Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Himalayan Magic

Rishikesh and the River: Sedimentary rocks. Silica sand. The river raga. Ethereal moonlight. Star sentries. Magnetic moon. Probability in the river waves. Walking a different planet.

McLeod Gunje and the Mountain: The theme is Silence. Just the sound of trees everywhere. Cicadas and green pine. A higher quality of reality with a stark contrast to all things.

Dhanolti and the Dew: Clouds sweeping up from the valley. Across the mountainside. And condensing. The sheer exhaustion of rising up 9997 feet above mean sea level.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cubicle World

A sense of territory and ownership is very common in nature. As it grows of age, every red-blooded mammal tends to develop some sense of it. Indeed, it is one of the fundamental Watson&Crick-coded guidelines for survival. So what surprises me is how, despite its extended period of existence the Discovery Channel never airs footage of the corporate world of cubicles and the law at work in the workplace. After all, the cubicle worker (henceforth known as 'Cubicler') is a territorial animal too. And with such gusto that was it was hitherto unimaginable by yours truly.

In this post, whether you hate me or not, whether they sue me or not, I shall try to remedy this oversight on Discovery's part that has led to my unprepared overexposure to elements beyond my ken.

Like any object with a weak Young's Modulus that undergoes unmanageable stress & strain, Cubiclers are permanently set. In their ways and in their ergonomically designed chairs, that tend to be set at a precise angle, a precise height & a precise tilt ever since the chair came into existence. The territorial claims of Cubiclers inevitably extend to the paraphernalia that comes to reside in the cubicle. The Kangaro Stapler, the Bilt writing pads, name-imprinted corporate diaries, pictures of personal Gods, yearly family vacations photos, personal achievement plaques etc. These are the tools a Cubicler uses to demarcate that which is his and inviolable.

Cubiclers tend to stay put. They abhor movement of all sorts - be it physical, cultural, emotional, intellectual or otherwise. A constant source of agony to them is the maintenance crew, which appears in the dead of night in the absence of the Cubicler, and in its misguided zealotry organizes the files, stationery and company-branded Post-it notes at every desk. While a beta-Cubicler rants about displaced staplers the next morning, the alpha-Cubicler sacrifices friends, family and stands guard over his territory overnight to fend off these hyaena-like miscreants. [Or maybe he has no personal life, but that's just wild conjecture on my part and inadmissible here]. To be deemed an Alpha, one must witness enough management mistakes during one's time in the cubicle to help develop an HBR-worthy case study. While Betas are pack animals, Alphas transcend departmental borders and exchange notes with other Alphas in the organization. Therefore, good management practices state that Alphas must be assigned cubicles closest to top management and must be separated from each other by atleast 15 workstations. Betas may be separated by 4 workstations.

On occasion, through the evil machinations of corporate overlords (read: management), a new Cubicler appears. This causes great upheaval in the cubicle kingdom. Initially, songs are sung, life histories are exchanged, management is spit upon and weather is discussed aplenty. But all this for a maximum of 15 minutes during which the Alpha & Betas verify the quality of the new workstation, the freshly-issued company planner, the number of visiting cards and the like and establish the territorial pecking order. The new Cubicler is then sent on (mis)guided tours to find Mr. Rajesh Vora from IT who has quit the firm 3 years ago but is still expected to set up the network on the new Cubicler's workstation. This is the first & last test of experience a new Cubicler faces when he joins a new workplace. At some point, the Cubicler lets slip he has actually joined the HR team and Sales discovers he has been allocated a space near them. After this, all further verbal communication stops & future exchanges occur only via MSExchange. Eventually though, every Cubicler learns the intricacies of survival in Cubicle world and God-willing (read: management-willing) emerges an Alpha or a Beta or a name-less Delta to take his rightful Cubicle.

So life goes on thus-ly in the cubicle world until God plays dice. Which he recently did at my organization. Management decided to combine 3 different offices & house them on a single floor in a new building. Needless to say, unprecedented Cubicle wars are being waged in grave secrecy & bitter earnest. Over numbers, areas, storage spaces, washrooms, conference rooms, distance from top management and whatnot. Unable to witness the bloodshed, yours truly did the unthinkable. I suggested that since a large section travels a lot and/or works from home, maybe we could try the consultant setup and not assign permanent seating to them.

I now dread to see which godforsaken corner behind which departmental storage unit bears my name in the new office. Oh well... a nameless Delta it is then.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A mountain of a tale

2 months and 2600 kms on a Unicorn Dazzler had gone by when one day I decided it was time for a long bike trip. So, despite a monsoon that’s got the Indian Met Dept reading tea leaves, and Uttarakashi drowning in floods, I planned a trip into the very same mountains. Against known odds.

It was the wee hours of Wednesday when I walked up to my flatmates. Days before, I had scouted the territory on Google Maps, consulted multiple travel blogs, read numerous biker tips including several on how to repair punctured tubeless tyres.

“Dude, I have chalked it all out. We go Thursday and come back Sunday. Are you coming?”

I had seen that hesitant uncertain look before. It is the same one I get from people who rode pillion with me once and never rode bikes ever again.

“Fine. But just so you know, we will be going through 2 national parks!” I declared triumphantly.

The next day at the office zoomed past me like an SUV on steroids. In the evening, at T minus 5 hours, with well-wishing roommates vowing to check my preparedness (& very likely my sanity), I felt it was time for a glance at the exact route I was going to take. As I zoomed in on slowly, my exact route faded and in its place appeared a maze of roads called Delhi. I zoomed out to find some bearings. Follow the largest roads, I thought. I meticulously followed one across Delhi, only to end up at the Maha Maya flyover. I tried again, this time, ending up in a desolate part of Faridabad. Finally, after numerous zoom-ins, zoom-outs & detours, I found the GT road which was going to lead me to the destination. But what about the return? I slowly traced the route with my finger only to find it kept meeting resistance. I zoomed out a little. It was The River Yamuna. In gloriously numerous-and-sure-to-be-flooded tributaries, the Yamuna was inundating my return path. Oh well, I could always return along GT road, I thought and readied myself for the roommate exam.

“The plan is simple.”, I said to the flatmate, looking down at a visiting card on which I had written down places, time and distances from Gurgaon. “But… err… there is a small probability that the Yamuna might intervene. Not to worry, the stretch where not a soul can come for help is only 20 km long. I can easily cover that kind of distance even on broken roads in under 3 hours right?” I ignored his shaking head and continued, “What’s more, I’d have enough time to rest too. About 4.5 hours of sleep on day one and 3 hours on day two.” I looked up from the visiting card. He seemed moved (or perturbed). Back to the drawing board that was This time I used the satellite version to rectify all holes in my fool-proof plan. Two hours later, a new route emerged. It was as clear as sunlight in a batcave. But in such situations, man being an optimist, concludes he will prevail. Or maybe that’s just me.

At T minus 10 mins .i.e. 3:20 AM, the alarm woke me up and I spotted a packed bag with keys and helmet laid out on the bedside. By 4 AM, I was doing 70 kmph on a piece of tarmac that is unbroken from Delhi to Chandigarh, commonly known as, the GT Karnal road. I had successfully gotten past that ‘well of confusion’ that truck drivers reverentially call Dhaula Kuan. So I looked at my watch and decided there was enough time for a pit stop and a snack. One could say Murthal is to dhabas what Gurgaon is to malls. I’ve often heard of starving people making the Haj from as far as Jaipur for a hearty dinner at Murthal. As you can expect, the road after the pit stop seemed a little too comfortable. No traffic, no noise, no headlights. Just numerous insect life that slowly grew in size and then became road-kill as they hit my helmet. Panipat was reached when day was breaking and I was dozing. Karnal was reached when the sun was reluctantly rising and I was rudely shaken awake by a toll-gate attendant in whom I had instilled the fear of mortality. Beyond that of course, I only have a faint recollection of driving up to a lake with a room beside it which had a really warm bed.

4 hours later, at about 11.00 AM, the alarm woke me up again, the sun had climbed out from among the clouds. After this brief interlude of suspended animation, I felt recharged. I stepped out ready to ride and realized that the lake I had dreamt up contained real water and was called Brahma Sarovar.

A little later, the road gave clear evidence it was State funded, and I slowed down. Initially, there were green fields all around. Soon, the fields became patchy and then disappeared altogether as trees and rocks took their place. I had entered the Yamuna river valley. Just a few bends in the road later, lo behold!, the Himalayas came into view. Well, not exactly the icy mountain peaks made famous by postcards, but the lower Himalayas a.k.a the Sivaliks. And what a sight to behold.

As I was beholding thusly, Yamunanagar crept towards me, unnoticed. Suddenly I felt a change in the mild afternoon sunlight. Somewhere a green light had changed to red. I felt a strong personality was blocking all further beholding. It was a traffic cop, in whose hands, a set of Dazzler keys shone mysteriously. There was nothing much for me to do except disembark. Which I did.

In his teachings, Confucius has often said that the traffic cop is the true religious and moral force of a country. At his appearance, you suddenly become conscious of a deep sense of guilt at trespassing on his property as well as an awareness of your own mortality. Every creature that plies on a road holds the traffic cop in awe. Except buffaloes, that is.

“Paper nikalo. Helmet nikalo. Kahan se ho?” he glowered, barely looking at the papers that I had already handed him.
“Gudgawan sirji”. I said, in a highly-questionable and ill-timed Haryanvi accent.
“Itna door?” barely looking at the papers. “Kahan jaa rahe ho?”
“Ghumne aaya hun sirji. Socha Haryana dekhun.”, I said brightly.

Cheeky remark. The kind that gets you one on the cheek. Especially from Haryana traffic cop who vehemently attack anything beyond their understanding. However, at this delicate juncture, his God-sent nephew intervened.
“Kya hua tau?”

Tau ignored my existence for a few minutes and went to deliberate the situation with his nephew. Despite possibly deliberating on my intelligence, my immediate financial condition and my geographical origin at various points during their discussion, they seemed to have settled it all in my favor. Evidence of this reached me just as I rehearsing pitiful crying pity in my head. The tau smiled as he returned. More importantly, my bike keys had reappeared. I thanked the star of my birth, wondering which star Tau came from, and like a photographer shooting a pride of lions, I gently got back on the bike and pushed on towards Kalesar National Park which as you all know is the only park in the state of Haryana where entry is restricted despite it not housing a single corporate headquarters.

The terrain grew rocky and steep as I entered the forest. It was a hilly forest cultivated in places. Gates into the national park appeared at places beckoning me towards their magical interiors. But even the venerable Robert Frost did say he stopped BY the woods and not IN the woods. So I kept going along the winding hill road to Paonta Sahib, whose gurudvara was my destination.

Although it has slipped the history records, Confucius once said “For good health, drink chai everywhere you go. But in greater measure, take the chaiwala’s advice.” So, I approached one of these ubiquitous chaiwalas in the Sivalik surrounded town of Paonta Sahib. It was 7.00 PM and there was no one in the vicinity except the chaiwala and his helper.

“Bhaiyya, yahan rehne ke liye koi acchi hotel hogi?”
“Kahin bhi ruk jao.”, he said, making a wide arc with his hand. Sensing the arc swept a car garage, a football ground and a bus stop in its path, I raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Hotel bhi hain, room bhi hain. Aur agar chaho toh gurudvare mein hi ruk sakte ho.”
Now that was news. “Accha! Khana, peena kuch hoga andar?”

The chaiwala looked up from his stove. Ancient wisdom of his forefathers glistened at his brow as he wiped away the chai smoke-synthesized-sweat. “Ji, andar swarg hai.”

That was that. I tied a hanky over my head in the Sikh tradition and entered the gurudvara. Indeed, as I washed my travel-stained hands & feet, I spotted the close-to-heavenly amenities for weary travelers. In time, this ‘swarg’ provided me with food, water and some bhajan-filled evening entertainment. Vowing never to laugh at sardar jokes again, I settled on the dari, took out the visiting card which was my tour guide speculated on the future, as is one's wont, when one's tummy is full of langar food.

At daybreak the next day, I crossed the bridge out of Paonta Sahib and entered a bird sanctuary where photo-allergic monkeys chased me away every time I stopped to photograph a rare bird. Anyhow, as they say, beyond every monkey there is the banana; or it still seemed, when I reached hallowed doons of Ruskin Bond’s stories. Dehradun is a quaint & sleepy town situated under immense, old trees. Birds chirped and cows mooed. Streams gurgled and shadows played. Even pictures of shuttered panshops from a re-serviced 5MP Nokia phone looked like artwork. Marveling at this novel-like reality, I wandered the streets until I spotted a green board that said Mussorie - 32 KM.

Although heavily dosed with hair pins & U-pins, a reliable BRO road brought me to Mussorie which is nestled along the sides of the Himalayan foothills. By 10 AM, I had climbed to 6000 ft. Checking into a hotel, I stopped to catch a breath (and a much-needed bath). It was 1.5 days since Gurgaon and I was already in the Himalayas. The road had been good, the bike was in condition, I had plenty of rest and all known geography had been covered. I did congratulate myself once or twice. 6000 ft! What a view! What a place! What a time! Given a chance, I may even have awarded myself a Nobel or two for travel planning or some such category. I stood by the window admiring the clouds in the valley below, slowly climbing up along the mountain and finally disappearing into them.

At 12 O’clock, I walked into the hotel lobby. It was time to trek.
“Any places to trek to nearby?” I said stretching my limbs and doing a mock push-ups against the wall. Despite my alien energetic antics, the manager gave me sedated look.
"Dhanaulti. Kempy Falls. Snow. Rainfall. 15. 20." he muttered.
“Trekking?” I probed.
Disturbed, the manager opened one eye and surveyed me through it. After an interval in which I could have traveled back to Gurgaon, he coughed.
"Dhanaulti?” I guessed. "Cough!" he replied.

So that decided, I started off towards this place on foot. Many a km later, a BRO board declared Dhanaulti was 20 km from where I stood. So, I kicked a pine cone, threw a rock down into the valley, screamed profanities that echoed and trudged back to the bike. (Eventually I came to make my peace with the hotel manager since the 20 km drive was spectacular).

However, I soon climbed to higher altitudes, into the clouds and reached a bunch of trees and hotels labeled Dhanaulti where Punjabi families were loudly admiring the scenery amidst lunch. Horrified at this sudden apparition and desperate for a quiet trek, I inquired the locals about the tourism scene, for non-tourists. Taking my harried, zealot-like look to be one filled with religious fervor, they told there was a temple nearby. On a hill top. A Hill? Eureka! the avid trekker in me rejoiced. I thanked the locals profusely, which on hindsight might have been mistaken for more religious fervor. Anyhow, I pushed onwards and by 2.00 PM found myself at the base of this hill. “Finally, some good old trekking!” I thought to myself as the 1 km ascent to the top began.

Without going into the trigonometric or gravitational details, let me say that this was not at all a trek. With a grade of 45-50 degrees, at some point, I had begun to rappel to keep going up. I admit the rapidly changing altitude and oxygen deprivation might also have intervened in this analysis, so feel free to Google. But panting people did appear at turns clutching their family, the dogs, the trees, sometimes the very ground for a lungful of air. My own lungs probably shoved aside the rib cage and internal organs permanently, searching in vain for the oxygen that it knew to exist in such abundance.

As I neared the top, I heard a distant drum beat. I began to move in step with this beat. No… It wasn’t my heart. Yes… It was indeed a dhol! A dhol-wala with a dhol at 9997 ft! After the song, the drummer paused. My metabolism was slowly returning to normal. Only high-altitude crows, high-attitude monkeys and the sounds of an apple being munched broke the silence of the hills. I looked at the watch. It was 4.00 PM. 2 hours to return to the hyper-oxygenated reality of Mussorie.

A wise man once said “With your head amongst the clouds, the world below seems a jolly good place.” Indeed as I descended, I was greeted by a poetic mist, a prosaic drizzle. But the wise man was surely not a weather man. For poems and prose were quickly replaced by permafrost in my extremities as world below still believed in things like monsoons and downpours.

So I took refuge at a chai-cum-provision store. As the chai unfroze my extremities, I shook water out of my dead phone and other paraphernalia. Minutes quickly passed into hours. Outside, the precipitation continued unabated. Evidently, I was nowhere near hotel rooms or electricity. Heeding the old man Confucius’ advice once more, I turned to the pahadi chaiwala who was boiling milk beside me.

“Baarish bahut der hoti hai yahan?” An open ended question.
“Ji, keh nahi sakte.”
 “Do-teen ghante se zyada toh nahi hogi.” A positively spun statement.
“Ji, keh nahi sakte.”
“Mussorie aaj toh nahi pahunch payenge.” A negatively spun statement.
“Ji, keh nahi sakte.”

I rummaged through the backpack containing the essentials I had brought. No raincoat, no jacket, not even a full sleeved shirt on me. A newspaper, a pair of scissors, an apple, a large plastic bag and some matches.

My mind began running a newsreel in Technicolor. A Dazzler being crane-lifted from landslide debris. A policeman walking along the broken tree trunks into the brush pointing at a muddy backpack. A journalist taking pictures of a visiting card with numbers & places on it. A tent-like structure made out of a couple of twigs, newspapers and a torn plastic cover. Some wet half-burnt matches beside a half-cooked, half-eaten body of a squirrel.

Before I discovered what was further ahead, the newsreel ran out because the chaiwala came to my rescue. He had finished his preparation. He offered me a cupful of chai and a saucer-ful of advice.

“Ji, aapke paas do option hain. Mussorie ja sakte ho. Magar bees kilometer hai. Dhanolti ja sakte ho. Magar saath kilometer hai. Aur baarish ka…” he continued, pre-empting me, “kuch keh nahi sakte.”

A soggy wet ride later, Dhanolti was where the elements were braved and extremities were warmed. And I swear by Confucius’ teachings, lo behold… there was butter chicken and rice! The next morning allowed me a rain-free return to Mussorie where I settled my hotel bill, fought a violent urge to murder the hotel manager (who was still sedated) and headed to Rishikesh. I had been to Rishikesh before and the homing pigeon in me brought me safely to Gurgaon before sunset.

As I stepped into my room and threw the helmet, keys and what not, across whereever, my cell beeped. It was my flatmate who had just gone downstairs to the parking lot.

“Status?” his message said. I was content. A precisely planned trip despite all its inherent craziness had been executed perfectly. I lazily gazed out of the window at the overcast sky. “Safe & sound.” I replied, brimming with something akin to pride.

“But why is your bike's rear view mirror cracked?”

Dear reader. Along the Sivaliks of life, we often reach such points where a mountain of a tale ends and another one begins. This is that point. So, if you don't like the suspense, stay tuned until the next post rains down upon you. But remember, "Baarish ka... kuch keh nahi sakte."

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Lady of Mercy, Lady Luck

Over the past few months, I have been frequenting what can only be called the den of disaster. That is where the erstwhile hostel 5n6 members (5n6ers) has set up camp now. On that particular day, as I walked across the hall, a steel briefcase caught my attention. With the house always in deliberate disarray, it is usually a difficult task to locate individual items. In other words it was a haystack of a house. However, the briefcase was shiny and new. Crying out for attention. A voice inside my head warned me. But as usual, inside the den, my sense of adventure muffled all wise warnings rather effectively.
15 minutes later, there were four of us. Seated at a glass topped table with piles of coloured chips in front of us. As a rookie with a death wish, I turned towards one of veterans and gestured for advice. Without taking his eyes off his cards, he said “Poker is a game of skill and luck. You will understand the rest as we go along.” That was all I needed. Or at least that was all I heard before images of large tables, cheering crowds and millions of dollars coursed through my spinal fluid.“No mercy gentlemen”, I quipped and we began playing Poker.
Round 1: The cards were good. I won.
Round 2: The cards were really good. I won.
Round 3: The cards were ok. But the others played well and I lost.
Round 4: The cards were bad. But the others weren't strong enough and I won.
30 minutes later, 3 others had joined. And on went 50 more rounds.
After 5 hours had passed thus-ly, the decibel levels of groaning/sleepy voices had risen and it was time to quit. As some rubbed the exhaustion out of their eyes, others rose from the table with their eyes twinkling. Including yours truly. In fact, I had made more money than a rookie should have. The stock market be damned, here was an investment with a real return, I thought. As I patted a weeping 5n6er on the shoulder and made my exit, he glanced at my pile of chips in deep sorrow. “It was just Lady Luck, you know”, he said.
Early next morning, I woke up to a message. “Poker tonit?” it said. The question mark was surely a gesture of jest. I was ready to play right then. But I merely replied back in the affirmative and spent the rest of the morning building card castles in my head. The setting sun found me back at the den of disaster. At a table with several 5n6ers and chips on it. Round 1 began with such good cards that a sardonic smile escaped the emotion-less poker face. “No mercy gentlemen”, I said. It turned out to be the most apt thing I could've said. I lost Round 1 with good cards. I lost Round 2 with bad cars. And the successive rounds.... with good, bad, decent, wonderful.... I lost with virtually every single permutation of the 54C3 possible. By the end of the night, the proverbial shirt had eased its way completely off my back. And the weeping 5n6er of the previous night had taken it.

As I finish this blog, my phone screen says “1 Message”. I am deep into the den of disaster, my friends, and I am ALL IN.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Information Superhighway

NOTE TO DIARY: I've reached the 21st century. My humble abode is now a 2Mbps WiFi enabled zone. May the overloading of Airtel servers begin.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

All work and word play makes Jack...

At my previous organization (which I shall call Tota Consulting Services, to avoid lawsuit) any talk about tasks, performance, targets, skills, improvement, career was all considered either heresy, sarcastic humor or burnout. With a library, TT tables, tennis courts and world class food court, gym and no download limits, they kept you engaged all day. Only on extremely rare occasions did you run into the boss. During the post-lunch snack or perhaps during a day-and-night tennis match. And even then, he'd feel apologetic asking you about the task progress. Downright embarrassed even. In fact, on the very first day at work, they introduce you to the bench and call it the talent pool. And that's when you know life is going to be good. Of all my happiest memories at TCS, the fondest are those of the talent pool in which I spent my first 2 weeks. It was pleasure blogging about those times and it still is.

In a similar spirit, I started this post by describing the many things that happen at my current workplace. Amusing things. Weird things. Unusually-seriously-taken trivial things. Naturally, I made some smart-Alec remarks about co-workers, bosses, CEOs and even some clever wordplay on the company vision, mission statements, inspirational HR slogans and the like. A tad sarcastic as usual, I guess, but that's just me being myself. After almost half the post was complete, I suddenly realized this was a permanent job. My permanent job. My bread and butter. And jam and ketchup. And toaster. And maybe even a microwave someday. On a professional level, shouldn't I play safe? Even the B-School lifeline had been used up. And on a more personal level, am I morally (cough) justified in wasting precious (cough) man-hours and brain-hours blogging?

I surely can't profess a scarcity of objets des curiosite here. Like that chirpy sparrow brained HR who knows everyone's birthday but whose birthday no one seems/wants to know. Or that dropped-as-a-child Deputy Manager scorned by the President 8 years ago, who'd rather get his 15th certification in the hope of a promotion than leave the company. Or that forever frowning VP with the Al Pacino voice replete with profound & profuse profanities who probably runs this entire company behind-the-scenes. But shouldn't I actually work for a change?

There I was. One week into the job and midway through a blog post. From across the desk, the words on the logo-embellished coffee mug stared at me accusingly. "Take initiative. Add value to your work."

So that was that. I quickly saved the draft and walked into the boss' chamber. "Good morning Sir." My boss reached into the abyss of his memory. 5 seconds passed. "Oh! Rahul right. Tum aa gaye! Surprised to see you boss. I thought you wouldn't join!?"

"No Sir. I am very much interested in this sector. Consequently I was hoping that if there are any short term tasks that could accelerate my learning curve and help me grow as a professional in the company, do let me know right away. In fact, I did my B.Tech.... (Ed's Note: Author indulged in some self-dabba which the reader shall not be subjected to).... and all this has equipped me with a rich experience. I am sure the work I do will reflect my capabilities and interests in a manner that allows me to perform to my full potential."

10 seconds passed. My boss slowly turned towards his laptop screen and made wiggly circles on the screen with the cursor. Turned back towards me and stared. 10 more seconds passed.

"Yes? Tumne kuch bola?"

"Sir, I want some challenging work to do."

"Accha.... Yaar, that reminds me. I urgently need the contact numbers for helicopter services in India. Fatafat jugaad kardo."

As the image of kids in woolen mufflers and Ma Vaishnodevi's icy peaks appeared in my mind, he added, "The thing is we're doing something never done before. Dig up some data and make a PPT on the methodology for mid-river construction with helicopter support. You'll present to the clients on Friday. Is that ok?"

The ex-IT employee (whose knowledge of helicopters and construction was limited to Discovery Channel Die Hard) gaped and absently nodded his head. The boss continued "At work, you should always feel free to take initiative. I want your learning curve to be vertical. Not flat, you know." And then a sardonic smile.

Of all the #*?$%#^$&^@# things!!!

Dear Reader, there is a moral to be learnt here. In your life, the overall scheme of things may not make sense. You may succeed at some things, fail at others for no apparent reason. But always remember: Never ever take career advice from coffee mugs. They're just to hold the damn coffee.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Maple Heights (contd/concld)

So... after office today, I made my second trip to Maple Heights to look at another apartment. As we shook hands, Agent Vinod offered me some cold water before taking me over to the apartment complex on his bike.

Agent V: Sir aap cheque se payment karenge kya?

Author: Kya farak padta. Cash, netbanking, sab chalega bhaiyya magar ghar toh dikha do pehle. Chahiye toh paise briefcase mein dal kar de du?

He laughed as waited for the lift. A sullen looking thug who I presumed was the owner's agent joined us. 7-8-9-10-11. The lift opened and there it was. A fancy door and the owner beaming. I motioned to take off my shoes but he waved me off. My agent showed me the interior and I nodded with approval at the modular kitchen, drawing room split AC, the home theatre and sofa set(not leather) blessing my luck at getting all this for INR 26000 a month.

Author: So ye saara furnishing aise hi rahega?

Bald Owner Uncle: Not really. Jitne bhi movable items hain, we'll take them. Except the geysers and woodwork.

Curse my luck I thought... the damn agent was essentially showing me an unfurnished house and at 26k it wasn't cheap at all. All the waiting at the metro queue, rickshaw bargaining couldn't be allowed to go to waste I decided. I casually struck up a conversation and told the owner I was actually looking for a furnished apartment.

Author: I work with RPG and my friend works in Deloitte. We were planning to take this house together.

Surprised look at wife who glares at her mother who glares at the husband who glares at me.

Bald Owner Uncle (smiles after a pregnant pause): Ok.. That's nice. But in that case, isn't it easier for you to buy new furniture? I'm sure in time, she might want you to buy different utensils, appliances.

I was slightly confused at his multiple misunderstandings. Firstly, my friend was a male bachelor and I was not planning a live-in as the owner seemed to assume. Secondly, it's clearly more tedious to get ACs and TVs installed. That's precisely why I wanted a furnished place! So I made my point.

Author (with a strong look at Agent Vinod): Actually, I was given to understand the house would be furnished.

Bald Owner Uncle: Thik hai... no problem. Whatever you want (looks at his wife) except the beds and puja mandir, sentimental value hai thoda, you understand, we'll leave behind. Aap ek list banao and we can discuss it. Bas payment mein adjustment kar lenge.

Owner's Wife: Ek single bed chod sakte hain. (looks at husband) AC bhi extra hoga hai na. We can leave that also for you.

Author (relieved at the flexibility and finally relaxing): Ok. Thik hai... I can do that.

Arthritic Mother: Aapko market bhi close padega and there are double parking slots in the basement.

I inspected the balcony and smiled. The view was just perfect for vodka and caviar.

Bald Owner Uncle: Actually she just moved to Gurgaon (indicating his mother) and as you can see, the living space is limited for three of us. So, we are planning to buy a 3BHK in Princeton and sell this one at 74-75.

Hmm... now what's this about? That's not good news, I thought. Questions started racing through my mind. When exactly was he planning to do this? If he sold the place, would I need to get another rental lease agreement with the new owner? How do I ensure the new owner does not evacuate me? Would I need to renegotiate the rent again? Damn!

As you know, I avoid any and all legal & governmental issues. It seemed too complicated a situation for me to enter as a third party even as a tenant. As my expressions began to cloud, the wife started pouring me some water.
Meanwhile, Agent Vinod nudged me and gently took me aside to the thug who was glowing brightly in a corner.

Agent Vinod: 75 lakhs mein toh sir, bahut hi badhiya investment hoga.

As the agents slowly painted glowing tributes about the security, raising a family in this area, proximity to vegetable market, it began to dawn on me. The cash-cheque remark, the furniture, the odd glances. Goddammit. I was in the process of BUYING the freakin apartment.

I quickly gulped down the water.

Author: Ok... Mujhe sirf layout dekhna tha. Mere friend se consult karke hi decision le sakta hun. (more smiles from owner). I will definitely get in touch with you or Vinod here. Thanks for showing me the place.

5-4-3-2-1. The bumpy rickshaw ride could not go in vain. I turned to Agent Vinod. The thug had left us alone.

Author: Accha bhaiyya. Complex toh bahut hi shaandar hai. Rent pe mil sakta hain kya yahan

Agent Vinod: Bilkul badhiya rent milega sir yahan. Is ghar pe aapko aaram se 28000 tak mil jayega

With that, I took his leave and decided to never look at Maple Heights again.

EDIT (28 June 2011): Just thought I'd let my dearest readers know that after 2 weeks of scouting around in Gurgaon, looking at 4 different houses, 1 of which I almost bought, I finalized the very 1st house I saw in Gurgaon. The deal has been sealed in the presence of the owner, his finicky grandmother, 5 agents and black labrador named Ranger. Moving in on 10th July 2011.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Maple Heights

After a month long siesta under the sun at KKD, a week long boot camp in the rains at Mumbai/Kolad, I returned to Gurgaon to restart Corporate Life v2.0. All I had to do was to find a house and settle down in the city of the 1000 malls. And what a gloriously uncongested city too. Unitech World, Vatika City, DLF Towers, Princeton Estate, Ardee City, I felt spoilt for choice. Wouldn't you? I visualized a house on the 8th floor of a skyscraper, plush interior woodwork, leather sofa, Jaquar bathtub, flatscreen TV rigged to a Playstation, central AC, armchair, vodka and caviar on a balcony overlooking the common swimming pool with interruption only by the intercom which security uses to announce the arrival of friends. Of course, all within walk-able distance from a metro station. After all, I needed to get to work everyday didn't I? Anyway, an exhaustive search on,,, yielded close to 2000 agent contacts. Pooh and bah. Now I'd play these poor chaps against each other and get the cheapest rent, I thought. But you're right. This is how every good story begins.

For a well networked student in a centrally located MDI campus, a wide selection of bikes makes Gurgaon all of 40 minutes in radius. But CorpLife v2.0 revealed the 5 km gaps between buildings and suddenly disappearing public transport that extended the Gurgaon radius to well over 2 hours. While I belittled the congested closed spaces in Mumbai, the uncongested open spaces of Gurgaon belittled me. Anyway, the very first agent took me to an apartment in Maple Heights and it wasn't bad. But it was nowhere near the vodka-caviar dream. So I put him on hold.

The next day at office, I spent the whole afternoon calling various Gargs and Sharmas. The fog of vagueness mentioned earlier lifted and from within, very reluctantly, appeared my "bachelors ke liye fully furnished 2BHK with 100% power backup aur rent INR20-25000 ke range mein". But there were no takers! Or givers rather. The Gargs said I should look at the INR30000 range. The Sharmas felt I needed more space and should look for a 3BHK. The Kumars declared that if I found a wife by Friday, they'd find me a house by Sunday. And the Agrawals exclusively dealt with people for whom power backup was simply snobbishness.

I quickly realized that in Gurgaon, all roads lead to Maple Heights. But I have not given up. This is not how the story ends. The search continues....

Sunday, May 01, 2011

IngSoc and AmeriCap

NOTE TO READER: If you have not yet read Orwell’s 1984, go to a bookstore, read it and come back here. Seriously. 

Now that I sit back and look at it, I am having a revelation. There’s an awfully strong correlation between a B-Schooler’s world and Winston’s world in 1984. Consider the following:
Firstly, you can’t disregard that IngSoc and AmeriCap are, in their own ways, solely about accumulation and perpetuation; of power and wealth respectively. Like Newspeak in 1984, we have our own lingua franca, the BSpeak. And although dialects vary across different B-Schools (vis-a-vis the 3 super-states of 1984), the jargon is quite familiar to the CNBC-TV18 or NDTV Profit watchers among you. In case you did not get it, the American version of capitalism that is practised worldwide is known as AmeriCap in BSpeak. 
Like the Ministry of Peace forever engaged in war, you have the Ministry of Student Affairs or MiniStuff, fighting for lower attendance requirements, bigger festival hoardings, faster internet speeds and sloshier parties. Like the fickle Goldstein, their enemy takes various faces of the administration, professors and even students. But the war remains perpetual. BSchools too actively encourage the ritual ‘15 minutes of hate’, where the symbol of all selfless deeds and environmentally conscious actions is hated, cursed and spit upon. In BSpeak, it’s just called the Business Ethics class.
Like the Ministry of Plenty that elevates the general quality of life by cutting food and rations, the Ministry of Professors or MiniProf, with their ever growing supply of assignments and case studies, strives tirelessly to reduce free time and destroy social life of all forms in a misguided effort to raise our standard of thinking. 
Our version of Ministry of Love, the Admin’s Lair (also called MiniLair in BSpeak parlance) is usually enveloped in cobwebs & silence as the ancient staff there stay in deep meditation year after year undisturbed by the ongoing activities of the MiniStuff, the MiniPlace (explained below) or even the powerful MiniProf. At times, inspired by inner revelations no doubt, they devise and implement new regulations that add a thicker bureaucratic layer to all the Ministries. I am convinced this is to train us in the finer nuances of AmeriCap and slow down the hectic pace we live in. The MiniLair also classifies offenders of various sorts who are often summoned to their offices and threatened and/or tortured for their own good.
And like the Ministry of Truth, we too have labyrinthine offices underground where dedicated number-cooking members work 24x7 on the B-School’s year-on-year records and inflate starting salaries to ever greater heights irrespective of U, V, W, X or even J shaped economic growth. In BSpeak, we call it the Ministry of Placements or MiniPlace. In most BSchools, responsible MiniPlaces with the aid of corporate interface depts like Ministry of Miscommunications or MiniMisCom have also been known to revise historical records to match the false claims of other ministries, no doubt for a greater goal we can never fathom. 
Like the art of doublethink, we are all practitioners of something called BoviThink in BSchools. This means doing exactly what others are doing without succumbing to your own thoughts. Two of the commandments are (1) to ignore reality and (2) to think like bovine animals. True masters of BoviThink don’t think at all (inside, outside, underneath or even on top of the box). A well known fact is that a BoviThinker’s greatest excitement comes when the MiniLair declares that his love for BigBrother is greater than his neighbours’.
Big Brother too, is common to the world of 1984 and BSchools. Everything and everyone reminds you that Big Brother is watching. Our friends & foes during those 2 years as well as our future beyond the BSchool are all decided by Him. Love Him more and be elevated to the Outer Party or even the Inner Party where you learn an arcane dialect filled with words like M&As, Brand Extensions and Synergy. Love Him less and you are claimed by the back benched Proles with their incessant gaming and free-riding. Although ONLY the abundantly generous MiniProf and infinitely wise MiniLair can truly quantify your Love for BigBrother, a visible indicator is your Thought Police record (also called Class Participation or CP in BSpeak). As any BSchooler will tell you, what truly matters in the BSchool world is the depth of your love for Big Brother or in BSpeak terms, the Cumulative Grade Point Average.
In fact, 500 assignments, 300 PPTs, 150 corporate interaction sessions, 40 management books, 15 grade docks, 10 parties, 5 committee memberships, 2 disco sessions and innumerable levitating circles later, it comes home to you, like it does to the 1984-stuck Winston. That the solar system defined 24 hours can accommodate 9 hours of classes, 5 hours of committee meetings, 3 hours of assignments, 2 hours of industry leader talks, 1 hour of project work and of course 4 hours of sleep. That Albert was wrong and George was right. Time isn't relative, it's elastic.

Ok.. maybe the revelation part at the beginning was overkill, but it's still a bloody strong correlation to warrant a post from a BSchooled author who is currently stuck in the afore-mentioned eternally elastic time with none of the above to do.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Yatra

For nearly 8 years, the wee hours of the 30th of every March went by leaving me with a cake-iced front and a tomato-reddened rear. This year was refreshingly different. With the close of FY2010-11, I slammed my academic record (of every sort!) shut. In the silence that ensued, I heard corporate and societal gremlins snickering. A plot to sabotage the peaceful machinery (of the glider fondly called My Life) was being hatched. Wanderlust had already led me to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Pushkar and McLeod Gunj (yes, yes, dedicated posts will come up shortly). But it was high time to make that final YATRA before the coffee-nourished insomniacs, monotony-infected weekdays and sanity-wrecking protocols said 'here we are!' once more. So the pilgrim was on his way and this is what his Hajj looked like.

Gurgaon --> Goa (4 days) --> Mumbai (2 days) --> Bangalore (1 day) --> Goa (9 days) --> Chennai (1/2 day) --> Kakinada (3 days) --> Visakhapatnam (1/2 day) --> Gurgaon (2 days) --> Jaipur (2 days) --> Bikaner (2 days) --> Sam (1/2 day) --> Jaisalmer (1/2 day) --> Jodhpur (1 day) --> Ajmer (1/2 day) --> Pushkar (1/2 day) --> Gurgaon (1 1/2 days) --> Visakhapatnam (1 day) --> Kakinada.

And now, after all of the above, I sit at home and compile this post, watching India go from grandstanding (courtesy: superheated Sehwag & unwitting Umar Gul) to gasping (courtesy: malfunctioning Middle Order) to gut wrenching (courtesy: well-oiled Wahab) to gunning-for-glory (courtesy: brutal bowlers & fox-terrier-ish fielders). Inshallah they won because all other scenarios would have defamed my birthday for aeons to come. Or at least until the Kaku Hoshasen from Japan killed all of us.

What next? Peace, quiet and hopefully leisure to post some more....