Thursday, June 05, 2014

A special day - 6th June 2014

6th June 2014

Been one of those days when I've had to be almost superhuman to cover so many activities within a 12-14 hour timeframe.

Ran 6.5 kms in the gym. An absolute stunner start to the day :)

Went to office and worked for a couple of hours on some critical issues

Went to meet a friend who had an interview at Facebook. That was the first reunion of the day (Me, Puneet and Karthik)

The lunch served at Facebook was delectable. This was an activity in itself.

Got back home in time to sell off the treadmill that was gathering dust. Managed to sell it for 16k :)

Attended all the office calls meanwhile (from home).

Also managing the flurry of messages on Whatsapp and planning for a Friday office bunk :)

Watched nostalgic college time videos with Puneet (Snakey's dance videos mainly)

Played an hour of DoTA (with Troll Warlord) as Puneet watched and cheered and guided me on :)

While going to drop off Puneet, got a call from Snakey asking us to meet him at a bus-stop. So we rushed there. That was the second reunion of the day (Me, Puneet and Snakey)

And after this, dropped Puneet off at the station wading through insane traffic against all odds.

Then got back home to some more office work.

And finally, have also written this small piece just to commemorate this unimaginably eventful day. There have been weeks when I have done lesser than on this one day today :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

123. 28*

After a jittery 26 and a buttery 27, this has been a pretty balanced year in a lot of ways. Not as many ups and downs, been pretty smooth sailing considering that 'smooth' and me have been at loggerheads with each other since like ever. Guess this what people call getting 'settled'. Eventually in life, you crave for routine, predictability, for stuff to go as planned. May be that's the way the cookie crumbles.

The birthday was a fantastic day on the whole. Capping an extremely positive year gone by. First of all, it was on a Sunday. Started off by visiting a charity home for children and giving them some goodies. This was followed by lunch with school buddies. And then attended a live concert. I bought a music album there. Yes, 'bought' is the operative word here. And bought it from the artists after hearing them sing at the live concert (Coco's Lunch at Ravindra Bharati auditorium). The last time I bought a music album was way back in 2003.

Been a kind of tipsy year professionally, with not much happening. Not slogging as hard as earlier and not expecting any rewards either. The mother-ship is no longer how it used to be. Picked up many fights with management initially. Later realized that I only stand to lose mental peace and gain nothing when I go up against a stupid brick wall. Been on the lookout for something new for a while now. Maybe the new year will usher in some good luck and bless me with a better work environment.

Went on an overseas vacation after 4 years. Felt exhilarating! Felt alive. Those 6 days were among the best 10 days of the year. No wonder why vacations are so popular. You need that time off. That time to spend on yourself to recharge, re-energize, recoup and then return :)
(I went on that vacation without informing my managers. Makes it even more special. That's the icing on the cake!)

Been to many wonderful places within the country on the behest of attending weddings. Making many cool memories along the way.

Sad that none of my Oscar predictions were right :( -

And Real Madrid were dismal in this year's Champions League :(

Boycott of social events(within family circles) has become the norm considering that no one wants to ask you about anything other than the reason for you still being single. At the unavoidable events where my absence will disrupt social order, the smartphone has been my savior.

The quest for weight loss continues. Have had partial success with it but have a long way to go. I have managed to arrest the downward spiral but that is just not gonna be enough. I used to look 35 when I was 25, I intend to look 30 when I am 30 (fingers crossed) :)

I still have not been very good at catching up with old chums. Need to do that well in the coming year. Also, writing has taken a beating courtesy Twitter and Attention Deficiency Disorder. Need to invest solid hours on writing a short story. That would be the immediate aim. Rage comics and entrepreneurial ideas should also take center stage next year.

Until next year...

Sunday, December 08, 2013

122. The question

He knew this day would come. It had to. There was no running away from it. So he gave himself a pep-talk in front of the mirror in his room. He drew some confidence from the agile never-say-die mosquito that kept buzzing at his ear despite his semi-swift arm movements trying to drive it away. He could sense that they were inching towards his room with malicious intent. He braced himself for what was in store. Who was he kidding ? They were going to ask him the same question again some day. He had tried his level best to dodge this question each time it was fired at him. He had been successful so far. But he was pretty sure that he was going down this time. He had prepared a back-up answer. He was also ready with a second back-up answer in case the first back-up didn't work. And then they entered his room.

Parents (in chorus): Son, you have to go attend a wedding today.

Me: But why? I don't want to go :(

Parents (in chorus): You give the same answer always. They are our close relatives. It won't look good. You have to go.

Me: But I will become the center of attraction there. Everyone over there will tell me I am next in line. They will give me all sorts of advice right from how to pick a bride to how not to pick a honeymoon location.

Parents (in chorus): That is exactly why we want you to go. People will see you and make calls.

Me: But I am not feeling too well. Stomach upset from the papdi chaat I had last night.

Parents (in chorus): Never mind. We already packed a lunch box for you just in case you felt hungry at the wedding and didn't want to risk it by eating the rich wedding food.

Me: But...But...Ok, I'll get ready and leave in 15 minutes.

Parents (in chorus): We love you son! We really do.

Monday, November 11, 2013

121. The stranger at the airport

Me filling a fellow Indian's on-arrival visa application form in Bangkok.

Me: Tell me the name of your 'Contact person' in Thailand
Him: I don't know anyone here. I just came. 
Me: Ok,do you have 1000 baht for the visa?
Him: No. I dint know I had to exchange money.

<Awkward pause>

Him: What is this 'Place of Issue'? Is it there on my passport? 
Me: Let me fill that for you.
Him: Thank you. What do I do next?
Me: Let me fill my form in peace.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

120. Train Chronicles - The odd one out

Been a long time since I've boarded a train. Close to 3 years now. That's quite a long while. Train travel and the middle-class Indian cannot be kept apart for a long time. It is an integral part of the Indian middle-class existence. Every train journey brings with it a set of mixed emotions - a sense of anticipation, a hunger pang, an urge to move on, a self-enquiry of the road not taken, a weird pseudo-nostalgic queasy feel overall.

I have had my fair share of interesting train journeys. Some more memorable than others. Here is a brief account of one of the more interesting ones.

The only 'male' in the 8 seat compartment

Being the only 'male' in a compartment ideally should be a cause of joy, simply because you would expect at least one of the remaining 7 women in the cube to be in and around your age group, in which case you would have a paisa-vasool journey. However, that assumption went for a toss when I found myself in a cubicle full of eunuchs/hijras. They had the other 7 berths in the compartment (by reservation, not force). And it was a 24 hour journey. Imagine. No, you can't. Unless you've been through the exact same ordeal, which I hope you have not, for your own sake.

The only eunuchs I'd seen until then(in my entire life) were the ones that did the 'clap and beg' routine in the trains and the ones that would miraculously appear outside every home where a function of some sort was underway. I'd seen them being very persuasive and coercive (until they got what they wanted). The stories I'd heard were scarier. With all these negative thoughts buzzing through my tiny brain, was needless to say that I was petrified.

For the first hour or so, I don't think I looked at anything but my shoes. Raising eyes unto eye-level meant eye contact. And eye contact meant certain doom. Was afraid that eye contact could be misinterpreted - my fear could be interpreted as hate/disgust/aversion.The only consolation was that I had a 'Side Lower' berth. This gave me some room to walk up and down the corridor umpteen times without rhyme or reason. But there was nowhere to run or hide. This was a train. That was my berth. No matter what, I had to go back there and make peace with my demons.

I was afraid of the multitude of ways in which I could unintentionally offend them and earn their wrath in the process. I was trying to convince myself to keep conversation to a minimum and strictly use gender-neutral grammar if and when required. My excess luggage was not helping matters. Excess luggage meant space negotiation. Negotiation meant conversation. Staring out through the window was straining my neck like crazy. I was counting the hours down. Time was not exactly 'flying' when I needed it to. Eventually, I became less nervous and adjusted to the situation which was not as big an ordeal as it had appeared to be at first. 

In their defense, they were doing their own thing all through the journey, didn't bother me in anyway. One guy from the next compartment came over and started chatting up with them. Gathered from their conversations that they belong to a self-help group for their kind. That they worship their own guru and work in co-operative societies. Although these conversations served as a much needed distraction, they did not do much to bring down the paranoia levels. I was on high-alert mode all through and relaxed only when I saw the yellow board with the destination station's name on it. In retrospect, I could have been a little less paranoid and a bit more confident I suppose. I would've still been as circumspect and cautious however.

Intend to add more train journey accounts to this post. Hope I stick to my plans.


119. Writer block or Cranium burn out

Been a while since I've written anything. Call it a writer's block or an imbecile's reluctance to put pen to paper. Stumbled on an old notebook where I'd jotted down some ideas which I had planned to write about (way back in 2010). Now that I seem to have run out of ideas (hoping that this is a temporary phase), I figured I'd write a couple of posts based on my 'once-upon-a-time' ideas.  The world around has been changing and evolving like never before. So much to observe, analyze, do. So much to absorb. In all this brouhaha, I've missed the simple pleasure of inking my thoughts. I've been told that its a stress buster. Not sure about that. Writing opens labyrinths which were safely closed and shut away for good. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

118. Hyderabad Blues revisited

Due to a series of unprecedented events on an otherwise blissful Sunday, I happened to watch Hyderabad Blues again. The first time I had watched it was way back in '99.  Although it was as much as fun now as it was then, I got to appreciate the movie for so much more this time around. Many aspects of the movie make it timeless, a rare quality which seldom a movie can boast about. The story of a confused NRI returning back home and questioning the idea of what a 'home' is - is a theme which is still very relevant and will be for a long time to come.

The reason for the connect this time around is because the protagonist Varun (Nagesh Kukunoor) is 28 years of age and is pestered by society at large to get married before he returns to the US. Both his best friends are married (one of them marries during the movie, while the other is a father of two kids already). Two of my best friends are married. And another one will in August. Cuts like a knife!

Varun challenges the idea of arranged marriage and in his words - "fights 5000 years of culture" everyday. The high-levels of interest others have in knowing and commenting on his life choices is the closest depiction of the reality today. Pretty close to how my well-wishers track my movements via online voyeurism and unsolicited grapevine.

Varun returns to Hyderabad after having spent 12 years in the USA. Although I am no confused NRI, I did return to my hometown after a 8 year stint in different parts of this glorious nation. And when I did get back, it made me question the idea of a 'home' just like the protagonist's repeated meanderings all through the movie.

What makes Hyderabad Blues a timeless classic is the way in which Kukunoor captures the multi-layered conflict which every average Indian Joe has to tackle during the 25-30 years period.  Be it the incessant "When are you getting married?" question thrown at you by everyone around, or the ideological battle between arranged marriage and love marriage, or the perception society builds around your professional-economic status and how that becomes your identity (no matter how hard you try to run away from it), or the   sudden unhealthy stalker-ly interest our society shows in your life, or the generation gap and the cultural gap which you are supposed to acknowledge and bridge in record time(remaining sane all the while).

It truly is a lovely take on life in Hyderabad set in the pre_IT boom era. and despite the city having undergone a sea change over the last 15 years, the dilemmas its people face have not changed much. Felt nostalgic spotting a Nestle Milo billboard shown in a scene during the movie. It all seems to have happened such a long time ago. Will revisit this piece of magic in a few years time for sure. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Normal and safe

Nut 1 - Why do we always tend to live our lives based on what everyone defines as 'normal' and 'safe'? Why do we let others define boundaries for our decisions ?

Nut 2 - Because if we don't then we will be treated as outcasts rite.

Nut 1 - Not exactly. You know why we do that?

Nut 2 -Why we do what? I am not getting it.

Nut 1 - Why we dont stray away from what everyone perceives as 'normal' and 'safe'.

Nut 2 - Umm....I don't know. We're too scared maybe.

Nut 1 - More than being scared, we hate being told "I told you so!".

Nut 2 - Hein? I told you so? Who told you what? This sounds cryptic to me.

Nut 1 - You see, when we shy away from the 'normal' on an important decision and it doesn't work out, everyone around will come up to you and say "I told you that it won't work out. Why didn't you listen to me then? Its always risky to go down that road you know. I have been telling you that this is a risky decision. Your mom and dad have also told you about 'not' doing this. Even Azhar uncle from across the street was skeptical about your decision-taking capabilities. Now look at yourself. You are cribbing and crying about your failure. What is the use tell me? No, just tell me what is the use? Your eyes have gone into their sockets. You are looking like one of those skeleton-pirates from Pirates of the Carribean movie. From the looks of it, you need that 1-year facial foundation make-up program to liven up your face. Now go eat something atleast. Shall I get you parcel Idly from Nartaki tiffins?"

All through our adult lives, every choice we make and every decision we take is all in an effort to avoid this sentence "I told you so!" from being uttered by anyone.

Nut 2 - You know what, I was told the same thing at home yesterday when I bought a tube of Pepsodent 2-in-1 instead of buying a Pepsodent G.

Nut 1 - <<Takes a gun, shoots himself in the shins and limps away>>

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

At the gymnasium

Up until the last generation, the 'gym' (as it is popularly called) was not a place for all and sundry(at least in our country). The mango man did not find it necessary and important to have a regular workout at the gym. (Primarily because there was enough physical labor in his daily routine and also because he could not afford to join one) As for the mango woman, a visit to the gym was never an option to exercise as it was a bastion of masculinity. The gym used to be the hub of sportsmen, wrestlers and men from the armed forces.

Well, things have changed for the better since the 1991 liberalization. (I'm an MBA guy - will link everything to 1991 - its a disorder - just kidding - no I'm serious) The increase in the standard of living coupled with the new urban sedentary lifestyle has turned 'hitting the gym' into an urban necessity. Gen Y and Gen Next are much more open to the idea of hitting the gym than their predecessors - the Gen X and the Baby Boomers. Most of them hit the gym in an attempt to stay fit while some have very interesting ulterior motives - like hitting on that cute girl who comes to the gym every alternate Wednesday.

The gymnasium has turned into a vibrant microcosm - with a wide variety of people and the wider variety of situations that they create, all in an effort to live a better life (or so they think). Here are a few of the colorful kind of people you may come across when you 'hit' the gym.

Terminator alias Mr. Know-it-all
Have you seen Arnold in Terminator-2 ? For those of you who haven't, Arnold was the Terminator sent from the future with the sole aim to protect a certain John Connor. He knew what he had to do, was always in control, with in-built one-liners and 'punch' dialogues. Well, Mr. Know-it-all belongs to that breed of Terminators. From the moment he barges into the gym (akin to the way Arnold barges into the police headquarters in the movie), he's a man on a mission with single-minded devotion. Any man/machine/rodent in his way to fitness will be 'terminated'. He wears knee pads that match his water-bottle and his ear phones. His optimized routine cannot be questioned even by the gym instructor. Everyone envies his routine and his physique. He's a mystery.

Iron Man
He's got the biggest muscles in the gym. He gets in. He's always warmed-up. He pumps iron. He stares at his muscles once every 2 minutes. His muscles are so huge that they are 4-D. He helps people out with their weight-training. He tells stories of how he makes his orange juice daily - by placing an orange on his upper arm and squeezing it with his arm-muscles. He also talks about his glory-days when he was a second runner-up in the Ghatkesar mandal body building championship.

Teacher's pet 
You'll always find this one guy/girl who is the teacher's pet - in this case, the gym instructor's pet. This pet will spend most of its gym time in and around the instructor. It's a win-win situation for both parties actually. The instructor is happy as he has someone to share his thoughts with(and get his ego massaged whenever required), while the pet is also happy because the instructor will not force it into high-strain exercises and uncompromising positions during the workout. Where else can such a symbiosis be witnessed.

The girlfriend and her boy-best-friend (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai)
Here's a girlfriend-boyfriend pair who have decided to get fit together. They have noble intentions. But when they enrol, chaos ensues. The girl is not very happy when her guy is not able to lift a 5 pound dumb-bell. The guy is forever worried about his girl getting all the undue attention from the gym instructor. Their see-sawing love story amidst the swivelling gym machines can be a turned into a full-blown bollywood movie. Anurag Kashyap, are you listening ?

The TV watcher (Homer Simpson)
I know its rare but there are a few folks who hit the gym just to watch TV. These are people who are never handed the remote control at their homes. They hit the gym, step on the treadmill, adjust it to a speed of 3 kmph(slow walking) and take control of the TV in front. They come with the tagline in their eyes - 'Anyone who tries to change the channel will have to deal with my mother-in-law'.

The struggler (Uday Chopra)
Here is someone who struggles to shed weight, struggles to run on the treadmill, struggles with his/her diet, struggles while lifting the 10 pound dumbbell. For this person, gym life is full of struggles. Even the gym instructor sympathizes with the struggler. The struggler gets everyone's sympathy but rarely gets anyone's help - unlike the damsel in distress.

Damsel in distress (Cinderella)
She joins the gym. She needs the attention. She knows she's pretty. She knows that she doesn't know anything about a workout. She does however know that she will get help whenever she asks for it. So she wails and pleads for help as she wanders and tip-toes through the monstrous machines and the monstrous men pumping iron - like the damsel in distress waiting for a valorous prince to come to her rescue. Her workout routine is typically punctuated with the cries of 'Ouch', 'Ouieee', 'Oh no' and the 'Can someone show me the stop button on this treadmill?'

Software engineer Brahmi (from the movie Pokiri)
How could this post be complete without the software engineer stereotype. Software engineers are everywhere. You can not ignore them. Some may be hiding even in your closet as I speak. Our software engineer Brahmi is the typical spectacled balding pot-bellied middle-age Iphone-5 owner who has decided to join the gym as an after-thought more than anything else. He's well known for taking onsite/client calls while running on the treadmill. He's also well known for buying the most outrageous set of gym wear - fluorescent-green tracks and sunflower-yellow running shoes. He also believes that his extravagant spending on gadgets and gym wear may get him some attention from the damsel in distress. Kudos to his optimism.

Shall try and capture a few more stereotypes as they come to mind. Until then, ciao.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

115. 27*

Turning 27 has been an eye-opener of sorts. At 26, still had a few lingering doubts about my perception of life, the purpose of existence blah blah(essentially Epicurean philosophy). Sadly, many of those doubts still remain. However, all this tumult and confusion has given rise to a new black-box approach to living. An approach guided by the principle - I don't know what I want. I only partially know what I don't want (as quoted by +sanjeev dhavala). An approach where you stop questioning and start living. Take the partial outputs, envision a future and work towards it. 

Looking back at the year that has passed, there have been very many fundamental shifts in my way of life. Some serious, some absurd. Thinking has given way to doing. The famous UG Krishnamurthy catch-phrase "Where is the action?" has driven the decision making process to quite a large extent.The very fact that I am writing this post a month after my birthday is indicative of the fact that I've been doing more and thinking less(and hence writing lesser).

Attended quite a few live events. A Play, a rock concert, a Lucky Ali disaster, a cricket match,  a cock fight(that dint happen finally), a ghazal performance come to mind now(must be a few more). Apart from the ones mentioned, must have attended at least 10-15 weddings of near and dear.

Have been able to shed some of the extra pounds accumulated over the years(13 pounds to precise). However, this is a baby step in comparison to the mountain that has to be conquered. But I am confident that   a few more baby steps one after the other can kill this devil in due course of time. Expecting a miracle overnight would be foolish.

Been another good year professionally. Been rated top performer(this news will be made official next week or so). For someone in search of professional stability(sticking to one job), this year has been very important as I've learnt how to work and how much to work. May not be an important finding for most but 'working under a management' has been an exploratory phase for me and I am slowly but surely unraveling the mysteries of corporate existence. Its been a fun ride thus far.

No accidents this year (touch wood). Begun the last year with a stupefying self-nade fall from the vehicle. This year has been safe vehicle-wise(apart from paying a few fines here and there).

This post would be only half-done if I do not mention how the M word (Marriage) has plagued my existence this year. So much so that its driven me to write not one, not two but FOUR blog posts! I would urge you to read each one of them - each a treasure trove in its own right. 2012 would always be remembered as the year when I lost most of my friends to the M word.

One activity which I need to focus on is catching up with everyone once in a while. Work has kept me terribly busy and I've not been able to take time out to stay in touch with kith and kin. Maybe this can be the new year resolution for 2013. Confession - I secretly wanted the Mayan prediction to come true. Would have saved me the trouble of coming up with new resolutions :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

114. Dial 'M' for Marriage (Part 4) - The first 'arranged' call

As a participant observer to several steps of this process(the 'arranged marriage' process), I've been privileged enough to witness/experience this ritual called the first 'arranged' call.

Now what is an 'arranged' call you may ask. Well, its pretty much like a 'before the blind date' call, only with an extra dash of religion and astrology to it. Since technology has leapfrogged ahead with religion left gasping to come to terms with it, we're seeing new rituals being incorporated as a part of the entire 'arranged' process. This 'arranged' call is one such ritual which has come into being(created by the elders to this generation) where the elders find it within religious and spiritual limits to let the prospects(prospective guy and girl) talk to each other over the phone before the final 'go-ahead' decision is to-be taken by both the parties.

But before letting technology bridge the compatibility gap between the two prospects(prospective guy and girl, to reiterate), the elders use far more superior techniques to conclusively determine compatibility between the prospects. They seek guidance from the stars, the planets, the gods in heaven and the astrologer/pujari/yogi/shaman living across the street to understand the prospective future of the prospects living together. Only after the stars, the planets, the neighborhood temple priest and the local cop give their approval, can technology be introduced to find out if at all there is any compatibility. Pretty much like the 'License Raj' system during colonial times.

Before the call - The preparation(or the lack of it)
Once all the approvals from the heavens and the god-men are in place, the guy is given the go ahead to call the girl (Why is it that the guy has to take the initiative always? Is this not a generation which believes that men and women are equal ? Anyways....) The guy is clueless(as usual). Probably the first time that he has been asked to call a stranger where the stranger also knows that he would be calling her up. He calls up his friends who are either engaged or married for some tips on how to negotiate the first few minutes of conversation. The guys who got 'love married' prove to be of no use(since they never had to do this) while the ones who got 'arranged married' spoke very little or did not get a chance to speak at all(only smile from a distance).

So the guy now back at square one, thinks of ways to get through the first few minutes trying not to be a complete jackass. Says to himself - This is like answering the 'Tell me about yourself' question which you had prepared for during your MBA placements. Only need to change the last sentence. Replace 'Which is why I feel I can be a valuable asset to your company' with 'Which is why I feel I can be a dependable life-partner'. 

Since he's very confident that he'll go blank right after saying 'Hi', he writes down a list of things to talk about.
1. Weather in all the major cities
2. The India-England Test match series
3. Pani Puri
4.  Bats hiding behind the Air Conditioner in the gym

Before making the call, he ensures that there's no one eavesdropping on the conversation(except the wall lizard on the right corner).

The call
The call itself is like a cryptic telephonic interview where both sides are interviewing each other for the same job position(that of a life-partner). It starts of with a 'Hello' instead of a 'Hi' as the guy imagined it to be

Guy - Hi...
Girl - Hello...
Guy - Hello...
Girl  - Hi...

<<Awkward Pause>>

Guy - How are things at your end ?
Girl  - Fine. How are things at your end ?
Guy - Fine.

<<Awkward Pause>>
<<Awkward Pause>>

Guy - So, I hear its pleasant weather in Bangalore now.
Girl - Yaa, it is. Soporific weather.

Guy - Oh great!

<<Awkward Pause>>
<<Awkward Pause>>
<<Awkward Pause>>

After the call
Once the call is over, the guy is supposed to report back to his elders with either a confirmation or the rejection. He asks for time and for a few more phone calls but all his requests fall to deaf ears. And so, due to reasonable doubt, he answers with a rejection. To add fuel to fire, the elders later get to know from the girl's parents that the girl has also rejected this guy.

After 10 years
While playing with his brother's kids, he recalls the rejection and of all the brilliant vibrant topics he could have thought of during that one potentially-life-altering phone call. And then one of the kids playfully kicks him in the nuts. He screams.