Wednesday, January 27

Year of tha boomerang

I've heard it said that one should appreciate the small comforts of life & not worry about the big stuff. The antithesis of this of course is being lulled or softened by the small comforts, not realising that some amount of wrenching could make life a little better, albeit after some sacrifices.

The regular reader is surely in no doubt about my abject view of the current workplace. It is an indolent existence; I get decent internet, the colleagues are blasé, the tasks are far & few and I very rarely have to stay back after 6 pm. If this sounds too good to be true, it isn't. If it also sounds like a retirement home labour racket or life at Blandings without the humour, then yes, perhaps that comes closest to the general state of affairs.

In less than a week it will have been 1 year since I came to Bombay, eager to start anew in the Maximum city, wondering whether I'd be able to handle the hurly-burly speed of life and having nightmares about finding myself in Dombivili station when I really wanted to get to Churchgate. I have worked before, often in shady conditions, but this was my first job (even if the pay was bare minimum) and I was excited. However, there was one little thing.

Citizens of Bombay will tell you that the biggest question after rent considerations is the length & variety of the commute to work. By variety, I mean the very real possibility of having to take a rickshaw to the bus station, taking a bus to the train station, taking a train to whichever station was closest to work & then taking either a bus, rickshaw or taxi to the actual workplace. True story. Of course, I haven't even touched upon the topic of forcing yourself on & off a train, standing on the foot-board of a jam-packed bus, the traffic jams or staggering around wearily while the heat & humidity left you less human & more an old sponge.

I got lucky, in that I walk to the train station, cross over to the east, take one bus to work & another back, with a minimum of fuss. Keeping in mind the nonchalant office atmosphere & the rather easy commute, I assume some of you may just be a shade jealous of my professional life. So, I go back to the idea espoused in para 1; the small comforts & the eventual acceptance of the routine can very easily lull you into a stupor, waking up from which gets harder as time passes.

I resigned today. Yes, I have another offer in hand & all that. A fork in the road was reached, I have chosen & for once, it is not the road less travelled. There's a Seinfeld joke about the road, but that's another story. The small comforts have sadly reached their Battle of Plassey & it was with a twinge of something that I submitted the letter. I do not know if it was the pang of sadness or that of regret. Maybe acidity. All the same, the man who was excited & apprehensive about a new job, a new life in a new city, is now excited & apprehensive about a new job. Life goes on & Bombay, while no longer so new, is indifferent to the fate of its people.

A birthday boy told me about this song & it seems apt.

Song for the moment: Grounds for Divorce - Elbow

Monday, January 11

Remember the words

The year was 1998. We were one of the first houses to have the internet in all its 14.4 kbps (but actually approximately the sq. root of 2 kbps), dial-up modem glory. Of course, it's one thing to have the internet & completely another to actually be allowed to use it. See, the pater was (and still is in many ways) what could be described diplomatically as conservative. Heaven knows what cerebral Armageddon had taken place to even allow for the idea of the net, never mind him actually getting it, but that isn't pertinent to this story. What is, was his stone-cold conviction that the internet was evil, dangerous and would quite likely flummox vital State secrets right out of the heads of his gullible brood. So yes, malignant tools like chatting on the net & email did not stand a chance. Even 2 years later, when he'd thawed a bit, using ICQ was frowned upon & I spent many an evening chatting in an atmosphere more suited to a spy thriller.

However, something inexplicable happened in '98 that no one had factored for; I had my first almost-crush. You know... the one where you get a funny feeling in your tummy when you see a certain girl & only later realise that the funniness was a precursor to the mother of all stomach aches & subsequent bed-rest. To cut a long story short, the circumstances dictated that I move out of the Middle Ages of technology & get an email address. For totally business-related correspondence, mind. The only two major players in the free email racket at the time were Yahoo & Hotmail. I picked the latter.

People today probably won't get this, but it was thrilling to have an email address back then. For one, I only got to sign into the account once a day, if I was lucky. No one replied within hours either. It took time, days even, to reply to someone because penmanship had not died out yet. The email was wonderful because not only was it letter-writing at it's speediest but it boosted your tech-credibility. All these wonderful facets of the email, Hotmail killed off nonchalantly. It offered about 3 - 5 mb of mail space & would wipe out everything if the account had not been visited every 30 days. I'd lost quite a few valuable emails thanks to such foolishness and opened a Yahoo account. But I kept the Hotmail account. Some friends would send mails there. A few relatives were encouraged to use only that address. It was handy when I needed an almost-faux address for registrations. A few years went by, the pater gave up on his muttered portents & the passable email experience continued.

Then, this happened. Invitation only, at first and whatnot but it gave the others a swift kick in the unmentionables, leaving the competitors so far behind that, well...

To counter it, Hotmail made changes and supposed improvements all of which served to 'eff it up further. Half the drafts wouldn't save. Mails, inadvertently, would not be sent. And it attracts junk mail like no one else. And just like that, to me, it became obsolete.

Today, I went through the process of closing my Hotmail account. Even as I waited for the abysmally slow Microsoft server to do it's duty, memories came tumbling by... the first email I sent out, that first reply from her, the ones which told me clearly that my love life was going nowhere, mails from friends on their first days in college & ones exchanged when we were all miserable in different parts of the world & needed empathy. All of those recollections, milestones on the highway of my life, have been saved elsewhere.

But that first email address is gone.

And just like it, so is some part of my youth.

Song for the moment: Song for the asking - Simon & Garfunkel

P.S: Or rather, will be gone... in 9 months!! Microsoft now keeps your account open for 270 days, would you believe.

Wednesday, January 6

With god on our side

Cricket is not the subject of this post, but I have to get in my 2 rupees' worth.

When the Green gang play test cricket, it's heart-stopping, thrill a minute stuff. For all the wrong reasons. Whatever else is tooted down under today, I think 'stunning' is too much of a superlative for the result. Sure, the Yellow-bellies bowled extremely well. Hussey's timely century gave them a shot at this win. Actually, nix that. Kamran Akmal's awesome attempts at what he thinks constitutes wicket-keeping, gave the Aussies a shot at this win. The only person remotely stunned might be the Pakistan coach (whoever he may be) at the sheer WTFness of the batting. At the end of the day though, I suspect everyone and his aunty knew that the Pakistanis would collapse. Like I said before, if their captain had the option of batting alone, he'd have taken it. My only amusing though this morning was that I did not fancy supporting either bunch playing & hoped that a draw might happen.

Moving on to the real deal, I (and probably most of you) read an interesting article instructing men on how to argue effectively with their other halves. All awesome & whatnot, but a few days late as far as I'm concerned. Entrenched as I am in this enervating excuse for employment, I have blogged before about the Walrus. Since I supposedly work in a team, there are others who show up daily to drink tea & surf through Gmail, Orkut & Facebook as well. Remarkably (and it is remarkable, if you know anything of my disposition), I'd managed to get along with the rest of them quite well for almost a year now. Yes, I was impressed as well but this amazing feat was achieved by minding my own business for most of the time.

I 'had' managed. The peace or rather, tolerance, has been consigned to the past. Step up, Colleague no. 1 who frequently voices the opinion that people from most parts of India are crazy. Except Maharashtrians of course, who, going by how she thinks, are a cultural group too noble for this earth, never mind India. Coming as I do from mixed cultural backgrounds, (I am proudly Puneri & love my filter coffee, dosa, thalipeeth & solkadhi) my tactic was to smile wanly, nod & get back to my dawdling. Last Friday however, C 1 said something so awesome, I lost my temper. An event that would make Mt. Vesuvius' number on Pompeii look like a case of mild flatulence gone wrong. To quote C 1 - "Oh! those south indians are crazy... so many of them go abroad & become nri's. Why don't they all just move out of the country ?" Heaven knows why that irked me, but it did. I even said I did not want to discuss the issue but she just wouldn't quit. The end result is a certain coldness in the interaction accompanied by a distinct lack of small talk.

Colleague no. 2, a busybody if there ever was one, yesterday says "Migraines are just a mental block people have." On asking her who told her this, she said her sources include books on spirituality & psychology. I have a degree in psychology. I have migraines. She does not suffer from either, by the way. The fanatic gleam in the eye subtitling the above statement along with a "I am right & you must agree" attitude put the lid on it. I can't stand proselytisers. More cold interaction etcetera.

Yes, I know I need to move jobs. Or planets.

The above are just examples of what I've seen & heard for quite a while now. I don't understand these people, especially since they all seem to start out so normally. Time & again, I've experienced the "Oh! so, you are not actually Maharashtrian?" remark. I was born in Bombay, have lived 18 years in Pune & can speak Marathi. What does that make me ? Tamil of course. The dudes down south don't quite know what to make of someone who isn't obsessed with Rajnikanth movies & obese actresses. What this does do (especially if you have ever lived abroad or attended a foreign university) is effectively keep you at arms length from everyone but the library.

(Not all Maharashtrians & South Indians are like this, I must point out. I'm just saying I don't want to have to interact with those who are. And the arms-length feeling is something quite a few people from Maharashtra who speak Tamil seem to be familiar with. I've checked.)

So, yea... I may have to learn how to argue with my colleagues. On the other hand, do I give a crap what they think ? Meh.

Song for the moment: No need to argue - The Cranberries

Monday, January 4

All or none

The discerning reader may have noticed that I'm not much for trumpeting about sport on this blog. Yes, every now and then, a post on my enduring love of test cricket will sneak through. Going-ons at Manchester United will rouse me into thrashing out an indignant paragraph. The retirement of sportsmen I thoroughly admire (and they are far & few) will elicit a nostalgic post doused in thanksgiving. But, I can never get myself to slip over the edge of fanaticism.

As this post is typing itself, Pakistan, after having wrestled Australia to the mat by the force of Darth Asif, promptly tripped over their own feet & now lie sprawled on the metaphorical pitch themselves. Mohd. Yousuf, their short-suffering captain (no one is captain long enough to be long-suffering in that country) may just decide to bat alone for the rest of the series, since the rest of that lot don't feel inclined to hang around. They probably think grafting is something to do with tree-cutting or making money on the sly. Speaking of sly money-making, match-fixing, anyone ?

The SA-England game in Durban is see-sawing in a way that no doubt sends the neutral viewer into raptures while leaving the not-so-neutral chappies wondering what in heaven's name is going on. I can sympathise with Onions though. The guy does his job, ends the SA innings and strolls off into the gazebo looking forward to a nice break & 20 minutes later, must seriously face the prospect of having to pad up. And he's the number 11, mind.

The Bangladesh innings looks like it'll get to 50 overs. Enough said.

To top it all off, Manchester United suffered their worst FA Cup upset in 26 years. Now, I'm a Man U fan i.e. loathe Liverpool & have no respect for Chelsea's 2 $ titles, but the funny thing is, I actually liked that they lost.

See, sport at it's finest allows the competitors an equal chance to win. Leaving aside the tomfoolery of umpires & referees, cheating, sledging (what's the difference eh ?) and the UDRS, it is as exciting a bloodless battle as you will ever see. Of course, if you have supported the eventual loser & suffer the keen sorrow of their defeat, I understand. But here's the thing; the phenomenon is in the end, after the reduction to it's bare necessities, a Game. And that means, on any given day, playing to the best of it's abilities, egged on by thunderous roaring, under sunshine or floodlight, a no-hoper may just defy the odds.

Or not.

For a fraction of a moment, in your tryingly certain world, the Game proffers uncertainty. Tell me that's not valuable.

Song for the moment: Battle without honour or humanity - Tomayasu Hotei

P.S: I dare you to listen to this song & not associate it with your favourite moment of sporting carnage.

The love of the game is fine & all, but India must win / draw it's Test Matches. I'm only human.