Monday, March 31, 2008

The Dearly Departed

All organizations periodically go through an exodus every few years. An eerie, almost synchronized exit from the workplace in a remarkably short time span. A period when it appears as if, almost every other person has resigned or is on the verge of resigning or is desperately searching for jobs and looking forward to resigning. (My old office, for instance, witnessed an unprecedented and un-orchestrated departure of 32 managers in three weeks. The HR team was sitting on floors, flailing their chests and pulling their hair out in anguish).

The problem only arises when you (a relative fresher to the organization), get stuck in the middle of this upheaval.

There are typically two ways of reacting to this exodus, depending on the kind of person you are.

If you are the strong, brave corporate type of rookie, you will observe this flight of people with icy, impassiveness and disdain.
“Go” you will think. “I will take over this organization” and “You should have left earlier you incompetent deserters, I will now show you how organizations need to be run” and “ now you will actually see some difference in all those Excel tables and PowerPoint graphs” you mentally holler, in a smug, self satisfied way.

However, if you are one of the slightly feeble minded, feebly loyal breed (such as yours truly) – then this exodus has quite a different effect.

You (the vague feeble minded variant – henceforth referred to as VFMV) unfortunately and quite reprehensibly, get infected with the great Exit Mode Virus.

The VFMV normal work mode is growly-cranky-cribby-whiny-broke – this will suddenly undergo a complete and inexplicable metamorphosis.

The VFMV is happy. The VFMV is beaming. The VFMV feels buoyant coming to work thinking joyful thoughts about how it’s just for a few more days. The VFMV is swashbuckling and dynamic in meetings and has strong opinions on stuff which the VFMV has no clue about. The VFMV is delightfully irresponsible about deadlines and their importance. When colleagues and business partners speak in grave serious tones about plans to be put in practise in two months, the VFMV mentally chuckles and thinks “I won’t be HERE to implement these plans in two months. At every opportunity, the VFMV polishes and refines the resignation letter. The VFMV surfs websites like and plans on where the VFMV person should go after the VFMV finishes the notices period and before the start of the new job.

And then the VFMV has an epiphany. The VFMV does NOT have a new job. The VFMV does not have a new job because no new jobs have been applied for. Heck the VFMV does not even have an updated resume.

The VFMV is left with feelings akin to seeing off a party of friends off to a holiday in Hawaii while forlornly standing at the departure lounge. The VFMV damns everyone to eternal hell and then looks mournfully at the at the all-ready-but-the-printing resignation letter, sighs and sadly shuts the PC off.

Update for April 1st:

Happy Birthdays to the Blog (4 YEARS!!! I started it as a April Fools joke on myself) and the Bloke (Otherwise known as the husband or the hero or S I had to alliterate, I can’t HELP it) – Both very integral to my life. You shall get a special post (both of you), once I get out of this darn blogger’s block on birthdays.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Geek and Latin

A long time ago, when I was in school, I had this friend who used to write poetry. She didn’t write ordinary poems which were consumable by ordinary uneducated plebeians such as self. Rather, had a penchant for liberally using words like ‘opalescence’ and the ‘iridescence’. One day I decided I would also attempt a poem like that. So I randomly looked at the dictionary for words which I couldn’t pronounce and strung them together with arbitrary breaks and shared this ‘poem’ with her. She thought it was exceedingly profound and intense.

Now, why am I sharing prehistoric stories of my childhood? Well, because for the last two days I have been wading through a proposal submitted by our so called Business Intelligence Strategic Partner (Even their NAME is in Jargonese for God’s sake) which I suspect has been put together much the same way.

Just to give an example, ONE sentence yesterday included the following words - syntactic, lexical, pragmatic, semantic and prototypical - all jostling each other in a haphazard manner, purportedly trying to convey some information to the reader. They even had a little graph with arrows going in various directions proclaiming coyly whether they were syntactic or semantic.

In the normal course of events – a document like this would have resulted in me, tying myself into knots, wondering whether this was some divine retribution for catnapping/daydreaming in the briefing meetings. I would assume that this document made complete lucid sense to all the other readers, and would be left with this uneasy, sinking feeling (akin to what Rip Van Winkle must have felt on waking up) that something significant had changed, without having a clue of what it was.

This time however I am seething with self-righteousness indignation .This is one of those rare times when I KNOW what the inputs were –well, because I briefed them myself. It is rather difficult to fall asleep when you are talking – not impossible, I know many good men and women who have mastered this art (not to be confused with those who put their listeners to sleep), but it is rather difficult.

And this discipline and restraint had paid off – for a change I know what the output we were expecting is. I’m not saying it’s is not there – it might be lying gasping for breath under the weight of all those ‘lexical’ words –however I am damned if I can find it. I have carefully waded through a document which, for all practical purposes is in a foreign language, and no luck.

I have tried to upwardly delegate it to my boss. Donned my best earnest-worker face and asked him whether he had read it and woefully told him I needed his wise guidance to understand something. Boss opened the document, read one paragraph, gave one strangled croak and has been playing Zuma Deluxe and avoiding me ever since .

Actually come to think of it, I can’t totally blame the BISP blokes altogether. My company seems to suffer from an argot (thought should use a dictionaried word to emphasize how contagious it is!) epidemic of mammoth proportions – so maybe they are just pandering to the client. Almost every meeting I have attended here, there are this bunch of senior gentlemen, whose only focus in meetings seems to be to out-bombast each other

I’m sorely tempted to play Buzzword Bingo and often longingly think of how the Queen of Hearts would have played it ( “Off with their heads” every time 'usability engineering process modelling' is mentioned ).

Reminds me of this wise saying from my advertising days – “If you can’t CONVINCE, CONFUSE!”

Coming back to bite me. Sigh.

Monday, March 17, 2008


There was this girl in college with me; lets call her Cashmira, Cashmira used to stay very close to a friend’s (S) house in a fairly posh locality in Mumbai. They often ended up commuting together to/fro from college in the BEST bus.

S noticed a very curious malady which Cashmira seemed to suffer from, every time the Bus conductor came within a radius of two-feet. Cashmira would open her bag, put her hand it to withdraw her wallet after which, the hand would have some sort of paralysis and either a) not find the wallet or b) not open the clasp of the wallet or rarely when she did manage a AND b, then c) not find any note under the denomination of Rs. 500.

She would then shrug her shoulders hopelessly (quite in the manner of what-does-one-do /Murphy’s-law-never-find-things-when-one-needs-it) while the irate conductor stood waiting, and ask S whether she could pay ‘just this once.’

S paid ‘just this once’ a 167 times or so.

There was another lady I knew, Moneyben Aunty. Moneyben Aunty lived in a very upscale neighbourhood in Mumbai. She loved having guests (especially those who were high up on the social scale) over, and showing off her Phoren Dining sets and photographs of her Phoren settled kids.

However, when it came to opening her handbag to spring for detergent soaps and the likes, her unfortunate hands suffered from some inexplicable malaise - they had spasms and froze. So she, poor soul, had to revert to putting slivers of used bath soaps (too small to be of any use for bathing) and into a receptacle, add some water, and leave them to pickle – and viola, in that holder was born a unique detergent soap!

Another interesting lady was Karan C’s wife – Mrs Karan C. She was also exceedingly fond of company – she would happily go out to meet all her friends in whichever every part of town. Occasionally, she also had to invite them over to her house to return the hospitality. On these days, although she was thrilled about the party, her hands also seemed to strangely convulse (with some inner nervous tension), right in the vicinity of the handbag when she was shopping for the treats and eats.

So, thus, had to devised a very unique menu for the guests –she even went to great lengths to make her own special sherbet (Pepsi/Thums Up/Fanta/Coke, and cunningly diluted with copious quantities of water for a thoroughly unique taste).

Now what is this affliction that affects all these good ladies just within a few inches of their wallets? Cashmira, Mrs Moneyben and Mrs KaranC, alas, suffer from the dreaded Lockfist disease.

Understanding the Lockfist disease

Lockfist also referred to as Scroogeitis is the inability to normally open the fist to disburse money

Scroogeitis can be classified as either primary or secondary. Primary Scroogeitis indicates that no specific medical cause can be found to explain a patient's condition. Secondary Scroogeitis is acquired after marriage to a primary Scroogeitis sufferer. Persistent Lockfist is one of the risk factors for unpopularity and may often result in exclusion from other peoples homes.

Etiology of Lockfist

Only in a small minority of patients (5%) with congenital or childhood financial pressure, can a specific cause be identified. In 90 percent to 95 percent the cases, the Indian Scroogeitis Association 2008 says there's no identifiable cause.
It is hypothesized that individuals might have a hyper-active enzyme which produces an acute olfactory sensitivity for money. Some sufferers have also known to exhibit an obsessive hoarding symptomlogy (also sometimes observed in squirrels).

Most of the secondary mechanisms associated with Lockfist are not very clearly understood. What is known is that the cardiac output reading is raised early in the disease in the event/eventuality of money disbursement. Immediate relief can be provided if they manage to convince someone else to spend the money, then the cardiac output readings drops to normal level.
It is also known that Lockfist is heritable and often polygenic (caused by more than one gene).

Signs and symptoms
Lockfist is usually found incidentally - "case finding" - by inadvertent companions during a routine associations. Lockfist in isolation produces no symptoms, although when accompanied by another person, can often demonstrate certain symptoms in the companion.

Malignant Scroogeitis is a late phase in the condition, where the sufferer will often not step out from the home for fear of being asked to spend money.

No fixed treatment protocol has been designed for the Lockfist disease yet.

External Links

For additional information
Contact: Cynic in Wonderland

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The lives of quiet desperation

About three weeks ago, my maid went to her village to marry off her youngest daughter.

Her daughter got married and sent off to her new house with the inevitable bitter sweet pangs.

A day later, her 11 year old grandson died. Drowned in the public village well. While her completely drunk husband waited on the sidelines- too inebriated to realize that the child needed help, but just sober enough to go home and tell his family that the ‘kid had been trying to swim’.

Today, I heard that her elder son, (the father of the child) tried to kill himself by imbibing powdered mosquito repellent. He couldn’t handle the grief of his child’s death. He has two other kids. Fortunately, he survived.

Which is the bigger culprit – the alcohol or the mind numbing, constant, ever-present poverty?

Such a colossal WASTE of life.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I suppose I would like to be called a musicellectual snob. I like to tell myself I listen to good old rock, English, classical Hindi anything as long as it’s not those newfangled-dime-a-dozen-typical Hindi film songs ( and hip-hop and boy-bands and Himesh I have to add for the record) which come and equally quickly fade away – just like item girls.

Well, that’s mostly true I suppose – I don’t really have a clue on most Hindi songs which are churned out these days and haven’t really followed them for many, many years.

But there is this strange vague perverse part of me which gets taken over by ONE particular breed of songs while my brain is weeping in agonized protest. A breed of songs which almost always evokes a WTF reaction the first time you hear it and insidiously grows upon you until you catch yourself tapping your fingers to it (another WTF moment) and then before you know it, you stop flipping the channels and wait for the damn thing to come on to listen to it and watch it with this blissful, idiotic smile on your face , while air-guitaring to “dil mein baje guitar” (by this time you are so past the WTF moments, that WTF is contemplating suicide.)

They have this hugely Machiavellian quotient - I discovered this sometime in school. I was casually humming one of them – “rain is falling chamacham cham ladki ne aankh maari gir gaye hum” next to a friend just before an exam. After the paper she came to yell at me claiming that the song playing in loop-mode in her head, had not left ANY bandwidth for the answers she had so carefully memorized. After that, I made it a point to serenade her and other people before exams. A double edged sword actually - the song would not only take over my mind, but also seemingly mutate and multiply (with different lyrics usually composed of the words from the subject I had been studying for)

To be honest, I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why I have this complete fascination with songs which go “brrrrrr” in between lyrics which just don’t make any comprehensible sense whichever way you listen to them ( backwards or forward, upwards or downwards).

I don’t understand how they have this ability to pop into one’s brains at the most inopportune times and completely take over all coherent thought. When in the midst of important strategic meetings, CXO is sprouting profound gyaan and all you can hear is ‘Babuji zara dheere chalo bijli giri ’ coming out from his mouth. And if you suffer from a hyperactive imagination like I do, there is also great likelihood of it being accompanied by a mental video of the said CXO doing some moves with Yana Gupta. A slightly career limiting move, this.

I have tried all kinds of therapies...

Going for long drives (“Aja meri gadi mein baith ja’)
Sleeping (‘Ankh maari, oh ladki aankh maari’)
Watching movies (“Ticket to Bollywood”)
Thinking deep grave thoughts about world economy (Cash Baby..paisa pheko, tamasha dekho)


P.S. My current favourite is ‘Cash baby’ – it’s such a completely absurd song that I love it. Also it has deep meaningful lyrics – “cash in front, cash at the back, cash on my mind, cash all the time”. In increment season, that’s pretty much ALL I have on my mind - The expectation of cash, the lack of cash and the who-shall-i-kill-if-i-don’t- la la

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Last weekend I was in Bombay and was cribbing to my Ma

Me: "Maaaaaaaa ... This damn Pune climate is doing something to my hair. I think I am going bald"

Grabs hold of my head like it's a coconut and peers at it from all angles-"Let me see"

Ma (Pursing her lips):"Yes. It does look like its thinning. How many times have I told you to take care of your skin and your hair? Do you listen to me? No. Always other things to do. Always behave like a boy. Now look - you will also go bald like a boy"

Dhishum, dhishum, and dhishum for the next five minutes- it doesn't matter if one is grown up (?) and married when it comes to mothers. They will continue to treat one like recalcitrant 8 year olds till the end of time.

This is a long-standing argument - I remember having variations of this conversation, well, every since I remember remembering anything. . Ma thinks I am a changeling. She cannot understand how is it that she has produced a child who is so utterly disinterested in dressing up, jewellery, clothes, make up, beauty tips or any other feminine, pretty things.

After five minutes of relegating me to my rightful place (the figurative doghouse) she relents.

Ma: " remember A (my cousin) was here a few months ago? She also had the same problem; she was putting some hair pack that she left behind. Why don't you try that?"

She produces the aforementioned pack from somewhere. Normally, I don't use packs. Partly because I don't know what the heck to do with them and mostly because, well, its just too much effort. But this is different. I have a grave, real (albeit unplanned and less dysfunctional) risk of resembling Britney Spears if timely, corrective action is not taken.

I peer at the pack. It looks like a fine green strange-but-not-bad smelling powder. This should be manageable.

Me: "Won’t it fall off? It’s dry!"

Ma: "You are supposed to mix it in eggs (beaten) or a paste of banana and apply it on your hair and leave it for an hour. To make hair softer, you can also add curd”

!??! I???!!

Eggs or bananas and curd in one's hair? am not putting edible stuff on my hair thank you very much. Will try warm oil massages that should be work- I mean, bananas? Hell, if I go out, there will be birds swooping down to eat off my head.

Forward to Friday and a few hundred hairs lighter. And eggs it is (pretty much a default choice since I can’t come within smelling distance of bananas - as allergic to it as I am to being bald).

The next task is smuggling eggs into the house without the MIL figuring it out (for reasons which are too long to explain, the MIL must NOT be privy to this little fact). If I were in Mumbai, it would have been a simple task - just go to the grocery chap downstairs. Here? In this Kobra stronghold - not so simple. The shops (or at least the ones I know) seem to be largely vegetarian. Have to enlist the help of the bai (not Ugamma but the other female who likes me – so hopefully will keep a discreet silence)

That done, the next challenge is to figure out a time where
a) I am at home and more importantly

b) The hero is AWAY from home. For a significant period of time. Is not likely to traipse in unannounced.

Trust and sharing as the cornerstone of marital health be damned. There is no way in hell I will put egg in my hair with him gawping with fascinated interest (not to mention the inevitable background commentary).

Strike lucky. Hero needs to go to work on Saturday. MIL needs to go somewhere else. So I have a blissfully empty house.

Proceed to make the concoction. The not-bad smelling powder starts smelling well, bad as soon as I mix it with the eggs.

The next question is how to apply it. Voluntarily applying an ice-cold foul smelling mixture to the back of one’s head is not an easy a task as one would think – especially in the absence of any paintbrush. Locate a spoon – the mixture ends up everywhere (ears, eyes and nose) but my head. Try it with a toothbrush – bloody laborious and absolutely ineffective – all I get is a crick in the neck. Try putting my head in the vessel, which has this mixture - head doesn't fit. Eventually end up hanging over the basin with an inverted vessel over my head.

Then it's just a waiting game for an hour until it dries. Call up Ma.

Me: "Ma, do you know whether A washed hair in hot water or cold?"

Ma (Most interested): "Ah you put it? Who put it for you? How does it feel?”

Trust her to go on a complete tangent.

Ma: "Don't wash in cold water, you will get a head cold"

Me: “But, ma if I wash it in hot water, wont the eggs COOK?”

P. S. The result was a bathroom which looked like had just witnessed a battle between Humpty Dumpty and the Great Green Monster. Sigh. As long as my hair doesn’t look like that ….

Monday, March 3, 2008

Return to Innocence

Last weekend I happened to catch the Grand Finale of Saregama Lil Champs and I was reminded of a movie I recently watched - Magnolia. Amongst other things it captures the anguish of an eleven year old whiz-kid competing in a quiz show final, who is burdened by the tremendous expectations of a parent, vicariously living his ambitious through this boy. During the course of the movie, the father is so focused on winning this fame and money, that he is completely impervious and insensitive to the child’s other needs. There is one very poignant scene where the child is forbidden from going to the washroom and the resultant embarrassment and trauma to the little boy.

I would assume that this is not a completely exaggerated representation of what actually happens in such game shows, given the insanely high stakes.

This trend seems to be creeping into India as well- I am sure programmes like Lil Champs are creating a breed of hugely ambitious parents who are trading their kids’ childhood for money. A breed of myopic parents who are so caught up in this quest for quick bucks that they often forget that the children are just that – children. Not adults, not emotionally, mentally and often physically equipped to handle either the adulation or the concomitant pressures of life under the unremitting glare of spotlights. Children for whom, a competition such as this, suddenly becomes much more than a game – it becomes the determinant of how much Mummy or Daddy are going to love them, a matter almost of life and death.

One could argue that most parents are ambitious nowadays, and the parents who send children to Saregama and its counterparts are no better or worse than parents who enrol children in cricketing academies hoping to produce young Dhonis or in tutorials so as to ensure adequately high marks.

However, I think there is a fundamental difference between the two. The cricketing academies et all, while harnessing the ambitions of the parents, still essentially, shelter and safeguard the children’s innocence and childhood. Not so the Saregamas of the world. As S, disgustedly ranted on Saturday, it watching this grand finale was like watching a paedophiles dream – young, preteen children dressed up in adult, revealing clothes, competing for adult prizes (what is a twelve year old going to do with a car, for crying out loud), mouthing to adult but cutesy, sentences and gyrating to very adult, often almost obscene moves.

I have nothing against Saregama or any programmes of the same ilk – in fact, till a few years ago I used to make it a point to watch it. But somewhere – these shows have become less about singing and more about performing viz. how well you can generate interest and eyeballs by dancing, having hysterics, being bitchy or do whatever tamasha it takes. Nothing wrong with that at a conceptual level – it’s not something I would be keen to watch, but if there is an audience for it, do as much tamasha as you please.
But when it comes to making young children prance around the stage with almost soft porn moves – like performing animals in a circus, well, that’s when I think it’s something we need to be seriously worried about. People might say its discovering talent – but to my mind, it looks too much of exploitation.

You could say that it’s something which kids do all the time- yes, children are natural mimics – we have all seen a young child spontaneously mimicking some moves from a Kareena Kapoor movie with a parent indulgently watching. But there is a great deal of difference between that, and making them do it on stage under the public glare, for money.

Also I shudder to think of the kind of values which is taught to the child – when a father proudly brags that he spent x thousands of rupees sending text messages so that his child got the audience votes. Or when another parent gets violent and abusive after his child has been eliminated from the competition. Or the parent of the differently abled child who tries to garner sympathy votes by harping on the child’s disability.

What is the kind of burden these children are shouldering day in and day out for months at a time in full public view? Are they even old enough to understand the consequences of this?

The tragedy of these programmes is that not only are they creating greedy adults, but also miniature avaricious adults, cynical before their time.

P.S I think I merged in multiple rants here in the same post. Hmmm.