Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The whores of Queens Road

Once upon a time, long long ago, so long ago that no one knew how long.... oh well, ok ok, one fine day last week, I went through my usual routine (when I'm in Bangalore) and made my way the the main road from my sister's place in the morning, fresh after breakfast, ok...not so fresh coz my sister is one gawd awful cook, bless her kind heart. I deviate from the topic at hand, so, I made it to my usual spot among the whores of Queens Road.


In a corner of Queens Road, we wait in a line, peddling our wares, vying for attention, hoping we'd attract someone fast. If your mind boggles and starts wondering about my occupation, it is true I'm a banker. Then what the heck am I doing there in Queens Road? you ask.
I'm just trying to get an Autorickshaw to office.

So there I stand among a long line of office goers, waving like mad at each passing auto. While slowly cruising the road, each auto driver looks us up and down then finally makes a selection and stops. He asks, we tell, he thinks and nods or shakes his head. Soon he is on his way.

Rejection used to worry me a lot but a few days on the strip and I became a pro. Now I just shrug it off and start waving at the next passing auto. Some of us are desperate souls who yell their destination to all and sundry, in a hurry to go. So passe! Not my style, I'd rather wait for as long as it took.

In the line up I need patience, after all, all I had to offer was a trip to Residency Road, a journey that would get the driver some 20-30 rupees, not much at all when others can offer a high paying trips to the Hosur Roads or the Jakkasandras or the Bommasandras of the world .

I've realised that in the line up, pretty girls have a definite edge, long distance travellers are most preferred but bankers who travel only a short distance are in the lowest in the pecking order.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Five Rupee Faux Paus

Bangalore. After a long day's work, I started to my sister's home from office. I walked out to the road, enjoying the cool breeze, then spotting an Autorickshaw I made signs it to come hither. Hithered it did.

A bearded gent who was the my driver for the evening welcomed me aboard the auto. "Kahan jaana hai sir?'(Where do you want to go sir). he asked in Hindi. Now, Hindi is never a language I am comfortable in, Bangalore being a multi-lingual town, one does get to meet people who speak, Kannada, Hindi & Tamil all the time, so one gets used to it. Although my usage of Hindi though has suffered much ridicule in the past (much of it unwarranted I must say).

Anyway, my mind processed the auto driver's question carefully and then replied "Queens Road jaana hai" (I have to go to Queens Road).

"Meter kaam nahin kar raha hai, aap pachiis rupiya de do" (Meter isn't working, the fare would be rupees fifty) came the response from the bearded driver with a toothy smile. Again, my brain again started processing this response more slowly since this time numbers where involved now and for a banker I was not good at processing numbers fast in any language.

"Nahin nahin, mein, thirty ke zyada nahin doonga" (No no, I won't give more than thirty rupees), I replied with a firm voice. "Aap ko thirty dena hai? Theek hai, thirty de do" (You will give thirty? ok) said he.

I smiled. I looked around at no one in particular as if to say 'thats how you dealt with these guys'. A firm had is all it takes, show them who's the boss and they would follow you like lambs. I settled back on the seat like a man in supreme command of his surroundings.

In a while, my sister's residence appeared, I got off, triumphantly counted three ten rupee notes and gave it to the driver whose grin got wider. A sunny disposition these auto drivers have, I thought.

I walked in, greeting my sister and her family and eventually settled down in the living room and flipped through a magazine.

Something was wrong in my mind, the grinning auto driver's face kept flashing in my head. Finally, just to clear the air, I called my neice who learnt Hindi as a second language and asked what you said in Hindi for Fifty.

She said "You don't know? Fifty is Pachaas"

"Um. Then what is Pachiis?" I asked hesitantly. Dreading the reply.

Pat came the answer from the little one "Twenty Five".


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Clothes Encounter

"You guys are Idiots!", said S, who was in a reflective mood. I nodded my agreement. You see I am used to agreeing with people, I'm a banker. "There are so many tailors here in India yet you guys blindly go and buy readymade clothes paying fancy money". I nodded again, it is usually better to let him vent it out. "In the US tailoring is way to expensive, you can't even alter clothes that you buy off the shelf but here in India the custom made clothes is cheaper than readymade stuff, plus just look at you, look at your clothes, your shirt is way too crumpled, your sleeve length is too long and your trousers, well, I won't go there.. You guys are so influenced by their culture", said he shaking his head.
"Ok, I'll bite, give me the name of your tailor" I asked, just to get the dude off his soap box.

Thats how I found myself at the doors of Hong Kong Custom Tailors (Since 1963). I half expected the Fanucci brothers (the twittering twosome from the movie Oscar), whom I would order with the snap of my fingers like Sly Stallone did as they fitted his suit. As is the general case with me the tailor I encountered looked exactly like a different Italian movie character, Don Vito Corleone of the Godfather. As he moved slowly across the room to greet me, my lips almost uttered 'Bueno Sera', before I checked myself and said 'Hello'.
A nod and what was a minor twitch of the mouth was all I got as a greeting.

Hi Mukta, this is message is for your curious mind :-)

The efficient shop assistants, who incidentally looked like mob hitmen, without the suits and brandishing measuring tapes, started showing me the fabric, I sifted through them nervously as the Don watched. Finally, having been lead to some good material, I was ready to be measured.

The Don approached.

That very moment I was reminded of that episode of Friends, where Chandler goes to Joey's tailor and gets fondled ('cupping' was the term used) by the him while being measured.0

What if the Don cupped? I wondered. Would I get out of this place alive if I protested?

The Don picked up a tape and started measuring. No cupping, thank god! I exhaled. The Don was a thorough professional, efficient and fast.

As he was measuring my waist, I cleared my throat nervously. The Don looked up, I had permission to speak. "Wwould you be able to alter the waist later?" I asked. "Reduced?", he cocked his head to one side, that was my cue to explain. "Yes, my waist size keeps altering since I go to the gym..." I muttered.

The Don sighed. One of those optimistic wierdos, his mind seemed to tell him. "Sure sure" is all he said. I was ecstatic, I didn't know if I had to kiss his ring as a sign of thanks.

The deed was done.

A week later, I picked up a perfectly tailored sets of trousers and shirts. I professed my thanks to the Don, he just nodded.

As I wear this nice set of clothes, I now wonder if I would be ever called to be of service to the Don as a return for what he had done for me.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

One flu over the AAATISSSHOOOOOs fest

Last week was an important week in my career. I've been asked to head a new team which would be spread across South India. This is what every executive looks forward to, to have his/her own brood to watch over. The first thing I realised was that there was nothing on earth that could really prepare you for this moment, pretty much like fatherhood. You've read about it, you've seen others do it, you think, hmmm I can do a better job of it than that feller but when you come face to face with it, you just hope you don't look like the blathering idiot you feel like.

It all started with an announcement early this week. I was to set up a smart team of executives to run a specific business in South India. One always wants to make an entrance into such a scenario like Superman but reality can be a cruel thing coz it points out to 'Superman' that his underwear is showing. I've spent the whole of first week, checking if my metaphorical underwear was indeed showing. You want to appear as a fresh face yet appear to know all the ropes. You should appear to take stunning and decisive decisions yet appear like the weight of the world was in your shoulders in water cooler 'been there done that' chats.
Currently there is only one person in this team and once he heard the news he promptly came around to offer his congrats. I looked at him with fondness, my first reportee! I would enjoy watching this one grow up. (The first little one is always special isn't it? Btw 'reportee' is my own term, you won't find it in a dictionary, this is not that kinda blog anyways) My new reportee promptly dropped a dozen issues in my lap, I sighed like a proud father would and shook my head, a boss' work is never done.

I quickly realised that being a boss is all about bladder control. You see, most issues that come in for a decision are either life threatening or inane, the problem is in understand which is which. Seemingly inane issues started to blow up during the course of an hour so by the end of the first day I had decided that if I didn't pee in my pants I would be happy. Things have gotten better over the course of the week but not by much. Tip to new bosses: Keep away from water during your first day!

Interviews. I love interviews, you see I've been a salesman for a long time. I've come to realise though that being an interviewer rather than an interviewee is a whole different thing. After 10 years of meeting interviewers and giving them a grand story (oh come on, does anyone speak the truth in interviews?), I now have no clue as to whether the interviewee is being genuine or handing me a line. So out of a dozen people I've interviewed over the week, I've been able to short list only one. Call it paranoia but I just can't seem to meet the right kind of candidate. You see one needed to get a person who not only fitted the role but also should be able to transition to the next level eventually. Whoever I hire, I not only need to ensure that I get maximum productivity from them at the same time ensuring that they have a good time working here and that their career goals are met. Some would argue that working and having a good time are mutually exclusive, I can see sense in that argument, heck I was the chief proponent of that argument! It all changes I guess with being the head of a team. Now I've decided to reach office a good half an hour before it starts, cut short my lunch 'hour' and also put an end to my near famous time-outs (As a de-stresser at times I just drop everything I'm doing and walk out of office for longish periods of time. I usually end up with a new book in a coffee shop). I know I have to set the right example and have the right energy levels. I don't want to be that whiney loser who sets rules for everyone but for himself. Heck there would be no rules if I can have it my way, just specific examples if you catch my drift.
Anyway, there were some pleasant moments this week too. On Thursday, I caught up with fellow blogger and pal Lubu of the Writer's Cyberslate fame and her interesting friend Abi, at the Koshy's restaurant in Bangalore. I hardly remember the conversation though, since earlier that day I had woken up at 3 am to catch a flight from Chennai to Bangalore, by the evening I was smashed. All I remember was I had a steak & onions and that I kept blabbering about what I had done at work. Thanks Lubu for being a patient listener.
After this long week which included two days of travel. I landed in the Chennai airport with a tired body and mind. To add to the pile, I had caught the flu somewhere in Bangalore on Friday. Dad had come over to pick me up from the airport. As he drove he told me that there was a bunch of relatives had landed up at home for the weekend, so I would have to sleep in the couch. Ferpect!
It's Sunday evening and I'm dreading the coming week as I sit here sneezing into tissue papers and writing this post. I remember Sunday nights when I used to sit at home worrying about my school homework, there were Sunday nights when I had to worry about my boss' review too. I didn't quite figure that I'd be sitting here worrying about being a good boss, but I am.

Monday, January 09, 2006

All for Rs. 220

Sonia Faleiro, a popular Indian blogger writes here about an incident with a Taxi Driver. The guy apparently over charged her (ie charged her Rs. 380 when the usual fare is Rs. 160). Ms. Faleiro apprehended the driver in her building complex and along with another individual (who was 'brawnier than her') she forcibly searched him and his taxi, extracting sets of papers that apparently proved that he had three different rate sheets (a ratesheet is the physical proof of the taxi fare per distance). During her interrogation she figures that the driver is stoned and also proceeds to take a picture of him in her digital camera (which she has trumphantly put up in her blog) . She then apprently tried calling the police but couldn't reach them, so she detained the taxi driver for an hour ( to 'let him stew') inside her complex and then let him go.
Was this a triumphant heroine discharging justice where justice was due? Or is this her version of vigilante law?
Would she do the same to any other corrupt person she meets? A minister? A government official? A cop perhaps? Or wait, does the fact that the taxi driver was a harmless junkie have anything to do with this?
In one post in Ms. Faleiro's blog (where she writes about her Hurricane experience in Mumbai), she is cooped in the lobby of a five star hotel (I forget the name and I'm too lazy to hunt for that post). She apparently asked them for a room and was told that only rooms with a tariff of Rs. 10,000/- was available (a popular gimmick with 5 star hotels during excessive demand is to book all the expensive rooms before they let out the cheaper rooms). Why didn't she apply the same treatment given to the taxi driver & shake that reception clerk and check if this information was real. Whatever happened to her sense of fair play then?
Does she think what she did was legal? Isn't detaining a man and injuring him (she says a finger was cut, I hope that was a small cut, in her own words ' a thumb was cut, but not off') as illegal as over-charging in a taxi?
What of the taxi driver's legal rights? What would have happened if in the scuffle to search his taxi, he was seriously injured? Whatever happened to taking the taxi number down and then reporting the matter to the police in a formal manner?
If Ms. Faleiro took a picture of the guy, then wasn't this a blog post happening in Ms. Faleiro's mind as she dealt with him? (More dramatic the better right?)
Is this a question of a blogger abusing someone and orchestrating news? I let you decide for yourself. Now don't get me wrong, I admire Ms. Faleiro's writing and I have nothing against her but my opinion is that it is one thing is to handle a situation wrongly but to gloat over it is a whole different kettle of fish. Whatever it was, I'm quite sure if this was any other country with a stronger legal system, Ms. Faleiro would have been arrested for assault & illegal detention. But here in India, who gives a shit about the rights of a junkie taxi driver, right?
UPDATE: I wrote to Ms. Faleiro asking her about this. Till date I have not had a response from her. Further, there was an 'anonymous' comment in her post that said that Ms. Faleiro's action was correct since detaining a guy who was high for an hour would have saved 'pregnant women and school children' in the roads. I replied that there was nothing in the post that wrote about the way that guy drove his car (he would have to have driven her for more than 45 minutes for her to pay Rs. 180), all Ms. Faleiro said was that since he had a glazed look he probably was stoned(when she was interrogating him), thats it. I don't think Ms. Faleiro's actions were due to the assumption that he was stoned . All I can see is that Ms. Faleiro saw the police deal with a similar incident of meter rigging one time before (she wrote about it in a previous post) and thought, hey, I can do this! Thats what is wrong Ms. Faleiro.
Anyway my comment was not allowed on the post by Ms. Faleiro since in her blog she has to review comments before they appear on the post, subsequent comments from others have been included.
Fancily enough, I wrote about this to a fellow blogger from Mumbai, who knew Sonia Faleiro and nominated her for the IndiBlog, he hasn't replied in a week either. Small world, small people.

Two words

Shit happens...
Happy Monday! This week ain't any better from the last one and the next one doesn't look promising either :-)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Blog

Do check out my new blog about the more serious things in life. After a lot of research, the blog has been given a new and innovative title, Serious Stuff.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Letter

What Would You Say To God If You Could Write God An Email? Asked a spam email that I got today. I thought why not start the year with a letter to God. So here it is.

Dear God,

How are You doing? I wonder why no one asks You that question. I know how frustrating it was to fix a computer last week so I can't begin imagine the stress levels involved in running the Universe.

Now, at the beginning of any communication with You I've always been instructed to thank You for everything You've done for me. (Divine brownie points I reckon)

So, Thank You.

If ever I dare to list out all the things that I am thankful for, I would always end up missing something. Infact it's cool when I realise that as I write this there are things I do not know of that are in motion that I would be thankful for later.

My Mother once told me a long time ago that You were different for different people, I couldn't understand how her God was different from mine. I thought she had to be wrong after all I'm a protestant Christian as she is. Only when I got older I realised that I have questioned the very same religious practices that she finds comforting. I have found the four walls of the church to be full of politics & petty mindedness when she finds only peace and solitude. She would accept things blindly & I would argue everything I found irrational. In short, we viewed You differently. I think there is no common religion between two people, when one looks at religion as a path that leads to You. Like I am different things for different people (a son, a brother, a friend, a nephew, a colleague etc) You mean different things to different people.

Just by being different for each and everyone You make us all special. I have to admit though I'm more than a little curious as to how You deal with Michael Jackson.

I've always curious about this concept of 'sin & sinning', I don't know if it was really Your wish or if it was someone's idea to ensure order in society. Because I've often seen that when all else fails the fear of God keeps people from doing something they shouldn't be. But don't You think this concept has been abused? Well, we humans have always mucked up things and then expect You to come clean things up. Heck of a job I admit.

You know another thing I'm curious about is the concept of Heaven and Hell. But then again I'm sure I'd find out if I stick to it long enough. Knowledge after all comes with experience.

In a universe that is millions of years old, my existence of 31 years is very inconsequential, all I ask is for some help once awhile in realising that.

I shall sign off now. Thanks for being there.

Yours truly,

Rabin Stephen (but You knew that)

p.s. do cockroaches pray?