Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sleep sleeping

A lot of people like the Nokia tune. A lot of people set this tune for incoming calls. I hate Nokia tune. I hate the tune whenever I hear it. At that instance, I hate the person who has set the tune for incoming alerts or for messaging alerts. I hate the tune because it was set as my early morning alarm tune. I wake up every morning with a sense of irritation. Like most people, I like to sleep long and hard. Until Nokia tune wakes me up. As days progressed, the irritation I have towards Nokia tune became involuntary.

After a few months, I stopped hearing this tune. Even though the alarm is a few feet away from me. My mind now refuses to accept this tune to be registered. So, my wake up call is not a wake up call anymore, as I do not wake up to the call. The worst began to creep in. I started switching off the alarm as soon as it had started ringing. I wouldn’t even allow it complete one complete tune. All without my knowledge. When I wake up I usually have no knowledge about the alarm. Many people have the habit of talking while sleeping, walking while sleeping, snoring while sleeping. But, I have the worst problem. Sleeping while sleeping. Technically, som-soming!

I was sharing a house with my friend, colleague in Newcastle, UK. It is a decent sized two-bedroom house with a decent sized backyard, a living room, half a kitchen and a quarter bathroom. A couple of girls had to stay with us, so we are pushed to live in a single bedroom. As my friend snores like a drilling machine, we had an agreement that I sleep in the bedroom and he sleeps in the main hall. We also had fixed time schedules that I wake up at twenty past eight, use the bathroom and wake him up at twenty to nine. It worked so well for us. If I wake up on time, of course!

One a winter Friday morning, it was cold, it was dark and it was silent. A perfect time to go deep inside the blanket. Sleeping early in the morning with such atmosphere always gives an orgasmic pleasure lasting for a long time. No ejaculation though. Only satisfaction. And that’s when my alarm sounded. Like hell. With that Nokia tune. My brain was so tuned to handle such situation. It switched the alarm off swiftly. Without telling me what it had done.

I slept and slept and slept. Like a baby. Until half past ten. When I woke up, I was feeling fresh. Like taking a bath in a big waterfalls. I was feeling so fresh that I knew something was wrong. It was bright. The sunrays started falling on my blanket. We never see sunrays in winter. So, theres the difference, I thought. I instantly knew that I overslept. I looked at the watch. It was half ten. Even if I hurry to go to work, it would have been twelve before I reached there. I knew there was no point in putting that effort, as there was no one at office to appreciate it.

After a couple of minutes, when I became normal enough to count two and two, I suddenly thought about my friend who was sleeping in the main hall. I felt that I had let him down by not waking him up on time. I had no idea whether he had anything important at work that day. I freed myself from the blanket, hurried to the hall. The sound of snoring was increasing as I moved, in accordance to the Doppler effect.

I slowly removed his blanket and said, "Dude, I am sorry. Looks like I have over slept and forgot to wake you up"

After a brief moment, he opened half of his right eye, snapped at me and closed his face with the blanket. I had to repeat my actions and my words to get half of his eye open again. This time, he gave a glare with half of his eyes and said, "Don’t I know that it is late?"

"But, do you have anything important at work today?"

"Whatever I am doing at office is as important as the cat's droppings in the backyard"

"Fine, but we have to inform people at work that we will be late, don’t we?"

"Dude, I woke up at nine and found that you were sleeping heavily, so I called the people at work"

"And what did you say?"

"I told them that both of us are sick and wont come to work"

"Sick of what?" I asked.

"Loose motion", He said and went inside the blanket.

I never felt so happy for having such a disease. Ever. I swiftly went back to my bed. The snoring sound subsided as I moved, again in accordance with the Doppler effect.

We slept truly, madly, deeply for a couple more hours and woke up fresher than ever. We then cooked mega meals and ate while watching a movie.

The extra sleep that we got was so unexpected. I do sleep deep into the day during the weekends. It never gave any additional pleasure. The fact that we slept extra hours on a weekday, and that too at a totally unexpected time gave immense pleasure. This day can never be forgotten in life.

Monday, December 15, 2008

True colours

They were all running for life. Literally. Bullets came from all the directions. People who were casually walking only a few seconds before were scurrying to find safe places. People who were scurrying a few seconds ago were lying on the floor covered with blood all over their body. Some lost their lands, some lost their legs, and some lost their loved ones, all in a matter of fraction of seconds. Many of them were preparing to go back home after a tired day. Little did they know that they would not reach the train but would reach heaven.

All the chaos, all the destruction, all the killings were caused by mere two individuals. Blood was flowing like a river all around them and yet they were not satisfied. They wanted more, more of liquid, which was thick and red in colour. Within seconds they took the lives of nearly hundred proud Indians and they still wanted more.

After three days, after nearly 200 killings; after a few proud Indians sacrificed their life for saving the nation and its people; after partially destroying the city's major landmark, the Taj Mahal hotel, they were neutralised by a group of brave commandoes.

We have experienced large number of terror strikes in the last few years. Most of them were suicide attacks or bomb attacks in crowded areas. But, opening fire against innocent people on anyday is unacceptable as most of the Indians now feel that 'Enough is enough' and the government should take action. But a few incidents that happened in the following days irked a lot of people within the country.

India's elite security group, the NSG commandoes are based only in one location. India is a huge country; the number of terror attacks is on the rise. The Mumbai train bombings should have been a wake up call to the government. They should have planned for a disaster recovery in at least the major cities in India. But, did that happen? Does the elite force in India have aircrafts of their own? At least do they have an aircraft, which can carry 200 people? Well, they did. But it was parked in a different location. Also, it can only travel half as fast as a normal aircraft. So, after all the logistical problems, it only took a small matter of 10 hours for the commandoes to reach the troubled location. The worst part is, they were transported to the Taj Mahal hotel in city transport busses instead of taking much faster alternatives.

So, what has the government learned now? I presume its 'nothing' again but I would hope and pray that they have learnt some valueble lessons form this incident. First, the commando forces need to be spread out across the lengths and breaths of the country. Also, the local police forces should be well trained and should be well looked after. A meagre salary and World War I type riffles will not help the cause to fight terrorism. However trained the policemen are, their pistols cannot kill a terrorist with AK 47. The government should learn that. Also, the commandoes should have their own aircrafts and choppers to reach wherever they want to reach on time.

The prime minister gave a speech to the nation the same day. The entire nation was expecting an emotional speech from him. But, his words were hardly understandable; there was no clarity in his speech. Both of words and of thought. When the entire nation is in shock and agony, we expect the leaders to come out and reassure the nation. The UPA government, especially Dr. Manmohan Singh failed to do that. His speech was irritating, rather than soothing, to say the least. He should have rather kept his mouth shut.

Honourable home minister of India, Mr. Shivraj Patil took the moral responsibility for the incident and quit the post. It is much appreciated that he took the moral responsibility. But, it will be highly disappointing if he decides to contest in the next Lok Sabha elections. It doesn’t make any sense, at least to me, to take moral responsibility for such an incident only for a few months.

The next in list to take moral responsibility, or rather forced to, is the Honourable chief minister Mr. Deshmukh. He was not entirely convinced that he should take moral responsibility as he was pointing fingers at BJP leaders that they did not take moral responsibility for similar incidents. But, does that matter under this situation? When will the politicians in our country mature? They just wanted to play the blame game until death. Again, if Mr. Deshmukh decides to contest in the elections next time, it would be highly disappointing.

Also, the bullet proof jacket used by ATS was not proofed for bullets. They acted as a safe passageway for the bullets to hit the targets. Why? Its simple. They are substandard. Mumbai police should have thought 'a second grade bullet proof jacket is second to nothing'. What a shame!

The Indian national congress is clearly struggling with a crisis in leadership. We have a Prime minister who wants to be an economist or Finance minister. Now, we have a home minister who does not want to be a home minister. Party seats are given to leader's kin. Again, lots of issues surrounding it. Clearly, the government should have performed much better during the hours of need.

The ignorance shown by some of the politicians was noting less than a big comedy. The Deputy chief minister Mr. R.R.Patil described the attack as a 'small incident and it keeps happening in big cities like Mumbai'. Mr Patil, I sincerely hope and pray that you should be a victim of such small incident. How can someone call this a 'Small incident'? This is just basic common sense, don’t you think Mr. Patil? How can you be so ignorant of your own people? A resignation and accepting moral responsibility is surely not enough.

While the city is in turmoil, one big name in the recent times has gone fishing. Mr. Raj Thackray, where were you during the attacks? How did MNS allow commandoes from other states to fight for Mumbai? Ideally, instead of 200 commandoes, 200 MNS workers should have been sent in to fight the terrorists. All from Mumbai, of course! Have you learnt your lesson that Mumbai is not ruled by people of Mumbai alone? Have you learnt that Mumbai is a part of India, which contains states like Bihar, MP, etc. If you have not learnt this simple fact, please learn it now. Its simple.

The pick of the lot, of course, is the CPI chief in Kerala, the Honourable Chief minister Mr. Achudanandhan. He has made it clear that he would visit only high profile houses and even dogs wont visit normal places otherwise. But ah!, there is one exception, isn’t it Sir. You do visit every house in every village to ask for votes once in five years, don’t you? His remarks well and truly sums up the quality of several leaders in India. He should be banned from politics just for this ugly remark. But will Mr. Karat do that? Will he risk a few million votes from Kerala? Will he? I don’t think so.

Is there any exception to the list of ugly politicians within the country? Did someone actually visit the crime scene during the crime? Is there anyone in the country who is brave enough to do that? Yes, there is at least one. Mr Narendra Modi, who is on top of the hit list in most of the terrorist group, did visit the scene and assured people that whoever responsible will be brought to justice. He gave the inspiring speech that the Prime Minister failed to do.

In short, the terrorists not only showed the people the true colour of blood, but they also exposed the true colours of our beloved politicians.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A true friend

Kannan had a nasty bike accident early in the morning. He fell awkwardly from his bike and hit his nose hard on a cycle. As the nose is one of the most sensitive parts in the human body, the pain was unbearable. Looking at the amount of blood that was flowing through his nose, Kannan was sure that something was wrong. He took his towel out and tried to stop the slow of the blood.

He tried hard to control the flow and started towards the hospital for first aid. Due to heavy blood loss, Kannan went unconscious in front of the hospital. The hospital workers then took him inside the hospital.

After looking at his ID card inside the purse, the hospital authorities alerted his parents. In a couple of hours, he regained the consciousness but still was struggling to come to terms with the acute pain.

The doctors plastered his nose heavily to control the blood flow and took him to the X-Ray unit. They later confirmed that he has a broken nose, which has to be operated immediately.

Kannan, then was taken to the operation theatre. He looked up at the chief doctor and hinted like he wanted to say something. The doctors thought that he was nervous about the operation and tried to console him by saying that the operation is simple and will be over soon. With great difficulty, he spoke for the first time that day. His voice was severely hampered due to the injury.

When he spoke, he asked the chief doctor, “Can I have my mobile phone please?”

The doctors were a bit perplexed and assured him that his parents are in the hospital and they know the developments. Finally, he said “ I know that doctor, thanks, but I want to call my friend to wish him for his birthday, can I have my mobile for a minute please?”

“There are a few important things now son” the nurse said politely and gave him the aesthetic needed for the operation.

The operation was over in an hour. He had a number of stitches on his nose and so was heavily strapped. He had to breath with his mouth due to the stitches.

When he was in a semi conscious state two hours after the operation, he asked his mother to hand him his mobile and then dialled his friend’s number and promptly wished him for this birthday.

You cannot choose your father, you cannot choose your mother and you cannot choose the way you want to live for an extent. But, you have the full control in choosing who your friend should be. Guys like Kannan are rare breed, as he not only proved that he has a lion’s heart but also it is made of pure gold.

The drunken monkey

Pete Carter laughed. He looked so exited as he was trying to open the front door of his house for more than ten minutes. It was cold, it was dark and it was windy around ten PM on a Friday night. Most of the people in the city are drunk on a Friday night. Pete Carter is no exception. He was exited and laughing on a bitterly cold night only because of the fact that he was drunk.

Pete is living in the same street as I am. I looked at him with suspicion when I came back home after a team dinner. He was trying to open the next door. Looking at the state of the weather and the state of Pete, I cared to wait for a minute to ensure that he gets inside the house safely. After getting an assurance from him that he is good, I stepped into my house.

After twenty minutes, I was getting ready to hit the sack when I heard the doorbell ring. It is quite unusual to expect a visitor at this time, so I was a bit nervous to open the door. Afterall the city is full of drunken people on a Friday night. When the doorbell rang for the fourth time, I reluctantly went to the door.

“Whos that?” I asked.

A sweet voice came on the other side and said “Hi I am Sarah and I have got a situation here. Can you please help?”

Help?, Me? At this time?, I thought for a moment and then reluctantly opened the door. When I opened the door, I saw a young woman in front of my door with deep blue eyes. I was staring at her eyes as I have never seen one as glowing as hers. She, probably has the most beautiful eyes in the world.

“ I know it is very late and I am sorry to disturb you at this time” were her first words and they came out quite fluently.

Before understanding what she said, my brain was working out whether she was drunk. The way she spoke confirmed that she is not.

“That’s ok, what can I do for you?” I asked.

“Thanks. Do you know this gentleman” and pointed her finer at the person lying on the pavement in front of our house. I took a close look at this person and it is none other than Pete. He was so drunk to stand up on his two feet. He was wide-awake though, staring at the sky and was pretending to be normal.

“ I have never seen him before but I just saw him trying to open the door” I said.
Sarah then had a look at Pete for a moment and then her watch and then the open sky. It was bitterly cold for Pete to survive the entire night on the pavement in front of my house. “Its too cold for him to survive all night, if you don’t know him I will call the police now and hand him over” she said and gave instructions to her friend Danielle, who is inside the car, to call the police.

Anne, who resides in neighbouring house, came back from work soon after. She looked at Pete for a moment and recognised him immediately.

“I know him” she said, “He resides in house number 23”

I interrupted her and said “But, he was trying to open number 19 for a long time”

“That’s quite simple to explain son, he is drunk!” said Anne.

Sarah interrupted and asked “How are you so sure that he is not residing in 19?”

“Because I do!” she replied. “Fair Enough!” I said and shared a small smile.

Anne tried to wake Pete up and pulled his shirt collar to make him sand on his two feet, but he was too heavy for all of us.

While, Anne was frantically trying to wake him up, he grabbed her chest and said “Honey, I love you, Kiss me Honey!”

“I know sweetheart, but now stand up” she replied.

Sarah was enjoying the fun to the fullest and was transmitting every singe word said by Pete to her friend Danielle who is still inside the car. So am I.

I went inside the house for a moment to get my sandals as it was too cold to stand with the bare feet outside the house. Within a couple of minutes, a couple of police offices came from nowhere.

The Police officers are in his early thirties. They wore a tight trousers and a bullet proof vest. The first person to come out of the police car introduced himself as Officer Fletcher. Sarah explained the entire story to him. Finally Officer Fletcher called Officer Nixon for assistance and they tried to pull Pete up.

Like a crane lifting a huge construction material, the police officer systematically lifted Pete up. They should have dealt a lot of similar cases before, I thought.
After lifting him up, Officer Nixon had to hold him with both his arms to ensure that he is not falling again. They then, with great difficulty, dragged him to house number 23.

Pete was vociferously protesting that he wont enter the house.
“I live in house number 23” he said.

“Yes sir, you do” replied Officer Fletcher.

“Then why are you getting me here, my house is there” Pete said and pointed to house number 19. None of us could control ourselves from laughing until our stomach ached.

Pete then escaped Officer Nixon’s arms and dragged himself to house number 19. He then called Officer Fletcher and showed number 19 on the door and said “See this is 23 and this is my house”

Officer Fletcher laughed for a minute and then said “Listen sir, I am a police officer and you have to believe me in this matter. This is house number 19 and your house is ten meters away!”

“You are a liar” he told the Police officer. Now, the officers had no choice but to drag him to house 23.

Officer Nixon told Officer Fletcher “ There is no other option, we have to get the keys from him and open the house and leave him there”. Officer Fletcher nodded to approve the idea.

Sarah, Anne Danielle and myself were watching the action together. Every second was fun as Pete came up with funny things almost every minute. Sarah, especially was enjoying the most. She was jumping all the time with excitement when Pete spoke every single time.

When the police officers dragged Pete to his house again, he refused to hand over the key to them. So, the police offices searched his pockets to find the key. After two minutes of drastic searching, they couldn’t find any.

Officer Nixon then spoke, “Where is the key sir? I cant find it in your pockets”

Pete starred at the officers for a moment and finally said “ I don’t have a key, I lost it”

Sarah, burst into laughter and ran a fair distance in circles unable to control it. Even the police officers couldn’t control their laughter. The only person who is not laughing in the entire setup is Pete. He was looking at us with amusement, as he was unable to understand why we were laughing. Residing in house 23, Peter was trying to open house 19 for more than twenty minutes. The funniest part is, he is trying to open the wrong house like most drunk people do, but Pete went a step further by trying to open the wrong house without a key in hand!

The police officers and us were trying to think a solution for this case. For the first time in my life, I was trying to solve a case with a police officer. It was funny and it was serious, as Pete needs a place to stay. Officer Nixon confirmed that there is no space in the jail for Pete as they expect a fair number of drunken people to hit the jail that night.

Anne suggested that Pete stay in his daughter’s house that night. But she is not sure where his daughter stays. So, Anne asked the police officers to check on his daughter’s details if possible.

“Where does your daughter stay?” asked the police officer.

“I don’t have a daughter” said Pete almost spontaneously. Anne reassured the police officers that Pete indeed has a daughter staying in the same city. So, she called her husband over the telephone and found out that Pete’s daughter stays in Warwick Street but he was not sure about the house number.

Officer Nixon said, “ I have handled many such cases and I think I can talk him out!” and then asked Pete “Who stays in Warwick Street?”

Pete’s face brightened immediately and said “My daughter stays there in house 19”. Everyone had a big sigh of relief that we found a place from him to stay overnight.

“I will take you there, come with me” said Officer Fletcher.

“I wont come there” declared Pete.

Everyone was stunned for a minute. No one can understand, apart from the fact that he is drunk, why he is refusing to go to his daughter’s house.
Finally he said “She will kill me if I go there”

Officer Nixon had enough and said “OK, we will take that risk now” and dragged him to the police car parked nearby.

While dragging him to the car, Officer Fletcher turned towards us, winked and said “Case solved guys, now you go back home and thanks very much”

“Thank you very much for the help” said Sarah. I looked at the most beautiful eyes in the world for a minute.

“That’s ok” I said and shook her hands and finally said goodbye to her and went back home.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Keeping one's foot down

It was five minutes to noon on a hot sunny day in Hyderabad. My uncle and I were seated inside an auto, which was racing through crowded streets in a bid to catch a train to Trichur, Kerala, which was scheduled to depart in precisely ten minutes past twelve. I was on an annual vacation from UK to India for a couple of weeks at that time and wanted to meet my two grandmothers and to get their blessings. One of them is in Hyderabad and the other is in Kerala.

I had a few important rituals to complete earlier that day in Hyderabad which gave me less than half an hour to pack things and get ready for my 24 hour train journey. I knew that I was running dangerously late and I only had fifty percent chance of catching the train. Now, I found myself running behind my uncle on platform number one where the train had just started. My uncle is a sprinter and I found it difficult to keep up with his speed. As we reached my coach, he threw my bag in and asked me to jump inside. I promptly did that, with great caution and difficulty, and waved goodbye to him and entered the coach.

De-coloured torn half trouser, old T-shirts that are discarded by my dad and hawaii chappels are my favourite wear when I go out anywhere other than to my office. Today is not an exception as I was wearing the most ugly T-Shirts of all I had. Good shirts of mine normally look ugly to others, so you can imagine how my ugly shirts look like. As, this is a long day journey, I booked my ticket in an AC coach so that I can rest a bit before I meet my grandmother.

As I entered my cubicle, I found a big family already seated there. Two women, of middle age, and three kids. They were occupying the entire cubicle. Having a small bag in my hand, I asked them to give me some space to sit. One of the middle aged women looked at me and my costume top to bottom for a minute and finally said with dismissive arrogance "This is a reserved compartment" I looked at her for a minute and asked, "Yes, can I have a seat?"

The conversation went for a couple of minutes and for the sake of stopping it I had to show my ticket to her to get a seat I reserved for me. They scanned the ticket, more than the examiner does, and reluctantly gave a seat. I heard her murmuring that all kinds of people enter into AC coach these days. On hearing that, I stared at like for a while.

She then asked, with a touch of arrogance, "What you are doing in Hyderabad" in English.

"I came to meet my grandmother,” I said politely.

"So, are you a student" she asked

I waited for a few seconds and said, "No, I work for British Airways in London" savouring every single word that came out of my mouth. I could have told her that I work for TCS and was on deputation, but I thought those words I said were the best for the given situation.

They were taken aback for a moment and finally said they thought I was a ticketless passenger. That irritated me to the core and I found myself saying, "If I ever understand you, I would find you are the most pathetic, insenstive, ignorant person in the world" and went up to my birth. There was a horrible silence in the cubicle for a while after this incident.

I had been thinking about this when I was in the upper birth. I wanted to say the exact words I wanted to say in front of insensitive people. Whatever I said is never going to hurt them, as I was only a little pest to be crushed from their point of view. But, what if it did? I was cruel and i am never cruel. I have no excuse for behaving in such a way.

I came down and apologised to them for my behaviour after a couple of hours. They were still staring at me for what i was. I then said, " I am a horrible person, so i dont have any options other than to be horrible. So, kindly excuse me"

They burst out into laughter and we started talking freely after that and I even shared dinner with them. The next morning when I woke up, they offered me coffee and confessed that they not only expected me to be from the UK but also that I would speak to them so politely. Only then I started realising that the more you grow as a person, the more calm and respectful you need to be. At the end of the day, they were happy and I was happy that we travelled together.

When I got down at Trichur, at noon the next day with the same costume, my aunty starred at me for a minute and then burst into laughter. She just cannot control herself from laughing and came towards me and stroked my hair to make it even untidy. She had another look at me and said, "I can never imagine you coming out of a train with decent clothing. I am seeing you for ten years now. Your job or the amount of money you earn never changed you even a bit". That, for me, is the best complement I can ever get from my close friends and relatives.

I met my uncle and grandmother back home and we had a lovely day visiting temples and other relatives. For them, working in a big company and going overseas is something out of the world. They always expect people to change their attitude towards people when they return from foreign countries. But, when they found that I am exactly the same person I was, they couldn't hide their happiness. They took me to their friends' house and were proud to introduce me to them.

I learnt a lot of things that day and the most important of all is, whoever you are and whatever you do, at the end of the day, it is our friends and relatives that matters the most to us. When people grow faster in life, they tend to use their wings to fly early, just as I did in the train, which is very dangerous. There can be only one advise for this situation. Keep your foot down and never let events around you, influence you.

And remember that you are always who you are!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

To hell with IT

Vijay was sweating like a pig. He looked at his watch and found that he was running dangerously late. His fingers moved slowly towards his head and he wiped off the sticky sweat caused by high humidity during summer in Chennai. Reluctantly, he woke up from his bed and dragged himself to the bathroom for a cold shower. He had to brush, shave, bath, dress and drink coffee within a small matter of thirty minutes so as to be on-time to catch the bus which takes him to his office.

Vijay is a Project manager with around six years of experience in a famous IT firm in Chennai. He has handled many high-pressure projects around the world over the years and has won many accolades for his oustanding work. He recently got married to another IT professional an year back and is a normal soul dreaming of a simple and peaceful life. For him, catching the office bus in the morning is the biggest thing in the world, until he catches the bus. People near his house often see him run like anything to catch the bus. To save time, he used to brush while bathing and have coffee while dressing. But whatever he did in the morning, his focus is always on one thing. Catching the bus on time. But why is he crazy about catching a bus everyday? If he did not catch the bus on time, then he is forced to travel by Corporation bus in pack traffic. Taking into account that he had to take three overcrowded, snail paced busses for 25 kilometers in the morning heat and humidity, it is a huge nightmare. He did experience the nightmare of going to work in corporation bus after missing the office bus. The same night, he promised himself that he would never miss the bus again.

But, will the early morning trouble end after catching the bus? It is definitely a much better option for him, but he still had to spend one and a half hours in his seat doing nothing.Vijay feels that the office bus is not too attractive. It also has its fair share of dirt inside which makes it impossible to wear anything in white.

Bus drivers in Chennai are maniacs. They hit hard on the brakes every single time they wanted to apply the brake. The same applies to acceleration as well. This obviously makes it impossible for him to read anything for more than five minutes. Is the bus conducive to induce a sleep in him? After all, he did not want to waste one and half hours when he is fresh in the morning just by sitting inside the bus doing nothing. He claims that people who are sensitive to light and sound while sleeping, cant sleep even a minute in his bus. It is a pity that radio roars on top of its voice inside the bus and also the bus has no protection to protect sharp rays of sunlight entering it. He had to sit in the bus with radio noise, hot sun and vehicle pollution for nearly one and half hours to cover twenty five kilometers. By the time he reaches office, at nine in the morning, he invariably is as tired as a dog.

Being a Project manager, life is not easy for him at work. He had to work hard to meet his targets. At the same time he had to work very hard to earn his plate of meals in the canteen. He works in a building where three thousand people work. All come running in for lunch in the only canteen facility available. People normally queue to get a token and then stand in another queue to get the food and then stand in another queue to get a seat to sit and eat. It is always a struggle for him during lunch and on a lucky day, he finishes all three queues in just under an hour! In all, it takes around a couple of hours to go back to his seat after lunch. As he is newly married, he is always under pressure to go back home soon. He had to catch the bus at 6 PM to go home at 8 PM. Again in high humidity, radio noise, heavy braking and vehicle pollution. And there is a consolation for him this time. No Sun to burn him out! At times, he had to work till late in the night to counter time lost in the queues. Also, the company is so insane to ban its employees from taking lunch being in their desk.

Travelling for long hours in the bus obviously has its effects on travelers on top of the existing hardships. There are tens of thousands of people like Vijay in Chennai. How do they mitigate this issue? They either have to quit the job or move to a location close to office. Moving close to office is virtually impossible due to very high rental prices. Even for a person like Vijay, who is a project manager by profession, cannot afford a luxurious life that he enjoys being in outskirts of Chennai.

Even though Vijay is spending eight hours or less at work, he finds it difficult to balance his time with work and life. He had to do all the household work after coming home at night. Very few people have the energy to look at things after a tiring day. Is it really worth earning so much money when you cannot balance your time between work and personal life? or when you cannot take care of your children and cannot take them out for a walk or understand their needs?

Some fool said sometime back that change is always a good thing and it is a tribute to the city that is changes rapidly and always has this unpredictability tag in the way it changes. But what would you do if something you do not want to happen, happens? How many of these people have a hobby? How often have they got time to take their loved ones in their arms and tell them how pretty they are? Why are people so ignorant about lighter side of life? It is good to sacrifice best things in life as a result of the changes this city brings in.

Vijay had started at seven in the morning and reached home late in the evening after spending eight hours at work, four hours in the bus and two hours in lunch queue. More than half the time were spent doing nothing. His wife was already asleep when he came in. He went to bed very late and was thinking about the same procedure he had to undergo for years to come.

And why wouldn't he sweat like a pig when he wakes up the next day?.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Ignoring death

During the ancient civilisation periods, food, shelter and clothing were considered as the three most essential things for all human beings. The world, from the ancient civilisation period to till date, has evolved so much that a few more items were added to the 'essential' list. The world started revolving at a greater speed ever since the electronic world has started providing cutting edge technology. One important contribution by the electronic world in the last decade is cellular phones. Can we think of living without a cellular phone in the coming years? I am convinced, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the answer would be negative. So, these cellular phones can be added into the growing list of essentials for mankind.

When cellular phones were introduced into the market more than a decade ago, it was too expensive for a common man. It was a prestigious piece of equipment owned only by people belonging to the upper middle class or higher. Due to various factors like the advancement of technology, reduction in equipment cost and competitive market growth have contributed to the reduction of operating and owning cost of a cellular phone for a common user. At one stage, it came down to such a level that anyone can own a cellular phone by depositing five hundred rupees.

Cellular phone technology is developing so rapidly that it reached even the smallest of villages in India within no time. The hardwork done by public and private sectors to convert this dream a decade ago a reality now is commendable. But, due to this fast development and reach, I think it is time we should ask ourselves a question. Are we using the technology in the right sprit without disturbing others and breaking the law? How many of us know where and where not to use the equipment? Lots of facts and safety procedures are ignored while using these cellular phones.

I saw a person, in a busy street where children were playing in the evening, driving a bike while holding a cellular phone between his shoulder and this left ear. His face was tilted to an acute angle to hold this little cellular phone. He was in a heated argument with someone on the other side of the phone and was driving with half mind and half control. Is it not a good practice to stop driving while talking? If this is worse, think of a person who uses a cellular phone inside hospitals and fuel stations. Don’t they know that it is unsafe to use the equipment in such sensitive areas? I don’t understand why people are so ignorant. Perhaps, director Shankar is correct with this battle against ignorance in his recent movie 'Anniyan'

The other night, when I was watching a movie, I was so annoyed with the person sitting in the front row when he was receiving calls with polyphonic sound in maximum volume. Why would someone be so ignorant about others nearby and that too after so many warnings from the cinemas to switch off the mobile? After watching the movie, when I came out, I saw a girl talking over the phone with someone while trying to cross the road. She was totally into another world and was simply ignoring the oncoming traffic. You will have to excuse me for this, but these kinds of people should be punished for ignorance and especially in this case, this particular girl was ignoring death. I think the cellular phone companies and service providers should take up the responsibility to induce the basic responsibilies among its users.

In one of the cruel hit and run cases near Delhi last year, a teen-age boy was hit by a car while trying to cross an express highway. It was later found that the deceased was talking over cellular phone with a friend during the last moments. Even though he ignored death, death didn’t ignore him. This is one harsh reality everyone should understand.

After completing the post mortem, the doctor completed his report saying "Death as a result of ignorance"

Monday, March 24, 2008

'Lift' me high

Every individual in this world is unique in character. Their behaviour, speech, action, sense of humour, spiritual awareness is different from one another. This uniqueness is spread across all people across all continents. It has to be preserved and embraced so as to preserve the cultural heritage, which is followed for centuries. 'Continuous change is the only constant' is the most famous mantra widely accepted throughout the world now. The world has changed, over the last two decades, and is still changing at an alarming rate threatening the cultural heritage and uniqueness followed by its people.

Global companies, in the name of outsourcing, to get cost benefits are moving its work to India. Jobs, especially in technical and customer service area, are abundant. Since the work is carried out for a customer who is thousands of miles away from where the customer service agent is, it is very difficult for the agents to understand the needs of the customer unless the agent knows the customer's cultural background. The companies are taking up this challenge as a part of its induction program, to create cultural awareness. The customer service agents are given a false name and are thought to pretend like an American in the way they speak and behave. They are encouraged by the companies to practice western culture in India. This obviously has an adverse effect on the employees as they don’t understand the western culture completely which in turn leave them following neither western nor their own culture. The behaviour of the resultant culture is wicked, which only takes the worst things out of both the cultures. Like smoking, drinking, pubbing, partying, having premarital and extra marital relationship.

If you find someone trying to behave like an American, talking in a false accent which is grammatically incorrect, to anyone who cant understand the language, then you can almost certainly say that the person belongs to this 'Confused-culture' group working in call centres.

During the IT recession time at the stroke of millennium, call centre jobs were a good source of income. I was one of those confused group of people thinking that life is cool in a call centre in Tidel park, which is the first IT park built in Chennai. Though I didn’t like the false accent, I was trying to match the fellow workers to shine in what I do.

One night, after having dinner, I took the elevator to return to my desk in the eleventh floor. Three others, a cab driver, one of my colleagues and an American client joined me in the elevator. I pressed the button marked 'Eleven' and stuck to one of the walls inside. When the elevator crossed the ninth floor, it started to fall. For a moment, I had my heart in my mouth as I was falling into an endless pit. After a couple of horrible seconds, the elevator came to a sharp halt between sixth and seventh floors. All of us were in cruel shock all of a sudden. Nobody was prepared to move. An automated voice came from the elevator's speaker. 'Don’t Panic' it cried. From that moment on, the girl in the lift started to panic and started shouting for help.

George, the American client, pressed all the buttons in the elevator to prevent another free fall. After a horrible five minutes, we heard a voice from the top, probably from the seventh floor, that help would arrive after half an hour since it was late in the night. George was the only person in the lift who didn’t panic. He infact was sharing his experience of getting stuck in an elevator in New York. In the sixth eighth floor. 'If I ever get out of this lift, I will take the day off and jump into the pool in my hotel' declared George all of a sudden. All of us, me in particular, were looking at him in amazement. Our lives were under risk until help arrives, but he was able to take it easy and was thinning of jumping into the pool when he gets out.

The cab driver, Kumaran, who is the most horrified among the group, was totally dumbstruck. I asked him, in his native language, what he would do if he goes out alive. He said that he would take care of his mother, whom he abandoned a month ago, like she took care of him when he was young. He was crying so badly that we wanted to be reunited with his mother immediately.

Tina, who was pretending as an American for four years now, said 'If I ever get out of this mess, I will take my friend to a pub in Bangalore. He always liked to see me dance late in the night'. George raised his eyebrow and asked whether she liked drinking and dancing. He was surprised to find people who he thought to exist in Chennai, do not exist in Chennai. He said, 'I read a book about South Indian culture, especially the section about Tamil Nadu, and I was very keen to get a feel of it here, but I am getting a strange feeling that whatever I read and whatever I see here don’t seem to match'. When asked, he said that he thought South Indians are tightly family oriented and know to respect family values and what they have got.

'If I ever go out of this cage' I said, unsure of what to say next. My mind went blank. While I was talking, Tina was busy over the phone with her newly found life with a boyfriend, Kumaran was still scared and was standing very close to the door while George was busy reading a book. Indeed no one was listening to me.

After another fifteen minutes, help arrived and we were taken out of the elevator by the rescue team. When the rescue team arrived, Kumaran was the first person to be taken out. He pushed all of us back and was trying to get out as soon as possible. Tina went next. George was the last person to come out. When he came out, our manager was only keen on George's condition. He made sure that George was safe and never cared about us.

'Yes', I told to myself when I was alone after this incident. George was correct, we have our own values and we fail to respect it most of the times in the name of globalisation. I was also a victim of it for a few months and desperately wanted to come out of it.

I have been thinking about this for sometime now. I went into an elevator to go to my office and came out of it an hour later. Everyone in the elevator are at least sure about what they wanted to do at the exact moment they wanted to do it.

I wish I were as lucky as they are.