Monday, December 27, 2010

Negi and Iyer's (expected) african adventure

Currently on an African Adventure: Dec 23 to Jan 10.

I'll resume blogging in January. Enjoy the video!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm sorry, What's your name?

I admit that we Indians do look alike. I have elaborated about this earlier, and it's a fact I've come to accept. Till recently I also had a strong belief, that once you got to know us Indians, viewed our facebook profiles, talked to us, understood our problems - you would begin to view us as distinct individuals.

All that changed yesterday.

I stood there at 4pm, fretting in front of Bread Talk, waiting for Varun. The poor guy was dragging his holiday suitcase all the way to Novena Bread Talk to pick up my house key. (Varun is the other guy in the picture - the one on the left. Yes we are not twins). Since I couldn't reach him by phone, we both could only rely on gross miscommunication for aligning on the venue and time.

Varun didn't show up for 5min. And I had an equally important chai break to attend. So right then it struck me that a standard movie ticket procedure could also work at Bread Talk.

So I went to the Bread Talk counter and waited. "Welcommmmme", all the ladies screamed in unison. I walked up to the least occupied Bread Talk lady in her funny hat.

Like a typical television copy, I stuffed multiple messages and instructions in a 30 second Voiceover: "Hi. I am waiting for my friend here to give him this key. He was supposed to come here at 4pm but hasn't shown up. I thought I could leave my key here and you could hand it to him when you see him. Can?". I flipped out my phone and the pre-selected Varun facebook picture. "This is what he looks like."

She stared at the phone, and then back at me.
"I'm sorry I don't understand."

So I repeated the exact same message. Now spanning 1 minute and zoomed into the picture so she would make no mistake in recognizing Varun. By now, 3 Bread-Talk ladies had heard the speech and seen the picture.

The lady nodded and handed me a paper strip. I wrote down my name and phone number in BOLD letters; Made a box around it and wrote ME. Then in a bigger font I wrote down VARUN and handed it back to her.

"Thank you", I said and walked away towards the chai shop.

It was an excruciating 10 minutes. The tea tasted good, but I kept worrying about poor Varun, lost and wandering around Bread Talk. What if he stood far away and didn't show his face to the ladies? What if he didn't quote my name and was denied the key?

I decided to walk back to Bread Talk, abruptly ending the chai break. Saurabh, the chai break guy, obliged and came along.

The paper was still stuck on the Bread Talk wall. Clearly the plan had flopped.

I approached the same Bread Talk lady again.
"The key please, I don't think my friend is coming", I said.

She pulled out the paper from the wall. She stared at the paper, and then back at me.
"I'm sorry, What's your name?"

"I gave you the key," I said. "Can I have it back?"

She again stared at the paper and then back at me.
"I'm sorry, What's your name?"

"I am Arvind. I gave you the key. My friend isn't here so I want to take the key back."

She again stared at the paper and then back at me.

Words obviously were having no positive effect. And with Saurabh literally pointing fingers and laughing 2 feet away, I wasn't able to craft any other argument.

So I resorted to what was my last weapon. I stretched out my hand, tilted my head, politely stretched out my palm and smiled. The bread talk lady hesitantly placed the key in my hand, as if I would guffaw like a thug and run off.

When a friend visits Singapore next time, I'm going to get him an extra set of keys. Or at least gift him a fake moustache. You might not believe me, but we Indians do look a bit different.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Escape from Wynberg-Allen

(based on an incredulous true story)

Ankit, Parvesh and Sudeep stared calmly at the boundary wall. It loomed well above their heads, juxtaposed with daunting iron gates with spikes as sharp as ever. They had been planning their escape plan for over 72 hours. It was a crisp, air-tight plan. Their less audacious friends inside the walls had decided to support finances for the endeavour in any way they could. 'Let these three breathe and enjoy the air outside on our behalf', they thought. The pooled in money from their pockets added up to Rs.130, barely enough for survival for 24 hours once they achieved their escape. They had packed lightly too - barely some clothes and toiletries to survive the world outside.

With as much pomp as the system would allow them, the group bid farewell to their three friends. Soon, it was time.

The dinner bell rang sharp at 7pm. This was the moment. As per the plan, while all the others marched towards the dining hall within the prescribed 30 seconds, they alone were supposed to run towards the back gate instead and jump over the gate.

As Ankit, Parvesh and Sudeep ran, it felt like the longest 30 seconds they had experienced in their 7 years of existence. They tried to silently scale the gate; But instead found a sizeable group of batch-mates who had followed them. "C'Mon! C'Mon!", the little voices cheered. "Go! Go! Go!", they screamed. The shrieks became louder and louder.

The guard near the front gate soon became aware of the ruckus being created at the back. And very soon spotted the source - three 7 year old school boys, with toothbrushes and shorts in their bags, Rs130 in the pockets, consumed with homesickness, lurching over the school's back gate. He quickly decided to end the nuisance by informing the headmistress. A jeep headed out from the school within a few minutes.

By this time, the 3 miscreants had found their way over the gate. They ran away from the school as fast as their tiny legs could propel them. They had covered a distance of around 150m from the school, when the headmistress drove down in her jeep, plucked them from the road and took them back their school. A few scoldings, a few tears and some phone calls later, all returned to normal. All three boys went back to the mess soon to resume their dinner.

Though their attempt was foiled, the three boys basked in the glory of their attempted escape from Wynberg-Allen Boarding School School for a long, long time. According to Ankit, the plan was thus - Run away from the school. Use the collected pool of money to buy bus tickets from Mussourie to Dehradun to reach Sudeep's house. Convince his parents to loan the other two money so they could head back home from Dehradun. All this rebellion from 7 year old kids!

As I heard this story, what amazed me was the dynamite of imagination that resided in boarding school kids. Two decades later, the ones that I've encountered have all been fanstastic people. There is something special that sprouts in their hearts that us normal home kids would never develop - an infectious openess to life and experiences, the spunk to defy sacrosanct norms, a sea of friends and strong network of people who'd do a lot for you and absolutely no idiosyncracies about personal space and personal belongings.

Thank you Wynberg-Allen and other boarding schools for producing such awesome people.

If you liked this article, you might also like to read:
IIMA Scoop - Watch your Step
The Song Remains the Same

Monday, September 27, 2010

Coffee Spills: A Guide to managing the aftermath

I'd be lying if I said it took me a whole 10 months to spill another drink in the office. I'd blame the previous incident which happened last November on the agency folks, the overwhelming number of hand shakes required in the meeting and partially, Lipi. There have been other social etiquette mishaps, some uncomfortable faux pas. But none were quite as power packed as what happened today at 1.50pm. And this time I can only blame it on my zealous efforts in completing a critical report which would eventually build the company's business and enhance shareholder value (HR, please note).

There are some key things you need to remember to be an expert at managing coffee spillages:

In your unending days of corporate life, some of you will surely encounter situations where you have coffee simulatenously dripping from the desk, your laptop and your trousers. At that moment, it is not important to ponder over how you have gotten into this situation; How from being in a soporific state a few minutes ago, which forced you to get coffee in the first place, you are almost the protagonist of a mild Hollywood horror movie - the ultimate blonde screaming at everything, minus the sex angle.

It is more important to focus on the present (the dripping coffee) than the past (the dry trousers). Post coffee spillage, without giving vent to giggles, please rush to the coffee counter for some tissues.

From my previous glass spilling experience, I'd learnt from Lipi that office wipes absorb liquids; and also that laptops don't absorb liquids. Hence, before entering the crucial decision making process of whose bum to wipe first (yours or the laptop's), elevate the laptop.

(Corollary: Rational decision making is better for the laptop)
It's a simple question - should you clean up your trousers first or save your laptop from possible coffee electrical mishaps? If I understand corporate life well, your success depends a lot more on how dry your trousers are in the day vs. responsible management of office property and sound business acumen. Hence, before catering to the coffee drops and stains on the laptop, always choose to wipe yourself first.

Find a secluded spot, if opting for a bathroom cubicle seems too constrained to you. Use one hand to stretch out the affected trouser area. Use a wet issue, preferably not dripping with coffee. Wipe well. Keep a constant lookout for passerbys and the awful corridor conversationalists. Stay away from women. Even if you are catering to your crotch for very legitimate reasons, they will choose to display apathy and possibly disgust.

This is just an assumption. I wiped the laptop with a dry tissue assuming that adding moisture would increase the risk of electrocution. As a trade off, the laptop is smelling of coffee and sugar now. But I guess ants will eventually eat away whatever is sticky. So I am not too worried.

The new world corporate offices have provided plush carpeting so that it absorbs whatever spillage the hard working employees create. Using just a couple of tissues, just swipe the coffee off the desk onto the carpeting. If you are lucky, it'll be dark grey in colour and nobody will figure out your mistake for a decade.

Return back to work displaying as much normalcy as possible. Pretend it all never happened. Work hard, and lick some coffee off the laptop, if you still need the boost to stay awake.

Found this to be useful? Here are some previous guides:
A Guide to Arranged Marriages via Spreadsheets
A Guide to Girlie Shopping (by a guy)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

E8208236 - My Passport to Love

At 10.30pm tonight I received a frantic call from my angelic neighbour's father. (If you have forgotten/not read the previous story, you might want to read that first). He was hoping to use the scanner we have at home urgently for some documents. Having no reason to act otherwise I readily agreed. A few minutes later he entered our home with what I thought was some official government document that he required urgently in soft-copy.

But it wasn't. It was Aisha's passport xeroxes which she had politely persuaded her father to send across to her via email at 10.30 in the night. Some may choose to this as a daughter imposing unnecessary expectations on her father. But I chose to see it as a shining sign of stunning leadership, pro activeness and mesmerising spunk.

As the uncle handed the passport xeroxes to me, all I could see was 3 pages which captured the essence of Aisha. Her beautiful skin evident even in the callously xeroxed BW document at 150Dpi. Her history, her path to international success framed in the date-of-issue and date-of-expiry. While her father talked to her on the phone, unsuccessfully trying to memorize 3 email IDs, I surreptitiously read her passport xerox. I realized that this was the closest I'd gotten ever get to knowing her personally. After all, who but the true admirer would know that the superstar Aisha was born in a little town in Bengal. Or the fact that her hometown was Delhi...

Soon, as expected, her father handed me the phone. We spoke. Aisha's mellifluous voice drifted over the Nokia phone. Her voice seemed fresh and jovial, like she was narrating her favourite anecdote. I effortlessly noted down the email addresses on the laptop notepad, while her father frantically searched for a pen-paper. I did not interrupt him, as his fruitless act gave me a few more seconds with her. We both made false promises - she about calling me more often, and I lying that I'd take her contact number from her father.

The scanner buzzed, whipped out 3 scanned copies of the front/first/last page of the passport. I slyly offered to send it across from my mailbox. Uncle, exhausted with all the techno activity, sighed and happily agreed.

Society, and possibly you, may shun this incident as an inconsequential interaction. But where you smell the stench of futility, I enjoy the fragrance of hope. For true love will always find its visa. When this seemingly cold interaction gets stamped as a solid love affair, I will be flying high and euphoric. Both her passport and my emotions have been crafted in indelible ink. Alongside the greatest of stories, this epic journey shall be referred to as E8208236 - My Passport to Love.

If you liked this, you might also like to read:
IIMA Scoop - Watch your Step
Let Go

Sunday, July 11, 2010

When Life Offers you Balloons

(Dedicated to Chetna, Indian Ocean and Helium)

There is something fascinating about balloons. They are free spirited, cheerful and fun. And here I am clearly referring to Helium balloons. Not the lame CO2 balloons that my generation had put up with in all childhood birthday parties. You'd waste copious amounts of breath getting them filled up. You'd need to find strategic high places in the room to tie them up to make them look fun. If left unattended, they'd just sink to the bottom, hiding under the chairs. There's never a bad time to have silly regrets - So here goes: I wish I had helium balloons in my birthday parties while I was in School. More kids would have flocked to my party and the surge of popularity would have changed my personality forever. I'd have grown up with a cool title like 'That Balloon Dude'...

Anyway, I'll sort out my life issues later. This is about cooler Helium Balloons and the lessons in life you can learn from them. Because of an office event (not relevant to this article) on Friday evening our floor was filled with balloons. Like Ross and his museum muffins, this unplanned act unlocked unhappiness never seen before. People were ecstatic, smiling, getting work done and not snapping at each other. I don't have the figures, but I am sure if required the HR department would have exact details on how productivity surged on Friday evening after 5pm...

So on Friday at 6pm while Chetna clicked, deleted, approved and got some work done, I sat next to her holding a bunch of balloons, trying to improve her productivity. I don't remember the exact retort, but it had something to do with looking stupid. Right then I proposed the possibility of carrying the balloons out of the office all the way to the Indian Ocean performance we were planning to attend later in the evening. Chetna disapproved the idea instantly. Like Barney Stinson I stood up boldly and said, "Challenge Accepted". And the challenge was broadly defined as "How far can you travel with balloons in Singapore without giving up out of embarrassment or being stopped by authority?"

The rest of the article is about the bold journey with balloons and the shallow lessons we need to learn from it.

Lesson1: There's never a bad time to enjoy balloons.

People form opinions about you all the time. If you pause and take out time to enjoy balloons, you'd at best look stupid and at worst retarded. That's not a bad spectrum to be in at all. So if you enjoy balloons, let no social stigma deter you.

Hence, on Friday at 7pm, I along with mildly embarrassed friends enjoyed a pleasant walk on a windy evening from the office to restaurant across the road.

Lesson2: Be selfish. Irrespective of your age you deserve to enjoy them as much as kids.

At Aromas of India restaurant we chose the center table. As the 'special kid' in the group, I was given the corner seat right next to the balloons. Apart from our group there was another family in the restaurant with kids, who were suspiciously eying the balloons - Lazy 2010 generation who went through no struggle in life. One kid was bold enough to even point at it and say 'Balloon!'. What audacity! Sure, I could have untied one balloon and handed it to him. But how would that help the kid? Would it be a good lesson for him? Life is a struggle. As Winston Churchill said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm". And looking at his pictures, I can guess that he didn't have any balloons in life too.

Hence I ignored the kid and kept all the balloons to myself.

Lesson 2.a (for the kids): Life is a struggle.

Lesson3: The government does not want you to enjoy balloons.

We chose to visit a museum right next to the Indian Ocean venue. That's when we discovered that the 'Asian Civilization Museum' in Singapore officially does not allow balloons inside. It makes you wonder what our government official was smoking when he was writing these guidelines. But that's the truth. The guard specifically told us "Sir, we do not allow balloons inside the Asian Civilization Museum". As a consequence, I had to store the balloons inside a locker and pick them up later at the end of the museum visit.

The Indian Ocean performance was very enjoyable. As a mark of respect for all fans, I stood away from the centre so that I didn't block the view for anyone. I'd have liked to just let go of the balloons and stand in the centre and cheer...But...

Lesson 3.a: Sometime you need to just let go.

Lesson 3.b: Sometimes balloons can be a pain too.

Finally the balloons were carried all the way home where they eventually lost their spirit.

Lesson 4: Everything that has a beginning, and balloons, have an end.

So in summary, life is short. And you need to make the best of it. If God gives you balloons, enjoy them. If you don't believe in God, enjoy that too. And finally, get your HR to do events involving balloons. It's worth it.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Spreadsheets: A Guide to Arranged Marriages

I have faith that being peculiarly curious about the Arranged Marriage process without being involved in it presently gives me an unbiased picture. As I even begin to put down the first few words of this article, the potential ironical twists that could happen as a consequence fascinate me.

Scene1 - In an year from now, a prospective marriage partner gets redirected to my blog by my dad, who as a proud creator of this offspring would unconditionally considers it as a Point of Difference. The girl, thoroughly repulsed by the sheer volume of thought I've put into this subject, rejects me as a candidate. And my hours of thoughts on the arranged marriage process, meant to get it right, fails to work for me.

Scene2 - A prospectice marriage partner, who hypothetically say was 'The One' or 'One of the ones', stumbles upon this blog article. Adopting this methodology, she proceeds to screen all candidates based on the criteria mentioned below. And my profile on tamil-matrimony gets rejected by her because of a rating of 5 on geekiness for having written such a flowcharty blog.

The arranged marriage process in its initial stages is a process of elimination. This fact is quite often denied, misunderstood by people. Objectification of a person based on certain criteria is a prerequisite for making a good judgement here. So unless you are a relic who is satisfied with a mere 'Fair skinned girl' or with 'a teetotaler Jatt Sikh Sekhon', you'll need the help of an excel spreadsheet.

Yes, an excel spreadsheet - to Tabulate; Color cells red, yellow and green; Sort; Filter. As your brain fries in geeky sauce, let me continue to explain the utility of some and the futility of other criteria.

"Firstly I want a girl who is intelligent you know...If she is not from a good college, I think compatability will be an issue." - Candidate A
This point when raised in conversations invariably makes you look like a jerk, pompous or worse, irrational. Typical reactions:
"Oh yeah...You think only guys from IITs and IIMs . I know two-three guys from IIT who are real pricks / a***oles."
"Just because a girl is from say a Muzzafarpur college doesn't make her stupid. She can be quite intelligent too."

With great pleasure, I'd like to revisit a basic lesson in statistics to elucidate my point. The candidates whom you review are a sample from the universe of great guys/girls. In absolute geeky statistical terms, you should be clear in your head whether you are keen in reducing TYPE1 error or TYPE2 error.

Ho (Null Hypothesis): The Guy/Girl is right for you.

TYPE1 Error: Rejecting a Guy/Girl who could have been right for you (Rejecting a null-hypothesis when it should not have been rejected)
TYPE2 Error: Selecting a Guy/Girl who turns out to be wrong at a later stage (failing to reject a null-hypothesis when it should have been rejected)

One cannot reduce both types of error unless we increase the sample size (i.e review more number of candidates).

If the above paragraph was too geeky - You can't play it both ways. You'll have to make a conscious choice of taking the risk of rejecting more guys/girls initially who could have been it, or the risk of proceeding further with guys/girls who later have to be tactfully derailed by your parents using fuzzy reasons like "Guru ji said the stars don't match."

Flexibility - Career aspirations and Family
"My career is quite important to me." - Candidate B
Over the last year I've talked to people who have ventured into the process, in the middle of it and also those who have successfully endured the process to end up with a partner (for life). This criteria is a sensitive issue, although it's always good to state it upfront. Is the girl (occassionally the guy) ready to move / change jobs / quit her job if the relationship materializes? When it's time to have kids will she be willing to quit her job?

Common Interests
"Can you believe she likes Chetan Bhagat books!!" - Candidate C
Invariably you'll find a lot of junk in this section. Because we'll have a tendency to include all activities which we may have ever pursued in life, or those that are surrogates for personality traits that we wish to exude. Let me quote some of these for fun. I am sure you have your own collection of delectable ones from bad resume's and profiles.
Listening to Music ; Reading Books; Eating Out; Watching Movies; Playing Cricket; Love Bhelpuri;

When it's time, I'll probably throw in a 10 question trivia quiz on Seinfeld; Or host a website with a Homer Simpson quote / An XKCD strip which says 'Enter only if you find this funny.'

There are other aspects like astrological matchmaking, caste, income level which make strong elimination criteria, but I shall refrain from commenting upon them.

So once you are sure about what you want (which may perhaps never happen at all), put these criteria into an excel file - Row or Column as you prefer. At the oneset, one should also be clear about the factors that are Must-Haves and those that are Can-Haves. Ideally, Must-Haves should be used to eliminate candidates at the initial stage, and Can-Haves criteria carried over to the next stage as caveats. Of course, I know it'll never be that simple. If things were so objective and clinical the geeks would have ruled the earth.

Let me also console all appalled non-geeky readers by stating that the final choice is never via any averaged score on an excel spreadsheet. It'll eventually give way to a rigorous process of exchange of information called conversation where you have to simultaneously think, talk and listen. In normal situations where we get to talk about ourselves, the average narcisstic human being can barely manage 2 of the 3 activities. In summary:

1. Ask the right questions so that her answers can help you make a decision
2. Give as honest answers as required/possible to her questions that can help her make a decision.

Finally, there is a fascinating disconnect in expectations between men and women when approaching arranged marriages.

The Guy - "Will I have to change myself after marriage?"
A guy's biggest apprehension towards marriage is that things will not be the same anymore. He approaches the process with the hope that there is particularly minimal change in his current lifestyle. If his whole lifestyle and activities could be represented by a complicated pattern of dominoes, he'd want the marriage/wife to be an addition that doesn't disturb the rest of it. Of course that never happens.

The Girl - "What if he turns out to be a jerk?"
While adjusting to a new family is a daunting task, a girl's biggest apprehension towards marriage is that she'll end up with a jerk. Thus a girl even suspects the personality she sees through a guy's matrimony profile or when she meets him in person. A slight personality malfunction is an interesting challenge post-marriage, while his being a jerk is a serious concern. Always being a couple of steps ahead of the guy in terms of maturity and emotional intelligence, she knows that her life is going to get significantly altered by the marriage.

So she is mentally ready for it, while the guy is completely unprepared. Hence the disconnect.

If you liked this article, you'd definitely like the previous gyan on Marriage Invites.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Served with Love and a Cup of Chutney

Bus rides in India are a curious experience. And here I am referring to those long bus rides spanning a few hours, across states or involving at least one loo break. Delhites may refer to their cramped DTC / Blueline rides as an experience too. Since I completely missed out that delightful nugget of Delhi, I can only empathize with fellow Delhites and nod my head with fake compassion when they rant about the sweat, the heat and the occasional budding love affairs with Delhi creeps.

I prefer buses with aggressively tinted windows. This ensures that the passengers of non-airconditioned buses at least think that we are having a more comfortable ride. Superlatives in the bus name like Video Coach, Luxury, Deluxe, Super-Deluxe also helps me believe that this indeed is royal treatment. These buses also have mighty air conditioning that helps justify the ticket cost. And of course there is the Free Movie screening.
Now unlike inflight entertainment which involve personal screens and headphones, this movie is played from a fixed television in front exploiting the abused bus speakers for everyone's pleasure. This is quite similar to India's new Right to Free and Compulsory Education. You can't really call it a right if it is compulsory. You can't call it entertainment if it is blaring without your consent. Passengers who pay over Rs 500 for a seven hour ride would of course demand full paisa-vasool out of the journey. And you can't quite argue with that logic either. Once you occupy your (alloted) seat, the standard procedure is to stuff your bag in the cramped overhead spaces, block the passsage with the bigger suitcase, adjust the aircon fan so it blows on someone else's head. If the movie is not to your liking, you should try to recline your seat and twist your head till your neck is sprained from looking sideways. Soon you'll realize it is impossible to ignore the movie. If this bus ride happens to be in South India you can be sure they'll play the latest B-Grade regional hit.

South Indian B-Grade movies have something incredibly repulsive and addictive about them - Lead actors as alpha males with the shirt unbuttoned till at least the navel; At least one actress whose character sketch involves skimpy clothes and occasional dialogues for them to squeal 'ouch!' and appear coy; A comic character with scenes of either failed flirtations with other random side actresses (with character sketches as described above) or loud slapstick conversations with another comic character. Watching these movies for prolonged periods can halve your IQ. And that's not a joke.

After a drive of anywhere from 3-5 hours, the bus usually makes a mid-point stopover at a food joint. I am not sure about the business arrangement details of these mid-point stopovers, but it sure is one of the best examples of unhealthy business cartels. Here you have a desperate, thirsty group of travellers who need their shot of caffeine, sutta, loo breaks and some food. While they conveniently jack up the prices beyond the MRP for retail products, it's the food where the organization really turns into Dr.Evil. Being a chef at these joints surely is not the best route to improve your culinary skills. But owning such a joint ensures that your progency can have a rich comfortable upbringing so that in their adulthood they will not have to endure long uncomfortable bus rides which involve stopovers at joints with really crappy food.

Last week my sister Aparna and I were on a similar seven hour bus ride from Bangalore to Chennai. On the bus we got to watch the hero Gaja in a gripping eponymous Kannada movie where he got to flirt with a skimpily dressed actress and beat up a lot of bad guys. After a few hours, we had to get down at the prescribed stopover. You may not believe it. But the whole article up till now is a mere prologue to my anecdote about the world's worst samosa served at the stopover. To appreciate our wrath at receiving those golden triangular turds, you must emotionally be on the same page. And hence I had to describe the bad airconditioning, the seats, the movie and the length of the journey.

All this was of little concern to the waiter who nonchalantly slid the menu on our table. Aparna was sick from an overdose of Idlis. So was I. Don't mistake us to be snobs. We love our South Indian heritage and love the dish that Koreans refer to as 'those white rice donuts'. But even the most ardent Muthukrishnaramaswamy would long for some North Indian food after having consecutive Idli meals. And hence we perused the menu beyond the Snacks section. The waiter sniggered and pre-empted us before we finished saying 'Parantha'. "All that is not available", he said, and rattled three options to us - Idli, Masala Dosa and...Samosas.

Ignoring all instincts of avoiding unconventional dishes in South-Indian outlets, we boldly ordered a plate of Samosas. A point aside - why hasn't South India adopted North Indian cuisine properly while North India has mastered the art of Dhhosa and Saambur?. The waiter noted down the order and walked away. My conspiracy theory is that he would have burst into the Kitchen and screamed, "Hey! Get that crusted stuff out. We've finally found 2 suckers!"

He arrived with a plate of samosas after a few minutes. A bunch of golden triangles served with cocounut chutney. Yup, that's right. Samosas and coconut chutney. It's wrong to even call them Samosas. But we didn't know that before tasting it. Aparna cautiously picked up one samosa and peeled off the outer crust. After removing a dozen layers of crust, we discovered some potato inside which did not deserve to be served and certainly not within a dubious samosa. After a lot of deliberation, we both gave it a shot.

We spent the next few minutes mutilating the rest of the samosas. We had made 2 critical mistakes of ordering samosas and even attempting to eat them. Our day might have been ruined, but we didn't want any other travellers to be re-served the same golden things. To be doubly sure that the samosas wouldn't be reconstructed, I picked up the Cocounut Chutney and splattered it over the ripped samosas. Finally, as futile retribution, I gave a lecture to the cashier - "Stop making samosas. You make the worst samosas in the world. I don't think your cook even knows what a samosa is. You should use the money you made from all these samosas to send your cooks to north india to understand what real samosas look and taste like. Your samosas were really, really bad."

Ok I'll end the samosa anecdote here. I know you care squat about the tortorous food. Since you are really curious, the Kannada Movie ended with Gaja beating up the bad guys and the skimpily dressed actress fell in love with him. You may call that stereotypical. But sometimes I'd prefer if things turn out the way they are supposed to be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Because Friends Don't Share Everything

Dear Tata Docomo Brand Manager

This is in reference to your latest commercial on air - "Because Friends Share Everything."

I speak on behalf of the entire (Indian) male community. We friends do not share underwears with each other. You seem to have taken the phrase 'Chaddi Buddies' too literally.

If you remember your days from college, before you rapidly clawed your way up the corporate ladder, there were certain things you borrowed and many that you didn't. And underwears fall in the second category.

The flowchart for our underwear usage is as follows:

Phase1: Note dwindling stock of fresh underwears

Phase2: Run out of fresh underwears

Phase3: Repeat underwears

Phase4: Wear Underwears inside out

Phase5: Stop wearing underwears

We'll end up washing them anywhere between Phase1 to Phase5 depending on our endurance. There are other strategies for Underwear Conservation like Alternate Day Wear-out, Reserve Bad Elastic/Excessive Holes Stock and Replenish with New Inventory. But this letter isn't meant to educate you about Gen Y's underwear behaviour. Hence I shall not digress.

Simply put, your consumer insights team has convinced you that you've struck gold. You've not. We do not borrow each other's underwears ever.
Also, men do not keenly stare into their (male) friend's butt.

But let me end this on a positive note. I like what you have done with the Telecom industry. You guys ended up making up a lot of money over these years. And crashing the call tariff to 1p/sec is a decent start. I'll patiently wait for another few months before you break the 1p/sec barrier and start paying us for making phone calls.

And here's my bit of Internet Marketing for your brand - "Friends share everything. Share Talktime on Buddynet. Tata Docomo". Some intern who'll wander into your office for a couple of weeks this year might frantically google your selling line to make his 39 slide presentation on Future of Web 2.0 for Tata Docomo. This is my gift to that twit.

And finally as a bonus, here's your jingle expressed on paper. It's not mind numbing at all.

Doo too doo. Doo too Doo. Do do do co co co mo mo co mo co do do co mo mo co co mo do do co mo

Someday, I'd like to meet you and sing it right into your ear like in your 'Friendship Express' commercial. I promise to come well prepared, immaculately dressed in my own underwear.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

If only these could be put to good use...

- The ability to identify a F.R.I.E.N.D.S episode by watching just a few frames

- Guessing the mystery killer / twist in the movie 10 minutes before it is revealed
- Looking good in a leather jacket
- An intense dislike for Shahrukh Khan
- Google Wave
- Claiming that one can identify if a girl is a virgin just by looking at her (true story)
- Singing pyaar hume kis mod pe le aaya loudly in a college party
- Quoting Seinfeld in seemingly appropriate situations
- Being 3 times stronger/cleaner/sharper/brighter/more effective/
- College tshirts with the college name plastered in an obscenely large font size
- Late comebacks
- Additional unnecessary bullet points

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Joong-joong: And the way couples are...

Joong-joong: A couple's tendency to break into an tangential conversation, indifferent to the context or situation, which can last from a couple of seconds to an intense minute. It is a onomatopoeic word inspired from clanking of two giant metal plates. As the mind wanders to escape a couple's twitter, this is the visual that often fills one's thoughts.

Currently the word does not have a present continuous form like 'joong-joonging'. But we are working on it.

Couples joong-joong all the time. They joong-joong when they are out for dinner with friends. They joong-joong about dinner. They joong-joong about ordering dinner. You get the drift... The details couples dwelve into while doing joong-joong are quite often irrelevant to the others. But for some reason the couple will find it imperative to resolve it right then. This behaviour has amused me for a while now. Here is my theory on the Top 3 reasons for it. Couples reading this can help me with the other causes. Other readers can empathize.

Couples feel that they should have one unified version of any shared experience
'And then we had to wait for a long time for the taxi.'
'No it didn't take that long!'
'Cmon, it was almost 20 minutes.'
'Nooo... Maximum 15 minutes.'

A typical joong-joong example. In this case the broader incident could have been a party they attended, or them sharing details of an elaborate trip. Couples conveniently lose track of the main topic. Normal single people, or 'cool' couples will be happy to have their own version of an experience in a group. But couples publicly chisel each other's opinion till they both have identical thoughts.

Couple feel taking light-hearted jabs at each other brings wholesome entertainment to others
(This is also linked to an independent problem of humour disconnect. What couples jointly feel is funny is usually quite dull to others.)

When couples make fun of each other, it's hard to guess whether they are loving it or it's rooted in layers of discontent. As a simple rule I never interfere in such matters. You never know what your statement can spark.

'Can you please increase the AirCon temperature? I am feeling cold.'
'You know she can't even stand 25'C? What kind of a Delhite are you Pooja?'
'Oh ya? You know he claims he likes cold and then he will carry a jacket to the theatres.'
'Well that helps me to sleep. She takes me along to such bad movies!'
'Whose idea was it to see A Christmas Carol ?? You know he actually liked it?'
'What about you Arvind, did you like it or not?'

'Amm...I think I may not have seen the movie. I am not sure....'

Couples feel that food preferences, behaviour patterns and other irrelevant foibles are matters to be discussed in the open
Normal people make definitive statements about themselves "You know I love Tandoori Chicken". Couples happily make statements about the other person, which quickly degenerates into a drab exchange, or joong-joong.

'You know she really hates chicken.'
'When did I say that? Of course I love chicken.'
'We were at Loy Kee yesterday, and you said that you hated the chicken.'
'Yes. But that chicken was really bad. And the waiter was so rude...'
'You are also quite rude with waiters...'
'No I am not...'


'You know he really loves chicken.'
'Yes you get the best chicken at Loy Kee.'
'No. It's not the best....'
'Of course after eating it he burps for at least 2-3 hours.'
As much as you like your couple friends, you can't really tell them that you have the least interest in his/her poultry gas situation.

This joong-joong stage in a couple's life lasts for a while. Some couples successfully proceed to stage2 and get married. They then dutifully move to stage 3 - Kids. After stage 3, joong-joong is no longer the main problem. Instead of bearing with boring exchanges between the parents, now their friends have to put up with monologues about their lovely kids.

'Pinky really likes Strawberry Milk. I say Pinky do you want milky-milk? And she says 'No mommy, I like Stobery Milk...'

That's when you need to look for new friends.
Beware of joong-joong.

p.s - When a sample couple read this article, they joong-joonged for while on whether the article was humorous. They settled on the phrase 'kind of funny' and resumed normal conversation. Case in point.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Generic Indian Guy

December 10th 2009

Dear Generic Indian guy,

I saw you today for the first time at the bus stop. It bothered me yet again that I have so many replicas in this world. We aren't that different you know - Both around the age of 25, slaves to our laptops, mildly satisfied with life, at the start of a long, loathsome journey called a career which will end with either one's own demise or that of capitalism. Good luck with all that.

December 15th 2009

Dear Generic Indian Guy,

I noticed you in greater detail today. Yes as we made eye contact, I could have said Hi. But I didn't. I have my reasons for that, which I shall confess here at a later stage. By your looks you remind me a few friends of mine. An ambitious centre partioned hair plastered down with conservative dollops of oil. An apologetic belly nudging its way out of the safe perimeter of the belt. A laptop bag strapped a little too high to look classy. Eyes glazed lost in thoughts of some inconsequential matter in the larger scheme of things. A constant uncertainity on whether you look better with or without a stubble....

December 18th 2009

Damn it Generic Indian Guy, you work in the same company! We even shared the same lift. And here I was having fun having conversations on this 'Generic Indian Guy' theory. What if we end up working together? How will I ever broach this subject of you being the object of my obtuse humour piece?

December 24th 2009

Dear GIG,

I see you too are dressed casually today to pay some awesome homage to Jebus. After an uneventful day, we both are likely to land up for the movie 3 Idiots at the same theatre for the same show. That'll be another spot where we can conveniently ignore each other. But this can't go on forever.

....So I see you brought your bunch of generic friends to the show. One I assume laughed at all the jokes, thought Kareena looked boring with the glasses and related long tedious stories later on how in college he was less like Chatur and more like Rancho; The other friend I guess was busy SMSing his girlfriend and does not participate in good conversations with you anymore. The third one has an apologetic collection of Metallica and Pink Floyd on his laptop, swears by yesteryear hits like 'Andaz Apna Apna' and generally goes home during Diwali.....

December 31st 2009

Dear GIG,

I saw you again at the bus stop today. Wish you a Happy New Year. I know it was rude of me, right at the brink of a long lazy New Year's weekend, to not even smile at you. It's awful that we haven't begun to talk. We could become good friends you know. But greeting you goes against my principles for life beyond 25. It's not that you are not different. It's just that you are not. It takes an immense amount of effort to get to know new people. It's even harder to alter one's life for them. For you I'd have to change my weekend routine, of places to eat, of stuff to do to fit you in. And the boring conversations...Oh God...What if you turn out to be immensely boring...Every morning at the bus stop, what's the highlight going to be ? Cricket?

January 15th 2010

Dear GIG,

I think it's time. I am filled with guilt. Tomorrow, this week, or at least within this month I shall greet you. Over the last month, I may have developed a slight prejudice about you without having some basis. Who knows, your music collection may extend beyond Pink Flyod. In the For/Against Shahrukh Khan split of 80:20, you may lie on the good side. If after all the effort, you do turn out to be a wrong decision for my life, I wouldn't worry about it too much. In the bigger scheme of things, we are just a bunch of Generic Indians riding on a bus. Big deal.