Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Road cancers

Hammy touched a sore spot…and no I am not talking about my recent hurt, but a larger and more painful sore that afflicts most Bengalureans, the Autorickshaw!!

My friend works at the Embassy Golf Links Business Park, a savvy name for an eye sore of an example of civil engineering. This place is tucked away in no mans land and there is actually no way out unless your office provides you transport or you have your own transport. BMTC buses are few and far between. And since only Call Centre employees get transport, the majority of people working here are in a vulnerable position if they don’t have their own transport. The place is too far away from everywhere to walk and that makes the wheel less people here sitting ducks for daylight and midnight and anytime robbery by autos.

Thousands of people that spew out of the 100 odd IT organizations here are stranded for hours for a lift home. A friend of mine waits two hours on the road so that after peak hour, autos will oblige her with a drop at thrice the amount of the meter fare. And as usual no one raises a voice and quietly puts up with the utter nonsense that is going on here. Autos wait in line but will refuse to take passengers for some weird reason and the Cabs that are supposed to drop employees do their first round of drops and then start freelancing and taking the multitudes teeming on the road pathetically for exorbitant fares. Why not join the party when it’s a free for all!!

What really riles me is that there is no initiative from anyone to rectify the situation at this place. The IT Park authorities have their office in one of the IBM buildings and I think people should do a dharna in front of their office to get them to see the light. Or better still when the collection man comes for the rent, Facility Managers should do some arm twisting to ensure that some sort of shuttle service is introduced to at least get people out of this no mans land to midtown from where they have a better chance of getting a lift home!

What bothers me more is that no one seems to rein in the Autos. And the recent fare hike (on the pretext of Petro price hike) that the government acquiesced to, even though Autos run on LPG is a stark reminder of the fact that there is no one up there in the seats of power looking out for the common man and or the common man remains a mute spectator like in R K Laxmans cartoons.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Basic social etiquettes

Last year I was doing this project at this typical IT Company. I had befriended a punju colleague and the two of us are good friends to this day. This gal was expecting her first baby. One day she called me on my extension. She was almost crying because she was unable to use the Rest Room as it was almost always filthy and waiting for the Housekeeping to come and clean it up was impossible for her in her condition. I told her to come down to the marketing floor i.e my floor and use our toilet. I was the only female on this floor and hence the ladies toilet was always clean. Since then she climbed down the flight of stairs to use the toilet.

I suggested to the Facility Manager to put up a Toilet Usage Instruction boards on the toilet walls, like I have seen in my IT companies. But he was helpless due to some corporate policies. The HR manager then suggested that I take the initiative as that would be permitted. So I took some A4 size printouts detailing step by step on how to use the toilet and leave it clean and dry for the next user and gave it to the Housekeeping staff to stick it where it will be noticed, i.e right in front of your eyes when you use the loo. The small act was a success and people actually learnt to use the Rest Room the proper way. Periodic reminder when somebody slipped up was done by the employees committee and we had peace since then.

I remember going to this company in ITPL with a couple of friends to give a surprise birthday lunch to one of my classmates interning there. While we waited at the Reception for her to come out, we saw the Receptionists getting all hot and bothered about the rest rooms not being clean. The reason? Interviews were going on and the large crowd gathered there had made the rest room worse than public toilets.

Go to any company today, and toilet usage instructions are pasted to the walls, because most of us do not know how to respect a public facility like a toilet, inspite of working at top jobs in swanky buildings. And it is not just the small towners but anyone can be guilty of the same. In fact “toilet tensions” are recorded everywhere and right now many a Corporate Communications Team are putting batches of fresher through its paces which include rest room hygiene.

Why are we like this? We are all bought up in good homes. We are all particular about our home rest rooms. Why can’t we use a public toilet the way we use our own back home? What’s the point of all this degrees and doctorates when we are unable to come out of our narrow confines and act like members of a society and respect other people and common facilities as our own?!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The wedding juggernaut

I was watching some Malayalam channels after a long time, because DD Malayalam, the only Malayalam channel I watch if I do watch TV, has stopped airing for a few days. It was an interesting visual experience. Gold advertisements dot the programmes at regular intervals and the jewelery they showcase are exquisite in its design and intricacy. Truly charming. But the regularity of these ads and their opulence leaves you slightly sick, like when you have eaten a bit too many sweets. It was the same sick feeling I had when I attended weddings last Christmas season. And what particularly made me sick was the bridal trousseau!

I understand the need of a bride to look resplendent on her wedding day. But does anybody care other than the family of the couple? And going bankrupt or spending lavishly for a couple of hours is plain wastage unless you are rolling in money. But then I am not talking of that class of people here.

Most of the weddings I attended looked like it took some preparation to get off the ground. The bridal sarees were beautiful. But I wondered what the bride would do with the material after the wedding. My moms wedding saree still hangs in the hangar, as it is white and hence quite useless. She hangs on to it for sentimental reason. Fortunately when she got married, designer Christian wedding sarees were unheard of and she settled for a Benaras silk saree as it was the only material in which you got white sarees in the eighties.

The gold that the brides wore at these weddings would have perked up the sales graph of a dozen Jewelers, steeply towards the north side. Again I couldn’t help but wonder what she would do with it! Live in paranoia for the rest of her life and then hire a bank locker to keep it safe?! And the ones she would use would be the simpler pieces as the extravagant pieces are suitable only if you are a bride and would look silly at weddings or parties outside Kerala.

The number of ads tell a sordid story of entrapment though aggrandizement and mesmeric bondage in the name of tradition. The jewelery houses keep the buying frenzy at cruise control through advertisements upon advertisements that ensure that no sales deceleration happens...ever.

And the race thus created only ensures losers...while the winners i.e the jewelers in case anyone has a doubt, laugh all the way to their foreign banks.

When will the ordinary Keralite wake up and say that this is enough! This is stupid! Lets cut the chase and be the smarter for it???

One refreshing wedding I attended was my cousin sisters. She and her fiancé jointly shouldered the wedding expenses and kept spending to the necessary minimum. All accoutrement at the wedding were reusable and the guest list restricted to the really close or completely unavoidable relations. The wedding raised quite a few eyebrows and finally a grudging and envied acceptance that this was indeed the way to go.

Way to go Neel chechi and Jose chetan!!!

Something has to give. And soon. Or the wedding juggernaut will eventually flatten us as a people and as a culture.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The gender (dis) connection

Sorry friends for not posting so long here at TP. The holiday mood lingers and working from home has not helped. I am mentally still in the Christmas Season 2007. But then issues and lives go on and a chance meeting with a friend at the Forum yesterday, bought me back to reality quicker than a trip to office.

R is a premier B School alumni, mallu and in his late twenties. R is still not married even though he is a hot pick with his credentials. I remember teasing him with a gal in my office, who had a crush on him and instead of blushing he replied gravely that romance was out of the question for him. A long chat over coffee and he told me things which I was beginning to notice around me anyways. The dilemma of the well read, well traveled or just plain old modern mallu man. The dilemma of not having much of a choice in mallu women of the same ilk, who can make decent conversation or are simply, cool company to hang out with.

This post might offend some. But then when I started writing TP, I knew that I wasn’t going to make many friends here anyways.

R has no dearth of good proposals. Smart, highly educated and good looking girls, but as he mournfully asked me, what would he do with them? What he meant was, what would they be as a couple after a couple of years of marriage? Just another couple who will coochie coo in the initial years, then settle down to work and due to lack of a common interest or inability to communicate on issues other than domestic or work matters, fall silent in front of the TV. Or if there are kids, go through the routine of the daily grind, the kids grind and life!

R is not alone. I know quite a few such guys, who push their luck “one more year” hoping their parents will come up with someone interesting or they will find someone on their own. Then they resign themselves to an arranged marriage with the best among the list of proposed brides, a type of marriage they were hoping to avoid.

I remember D, another guy in a similar situation. He finally settled for an arranged marriage as age started piling on. He is married to an extremely nice girl. He is happy, “not ecstatic” as he told another close friend when she bumped into him the other day. But then he hoped that he didn’t have to go out of the house to find stimulating conversation with friends. He hoped he could have a decent conversation with his wife on matters like politics or sports or anything else under the sun. He hoped he had a friend and less of a “wife” in the traditional sense of the word.

This is of course, a small percentage of the mallu male population. Most men are quite happy with a well educated and or well dowried gal. And they are content with the same.

I guess guys these days, at least a small percentage and a growing percentage of guys I am told, want more than the homely, God fearing gal who can cook and clean and has a professional degree to boot. These guys are looking for people on the same mental wave length and sadly, for many, the search will lead to nowhere. Our society has seen to that most girls are brought up conservatively and the freedoms given to guys ensure that the exposure and growth of the male and female of the species are skewed. Ironic that people who have to live together are brought up so differently to the point of incompatibility.

Guess this is the wake up call for parents of daughters. But are they listening?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hajmola please!!

Good Performance Appraisal = Hike in Salary - Sum spent treating colleagues and friends for the hike, wherein the Sum was the sum total of the hiked salary for an entire year.

hmm does anyone notice the irony in this or is it only me?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Indian chromosome

Happy New Year to you all. My first post this year at Think Pad is not my own but a article written by Farrukh Saleem, an article that bought a lump to my throat and made me swell in pride for being an Indian.

The Indian chromosome!

Sunday, December 09, 2007
Dr Farrukh Saleem

Twenty-five thousand years ago, haplogroup R2 characterized by genetic marker M124 arose in southern Central Asia. Then began a major wave of human migration whereby members migrated southward to present-day India and Pakistan (Genographic Project by the National Geographic Society). Indians and Pakistanis have the same ancestry and share the same DNA sequence.

Here's what is happening in India:

The two Ambani brothers can buy 100 percent of every company listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) and would still be left with $30 billion to spare. The four richest Indians can buy up all goods and services produced over a year by 169 million Pakistanis and still be left with $60 billion to spare. The four richest Indians are now richer than the forty richest Chinese.

In November, Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensex flirted with 20,000 points. As a consequence, Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries became a $100 billion company (the entire KSE is capitalized at $65 billion). Mukesh owns 48 percent of Reliance.

In November, comes Neeta's birthday. Neeta turned forty-four three weeks ago. Look what she got from her husband as her birthday present: A sixty-million dollar jet with a custom fitted master bedroom, bathroom with mood lighting, a sky bar, entertainment cabins, satellite television, wireless communication and a separate cabin with game consoles. Neeta is Mukesh Ambani's wife, and Mukesh is not India's richest but the second richest.

Mukesh is now building his new home, Residence Antillia (after a mythical, phantom island somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean). At a cost of $1 billion this would be the most expensive home on the face of the planet. At 173 meters tall Mukesh's new family residence, for a family of six, will be the equivalent of a 60-storeyed building. The first six floors are reserved for parking. The seventh floor is for car servicing and maintenance. The eighth floor houses a mini-theatre. Then there's a health club, a gym and a swimming pool. Two floors are reserved for Ambani family's guests. Four floors above the guest floors are family floors all with a superb view of the Arabian Sea. On top of everything are three helipads. A staff of 600 is expected to care for the family and their family home.

In 2004, India became the 3rd most attractive foreign direct investment destination. Pakistan wasn't even in the top 25 countries. In 2004, the United Nations, the representative body of 192 sovereign member states, had requested the Election Commission of India to assist the UN in the holding of elections in Al Jumhuriyah al Iraqiyah and Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan. Why the Election Commission of India and not the Election Commission of Pakistan? After all, Islamabad is closer to Kabul than is Delhi.

Imagine, 12 percent of all American scientists are of Indian origin; 38 percent of doctors in America are Indian; 36 percent of NASA scientists are Indians; 34 percent of Microsoft employees are Indians; and 28 percent of IBM employees are Indians.

For the record: Sabeer Bhatia created and founded Hotmail. Sun Microsystems was founded by Vinod Khosla. The Intel Pentium processor, that runs 90 percent of all computers, was fathered by Vinod Dham. Rajiv Gupta co-invented Hewlett Packard's E-speak project. Four out of ten Silicon Valley start-ups are run by Indians. Bollywood produces 800 movies per year and six Indian ladies have won Miss Universe/Miss World titles over the past 10 years.

For the record: Azim Premji, the richest Muslim entrepreneur on the face of the planet, was born in Bombay and now lives in Bangalore. India now has more than three dozen billionaires; Pakistan has none (not a single dollar billionaire).

The other amazing aspect is the rapid pace at which India is creating wealth. In 2002, Dhirubhai Ambani, Mukesh and Anil Ambani's father, left his two sons a fortune worth $2.8 billion. In 2007, their combined wealth stood at $94 billion. On 29 October 2007, as a result of the stock market rally and the appreciation of the Indian rupee, Mukesh became the richest person in the world, with net worth climbing to US$63.2 billion (Bill Gates, the richest American, stands at around $56 billion).

Indians and Pakistanis have the same Y-chromosome haplogroup. We have the same genetic sequence and the same genetic marker (namely: M124). We have the same DNA molecule, the same DNA sequence. Our culture, our traditions and our cuisine are all the same. We watch the same movies and sing the same songs.

What is it that Indians do and we don't: Indians elect their leaders.

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email: