Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Not a CAKE walk

It was yet another birthday, yet another year and yet another occasion that makes December so special and yes, so supremely depressing!

It was the first birthday when I didn’t even cut the cake. Of course, a certain someone’s rationalization why it’s NOT good to cut a cake on your birthday helped me get over the trauma. Well not really! I LOVE birthday cakes and I definitely want one next time. Hell with wisdom and world peace. My soon-to-be ex roommate didn’t know it was my birthday, nobody at work knew it was my birthday and clearly nobody cared to find out why I was away on the phone every fifteen minutes. But even without knowing the obvious (how can people be oblivious to MY birthday!) they were nice enough to include me in their impromptu evening chai at the tapri followed by pizza. While I missed the tapri at Company D, this is the first time when I really got to interact with some of the people in my team. And I also missed campus: the big deal people made at midnight, the memorable gifts (lack of money definitely makes you creative), the not-so-memorable birthday bumps/garbage shower/cake paste, the extent your room mates went to make it a surprise and the extent you went to pretend it IS a surprise, and of course the CAKE itself: not one, but three! Sighhh…

The day was really a blur: answering phone calls (I had no idea so many people cared enough to wish me), replying to FB posts (now FB explains why so many people remembered it. Next year I should really try removing my birthday from there and THEN see how many people remember), and waiting for the calls which I wanted but which never came. For the best may be.

I left work early and for a change felt like dressing up. So I struggled my way home from Hiranandani pleading with autowalas just to freshen up and put on new clothes, and struggled back again to Hiranandani for dinner. And after ages, I got a little high. We tried to explore a new place which didn’t go too well, as we ended up in a shady pub which did not serve fish or mutton. Hmmphhh! Don’t people care anymore about MY birthday? But the important thing is I drank! And since I am not drinking this new year, this was my last drink for 2010: the most contrasting year EVER!

Also, I got a new gas connection for my new house. And I got free gifts along with the stove and the connection: water purifier, non-stick frying pan and 1 Kg basmati rice! Never thought these things will ever give me orgasmic pleasure, but there you go! Age speaks!!

I started my birthday crying on my pillow, and I ended it the same way. But in between, I had some good times.Not to mention the 1 Kg basmati rice. What in the world am I going to do with it?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Impressions

Today I complete one week in my new organization, and as far as first impressions go, it’s been pretty awesome. As much as I love previous organization (it was more than just a company where I worked: it was the company which selected me out of all the students in my batch during Summers- the only time I was ahead of anybody, given my abysmal grades and below average CGPA, it was the company which offered me a job when other companies froze recruitments, and that too AFTER it experienced the pain I inflicted on it for two whole months of the internship, it was the company where I made the best of friends and the worst of enemies, and finally it was the company which changed my life), the differences between the two companies are stark. Company D was already an established player in this field, it was mature, it had set processes (too many of them), it was almost saturated as far as the big ideas were concerned (and hence the focus was on trivial things like formatting, decimal points and team bonding to an annoying extent), it had all the necessary resources that we barely used, and of course, it didn’t pay. But it offered a great learning platform, it made my transition from campus to corporate life a smooth one, it offered a good worklife balance, and it sponsored free trips to luxury conferences in Hyderabad where I met my friends and celebrities (Chetan Bhagat). Most of all, it had a fully functional canteen which served me breakfast, lunch and dinner. And oh, it also offered unlimited access to gmail, gtalk, facebook, orkut and not to mention the job portals, where I spent half my office hours in the last few months. To summarize, it was an internationally branded foodcourt plus internet café, which paid you to learn, surf and eat. No wonder, it ranked as one of the best places to launch your career!

Now Company C is the exact opposite. While a big name in the banking industry, it is just starting off its research division, it has no set processes, no internal bottlenecks, no hierarchy, no review process, and no resources. Heck, it doesn’t even have a fully functional cafeteria. In fact the expansion is happening as I post this blog. Two days after I joined, we were moved to a different floor, which is still under construction. As I battle my way over plastic sheets and the smell of fresh paint, as I run downstairs when I want to use the washroom or get some water/coffee/tea and as I try to come up with new ideas, the autonomy somewhat overwhelms me. Suddenly, I am asked for suggestions, suddenly my opinion seems to matter, suddenly my experience is taken seriously, and suddenly, I am treated as a grown up. No trackers to track my leaves/trainings/projects/hours, no SMS and DTE to make me “accountable”, and definitely no birthday parties to keep me entertained. It surprises me that the mundane products which seemed useless in Company D seem to make sense now (and I have introduced similar prototypes, something I swore to death previously), it scares me that here I am the only person in the team, and it also makes me nervous that may be I am not ready for this responsibility, that may be I am not matured enough, that may be I do need constant supervision, and worst of all, may be they misjudged me and I cannot live up to the expectations. From a college kid who was used to spending half the time in the café and the other half on IM/gtalk and whose document went through four rounds of review before being sent to the US manager, I am suddenly the only person in a new team and working directly with a director, suggesting databases which the company subscribe to and new products and services it can introduce.

Things I like about my new company:1. The freedom, the complete creative liberty, the challenge
2. The management or the lack of it
3. The work culture and minimal non-work related frills
4. My India director, who interviewed me and who I could look up to as a role-model (something I lacked in company D)
5. The obvious operational stuff: location, brand, money, work-life balance

Things I don’t like about my new company:
1. The complete lack of social life (unlike company D, I don’t have the campus recruits to hang out with and being the only person in the team, I don’t even have work-related interaction with people. Plus the non-existence of internal IMs and gtalk has reduced me to a social outcast. There are days I spent without even talking to anybody. So, it’s a lonely life here, which is why I get more work done)
2. Blocked access to my favourite sites (no more salivating at front end consulting roles or branding profiles and wishfully applying on iimjobs)
3. No canteen (I have been living on biscuits and cornflakes for a week now)
4. The lack of resources (unlike Company D, where I had so much to read but was too busy socializing)
5. The lack of warmth and that’s what I miss the most about Company D

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 11: Another One Bites the Dust

I hate December 11… it’s that damned date which ensures that my roommates/flatmates give up their single status and get into unholy matrimony. Last year it was my roommate from Symbi who tied the knot and this year it was my flatmate in Mumbai who did the same. While we are given ample notice and enough time to get used to the fact that things are going to change, you never quite believe it until it dawns right in front of you. In this case, I knew the wedding date almost a year in advance, I heard my friend argue/fight/discuss the details over the phone, I saw her shop for unnecessary things she will never use again, I saw her fretting over little things which I never thought mattered, I listened to her patiently as she cribbed, and we were well prepared for the grand event, or so I thought!

And it was a typical Bong wedding with all the familiar rituals that I had grown up on (and forgotten in the last few years) and things were supposed to be great. To some extent they were! Most of the CKB group managed to make it and we were meeting after a long time, it was in Kolkata, the weather was just perfect, the setting too, for a change, my sari was in place (my mom was there to help me get dressed) and unlike the couple of North Indian weddings I have attended last year, Bong weddings are less painful and less demanding (though one of the members who went red in the face carrying the bride for 15 minutes may deny it). But somehow, I can never get used to the ‘shock and awe’ feeling that overcomes me when I see a close friend get married, irrespective of how expected it is. And there is something about weddings that make my friends (the brides) glowingly beautiful- trust me, I have lived with these girls, I have survived their bad hair days and facial disasters, and I have seen them trapped in ghastly clothes (point to be noted: the distressing yellow pyjamas and the ancient blue chappals), but when I saw them dressed in their wedding ensemble, I could hardly believe my eyes.

Irrespective of how much I dislike December 11, it still manages to reinforce my faith in love and that relationships do survive the test of time and everything else. As I survive yet another cold December wedding, as I witness yet another close friend happily tie the knot, and as I come to terms with this new phase in our lives, I try to convince myself that I want it as well. The girl in me is tempted by this grand celebration of a lifetime called the “wedding”, but she is immediately silenced by the woman in me, who wants a “marriage” but is too scared to trust.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Real(i)ty Check!

In the last six months, I have had the most trying time to find a job. But what I didn’t know was finding a job was a cakewalk compared to the nearly impossible task of finding a house for rent in Mumbai: by house, I mean a decent house with decent furnishing in a decent area within a decent budget. Thanks to recession, I had the luxury of a perfect house at a very reasonable rent, and since the PPO already took care of a job, I kind of enjoyed the benefits of recession, as selfish as it may sound.

But this year, real estate rates reached its peak which made it impossible to enjoy the same lifestyle in the same budget as last year. To top it all, my loser flatmate and friend decided to get married (more on it later) ruining our perfect lives. So while she shelled out an obscene amount of money to enjoy marital bliss, I was also forced to do the same, sans marital bliss, simply because I couldn’t imagine myself living with a random girl after I was so used to living with one of my best friends.

Hence began my house hunting spree immediately after my job hunting spree. So placement consultants were replaced by brokers and real estate agents, my “sophisticated and accented” angrezi was replaced by broken Hindi, and negotiations for CTC were replaced by negotiations for rent and deposit: the rest remained the same. After two months of diligently looking through ads on the net, frantic phone calls (my phone bill crossed the one grand mark for the first time), bike rides with strange men (brokers) at odd hours and contributing to the pockets of auto drivers, finally I can sit back and relax, as I smile to myself thinking about my own little apartment, all to myself, not too far from work, not too expensive, and not too obnoxious. Yes, if you have managed to find a satisfactory house in Mumbai, you have reasons to feel proud, in fact more proud than cracking an interview in a multinational.

I made a new beginning last year, I am about to make another this year. I can only hope this turns out better than the last one!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Big Boss's Cabin

Those who have been a part of the corporate life would know the importance of the cabin: that room, usually at a corner, where all the important people sit and the important meetings are held. The size of the room depends on the ego of the person sitting inside or the strategic importance of the meetings. Now this is the room which has the potential to change the direction of your career. Very often, your year-end rating in the appraisal is directly proportional to the number of trips you made to that room, especially if the frequency of your visits increased just before your appraisal.

So when should you visit “the cabin”?

a) At least once a fortnight, it’s imperative that you take an appointment and schedule a meeting preferably after office hours just to showcase your enthusiasm and motivation to “learn from the most respected and senior person in your department.” During these meetings, you should be prepared with your fakest and brightest smile and be your flattering best!

b) Every time you get a new project, you should ensure that this important person is aware about your contribution, and hence you spend time in the cabin, exaggerating your inputs and pretending that whatever suggestion this important person gives will add tremendous value to the project.

c) You changed your team/location/department. The first thing you should do is meet the important person in the cabin and announce your arrival and your eagerness to make sweeping changes to this team/location/department which was clearly not delivering up to its potential before you came in.

d) Always use occasions like you birthday/anniversary/children or spouse’s birthday/ children’s graduation/ festivals/purchase of new house, new car, or even new dustbin (basically any excuse of any celebration) to enter the cabin on the pretext of distributing sweets. Even better, if you can strategically time these ‘celebrations’ close to appraisal. What a blessing that entrance exams and board exams coincide with your appraisal cycle!

e) Every time you foresee a project gone wrong and you were responsible for it, you go inside the cabin before the person in the cabin calls you. You take the initiative, explain the challenges, make the right excuses and blame the right people, and finally when the feedback does come in, you have already created a safety net for yourself!

P.S. In the first company I worked in, the person in the cabin didn’t like me. Once he called me inside the cabin (which was petty big incidentally) and threatened to fire me. Well, that was the only time I have ever been inside the cabin… No wonder my career is going nowhere!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Back Office Babe

So, my one month self-imposed unemployment phase is almost over and next week will witness the return of a brand new me, albeit doing the same old shit in the name of ‘research’.

For the past six months I have toyed with all sorts of profiles in all sorts of companies in all sorts of cities. After one particular exchange with my U.S. counterpart in my previous company I had almost decided that enough is enough, and I will no longer work in a support function supporting people whose cumulative intelligence is less than a five year old. In fact, I had somehow managed to get a ‘real job’ which offered ‘real work’ and ‘real learning’ in an Indian bank. However, unfortunately, the ‘real job’ refused to pay ‘real money’. And greedy that I am, especially in Mumbai and especially with sky-rocketing real estate rates, I chose instant gratification and shallow considerations over job satisfaction and meaningful work. Of course I convinced myself that ‘real banking’ isn’t my forte anyway, that I want to be a writer (which is actually true) and hence this job is more to ensure I have enough time and enough money to pursue my dream career in writing.

Hence I decided to stick to my present industry, as insignificant as it is.
Hence I decided to go with money and lifestyle over quality work.
Hence I decided to remain the back office babe (back office, yes, babe? That’s upto you to decide)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Life in the times of unemployment

I have been in Kolkata for a day now, and already I feel so different: life has suddenly slowed down; I don’t remember the last time I spent two hours in an 18th century library leafing through books, journals and newspapers, sipping my coffee, as the grandfather clock chimed 6 p.m. in the background. I looked up, startled, and surprise surprise, it was already dark outside. I hugged my shrug a little closer to me as I embraced the cool Calcutta winter, and here I use Calcutta deliberately. Somehow it reminds me of my childhood; Kolkata doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. A friend of mine who calls himself “Indian” because he belongs to mixed parentage and who hated Kolkata while he was here, but now misses it, very aptly put that even the dogs are slow here. Today, I noticed what he meant!

I also hereby declare that this weekend I finally ventured out to experience that famous nightlife of Mumbai. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I finally managed to visit a disc after spending six long years in Mumbai in the honour of my roommate’s bachelorette party (though we no longer share an apartment, I still call her my roommate) in apparently one of the popular South Mumbai clubs. Surprisingly, after a few drinks, I didn’t quite hate it as much as I thought I would! And somehow I feel a little more alive now: going out, eating out, shopping- things I haven’t done in the past six months are again becoming a part of my life…

And most importantly the big news is that my 21-year old kid brother (the one who also cooks, drives, leads his sports team in college and, in general, is the coolest person I know) has managed to get placed in his first job in one of the most coveted companies that most engineering campuses root for. He will be in Bangalore minting money and soaking up the nightlife in general and alcohol in particular (or so I am assuming) because there is nothing else to do for a college kid fresh out of college. Man, I so wish I was in Bangalore! Instead, I am still rotting in Mumbai where real estate prices have gone through the roof and there is nothing left to be done other than getting haunted by memories.

And yes, did I mention, I am writing too? Do check out my articles, and before you judge/criticize, please remember I get paid for this, and hence I can’t be completely footloose and fancyfree!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jobless and couldn't be happier!

If you thought the honeymoon phase was good, well, the unemployment phase is even better! Of course, aside from the fact that there is no comfort on the last Tuesday/Friday of the month when your salary gets credited, the going is pretty good! Also, real estate rates are at an all-time high, which is why I can no longer afford my posh existence in the happening Hiranandani area. So I have moved bag and baggage to the nearest railway platform (almost) and living out of my suitcase. But I still have a room to myself!! Cheers to privacy…

So I have been out of a job for 10 days now, and it feels sooo gooood!! I don’t know why people crib about unemployment so much. It’s god’s gift to mankind, especially after you have been working non-stop for 18 months, six of which you have spent in taking interviews/preparing for interviews.

What have I been upto? Nothing absolutely, and couldn’t be happier about my meaningless existence. I get up at 7:30, roll around on my mattress (point to be noted: I no longer have a bed) till 8:30, read the newspaper, have some coffee, and make some breakfast. Thereafter the whole day stretches in front of me as I surf the net, catch up with people (some who have no intention to catch up with me but are too polite to not reply), watch movies/Friends/HIMYM on my laptop, go window shopping, or simply walk around aimlessly listening to music. I take a bath whenever I want to, I eat (or not eat) whenever I feel like, and sleep for ages. No monotonous routine, no early morning rush to get ready for work, no crazy deadlines, and definitely no pretentious office parties or team lunches to attend. And yes, finally some time to do some freelance writing: a life as I have always dreamed of, except the sheer loneliness and emptiness sometimes gets to me.

I am off to Kolkata for two weeks after a year: have a wedding to attend, have a worried mom to convince that I don’t want to get married now, and have some nosey relatives to meet. Can’t say I am looking forward to it, but I can do with the home-cooked food, the driving lessons, and the pampering. And once I come back, sighhh… it’s back to square one, only worse! Yes, I have finally made up my mind about the company I want to join, and come December 15, I am beginning a new journey.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Two Beds and a Coffee Machine

It’s my last night in this apartment: the apartment I love so much, the apartment which has so many memories the apartment which gave me everything! But since the last couple of months it hasn’t been the same. And especially in the last couple of weeks, it’s been awful. People have been moving out and moving on, while I was stuck here, waiting and hoping, refusing to move on, alone in a 2 BHK, paying a rent which I can’t afford, especially in a month when I am unemployed. For the last year it has been more than just a rented place to crash, it was my home where I lived with people who were like family, but now it scares me, it freaks me out, but it keeps holding me back…

But finally it is over: I quit my job, and now I am moving out and hopefully moving on. As was in case of my job (I was taking interviews till the last day of my notice period), even in case of my home, I don’t know where I am going. I do know that I am moving out tomorrow though. Dragging out boxes and suitcases, emptying those huge closets, throwing away the junk I had accumulated over the last year, and most heartbreakingly, throwing away some of my books (albeit the ones I have never opened, not even in college, when I was supposed to open them). And cleaning out your closet inevitably throws up those little memories: the candles, the matchbox, that piece of paper, and of course the card.

Five things I shall miss about this house: (Let's restrict it to just five...)

1. The Friends and HIMYM episodes
2. The pizza parties
3. The cooking experiments
4. Sipping tea/coffee while sitting on the window sill and talking random stuff
5. The CKB sleepovers

Am I excited about moving on? Yes I am…
Am I scared? Most definitely…
Am I nostalgic? Of course…
Am I unhappy? Well, I am still making up my mind…

As of now, all my bags are packed, I HAVE to go (whether I am ready or not, I don’t know)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Greed is NOT good!

Well, may be greed is NOT that good after all! Last two days, I have watched two completely contrasting episodes of KBC.

First, there was an intelligent, educated, young guy became the first person of this season to win Rs. 1 crore, but then, became a victim of greed, and ended up losing most of it. Even though he managed to take home a hefty Rs. 3.25 lakhs, he would be kicking himself for missing out on something he deserved.

The very next day, there was this lady from Rajasthan, who earned a princely Rs. 4000a month in her job in the police department, who had a kid at home who needed an operation, and who was drowned in debt, cried on national television admitting that she valued money, and whatever she won would be used to solve her real problems- a refreshing change from the usual platitudes by the lucky ones on the hot seat! She may not have been highly educated, but she played smart well aware of her limitations, not taking any chances, and most of all, not being greedy! She gratefully took home Rs. 12.5 lakhs (previous guy must have been tearing his hair off) and even though she guessed the right answer to the question that could have won her Rs. 25 lakhs, she refrained from taking a chance. The mother in her stopped her from getting carried away, while the greed in her counterpart ensured he did get carried away!

The difference in the prize money doesn’t, in any way, reflect their capabilities, but it surely reflects their maturity.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Is it a happy diwali?

I remember my last diwali: six months out of B school, no real pressure at work, no real worry about where my career was going or what I wanted to do with my life; I had good friends, great colleagues, good balance, and corporate life was just an extension to campus life, except that I had more money, more freedom, and of course a rented apartment!

I remember last diwali: we dressed up in traditional clothes, lit up our place with diyas (me struggling as usual), my roommate suddenly discovered the child in herself as she blew up two grands in fifteen minutes on expensive explosives, and then I went to Pop Tates and got drunk! Ah, our contribution to the economic recovery…

Fast forward to this year: I am in the middle of a personal and professional crisis, I no longer know or care where I am going, my life is turned upside down and so is my house. My roommate of one and a half years, my friend for three years, one of my closest batchmates in Symbi, my fellow bong from Kolkata is moving out as she gets ready to start a new life of her own. As I see her pack up her stuff, as she carries cardboard boxes and suitcases into the car, as she divides up our utensils, and as she digs up old memories, I feel like shrieking out to her, “Don’t go. Let’s not change things. Let’s not move on.”

The transience of life never fails to take me by surprise…nothing is happy about this diwali!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Greed is Good!

“Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good.”

Gordon Gekko (Wall Street) may have made this is a legendary statement, but I think we all believe it and practise it to some extent. Otherwise we won’t be a capitalist economy, we wouldn’t have a nearly double digit growth rate, nor would our domestic companies swallowing up ailing multinational giants. So yes, we are ALL greedy.

But very little of this greed is actually in terms of money; after a point, the marginal utility of money indeed diminishes. In one of my interviews, I was asked about exceptions to the law of marginal utility. I didn’t have the guts to say the obvious answer, i.e. “alcohol”. But there are other things which are probably more addictive than money or alcohol, that makes us insatiable, that makes us almost blind to the extent of greedy.

Power is one, freedom is another, and love is the other…

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Honeymoon Phase

I have decided that I love notice periods: the longer the better. For a change, you can do what you want (even if it means laughing at your manager’s face because she just crossed the boundaries of ridicule) and not be worried about how it will affect your appraisal, you love the fact that your manager is scared to bully you because she knows that you can screw her case in the exit interview, and of course, you are no longer burdened with fudging your hours charged on projects, of taking inane trainings to comply with the mandatory requirements, or filling up hundred useless trackers which really add no value to anybody. But the best part of the notice period is the FREEDOM: the freedom to speak your mind, the freedom to disagree, the freedom to be rude. Even though I don’t yet know what lies ahead, I totally love being in the notice period; it’s a luxury that most people miss out on because they are so excited about joining the new job and try to buy out their notice period or adjust it with their leaves. Me, I like the extended honeymoon phase…

And on a totally different note, Happy Durga Puja!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Common Man

This weekend was one of a kind: for a few hours I actually diverted my mind from the most important thing in this world: MYSELF, and focused on the bigger picture, the bigger India, so to speak.

I watched Peepli Live: probably the most brilliant movie of this year- satirical, funny, and poignant at the same time. It tackled a serious issue (farmer suicides) and yet it never took itself too seriously, it conveyed a message and yet it did not preach, it highlighted the plight of the common man and yet it wasn’t pompous. It definitely was Oscar material: it showed the darker, poorer side of India which is the defining criteria for an Indian film to get noticed at an international forum. India Shining has no takers but poverty surely sells!

But more than Peepli Live, it was “The Common Man”- a theatre based on RK Laxman’s iconic cartoon which dominated the front pages of The Times of India for decades that stole my heart. Make no mistake, I am not the arty kinds; I don’t regularly visit art galleries or Prithvi Theatre every weekend, and I definitely don’t appreciate anything which remotely suggests, ‘good taste’: classical music, instrumental, book launches and so on and so forth. In my life I have watched some 4 theatres in total, the first one being ‘Class of 84’ in my college auditorium: Sophia Bhabha Hall. So on Saturday, when I had a chance to watch Professor Ajit Kelkar (apparently he is famous) as The Common Man in my college auditorium after four years, I couldn’t refuse. While the technical glitches were embarrassing, the performance was outstanding. The 90 minute show traversed the sixty years of political history in India post independence through selected cartoon strips: the humour was subtle, the sarcasm was apparent, and the attack on politics was politely scathing. It did make me feel guilty for not voting, it did stir me out of my usual apathy towards politics, it did make me conscious of my indifference.

Call it a temporary insanity, but for a couple of hours, I was actually entertaining thoughts of being a ‘responsible citizen’, of ‘doing something to change the system’, of ‘making a difference’, but by later in the night, I was back to being myself, i.e. uploading my CV and applying for jobs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

That time when I tell myself that ALL jobs have dignity including this...

Here is the latest from my never-ending quest for the perfect job (apparently, like the perfect man, the concept of the perfect job is also a myth)…

Yesterday I get an email from a popular job site, addressed specifically to me…
My reaction: Sigh of relief (at least this isn’t one of those mass mails for call centre/BPO profiles)

The role is of an ‘advisor’ which sounds respectable and impressive…
My reaction: Interested I scroll down for more details

Salary is 15k-17k per month with incentives ranging from 3k-40k pm…
My reaction: Dampened, but still curious about the 40k incentive per month, I scroll down further

The ‘prime responsibility’ is stated as “cold calling and selling sexual enhancement products to U.S. clients”…
My reaction: Remove CV from job site immediately (only to upload it back on the next morning)

But seriously, why am I getting shortlisted for such bizarre roles?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Destiny's Child

It was one of those games…

The Indian cricket team has mastered the art of crumbling under pressure and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. So it was just another day when the team was tottering on the brink of a loss with most of the superstars back in the pavilion on the fifth day chasing a modest target. It was left to a young bowler, who in his crude and unsophisticated way managed to do what no other record holding batsmen could manage: DEFEND and safely see off the maximum number of balls. Ishant Sharma was an unlikely hero.

But this post is not about him (he is young, talented and good looking: surely there will be more opportunities to drool over him). This is about that veteran genius who never quite got the recognition he deserved: may be because he played in an era which belonged to the Little Master, may be because he had neither the princely arrogance of Ganguly, the quiet dignity of Dravid, the effortless elegance of Yuvraj, or even the daunting spirit of Dhoni. This is about the soft spoken, lanky guy from Hyderabad with a difficult name, who can weave magic with his wrists. This is about the unassuming guy who never quite lived up to his potential, who battled fitness throughout his somewhat uneven career graph, and who became my hero ever since Azharuddin broke my heart by ALLEGEDLY getting involved in match-fixing… (it’s already been proven that I have bad taste in men)

Notwithstanding his setbacks, his inconsistency, and his long patches of drought, the one thing he has done regularly is make the Aussies lose their sleep over him. A decade-long nemesis for the world’s most clinically professional team, he has crafted out some remarkable victories for India, and this time he did it again, denying Team India the royal collapse they are famous for!

This post is for the Destiny’s Child, this post is for the Underdog, this post is for VVS (Very Very Sexy) Laxman…

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Answer is blowing in the wind...

Pride or Prejudice?

Moving on or Holding on?

Pragmatism or Romanticism?

Giving up or Just Giving?

To be or Not to be?

Stretching Yourself

How far would you go for that exotic vacation?
How far would go for those pair of boots you have eyeing forever?
How far would you go for that dress that catches your eye each time you pass by that store?
How far you would you got that dream job?... Well this one I know!

Two weeks back I came across my dream profile on a popular job site: it promised everything I could ever dream of: a good brand, an informal fun work culture, an entrepreneurial set up where you can exercise your creative freedom, walking distance from where I stay, and most of all, finally someone was willing to pay me for doing what I love to do: write, create, communicate! Further, I was the perfect profile fit in terms of my educational background and my work experience, which is rare and surprising. It seemed too good to be true.

In my excitement, I applied immediately, and made a spelling error in the subject line, which is like a sure shot way of getting rejected. Kicking myself, I resend the mail, this time, making sure that there were no silly mistakes. I waited with bated breath for 2 days, but there was no response. Then to make matters worse, the weekend came in the way. I have never hated weekends as much as I do now: they come in the way of my passion- looking for jobs and being approached for the same! Weekends, I have decided, are a precious waste of time. Anyway, to get back to the story, it was Monday, and I was brimming with excitement. It was 5 p.m. and still no response. By now, I was desperate, and desperate situations call for desperate measures. I started stalking the HR lady! I added her on linkedin, with a personal note introducing myself and how keen I was on the profile (read, I pleaded and begged), I checked her out on facebook (we had five common friends… beat that!!), and oh yes, I called the number given on the ad some 29 times in the next 2 days! By Thursday, I was about to lose my mind. I looked up the board line on google, and finally there was some response. Office boy politely informed me that “madam is in a meeting.” Through the day I spoke to the office boy five times, and I think he just got fed up of hearing my voice, so finally at 6 p.m. in the evening, I finally managed to talk to ‘madam’ for all of 30 seconds. I nearly choked with the excitement. She politely informed me that they have received hundreds of resumes and she will get back to me if I fit the role. I treasured those 30 seconds like it was the most awaited phone conversation from the distant love of my life.

FYI, I am yet to make any progress and I am planning to crash into her office if I don’t get a call soon!

P.S.: How far would you go for love? Don’t think you can put a limit to that…

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Living Together

It’s been eight years since I came to Mumbai as a starry-eyed teenager and I have been slapped around from one place to another: kind friend’s luxurious apartment, sea-facing student hostel on Marine Drive, working girls’ hostel in Nariman Point, back to student hostel in Symbi (campus life in Pune), and then finally my own rented apartment with the luxury of my OWN ROOM. Each phase was different, each phase had its own share of trials and tribulations, each phase taught me something new, and each phase helped me make some really good friends. I had friends in Kolkata, but somehow the bond that you develop while living with someone under the same roof is something totally different: the initial awkwardness, the politeness, and the effort to make an impression soon gives way to rude gestures, making faces, screaming, and in general, being yourself, as you give up the façade of propriety. Let’s face it, you can’t keep pretending with the person you live with: sooner or later, you are bound to be caught on the wrong foot, so you might as well set the expectations straight right at the beginning. It’s pretty much like getting married. When you see someone with no/semi clothes on, no make up, and first thing in the morning, you pretty much get used to everything. And trust me, it’s nowhere as cool as they make it look on FRIENDS…

Today, as I look back at my journey, from the dingy lanes of Charni Road in an 8/8 small coup which I shared with my first roommate (the Muslim girl who taught me to live on my own) for a princely monthly rent of Rs. 500 to the 1000 square feet furnished apartment in Powai where I have a room to myself, a double bed, a proper closet, and an attached bathroom, barely 10 minutes from work, I feel a quiet sense of achievement. Of course, the next moment I am overcome with guilt at the thought that I am earning for my landlord, but somehow it doesn’t seem like a waste. I respect privacy after being deprived of it for seven years, and in Mumbai, you have to pay a heavy price for it. I am ok with that; I make up for the extra cost by not going out and therefore making full use of the privacy my room offers.

And then I look back at all the people I have lived with and how each of them made my life a little bit better than what it would have been otherwise. And some of them went on to become the most significant part of my life. From struggling to fit in my huge collection of clothes in the two racks of the small cupboard in Room No 311 in the undergrad hostel, to getting knocked off each time someone entered unannounced in Room No 213 in SCMHRD, to finally learning to enjoy the things I never thought I would do (cooking et al)in 1105 it has indeed been a long long journey.

If I have to sum up my experience of living on my own in Mumbai, I would borrow the Julia Roberts movie title: Eat, Pray, Love (the last one being very significant)…

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Something Stupid...


These are very strong reasons to destroy, and at times the temptation to get nasty just gets the better of you.

But then something stronger, something deeper, and something more permanent restrains you, mellows you down, and while it reduces you to tears, it also stops you from losing your mind. The memories only make you smile, the depth of the attachment makes you hold on to it, and the loneliness reminds you how precious it was.

It’s something that makes you forgive but not forget, it’s called love…

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hyderabad Memories

This was my last weekend to Hyderabad, at least as a part of this company. This is the place I fell in love with two years back when I did my summers, this is the company I fell in love with, and this is the company where I just fell in love…

So, it has been an eventful and memorable journey, but finally I decided to put an end to it, I decided enough is enough, and I quit: not necessarily for a ‘better’ offer, not necessarily because I was unhappy with the work, and not necessarily because I was disillusioned. I never nurtured high expectations from the corporate world, I know at the end of the day they are pretty much the same and wherever I go, it will just be a way to make a living till I finally fulfill my dreams of being an author. So once, you have separated your passion from your profession, you really don’t care where you go, as long as you make a decent living, you are respected, and you find good people to work with. And, in this company I had all that and more! May be too much, and so I just had to move on…

Hyderabad overwhelmed me with memories: memories of the good old times, memories of drunken nights, memories of old friends, some of whom are no longer around, and memories of stolen kisses. It was the same AHM, the same luxuries in the guest house followed by a boring evening in a five star hotel followed by the real thing: free food and alcohol (this time I didn’t have the heart to have either). I had a shock because I received an R&R for a project I hardly worked on. I think it was more a gracious gesture on the part of the company to let me know that they like me, especially now that I am leaving. Later in the night, I had a chat with the one person I have known for three years, who had hired me, and who I looked up to, and I was told that if I ever feel like coming back, they would always be ready to welcome me. I almost broke down then: in the last few months, I had developed a lot of grudges, but suddenly it all seemed so small, and I just wanted to take back my resignation. But in the end, better sense prevailed.

I also met my long-lost school friend, I brushed away tears as I said goodbye to my best friend in the company, and for the last time, I exchanged pleasantries with the people who has been an integral part of my everyday life the last one year.
And yes, I also met Chetan Bhagat, who was invited for a ‘motivational speech’. I don’t know if it ‘motivated’ people, but it was definitely entertaining, and all I could think of was if this guy can make Rs. 3 lakhs an hour for dishing out bullshit and become one of the 100 most influential people by Times magazine writing strictly average books, so can I.

So Mr. Bhagat, you are right! We should do what we love to do. And here I come!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Corporate World Meets Holy Matrimony

I have no experience in the so-called ‘girl seeing’ event in arranged marriages. On the other hand, I have plenty of experience in appearing for interviews. But I have a strong feeling that the two completely different episodes are really pretty much alike.

1. The role of the mediator/broker: This is the third party, which is responsible for initiating it all: doing a due diligence on both parties, matching the requirements of both parties and accordingly customizing the CVs to ensure a perfect ‘profile fit’, and finally introducing the parties to one another. In the case of a marriage, it’s usually an over-enthusiastic, bored, jobless relative while in case of a job, it’s an efficient, no-nonsense, greedy placement consultant. However, the common thread is that this third party seems to be more excited about this ‘match’ than either parties.

2. Embellishments: This is the part where you develop new ‘interests and skills’ which you never knew you possessed, so that your CV can ‘stand out’ among hundreds of other similar CVs. For instance, you know you were doing cut-copy-paste in your last job, entering data in a pre-set model to get results, and apart from the office-boy nobody of importance was aware of your existence. So how can you portray this seemingly useless experience as something which is significant, tangible and ‘makes a difference’? So you start LYING, or in more polite terms, EMBELLISHING. In the area of key skills, you write, ‘industry knowledge’, ‘financial modeling’, and ‘business process re-engineering’ while in the work experience you come up with, ‘Responsible for providing intelligence and insights for client engagement teams. Part of the high-visibility team to develop strategic roadmaps for clients. Demonstrated strong leadership and mentoring skills to proactively generate new business opportunities for the company.’ How or when you did all that, you don’t know, neither is it significant. Your short term goal is to get shortlisted for an interview and long term goal is to acquire all the skills already mentioned as your key skills. Similar is the situation for an arranged marriage. Boy gets introduced to prospective girl by virtue of the tall claims made in his CV: a seven-figure salary (which includes salary of boy, brother, father, and mother: nobody mentioned it has to be boy’s salary ONLY), a degree from IIM (well, they can always clarify later that it was an online certificate course), and a photograph which is most probably borrowed from a decent looking friend. But girl is equally efficient: her photo is thoroughly airbrushed by a professional, her ‘accomplishments’ in the kitchen are exaggerated (by the time they find out that her cooking skills are limited to Maggie and dal-chawal it will be too late), and her ‘trained classical dancer’ claim really stands for dancing to remixes in college fests (nobody wants a classical dancer wife anyway).

3. The Grand Finale: So your broker got your CV to the target audience, your embellishments ensured that you reach interview stage, and finally you are there: at the hot seat, salivating for holy matrimony or the MNC job. You have memorized the ‘right’ responses, you have developed the right ‘values’, and since childhood you have been taught the art of rote learning and vomiting it out on the exam paper. So you are prepared, confident, and ready to take it on. The VP asks, “So why do you want to join our organization?”, you think, “yippie. I know this answer”, and you smile and reply, “it fits in well with my personal and professional goals. I identify with the company’s values which are aligned to my personal and professional values, and I think I am a perfect fit for the profile and for the organization.” Score!! Similarly, girl asks boy, “Why do you think we shall be a good match?”, boy thinks, “Because I am 28, I have a job, I have saved enough for the wedding, so I think finally my parents will let me have free and legitimate sex”, and boy replies, “Because I think we are fundamentally compatible, we have similar values, and we come from similar cultural backgrounds.”

Game, Set, Match… (both in the corporate world as well as in the matrimonial world)

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 'Hotel California' Syndrome

“Hotel California” has been my favourite song for a long time. I know it’s old and old-fashioned, it’s very school-girlish and it’s definitely not the ‘in’ thing, but I still can’t help humming it at times. The theme of the song fascinates me and I kind of identify with it.

On the face of it Hotel California seems to be this coveted paradise, where everybody dreams to go someday: it represents all the hedonistic vices money can buy- a flashy lifestyle, women, alcohol; it smacks of sophistication, success, and the high life that you have admired for 20 years and suddenly it’s handed over to you on a platter. And just as you think your life is made, that you have ‘arrived’, and you are one of the ‘chosen ones’, you realize something is not quite right, that all the materialistic pleasures come with an unuttered disclaimer: all the luxuries come with a heavy price, i.e. your freedom!

So here is the analogy: as vivid in my mind as it gets. Brought up in a middle class family inculcated with middle class values, and restricted to a middle class lifestyle, you grow up (happily mind you), and then you watch TV, you interact with people, and you start yearning for more: not just in terms of money, but also in terms of respect, social status, and ‘success’ defined conventionally. So you do all the ‘right’ things: you work hard, you go to a reputed B school, you get a job with a well-known MNC and at a fairly early age you ‘achieve’ all that you had set to achieve: big brands (to wear and to be a part of), lifestyle, and possessions. Of course, the fact that your neighborhood aunty thinks you are best role model for her teenage daughter, is a huge boost for your secretly fragile ego, because you know what you do for a living: sacrifice your creativity, your passion, and your thinking as you get straight jacketed in a “process driven organization”.

So yes, in a way you are trapped inside the plush Hotel California: “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave”…

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Two Way Street

Sunday evenings are the worst: I am usually on the verge of a breakdown after two days of emptiness, loneliness, and nothingness. Also, the entire week stares in front of me, with nothing exciting to look forward to except the drudgery of work that you no longer care about, that you no longer want to do, and mostly with people you have spent 18 hours a day with in the recent past but cannot look in the eye right now. The only thing to look forward is random calls from placement consultants or potential recruiters!

While I have been too consumed with the job hunt, I kind of lost perspective of what is really important to me: family, a balanced happy life in a Tier 2 city, friends, vacations, spending my life with someone who is my best friend, and of course, making a career out of writing. Just as we had planned for the last one year.

Right now, I am doing things which are totally in conflict with those plans: running after a career in finance which really doesn’t interest me (and therefore screwing up in interviews), struggling alone in a big city and paying for all the vices (rent, traveling, loneliness) while the benefits of the city doesn’t excite me too much (a happening nightlife, array of options to eat out, party, and shop, and the sense of freedom), reconciling myself to the idea of being a corporate slave, staying away from family, and having a virtual relationship with my friends. Before I know it, I would be sucked into the life in a metro, and doing everything that an average Mumbaikar does, for reasons not clear to me.

So how does it make sense? It so doesn’t… but so doesn’t everything else… Now I know why it's called "monster"

Well, we all know how I made it through to my current job: It was a piece of cake. Company comes to campus for internship, company gives long case study, company shortlists 15 people from 150, and company selects me. Two months of internship, company understands it invested way too much money in me, so company decides to offer me PPO. I write my way through MBA, I avoid studying like a plague, recession hits, and I accept PPO! And everybody is happy…

Six months into said company, I realize what I have gotten myself into, that I am overpaid, and I have no skills. To make things worse, I fall in love, lose my focus at work, and one year down the line, I realize my career is going nowhere. So I start job hunting, and that’s just the beginning.

In the last six months, I have taken some 20-odd interviews, some of them in really odd companies: Private Equity, Banking, Equity Research, Investment Banking, Sales Support, Consulting, Journalism, Credit Rating, Social Media, Micro finance: you name it, I have tried it! The best part about my profile is it’s versatile, it has all the right sounding degrees and the right sounding brands: so I do get flooded with calls from excited placement consultants, a fair amount of which gets translated into actual interview calls.

But then the trouble begins: I can’t convert them! Companies who want me, can’t match my current salary and companies who are willing to pay me, don’t find me good enough. Also, there is something called this illusive ‘profile fit’ which often leaves you baffled, especially after you have had the best interview (or so you thought) and yet it doesn’t get translated into a 2nd round. And then there are times, when you almost make it and sheer bad luck stands between you and that coveted job. Finally, there are those embarrassing interviews which make you feel like you are illiterate (which is very often the case with me)

Then there are always these doubts: money or profile, lifestyle or learning, work culture or work? You can’t have it all of course, but balancing the trade-offs is a tough ask. The fallacy is that companies like mine compensate you for bad work, while in other companies you pay the price to learn and deliver. The responsibilities, the significance and the satisfaction of your work is inversely related to your salary. So you choose: would you rather sit in an AC floor, work five hours a day, stay close to home, enjoy a MNC culture and flexibility, and have a good life or would you travel in local trains, live in a coup in the name of a room, have no savings, no MNC tag to boast about? The former right? The catch is that the MNC tag gives you the glamour and the money and no job satisfaction, while the latter gives you the real experience which makes you a sought after person in the long run.

My best experience: I started writing random emails to newspapers, asking them to let me contribute to their organization as writing is my passion. I never really expected anybody to respond, and I was pleasantly surprised when a senior person from a leading daily took the trouble to call me. Finally it didn’t work out, but I am grateful that they check their emails and respond to them!

My worst experience: American company shortlisted me for a Business Analyst role. I had no freaking clue what the profile was, though I was keen on the brand. HR sets up telephonic interview with a senior person in America. Due to technical difficulties, the call doesn’t work out. Firang guy asks me to call him back!Unwillingly I make an ISD call, he interviews me for 50 minutes, and I realize it’s the kind of work that I wouldn’t do even if I was starved to death. Obviously, Firang guy doesn’t foot the bill of the ISD call, and I am poorer by one grand.

I know I reached my personal low when I responded to a shortlist for a television reporter: for the first time in my life, I had to send a snap for a job application. I wasn’t shortlisted, but I refuse to believe that I am too ugly to be on TV. I am sure it was a case of ‘profile fit’.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lost in Translation

So after a hiatus of almost nine months, I am back again, and hopefully back for good!

The past few months have been quite an experience really: I was happy like I have never been before, but like all good things, it didn’t last forever. And I guess, the happiness you experience in the first six months of the year, is directly proportional to the heartbreak in the next six months. And now that I am probably going through the worst phase of my life, what best way to cheer myself up than turn to the one thing that had given me the greatest support in the last three years: blogging!

So the question I am sure everybody is all agog to know: what was I upto?
While I am not fond of peddling my personal life on a public forum (and that was the reason I stopped blogging in the first place), I can convey this much: I was living in a fairyworld, where everything seemed perfect, and that life couldn’t possibly get better, and then one fine day, it all came crashing down- just like that! And now I am back to the harsh reality, the struggle of LIVING suddenly seems to be overbearing. I wouldn’t say I made a mistake, because that would mean insulting the best thing that ever happened to me; I wouldn’t say it was a lie, because whatever happened, happened because we all believed in it; and I wouldn’t say I regret it, because it was the most beautiful six months of my life…

The truth however, the way it stands is, that I am alone, struggling to get by each day, reliving the memories, and trying to make sense of it all. Professionally, I am confused: I know I am stuck in a dead-end job (but then again, who isn’t?), I have been looking for a change for some time, and taking some innumerable interviews with very little luck. Also the fact that I spent my two years of MBA blogging and writing and ignoring my major (Finance) is taking its toll on me now, as I find myself woefully short on confidence and fundamental knowledge. The fact that I had the easiest run for placements, ensured that I never put in any effort and preparation. Well, as they say life has a strange way of evening things out! Personally, I am devastated, shaken, and still in shock- trying to find a way and getting more lost in the process.

But the good thing is: I AM BACK!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No longer another brick in the wall...

So yes, I have decided to formally close my blog...

If you are looking for reasons (or rather excuses) I can give a thousand, but then again, there are probably, a million reasons to continue!

So let's just not get into all that, and close this chapter of my life (literally) as I move on, as I grow up, and as I learn to share (even if it's not on a public forum!

After two and a half years of holding on to my online persona, of making a public display of my life, of entertaining people (or boring them) and most of all, of keeping my passion for writing alive, I have finally decided to let go...

I shall still continue to write, because that's what i do best, even if it's not on this forum, not for the people around me, but definitely for myself!

So yes, a final heartfelt thank you to all my readers (who are still there and who aren't), who encouraged me and who endured the LONG torture!

Friday, January 15, 2010

i am happy...

I haven't blogged in some time...
I may not blog for some more time...
Not because I have nothing to write...
On the contrary, I have lots to write...

But the bottomline is that I am happy...

very very VERY happy!!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Beginning!

This new year was different…

This new year was about simple things done right…

This new year was about three friends being at home, cooking at home, drinking at home, chatting at home, and, well, celebrating at home…

This new year was about a new beginning, and doing so simply and comfortably and in our own way…

This new year was, well, very special!