Monday, February 25, 2008

Drawing-room Dilemmas

Have you ever found yourself smiling inanely in a conversation you don’t really understand; people telling you things that are considered universal truths so much so that not nodding your heads fervently enough, let alone committing the blunder of questioning them, can put you at the risk of being branded a heretic? Here are a few such popular drawing room truths of which I have only had contradicting experiences.

“She’s sad so she listens to sad music”: She must be suicidal if she does. I mean isn’t that like prescribing a boxful of laxatives to someone with Irritable Bowel Disorder?? When I’m sad the last thing I want to listen to is sad music.

“The best poetry is written by he who is under the greatest mental trauma”: Bah! That philosophical, melancholic look is from hours of practice in front of the mirror and some good PR advice. Trust me I’ve tried it. Who would trust you if you wrote something like “ Oh Cassandra! Will we not be?” and talked as if you were just released from a laughing-gas chamber??

“Designer bathrooms are the ultimate ablution experience” : No. They’re so nauseatingly expensive and high on maintenance that they’re more intimidating than luxurious. You’d rather sleep in there than do anything else. And God forbid that a guest should ask you if he could use your wash-room. Makes you wonder if it is under your insurance cover.

“Most problems arise because of lack of communication”: In my twenty three years of existence almost every time I’ve fallen into trouble it’s been because of too much communication. If we didn’t talk such a hell lot, life would be simpler. The next time you talk to your girl/boyfriend on the phone, try playing Solitaire simultaneously. You won’t listen to half of the things that make potential argument grounds. Only, be sure that you don’t burst out into F-expletives when you make a wrong move!

“Women laugh because they find you funny”: I hate to break it to you dude, but it’s only because she wants to be told how pretty she looks when she laughs.

“Shopping is therapeutic”: For the shopkeeper, you mean? Makes my heart sink with guilt. When I hear “shopping is therapeutic”, I hear “Keep funding me and I won’t tell you that I’m having emotional troubles in the middle of your football game”.

“Fish is vegetarian”: The fish is, but you ain’t if you eat one! I was surprised when I found out how in many parts of the world fish is part of vegetarian cuisine. And even more amazed when I found out about the existence of different kinds of vegetarianisms. There’s the simple vegetarian, the Asian vegetarian, the Indian vegetarian, the European vegetarian, the Vegan… I won’t be surprised if there’s a North Western Sub Saharan vegetarian too.

The list is long. And if you too have faced such moments, have patience. Over time and with effort you too shall, as I have, master the art of contorting your facial features into an acceptable expression every time you are caught in the line of fire of drawing-room truisms.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Valentine’s day is over and I am heaving a huge sigh of relief. No, I have nothing against it. In fact, I quite like the love in the air and all those things. But there are some things about love that I’d never understand.

For instance, I remember watching this movie with my friends where this guy proposes to his girl by strategically placing a diamond ring in some creamy stuff that the girl was eating. The restaurant people were all privy to the plan and were giving encouraging looks to the guy (couldn’t have been a place in the city-centre, where getting the attention of the restaurant people is tougher than getting an application passed in a Government office). And then the girl, most delicately, discovers something not quite creamy in her mouth, and even more delicately, takes it out , says something like “Oh Chuck! You didn’t have to!” and thinks “Finally!”, and the rest is something we all know. While all my friends cooed and sighed , I was quite befuddled. I mean, what if the girl swallowed it? You swallow a diamond and you’re dead! I made a mental note to remember to tell whoever would be my would-be to not try such antics on me. I am very accident prone and I like my diamonds on my fingers, not in my mouth. Besides, when I discover something unwanted in my mouth I’m most likely to jump on my toes and spit it out right across the table. That can be tricky, unless you are quick to dodge.

Another thing that I cannot fathom is love messages in the newspapers. First of all, how would you know which news paper exactly does your object of affection read? And even if you did manage to find that out, why would you write something that reads like “Dear S, life without you is like soda without gas, yours Admirer4ever”?? I mean, how would Dear S know that it is she/he who is being talked about and that Admirer4ever is you?? Whatever happened to good old text messaging or emailing?? Much better returns on investment any given day, if you ask me.

For love-birds to act strangely can be justified as symptoms of being love-struck. But what I find stranger is the way some of these radio jockeys begin to hyper-ventilate on this day. Even in their normal state of existence their Electro Cardiograms would look like stalactites and stalagmites. One such RJ caught hold of a couple that was probably shopping for groceries. She wished them Valentine’s in all the musical notes her vocal chords could possibly engender and after twenty five seconds of uncontrollable giggles asked the woman two questions. 1) “Is that your husband with you?” and 2) “Do you love him??”(right under his nose). Much to the relief of the audience both the answers were in the affirmative. Imagine the poor woman’s dilemma. What if the answer to the first question was in the negative? I believe that the RJ would still have gone on to ask her the second question!

And then there is the inseparable concomitant of Valentine’s Day- Discount Sales. I can understand the 50 percent off on apparels and chocolates but what, in the name of Cupid , has kitchen appliances to do with it? But then maybe in some parts of the world they express their love with mixers and grinders (you churn up my senses??)

Love has always been strange. But stranger still are its manifestations. Then again, this isn’t the first time someone said that.

Friday, February 1, 2008

To Each His Own

I did it. I quit my job. It is strange that I can hardly recall any other time in my life when I felt as exhilarated as I am now. It isn’t as if I was facing problems. People around me were good to me, I was blithely oblivious of any office politics , if there was any. My work did not make me slog like an ass- far from that. I had fixed hours of work- most of which I spent surfing the net and chit-chatting with colleagues. It was like one long extended holiday. What more could one have asked for? And yet with every passing hour of this paid holiday of mine I was growing more and more restless. I found myself asking questions of myself that I didn’t want to answer. What was I doing? Where was I heading to? Who am I doing what I am doing for? Do I see myself becoming my boss or my super boss in some years? Would I want to be that? To be there? At first I brushed these symptoms aside simply as the guilt that comes from being happy. After all, wasn’t this what I had been training for all my life? Wasn’t this why I had worked hard in school and in college-to get a well paying job and to lead a comfortable life? And yet, something didn’t quite seem right about it. There were times when I would grit my teeth and tell myself that I was building power plants, that it was a very important job, that it benefits thousands of people, that you have to first play your small role well in the larger scheme of things before you take on bigger responsibilities. I looked at the people around me. I would try for an hour to become the guy who sat next to me , trying to feel the pleasure that he did in perusing over bundles and bundles of pipe class manuals. All I saw was a lot of numbers. I was not averse to numbers. Back in college I used to have quite a bit of fun playing with them, overcoming the little challenges that they presented. But they no longer seemed to be as exciting as they used to be. What had changed? Was it the fact that to crack a sum in college was a job well done and to crack one at job was only a job done? Or was it the fact that they weren’t my problems any more but somebody else’s. Somebody I didn’t know. Somebody who didn’t care. I rubbished this last suggestion in my head. I mean, the world works this way, right? There are big organizations with thousands of people working for a handful of people and they just do their jobs and have to do them right and it wasn’t their problem where their little pieces of hard-work fitted in the larger scheme of things. That was for the “handful of people” to worry about, not the worker- bees. And I was being darn touchy about it. What did I expect? That my C.E.O would fly down all the way from France to India to write me a panegyric?

That’s probably when I hit upon it. I was being a little whiny child who cries foul when she doesn’t get a piece of the cake but who wasn’t there when the cake was being cut. If I want to do things, run things , make things happen, I will have to go and get it. If I want to be an architect, I will have to first stop being a brick- layer. That meant opting out of the rat race. I decided to do something that was my own or to work with a small and closely knit group that had a common cause that it could identify with, than to blindly wiggle my way up in a swarm of thousands to God knows where.

I did not know what exactly it was that I wanted to do. But I knew how I wanted to do it. And I also knew what I did not want to do. My present job. And that’s when I decided to quit.

As I entered my boss’ cabin and handed to him my resignation letter a calm ,hitherto unknown to me, possessed me; the calm that comes from knowing that you’re doing the right thing for once. A lot of questions were asked. Many a portent voiced, with all the intonations and expressions that befit a professional clairvoyant. A lot of unpleasantness ensued. As I walked out of his cabin and announced my decision, not many appeared surprised. I smiled to myself. Perhaps it was due to my reputation of being slightly “aberrant”. As if to break the awkwardness of the moment, they asked me the question that logically followed. “So, what next?”. To which I replied “I haven’t really thought. Maybe something of my own”. A few eyed me with suspicion. As if I was lying. As if I was not telling them what I really was going to do. And the rest simply smiled. The kind of smile they smiled when they shared a private joke, more often than not at something stupid that our boss said with his all-important air.

They each congratulated me and wished me luck. “ You know, when I was younger even I had such plans”, said a colleague. “So what happened?” I asked him. “Nothing.”, he replied.

I stood waiting at the portico of my now ex-office, waiting for two other of my colleagues who were going to join me in our little experiment and who too had quit their jobs that very day. Whether the sun shone more brightly or was it simply too dark inside , I knew not. At that moment my friends arrived, each with his own side of his story, and we were ready to leave. I took a last look at the building where I had spent the first year of my first job. I saw inside a thousand burgeoning hopes, a thousand stifled happinesses and a thousand rents to be paid. “To each his own”, I thought.

We were now walking on the road that would lead us out of the premises. I knew not what lay ahead. The war was on and it was too early in the day to take sides. But I knew that one battle had been won.