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Am I an anti-national?

March 21, 2019

10-best-Inspiring-Quotes-from-3I am happy. This is my 100th post. I have done it at an astounding speed of about 0.8 blogs/month. I started blogging (if you can call it that) somewhere in October of 2008. It has taken about 126 months to complete 100. I can only  comfort myself saying it has been quality over quantity. After all you must be knowing about the story of the dog and elephant. So even if there is no earth shattering tremble when I ‘deliver’ my blog, there is always a thud and shatter of my ego breaking when there are no readers. Anyways, I am happy, not because it is my 100th post. I am happy all the time. Well, most times, to be precise. There are times I have to pretend that I am sad and I am a pretty good actor, even I would not be able to make out that I am just acting. It is not that that there aren’t anything that makes me unhappy. Right from the moment I step out of my house to the time I get back, there are a myriad of things that make me unhappy- roads, pollution, traffic, people on the roads, people in office to name a few. There are also things and people inside my house that are capable of making me unhappy. Let’s leave it that. Nevertheless I am happy. There are a lot of people who are unhappy about this fact. But I remain happy. Truly happy. Period.

There is one problem though. It makes me an anti national. No, I never asked for any proof for anything. Maybe a couple of days back I had asked my friend Gulshan, the limerick queen if she really knew if Morarji Desai drank whatever he drank instead of vodka. It was just for clarification and not asking for proof.  Then why? Recently UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network had published the World Happiness Report as of March 2019. It ranked countries based on happiness index. And India is ranked at 140 among the 156 countries that were part of this survey. It was ranked 133 last year and 122nd the year before. So here you have it, in a country where the citizens are becoming unhappier and unhappier, there is this guy who is happy and doesn’t that make him an anti-national. Though I have to admit that I am statistically insignificant.

Life is simple. It is not very complicated as most make it out to be. It is as simple as posting your 100th post 126 months since you started blogging. Really.

Indians, I will leave you with this.

 

Image courtesy: http://www.byniharika.com

Why can’t she be like Chanda?

March 13, 2019

newspaper

It is usually when I am back from my morning walk, sitting and reading the newspaper with my morning cuppa that she barges in with, ‘hey, how is the security guard’s mother?’ She is referring to the security guard at my office, whose mother is afflicted with cancer and had been admitted in the hospital. Or ‘Is the HR guy harassing his junior? Can’t she take it up with anyone?’ Or, ‘Is that Finance guy still having an affair with the intern? Does his wife know? You said she worked in the Plant, didn’t you? She surely must have got wind of it now.’  Or, ‘Did, whatshisname, the Marketing guy, go see the girl? He will be, what 34, 35, this June nah? What does he want actually?’ Or, ‘Is that Purchase chap, still making money in the side? Is there no way for anyone to find out? I think, it must be traveling all the way up.’  The great mumbler that I am, I usually mumble something, engrossed totally in the newspaper.

All this reveals one thing, my penchant for office gossip. But how the hell did she get to know all these? I am not much of a talker, really. There is no way I could have disclosed all this to her, in my right mind. And then it hit me. It is the newspaper. No, no, no, I didn’t mean all these were reported in the newspaper. In spite of all the news in the paper being already available in the many apps on my hand phone, some of them a day earlier, I still need my daily fix of the newspaper. If for some reason the newspaper is not available on a day, my hands would start to tremble. Such is the addiction. It is with the aid of this intoxicant that she had been able to elicit all intelligence, present and past.

There is more to this than meets the ears. I have found myself asking our maid, how her daughter’s first board exam had been. About her husband’s health after his typhoid episode. On both occasions it had caught both of us in surprise. There was a time when I was talking to the aunty next door, whom, for the record, I get to meet sparingly, complimented her on her dal makhani recipe; and congratulated the boy living on the first floor for winning the chess tournament. I also knew that an employee in the salon that my wife patronizes is planning to start a parlour on her own. I had absolutely no idea how I had known all this, till I cottoned on to the fact that all these inputs were fed into my ears by my wife, just when I was nodding off to the land of nod. Another strategic time, when these tidbits are seeded into the sub conscious and  ready to spring up when the appropriate time came up.

This is all so frighteningly eerie. Why the hell can’t she be like Chanda? My wife, that is. Or why shouldn’t I be like Deepak. Yeah, the Kochhars is about whom I talking about. It transpires that Deepak Kochhar is absolutely clueless about what his wife Chanda Kochhar was up to, in her bank and she was equally unaware what her husband does. For a living.  I know I am stretching it a bit, but as days goes by this will what we will come to know of them I am pretty certain. Much like the movie True Lies (I really like the tagline of that movie ‘When he said I do, he never said what he did’). We have  to give it to the Kochhars for showing us the way to be successful. More importantly a way for a successful marriage.

PS: This post was triggered by a news item in today’s issue of the Times of India Chennai edition which reported that Chanda Kochhar had told ED officials that she didn’t know that her husband was doing business with Videocon group and that Deepak Kochhar did not know that Chanda’s bank had given loans to Videocon. Yeah, you can say it all started with the newspaper addiction.
Image courtesy: Getmages

Who do we bank on?

March 7, 2019

bank

When I thought of writing on this, I didn’t mean to write on the bank scams, even though I was appalled at the way the perpetrators cocked a snook at the governmental agencies by refusing to cooperate with the investigations, saying they are in the middle of doing business or middle of massage or the older guy saying that he is in the middle of a CPR- cardiopulmonary resuscitation. There is one more guy, who says he won’t come back because the jails in our country are substandard? What does he want it to be- a 5 star hotel suite? It is another matter that we do have special cells for privileged crooks replete with library, air-conditioner, couple of cooks to cook food to your taste, a couple of masseurs, but the basic qualification would be that you should swindled a couple of thousands of crores (10 millions).  This is also not about them.

I learnt very early that it is good to have some connection in the bank. Way back, when there weren’t debit cards or ATMs or online transfers of money, we used to get our salary by Draft. There were fewer banks (Private Banks were non-existent) in a locality. Invariably the first week of the month was a very busy period at the bank, it would take half a day to fill out the pay-in slips and get the counterfoils stamped and signed. It would take a couple of days more for the Draft to be cleared and the money to be deposited in your account. It would take another half a day to write a withdrawal slip or a cheque, get a token, wait for your turn to withdraw money. Invariably, just when it is your turn the cashier will close the counter and go to the loo or for a coffee or for a smoke. This is when I realized that a lot of time is being spent in the bank. I made friends with one of the employees. He would collect the Draft, deposit it in your account and get your cheque/withdrawal slip encashed. I could collect the money at will, before the bank’s closing time. As a medical rep, most days I would have to start for work before the bank opens and will be back only after the bank’s transaction hours. All he asked for was a couple of paracetamol syrups for his daughter or a few bottles of cough syrups for his father as quid pro quo.  This is not about him either.

Today, the Enforcement Directorate had alleged that Chanda Kochhar and family, had gotten kickbacks to the tune of ₹500 crores and that their assets will be seized. Earlier she was terminated with all her entitlements and benefits revoked. Not long back, she was the brightest new kid in the block, credited with making ICICI bank the best retail banking in the country. Her rise had been meteoric, making it into the Forbes list of ‘World’s top 100 powerful women’ and other equally prestigious international acclaims. What a fall from grace! I fail to understand the mindset that makes one to amass wealth much more than they, their children or even their grandchildren ever will have need for, at the risk of losing all the good things in life- peace, respect & happiness. In such situations my thought always goes to the children of the perpetrators. They would have been devastated, surely. I would be.

It is not just her. There is a whole lot of them in the political spectrum too. Like termites in the woodwork. Successive governments always claim to root out corruption or accuse the other of corruption, especially during election time. And whoever comes to power will just forget about it till the next time around. I am bemused by the negative energy in the social media, as people go about fighting for or against someone, not realizing that it is them who are being taken for a solid ride. Such a waste of time and energy. All you can do, is not expect any help from the so called messiahs, instead try to help people who need your help and whom you can help. At least they will have someone to bank on. You. We do not have anyone else to bank on except ourselves.

Pic courtesy: Manjul, First Post

Of Helmets and Condoms

January 14, 2019

helmets
WARNING: You can look at the image on the right only if you are over 18  and by looking at it you admit that you are over 18.

 

Old habits die hard. On my way home from office, I stopped at the provisional stores from where we buy our monthly groceries. As I entered the shop there was a huge notice proclaiming ‘CARRY BAGS NOT AVAILABLE’. A ban on single use plastic has kicked in from the New Year in Tamil Nadu. Usually I get a plastic carry bag for a small fee, of course, to carry the stuff I buy. Regular readers (are there any?) will know that I am still not rich enough to own a car and my commute is with a help of a motor bike. Obviously it is no go without a bag. That, looks like the end of ‘casual shopping’.   At least for now.

The next day as I started for work, my wife called out from the kitchen, “Don’t forget the bag. “ Don’t worry you know whatever I forget, I never ever forget my lunch bag”, I replied. “Arré buddhu”, she said in exasperation, “I didn’t mean the lunch bag, I meant the shopping bag and I wouldn’t care less if you forget your lunch. You can always come back and have it, for dinner.”  I have been domesticated well and hence the shopping bag will become a part of my office going paraphernalia very soon. It is a good thing really, the way we are abusing plastic especially the carry bags.  More noticeable when you travel by train. Heaps of plastic mounds, plastic bags covering every  streams, rivulets  and creeks, plastic bags flying about caught in a whirlwind on a hot summer day.

It would mean the return of the ‘manja pai’ literally ‘yellow bag’ but connotatively meaning something rustic or old fashioned or both. When I was a kid, going to the grocery shop mandated carrying the yellow bag. The items were packed in old newspapers. The manja pai offered a great space for advertising and were usually handed out by jewellery shops and garment shops. I am reminded of an incident when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. We had got a blue bag, I think, from a garment shop. My assumption that it was a garment shop is because it was school reopening for the new academic year. Probably we had bought school uniform material. Probably a management graduate had suggested they make a differentiation by offering a blue bag to their customers instead of the yellow ones that every other shops were giving away.

It was a time when schools just did teaching and had not gotten into the business of selling text books and note books. We had to buy the text books prescribed for a particular grade, on our own. So one evening, my aunty and I set off to buy books for me with the blue bag. New and starched. Half way through it started raining. Rather heavily. My aunty covered my head with the bag and hers with her saree. We quickly got into a cycle rickshaw (There weren’t any auto rickshaws then). At the first drop of rains, power got disrupted. It was totally dark. The rains lashed with great gusto accompanied by winds. The wind was bringing the rain into the rickshaw. I sat shivering leaning against my aunt, as lightning and thunder flashed and boomed. The rickshaw-wala was finding it difficult to pedal. He stopped under a tree and braced himself from the lashing rain, against the trunk. Thunder roared and my aunt implored the rickshaw-wala to move the rickshaw from under the tree, but he didn’t pay heed. Or he couldn’t hear her. More likely. The rain stopped as abruptly as it had started. It took about half an hour to reach home. Power had been restored. My aunt paid the rickshaw puller, something, which would look absurd today, for his efforts. The bag was still on my head for some insane reason. As we entered home my family burst into laughter. The bag had turned pristine white. And I had turned into Lord Krishna.  The blue colour had run all over my face. So much for differentiation.

So what is this about helmets and condoms? Implementation of this ban. So far the implementation has been good if not total. I have a feeling that I am seeing less plastic on the road, this past few days. Is it optics (a word learnt from watching too many news channels……wait, wait, I had a subject in Physics by the same name long long ago). Will the implementation peter down as it has happened to a host of other such rules, such as stopping before the stop sign at the signals, riding on the wrong side of the road, riding on pavements, riding on one way streets, no smoking in public places? All these are done now with impunity. There are not enough people to enforce them. Unless there is individual discipline none of these rules can be implemented. But because the High Court is behind the law enforcers, the police in this case, regarding implementation of mandatory wearing of helmets and seat belts, the necessary number of cases to satisfy the court are filed. More so for not wearing helmets than for not adhering to the seat belt rule. Why? There are 2 plausible reasons: 1. you do not know how important the person behind the wheel is or how highly he is ‘connected 2. Stopping a car causes a jam and a big traffic snarl, at least in a big city. Very discriminatory if you ask me. The fines or bribes in most cases have not deterred people from not following the helmet and seat belt rules. What needs to be done is hit them where it hurts most. No, I definitely did not mean their heads. Don’t settle their insurance claims, be it their vehicle insurance or mediclaim or god forbid their life insurance, if they are found not adhering to the rules. I think that this will ensure better compliance. These rules were meant to stop unnecessary fatalities. By the same token AIDS, is a big killer, you can’t have law enforcers monitor for people who indulge in unprotected casual sex (please note how cleverly I have brought casual sex and casual shopping together). By the way, are condoms bio-degradable? Or are they multi-use? Surely this is a case of one thing leading to another.

People are responsible for their own safety and that of the planet they live in. Hope better sense prevails and they make the implementation of the plastic ban a success. Without being fined or without being asked for a bribe. It is in our hands. Bag It. There is a documentary on our use of plastic, by the same name, the trailer of which you can watch by clicking the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Bag-It-HD/dp/B007JRUEL2

Image courtesy: AdAge.com

Video courtesy: Amazon.com

Listeners’ choice

December 29, 2018

Listener's ChoiceGeet:  Hi, I am Geeta. Friends call me Geet. I am from Kerala. I have been living in Chennai for the last few months. I got a job in an IT company here.  I am staying in a ladies hostel close to my office. I feel homesick quite often. I am not able to acclimatize myself to this new city and more so to this hostel. I don’t have any friends worth mentioning either at the work place or at the hostel, but I am slowly warming up to my roommate. Maybe it is shared liking for fish. Or is it communism? She is from West Bengal and there are so many similarities- fish, football, communism, education, hartals, movies and music. She is always singing. I do not understand the lyrics. Of course I recognized a couple of Salil Chowdhury’s songs, so very similar to the songs that I grew up hearing. She has a sweet voice. She also bosses me around making me do things for her. I think I am attracted to her. I like her a lot.

Mala: Hello, I am Mala. I have come here from Kolkata to study and boy, am I happy! I am just loving it here. It is only been a month, but I have started loving this city. Back home people had tried to scare me, saying that there was a strong bias against North Indians, about the food here, or safety, but I found all of them unwarranted. I found the people warm, the food absolutely yummy and I have felt the safest here in all my years of existence. I have to tell you though, that my roommate is a tad irritating. She is always behind me and touching me more than is necessary. There is a saving grace. Our room is bigger than all the rooms in the hostel and has a balcony, overlooking a park.  I am an early riser. I enjoy sitting out on the balcony with my tea (have to thank my mom for packing an electric kettle) watching the early morning joggers, and listening to the chirping of birds as they go about their daily routine of foraging for the proverbial ‘early ’worms. And the songs, that come from the house next door. I practically wake up and go to sleep listening to him singing. Amit is his name. His mother keeps calling him every third minute, asking him to do this or that. A doting mother she is. I have seen him a few times. Tall, well built, a body that matches his voice He sings in many languages, usually accompanied by a violin or a flute. His Bengali is awesome and flawless, I must say. And what a voice! A voice to die for. A voice to fall in love with.

Amit: My mother takes the cake. She is forever treating me like a small child. Always advising me what to do. I have still not gotten over doing what she had asked me to do. Engineering. Though my heart was in music. I still use technology that I learnt in my music. Music is my life and is in my blood. One day I will make it big in this music industry. My father died when I was very young, that I do not even remember how he looked. Whenever I think of him I can only visualize his face from the framed photograph in the Puja room. He was a good singer, my mother often says fondly, but that is what she says about my singing too. You have to give to her, for single handedly bringing me up. The sacrifices she had to make for me to have a happy childhood. I owe it to her. To make her happy. I think that there isn’t a place for another woman in my life. Maybe that is why I don’t get attracted by girls.  Now my time is spent in composing songs and sending them to potential music directors. Mostly to Sayan.

Sayan: I am a budding music director. Chances are that you would have heard my music many times over in the course of your day. Most of the popular jingles that you hear on television or radio were composed by me. I will be debuting as a music director in a movie that is to be released early next year. I am flooded with voice samples from wannabe singers. And this guy Amit is trying to bury me with his contribution. He has a strong rustic voice. Very different from the trained voices that I get to hear. Like a wild river. Mostly love songs. Soulful. And the quantum is mind boggling. I have a sneaking suspicion that he knows. About my preference. I had met him once after one of the music programs. A handsome hunk. I really wouldn’t mind if he knew.

PS: If you were reminded of Amin Sayani’s  Cibaca (Binaca) Geet Mala , it is purely intentional

Accident

October 27, 2018

accidentIt was right after lunch. There was a knock on my cabin. Before I could answer, he barged in. He was looking agitated. He was my team member. There are 7 people including him, reporting to me, but I have a soft corner for him. He is very  systematic and you can be sure that the work entrusted to him would be completed well before time and better than expected. He was a loner, did not have many friends, did not speak much and kept mostly to himself. He usually was the first to swipe in and the last to leave the office. An ideal employee to have. In fact I was about to call him before he stormed into my cabin. I had an urgent work to be completed and he was the best person to do it. Sensing his anxiety, I looked at him enquiringly.

“My brother has had an accident, I need to go”, he said with great difficulty. I thought he would break down and cry, if I asked him anything else.

“Okay, take my car, if you want”, I told him

“Thank you, but I will take my bike”, he said, hurriedly, his voice still broken.

The rest of the afternoon, breezed past with work and as expected the work which he would have finished immaculately on time, took much longer with many corrections needed.  By the time I went home it was a little late than usual. I took a hot shower. I could feel the drudgery of the day being washed away.

After dinner, I unlocked my phone. There was a message from him saying that his brother was alright and there was nothing serious. I thought if I should call him up and enquire and decided against it as it was already late. Knowing him, he would be the first in office tomorrow. I could ask him person.I opened my Facebook account. Scouring through the notification, I saw there was a post I was tagged in. It was my niece’s. It was a photo of her and 2 of her friends on a foyer of a mall or a movie hall. Something caught my eye. I zoomed in to see if it was what I thought it was. On the right corner I could make out the corner of a movie poster. It was a movie hall alright, I thought to myself and smiled. ‘Don’t miss this one”, my niece had written tagging me. “I will not, looks interesting”, I commented and ‘like’d the photo. The bath really had relaxed me completely and I fell into an undisturbed sleep.

The next day, as expected, he was in his seat. A few minutes later, he knocked on my door and entered.

“My brother….”, he started. Before he could complete, I asked him, “How was the movie and who is the girl?”

Accidents do happen all the time.

PS: This was triggered by a recent visit to a movie, where I was walking behind a group of girls taking a selfie. What was the probability of being captured in the frame, of the photo being shared on social media and of being recognized by ‘friends’?

Picture courtesy: Internet

Customer Care- Beware

March 21, 2018

'May I speak to the sucker of the house?'

Every medical representative will have at least one story on how he had been shabbily treated. The most common being, to be made to wait for hours, till the last patient, the one with a rasping cough, has coughed up his fee and left, to be called inside the doctor’s cabin and to be told by the doctor that he remembers all of your products and that you need not have to remind him anything; just leave the samples and yes, could he have a few more bottles of the vitamin supplements, for his brother-in-law, please. Worse still after all the waiting to be told by his attendant that the doctor has to go to an urgent meeting and wouldn’t be able to meet you. There is no other go except to grin and bear it. Of course there are notable exceptions. There was this highly qualified physician, who would come to the door to take you into his cabin and apologize for the delay, even though he would have spent the time with the patients. There was another doctor who had fixed a time for meeting medical reps and stuck to it zealously; and the only time he was late, as far as I know, it turned out that the clock in his cabin had stopped.

And so years of being a pharma salesman has taught me one thing- how to treat sales people or rather how not to treat sales people. Every door-to-door salesmenperson (there are a few lady readers who would stomp on me unladylike for being a misogynist) would be invited in, offered a glass of water or a cup of coffee (depending on the time of the day and the mood of the wife), his/her sales pitch heard (after having made it abundantly clear that I wouldn’t be interested in buying the product), a few usual doubts asked for him to showcase his product knowledge, a few questions asked to showcase my knowledge and ta-da the sales call would be over with both of us feeling happy. I remember the time when a Eureka Forbes salesman trying to sell me a water purifier. In his usual sales pitch of trying to establish a need, explained about the water borne diseases, the children missing out school due to typhoid, cholera and dysentery. What about Legionella, would it also take care of it too? I asked softly. He batted his eyelids a couple of times and answered in the affirmative. Are you sure? I asked him smiling. He got flustered. Where do you work? he asked me. I told him that I worked as a pharma salesman. He smiled sheepishly. I gave him 3 important lessons that day: one, a salesman has to learn as much as possible about his product, two, it is okay to not know something but not okay to pretend to know what he does not and be forthright about his ignorance to the customer and three, promise the customer that he could get back to the customer with the details that he seeks and get back as promised. He left without making a sale but happy. There have been times when I have bought things that I didn’t need, purely impressed by the salesmanship. Many times, my wife and I have gone shopping, to buy a certain brand of appliance, but have ended up buying a different brand merely based on the product knowledge of the salesperson or the lack of it, whichever way you look at it. My wife is capable of asking doubts which would appear ludicrous but would be brilliant if you gave it a thought. And the guy or gal who could give a satisfactory response would get the sale. Sadly the days of door-to-door salespeople are over. I don’t see them anymore. They have been replaced by telemarketers.

Telemarketers are less fun and impersonal than in the flesh salespeople. And thanks to the caller identifying apps are easier to get rid of than the persistent real salespeople. One swipe and they are out of your way. But there are some persistent calls from call centers and this happened to my colleague. He was hounded by a bank asking if he needed a Personal Loan. He told them he didn’t want any loan and to remove his number from their data base. The next day he got a call again from the same bank, he got really pissed off ad told them that he would complain to the banking ombudsman, but the next day when the call center called again he pretended to be a top police officer and wanted to know how they got his number. The rattled caller cut the call. We all had a good laugh and thought that was the end of it. But the next day, they called again. My colleague was at his wits end. He picked the phone and told the caller that this was his brother’s phone and that he had gone abroad and would be back only after a couple of years. In that case, the caller asked, would you be interested in getting the loan. Yes my colleague replied, how much will you give? Where are you working and what is your take home salary? the caller asked. I do not have a job and that is why I need the money, my colleague replied. They disconnected and didn’t call him ever since.

I do once in a while attend to some of these calls. The rules are the same. Treat them with respect and tell them I wouldn’t be needing what they are trying to sell. Once a girl had called selling medical insurance and also accident policy. She was explaining what I (or my family, if it came to that) would get if there was an unfortunate happening meaning an accident, resulted in an unfortunate event meaning my death and what was in it for me if I was lucky to survive but have the misfortune of losing both my legs or both my hands or if I was permanently handicapped by two of my internal organs like liver or kidneys going kaput. I stopped her at that point and asked her what I would get if I happen to lose just one limb and one organ. There was a silence at the other end and then she burst out laughing. Nobody had asked me such questions so far, she told in between her laughing bouts. We spoke for a few more minutes, she asked me where I was working and I told her that I worked for a pharma company, she enquired if there would be any openings for her, I asked her if there would be any openings for me at the call center. I didn’t buy any policy that day, but I think at the end of the day she would have had a smile on her face, thinking about the whacko who asked some really stupid questions, without shouting at her or cutting off the call mid-way.

Picture credit: CartoonStock.com

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