Thursday, 4 April 2013

Don’t ‘Rain’ On My Parade

There are enough reasons already to be weary of while walking down the road in Mumbai. You have speeding bikes, honking and screeching cars, BEST buses and the aggressive autos and taxis shooting off in all directions. Add to that lack of footpaths or a walking space and those ubiquitous and annoying hawkers. So walking is a huge struggle. It gets extremely stressful and one has to constantly look out for one’s own safety. There is a constant and growing talk of how uncertain and unsafe walking has become in Mumbai, you wouldn’t know what hit you- literally and figuratively. 

So there is this constant sense of looming danger; at least while walking on a road. Ironically, in the past few years, this feeling has been replaced by; or rather trumped up by another (not so life threatening) paranoia. That of someone spitting on you while you’re walking. The spitting bug seems to have bitten everyone. I see people spitting out and spitting away while driving vehicles, on railways stations, out of the buses and on the roads. I remember being almost spat on by a man from inside a bus while I was boarding it. The habit is extremely unhygienic and disgusting and left me infuriating.

And they do it with flair. Like an artist owns his colours and brushes, these spitters like to throw stuff out of their mouths in style. They point and shoot; sometimes don’t even point. As if they’re proud of it. And unapologetic (like artists) if anyone doesn’t approve of their ‘art.’ You see such arrogance that they don’t even bother to look around and see if they might spray on someone. There is an argument that people who have flocked to Mumbai from a certain state or two are the ones who eat paan (which that certain region is famous for) and spit. But that’s not true. There is a spittathon out there and it’s crazy. It is not only unethical and unhygienic but means vandalism. We, those who will likely be at the receiving have to be aware of the spit bullets hitting us out of nowhere.

I live in fear; I dread the day when I will get spat on. I don’t know how I will react. Will i abuse, will i hit the culprit, will i curse my guts out, lower myself to hurling Hindi/Marathi abuses? I don’t know what is the solution. As it is everything and every day of living in Mumbai is a war, now there’s an addition of one more woe. Just wish that walking on the road was simpler.  

Friday, 28 December 2012

Five (More) Reasons That You Should Think About Changing Your Job

‘People don’t leave companies. They leave their bosses’- this may well be the most used (or abused) line I’ve come across in the past year or so; in the context of reasons as to why people leave their companies. While these reasons cannot be simplified, for they are complex, concurrent and circumstantial; there are many common things because of which people change their jobs. A ‘pain-in-the-a**’ boss is very well one of them, there can be more such as change of location, better opportunities, further education and so on.

Yet we feel, at times, that somehow we don’t like our job even when things appear seemingly satisfying. Reasons for such feelings may sound minor or frivolous when said out loud; still they have an impact on our attitude towards the job. I am listing five additional reasons one shouldn’t feel guilty about, while thinking of changing one’s job.

1.      1. You don’t feel challenged at work. Not at all.
If you like challenges, that is.

2.        2.  No work-life balance.

Hardwork is fine. Great even. But if you are finding yourself clocking in too many hours at work to the extent that you’re losing out on your personal and/or family time, then perhaps it’s time to review your staying in the company. ‘My colleagues also do it’ is not an argument to be made in favour of staying in the company.

3.      3. You are abysmally underpaid.

Agreed that there no such thing as ‘satisfied with the salary,’ but if the efforts and hours you put in in your work don’t, at all, reflect on your pay slip, it may be time to give the finger (without actually giving the finger).

4.      4. You are the smartest person in your department.

You probably aren’t. If you have been regarded as the most intelligent and smartest person around, then you need some reality check. It is possible that you are the proverbial big fish in a small pond.

5.      5. You are constantly getting shouted at for mistakes you didn’t commit.

This one’s slightly tricky. Receiving criticism for your team’s or subordinates’ mistakes is totally fair. This also happens a lot if you are working in service industry.The keyword is ‘constantly’ here. If you are getting shouted at for problems you didn’t create, have no control over and cannot fix, then you are stuck in a wrong job. Evacuate!

Finally, there is always some risk and apprehension involved in quitting and joining somewhere new. We live in a place where manpower is abundant and (almost) every employee is dispensable; so we tend to stick to the job we have landed. The idea is not to severe ties with employers and leave on a bad note. It’s about wanting things that you deserve and knowing that you have a choice to change your job.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

How I Don’t Want to Meet Your Mother

The news came a few days back that the celebrated TV show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ was extended for an additional final season (currently eighth season is airing is USA, which was to be the last one). Apparently, Jason Segel (who plays Marshall) whose reluctance to continue was causing the series to end next year, relented at the last minute and the main cast began discussions with the channel. When I read it online, I had mixed reactions. Quasi-shock, dismay and some indignation.

I wonder if it’s just me or there are many people who feel that the show isn’t funny anymore and has lost its novelty of the previous seasons; up to the fourth, to be precise. So much so, that I’ve lost all interest in the show and nowonly want to know who Ted’s damned wife and those children’s elusive mother is. Or maybe I couldn’t care less about it.This is sad because HIMYM was one of my favourite TV shows for a long time. For my generation, the seminal series ‘Friends,’ which showed a group of friends hanging out in a coffee shop was legendary (I’m sensing a little irony here). Although many serials in the later years followed this similar premise, it was HIMYM that stood out from the lot. It had a group of co- dependent, dysfunctional, sometimes incestuous (the Ted-Robin-Barney storyline) friends who stood by each other through many personal and professional problems, friends that were family.

I remember arguing with friends and acquaintances that HIMYM was my most favourite TV series, in fact the best one after ‘Friends;’ so hilarious and witty that it may even be better than Friends. Excellent narration, well defined characters, more focus on the story arc and some realistic issues dealing with friendship, relationships, romance and life in general- these were my arguments in favour of this show. Needless to say that the way later seasons turned out I had to eat my own words.

The show seems to be stuck in a metaphorical rut. Besides being unfunny, there are some elements in the show that could have been handled differently (I haven’t seen the current season as it doesn’t air in India but somewhat know the storyline). Robin and Barney’s rekindled romance, for example.  The idea of Barney dating and marrying a stripper appealed to me much more than this current romance. There is almost some poetic justice in him ending up with a stripper.

Of course, the most obvious reason for this show to continue further could be its popularity. According to Wikipedia, HIMYM is the most watched TV show in USA. So nothing wrong if the channel wants to milk it for another year. What is missing, however, is the terrific episode after episode that takes the story forward in a way that makes us come back for more.

Finally, all these are a layperson’s expectations. I can’t mention what exactly I want to see but can just say that there is a lot left to be desired in the show. It just ain’t funny. How we have so often seen in the narration, perhaps the show itself needs an intervention. A major one at that.

Monday, 24 December 2012

At the Right Place at the Right Time

(No story is purely fictional. It cannot be. There are always some elements- locations, characters, incidents that can be borrowed from reality. It is this possibility of mixing fact and fiction, imagining how things would have turned out differently, creating an alternate universe that isalluring and fantastic. Or perhaps it is the work of pure genius when a story is original- really original- something which lesser writers can never hope to achieve.

Nevertheless,the following short story is part fiction and part reality.)

While Richard Sullivan was leaving for his office at 9 in the morning, after having his daily breakfast at the hotel’s coffee shop- booth only; although he was a lone diner- he realised he’d been feeling a bit queasy since morning. In fact, he had been uneasy since a few days but had ignored it, what with the mountain of work he did in the office daily. Work was a nice refuge, plus, he hated being sick in his hotelwhole day with no one to take care of him. As an extra deterrent, he didn’t much like- rather hated- the hotel’s on-call doctor. Richard thought that he was cheesy andwith a few meetings he had had with this doctor in the past one year, Richard felt he could almost predict what medicines the doctor would prescribe. Further, he didn’t want to be hospitalised; as it was suggested by the doctor a few times during the previous consults. So considering all these things, Richard started off for his office. 

“Good morning, Mr Sullivan” said Rakesh, his doorman, smiling. Returning his greetings, Richard walked towards the hotel’s porch. Narendra, the bellboy also greeted him with the same smile. “Hello Narendra!” Richard replied. A name he had taken some time to pronounce. Richard was always surprised by the fervor some porters at this hotel showed. Interacting with the managerial staff was alright, but it was these employees he could count on to fetch him things at any time of the day. He was always amazed by how perceptive these people were, always willing to please, guessing what you wanted. And all this despite very less education and limited knowledge of spoken English.

Richard had somewhat come to like his stay in this hotel. After his wife passed away two years back, he had immersed himself in work. He had, in fact, stopped being retired and taken up work again. No, he wasn’t consumed by sadness or guilt over being the one who survivedas it often happens with people who lose their spouse.He just didn’t know what to do with free time at home now that Allison passed away.He had tried dating- at his sons’ insistence- for a while back in London, which he admitted to himself was ridiculous and farcical. When this opportunity came up at his company to set up their office in Mumbai, he thought there was no reason for him to not apply. Both his sons were grown men now and both had settled decently, financially at least. So Richard didn’t mind the long working hours.

He was also living in a way he wouldn’t have imagined back home. Most of his expenses were taken care of, a car at his disposal, hotel’s swimming pool, spa, restaurants, laundry within the premises and any other requests just a phone call away and hotel’s employees at his beck and call. Except the doctor, of course. Past year and a half had been very challenging and fulfilling, but today Richard wondered about the future. ‘After Allison, I haven’t thought much about what I’ll do next. I don’t know whatI want to doafter this assignment. Perhaps I should go back to London, work part time and spend the next few years in near the boys.’ He wondered.

“Your car is waiting” Narendra said and guided Richard towards his car, holding the door so he could get in. “How’s your family, Narendra?”

“They are fine, Sir.” In the beginning, Richard interacted with this staff only as a ritual, without bothering much about the details. Over time, he had come to know a few things about some staff members’ backgrounds and liked to engage in some small talk while on his way to work. He didn’t much like talking to the staff while returning from work as he would get tired and would always directly walk up to his room.

Greeting his driver, Richard got inside the car and started for office. Looking at his schedule for the day, his mind started planning how he will spend it. For the next ten hours, he forgot all about the hotel, his wife, his nostalgia and the fact that he wasn’t feeling too well.

After spending a long day at office, Richard entered the hotel’s busy lobby at 10.30 in the evening. The uneasiness had returned, so did shortness of breath and a little pain in the chest. ‘It’s amazing how the mind blocks these things when you are busy,’ he thought. ‘I guess I have to see the damned doctor today.’

Without talking to any staff, Richard got into the elevator started for his room. While on the way, he thought the uneasy feeling was getting worse. ‘Some time in the room and I’ll call for assistance.’ He realised he was sweating profusely. When he reached his floor, he took out the key card and staggered towards his room. When Richard was at the door he wasn’t sure where he was, what he was feeling or what he should do. The chest pain compounded and he felt disoriented- or so he thought. As he entered his room and closed the door behind him, he was in deep agony and could feel his face and body twitching. He wondered maybe he overlooked his illness and should have seen a doctor much before. He started walking towards the phone, but one final bout of chest pain boiled through his chest, and he slumped on the floor, against the closed door.

Richard Sullivan was found dead the next morning by the hotel’s staff. His housekeeping lady noticed something wrong when she couldn’t open the door of his room and notified others. His death was attributed to natural causes, a severe heart attack at that. ‘He came back around 10.00, it is a busy time. It is difficult someone noticed him. Plus, the bell staff said he never interact much while coming from work. So no one would have spoken to him even if they saw him,’ one manager was heard telling someone about the incident. 

Fortunately for the hotel, his was a natural death. Still they took all efforts to minimise the press on this incident. The doctor also concluded that, had he consulted a doctor a few days earlier; or few hours even, or had he collapsed outside of his room, (where he could be easily noticed by the staff), it may have been possible to save him.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Things People Say & Things People Want to Say

(Purists may continue reading this text knowing fully well that it contains a few expletives.)

We don’t always say out loud what comes to our mind. We can’t. Not all the time at least. In times when pleasing people around you (colleagues, peers, teachers, superiors, acquaintances)- or being cordial with them- is becoming increasingly important, we find ourselves speaking things we don’t really mean. Or feel. Complimenting someone when not warranted; for example.

Indeed, we sometimes use euphemisms or indulge in praises not to hurt someone’s feelings. Yet in many cases we do so because that is what we are supposed to do and it makes us feel better about ourselves. Such ingratiation may be more commonly known as diplomacy, sucking up, flattery, ‘licking’ and many more colourful Hindi words. Without judging, following are a few instances (picked randomly) when people say something and things they might additionally want to say.

1. Subordinate to his boss: ‘I wish you would delegate more. I’d love to learn more things.’
(Whole office knows that you are an obsessive control freak and your damned wife is controlling you too much. Don’t take it out on your subordinates by being a jerk. Man up and Stop breathing down my neck. Gimme some frickin’ work.)

2. ‘Congratulations on getting placed, xxx. Superb.’ (F@$^#*)
Xxx: ‘Yeah. Thanks.’

(SUCK IT. Highest package in the whole class, bitch!)

3. ‘You guys make such a nice couple. Veryhappy to see you two together.’

(Huh it took her eight boyfriends to finally be with him. Eight boyfriends. I wonder if more are coming. And he looks so gay!)

4. ‘I totally loved the movie. Awesome.’

(Hated it. But saying that I looooved it makes me sound cool and accepted and I’m too chicken to admit that I hated the movie.)

5. ‘I don’t want to be reactive but want to take charge of my life. Do something. But somehow I’m not doing it. I donno why. Maybe I’m too lazy.’

(I moan about petty issues, I spend half the time being jealous of others and when that’s not happening, I’m busy hating myself as I have some real low self-esteem.
….And I’m in denial about it.)

6. ‘I like what you write. It’s interesting. Keep it up.’

(God, if my one wish came true for reading each page that was written by you, and giving you fake positive feedback about it; I’d be do so many things by now. And your writings would be at the bottom of the ocean. Along with your sorry ass.)

& the last one,

 7. Girl to her boyfriend: ‘This was the best sex I ever had!’

(If I’m counting backwards. And perhaps worst instead of best. Just thought about Taylor Lautner all through it. Thank god women can fake it!!)

Note: This is completely a product of my highly cynical and wry disposition. It may well be possible that many people say things that they actually mean.
(As if that’s true....)