Monday, December 31, 2012

Newage revolution wakes up Big Uncle Masa

[Resemblance to any institution, administration or person dead or alive is not a coincidence]

Big Uncle Masa stretched in his slumber. Opened one eye and disgustingly looked at the can of worms he had efficiently hidden before him.
The creatures were tapping at the lid from within. He dismissed the scene and turned to snore.

"How can such measly creatures garner courage to wake me up from my years of slumber. 65+ years! no one dared to come close to me. I will decide when I to wake up!"
A little alter, he felt a tickling sensation. Rubbed his fingertips under his armpit and turned over.

But the sensation only increased. He opened both his swollen eyelids and saw the creatures crawling out of the box. Two quick ones had managed to climb under his arms.
He called his cronies to tackle the worms before they set foot in his bed.

The cronies misunderstood their combined strength. In no time, they were buried under the swarth of worms.
Big UncleMasa sat up and scorned.

"This is called revolution Masaji," choroused his trampled cronies.
"Please wave at them from this corrupted balcony. Only then can we be saved," they cried.

"Ookaayy"! He strolled and said, "All will be well."
The two under his armpit clung on deeply and threatened, "we'll wait here until you let it be well."

But since then, Big Uncle Masa never slept in peace. Each time he hit the bed, they tickled him strong. While his heavy forearm would not fold to pluck the creatures off, his ego and modesty would not allow him to expose his sweaty and itchy pit to his cronies to take action.
Helplessly as he set about looking into the welfare of the worms, and all seemed to be going on toward being well, did the can open again.

This time it exploded with a thud. The worms crawled faster, quicker and with more vigour.
Big Uncle Masa walked to the balcony to wave his assurance, when his cronies cried, "No, Masaji. You need to go to the feminine balcony at the other end.'

"Don't wave please. Just cry 'shame, shame, rapists'!"
"What cheek. Now I dance to your tunes!"

"You've no choice Masaji," they choroused.
"I am the one taking decisions..."

"That is correct, Masaji. But this is not corruption issue. This is rape. It happened inside the can."
"So how the hell am I responsible. If they cannot behave themselves."

"Cool Masaji. They are our subjects. You placed the lid over the can because you wanted to sleep undisturbed. So you are res..., we mean to say, you are a respectful person. Show them how concerned we are about their wellbeing."
"Ookaayy. Ookaayy. Keep my ear plugs and eye pads ready."

"We are afraid, Masaji. These newage revolutions pierce through our ear plugs and eye pads. Our lab has begun experimenting new models of plugs and pads. We will keep you updated."

2012 – when India stood stripped

The Mayans cried wolf long before the world stepped into the 21st century.
Their wolf never whimpered, yet they survived with impunity, presumably even with their heads held high, because they did no harm to any living soul.
They only predicted doom, but the world's largest democracy was pushed into one by some ruthless beasts in the national capital.

They struck in the dark, assaulting her modesty.
India stands stripped. Exposed.
Yards of the tricolour will not drape the shame. Umpteen speeches, demonstrations, laws, punishments [in no particular order] will not cover the scars.

But there is hope. That is the beauty of human life. And so considering that our government comprises human beings, I will take the risk to say that they will rise up.
That is human nature. When you are thrown in the deepest and darkest pit, after the initial shock of discovering where you have landed, you strangely find the solitude in there to determine how you landed there. That's when the actual realisation dawns and you make efforts to climb up.

In this case, the entire nation seems to be waiting to offer their helping hand to the government to safeguard their collective modesty. To pull it out into the bright sunlight of the New Year.
However, are all the hands that are holding a candle lightening another.

We must. Should. Ought to.
Demonstrations, threats, statistics, emotions and viral content ever since that shameful act on December 16 have spruced up the administration.

Now give them the space to act. Let's not begin our pet peeve of six-decades-of-non-action-we-will-not-tolerate-anymore kind of stuff all over again.
I am not suggesting that the 23-year-old be forgotten. She should not. But let's not cry for the brave heart. She has started a revolution. One that independent India never fathomed in its wildest imagination.

But the crusade she set into motion can be achieved only if each one of us change. While the administration revises laws and spruces up bureaucracy,  each one of us must make a conscious effort to look within. Begin now. Let's not label it a New Year resolution! That egg never hatches.
Morality is the catch. It should be ingrained in our breath and flesh.

Morality is when you tell your child to handover that last crayon to the neighbour who comes requesting for one.

Morality is when teens are taught to lift up a fallen stranger on the road even if it means missing their class test.
Morality is when you stop resorting to the cheapest of ploys to gain that promotion at workplace.

Morality is when we are unstirred by another's pride, prejudice, achievement or betrayal.
Morality is when we live and learn to let live.

[Pic courtesy: NDTV]

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Karan Thapar helps calm my nerves

It amazes, at times even disturbs, me when I discover what struck me from a book. This time Karan Thapar's ‘More Salt than Pepper’ - a collection of his Sunday Sentiments columns - tugged at my career strings and regurgitated the nausea for numbers.

Figures that involved years, dates, age and mistakes – all came up vengefully!

My first job propelled my parents to the roof-top and above. They made no pretentions about being proud. What more! It was a campus selection. So who was I to rob them of their joy.

That was when I learnt to shelter my fallible confidence behind a measured smile.

I had no choice, whatsoever, because remedial time had long lapsed by then. I had erred two years prior to that D-Day, when I had opted to study Mass Communications. So in the final semester when the job offer came my way, I had the added task of playing a journalist!

Everyone around me believed I was blessed, while I doubted my providence. For the euphoria around dawned on me that it was not naivety but ignorance that made me choose a career in words.

Having little recourse, I chose to settle with the confusion and started my work life. The first hour at the editorial offices of the Institute of Chartered Financial Analyst of India (ICFAI) was enlightening.

When I thought I had finally taken stock of my inert resolve and decided to fake it until I made it, came the bolt I could not duck.

Journalism also involved numbers!

I was expected to write about shares, prices, Sensex and all other excesses of the financial world. If Sensex charts were akin to ECG reports, then company balance sheets like grocery shopping bills.

Math! the creeper I thought I had done, dusted and buried, vengefully resurrected to shadow me
After accompanying a senior to interview the CFO of a leading firm, I quit for the first time, telling myself I'm not an escapist.

After six months of waiting, I landed the second job. Comfortably I trained, learnt and bloomed on the news desk of a English daily. I had warmed up to journalism.

When I moved base to Dubai, little did I realise I had to land a job with 60 days to actually set my base. I grabbed the first offer that came my way - a role of as Customer Service Representative. So what, it's just a logistics firm, I thought.

But my nightmare had only begun. Processing shipping documents to countries across the world, numbers once again snarled at me. 

Opening the first file, I was advised by my team leader, "Multiply the value by 3.67 before printing the final invoice. That's all you need to be careful about. Otherwise the process of entering the transactions will be the same for all types of shipments and destinations."

I followed his instructions to the T.

Since that moment, I dutifully cross-checked every file thrice over [or was it five] to ensure if the decimal after a set of digits was correctly dotted.

I survived a year there, because I had joined them end-March.

At the end of the next financial year, I was summoned to explain why the the company had to pay mind-boggling sums as compensations to firms in France, Qatar, Saudi and Manchester. Twelve months into the job I learnt that the multiplication was a process of coverting dollar amounts into dirhams!

I do not imply the award-winning TV personality Karan Thapar was ignorant and foolish in his early professional life. The reason why he tucked at my heart is because he is unabashedly candid about his raw emotions. From how he hid his trembling nerves at his first job interview to his guilt at not acknowledging the right talent; his ignorance of protocol and the embarrassment thereof; his curiosity to dig into romanticism; his dilemma of defining his marital status; his pain after blowing a cheap kick at his dear friend...the list is long.

What's life without minor foibles!

PS: If you have missed his columns in HT, pick up this book. You can see the real man behind that crop of white hair and hear his real voice from beneath those witty, racy statements.

[Picture Courtesy: Goodreads.com]

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Walk the talk

Here's another episode from Adi's diary about her husband...
Aditi hates exercising, while her husband is a health freak. One day Agneya Reddy asked her to join him for a leisurely walk. She eagerly did. No sooner they reached the nearby park than he started jogging and forced her to follow suit.

She protested, cribbed, and took at least 10 breaks and at last squatted down.
The rest is in her own words...

The following morning, after he left for work as I sat browsing the net and sipping coffee, I heard the door bell ring.

Two deliverymen with a huge parcel were requesting permission to walk in. “Sir asked to install it in the TV room.”
I called up Agy. His secretary Sharon answered the call. “Mr Agneya Reddy’s phone.”

“Can I speak to him, please.”
“He’s in a meeting. May I take a message.”

“Can you ask him to call me back. It’s urgent. Aditi here.”
 “O! Hello ma’am. He’s gone for a briefing session, so he left his mobile with me. Hang on a sec, I’ll get him online.”

Within a minute, Agy was online “Yes, Adi.”
“Some guys are here with a …”

“Yeah, that’s for you, my love.” And then I heard him say, “ Informed? Ok. I’m just there.”

“Ah Adi, let them install it in the TV room. I'll call you in 30 minutes. Love you.”
The deliveryman, I discovered was given detailed instructions. He knew where exactly to install it and what to be moved. He rearranged the entire room so that the treadmill was facing the home theater system.

Half-an-hour later, Agy called. “Treadmill installed?”
“They are at it.”

“Good. Now my girl will exercise every day.”
“Did I ask you for this.”

“You will never. And getting you to jog outside is a herculean task. So I came up with the best solution.”
“Very smart.”

“Thank you. I know you are not happy. And it’s absolutely fine by me. Beginning today, my smart girl will exercise for an hour. You will have no excuse because you can do it at your convenience, watching your favourite programmes.”

“And if I don’t.” I was pissed off by his persistence.
“No dinner.”

“And it’s absolutely fine by me.” I mocked attempting to get his tone.
His laugh, even over the phone can do wonders on me. “Well, my dear, it’s important you exercise. And the least you can do is walk an hour.”

“I’ll do after you come.”
“No. I’m having the spare guest room upstairs transformed into an in-house gym. We’ll replace the balcony wall with glass and that’ll give it a fantastic look, too. So once that’s ready, we can work out together. Until then you will walk an hour every day alone.” He said the last sentence slowly and deliberately.

“What do you want.” I snapped and I heard him chuckle again.

“Be ready by 7pm. We’ll go out for dinner.”

“Love you. Please smile.”
“No. Bye.”

I was irritated by his audacity. What the heck, whatever he thinks has to be done. No way. At least today, he’s not having his way.
I decided to prepare an elaborate dinner.

By 6pm vegetarian spring rolls; hot and sour soup; sesame chicken strips with sweet & sour dip; mixed fried rice and noodles were ready. As I was setting the table, in walked a beaming Agy.

“Not ready? Let's go.”
“I’ve cooked an elaborate spread. Freshen up and come fast.”

“As you say.”
A little later, he was standing examining the table. “Wow! this is, indeed, elaborate Adi. I can’t wait. Where do I start?”

“Soup first. Oops, I’ll fetch the sauces,” I said and went into the kitchen as he picked up the soup bowls. But when I returned he was not there.
“Where are you?”

“Gimme me a minute, dear.” He shouted from the bedroom.
“Adi, come with me,” he said taking me by the wrist after a while.

“Where? The soup will cold, Agy.”
“That can be reheated.”

Shit! He was leading me to the TV room.
“First walk for an hour and then dinner.” He said leaving me beside the treadmill and lowering himself into the sofa. “I’ll keep you company.”

“I walked.”
“You did not.” He said with a don’t-fool-me smirk and shaking his head.

“I did,” I gave him a stern look.
“Well,” he crossed his legs over and folded his hands, and continued, “if you don’t walk, we both are going without dinner tonight. And I don’t want to do that because I’m eager to taste my Adi’s dishes. I’m famished.”

“Let me play some music for you. What would you like to hear.”
“I have no likes. It’s always your likes and wants, right. Play whatever,” I snapped with a sullen face.

He got up with a what-will-I-do-with-you smile, lifted me onto the treadmill, timed it for 60minutes and kissed me. “Yep, here you go,” and pressed the start button. He returned to the sofa and sat watching me.
An hour later, dabbed in perspiration, I slumped on the sofa. He sat up to wipe my face and I shrugged him off.

I ate in silence, while he was his chirpy best.
Back in the bedroom, the anger in me crept up, seeing him lying on the bed reading a book. “How did you know about my walking.”

“I know it all,” he said flashing his naughty smile.
It should be her. I walked out quietly and knocked at our maid's door. The moment she opened the door, I snapped, “From when did you start reporting my matters to Agy.” She gave me a perplexed look. “I don’t like this.” I spat and returned to the bedroom.

“Feeling better after taking it out on that poor woman," he asked as I climbed over.
How does he know it always! "I'd gone to take my lens," I muttered.

I saw him smirk and pick up his mobile. He dialled a number and put it on speaker between us. I heard Savitri’s voice on the second ring. “Yes, Sir.”
“Savitri, Adi is feeling bad about her behaviour just now. She wants to apologise…”

“…No sir, no, no. No problem. She’s a small girl, sir. No problem.”
“Thanks Savitri. Good night.”

I was fuming. “What the heck? I’m a small girl, eh. Small girl!”
“Well, you behave like one.” He said calm and composed.

“My foot I’ll apologise. You ask her to spy on me, so cheap.”
Clearly amused by my outburst, “You are such a kid, Adi. How closely have you observed this home, umm”.

He sat back looking at me, enjoying himself, as I was fuming with a mixed bag of emotions.
“Our home is webbed.” With that same soft look, he continued, “Each room has a camera…”

I was all alert. How did I not notice it all this while!

“…Before you came, I hardly spent time in here. So for security reasons, I had them installed.”
He paused. Then with a cheeky smile, added, “It came in handy only today, though...”


Monday, November 19, 2012

An embarrassing moment

A lanky girl walked towards the bulletin board of her school reception, towing her sturdy dad. Though she was confident of making it to Grade 8, there was one other hurdle she had to cross. As per the convent rules then, parents were required to meet the previous year's class teacher and collect the detailed progress card before their wards could begin the next academic year.

Her Grade 7 class teacher, looked at her dad and said, "For all the trouble she gave me in Social Studies, she's managed to pass with a distinction."

Except for the Himalayas, which she was eager to spot at the top of the India map, she dreaded marking anything else. Kaveri, Godavari and Brahmaputra flowed adjacently, states trespassed into one another, too. "When will you get it right?" her teacher sighed each time. Now that same teacher was smiling. "I'm surprised. How did you do it?" she asked.

And the girl was relieved that her customised recipe of taking photographic images of lessons were yielding results at last.

Her tryst with geography had begun then! [She refuses to share the date.]
She simply learnt by rote and vomited on demand, imbibing images of letters, without understanding. At times it back-fired. For instance, she lost marks in Grade 10 public examination because she mistook Green Revolution for Glorious Revolution! So what if one was Geography and the other History; both were Social Studies for her! 


Two years later, she no more had the comfort of dedicated and secured transportation. On her first day to college, her over-protective dad accompanied her explaining to her bus numbers, names of stops, alternative routes, etc.

As they got off the at the college stop her dad stood her and said, "Look around. See there's that bridge that goes down there. Take left just before that, and keep walking until you see the gifts shop from where you'll turn left again and you'll see your college. Simple."

"All the stops in the city look the same," she said, to which her dad replied, "It's just a matter of few days, you'll master it. Look out for this huge Raymond hoarding."

She looked up hard and long at the hoarding. Clicked in her mind the size, shape and even the height at which it was placed. The Raymond's model became her knight in shining armour.

Almost eight months later, one morning she noted the bus was unusually less crowded. When the bus got on to an unfamiliar street, she asked the woman beside her, "Isn't this Bus No. 47." 

After a few moments of  awkward conversation, she was convinced that she had missed her college stop.

The Raymond model was replaced with a guy sporting a cowboy hat and cigarette between his lips.

She got to class two hours late.

That was the last she took photographic images.

A few years later, she enrolled for a professional course called journalism, to the utter dismay of her parents and bewilderment of her close friends.
Her first field assignment was to cover an Alliance Fran├žaise event.
The following day, her professor announced in class, "In my 20 years of teaching experience, you are the only student I've seen who can score an A+ and a C- with equal ease."

[By the time, she managed to find the venue, the press conference was over. Her report had absolutely no facts.]

After that she always made arrangements to ride pillion with anyone who claimed to know the route.
That habit stayed with her. Married to a man with tremendous patience, she now  euphemised his virtue as her "love to be driven around".
"In a place like Dubai it is very easy to go about. Just follow signboards and remember landmarks," he instructed.
Returning from her first job interview, she told the cab driver, "Bur Dubai." He waited for more details and she remembered, yep landmark! "Near the mosque," she recited triumphantly.
He looked at her as if she were insane. "So many mosques here, madam," he said.
Thank God for small mercies. Mobile phones were invented by then.
So, thereafter, madam got her husband instruct cabbies!
Years passed by, when one day her daughter's friend wanted to visit. Her chirpy and cheerful little girl handed over the phone to her enthusiastically and whispered, "Shruti wants to come home to play. Her mother wants our location."
After the initial pleasantries with the other woman, she politely told her that she would be given a call to detail the route map in a minute.
Her little girl was grumpy and sullen suddenly.
"Your dad will call her right now. You will not waste even a minute of your playtime," she assured her child.
"It's not that. What will Shruti's mother think? That my mom is so dumb, she doesn't even know where she stays. It's so embarrassing..."
This time it was EMBARASSING!
PS: I wish not to know her. But if I deny knowing her then I'm not me!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Squirrelling around your trust!

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to moms, masters, trainers and orphans alive or dead is purely your imagination!

A grey mommy squirrel was teaching its bony baby how to climb the tree. She explained, "To stay safe, have fun and find food, it helps to claw atop quick, my baby."

Days went by and the pampered baby just fooled around, gaining weight and making attempts strenuous.
An orphan baby squirrel that sat watching the daily efforts, one day approached the mommy squirrel and said, "Teach me how to climb the tree, please. I will learn it quick."

"Of course, my child. You are from my clan. And what beauty you are. Bushy tail and sparkling eyes, a sprint on claws and sharp teeth, with shimmering strips on your back, you are wonderfully gorgeous to be an orphan. How I wish you were my son. I want to see you survive. Your will propel our breed ahead in the kingdom, am sure. Come tomorrow."
An elated baby orphan jumped with thrill and screamed he's going to live in style. Sat in the bush and watched mommy squirrel plead with her son.

The following day, bright and early, he greeted the matron. "Oh!, so nice to see you this morning. How have you been.?
"I am good, matron. Can we start?"

"Yes, you wanted me to teach you. Yep. I have an expert climber friend. I'll let him teach you because you are a very bright squirrel. My skills fall way to short for your abilities. Why don't you call on me, say next week."
"That's great matron. Will do," said the orphan and skirted away happy dreaming of being trained by the best hand.

A week later, when he met the matron, she said, "Hey, smart boy. I was just thinking about you. I will take you to the master on the third Sunday following the next. I cannot rest until I help such a determined boy.”

A little dazed, the orphan squirrel walked back. He checked the calendar thrice every day lest the third Sunday following the next gives him the slip.
After the long wait, when Sunday dawned, he was at the matron's door greeting her. "Oh, my child. How have you been? I was speaking about our bright offspring to the elders at last week's clan get-together. So many of them are eager to help you, my boy. You are the luckiest child."

Waiting for her to finish her lauding, he gingerly asked, "So when can I start."
"Yep, my dear. The best in the clan want to teach you..."

"But when, matron."

"My child, you've been coming so often. I now feel guilty. Let me get the trainer to your home."
The orphan squirrel returned to the bush and sat watching mommy squirrel attempt to train her offspring. He waited, waited and waited in the bush. He felt guilty of being a pest. He was afraid of being called a nag.

After months, when he turned one, he mustered courage to face the matron. "Hey, my boy. How have you been?" she asked with enthusiasm.
"Well, I'm great matron. Was wondering if I'll be getting a trainer."

"Trainer? What are you speaking of."
He patiently reminded her of her promise made, when she said, "Actually, they are not trainers. They are all masters in their fields, and I was told, they do not train babies. And added to that you are an orphan. So it’s their status issue, as well. But don’t you worry, my son. I’m there for you.”

The dejected squirrel, fought hard to see hope again.
"Yes matron. I need your help, please."

"Of course, my boy. You don't have to plead with me, leave alone ask. You have the right to tell me. I have my offspring here, who will disturb us. So I’ll come over to your place. How’s that!"
"Umm.” The orphan squirrel now had his doubts at the matron's intentions. But just smiled and said, "Good. Sure matron. I will wait for you."

"I'll be there when I return from my weekly grocery trip. That should be fine with you, smart boy!”
"Weekly trip means," the orphan mumbled.

"I purchase items every Sunday evening, son."
"Thanks matron. See you on Sunday."

"Sure my child. I'm so proud to be associated with such a bright boy."
The squirrel returned to his spot in the bushes. After each week, he told himself, "Probably next Sunday."


Friday, November 9, 2012

When a mynah toilet-trained me

There was a time when my bowel movements were controlled by avians (not aliens). You read it right. Birds.
I would run to the toilet on seeing through the curtain folds of my bedroom window one coffee-coloured bird perched up on the last dish on the terrace of apartment 100 metres across the road, which in turn was 200 metres away from my bedroom.  Guess that’s the primary reason why I never cultivated the habit of consuming a fiber-rich diet. Mynahs did the needful.
Come hail or rain or sandstorm or scorching heat, from far away a distance I could identify a mynah.  One for sorrow – the phrase was etched in my subconscious that I immediately felt sad. Even if I were told a public holiday has been declared, or I don’t have to cook… if I saw a mynah I felt dejected. (By now, you would have guessed my two pet peeves).
My paranoia blew to such proportions that any object seemed like a lone mynah. Especially the water-sprinkler outlets on the pavements were all single mynahs. My heart would skip several beats and the adrenalin rush to my temples by the time I came to the exact spot and I discovered with a heaving ooof! It was just a water-sprinkler knob jutting above the soil.
Black cats have never been an issue with me. I hate felines. Guess that could be the reason when people miss trains and flights because a cat crosses their path as they set out on a journey and they return to their camps, I go ahead with my schedule and achieve as much as I intend to.
People are also touchy about ‘doubles’. A person carrying a child or a pregnant woman crossing their path is considered sure doom for the designated task. But they never riled me.
There are also paranoid souls who never return to collect anything they forget once they step out no matter how important that stuff may be. I’ve collected several items that on numerous occasions than I could care to remember. Most common being house keys and wallets. But none of those days were any different from my fully-aware days.

However, if on any of the above mentioned days had I heard a mynah cry within my earshot, I let it trigger my doom. I’ve performed badly for interviews not because I didn’t know answers to queries but I had fore-written the job/assignment was not for me because of that spiteful bird that came within my sight on my way.
The innocuous birds were literally firing the shit out of me. I never enjoyed a ride or a walk. My neck craned to spot one on the pavement or on building tops, lamp posts, traffic signals or just flying above my head.
Enough I had when the family started bickering on my alertness for the impending sorrow.
I had to tackle the fear within. I had to erase it. I had to let them be just that. Birds! The first day I saw one and told myself - ‘Whatever happens today, I will be alright. I will not let anything that happens today make me unhappy.’
Things did go wrong, and I realised it was not as bad as I expected it would be. Night came, I slept and the mynah effect erased.
A couple of days later, I saw one again and repeated the same. I survived without noticeable damage until bed time once again.
The third time I saw one, I said, ‘That is just another bird out there to fetch its worm.’
Today I enjoy my drives and walks and, yes, confidently draw my curtains open, too.
That’s all from me now…Let me Google for fiber-rich diet.