Thursday, December 11, 2014

When there is more chaos than Christmas.

It's December…Christmas is here…! And we are going home for the season! Yoohoo!

We booked the tickets two months in advance as season tickets are staggeringly expensive. Well we had been religiously methodical and highly proactive about setting a reminder to be the first ones to book when the online ticket window opened. We are always the people straight out of ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ when it comes to booking tickets to go home. And it goes without saying that we reserve this habit for booking etickets only.

So what really happened was, in the early hours of the first of December, a new project kick started at office. 

The expression when new project was announced 

All of November, I was trying to wind up official stuff and prepare mentally for the forthcoming intellectual freedom. Like someone said Man Proposes, Office Disposes. By the look of some people, wrinkles on their foreheads and the complex(mostly pointless) words written on some documents I realized that it was not going to be a smooth ride to the airport. I am supposed to write and deliver a certain code just before I exit for vacation.

For those lucky people who do not work in software, a new project means this:

1. Somebody’s brain child is converted into a task list with the names of victims (commonly called software engineers) against it. 

2. They seem to have no idea what life was like before it.(I swear we were just fine)
3. It is always on HIGH PRIORITY. There is nothing called a low or medium priority project. 

As far as software projects are concerned, people do not believe in postponing them to start ceremoniously after the New Year.

So here I am, bound in a file, eloquently named ‘Task Assignment’. But my hope is still looking up. Amidst all this, there is Christmas purchase, expenses that came out of nowhere, the tree which had to be decorated, toddler who has to be kept away from the tree and the ceiling fan and geyser pipe which collectively declared strike this week. All year Muscat is warm and when it starts getting cold the geyser screws up. Being a highly effective person does not give me more skin to endure the biting cold so among all this chaos I have to keep up with the maintenance guys whom I suspect to have hibernated for the season.

To complete the mess, the sudden change in climate brought with it all kinds of viruses so I am also coughing and sneezing as I type this. I am pretty sure my keyboard is now the dance floor of the most vivacious germs. It may even turn into breeding ground at night.

I am also gearing up for the major event that is packing for vacation. And this activity is
Image Courtesy: Here
scheduled next week

 In movies, when a guy gets banished from the family, he walks out leaving all his stuff behind taking with him just his ego. However when a girl runs away from home she has her stuff. Some of it are sent through cargo.

But this is strictly restricted to movies, my friends. During packing we realize that a whopping 65% of the space is occupied by the superficially free spirited, supposedly ‘light’ traveler husband with his shoes alone that needs a cargo box. However when I pack few extra earrings the most undeserving one speaks loudest. Have I told you that everyone in my house go completely out of their minds while I pack (which includes THEIR stuff)?

 I need to take a vacation alone just to pack in peace.  

So, how do I pack for my packing vacation?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

End the pretense. Speak up for Cleanliness. (AbMontuBolega)

We must stop saying the clichéd statement that our country is diverse, because there is one thing that keeps us united across the nation. It is the accumulated filth. And some of it dates back to the era we read about in stories and religious books.

The first and foremost step towards a cleaner India, is to make peeing in public punishable. We do not go to the living room corner and pee there because bathroom is ten seconds away, right? Similarly our surroundings are where we spend a majority of the time, so keeping it hygienic is equally important. We need more public toilets, and some discipline too. This is not impossible. Diapers are an option for adult babies who don’t understand discipline.

Secondly, we must learn through practice, to control the overwhelming urge to spit. We have a habit of chewing paan, or gum and dispose it wherever it seems convenient. I have also noticed that Indians produce the maximum saliva in the world and have the compulsive tendency to spit anything that can possibly come out of their mouths wherever they like. It could be a movie poster, a new car, or wherever it lands from the top of a building.

Thirdly, we must accumulate waste and dispose them at the nearest garbage bin. For example a simple road trip can generate garbage like tissue papers, disposable plates and glasses, tea bags, plastic wrappers, biscuit covers and the like. When travelling with babies there will be soiled diapers too. It takes little effort to combine these in a single plastic bag and dispose them at the nearest dustbin. Accumulate waste.Dispose at the right place. I swear this is easier than pulling down the window multiple times only to deposit the waste somewhere it should not be.

Fourthly, we all know our country has the most beautiful tourist locations. I am a normal citizen with a reasonable amount of patriotism and none of my ancestors have fought in the freedom struggle, yet I cry inside when I see some of the finest streams and architectural marvels infested with rodents and insects, because people enjoy throwing leftover food and plastic bags in these places . Of all the places I've visited, India has more pride worthy, breathtaking places (no kidding)  but we don’t flaunt it enough because we all seem to be busy abusing it beyond repair. It is high time we keep our tourist spots clean and help the Government generate more revenue from tourism and stop bothering us.

Fifth and an important step towards our goal is a turnaround in terms of attitude. For example in the Middle Eastern countries, a third of the population are Indians. Believe it or not, here one can see Indians who actually know how to keep the city clean! The metro trains and public spaces are spotlessly maintained, they clean up after picnicking at the parks, follow the 'accumulate and dispose' commandment religiously, and even have their cars cleaned on a daily basis. The same people upon landing in India, throw their boarding passes on the roadside first thing after exiting the airport. They stick their gums at the back of the taxi seats. This is the worst kind of NRI hypocrisy. It should be given a name, considered as a sickness and treated through disciplinary action.

Image Courtesy: Click here

It is our responsibility to keep the surroundings clean. Sadly, ‘they’ (whoever was supposed to come and clean up after us) are NOT coming.  The #AbMontuBolega campaign, initiated by Strepsils is a strong reminder to that. We need to stand up, speak and practice cleanliness. Let’s START!

This post was written to support the Strepsils initiative towards a cleaner India, #AbMontuBolega. You can follow the same on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bucket List Status: One down, 728356 to go.

Image Courtesy: Google Images

I have a bucket list which had been conveniently ignored ever since the birth of my son. The procrastinator in me was hoping to hang on to the same when suddenly in the month of September, realization dawned (no, it wasn’t anything I ate, it just happened). What am I doing? At this pace I may just die at some shopping mall and no one will even know I existed. My bucket list had started glaring back at me. I had to take some initiative. The last time I remember taking some initiative was in the labor room. Let’s not go into that now.

In Oman, the entire journey from getting a learner’s book to the license is like a monkey maze with snakes and ladders in between. Before you get any ideas that this is anything close to interesting, let me remind you that the ladders are lined with fire and the snakes are King Cobras. I got the learner’s book after the eye test and signal test, which is a baby step towards the goal. And baby steps don’t count for adults.

Soon I found a trainer near the place where I stay, and when I went on my first driving session with him, he made me feel so nostalgic, I couldn’t believe my ears. He sounded exactly like my parents when I was 17 and they were pushing me to clear the entrance examination. Sweet! I knew I was in for a rough ride. But there was no looking back.
Image Courtesy: Google Images.

I got the license yesterday, so I want to share with you the invaluable gems of wisdom I happened to get in the process.

1. Do not mess with the driving instructor. If they don’t press their side of the brakes, you are dead.

2. Time is everything, so is timing. Never make the instructor wait for you.

3. The instructor will talk. You will listen. That is how it works.

4. You must be a veteran in the art of how not to convert your thoughts into words.

5. The argument that you have only one pair of eyes will stay in your head. Forever.

6. Traffic signals can’t see you. They don’t get it when you are giving it a deadly stare.

7. No matter how long you've been driving, you just cannot spare a moment to check your hair in the rear view mirror. You may have done your hair and make up in India when cows in slow motion where crossing the road, but that simply does not apply here.

8. If your instructor is checking Facebook or WhatsApp chats on his phone while you drive, it does not mean that he trusts you. Remember, his foot is firm on the brakes.

9. Silence is golden. Always scream internally.

10. Always say ‘Sir’ at the end of every sentence spoken to the instructor. It goes a long way.

11. If he says you touched the white line, you probably did. Always agree with him.

12. When he is mad at you, shut down your mind and keep driving. Do not restart it.

13. Even if your enemy is trying to cross the road, let him. Chill, you will get      better opportunities.

14. Parking between the lines is not as easy as reading between the lines.

15. You are allowed to swell with pride when you get that parking right between the cars. Unfortunately nobody appreciates good parking and you don’t get any brownie points. Life is a bitch.

16. Do not check your eyebrows while waiting at a signal. Traffic signals are evil they sense it and suddenly turn green.

17. ‘Orange’, ‘Amber’ and ‘Yellow’ are the same when it comes to traffic signals. It means DANGER.

18. Do not stop or reduce speed for the pigeons. Their lives are suspense thrillers. Yours is not.

19. When you drive, anything he eats sitting next to you may smell tempting. Do not look. Try not to think about it. Never drool.

20. When he is drinking hot coffee, continue driving normally. We are not authorized to change anybody’s destiny. If anything untoward happens, refer points 3 and 9.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The shopping trip I almost survived.

For the past week, every time I open a document to write something,  I have been mysteriously disturbed by more important things. Last time I remember, it was hunger. Basically, I did not do justice to my blog in the month of October. I do not call this a writer’s block, as it is applicable only to writers. A more plausible term would be laziness.

Image Courtesy: Google Images
My husband and I work at the same office, and obviously stay in the same house so the only time we take time off each other is while shopping. Aaron, my son, usually chooses to hang out with me because I carry around a mini living room  which contains everything he needs except a TV and sound system – namely water, biscuits, wipes, extra clothes, shoes, sanitizer, napkins, coconut oil, tiny toys (just in case the patience limit is exceeded) the list is never ending. Whereas, whenever he hung out with his Dad, he returned like he came from battle ground. I take him shopping and keep the conversations going…’Aaron did you like this dress?’ Without a pause I involve him in whatever I check out at the mall, because non involvement makes kids extremely bored, frustrated and unwanted. This causes screaming, hunger, loo visits that are not genuine, thirst, "I miss Appaaaa" and other unexplained catastrophes that I am forced to dump the shopping bag and make an exit as fast as possible. And leaving the shopping bag at the shop without billing it is not easy. It contains carefully selected stuff and things I may not want other 'lovely ladies' at the mall to have. Well one thing they don’t tell you about motherhood is about having to let go of shopping bags that will never make it to the billing counter.  

So, yesterday he had an extra class at school. Yes my son who is in nursery had extra class for his upcoming dance concert. In my school days, the first time we ever came across anything that involved waking up early on a weekend was in the tenth grade. Even then it was ridiculous enough. After his ‘extra class’ we went to the mall, because it was November 1st and salary was credited into the account, which was a feeling of fresh rain on a dry, parched land. As usual, my conversation with the little one started, keeping him cheerful and engaged. I also chose a nice hat for him to keep his spirits high. I showered him with compliments too, which made him feel really good. He was hopping around with me, and even offered to carry the shopping bag – well it was more dragging than carrying.

I reached the cosmetics section and was checking out some nail polishes, and I asked Aaron to see if there was something he liked. The section was handled by a sweet lady with very small eyes and heavy makeup. She was like the poster girl for the makeup section and looked like she wore every possible makeup that was available. After a few seconds I realized that Aaron had been silent for a while. I turned around to check on Aaron and he was staring at this lady, while she was trying her best to ignore him. I interrupted him and said  ‘Aaron come here…see this?’ and he came to me saying in his broken English ‘ Amma…look’ and pointing directly at this woman’s face who was standing right behind me, he blurted out  ‘CARTOON’.

I had lost my will to shop. I held Aaron’s hand, and left that section in a hurry frantically searching for any scarf that I can get to cover my face. I did not give a second look at this lady who must have been mortified. If someone said that to my face I’d be really insulted and wouldn't feel any better just because it came from a toddler or a talking parrot. I did not apologize and make it bigger for the same reason. And I fled like there was fire. Later while I waited outside with Aaron I explained that it was bad manners to point at people. He nodded, but I wouldn't expect a three year old to understand social code of conduct. In fact he was checking out his forefinger to see if something was wrong, because I told him not to point :-/ 

That was another weekend of my volatile shopping trip with little Aaron. Like every other day, I ended up buying more stuff for him than for myself. Sigh.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sshh..! Dont tell anyone !

Courtesy:Google Images.
When someone says ‘Hey don’t tell this to anyone’, in my head it sounds like ‘Hey I have planted a bomb under this building’.  Most people try to sound scary when they trust another person with their secret. And this secret is relevant only to them, so they could actually save the drama part. 

To be honest, keeping someone’s secret was a big deal in my school and college days. Like in school the biggest secret used to be :

 ‘Did you know why Sweta teacher dint come yesterday? She is pregnant!!’

 ‘What!!! :-o’

‘Can you believe it? Pregnant!!Now don’t tell anyone ’

 The fact that I dint care one bit about her pregnancy as long as we got a free hour was something my friends probably dint get. That Sweta teacher is a happily married woman and is pregnant with her second child and in a few weeks her bump is definitely going to show is a fact that did not deter the person breaking the news sound any less dramatic.

Then was college and secrets got spicy and scandalous like ‘Do you know that Ashok is two timing her? Don’t tell anyone’ or ‘That guy cheated in University Exam.. He actually told me not to tell anyone…but you don’t tell anyone okay?’. Well some secrets stayed, I forgot others, and when that person comes later and tells me the continuation of the earlier secret I get completely lost, but still manage to pretend rather convincingly. I was no exception I told some secrets too which some friends dint think qualified enough to be a ‘secret’ so they laughed over it at the bakery.

Well after that there was a long hiatus to secrecy in general. I was job hunting . During that time the only secret about me was that I was jobless and this secret was not kept by anyone. And the only secret I had was that I was cursing anyone who set their nosey business in my life and had the guts to ask’ Did you find a job YET ?’.

Well later came love and then marriage and then there were no secrets. We had a lot of friends who were couples and we hung out, and in a couple years there was such a dearth of secrets that I forgot the entire concept of secrecy altogether. This is what marriage does to you. Single friends don’t share anything anymore, because couples discuss everything, including that of the single friend. So basically I dint know anything about anyone anymore. I came to know that some erstwhile close friends were ‘In a relationship’ or ‘married’ or ‘blessed with a baby’ from Facebook.

But now there seems to be a whole new level of secrets. Like in my building a kid fell down and hurt her elbow, and her parents were keeping the matter top secret. However the child fell down in a public place and everyone knew it but no one was allowed to probe further into the updates of the incident. However being a working woman I am completely unaware of the secrets in my building and went ahead and asked that lady:

‘How’s your daughter?’ 
And she was like ‘Why?’
 I went on to ask…’She fell down or something na?’
She: ‘How did you know?’

Well ‘She is fine’ would have been a perfect answer to my first question, but the lady was hell bent to know who told me. My eyes told me…my eyes!! I saw her when she fell! And are kids not supposed to fall down? I really din’t know this …I fell down like thousands of times in my childhood and even have three stitches at the back of my head which the entire district of Trivandrum knows about. And now you know it too.

Other highly guarded examples of secrets are ‘Have you seen Deepika’s daughter? She was adopted…Shh don’t tell a single soul’ ‘or ‘Did you know Mahesh’s son was so ill he dint attend fourth grade exams? He may have to lose a year…Shh don’t ask them directly’ (This does not mean you can ask them indirectly). But when Deepika’s daughter becomes a topper or Mahesh’s son grows up to crack the IIT - THAT actually is a well-kept secret. Nobody wants to spread that news. And that my friend, is what secrecy is all about.

And then there are others who are extremely secretive about random personal things. Take for example a person who was disturbed about the strange disease her cat suffered from, and then pleaded me not to tell anyone. I was faced with two main dilemmas: 1. Does she think that I may spill this secret to other cats, which in turn will make her cat socially unacceptable?
2. Suppose I tell this to people…how do I start? ‘Listen I have a horrible secret to tell…my (unnamed) friend’s cat…’ does this sound like something anyone will be interested to know? Well I still keep the secret. Oh who am I kidding? It completely exited through my other ear.

Courtesy:Google Images

Well there are real secrets too. The family secrets, and more importantly stuff people share with me because they want to be heard. Like any other secret, these too stay and may be forgotten in the long run, but never does it reach another ear, because I consider it my own. 

But in the society we live in, everything is a secret and everyone thinks their lives are suspense thrillers. Like some people lie that they have two more years in Govt. service, but we know that they retired four years ago. Others fake their age even with their best friends. Others don’t divulge any details about their kids who went to study abroad. And among these secrets blooms fake friendship, something that is like a plague in our generation. 

Oh and by the way, that cat died. 

Dont tell her I told you. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A testimonial to Orkut.

Despite having received many requests to divulge my love story, I dint oblige as I have no mushy, tear-jerking, heartwarming story that can make anyone go ‘Awww’.  It does not have any typical cliches or thrilling twists that can make it worth a read forget interesting. To top it all, our parents did not make a hue and cry when we decided to get married, and that was the last nail on the scope for telling my story. Had they rejected my wish to marry him, I could’ve portrayed them as villains and blissfully get my character some sympathy and support. Oh well, the guy turned out to have a nice sense of humor, so life with him is not as boring as our jab-we-met version would have turned out.

We knew each other since day one of joining the same organization as trainees. Orkut was the Facebook of those times. Not having an account on Orkut was totally uncool. People started going places and buying stuff just to show off on Orkut, exactly like how it is now. Phones with 2 Megapixel cameras, polyphonic ringtones…mobile companies were bombarding the market and our minds. Nokia 3310 and Sony Walkman were dying a slow death. The only thing that remained the same was our stipend. Sigh. Scraps, testimonials, profile visitors…it was a happening time of our lives.

Soon we were friends, and added each other on Orkut, which is like a conservative form of live-in of those times: D From mere friends to Orkut buddies! You know what that means? It means he can see my photos! MY PHOTOS! :D

Many friends wrote me testimonials even without me having to buy them treats. And that really meant a lot to me. So one day I asked him to write me a testimonial, which looked like this.

Orkut used to have a wider page, and it actually fit what he actually meant by that . It reads ‘Princess’. On further interrogation it was revealed that he copied it from some other profile. (I told you, he is not the sky writer or Archies greeting card types). Copied or not, I got a testimonial! Yay! Fine by me! Thus started a full-fledged exchange of scraps, sms jokes, riddles and chain mails.

Orkut continued in the background, when we got married on Facebook and brutally ditched it. We moved on, forgetting conveniently that which brought us closer. Having experienced both Orkut and Facebook, Orkut always felt like an authentic coffee place, sepia dipped in memories, nostalgic and calm with the sound of sea in the background. Facebook is noisy, high profile and the place one saves the orange lipstick for.

It is time to say Goodbye to our first (virtual) hangout, the only remembrance of the unromantic, uncreative, blatantly copied ‘Princess’ testimonial. It was my only chance of showing my Dad-worshiper son that his Dad did not write me a testimonial, and when I asked him one he copied it! Now how will I start to explain to him what ‘testimonial’ means?

Goodbye, Orkut. I can’t forget you. Or the fact that you stole my only chance of getting some brownie points from my son.