Monday, September 24, 2012

Smart ass!

[Disclaimer 1: Any resemblance to real cats and rats, living or dead, is purely coincidental 
[Disclaimer 2: Any resemblance to real men or women, living or dead, is purely your imagination]

Location: Animal Kingdom
Venue: Rat colony
Leaders: One senior-most rat head; Two assistant rat heads
Staff: 30 rats

Every Monday morning the Cat visits his team that stays in another location. The agenda of his visit depends solely on his mood. If he has a peaceful week, he’ll joke with the rats, eat, drink and leave. Else, he sits by himself and leaves.

One Sunday evening, as the four rat heads were in deep slumber, they heard a thundering sound at a distance. Irritated, they all rubbed their eyes and sat up. As the disturbance persisted and the melee sounds increased by the minute, one of the junior heads volunteered to check it out.
He stepped out and began walking in the direction of the noise. From a distance he saw his Boss – The Cat standing in the center surrounded by leaders of the animal kingdom. All the leaders were animatedly speaking.
The junior rat head strained his ears, from under the tree about 200 yards away. He feared going any nearer. After a while of spying, he heard the mention of the name rat. That’s it! He scurried back to his colleagues.
Panting and ranting, he said: “We are in trouble. Our boss is being questioned… they are blaming us ….something we did wrong...”
The four rat heads jumped up wide alert.
“Why didn’t you hang around until you learnt what the issue is? asked the worried senior-most.
“What if I was caught spying? Why don’t you make a visit, sir. You have the authority?”
“I guess I know what it’s about. The boss was talking of surprise checks by the King to all colonies beginning next month. I’m sure they visited us last night while we were asleep and found our colony dirty…”
“Why didn’t you tell us senior-most?” shrieked rat head no. 1.
“Yeah, I would have ensured the rats tidied up the place, but I didn’t know either,” said rat head no.2.
“I would have spared no effort in training all mice to behave well, only if I had known,” sighed rat head no.1.
“Now what do we do? The cat will surely torture us tomorrow,” cried the two rat heads. “I’m already feeling sick,” said one, when senior-most snapped: “No one is falling sick. I want both of you with me tomorrow.”
“Now both of you go and ask your respective teams why they dirtied boss’s cabin and the visiting area. We’ll discuss the matter in the afternoon meeting. We need a strategy by the time the boss comes tomorrow,” ordered senior-most. “Ideally, we need to sack at least one.”

Rat head no. 1 calls his staff for an urgent meeting and starts his monologue. “I have told you numerous times, not to step into boss’s cabin or the visiting area. And if you do, to tidy it up. The in-house colony rule says all of you are equally responsible to keep both the places clean at all times…”
“We never go there. You only told us not to venture into those places without you,” said one.
“Yes, you don’t have to remind me what I said. Now I want to know why you guys didn’t clean up the place.”
“But when did it get dirty. And how can we know it got dirty…”
“Shut up. All of you will face the music tomorrow when the Big Boss comes,” said rat head no 1 and walked away.
Rat head no.2 also calls his team for an SOS meeting. He just informs them that the Big Boss is unhappy that his cabin and the visiting area were dirty when the King visited the colony the previous night.
“So all of you must be prepared for a dressing down tomorrow. If the Big Boss calls any of you, please own up your crime,” he said and walked away without entertaining any discussion.

The rats huddle and gossip. Rats from team two tell others that the King had visited their colony.
If they knew the King was visiting, they should have told us, opined some. And all the others nodded. When one of them said, “But who dirtied the places?”
“None of us have access to the place,” said another.
“Exactly”, all chorused.
“You know what, I saw senior-most take his four friends there. They were all sitting and boozing,” whispered Naughty.
 “OMG! Were our heads there as well,” asked one innocently.
“No those two idiots were sleeping,” replied Naughty.
“But how can you be so sure,” asked Wise.
“I had gone out to pee, that’s when I heard some laughter. So I tip-toed and sneaked through the door and I saw them. But listen, no one is telling them I was out that night. We need to stand united.”
“Yes. Yes. We are all united,” They said in chorus.

Meanwhile, the two rat heads met behind closed doors. “What do you think is the real issue?” asked no. 1.
“Whatever the issue, senior-most will try to blame us. We need to stand united,” asserted no.2. “He is very dodgy when it comes to owning up,” he added.
“Let’s go meet with him. We need to know how Big Boss can bring the King without telling us. After all, it’s his prestige issue, as well.

Senior-most avoided them the whole day citing various reasons.
The next day Boss – The Cat  arrived. The entire colony was shrouded in an eerie silence. Senior-most followed his boss to the cabin, as the two heads stood giving threatening looks at their teams.
“Give me a few minutes, senior-most. I’ll call you. BTW, are all in today?” he asked.
Seeing senior-most walk out, the two heads run to him.
“He’s real serious. He wants to meet everyone. He asked me if all are in. Call everyone to the lobby,” he said and walked towards his room.
Meanwhile, Slimy slipped in behind senior-most and said, “How are you Sir?”
“Not fine at all, Slimy. We are in deep shit.”
“I hear so, Sir. But you know what that Naughty is spreading rumours about you. You should be careful. I thought, I’ll alert you…”
Senior-most gives a commanding look to the rats in the lobby. He said: “All those who were on duty on Sunday will be penalized for not cleaning up boss’s cabin and the visiting area.”
“But, we are not allowed in there, Sir,” shouted out one.
“I don’t want any excuses. Don’t you all know the rules of our colony? How many times should I reiterate? When you see the places are dirty it is your duty to get it cleaned. Your heads have a hundred other things to take care of. It is your duty to inform them and ask permission to do the cleaning. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility.”
“But how who dirtied the place, Sir,” asked slimy cheekily.
“That’s something I’ll tackle later. First I need to pacify the Boss before he blows our heads off.”
“The rota says Group 5 was on duty on Sunday. So I’m forced to suspend white mouse– the supervisor of the group – for a week.”
“How can you do this to me,” cried white-mouse.
“I was given strict instructions by rat head no1 and 2 that I’m not supposed to cover Boss’s cabin and visiting area because they are executive locations, and that the heads themselves will take care of those places.”
“When did we say that,” asked the heads in unison.
“Is that clause written in our rule book, white-mouse,” asked senior-most.
“No sir.”
“Then what audacity do you have to blame your heads!”
“Now please go to The Boss and apologise before he summons you. Otherwise your arse is on the firing line. Meeting dispersed.”
All scurry away leaving white-mouse wondering what has befallen him.

As white-mouse sat analyzing the events, Boss - The Cat passes by. Seeing him alone, he asked: “What happened white-mouse. Aren’t you keeping well?”
“I..i..imm ff fine Boss,” he shivered.
“Go tell senior-most that I need to address the colony now. Rush,” Boss- The Cat said.
“Boss, I’m sorry. I will see your place is neat at all times hereafter…please….”
The Cat cut him short and said: “Oh! so you are in-charge of my cabin. I’m impressed. My cabin is well maintained. Good job. Now rush and call everyone for the meeting.”

When Boss- The Cat arrived at the podium, senior-most huddled beside and whispered, “Boss, I’ve already taken action against the rat responsible for dirtying the place…”
“Don’t involve me in such trivial matters, senior-most,’ The Cat spat and turned to address the rats.
“Good morning everyone,
“I will not take much of your time. I know it’s early morning on a week day and all of you are busy. I called to inform you that all of you need to be vigilant while roaming out. There are rogues in the kingdom. The King and other colony bosses are trying all their best to nab them. Meanwhile, it’s up to us to stay safe.
“Did you’ll hear a thundering sound yesterday noon?” asked Boss – The Cat.
“Yes boss,” chorused the rats, while the two heads glanced at senior-most.
“Well, as we were holding our annual budget meeting under the banyan tree, a huge branch fell down. Apparently it was half sawed. That’s when the Dog Boss said his people have been complaining of thieves roaming around stealing wood. Luckily, I managed with minimum injury.
“Anything else you would want to bring to my notice?”
White-mouse got up and asked: “Are verbal orders to be followed, because...”
“Sit down, white-mouse. Boss- The Cat has no time for your stupid doubts,” yelled senior-most and turned to The Boss and said: “Nothing, boss.”
“Good. Stay safe. BTW, I have a bit of disappointing news. I know how eager you all are to meet the King. The King was scheduled to visit our colony next month, but now the plan is indefinitely postponed, until the thieves are caught.”
“Have a nice day. And please be safe.”
Boss – The Cat takes leave. Senior-most escorts him to the door. The rats walk back abusing their heads. The two heads sit back cursing senior-most.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rats arse

[Disclaimer: Any resemblance to cats and rats alive is mere coincidence]

Frienzed rats scurried around early morn
as they got whiff of the cat stretching!
Little did they care about ethics,
Protocol, rules, guidelines
vandalised; they
scurried to hold the weakest scruff!  

When the cat comes,
Let’s stand united, pleaded one
Let’s lie down low, suggested another
let’s pray he doesn't turn up, wailed one! 

Rats have sullied the conference hole,
The king will not pardon the cat,
gossiped senior-most rat head
And racked his brain hard! 

While rats prayed and collected around
Their leaders met and rehearsed schemes
looking over their shoulders
they dusted seats and wagged tails!  

Later, each rat head feigned ignorance
I was sleeping," defended one
I was exercising, claimed another
I was making the budget, said senior-most! 

At last the cat arrived, whiskers sharp
Rat heads snibbled, rats huddled
Senior-most tip-toed behind the cat
While rat heads threatened family of action! 

After closed-door talks, walks out
senior-most, authoritatively;
Straight to white mouse - the family cook
You are suspended, he's told. 

Why? 'Rats soiled conference hole'
But where is that hole, asks white mouse
This ignorance is unpardonable, shouts senior-most
I'm in-charge only of kitchen hole: white mouse. 

Your arse will be fired! if you squeal further
Senior-most threatened,
Go lick up my hole clean, quick
Else the cat will chase you to his!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chetan Bhagat’s dream for us

All of us have dreams. But how many of us have dreams for our country? India’s Bollywood [script]writer has one. I’ve read all of Chetan Bhagat’s books, simply because I’m in awe at his courage to throw away a lucrative job to follow his heart. Period.

Now I salute him. He’s taken yet another risk of stepping out of his forte – fiction. Has he landed on his feet?

Well, he’s testing the waters himself. His cautiousness is glaringly evident throughout the book. He misses no opportunity to say that he is no expert of what he is speaking and that the ideas and solutions are merely his opinion. “The essays are by no means perfect; they can at times be too simple or idealistic,” he clarifies.

So somewhere within, does he feel the literary world has not accepted him? I remember watching a chat show on one of the channels where he was snubbed by the veteran Tavleen Singh. She said something on these lines… I’ve not read your books. If I remember right, he didn’t reply. I wondered, then, why he was making a mockery of himself in public.

Not anymore.

Chetan Baghat took to writing because, he says, he has a dream for India. Sounds pompous, isn’t it? He didn’t want to be a typical “armchair NRI advisor”, he adds. Now that’s some confidence. He goes on to say that he has so much love from his readers “that other writers cannot even imagine it”. Would you call this arrogance? Well, then here’s the rest…”However, I don’t get literary praise. It’s okay…” he adds. A man with his head on his shoulders; A person who knows where he stands? Definitely!

Similarly, he’s clear about why India is in the ‘mess’ that it is. His essays on politics, society and youth clearly reflect the reasons. He believes only the youth in India can change the country if they change their mindset and elect the right people to lead the nation. Therefore, all his solutions to the various issues plaguing the country involve youth - who want love and money.

He urges the current generation to leave a country that the youth of today will be proud of. “The next generation may say this was a time of turmoil, but let them not say that we sat doing nothing.”

Corruption, education, secularism are his pet topics. To begin with, Indian education system should be revamped. It is “turning out servile, course material slaves,” he believes.

Also that India lacks community values unlike the US. He urges all to do away with caste-based politics and voting, which is the prime cause for all ills in India unlike the US. Send the right people to Parliament, he pleads.

Comparison to America at regular intervals is discomforting. Why emulate only the US? I guess, when a considerable proportion of desis still hold an American trip as the ultimate status symbol, he can be pardoned.

His desperation makes him mince no words as he bravely takes on the rich and famous. He rips apart Kingfisher, the BCCI and the real estate mafia, giving some stark calculations [the investment banker raises its head] and offering valid solutions to help the country prosper and for youth to retain faith in their homeland.

He even nudges human emotions by discussing terror attacks. But a few of his solutions to social ills are trivialized. If Bollywood movies could change over the last three decades, our mindset about serious issues can also change, he opines. I can’t digest this one.

Similarly, his take on Lerds [liberal arts students] versus nerds, and an open letter to Sonia Gandhi does not sit well with the theme of the book. And the two short stories included are way too childish, to say the least.
But that is absolutely forgivable – this is his first non-fiction work.

“What Young India Wants” is an honest book! The mention of his own suicide attempt is ample proof of his intentions. “Don’t fix history, please look at the future,” says it!

So what’s the writer’s ‘Great Indian Dream’? That every citizen should work hard, prosper and succeed through innovation and hard work and once successful, every citizen should give back to the society that made him or her what he or she is.

Let’s stop being typical Indians. Stop being cynical! Read the issues the book raises and his suggestions. You may agree or disagree with him, but as he says, have your own opinion.

Isn’t that the beginning of any change?

Hats off! Chetan Baghat!

[Picture Courtesy: Book cover - www.flipkart.com; Profile: www.chetanbhagat.com]

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday lessons

This morning I was sick…as usual. Nothing physical. Because I was never and will never be a morning person and the fact that I never liked nor can I ever cultivate a liking to cooking, four days of the week gets a weak start.
I am obliged to wake up at 4am to prepare my child’s school snack.
Well, this morning, too, began nastily. As I laboriously stood beautifying the sandwich, I realised it was Wednesday at last. My weekend would begin in a few hours. I instantly felt peppy and sneaked in time for a 5-minute yoga nidra. [This is the only yogic exercise I love doing, because my guru said: “Just 3 minutes of yoga nidra will energise you to be active for eight hours.” There were several other associated facts he explained, but I remember only this]
I was so relaxed that I woke up a good 20 minutes later, which meant, I had only 10 minutes for the morning rituals.
I managed a quick shower by skipping the tea ceremony and rushed out forgetting my wallet.
Then my driver zipped me through to work narrowly missing hitting a taxi as my nose banged the front seat and my bag hurled to sit on the hand break beside him.
"I was speeding to ensure you reach on time," he said.
"How can you do 120kph on this road..."
"5 minutes Ok. But today you came out 7minutes late."
Lesson learnt: Never get more than 5 minutes late.
It was silence after that. Until, my mobile beeped and I heard my man. "Why did you give my number to your colleague.”
It took me a while to figure out which colleague as I was still nursing my nose.
"The one in Chennai," he reminded me.
"Oh! Yeah, Ahh, she wanted to speak to me. Am I crazy to give yours."
"Ok now call her. She says it’s urgent. Am forwarding her number."
But I waited to figure out why she called him, when I sent her MY mobile number. Meanwhile, I reached office and checked the email.
The first mail in the queue was from my better-half. He had already done the investigations and had re-routed the mail I sent to my Chennai colleague to my inbox. [The only default number in my system is HIS]
The lesson learnt: Never share passwords.
Office hours went without any hassle. With Apple launching its new iPhone, there is no dearth of articles and related talk.
One of my colleagues caught me offguard while we walked to the pantry. “Hey, Nisha you’ve got a smartphone!
“Which model?”
“Samsung,” I replied.
“Yeah! But which one is it?”
“You’ll take black tea or green,” I asked and exclaimed in the same breath, “who are these guys dirtying the pantry.”
And the conversation thankfully veered off to less smarter topics.
The first thing I did when I returned to my seat was to dial the ‘culprit’. “Don’t ever give me your old phones. Is that clear,” I hissed into the receiver.
“Now who asked you its features,” asked the husband.
“What features… the bloody model.”
Lesson learnt: Stick to Nokia
Returned home at noon ushering in my weekend.
At 2.30pm, I waited at the door for my daughter to return from school. Lunch ready in the microwave.
By 2.40pm, I got anxious. Waited. At 2.50pm I picked up the phone to call the bus driver. After I dialled the number it flashed my relaxed head that she had extra class. Would return only at 4.30pm. 
I was shattered. Guilt knew no bounds. I couldn’t stop the tears either. Alone I sat and brooded. I had forgotten to give my child her lunch box.
Lesson learnt: Let my youngster have some cash on her. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

I don't hate my friends, though

Friends are like lighthouses…a quote that appeared on my Facebook page got me thinking.

I first checked it up. Indeed, there does exist a quote by Tom Baker. It goes thus… “Friends are like lighthouses, with the sources of light coming from their hearts.”

Here I review the lighthouses in my life.

I have a couple of souls – indeed lighthouses - who do wonders to my wellbeing. Spending just a few minutes with them, even if it is over the phone, gets me kicking and rearing to surge. Their light, indeed, transcends and lifts me. God Bless them!

I have a few other dimhouses whom I spent hours on end and remain unmoved and untriggered. I grope hard to find anything substantial in our talks that I could use to justify the time spent.

Yet there are a couple of darkhouses who sap my energy within seconds of our interaction. They leave me mentally and emotionally exhausted. I don’t make an effort to even analyse the conversations.  

But I am friends with all the above types. It doesn’t matter to me how well their hearts are lit or how much of light their toes emit. They are friends alright.

There is one other category, I identified recently. Torch-bearers. Since they focussed on my passion, I involved them without much ado. And…

Here’s what happened…

The first person - I considered a dear friend for almost four years. We spoke at length regularly. Even shared a few secrets. But when my book happened she ‘knew better’. How I should have done it, how I should go forward, whom I should speak to henceforth… she even prophesied my career if I were to ignore her instructions. Soon suggestions and advices turned into orders and commands that quickly became abusive. I was forced to walk off. 

The second person - Befriended me while I was promoting my book. A man of words, he impressed me with his knowledge, an illustrious career graph, revolutionary social thoughts and constructive criticism of my work. He tirelessly encouraged me to pen more with inspiring anecdotes, while he etched out plans to broaden my reach. However, by the end of the third month into our friendship, his calls became uncomfortably frequent. Never mind. I said, he’s well read. Then, his comments turned suggestive. I pulled the plug.

The third person - A senior who has known me for the last five years. We shared thoughts on poetry. Every conversation we’ve had, he promised me to do all he could to see my writings get noticed. Even as I had been alerted that he is a misogynist, I chose to give our friendship a chance for two reasons: Seniority. He's a seasoned journalist [I will continue to respect him as a professional who knows his job]. Two: His promise of guiding me in my endeavour. Even after my book was published, he did answer my calls. But the moment we got past exchanging pleasantries, he got busy and asked me to call another time. Date and time at his convenience. I repeated the act a dozen times. I have deleted his contacts. 

So returning to the quote, ‘friends are like lighthouses…” Please shed your own light!

PS: I hate none of the above though, as they've taught me some lessons. I'll spell them out later.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Working moms who are a crass apart

By merely looking at students of a particular school, can you judge that school's performance?

Well, some parents do.
As much as I hate accusing my breed, the truth is more women do it. And I couldn't help but grade such mothers. And for working moms, this is the time when back-to-school issues replace office gossips.
Their pet peeves become an obsessive engagement to outdo their counterparts in proving they are the best moms.
If they polish, sharpen and fire their know-it-the-best salvos at competing counterparts, then the unsuspecting ones are simply ridden over.

The unwritten code of conduct among working mothers goes thus...
The mom who whines the most is considered the best.

1. If your sighings begin only from your kid's morning pee then you are not 'good enough'.
2. Those who speak of the daunting and herculean task of tucking them in bed the previous night are 'okay'.

3. If you skip work on the first day of school to accompany your pre-teen to class, then you are 'better'.

4. Only those who juggle boss's emails with project research and picture print-outs are 'multi-taskers'.
5. The more you voice your worry about what to pack in lunch boxes and request for yummy snacks for your lil ones, the more you are 'sincerely responsible'.

After whining on the above, mothers get to serious business of educating the children. And that's when teachers are blamed for not doing enough to train young minds. And if they do, then they are blamed for dumping most work on parents who return home tired after slogging it out to pay tuition fees.

6. When it comes to extra attention for some kids... those who hire private tutors home and pay per class are giving the best to their kids as against sending children to teachers who charge monthly fee who teaches a group after school hours.

7. Similarly, those who drive their kids to extra-curricular activities to centres in Downtown are providing the best rather than those who send kids to budget institutions operating out of populated locales.
Once studies and extra-curricular activities are taken care of, then comes entertainment...

8. Moms who book tickets for movies and fun parks during office hours are considered 'on-the-job' moms.

9. And those who bitch about their husbands not pitching in with homework and parent-teachers meetings gain sympathy. They are 'role models' for the rest of the ilk.

Alas! even after this long dissection, I'm left clueless about the skills of mothers who judge a school's performance by students' uniform.
PS: Watch this space, my research continues.