasoon Dock (where they apparently landed) through my dining room window.
One friend has the military stationed in her building.

I am watching the news as I write this and there is the heartbreaking shot of a mother-daughter duo looking out from a window where they have written "SAVE US"
And another of a terrorist ( supposedly) standing at the window with a gun.
Scenes of the terrorists escaping in a police van for crying out loud.
Twelve hours down and still a stall mate.
5-7 terrorists at the Taj still and another 7-9 in Trident. Gun happy, ammunition heavy terrorist.
101 innocent, helpless bystanders killed and 300 odd injured.
And hundreds still held hostage, helpless and terrified.

I don't think I felt even this heartsick when the blasts happened, or the great flood. I don't think I ever felt this unsafe.
How many times will Mumbai has to go through these trials?
How many more Mumbaikars will have to get hurt, die before the spirit of this city is utterly broken?
When are we going to start feeling safe again?
I can only weep tears, for my city is oozing blood.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Beautician Beast

I don’t like going to parlours. Apart from office and dentists I can’t think of any place I like going to less. The thought of strange women with clammy hands pummelling and pulling and doing all other manners of excruciating things on various parts of one’s anatomy is not quite my idea of a fun time. As an aside, I am completely fascinated by the legendary ladies who go to parlours once in two days – they must have a particularly masochistic strain in them.

However, I am reconciled to the fact that since I am female I cannot go around with Chinese whiskers and a French beard. Also, all these conniving, waxed, metrosexual types shame one into the periodic visit. Thus, I go to the salon, once every month/couple-of-months/once-in-three-months/till-people-start-lending-me-burkhas.

So anyways, today was the day ( after procrastinating for a month) that I had decided I would groan and bear it like a (wo)man.

The next task was to identify the salon.

Now salons are like dentists. Once one is stuck with a half decent place, one doesn’t change unless under considerable duress. The salon people, like dentists are also equipped with various instruments of torture – so the old cliché of a known devil, is particularly apposite.

Thus, for the first few months after shifting to Pune, I stubbornly clung to the old salon in Mumbai. A few months of this and I regretfully realized that it was not always possible to manage a parlour visit in my quick trips to the city.

So we come to Pune, and I go to the highly recommended (and consequently exorbitant) famous-brand-salon. Famous-brand-salon is quite infamously mind-numbingly slow - painstaking they would have us believe, but really, excruciatingly slow. Each activity was carefully orchestrated and choreographed for maximum effect – the instruments were laid out, the napkins had to be kept in just that particular angle, the cotton swabs needed to be absolutely round – quite reminiscent or brain surgery rather than a salon treatment. I vastly prefer quick and brutal pain/death than the slow, lingering variety.

So that was the end of that.

Then I found another parlour quite conveniently located in the same building – reasonably, clean, quick and efficient – so that worked for a while. Then after a few months the lease ran out and they had to shift out of the place. I went to the new location for a while, but apparently the owner has not managed to pull in enough of her clients and none of the assistants are willing to go to the new location, so the place has shut down.

So we come to today - I search on the net and find one – suitably close to my house.

Go there; get all the painful stuff done and over with.

Then, as a belated birthday present to self and because I have been suffering from a niggling pain (from a bad catch) in the back which is just not going away, I decide to get a back massage. Something which I have almost never done in the past and after today, am pretty sure I will never do in the future.

So all is going well, there I am, feeling reasonably relaxed, the back pain is better, and am quite somnolent on the trolley.

And then suddenly - I find that the dame who is massaging me, is on the top of the trolley straddling me from both sides.

Promptly all traces of sleep vanish and the relaxed back muscles spring right back into the earlier knotted condition. At one point when she is trying to reach my neck - well, let me put it this way, if a divorce lawyer was to see us then, he would have had no hesitation in labelling it as er..a compromising position.

While this happening, one part of my brain is planning (wildly improbable) escape routes, another part is squeaking vocal but very ineffective protests (and there is not much one can do when imprisoned in that fashion by a muscular lady sitting on one’s back and shoving one’s face on the trolley) and another part of my idiot renegade brain is rolling on the floor chortling at my predicament.

Soon she is doing some form of convoluted dance meets voodoo thing which is completely surreal – which involves waving her hands a couple of centimetres away from the back which besides being definitely ticklish and uncomfortable is also plain damn weird.

Ah well. I live to tell the tale, with my er..honour intact. Back to shopping for another parlour. Sigh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bombay Diaries Volume 2: Scatty thoughts of nothing in particular

I have realized that in my life, how the day is likely to turn out is completely and absolutely dependent on traffic choke points which I encounter in my daily routine. For me, one of the big ones is the Mahim-Bandra causeway. On the rare days I manage to sail through it with minimal traffic (No traffic is a myth in Bombay), I will suddenly find that every other aspect of the day suddenly falls in place. I will not get delayed in queues, the bus will leave on time and land on time, won’t be stuck with a smelly co-passenger, the maid will come, and every other chore will automatically be done smoothly without me having to hit my head on a few hundred walls.

That is my "I'm feeling lucky' day.

Speaking about the co-passengers, I find that my patience with blushy, gushy giggly sheltered women is very, VERY low these days. When a female in her late twenties calls up her husband and has conversations like this (transliterated from Marathi) "Ticket was for Rs.235 they gave it for Rs.225 ...giggle giggle...maybe it’s because it is afternoon they have reduced the ticket fare ..paroxysms of giggles...they also gave a small water bottle..giggle some more" and about forty five minutes more of this silly laughing fest. The urge to throw the woman under the bus to see if she giggles is quite high. I certainly WILL chuckle quite happily then.

Random conversation with the mother

Ma: I want to go to Kolhapur to see the Ambabai Temple and to Ganapathi Phule to see the Ganesh temple there.
Me: Are you planning to do a tirth yatra?

A sidebar here. My mother is NOT one of those prayer-bead-counting super religious people. She is quite street-smart, social and outgoing and well very Bambaya (almost verging on tapori sometimes). Not the devout pilgrim school of thought/deeds in other words. heck the couple of times, I have asked her to meditate she has gone off happily to sleep.

So anyways conversation continues

Ma (Dramatically sighing) : Haan ab umar ho gayi, kya karein tirth yatra hi karni padhegi.
I have to kindly point out to her that not less than a month ago she was clambering on to the Fort at Aguada with the best of us and frolicking (well standing) in the sea and behaving in a very untirth like fashion.

My mother is such a fraud.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Maid in Heaven

After the extremely harrowing and ulcer-generating task of shifting was done, the next big thing was the hiring of the maids. Actually, if I had had my way I would have hired them before we shifted (it would have saved me the washing dishes and (hand) washing clothes which I had to do – shameless sympathy fishing here, please oblige).

So anyways we got here and then I set the domestic-supply grapevine in motion to get all those random people needed as a support system to keep the house the right side up (viz. the maid, the cook-types, the istri-wala, the milkman, the newspaper-wala, the cable-guy and some more walas who I can’t recall right now. If I ever decide to shift again, someone please copy this paragraph and spam my mailbox with it yes?).

Then the domestic supply pipe started gushing. Candidates started coming and ringing the doorbells. At that point in time, both my Ma and the MIL were at home (and I typically was at work). So the first round of HR-type interview happened at this level. This resulted in the candidates being told to come at X time to meet the reluctant COO (viz. me) and the CFO (viz. the spouse). The CFO as is the habit of all CFO’s, managed to sneak out of the whole process with the silly excuse that since he was paying, he was damned if he was going to manage them too.

And as usual the COO is left holding the wotchamacallitthatoneisleftholding?

So at about six thirty- seven in the morning the door bell rings– I sleepwalk and open the door. And I see various types of maids in all shapes and sizes to whom I stutter out questions about geographical eligibility, previous experience and core competencies. After a few weeks of this, I have come to the conclusion that they can be classified thus.

There is the Mata Hari types (also known as Chammak Challo). Multi-hued sari, betel juice stained pouty lips, swaying hips, long hair, tinkling bangles and anklets.
One specimen that comes seeking employment at my house looks like she will eat me for breakfast. She is also eyeing S rather lecherously and appears like she might make a pass at the man of the house (almost worth getting up in the morning to see this bit). I whisper the same to him.
S, very nervously, tells me not to hire her “I wouldn’t know what to do if she hits on me”
I wouldn’t know what to do if she hits on him either – but I rather suspect it will be untimely, un-wifely levity rather than righteous anger and melodrama. (That’s what happened the last time a maid hit on S. Though, when the same lady made a pass at me – it got a bit confusing– incestuous almost. We (S&I) spent some fulfilling and productive time debating about which of us she desired more.)

The second types are the members of the Maid Mafia. These operate in gangs and there are rival gangs. If you have multiple employees you need to make sure they are not from opposing gangs because that is a sure-shot way of getting caught in the crossfire . The Chandan nagar gang for instance thinks very poorly of the Yerwada gang and their working style and vice versa.
So anyways, one opens the door to see three or four standing at the door staring belligerently at one. The Don (Doness?) fires all the questions in a staccato manner which is quite intimidating. How much money. How much work. What time. Who all is at home? Suddenly one feels transformed from the COO to the person who is giving hafta. Usually the most timid of the gang is the one who eventually ends up working – but the bodyguards (big, muscular ladies these) come to ensure that there is er.. no dirty business ( pun unintended) is done.

Then there is the Maid Nazi. This is the one who has a SYSTEM in place. Things need to be done in exactly HER system. All one’s entreaties and habits are promptly thrown out of the window. My way or the highway she declares grandly. This is rather confusing considering the fact that she is the one who comes into one’s house.

Then there is a Multiple-personality dame. Efficient yes, but with a highly exaggerated sense of her own abilities – will commit the same time slot to two different employers and causes a great deal of confusion therefore. Eventually she ends up doing some sort of musical chairs with the two households.

The result of all this negotiations and cogitations is a domestically harassed Cynic. I have come to the profound conclusion that getting a half decent maid, is significantly more difficult and fraught with hassle than finding the right partner. If a prospective spouse throws attitude one can always walk away after all. It needs much more courage to walk away from a maid (as with the famous (?) Ugamma).
Also, one doesnt have to pay the spouse.

So much for the “WHY do I need to know cooking and housework? Ill simply hire a maid”

Coming back to bite me. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Red Hot n Happening!

Ed Note: Recycled post from Nov 2004. Rediffblogs is gobbling up my old posts, so have to shift these here, and this seems to be the only way. Please bear with me.

Anyone who has worked or interacted with an agency would know that “Work on fire” is probably the most used and abused terms of all time. But what happens when the work is on fire…literally?

Yesterday at about six fifteen in the evening, my next-door colleague suddenly sniffs the air and says “kuch jal raha hai”. I obtusely grappling with a more-than-an-ordinarily testing statistical chart snap back “Haan mera dimaag pakh ke jal raha hoga”.

Two minutes later, the gentleman wiggles his nose again and says, “ I’m serious! I can really smell something burning”. Burning smells are much more interesting than correspondence maps so I get up to investigate.

Our work-bay is filled with this nightmarish maze of electronic/electric circuitry. So we periodically give Cassandra-ish predictions that someday, someone is going to get burnt to a cinder. The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that there is a spark around us. We duly search for the source. Nothing.

Next step is to check boss’ cabin that has this hideous piece of antiquity, which is euphemistically labeled as an air conditioner. That also seems to be in its normal rattle-shake-wheeze-some-gusts-of-cold-air condition.

Holler for the IT guy and tell them that there is a spark somewhere and curse him a bit for all the wires and rant about dangerous workstations and why is our department meted out step-child treatment. While the gentleman is on his knees examining the machines, someone yells from the corridor that there is this actual true blue (er.. red) fire happening in one of the rooms on the other side of the wall from us.

In about five minutes, the entire office is standing (far away from the danger zone of course) in the corridor right outside where media planning sits and watching the fire with the rapt attention normally reserved for Cannes winners. No panic, no screaming, no worry, just pure, unadulterated enjoyment of a show one is hardly ever privileged to see: - namely, a fire in a storeroom, people clambering on desks trying to break windows, and lot of people running up and down with fire extinguishers (that they don’t have a clue about how to operate).

Smartass comments from my office people commence (The media outfit is a part of, yet not a part of my agency. It’s a sister agency, but we share the same office, the same cafeteria, and often work together with the same clients. However, the creative wing and media are not exactly on very amicable terms, largely due to gallons of blood shed over the pool table and first playing rights on the same).

“Ah, we always knew that these media people had a lot of hot air in them”

“Bung a few of them inside will you!”

Suddenly someone (probably HR, who is a normally slow burning …er bulb I mean) realize that, the fire poses health hazards to the poor hapless employees. So the process of evacuation starts. By this time, all the electric mains have been switched off, so we are all grappling in the dark going back to workplaces to salvage bags and baggage. By this time, our desks and places are completely filled with smoke. Dramatically, we go to get the bags out- coughing, and with tears streaming down our eyes. Mind you, there is still no urgency except for the HR who is screaming up and down the corridors like banshees trying to get us out as quickly as possible. And then everyone is bunged out of office (some really smart people, instead of walking down the four flights of stairs took the lift - in an electric fire!).

Sporadic comments overheard on the stairway

“First time in my life I actually want to stay in office and they are sending us home!”

“It’s a conspiracy I tell you, other agencies were jealous of our work”
(Followed by extremely loud and derisive hoots of laughter by everyone around)

The firefighters have already reached by the time we reach downstairs. The entire office is again assembled on the grounds craning their necks to see real firemen in action.

Client calls start. The statement of “Uhm…our office caught fire today, don’t think tomorrows work will happen” gets a medley of reactions

Fires will happen, cyclones will happen, doesn’t mean work can stop can it”

“What all excuses you people give - I have also worked in an agency remember, you always say there is a fire or some thing”

“Okay, send me a mail and cc my boss that you can’t work”

“Yes of course, the work is on fire, we need to catch the publication at six o clock!!!”

“Tu mar war nahin gaya na?” (Said in tones of extreme regret)

And this interaction that happened in the middle of the evacuation process. Accounts fellow meets colleague in the corridor while everyone is trying to leave. “Here is the duplicate bill you had asked for”. Colleague looks at him and puts the bill into his bag. Sometime later, they meet again downstairs. The Accounts guy asks, “You have the duplicate bill kept properly don’t you? I will NOT give you another copy if you are burnt upstairs!”

Hot place to work? You betcha!

P.S. We all ended up at office today, but couldn’t do any work whatsoever since switching on anything electric was considered unsafe. So there was cricket in the corridors, gossip in the cafeteria and generally a good time to be had by all.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Udipi Ode

There was an article the other day in Outlook on Udipi restaurants – and how they are slowly going out of business.

I was saddened by that news. It’s hard to imagine a life without the ubiquitous and unassuming Udipi restaurants. The Shanbagh and the Kamath hotels, with their charming pineapple-sweet lime garlands , the butter soft idlis-delectable dosas- mouth-watering sambhar-steaming coffee, and the impossibly quick service, that are such an intrinsic part of the cultural and epicurean landscape of any city.

For me and for many of my generation, Udipi restaurants were the favoured, and sometimes the only option, through school and college. This was before the Mochas (and money) became as common as they are today.

At that time – there were only two types of eateries. At one end of the spectrum one had the exorbitant ‘five star’s (on a shoestring pocket money budget, any half-decent-half-clean-eatery fell into this category)- These were the places one went for birthday treats or when a parent was funding.

And then there was the affordable roadside refectory - composed of grandiosely named Chink’s Ming (with their fiery red meat stakes hung upside down characterized by the cloying ajinomoto odor) or the samosa-and-wada-wala who used to produce steaming crisp samosas from a degchi filled with a speckled liquid that could euphemistically be called oil. (My classmates assured me that it was this indeterminate concoction which gave the distinct flavour to the food. I never tried it though – I’m slightly neurotic about food hygiene) and the ever-present sandwich-vendor.

Udipi restaurants managed to fill the golden median – cheap, yet clean, wholesome, yet tasty and thus, many of my food and growing up memories are inextricably linked to various Udipi restaurants across India.

Class 9 in Hyderabad, one of the first unsupervised trips to an eating place, Shanbagh Hotel – Panjagutta. A classmate got offended when a waiter looked askance at the bunch of broke-looking-kids-in-school-uniform. He proceeded to call the waiter to our table, produced a soiled Rs.10 note from his pocket and waved at him, grandly declaring that “Humare pass paisa HAI – SACHHII”

Or that poky little place in Santa Cruz where we used to go from my Aptech Class (I actually went for 2 years to Aptech sigh. Follies of youth and all that) for a desperately needed ‘Special' Ganga-Jamuna juice to neutralize the sweltering mid-noon heat. Incidentally, I have always been fascinated by the 'Ganga-Jamuna' juice and once I was lucky enough to get a 'Ganga-Jamuna-Saraswati'- I forget what the 'Saraswati' was though.

Or that small hotel in Bandra where Goonda, aghast, decided to take an impromptu SQ test minutes after I admitted that I thought oral sex meant TALKING about sex.

Or while at B-school, where the next door Udipi joint idlis formed the staple diet of all the local students after they were guilt-tripped out of their dabbas by purportedly starving hostelites. The place the waiters knew us by name and didn’t bat an eyelid when ONE idli plate was methodically divided by 8 (my friend R has been immortalized for her “Bhaiyya iske chotte chotte tukde kardo please” in her slightly anglicized accent)

Those early working years, where I and my friend B would meet up in Irla for a medu-wada, and to bitch about work, love and life.

Or at Coffee House in Camp – which was one of the first places which S took me out to in Pune where we stopped bickering and learnt about companionable silence.
Incidentally, this was also the place we went for dinner the day we got married. Probably the only couple in the universe to eat their first meal as husband and wife in an Udipi joint (with my mother, uncle, aunts and cousins for company and with me in full bridal choora. Long story, will post about it someday)

And oh so many more – of reunion and partings. Of gupshup and gossip. Of food and friends.

Ah sigh. It will be such a tragedy if they do disappear.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Journal

Ed Note: Blogger's block. Random fiction written being posted now.

There was just a small paragraph in yesterday’s newspaper

“IT PROFESSIONAL KILLED IN ANDHERI. 29 year old Avinash Mathur was driving his motorcycle when a truck mowed into him, killing him instantly. Mathur, was working in an IT MNC”

Such a small paragraph couldn’t possibly have a huge impact could it? Well it did. On his family, our colleagues, on our other roommate and of course, on me.

Three days later I was at his desk, clearing out the drawers, when I found his journal. I opened it, thinking it would give me one more chance to feel that wonderful, charming Avi still lived

I found this.

20th July I saw her today the new recruit. I felt the craving again. The itch in my soul, which tells me that I want her, that I MUST have her.

25th July I walked by her desk and gave her my special smile. The one which Anu called my ‘angel smile’ just before she went ‘missing’. This one smiled back. MUCH more delectable than Anu was.

28th July why does civilization shackle us? Why can’t I just possess her like our forefathers did? As animals do? Why is blood, lust, taboo? Why must I go through this courting farce?

8th August I must have her. Her skin so creamy, that figure just begging for love, that delicious mouth. I must make it mine. Just like I owned the others, make her beg for mercy. Be patient Avi. You can’t scare her like you did little Sumi. She shouldn’t suspect anything.

16th August She stays in Andheri. Her family is in Kerala. Ah the Malyali sultriness and that lovely, voluptuous body...

28th August Progress. I took her for coffee today. She had a good time. She laughed a lot and flirted too. I don’t know how I kept hands off her. How I put my social face, made jokes and talked normally. She trusts me now.

29th September We’ve gone out every weekend. She’s attracted. I can sense it. I wish I could like her normally – the kind where you date, get married and live happily ever after. But this urge doesn’t go away; it’s like a fire behind my eyes, thundering blood in my head.

10th October She thinks it’s romantic to keep “us” a secret from everyone else

18th October I don’t know how I can last much longer. This fire will destroy me, I dream of taking her, and then afterwards, my hands squeezing that beautiful neck until it snaps – just like that. Like a twig. Just like the others did.

23rd October Her flatmate is travelling. I’m going to her house now. Today is the day. The day she will join Anu and the others in my secret place where I can see them, touch them, love them. With me forever till posterity...and the itch will go away.

23rd October – the last entry in the journal .The day he met with an accident. On his way to Andheri...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy Diwali ...

...off to Goa tomorrow for a week.

Wish you all and your families a very, very Happy Diwali. May it be filled with laughter and light, hope and health.

Happy Diwali.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bombay Diaries – 2: The secret diary of Cynic in Wonderland Aged 13 1/4th

I think I am a bit like a bear. A couple of times in a year, after an protracted time of activity I get this strong urge to go into hibernation – viz. just take off and do some R&R and space out and be incommunicado to everyone except those whom I HAVE to talk to - office folks, my mother (if anyone has managed to successfully go on, and more importantly maintain a maun-vrat with their mother, please give me tips), and sometimes the out-laws. The last one leaves me feeling more than slightly aggrieved. That is the reason when I feel the need to hibernate; I usually skulk off to Bombay where I can go peacefully into my asocial-surly-moody-space cadet mode without being disturbed or suffering annoying guilt pangs.

So anyways, I went last week but this time I wasn’t allowed to pursue my usual policy of going into a state of suspended animation – where I sleep, eat, read, ignore everyone, watch bad movies and occasionally do guilt-propelled exercise (and do NO work).

This time, the mother had an agenda for me – viz. clear out my bookcase. She for some reason has always found my tendency to buy and hoard books a nuisance, nothing moves her to fluent oratory as much as finding some book under the bed or on top of the washing machine. Sigh.

So she put an ultimatum. Either clear out the cupboard or she would clear it out (which basically meant that she would have just called the raddi-wala and told him to take away everything in sight.)

So, very reluctantly I set out to do so.

And I found a whole lot of half-remembered things from bygone eras. Letters from my friends carefully stored away inside books, letters written to my friends which I never got around to mailing, poems (aged 14 -18: serious and deadly earnest philosophies for life and living (ahem)), my friend Goonda’s poems (which I had copied meticulously for some reason. I promptly called her to recite them on phone and she had to bribe me with a gift to shut up) and Goonda + Mine ambitious literally opus – titled the GOLD (er...Gems of Literature and Dramatics. I know. I know. I was fourteen. God help me).

And I found my diaries. Slightly squashed, slightly musty, slightly dog-eared but all there for posterity.

I started writing these diaries – well when I was seven or eight at the behest of my father. I would religiously show it to him, making sure that my mother didn’t see them (I did say I was a Daddy’s girl didn’t I? Although I stopped sharing it from age ten). He would assure me (completely mendaciously) they were particularly well written and that would ensure that I continue this diary for at least three months of the year – even if it was a bland and factual “I didn’t do anything today so nothing to write”.

The early editions of this unfortunately, must have got lost when we shifted countries when I was 11. But I have the diaries from ages 13 to age of 22(which seems to be the last time I attempted it.)

So I have brought along my diary aged 13 1/4th to Pune and have been wading through it, these days. It is written in a scrawl (whatever else might have changed, my handwriting remains as bad as ever) and the text is usually accompanied by illustrations interspersed with dire threats/pathetic pleas to people to refrain from reading. Mostly addressed to my mother . She used to insist on reading the diaries when I hid and locked them. After a point I started leaving them around and she promptly lost interest. I wonder whether this mother-daughter privacy thing always happens in the early teens.

Anyways the entries are full of anecdotes from school and my opinions on class fellows and the process of discovering the world through books such as Anne Frank’s diary through the eyes of a dreamer-introvert that I was.

It’s well, for lack of a better description– quaintly grown up in some cases (“I had to stifle a laugh”. “I went to a temple which had three Goddesses, and I absolutely stuck to Saraswati because exam results are due any day”/”So and so talked for exactly 23 minutes without stopping and 15 minutes after taking a pause. I timed him”) and brutally childish (“XYZ aunty I hate her and her lunch was awful”).

I do remember some of the more memorable incidents such as the time I locked myself in the bathroom (which had two doors, one leading to the bedroom and the other to terrace.) way past the time I was allowed to read books, with “Anne of Green Gables”. I got so engrossed in the story that I completely forgot about getting out until “rudely awakened from my reverie” by my father knocking on the door and asking me whether I was reading a book. Guiltily aware that I would be in quite deep trouble if caught with a book (I was not allowed to read in the bathrooms) I quietly opened the terrace door and left the book outside hoping to retrieve it later – innocently oblivious to the fact that my parents could see the bathroom light and my shadow as I furtively left the book there. I opened the main door and went swaggering out only to be hauled by the coals by my dad and I drily end the entry with “Ma couldn’t scold me, she was laughing so hard at the irony of the situation”

There are some entries which in hindsight are beautifully insightful.

One reads “One of my friends at school is a great artist. Today in free period she started drawing on the board and she drew a man (Mr. Weepy Sing)”. Given what I recall of the aforementioned gentleman, that is not a bad description at all.

And finally my favourite entry...
“I just hope I don’t have to sit with any ninth standard boys they are so STUPID”.
More than a decade and a half later, with many experiences dealing with boys in various shapes and sizes, I still can’t quibble too much with THAT particular sentiment.

Ah. Growing DOES pain.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Que Sari Sari

I have always envied women who can wear saris effortlessly and gracefully. I have never been quite able to crack it. I can wear them. After about seven attempts and 41safety pins (a girl’s best friend), it can even look passably elegant. But if truth be told, I have never quite mastered the art and therefore, can never be one of those marvellous super women-types who just get up in the morning and glide into a sari without any fuss or tears.

My standard operating practise when confronted with a sari-wearing occasion is to

a) Avoid: Duck the occasion altogether (ah, wishful thinking)

b) Substitute: Give feeble excuses and turn up in a Salwar Kameez.

c) Sulk and comply: Throw tantrums, fret, curse, and then finally wear it (with the help of Ma or any handy female) with a martyred air and totter to whichever function. This, after turning most of the room upside down and getting into at least one spat (with the mother, – “WHY the HELL can’t you drape it properly-you have thirty years of practise?”/ “No I will NOT wear those rib-cracking-circulation-stopping blouses. I don’t care if people call it a tee-shirt. At least I don’t get asphyxiated ”/”Stick a pin there, and there and there as well, you missed that spot, OUCH!!!” or with the husband, “ hope in the next janam you are born an Indian woman and have to wear saris everyday” or the more pithy “Eff off”)

d)In a rare burst of enthusiasm, decide to drape it without any help and do so successfully. Only figure out that it has been arrayed in the mirror image of the more conventional left shouldered way after the mother goes into peals of raucous and unseemly laughter.

My first brush with the sari started somewhere in late school. Till then, I had quite successfully managed to avoid coming within lassoing distance of them despite the occasional traditional /teacher’s day scare.

Let’s forward to Class 9, Hyderabad.

Our much esteemed (!) and very I-know-which-side-my-bread-is-buttered-and-will-do-sell-my-grandmother-let-alone-these-useless-students-for-money Owner/Principal manages to get the school invited for some inter-state- competition. As a gesture of goodwill (to the rich dignitaries) and revenge (on the hapless female students), she mandates that we don costumes of the participating states and sashay down the grounds.

Some evil star prompts the organizer to allocate a Bengali sari to me. The Bengali traditional sari – the one which is the lovely red and white (Think Parineeta) which is distinguished by the fact that it has ABSOLUTELY no pleats in front. The same all-important-pleats which allow the wearer some moving and breathing space. This one is to be worn more like a crepe bandage- viz. just rolled around the wearer. Also as with the crepe, the key focus seems to be to restrict and impede any free movement (the dainty, femininity thing l I assume).

Definitely not the ideal way to initiate a semi-tomboy into the intricacies of the garment.

Somehow I manage to shuffle, waddle, and roll myself to the parade grounds with other similarly suffering schoolmates - accompanied by distressingly forthright commentary from the boys. Once there, we are told, that we need to perambulate the ground (which incidentally are flanked by er..nubile young jawaans).

So we all waddle, shuffle and roll some more, collectively stomping over and crushing yards and yards of silk and satin. During the course of this walk, my sari which seems to have a distinct mind of its own (quite typical of Bengalis?), decides that it has enough of me and valiantly tries to part ways. Fortunately, it meets with only partial success.

The Gujurati sari next to mine, decides to emulate the attempt and is much more successful (again, quite typical of the state? Hmmmm!). About seventy percent manages to sneak away before the wearer realizes that.

I did mention that we were flanked by nubile (?) young jawans didn’t I?

Let us discreetly draw a curtain over the rest of the proceedings.

Incidentally there is still a photograph of me in that damn thing floating around in cyberspace in-spite of all my attempts to destroy it. One of my moronic friends has become the self appointed guardian of my ‘street-urchin’ (as he calls it) look for eternity. Every few years he digs the photo out, sends me a sadistic mail with the photo as an attachment. Hmm, I really need to get new friends.

After this, I firmly stayed away from saris for the next three years until the twelfth standard farewell party. This was quite uneventful, except for the fashion atrocity of wearing puffed LONG sleeved blouse (the ‘in’ (sic) style) with a Guajarati pallu.

Undergrad was relatively simple. Traditional and sari days could just be avoided – as were rose days and friendship days (do they still have them I wonder, the friendship days were particularly nauseating as I recall).

Then we come to B-school. College brochures, presentations, inter-collegiate functions, mug-shots – all in saris, all fraught with much tension. The halcyon sans-sari days seemed definitely over. But on the plus side, I meet like-minded, sari-challenged friends. (Once, after a few nights-out-battling-insane-deadline-for-an-intercollegiate-competitions, we (four females) accompanied the sari-clad-presenter without realizing that it was draped on the wrong shoulder. Fortunately a friend (male!) pointed it out before she went up onto the dais).

After that it’s been a series of saris – cousins’ weddings, engagement, marriage, pujas so on and so forth. I suppose I am better than I was, but I prefer it infinitely more, when it is worn by other people.

This sari post will not be complete, if I don’t end this with an incident with a friend.

Just after she got married, she had to go to the in-laws for the first time as a bride, for a Satyanarayan puja.There she was expected to change into an appropriate sari for the function which she did and since she didn’t have the help of any friendly, known females. She asked her husband to help her pin the sari pallu together – which he did. Only being a male, he wasn’t aware that the pallu is normally ALSO pinned to the blouse – to keep it in place. Then friend goes to the pandal and does the sashtang pranam (prostration before the idol). Gravity of course, played out its part on the thick Kancheepuram pallu.

Apparently a lot of the younger folks of her husband’s family fondly recall her as the bride whose pallu fell down.

Ah well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bombay Diaries – 1:Journey

Conversations between the spouses, one in Bombay the other in Pune. Henceforth known as P and B.

Marriage Year 1:

P: “When are you coming home?”

B: “Why?”

P:” I am bored, I don’t have anyone to talk to”

B (suitably touched and all that): “Ah. OK. Soon”

Marriage Year 2:

P: “When are you coming home?”

B: “Why?”

P:” I don’t have any clean clothes and I don’t know how to operate the washing machine”

B patiently explains the functioning of the same

P: (very gleefully) “Okay great I figured it out. You know, you have become completely redundant now that I can do all of this”

QED: The journey from wife to washing machine takes exactly one year.

To be continued: The secret diary of Cynic in Wonderland Aged 13 1/4th

Friday, September 26, 2008

Presenting a new weapon of mass destruction.

And did you hear about the woman, thrashing a Roadside Romeo (who had forcibly entered her house) with the newest weapon known to womankind - A belan?

This resulted in the said gentleman landing up in hospital licking his wounds, swallowing his pride, gulping in fear (please feel free to add any other corny cooking lines)

Moral of the story. Never piss off a woman in the kitchen.

Could one call it the Cook’s anarchybook?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Super Cyn (and Super Ma in a special guest appearance) feature in Revenge of the Roving-Eye-Lizzie

Ed note:This one was written sometime in 2004. I vaguely remember posting it but it seems to have disappeared from the archives, which is strange since I dont delete posts.(the Busy Lizzie one is there). I am still suffering from bloggers block so wading through the hard disk for stuff written in the past which has never seen the light of day. Is that cheating? Hmmm. Ah well)

A quick flashback: Busy Lizzie - the dacoit queen of the reptilian looks and the scaly tail - of whom many ballads of nefarious traps and malignant intents have been penned, had ambushed poor unsuspecting Super Cyn and Super Ma one fine day a few months before this tale. Super Ma, (Super Cyn’s sidekick) after a nasty showdown with Busy Lizzie, had emerged triumphant to tell the tale

Roving-Eye-Lizzie aka R-E-L, the direct descendent of Busy Lizzie, comes into their lives again to avenge the death of her mother.

Roving-Eye-Lizzie, one of the sterling members of the Fork-Tongue Gang, has earned that moniker because of her particularly nasty-looking left eye. Strangely over-developed, glassy, this eye seems to freeze and overpower anyone who accidentally catches sight of it. She has been known to wreak havoc in a number of households around the world because of her particularly sinister modus operandi, which is to stare them into immobility with that strange roving eye and then stun them with the malignant poison from that deadly forked tongue (that trademark of the Fork Tongue Gang!)

And now, she wanted to destroy Super Cyn!

In the quest for vengeance, R-E-L, had laid her masterly plan. Catch Super-Cyn unawares was the strategy. Unsuspecting is vulnerable. Vulnerable is success for R-E-L

So one day, Super-Cyn having showered and preparing to depart from the bathroom finds it manned by R-E-L looking particularly menacing and hideously green, perched on top of a bottle of Dettol. The roving eye (of the R-E-L fame) is rolling in its socket malevolently looking at our heroine while the forked tongue of the (Fork-Tongue-Gang fame) is lazily investigating the top of the Dettol bottle savoring it as if it was one of the finest shots of Scotch.

Trapped and defenseless, what does Super Cyn do? Does she give up? No!!

After being initially frozen to the spot (thanks to the tipsy malignant eye), she grabs the hand shower pipe and aims the nozzle and sprays R-E-L with a jet of hot water edging away as far as she can in the meantime.

R-E-L facing a steam of scalding water, lets go of her perch on the Dettol bottle and slips down to the soaps

The fighting spirit of this valiant descendent of Lazaretto the Hun is brought to the fore by this direct confrontation. She turns around and glares at Super Cyn, the eye rolling in true rover style and decides to try a more direct approach. From the soap area, she jumps onto the shower gel, the height providing a vantage position to view Super Cyn and re-evaluates her strategy, and stares at Super Cyn. Super Cyn, unfazed stares right back at her. Suddenly R-E-L launches downward on to the shelf. Super Cyn, with her usual presence of mind, clambers on to the washing machine. The steam of hot water, which she was aiming at R-E-L, is cooling off to a nice pleasantly warm trickle so she needs to get some other weapon to tackle the menace.

In the meantime, she also yells for reinforcements from sidekick Super Ma who, oblivious to the danger Super Cyn is in, is in the kitchen cooking mutter-paneer. Now Super Ma, for some strange reason, refuses to acknowledge the real menace and danger of R-E-L and insists on underestimating her prowess. In fact, she constantly tells Super Cyn that she is over-emphasizing the R-E-L threat. Super Ma stands outside the door and asks what is the matter. On being told that it is R-E-L, Busy Lizzie's daughter, Super Ma puffed up with her last victory against the Lizzie clan snickers and leaves our poor heroine to her fate.

Does the unprotected Super Cyn give up now? No!!

With her foot, she overturns a bucket and tries to roll it towards R-E-L. Doesn't work. Thinking quickly, she uses the shower pipe as a lasso to edge the bucket forward. R-E-L, having clambered down the wall onto the floor, is temporarily trapped behind the bucket. Having thus strategically out-maneuvered R-E-L with the bucket, our super heroine jumps down from the washing machine and runs like the wind outside (still holding the shower nozzle in her hand until the last minute in case of a surprise attack) and locks R-E-L inside.

She then proceeds to give Super Ma a piece of her mind for so letting her face the danger alone and insists she remedy it immediately. Super Ma, suitably chastised, picks up the rod and proceeds towards the bathroom and forces R-E-L to retreat the way she entered - the window,which is then, barricaded against further surprise attacks.

And the super combination of Super Cyn and Super Ma prevail yet AGAIN!

Thus ends the saga of R-E-L.

Good triumphs over Evil. Every time!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Limerick Dementia

There was a blogger named Wondering Cynic
Who suffered from bloggers’ block quite chronic
She stared and stared at the machine
And yet words didn’t come out in a stream
So she took instead, to writing bad limerick’

There was a weblog award named Brilliante
For bloggers who wrote as fine as Dante
Talented Manu, Phatichar and Pinku gave it to me
Hurrah, hurrah and yippee, yippee
But I need to pass it on, for it was just lent’ee

There was a fine man named Rada
Who wrote lovely Ruskin Bondisque Saga
Of Kerala summers and rains
And of travelling by trains
Over his blog, I’m definitely gaga

There was a young man named Wreck Tangle
Who viewed life through many an angle
The bloggie love of my life
I would elope with him in a trice
In spite of his penchants for bungee dangle

And there was young Australopithecus from Hyderabad,
Who was quite delightfully, irrepressibly mad
He has recently travelled across shores
Doesn’t write regularly no more
And left his fans forlorn and sad

My latest discovery is a man called Scribbles Inc
“Wish I could write like him” I wistfully think
He takes innocuous nursery rhymes
And turns them into spine chilling crimes
Take a look at his blog, here’s the link

And there the modern day fan of Jeeves
Who writes about life’s small pet peeves
His sons are quite the old block’s chips
Always ready with a witty quips
One talented family, I firmly believe

And then there is the young lady named Mo
Who is one gifted writer that’s for sho’
Who has become a blog quitter
Ever since she has discovered twitter
Though her readers keep craving for mo’

And then there is the old favourite Saltwater Blues
Who writes sparkling introspective words true
Matched with lyrical photography
Full of sense and sensitivity
And a tongue-in-cheek wit, too

Now someone stop me immediately please
Before all my readers completely cease
For writing limericks is an art
This should not be lightly embarked
Without the supervision of the writing police.

Shoot me. I can’t seem to stop!
P.S. I had to chose seven. sigh. so many more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ganapati Bappa!

This post was written three years ago.As rediff refuses to display my old blog anymore, I am recycling the posts. I was also thinking about writing a post on my belief/relationship with this God, so this provides a good backdrop.Hmm. Posts every day of this week so far – just like when I first started blogging. Greetings of the season to all of you.

A return to the three century old, sprawling ancestral mansion, home to generations of family members, the birthplace of my father, now oddly forlorn, brightening up only on the two odd days of the festival, when the whole family comes back home…

A congregation of the entire clan- the elders slightly more gray and lined, the children suddenly taller, the aunts slightly plumper, the young men possessively sheparding their new brides, the new babies and their first brush with family history …

A time of relieving childhood, a time of reconnecting with the roots, a time of wistful nostalgia now always tinged with sorrow.

… the exchanged greetings with the extended kinfolk after a gap of a year (or several)…
… a walk down the photograph gallery, a reminder of people long gone by…
…the tulsi in the courtyard right in the middle of the house….
…the old teak reclining chair of a favourite grand uncle, now poignantly empty…
…perching on other granduncles knee while he loquaciously recounts tales of fathers/uncles exploits..
…the ritualistic trip to the room where they were born…
…the decorated Ganesh pandal at the end of one of the four sides of the inside courtyard…
…bringing in the Ganesh idol amidst fanfare and cheers…
…the actual idol, with the timelessly benign face…
…the struggles with the unaccustomed dhotis and nine yards saris before the puja..
…the smells of incense and camphor…
…the soft chimes of bells and incantation of chants…
…the assorted medley of modaks and other sweets…
…visiting the neighbours’ homes and the utter conviction that ours IS the best idol..
…out shouting the neighbours kids while singing (!) the aartis at their house…
…the exhaustive search for the rumoured secret passageways in the afternoon…
…catching up on life and gossip on the outside porch…
…the dusk bringing in the visitors …
…sparklers and fireworks in the evenings….
…tracing eight generations of the family tree …
…stories of restless ancestral spectres at bedtime…
…snuggling in with three of your cousins on a bed meant for two…
…the heavenly smell of parijat flowers and dew as you wake up….
…early morning tea sipped on the window seat …
…the distant melody of an aarti playing on an old stereo somewhere..
…exploring the attics and the childhood relics of our fathers…
…another session of aartis and pujas …
…the men complaining of yet another purely vegetarian day…
…the visits to the temple and the mandatory five Ganesh idols …
…the slightly heavy heart as evening approaches ….
…the final aarti of the idol before immersion….
…the village square with twelve Ganesh idols lined up in a row ….
…a night alight with fireworks …
…our erstwhile landlord family leading the final walk to the river…
…the air rent with “Ganapati Bappa” cries….
…peering over the bridge for the very last glance ….
…the unexpected tearing up of eyes at the final immersion ….

….a time to say goodbye…

….till next year!

Fast, Faster, Fastest

So today is Hartalika or ‘Tay’ as we call it – the day before Ganesh Chaturti, the day of the once-a-year-fast in my house.

My mother, my aunts have been maintaining fast ever since I remember. It’s a custom in our community to observe it post marriage (unlike Maharashtrians girls who fast BEFORE marriage to procure good spouse, we seem to do it AFTER. I wonder why. Better luck in the next janam perhaps?)

Broadly I know it’s a Gauri puja which is equivalent to the North Indian ‘Teej’ but don’t really know the religious intricacies or symbolism of the festival.

In my family, the preparations used to start a week in advance. My ma has a VERY low tolerance for hunger, thus, we (Dad and me) were prepped with the Do’s and Don’ts

a)DO obey her implicitly
b)DO listen to her talk about food and hunger the whole day
c)DO NOT get on her nerves
d)DO NOT expect anything in the nature of work – exhausting or otherwise
e)DO NOT discuss the correlation between fasts and irritability
f)DO NOT talk about how It will have a good influence on her weight ( this one was specifically targeted at my dad)

When the day dawned, I would be ordered to go and get 2 Tender coconuts and some random fruits, Every time I protested at being summarily ordered around, I would be subjected to a quite un-maternal look, often accompanied by vivid descriptions of cruelty to a starving mother.

My dad, looking at the list of fruits would whisper (“Ekadashi- duppat khashi”. ‘Ekadashi’ is one of those fasting days, ‘duppat khashi’ would translate as twice as much food (though not the usual chapatti + rice)) and quietly ensure that he stayed out of the firing line for the rest of the day.

Ma spent most of the day in the kitchen preparing a variety of upwas khanas – viz. Boiled yams, sundry juices, some concoctions which didn’t have wheat in them and so on and so forth. The rest of the time was spent purportedly trying not to think about food, but actually obsessing and talking about it ad nauseam When we ate our meals, Ma would put on her most long-suffering face and sigh loudly and morosely.
By the end of the day, it was difficult to figure out which of us (fasters or non- fasters) were actually more relieved that the day was over

Let’s forward to last year – viz, the first year post marriage.

I never did any of the fasting for the husband thing. Partly because I was supremely uninterested in getting married. And partly because I would have found it pretty darn desperate if I had to starve to snare a chap.

Somehow I ended up getting married. And then the Dharam sankat started.

To fast or not to fast?

Quite a few of the younger aunts and cousins had happily dispensed with the custom AND the mother and MIL were quite against me taking it up ( I was on medication for jaundice at the time). Thus, I had quite decided I wouldn't take up the Hartalika fast.

As luck would have it, on that very day, we escaped unhurt from a potentially nasty accident Promptly I guilt tripped myself into a fasting.So there we are.

So today I have to starve again. Fortunately, I have a higher tolerance for hunger than Ma does ( as long as I can get tea I am quite cheerful, deprive me of tea and you will have a raging maniac on your hands). So am not suffering (yet). All I have done is look at husband very mournfully in the morning in full abla naari ishtyle and declare dramatically to him that ‘I will be starving for you’ (He, like my Ma has a very low tolerance for hunger so is feeling very sorry for me and vaguely guilty). I have also kept an appropriately woeful status message on IM while sending these pitiful messages to everyone about how hungry I am.

Nautanki is good fun.

P.S. I am finally behaving like a good Bharatiya Naari?
P.P.S.I am very hungry!

Monday, September 1, 2008


Just came back from a slightly stressful bus ride from Bombay. Why stressful?

When I climbed in, there was a person sitting on the adjacent seat to mine and a companion sitting across the aisle. As I indicated that was my allocated seat, he shifted one seat behind. As more and more people came in, I saw this guy Green Shirt (and his companion) move further and further back.

I assumed not unnaturally, that perhaps he had got in the wrong bus by mistake.

After sometime, while we were waiting for the bus to depart, and half the passengers were waiting outside, I saw Green shirt come and stand in the aisle next to me and fidget with the bag on shelf above the unoccupied seats (on the other side) while furtively looking around. Then he went back again.

After five minutes he came back and took the briefcase which was there and went to the back of the bus. I assumed he must have kept the briefcase there when he was sitting on my seat and thought no more about it. Soon I see him come back with the suitcase, again glancing around and put the briefcase back from the place he had taken it from.

By this time, I was definitely tracking him.

Soon, I saw Green shirt get down from the bus and loiter around, glance at the bus a couple of times. I had warning bells in my head, but couldn’t exactly quite make a fuss in the stationary bus – after all I wasn’t sure whether he was planning to climb back (like some of the other passengers).

Bus conductor came and bus started, and Green Shirt and companion had disappeared.By this time, alarms were blaring. So I told the chap sitting next to me and then told the conductor about the strange action of Green Shirt. Conductor gazed blankly at me, before asking the guy across the aisle whether the bag was his.

Turned out it was.

And here is the crux of the tale, any vigilant conductor with half an ounce of sense, would have made sure that all were lying around were properly accounted for isn’t it? At least he would have checked the bags on both sides.

Not so. On the other hand, I was made to implicitly feel like a hysterical fool by the way he listened to me, and acted upon what I said.Out of the passengers, one of them did check his bag, but the briefcase owner(whose bag had certainly been purloined for a while) dismissed it altogether.

Yes, we didn’t get blown apart, since I am here, writing this post. I didn't even get off the bus as a frantic S/friend were ordering me too.
Green shirt in retrospect, was probabaly a thief (and not a terrorist as I had immediately thought) who might have been trying to get some loose cash or valuables.

But I honestly don’t think that it was beyond the realms of possibility today. I am not a suspicious person but what Green shirt was doing was enough to raise my antennae. And the truth is we are not in Sweden or Switzerland where these things don’t happen. We are in India, where 22 bombs have been found in one city.

What shocked me more was the fact that there is absolutely no plan of action on information such as this. The bus conductor didn’t alert anyone, he didn’t even bother to check anything. He just cursorily checked on that bag ownership ( and that’s pretty much because I insisted) and left the bus.
Considering that Green Shirt and Co had been loitering around for a while, they could have very easily sneaked another bag in somewhere isn’t it?

And that is the quite appalling truth when one thinks about it. Trains, buses, malls – they just pay a lip service to security. It is so terribly easy to get in and get out. To leave something behind, to strap something, to plant something.

Yes I do realize that it’s not possible, feasible or viable to actually have security systems in place in a country as vast and populous like India. But I do believe that the least they can do is have a system whereby they can ACT on suspicious information received in a manner which is adequate – sensitizing them as it were. In this case, how long would it have taken the driver to ask each passenger to identify their bags for instance?

Or is that too much to ask for?

P.S. I was wondering if there was anyway to do a 'Neighbourhood watch programme' equivalent in cases like this. Any ideas?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Me, Myself and Money management

I like to tell myself that I am not completely financially challenged like the conventional stereotype of females.

'After all’ I say to myself ‘I got along just fine managing my hard earned apology-for-money for close on four or five years before Mr .Finance Planner entered my life and I didn’t do too badly’.

Like I said, I think so. Mr. FP (in non-financial times known as the spouse) begs to disagree and does so far too vocally if you ask me.

But let’s backtrack a bit and cast an eye on my Money philosophy (well I never knew I had one, was supposed to have one, until I was asked by the self same FP). Money was something one earned. And then a little of it was spent. And some was kept snugly in a place one could keep a close jealous eye on it – viz. in a savings account .if I had my way I would have kept it somewhere even closer – under my pillow perhaps. But as a concession to the fact that we are living in modern, educated times, and banks have assured me that they are safe, I settled on a savings account. I even chose the one with an auto sweep to the fixed deposit, so that I earned some interest on it.

This pattern would more or less continue till the middle of January or the gentle investment-proof-reminder mail from office, whichever was earlier. Then there would be some frantic calls to investment feller to beg him to meet me. And my sad little savings were further depleted and channelled into worthy tax saving bonds and some solid life insurance.

The investment feller would preface the conversation each year with questions on what are my ‘future financial plans’. But as I was wont to tell him, my future vision stopped at about four weeks, sometimes it stopped at four days.So all his grand plans of forty years and retirement were light years away from anykindofvision I had. Heck, even four years lock in periods scared the bejesus out of me.

So he would sigh like a steam engine, pocket my cheques and walk away into the sunset with my commission money (and leave me forlorn and considerably poorer)).

A couple of times he DID bring up the topic of Mutual Funds. I don’t like Mutual Funds I told him. Every time he told me about money doubling in five years I retorted with US64. After a point he gave up trying to convince me. And that was that.

And then Mr. Financial Planner happened.

One day he asked me about my money philosophy. And I chanted the flippant money philosophy I had outlined above. Suddenly, the even tempered, equable man metamorphosed before my eyes into this rather wild eyed evangelist. Fidelity, Franklin, SIP, Growth saver, Blue chip, Mid-cap, NAV– an avalanche of terms swept over me.

How can you not invest he raved . When I bleated about US64 he brushed it away impatiently and told me that I was behaving in a manner completely unworthy of my education and intelligence (!) and if I continued with this fixed deposit rubbish( and this accompanied by a beautiful sneer) I would be sure to die in penury and servitude.

Now that I have pledged to honour and serve this bloke (hahahahha ok, I couldn’t help that), I decided that I WOULD invest in mutual funds – besides if I lost my money, he has pretty much vowed to support the wife of his heart ( hahahahha ok, I couldn’t resist that either) in sickness and health and richness and poverty .

So I have.

Now every time I get a mail saying statement I eagerly open it thinking that my money would have doubled or done something dramatic like that (actually this is an unfortunate optimism I haven’t succeeded in curing myself of. Every salary slip, I open with an heightened anticipation and beating heart thinking that SOMEHOW my salary will have magically increased that month. Every month for the last I-don’t-know-how-many-years-I-have-been-disappointed. Only once the salary slip did show a spike and I was happy for half an hour until I figured out that it was the yearly bonus. Sigh.) .

Nothing has happened. The money is stuck in the same damn place for ages now. And I am beginning to lose my faith.

Mutual Fund Gods, are you listening??

P.S. Okay My January investment post is not linking so I shall recycle it . I should anyways since that is one of my personal favourite posts.

P.P.S. It IS my blog no? I can recycle whatever I want. Bah!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Unrequited friendship

The other day one chap I knew buzzed me on IM. We spoke for about five minutes and then I was desperately grasping at conversational straws punctuated with a whole lot of “What else is happening?” from his side. (WHY do people keep on prolonging conversations with ‘what else’s’ and ‘aur kyas’. There should be a statute on the number of “what else’s” that can be spoken in any one conversation).

And I realized with a slight shock, how little we really had to talk about anymore. Three lines, five minutes and that was pretty much the sum of it. Beyond that, it was agonizing, but there was this sense of obligation, almost like I owed it to him, or owed it to the memory of some good times we HAD shared, to have a chat which was more meaningful than just the perfunctory inanities we had swapped.

This was a person, a colleague; I was reasonably friendly with about six- seven years ago. We met at one of those office conferences (we were from different cities).He is a terribly (and I use the word terribly intentionally) nice guy who had lent many sympathetic ears when I was going through a particularly nasty patch (life, heart, and work – mostly work) in my life.

So we used to exchange mails, text messages and phone calls once in a while, where I would whine, crib and rant as I did with other friends. But the strangest thing happened, the minute I left that particular job (and life went somewhat back on track), I suddenly and quite completely ran out of things to say to him. And I am very ashamed to admit it, but I completely ran out of the desire to talk to him as well. (In my defence, the conversations tended to revolve only around the ex-job and how much fun we had at the conference. The former I didn’t want to speak about and the latter had pretty much outlived its shelf life.)

And now, six years down the line, he still talks about that job and that conference. And I have moved on, had many more ‘fun’ experiences, changed some, learnt some, forgotten some. I am sure he has changed too. But somehow, our conversations don’t seem to be able to take that leap and transition beyond those not-so-wonder-years as I have done with other friends or even acquaintances from that era and other eras.

The odd meetings which we have had have been excruciating – with these vast voids of silences which are awkward as hell.

So that brings me to the question of what to do with this, or should I do anything at all? A friendship based on the foundation of force majeure is hardly good news. But then I think that he DID listen to me rant ad nausea so I should have the decency to talk to him. And then I think again, that how long I will keep on paying the price for the support which he gave me and that I owe it to myself to stop prolonging something which I don’t enjoy anymore.

Whichever conclusion I land on, I end up not liking him too much, and myself, even less.

The truth is friendships like love, can grow yes, but it can also grow apart. Some stand the test of time – from the initial euphoria of getting to ‘fall in kinship’ with someone to a more mature, stable, relationship which has morphed, moved, grown and solidified as the two individuals have changed

Some unfortunately don’t survive this – falling out of friendship as it were. Usually when that happens, the two individuals will gradually and naturally fade out of each other’s life and meet after a period of time and wonder about how they were friends. A sense of wistfulness sometimes, but very little regret. Other times, there are circumstances which force two people apart (travel, marriage, vastly divergent monetary and intellectual attainments – where it becomes very difficult for one to catch up with the other). And some just sour – a fight, a misunderstanding and that irrevocably ends it for once and for all.

But its cases like this. When there is very little left in common, but there are some memories of a relationship that was. Where one person has fallen out of kinship and the other has not, this strange state of 'unrequited friendship'. How long can one flog the memories and when should honesty come in?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Red tapestry

The other day some vendor bills which I had given to Finance for processing came back to me with a post it which said “please complete the purchase order” on this. I was mildly surprised – I used to input autographed bills to the concerned chap in commercials and sooner or later (usually later, after a couple of weeks or stalking and dire threats) he would produce a cheque which I paid to the vendor. There had been no post it’s with unfamiliar terms like purchase orders and requisitions before.

I went to the boss to make inquiries – he said “I’ve got a flood of mails with attachments which I have not read. There was something about purchase orders – that’s probably what they are talking about”

Then he has a happy notion of forwarding these mails to me.

So far, so good.

However, on further investigation, it is revealed that these mails have five attachments in excel and word outlining new “processes” for the payment of bills. These processes include a multistage complex choreography of activities which involve the participation of people who have absolutely NO connection to
a) My division
b) To the finance department
c) The senior management /signatories
d) The Business vertical which is initiating the project

These people were apparently hired to some software development for our associate company in Singapore and in other words, are completely and absolutely as de-linked from the work (and consequently the vendors) as it is possible to be in a moderately large organization.

But, for some reason, the Gods –that –sit-in-the-boardrooms have ordained them as the people who will decide the fate of my poor suppliers.
Unusual perhaps, but still acceptable.

The killer requirement however, is the footnote that hits you if you have managed to wade through the document “Please provide all copies in triplicate. Original copy goes to X, first copy to Y and third copy to Z”.

Incidentally, the company prides itself on its cutting edge technology. The factory has the state of the art – minimal human interaction – robotized machines. It is completely wi-fi enabled and even the lowliest flunky is given a fancy laptop and absolute connectivity (the fact that a lot of the people can barely open word is a different story altogether).

But yet, they are pleased to inform us that fifty page documents need to be photocopies in triplicates and attached with PR and directed through three levels of bureaucracy before a simple bill can be processed.

A further twist in the tale happens when one after a laborious process, somehow manage to get the bills out through these faceless chaps – lets call them Mr. X ( bill is kept on X’s desk, after about fifteen mails exchanges where one is forced to submit the most trivial and inane data as supporting evidence.).

Then we go to round 2 where we need to deal with Y. Y who was born Mr. Doubtfire in earlier janam. He has been hired for the sole purpose of being suspicious. He views everyone sceptically and is labours under the absolutely unshakable conviction that they are out to swindle the company of the hard earned (sic!) monies. Getting the forms through him is like living through the Spanish Inquisition. He stalks. He eyes you suspiciously. He whispers things to the finance department while all the time glowering at you.

By the time you actually manage to convince him that the bills ARE genuine for services rendered, your insides have been converted into a state of quivering mush.
(As an aside in one of the companies I have haunted, one of the Mr. Y’s had a profound objection to people making STD phone calls even if it was work. So after a particularly acrimonious tete-a-tete where he asked me whether I wanted to call a client in Delhi for WORK or other reasons. I told him I wanted to call him to send him my shaadi ka card. Quite a clever repartee I thought at that time. This would be a good time to applaud by the way)

And the final task is to get the signatures from the Man-who-never-was. He has a cubicle, he has a secretary, and he has a couple of phones and blackberrys (blackberries?) But rather like the Yeti and Nessie, while people know he exists, no one has actually seen him. Thus it means oozing out whatever little charm is left (after Mr Y has put one through the wringer) to get his all-important secretary to get the signatures.


Mind you, our mission statement has been bursting at the seams with words like nimble and cutting edge and progressive. I wonder whether they see the irony of it. Hmm.