Friday, August 01, 2014

Nahi Yaha Chaina

Well, thats one form of NYC that I didnt imagine myself thinking about. :)

So, I am finally here. After an intoxicating prelude around the same time last year, I was craving for more. This is arguably the most talked about city in the world. For good reason too.

Cravings generally end up 2 ways. You fulfil it or you end up being disappointed due to the high expectations you have set. I dont know which of the 2 this one falls into. Being an ardent Mumbai fanatic ever since I was a kid, NYC is almost the Western mirror of Mumbai. Frenetic pace to the city. Fraction of a second to decide on stuff. A bustling city which apparently never sleeps. So, I should have been drawn to NYC like a moth to the fire. Did I? Maybe, maybe not.

For starters, last year was very different. I knew I was on a paid vacation. I knew I was going back in 2 weeks. I kind of had this 'Nothing to lose' attitude mostly due to the fact that I may never come back here. Primarily due to my oh-so amazing relation with Visas. Do it now and do it well was the mantra. And I had one helluva ride.

Its not the same this time. There is this pressure associated this time. Pressure of getting a house in order. Pressure of creating a life away from India. For me and my family. But, the most excruciatingly painful task is to do this all alone without my family. There is a zero emotional support level out here. I dont go back home and talk to anyone about some irritant in office. Or, for that matter, about something good that happened. Would have meant a pizza, a movie or a drive back home in Pune. That will need to wait.

Instead, its all about ticking off items on my checklist. Bank account, SSN, Credit Card, Driver's license, a Home with good schools nearby, admission to school, my commute plan, medical insurance, falana timkana. Yes, I am huffing and puffing.

I hate the scenarios wherein I need to agriculture a good time. I have never needed to plan a good time. You don't plan a good time in India. I mean you do not do it always atleast. Plus, its always in my subconscious that I am here for monetary benefits that this country offers. Not completely correct methinks. Every expense is being monitored by me. I am buying beer but should I but that bag of chips? I need to walk 14 blocks but shouldn't I spend $2.50 and take a Subway instead? Oh my gawd! It is getting the F out of me.

And what does the city have to offer? Well, plenty actually. That world city feeling. Some bustling parks, some quieter ones. The best bars that I have been too. A super duper public transport facility. The best evenings. And some fab room mates.

Maybe ... eventually things will settle down once my family is here. And time will also have a say.

Till then, I am trying to analyze ... is it more of a give than a take?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Disliking likeables

I am not going to start off this one with a 'I am back' cliche. Not sure if I am really 'back'. But I will let it rip till it lasts. I last blogged in 2012. Jeepers!

I am not sure if its with my personality but of late I have run into so many discussions that I am made to look like the odd one out. The topics change but not the oddity of me being projected as irrational, sadistic or even disillusional. Those are 3 words which I may not have used for a decade now. Need a vocab makeover too. Later!

So, one topic that is quite common in everyday jargon is about movies. I have found it extremely difficult to be on the side of people who think a particular way about movies. Any discussion about a particular movie being good/bad has had me disapproving of the choice made by 90% of the junta.

Just the other day, we were discussing about RamLeela. Everyone had more than a few expletives for this movie. Some said that they couldn't tolerate even an hour of the movie, some lesser. I do not praise this movie very highly but I quite enjoyed it. I am not talking about the chemistry (or physics?) of the leading pair. Its just that I didnt feel like switching off. The 2nd half was truly engaging and I felt the real heroine (or actress and not supporting actress) is Supriya Pathak. Of course, Ram would not like to dive into her everytime. But, as with many debates, I end up giving up. I would watch it again I guess.

That brought us to so many other movies that I ended up having an opposite opinion about.

Good (and the ones that people feel not so good)
No Smoking, Lootera, Rockstar, Gangs of Wasseypur, Rowdy Rathore, Swades, Kai Po Chhe

Not so good (and the ones that people drool over)
DDLJ, HAHK, 3 Idiots, Rang De Basanti, KKHH, Munnabhai series

Maybe, its just the perception.

In another free-wheeling discussion, I couldnt quite understand the reasoning and logic behind the Best Actress award given to Deepika Padukone for 2013 (whether its Chennai Express, YJHD or RamLeela) whereas I found Sonakshi Sinha leagues ahead in Lootera. Someone told me its because Deepika had 3 blockbusters so it had to go to her. Couldnt quite understand the term 'Actress' then. In that case, there should be an award for 'Best Actor/Actress based on revenue'. It would be a better benchmark award for Production houses too to look for such people.

Just my 2 cents though. Cheers!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tough Assignment ... !!

Hell it's been some time since I have blogged. Its even more surprising coz I have run into so many incidents that I could have blogged everyday ... maybe more than once a day. Having read that statement again, I realize that I should have said INCIDENTS HAVE RUN INTO ME. Never mind.

It was one of those mornings when I was at the office tapri with one of my good buddies sipping chai. We noticed that there was this huge group of youngsters (maybe between 22 and 25 years old and yeah I realized I just grew older with that statement), all clad in similar white T-Shirts. We guessed that these youngsters are part of one college which has doled out some term end assignments to each one of them. They were selling chai, sandwiches, shirts, etc. It reminded me of my school days when we used to do SUPW(yeah we had a subject called Socially Useful Productive Work) tasks after school hours or during weekends.

Anyway, these students (I am not calling them youngsters anymore) were divided into groups, each group selling something different. From the place I was standing at, I could see a group of 3 (2 boys and a good looking girl) selling shirts. I guess this group took advantage of the girl being good looking and asked her to approach people to buy the shirts. She was quite persuasive in asking people to buy the shirts at Rs. 350 per shirt. Almost no one was buying any shirt of course.

I was just hoping she would approach me coz I was just itching to have a crack at her and maybe spoil her day. I have no justification to think that way but of late I have been having a crack at people way too much even for my comfort. Its almost like an addiction which I should let go off sooner than later.

Anyway, she approached 4-5 sets of people and kept walking away from me and then disappeared. My friend and I continued chatting and it was time to get back to work when we suddenly saw the group emerge and this time they were coming to us for sure. Badhiya.

She walked upto me and said ...

Her: Sir, can you please buy a shirt? It is a very good quality shirt and its only for Rs. 350. Definitely, you can buy 1.
Me: Of course I can. But you see, I am not carrying any cash and I am in a hurry to get back to work and hence I cant run to the ATM and get cash. But we can work this out. You see the shirt I am currently wearing is much more expensive that the shirt you are selling ... maybe for around Rs. 1000. So here's the deal ...

(All this while the 2 guys with her are looking on not knowing whats happening as are the other onlookers ...)

Me: You can take off my shirt and give me the shirt you are selling in exchange. But since my shirt is much more expensive than the shirt you are selling, it wouldn't be a fair bargain. So I will need the shirt that you are wearing too.

The guys with her tell her "Let's go from here"

And they run for cover.

Another incident that could have been avoided but wasn't.

Cheers ... !!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Appraisal Improvements ... !!

Its that time of the year again. APPRAISALS ...

Appraisals begets curiosity. And excitement. And disappointment. And? And some more ... maybe confusion, maybe uncertainty. May be not. Almost all of us pin so many hopes onto this one yearly phenomenon and end up being restless for the duration it lasts. When it's over, its either a pall of gloom and despair or an air of euphoria. For a lot of us, we are so concentrated on ourselves that we don't need to worry about others. For others (like me), its easier said than done.

To perform a good appraisal for the team is quite an annoying task. So many parameters and policies to adhere too. Sometimes, it defies common sense and yet you have to put up a brave face and justify practically every unjustifiable statement or observations you have made for someone. I hate this job.

This year I was going to perform the appraisal for around 15 folks. Most of these folks had worked with me during the year gone by and I had lot of comments to make for them. Both good and not-so-good. For others, they reported to someone else but since that someone else was no longer in the team, I had to take it up. These cases were brutal. I am not going to mention what transpired during these discussions or feedback sessions. Just one light incident that I found worthy to be jotted down.

For every individual, I carried a printout of my comments. The comments were categorized into 3 parts. Strengths, Improvements and Summary. Along with the rating of course.

Anees is a person who had joined the team in August 2011 and hence was comparatively new to the team. He was part of a team that used to sit adjacent to our team before that. So we used to interact with each other even before he joined my team. He is a jolly personality and always up for fun events within the team and cracking jokes. We have had several chats on Communicator that I don't feel like going into more details. For obvious reasons. :). Typical guy talk.

The current scenario is that he is resigning and will not be around starting March. I had given him a rating that he didn't deserve due to some stupid policy that the organization follows for a person quitting the job. He was due for promotion and had he stayed, his rating would have been completely the opposite. So much for policies. Crap.

During our discussion, we discussed his Strengths first and then his Improvements and the conversation went off quite well. I also made it clear why I had given him his rating. He was aware that something like this would happen and he did not accept the rating which was perfectly understandable.

At the end of any such discussion, I was asking each person to give me my own feedback too so that I can also improve. This was the highlight of the discussion.

In his own very sweet and innocent way, he said ...

Bass ek hi Improvement hai aapke liye ... quit Drinking.

And we laughed. I said ... Yes. Someday. When I am no more alive.

In the hustle and bustle of the most traumatic appraisal experience, came this moment which lightened it up a bit for me.

All the best Anees. Do well.

Cheers ... !!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Swimming In The Dark ... !!

It's not a secret to most of the people who know me that I am in love with swimming. Having made it my favorite past time for the last 5 odd years, the love affair refuses to end. I aint complaining. Its quite refreshing to swim early in the morning. Sets up the entire day perfectly. Fitness may be an added incentive but I love swimming just coz of the feel and the experience rather than the fitness aspect. Did I forget stamina? Well, almost.

People also find me weird. For good reason. Not that I am obsessed with doing weird stuff but somethings have happened and some things have been made to happen. It was quite against the run of play when an opportunity for adventure presented itself this week.

I swim at Parsi Gymkhana(PG) which is situated at the most isolated of army surroundings in Camp. People who know the Hollywood Gurudwara in Camp will relate to this beauty of a place. Surrounded by trees and lonely narrow roads with the army quarters setting up a picturesque avenue. PG stands alone with its evergreen campus and lonely atmosphere.

Being winter, lot of people do not opt to jump into ice cold water at 6 in the morning. I was also one of these people until some years back but now I seem to be smitten by these early morning dips. So, there are only 2 regulars at PG nowdays. A guy called Tulsi and me. Tulsi runs around the Race Course before coming to PG. Something Amruta and I used to do for a considerable amount of time earlier. Nowdays, I just go to PG. Tulsi and I have become good friends over the last 3-4 months and I like people who are regulars at PG. Whether they swim or not is immaterial since there is so much you can do at PG.

I will like to provide some history before I actually narrate the adventure.

When I first started swimming at PG, it used to be open well before 6 am. A Parsi uncle (we now call him Keku uncle and thats his name. I swear.) used to open the Gymkhana. Initially I thought he was the owner of the place but later I realised that the owner was too lazy to get up so early on in the mornings and hence asked a good samaritan like Keku uncle to do the needful. Keku uncle is a 87 year old man and he is fit as a fiddle. Happened to be Mr. India in 1952. Thats what he says. I have no evidence though. But I dont doubt one bit that he must have been Mr. India. Has so many stories to say in typical Parsi manner. But since age is not on his side, he was quite irregular at the pool which meant that the Gymkhana would remain shut on days Keku uncle was not able to come to the pool. So the baton went back to the owners who employed a person called Bhaskar to open the Gymkhana in the morning.

Bhaskar is the typical government employee. He will work according to his will and wont budge on most occasions. He was being late everyday for the last 2-3 weeks which meant I had to go back home without swimming on many occasions. One day, I lost my cool and we had quite a verbal altercation which was quite ugly for any onlooker. But it seemend to have an effect since he started coming earlier than normal. We had asked him to come up 0630 hours but he started coming even earlier by 0610 or 0615 hours. This was quite pleasing. This also meant that Tulsi and I started coming even earlier than normal days.

It was Wednesday when I reached PG at around 0615 hours. Tulsi was there too. He told me that Bhaskar is going to go to his hometown today which meant that his replacement (Munna) will open the Gymkhana today. We called Munna and he told us that Bhaskar's trip has been delayed by 1 day and he will open the Gymkhana today. Bhaskar was there at 0630 hours and that day passed without anything worth writing about.

Thursday. Same time. Tulsi and I were there at PG. Today, Bhaskar was not going to come. It was going to be Munna. We called him and he said that he will try to come only by 0645 hours. Now what?

PG has quite a big campus. There is this huge gate which is the entry point to the campus. Once you enter, its almost 100 meters till the next gate. This gate is the entry to the badminton court, swimming pool and the gym. The area between the 2 gates is mainly for parking on the right and the huge club house on the left. Both these gates are locked when Tulsi and I meet everyday.

There are 2 dogs that have made PG their home. One white and the other black. Every morning, as soon as Tulsi and I are at the gate, these 2 dogs start barking and eventually come out and start playing. Since Tulsi and I had around 30 minutes to kill, we decided to have a stroll down the army quarters. We talked about a lot of things. During one such discussion, I interrupted him quite abruptly and asked:

Me: Ek baat batao. Yeh kutte baahar kaise aate hai? Koi raasta hai kya baahar aane ka? Gate to locked hai.
Tulsi: Hhhhmmm. Pata nahi. Kyu?
Me: Kuch nahi. Aise hi soch raha thaa ki yeh kutte raat mein andar rehte hai yaa baahar.
Tulsi: Maine to andar hi dekhe hai har baar.
Me: Thoda dekhte hai kya? Koi raasta hai kya?
Tulsi: Dekh sakte hai.

PG has a fence manning its campus which runs along the outer gate. Obviously, this fence is the first and last barricade on the way inside. Right? Wrong.

The outer gate has a huge tree which had fallen off sometime back in a way that the top part of the tree has fallen off completely but on the outside while the bottom part is still inside. This top part covers the fence towards the left hand side of the outer gate in a way that the fence is not visible at all. We had to bend down and get within the leaves of the fallen tree. The fence had a small opening which was quite decent for a dog to get through. Not sure if a human would get through but we were going to try. It was quite a good stretching exercise for us but we managed to get in. But there was another fence immediately after the outer fence. We walked towards both the left and right side to find another opening in this fence as well which was even wider than the earlier one. We had now breached the outer gate but we still had to find a way past the inner gate.

Once we were at the inner gate, I walked towards the right (towards the badminton court) while Tulsi walked towards the left (clubhouse passage). Both of us could not find a way past. We switched ends just to be sure. But no luck. On my way back from the clubhouse passage, I noticed that the fence inside was not a fence actually. It was a criss-cross arrangement of bamboo sticks covered by a huge green curtain-like thing. I tried to kick at this curtain with every step just to find out if it results in the curtain going back completely. The first few instances resulted in a thud and it was not doing my foot any good especially on a chilly morning. But then I found what I needed. There was quite a decent opening being covered by this curtain. And Tulsi and I were inside alongside our beloved pool.

It was quite easy just to dive in and enjoy this little discovery of ours. But no. This needed to be planned. Not today atleast. We went back the same way. Met the dogs on our way and were back outside the outer gate.

Munna came at 0645 hours. Tulsi and I were done swimming by around 0730 hours. We both were leaving together. Just before leaving, I felt this is the right time to start the plan.

I spoke to Munna about the time he would open the Gymkhana tomorrow. I told him quite sternly that even 0645 is quite late. He was quite honest in letting me know that he wont be able to come earlier. I said I didnt mind but just let me know the exact time and stick to it. Just to make matters interesting, I told him its OK if he comes at 0700 hours too as long as he sticks to 0700 hours. He fell for it. He said it works out well for him too. 0700 hours on Friday morning. The plan was set. I had intetionally asked him to be late.

I told Tulsi to come earlier the next day at 0545 hours. So that we could sneak in, swim and go home well before Munna arrives. Initially, he sounded interested but just when I got onto my bike, he said he is not comfortable and that its quite risky. I didnt force him to partner me in this heist. I was quite sure I am going to do it.

As decided, I was at PG at 0545. Tulsi was not there. But, something told me that I should not park my bike at the same place as usual. This was coz I didnt want anyone to know that I have come. So people wont wonder where I disappeared after parking my bike. That was the only logic. I picked up my bag and helmet and the sound my shoes hitting the turf was enough to get the dogs barking. God. I completely forgot about the dogs.

Getting in from the gate and sneaking through the fences is quite a different ball game altogether. Will the dogs still relate to me as a daily pool member or as someone who is trying to sneak in? Questions. Doubts. So not my way of a plan. Now what? I had to get the dogs out before I could go in. Else who knows they would tear me apart. Thinking cap on.

I decided I will just about annoy them to an extent that they would come out without sacrificing on my well being. I sneaked through the first opening of the fence and I made up my mind that I will come out immediately as soon as the sound of the barks went up which meant they were close to me. It worked. I entered and exited in around 20 seconds. The white dog was out in jiffy and he identified me. Part 1 of the Dog show was done. But why wasnt this 2nd dog coming out?

I tried the same trick again but to no avail and I was losing precious time. The last thing I wanted was for Munna to come to the pool and find me swimming away to glory when he was about to open the gate. That would have been chaos. I didnt know what to do. Just then, I wondered whether it would be good idea to just park my bike at the usual daily place coz thats how these 2 dogs came out every day. Why not? I parked my bike outside the outer gate and Voila. Part 2 was done and dusted too. The 2 dogs were away with their other non-PG mates. I re-parked my bike away from the outer gate and I was inside soon.

I know PG quite well. The way the pool works, etc. There is a tap which needs to be opened for the water to flow into the pool. Not that the pool doesnt contain water. But it works on a re-cycling mechanism. The new water replaces the old and so on. There is a motor that needs to be switched on so that water is available in the bathrooms. I did both of these. And I was inside at 0600 hours. I decided that I will swim till 0650 hours. 5 minutes to change and 5 more to get back out. That will make it 0700 hours and Munna will be here.

What followed was absolute joy and beauty of life. No one to disturb you in pitch darkness on a very chilly morning in ice cold water. Normally, the lights are switched on in darkness but I was not gonna risk that. I was just bobbing in and out of the water for the next 50 minutes. I was out by 0650 hours and changed back to my clothes by 0655 hours. I went through all those secret passages and was very close to the outer gate. And then I froze. I was quite careful to turn the tap off but I had forgotten to turn the motor off. If the motor is switched on even after the tank is filled to capacity, it causes the motor to over heat and eventually burn. I ran back and switched the motor off and ran back even faster to be at the outer gate.

I met Tulsi over there and he saw me coming out of our secret passage. He was just about to say something when Munna made an appearance.

Munna: Dekha. 7 bola thaa to 7 ko aaya hoon nahi to aap fir bologe
Me: Haan. Sahi hai.

I start to get on to my bike.

Munna: Arey, kya hua? Jaa rahe ho?
Me: Haan. Aaaj mood nahi hai.

Tulsi smiles wryly at me and I promise to meet him tomorrow.

An adventure well planned. And took me back to times when I hardly cared of what I was doing. Over the last 2 years, I have treaded a path ready to explode. Boundaries have not felt like boundaries and it always takes me back in flashback mode.

I relate a lot to the opening few lines of Rockstar. I have my own version for Rockstar's version.

Sahi aur Galat ke beech ka maidan. Yaa to mujhe dhundna hai yaa fir ... fir se banaana hai.

Swim ke liye saala kuch bhi karega ... play the music ...

Cheers ... !!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reading Myself ... !!

I just happened to find a bit of time to idle around.

I was actually trying to find a post that I had written a long time back. After locating it, I went into a self-trance mode reading posts around the one that I was trying to locate. And i got so engrossed that I ended up reading almost all my posts. Only after reading all this, I realized that I didn't have a bit of a time but quite some time at my disposal. But it was fun.

I realized that I used to write much better earlier on. It has faded over time. The older posts had a lot of spark and zing. The latest ones lack that. I was quite enthusiastic when I used to write and it showed in the posts. Of late, its been kind of a drag. At least I feel so. Blame it on age. Actually what's age got to do with it anyway? I don't know. Well, there you are. Aptly said. I don't know. Yeah, I really don't know. Maybe, I am not doing anything worth writing to be honest.

Some of the posts quite distinguishly stand out. I was talking to Priya the other day about my posts. I asked her to ignore all my posts and just read one post which is and maybe will remain my all time favorite. That about Andre Agassi. I went back to my seat and actually read that and felt so wonderfully good about it. But there were others too. May not be in the same league as Andre's post. But good to read nevertheless. AT mein Velhe giri ka kaafi time milta thaa. Never realised that when I was in AT itself.

I loved reading the review of DON, the review of Mandi, my dear friend Addy, a monsoon experience in traffic, golfing posts, Foot fetish, a Stumbled upon post, the DAPP Calendar, table tennis posts about the tournament held in AT, my bike, my bike trip to Goa, Sweden posts, foodie posts, etc. So much for my bragging persona.

What have I come to? There is something seriously wrong with me. I met Pranay yesterday and told him the exact same statement. There is something seriously wrong with me. I guess he kind of agreed to me.

A long way to go and many battles still to be won. Starting with the battle with myself.

Cheers ... !!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Aspirations Revisited ... !!

Sabhtarsha and I have known each other for 11 years now. Actually a bit less coz the first 3 years were spent just being class mates without any indication of being long time friends. One of the better friends that I have made in life. We have tread quite a similar path in our careers so far with subtle differences of course. And we keep crossing each other's paths.

We did our Graduation and Post Graduation from the great Fergusson College and have been friends ever since our MCS days. Or should I say our Swing days? One and the same thing.

We both got through the first company on Campus. Persistent Systems. Ended up in the same BU. More or less, we ended up in the same product but were doing different things. Out of the 10 that made it from Fergusson, we were 2 out of 3 who were not provided Placement. Where was the similarity going to end? Sooner than later I thought. But it didn't.

We ended up at ATN through I guess one of the only Ads that ATN has published in the papers. And we learnt everything we know today at ATN. Almost 5 years more were spent exploring each other's likes, dislikes, tantrums, falaana, timka. And then there were aspirations.

We both are quite straight forward and blunt. Brash at times. He is more sober than me I guess.

At all times, we knew what set us apart. We both knew that Sabhtarsha is much more technically sound as compared to me. I dont need to mention that actually. All our friends will vouch for that. But at the same time, we both knew that if you take into account everything other than being technical, I was better. This will also be confirmed by all our friends that know us.

He was destined to be a technical Guru. I was destined to be non-technical, people management, project management kind of a guy. And so we pursued. I always envisioned he will be an Architect sooner than later. He always felt I would be a Manager around the same time.

Then I quit ATN.

Today, we are in a strange situation. Sabhtarsha happens to be a Manager at ATN. With appraisal time at work and my promotion due as a Manager, I have been asked by the organization to become an Architect and not a Manager. Strange are the ways the world functions.

When I was asked to change my preference to Architect, I thought of Sabhtarsha. I smiled to the person speaking to me. He asked me the reason and I told him our story. Its still uncertain whether I will be promoted or not to either a Manager or an Architect. But that's immaterial.

I called Sabhtarsha and we met near ATN and spoke of the old times. Our aspirations. Our current standing. Very happy for each other and there is still a long way to go.

Good times.

Cheers ... !!