Thursday, October 29, 2009

Going down (the elevator)...

The other day, I was in the lift, leaving for work. My teenaged neighbor asked me a very innocent question, but it offended me: “So where is your office? You work for a call centre right?” Now I believe, I was dressed formally and appropriately, I was leaving for work at an appropriate hour, and I carried a bagpack bigger than me which pretty much announces that I have a laptop in it (please note my intention isn’t to announce it… just that it’s convenient to carry the bagpack). So obviously, my middle-class, educated (read MBA) sensibilities were offended. After all, I didn’t slog for so many years and I didn’t spend so much money on “higher education” to be mistaken as a ‘lowly’ call centre employee, right?

Wrong! I went into a hurried explanation about how I work for a big consulting company, that I am an MBA, that I am from Symbi… things that made no difference to her, and she looked at me like a typical teenager does, especially when it comes to parents/teachers/relatives/ ‘wellwishers’ (trust me, I know that look… I kind of mastered it) which said it all: “Whatever! Sorry I brought it up. Leave me alone.”

But the journey down the elevator was extremely enlightening, as I realized that I was being the insecure one, that it really didn’t matter what she thought, that at the end of the day all professions are similar really: you have clients to serve, you have calls to attend, you have complaints to take care of! So whether you are a call girl, or you work in a call centre, or you are in a KPO or in an IT offshore unit, the basic essentials of the job remain the same! And as long as you are earning your own living, and you respect yourself for doing so, it’s really alright. And of course, I took it as a compliment that she took me to be too young to really be a post graduate and hold a ‘serious’ job (I know I am kidding myself, but still…). So yes, the downward journey doesn’t always bring about your downfall, but your ego definitely does!

Monday, October 26, 2009

December Song...

December is approaching, and usually I would be super excited because it means, Christmas, new year and yes, MY BIRTHDAY! And it also means that for the next two months I shall have the license to do anything, to eat anything, to not feel guilty about not exercising because, hey, the new year resolutions are coming up, and if I start being good from now on, what new resolutions can I make? Perfect as I am, I also need LITTLE room for self improvement, which can be postponed for the next two months. So right now, it’s time to live it up, to get up late, and to not obsess about weight (and finish those Diwali chocolates) and career (the job hunt/further studies/doing something meaningful).

But unfortunately, this year, things are a little different. On the job front, well, people say even though the worst is behind us, things are still gloomy in the marketplace. Not if you look in our department as everyday we are greeted by the news of someone or the other leaving. Nobody knows where they are going, how they are going, but yes, they are going. My concern: we have to arrange more pizza parties and farewell cakes and parting gifts, and of course, with the team size reduced to half of what it was when we joined, we don’t know what’s going to happen next, or who is going to go next. The other problem is that people around me (batch mates, seniors, friends) are suddenly bitten by the marriage bug, like this December is their last chance to get hitched or wait for six more months (very like the twice a year concept of CFA/FRM): if you don’t clear the hurdle now, it effectively means losing a year. So yes, as people are on the marriage fasttrack, as they outdo each other in the race to the mandap, as they make lifetime decisions in a matter of few hours, it freaks me out:
a) Because I have to spend money, travel across the country, and attend weddings, which admittedly, isn’t my idea to spend a weekend.
b) Because now I can no longer push my weight loss goal to next year. I have to do it RIGHT NOW.
c) Because I have to obsess about what gifts to buy.
d) Because I have to pacify my mom that just because everybody else is getting married doesn’t automatically mean I will die alone (but secretly, I know the probability of that happening is quite high, which is why I may get a dog for myself).
e) Because, I am yet to unravel the mystery behind choosing the life partner: so far, I was blissfully happy and convinced in my “feel right” theory, according to which I am supposed to when it happens, when I meet the right person, when it, well, “feels right”! But as I talk to more people, it no longer seems so simple, so effortless, and so natural.

And yes, I read Chetan Bhagat’s latest book, ‘Two States’, and it further freaked me out: The Great Indian Marriage, really really has all aspects of a B school education- legal, political, economic, social, and of course that vague jargon that we throw in when we can’t logically explain what we are doing: STRATEGY! But on a serious note, while this book was better than his two previous ones, I can’t help wondering how little expectation we have from Indian English literature. Sure, the guy is funny, but four best sellers? Seriously? May be I do have SOME hope of making it big!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Diwali: our contribution to environment and economy!

The last couple of weeks have been kind of crazy. What with a lot of reshuffling at work, I suddenly found myself neck deep in projects, and people who know me, also know that I am the kind who doesn’t really like to work! So, yes, it hasn’t been an easy time for me, but for a change, I do enjoy my job, I do feel like I am doing something meaningful, and therefore, I am not cribbing as much as I should, given my sleepless, zombie state!

And of course, it was also the Diwali weekend. Now I remember being a kid, and celebrating Diwali in Asansol with my cousins, complete with crackers and ‘Diwali ghar’ and the annual ritual of ‘bhai fota’. I also remember past Diwalis in Mumbai, uneventful and quiet, except the fireworks show at Marine Drive. And I remember getting my PPO on Diwali last year and breaking up with someone the previous Diwali: both very important events when it happened, but just some passing occasions as it seems now…

Contrary to all these past Diwali experiences, this time it was more like any other Saturday: being at home, ordering the same lunch, drinking the same pepsi, chatting about the same things- no fancy crackers, no meeting people, and definitely no puja at home. It was MY home, so I had the luxury to spend it my way. In the evening, we did light up the house with diyas, we did wear traditional clothes, and then, and then, we drank for 4 hours (or more precisely, they drank, I ate). I thought it would be fun, just watching two guys drink and listening to them, but as it turns out, when drunk people insist on ‘making points’, ‘stating facts’, and ‘establishing theories’, you really don’t know how to react… especially when they keep admiring some 6”2 woman behind you!

So that was Diwali: like any other weekend, like any other normal holiday, except the few universal, impersonal Diwali smses that came my way to which I replied dutifully. But the people who matter, called up, and that’s all matters really.

And then amidst a spate of really sad Diwali releases, we ended up watching a little known movie (Inglourious Basterds) with a little known actor, Christophe Waltz, who stole the show! And there was the usual pizza party, the lunch with old friends under new circumstances, the eat-till-you-throw up Gujrati dinner at Rajdhani, and then there was the TADA! Factor yet again which seems to haunt me now.

This Diwali was ordinary unlike the previous ones, this Diwali was nothing special, and yet, something tells me I will remember it, precisely because there is nothing to remember, because this is how my life is, this is how I spend each day…and yes, we didn't burst crackers (that makes us envieonment friendly) and we drank (that makes us economy friendly)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not quite, but almost...

I watched Wake Up Sid and Vicky Christina Barcelona: two very different movies, based on completely different premises and with no apparent parallels to be drawn… However, there were shades of me in the protagonists of both the films, people I could identify with or just sit back and watch them go through the similar turmoils, similar idiosyncrasies and the similar trials and tribulations…

Aisha Banerjee (Wake Up Sid): Played by Koko, she is the quintessential Bong girl from Kolkata, alone in Mumbai to make a career out of writing: independent, conscientious, honest, and headstrong, sure about what she wants in life, only to figure out later that may be, just may be, she hasn’t quite got it all figured out yet. And of course, there is the younger guy: the best friend, the juvenile nuisance, the kid-man, the last person she would dream of ending up with, but eventually does just that! My story? Well not quite, but yeah, almost…

Christina ( Vicky Christina Barcelona): Like most Woody Allen movies, this one too is special, in its own special, slightly sick, slightly crazy way. But that’s the hallmark of a great artist, and Woody Allen IS a great artist. So Christina (Scarlet Johansson) is the young woman, creative, artistic and liberal in the true sense of the term, but still a drifter in life, still trying to figure out what she wants, where she fits in (if at all). Diametrically opposite to her orthodox, conventional best friend Vicky, she is adventurous, intuitive, courageous, ready to make mistakes (stupid ones) and repeat them, allergic towards labels and societal conformations, willing to take chances even if it meant getting hurt, brave enough to walk away from things which “doesn’t feel right”, knowing only what she doesn’t want, while being clueless of what she does want! Me again, well at least the drifter part, the not knowing what she wants part, the allergic towards labels and conventional wisdom part. I may not kiss another woman, but the rest is pretty much on the cards, especially making stupid mistakes and repeating them…

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Dowry Structure

Someone we know is getting married. So what’s the big deal? Well, the deal is indeed big, literally! He is getting a dowry of Rs. 25 crores. Yes, 25 crores!! Obviously, like the CTCs of B school grads, the lump sum figure sounds impressive, but the actual in hand cash component isn’t that much. Still, 25 crores, in whatever form is a good enough compensation for settling down, or may be just settling… as a friend of mine put very seriously: “the size of the car you get should be directly proportional to the size of the girl… the fatter the girl, larger is the car!” So 25 crores? How fat are we talking about here?

No, this is not a feminist post raving and ranting about what’s wrong with society and the Great Indian Marriage Market- we have enough people already commenting about that. This is about the 10 minute IM conversation with my padosi immediately after we heard about the 25 crore “deal”. So yes, like we have a very well defined salary structure, now we also have a structured “dowry structure” based on this 25 crore “package”:

So the breakdown of the salary is as follows-

Joining Bonus: the 80 lac cash upfront
House Rent Allowance: the 2 bhk flat
Transportation Allowance: the Ford Fiesta car
Special Allowance: The X kg gold jewelry and X acres of land
Esops: The share in the family property

So you are left asking, where does the bride figure in? Still wondering… may be the cranky boss that comes with a handsome package!