Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dear Procrastination, I will deal with you later...

For today’s man-in-his-late-twenties, procrastination is not a negative virtue earned through constant effort (or the lack of it), but a habit. As for me, I postponed reading my Moral Science lessons in Std. VII, at school. The lag so cultivated still persists. For, this article was supposed to be written a month back.

Every deadline has a penultimate day, and so does the penultimate. Hence, the last two days would suffice for any task to be done, from ore to metal. Or so I thought, since the above postponed lessons. The results? We go through the life-changing ones below.

Postponed adhesive: Being part of a joint family then, mother and aunt and grandfather and dad were busy decking me up for a youth festival fancy dress event. “Lord Ganesha” was the chosen theme. A fancy dress all well-planned turned into a catastrophe-in-execution, all because of the delayed application of a couple of drops of glue that could hold together the mask of the Lord against my face. First-hand proof that the Almighty wouldn’t help in identity-masking, quite literally, in this case. The consequence here being that I went on stage, heard a couple of threads snap at either end, and realized that Ganesha had given up. Hoots and more followed; no hurls, thankfully. The adhesive was cursed for not drying in time, despite having given it TEN SOLID MINUTES and all the ambient air during my journey from home to school (this was the pre quick-adhesive era).

Duh, the name: Filling the application forms for those (fiercely) competitive entrance exams (to attempt becoming a Bachelor first and a Master then, of some art/science) was never done on time. Being the owner of a 42-letter-long name (45 with spaces counted, says MS Word!), it required an ounce more than just consistency to get it right every time. Seven forms were spread across the table, with six of them having only 30 boxes each for the name. The instruction booklet was quick to checkmate, saying “All initials are to be expanded. Failing to do so will result in immediate disqualification of candidature.” Praying to the above Ganesha, I pleaded for his support, for this time, the allegation quite wasn’t identity masking. Rather, it was identity revelation in its fullest.

Some wise man once quoted, though so beautifully, that “the problem with hurry is that it takes longer”. Two days prior to the forms’ “reaching the administrative office by 5pm on the 31st”, my name-on-the-form went as horizontal as it could, and then did a crossword-like-vertical, slithering down the right margin of each application form. Divinely armed I was with eight weapons and more, including the vintage “Wilkinson Sword” blade, an ink-eraser, its pencil counterpart, the whitener liquid, its diluter, the black variants of the pencil and the pen, and a blue version of the latter. All application forms, in totality, showed names that were written, erased, over-written, whitened, scratched (forgot the Wilkinson, did you?!) and written again, in multi-colour. For the icing, there was always the covering letter – “profusely apologising” for having let Wilkinson’s Sword pierce through the paper, cellophane holding together either part of my first name. “Yours faithfully” was always preceded by a plea to “overlook the inadvertent error and consider the application for processing.”

The study and the sport: Studies was of paramount importance at school, more so after that highly qualified uncle dropped in home for tea. The house would always quote his having studied in moonlit and street-lit lights, and then point fingers at me, saying: “but look at you, in spite of all comforts…” Yeah, you know it better!

Hence, the sport in me was postponed. The study however, got its due only after a game of sport, and hence was delayed further.

Reading: I own the largest number of bookmarks ever. One within each book, all placed in the first ten pages.

Philosophy: The Gita still stands bookmarked at “Arjuna’s grief”.

Writing: I often write articles on humour, like I just now did. But, I always ensure that I complet...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Managers, mails and metaphors - an overview of the overused

Apologies for not writing for the last five months. There was a serious dearth of topics to write on. I had half-a-dozen unfinished articles conveniently hibernating in my laptop, waiting for some trojan/virus to devour them, for none of them qualified enough to see the light of the day. To add to the pack were two social issues that were to be sent to the papers. The government beat me to it, by resolving them!

This major hiatus was on, till the above thought struck. Three years of corporate life, beyond all learning, leaves you with assaulted words and/or phrases. By assault, I mean their overuse. I have handpicked the oft used and hence the top ten. The aim is to convey to my readers, that the overused phrases are but metaphors that mostly imply the opposite of their innocent, obvious selves.

1) Keeping you “in the loop” – “In the noose” would have been a more apt term, for all this phrase does is signal the arrival of a distant storm. Someone elsewhere blew the conch for the battle, and the battalion is fast approaching you. The noose will soon tighten around you. Choose to fight, flee or laugh...

2) Deep dive – In all probability, you are positioned to dive into a bottomless abyss. Whenever a new idea demands a deep-dive, “not doable” is the writing on the wall.

3) Process rationalization – The process is anything but useless, and your task is to convert it to “non-useless”, in the least. Your job description, though, will assume a rationalized process even before you sign your offer letter.

4) In the same page – Keep others in the “same page” at your own risk. Your supervisor’s being in the “same page” can only result in a “torn book”. This usage implies “monitoring you beyond what’s at tolerable levels”.

5) Sacrosanct – Adjective – Often confused with “too important or valuable to be interfered with”. Business intent – non-negotiable, beyond human possibility, non-achievable, "not in my hands"...

6) Huddle – Often ends up being a “muddle”, for there are ten people, ten suggestions, ten negative reactions to the same, and all attendees convincing themselves and others, that there was a lot of learning involved.

7) Innovate – Often follows the above muddle. The challenge here is to find out the acceptable eleventh idea, beyond the ten rejected above.

8) Out-of-the-box – Can someone tell me more about the box and what’s within it, so that I can figure out what’s without?!

9) Hygiene variable – The big brother of “sacrosanct”. The business intent resembles that of the latter, only higher in degree/severity.

10) Brainstorming – It almost always doesn’t need the brain, and the storm goes only thus far as to suggest the mood in the conference room. A successor of “chronic shortage of ideas”, this term is a disguise for “finding out the last straw to hang on”!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

School was when...

1. The time that mattered was between classes and during intervals. The rest of the day was but breaks between intervals.

2. Home was second home.

3. The ‘lunch break’ was an hour of play and a minute of lunch. For, dumping lunch never took time.

4. Matters of grave worry were to lose out on a game of wrestlers’ trump cards, or to have a ‘Games Hour’ washed out by rain.

5. If your neighbour scores more than you, change... the neighbour!

6. The topper in class was not quite extra-curricular. And the all-rounder of the class wasn’t as much studious. You placed yourself in a complacent, convenient and content mid-point. And then conveyed the message in its entirety to your parents.

7. Waiting for ‘other school buses’ to arrive was to take attendance of teachers before they took ours, so that the Class Leader may be prodded to place a request for an extra Games Hour.

8. There never was a greater hero than the Class Leader, when the above request was approved. Three-scores of students rushed out to the grounds in sheer joy, all praises for their Leader!

9. Rs. 10 (Canteen allowance - once in a term, thrice in a year, rather) could buy:

· A cream bun, with a more-than-generous filling of sweetened cream

· Ice-cream soda, chilled.

· A vegetable puff.

· A vintage Cadbury’s lollypop.

· One more of it.

· Rs. 1.50 (you would be chock full by now, to spend this on more food)

o This is when your classmate observed from the distance, and ran over to remind you as to how he saved your ass in the Science Class by sharing his textbook.

o And in another instance, by donating his set of sketch pens.

o Spent...

10. Stolen waters were sweet and bread eaten in secret was pleasant.

11. Facebook was then known as the "school bus". That's where we "added friends", "poked", "liked" and played better games than building virtual farms or fighting virtual mafia.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Cupid goes online...

Just as I had written about love and its colleagues being butchered by grammar, Cupid rushed to establish himself online. My friend had sent a link to one of those dating sites on the Net, whose Home Page had a Live Feed on the latest one-liners posted by people asking for a partner. The point in his forwarding it and hence of this article, is to bring to spotlight the inventive, innovative and supposedly wacky introductory statements that people use to “break the i.”, if that’s the aim. Most of them are true ROTFL material, more so when they are read with a tinge of interpretation from the reader’s end. The best specimens have been isolated for the below analysis.

1) “Does writing her that you need a girl, ever work, i doubt it.”

Paradoxical, for if the person who wrote this meant it, he wouldn’t have wasted time posting it in a dating site. Second, he has answered himself that “he doubts it”, which made the purpose of the post all the more redundant. Realistically, the only reply our pal received was from an Online Merchandise store, which said “we accept Paypal too”!

2) “I am travelling to Kolkata and Bareilly next week. Will be in Bareilly in the second week of March. The place is new to me and I need company for two weeks”

He does Toyota proud, going about “Just-In-Time” with relationships. Hell with the partner in the fourth week of March, for the Bareilly precondition then stands violated.

3) This is mumbai (location noted, next?), all females and males are very busy taking care of their job or housework (Poor them!). At the same time, we need to have some friends (oh, the pitch) so that as and when we have little time to spare, we can chat, meet to discuss various issues (the politburo of every party sure is waiting for this to get over) or may like to have some advise, and to have good time outing for a short while (please note the time period, it’s for a while).

4) “Hai im 27yrs from mumbai...” – Hmmm, nice alphanumeric name you’ve got!

5) Now for the winner. The second is but second by a long, long way. Please, please note - what follows is long poetry, and hence requires running commentary. What’s written below in parentheses is mine own, and the rest belongs to him who wants to date.

“First of all let me tell you clear this is not any relationship issue or Just for Men or Just for Women and certainly not a Dating tip issue (To sum up, this is not an issue at all! The aim is to make it sound out of the ordinary. He assures you that what follows is anything but cliched). I just wanted to start something HutKe (kahaan ke?!) from regular topic. Second who feel themself as moderators and just brag and complain saying that this topic does not belong to this group please hold on (Yeah, moderators. Beware. The topic does not belong here, but act as if you weren’t aware). This just to have some thoughts and views of other people. (the point, please!). Now, coming to the issue (finally). If you make a MOVIE based on true story and that true story is YOUR LIFE what will be the title of the movie (huh?! Moderators, behold!). The movie can be in any language (people from all over India can apply). I would appreciate if it is not English please give the title in your language and also meaning of it (...but why?). I also appreciate if you keep some high level English words please give meaning. If I make a movie the title will be "WALKING ALONE...” Now there! The moderators, the would-be partners and readers are all stunned. This was a valiant attempt at dramatising the request for a partner! And the killer title for his autobiography demands an encore, applause, whistles, bells and more... And yeah, a partner!

More specimens were left out keeping in view the “greater good of mankind”...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Woes and Ease of Facebook Chat

The time on the Desktop clock when I start to type this article: 11:45pm
I was chatting with a friend on Facebook, when I got to reflect on just how difficult the interface for the same is, on Zuckerberg's Social Net(doesn't always)work. The defects, faced by all, is summarized as below:
1) Enter, the Dragon: Zucker's team might have forgotten to programme respect for the ENTER key. Worse still, they would have set a counter which recognizes the ENTER key only the seventh time somebody presses it.
2) The exclamations of life aren't given their place, on FB. For, this is how "what you mean" gets typed on FB chat:
Oh! - oh1
LOL! - lol1
Haha!!!! - haha111
The most required SHIFT is never given its due, hence...
3) Phase-book: This would have been a better name for the network, for it displays what you have typed in phases. It stops mid-way, hell with your speed and ability to type fast, and moves on to the next phase only after a couple of swears form your side, and a call and a message to the person at the other end if not a face-to-face meeting, to convey how FB chat sucks.
4) Space-jam: Self-explanatory, foryouwouldneverwantwhatyoutypetobeclusteredtogetherlikethis.
5) Loading the Chat option... sometimes takes forever.
6) Back to FB chat... Was taking a break when I had pressed Enter there.

Time on desktop clock now: 11:57pm - My fastest blog to-date. :) This is when the keyboard works the way you want it to!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Reflections of a past decade (1991-2000)

Five years of blogging. Half my audience would never believe its eyes about this statistic, for I myself skipped a heart-beat or two when I realized that the Den of Drums and Dreams was half a decade old! Now, that’s a total of 27 posts, including the one I have been typing just as yet.

The blog started with an article that meant nothing to anyone, including me, whoever-read-it and Jerome K Jerome (who finds a mention in the first post). It was initially aimed at daily posts summarizing the day that flew by, but then I understood that my having a blocked nose is of no remote significance to any reader or to Jerome K Jerome, who is no more now and very much so then!

Humour has been at the core and crux of all blogs, though a couple of posts had a contemplative / opinionative shade to them. It always reigned, for more than three-quarters of the blog were about incidents involving me, or in the least had my playing the role of the prompter-behind-the-curtain. And plots where I was involved undoubtedly had “sympathetically resonant (yeah, I remember my physics. Alternatively, this was typed to make me look and sound so.) laughter” in them, not due to my ability to read, re-read and reproduce satire in writing, but because I always used to be stationed at the receiving end. The only reason then, that my blogs have less of “I” and “me” was because I generalized the anecdotes as applicable to the present world / generation per se, and wanted to consciously reduce the first-person element termed as ego. Which is why you would find more of the third person here, and the passive voice with the subject deleted, as taught by Wren and Martin!!

Five years saw me do 3 months of a B Tech, two years of work, another couple of years of an MBA, and seven months of the next job. This meant relocating through five cities in “three states” (that’s one more than Chetan Bhagat’s!)… As I retrospect, I wonder at how science and technology have first comforted and then intruded into our PESTEL (!!) fabric. Further, half-a-dozen classmates had summarized their past decade (2001-10) on Facebook, while ushering in a new set of 120 months. This is when I thought of life a decade further back (1991-00 (Y2K!)), and was surprised to see the change that has come through. Whether it is welcome or not is an endless abyss of a debate and best not ventured into, for we risk losing out on content due to high levels of subjectivity in thought and (in)action. The reflections, by the way, are based on the academic year (June to May), very much different from the “financial year” we have been forcefully made to understand.

Come April, and it was time to see the result of the FINAL exam of the previous class. I had written my first Standard exam then, and felt the triumph of having cleared the Civil Services, for I could spell G-O-O-D-S T-R-A-I-N and also knew what the vehicle did. A tense dad and a very, very, cool son marched past the school gates. Plenty of anxious parents had crowded around the one tiny notice board (of which my name was an even smaller speck), all equally anxious of the numeric equivalent out of 100 their sons had secured, which would prove whether their respective sons have mastered the “Zen of the Goods Train”.

My target (oh yeah, Sales started from birth. You made pitches to your parents, impromptu, without any PPT / infra-red remote controls. No blazers, no formals, but you were far more serious and meant more business than now with all accessories on!) was an 80%. It was a breeze, for:
  • The fact that “we should not spit on the road” took care of my Social Studies
  • 10 + 21 = 31 ensured a centum in Maths
  • The Goods Train ensured that my General Knowledge marks chugged along
  • I knew the Malayalam equivalents of a cat, rat and a mat.
  • The sun was a huge ball of fire, and my science teacher was more than happy with that.
  • The Radiant Reader had to be read out loud in English, and I screamed so loud that it sounded like the Major’s order, and the marks were jotted down halfway through the third sentence. I had practised the lesson “Nancy’s picnic” a million times at home!

Six subjects were all they had to it. Physical Training was never a subject, and “Games” was not compulsory.
The results almost always carried a bribe with them. I had promised dad an 80%, in lieu for an electric train (engine and one-and-a-half coaches) with plastic tracks, battery-operated. I had achieved an 85%, so that meant it would be a train plus an-extra-gift-for-over-achieving! That was about RESULTS and APPRAISALS.
Come the month of May, and Loyola School used to reopen a fortnight earlier than others in the city. Now, this meant:

  • Brand new bags
  • Squeaking new shoes, with lights, without them, with sounds, etc. (Action Rockers – do imagine the futility of having lights at the back of your shoe, and that too a red one.)
    o Sub-bullet point – Action Silencer – Kapil Dev’s shoes that used to have Suction, Compression and Ventilation. I noticed three years later that the air-hole in the shoe was but a farce! ROTFL!
  • Uniforms – The tailor round the corner was tenser than I was, in having the uniforms stitched.
  • Books – The stationery-shop owner’s Chotu used to run around the neighbourhood, collecting the new books for school, to get them bound. The smell of Fevicol in newly bound books had an infinite nostalgia tagged to it!
    o Book labels – Every children’s magazine used to have a centre-spread of adhesive book labels. We kids used to buy two additional magazines over and above the one we subscribed to, only for the labels. The rest of the magazine was scrap equivalent.

Pranks at school are quite another subject altogether, and will be pondered about in the subsequent post.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The "Road of Life" - Lessons from "Life on Road" - Part 1

Three-and-a-half months since my last post. I look more like a firm nowadays, posting quarterly. Without much ado, here goes blog Q3 – unaudited (unedited?!)

This time, it’s about lessons learnt on the roads of Chennai. Traffic in this city has its unique share of humour. Not to forget / mention the larger chunk of irritation, anger and a host of emotions spewed through the exhaust of every vehicle. Narrations below, therefore, refer to anecdotes involving the self and the traffic system. Mostly dominated by the latter, the former is a helpless witness to the extent that he could but blog about it. The irony, though, is about how we could attempt to promote a Greener world when everyone on road (vehicle included) is Red in the face!

The Chennai auto-driver:

The Chennai auto-driver, to say the least, is the most powerful economic indicator that every above-average and over-gray-haired economist has failed to observe and track. He is powerful enough to usher in a sub-prime on a local basis. The ‘taxiing rate’ he quotes could create a bearish clone of the strongest bull any fund market has ever seen. Salaried professionals would incur a negative balance on their Salary a/c in a jiffy, and businessmen could file Chapter 11 (of any book!) within the bat of an eyelid. Bargaining, in such a situation, is hardly possible. Except when you use humour – precise and pointed, only to save a dozen and a half of INR.

I spend a total of twenty minutes daily, only talking to auto-drivers to convince them for lower ‘taxi quotes’. Excerpts from a couple of conversations are given below:

“AUTO! Mount Road??”

“Why not, sir? Where in Mount Road?”

“Spencer Plaza...?”

He then acts ignorant. Someone who has not heard of Spencers Plaza, being in Chennai for more than three months, is better not described any further. On second thoughts, he could, at best, be branded as ‘a blot on the landscape’, to borrow from Sir P G Wodehouse.

The acting reaches its Oscar zenith soon.

“Spencer Plaza?! In Mount Road?! You mean behind Cathedral Road?!”

“No, you just have to go straight-as-an-arrow from here. Cathedral Road doesn’t even come in the way!”

The guy then acts as if he just finished installing Google Maps in himself, by doing a vigorous headbang to denote cognizance (now understanding that you do have a sense of routes around here). “Ohhhh! OUR Spencer Plaza?! (Mark that usage. Spencer Plaza is OURS now!!!)) I was thinking about something else! Hop on!”

“Before I do, how much?”

“Hundred bucks, sir.”

“For four-kilometres-and-a-half?!!! Hope you in your senses?!!”

“Sir, it’s a one-way ahead. Petrol charges have increased. So has the price of food-grains. But only for you, sir, 60 bucks is what I shall charge, and no more.”

“Forty it is, a buck no more...”

And then I walk ahead, to attempt the same to the next sapien they call an auto-driver.

Phase II is callback. When the above Jack Nicholson screams at you, claps twice, and calls you back. “Clap-and-another! Sirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!”

“Now what?!”

“You can’t fathom the traffic going forward, sir. It’s too tough to drive... 50 bucks, sir. No less...”

“Oh, I suppose you didn’t know you would be part of this phenomenon called traffic, when you started three-wheeling?! FORTY!!!!”

“Sir, please sir, spare a tenner if you would, sir.”

“Who would give me an extra tenner, like I do now to you?”

“The Almighty will, sir. I will ask Him to do so.”

“O.k, here goes. I give you my 40 now; the other tenner that the Almighty owes me will be re-assigned to you in my morrow’s prayers. Now shall we do the honours?!”

Jack Nicholson now does a LOL, and says, “Must say you talk funny, sir! Give me 45!”

To which the reply was, “I talk funnier, if humour doth discount! Forty...”

And phew, the journey only starts...