Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dear Santa

A message forwarded from one mother to another. The Post Script is the best.

Dear Santa,

I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my doctor and sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.

Here are my Christmas wishes:

I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze, but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.

I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.

If you're hauling big ticket items this year I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music, a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals, and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes, Mommy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.

I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting "Don't eat in the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother,"because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.

If you don't mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely. It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.

Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is calling and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back. Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door and come in and dry off so you don' t catch cold.

Help yourself to cookies on the table but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.

Yours Always,


P.S. One more thing...you can cancel all my request s if you can keep my children young enough to believe in Santa.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A new breed

The world of mobile phones jumped into our lives just about a decade ago. The ubiquitous accessory that it is today was a luxury in those not too far off days. I had joined the booming telecom industry in those earlier days itself. A cosmopolitan work culture right here in the orthodox malayali land was too good to resist. The crowd was very young, right from the Circle Head down. Majority of them were Keralites who had been out of Kerala and now back home. A malayali who has been out of his homeland is a reformed person and it was pure fun working with them. Left the organization seven years back, but has been in touch with many of them, not in the least due to the fact that my husband still works there.

The past few years have seen many of them moving back out of Kerala. The reason, as always, lack of growth opportunities here. It is simple – “You need to move up? Get Out.” The higher you go, the pressure is even high. Unless you move on, the ones below cannot come up. Where do these constant moves leave the wives and kids? Earlier, the answer was easy – the pack followed the leader. Things, they definitely are changing now.

S, my ex- colleague V’s wife has a well-established consultancy in Cochin. They had been here for almost a decade. Then came the end of the ladder for V and he decided to move to Bangalore. S was excited that she could open another office there. Before the family could join him, came another move for V, this time to Mumbai. After much deliberation and visits to Mumbai, S has decided to stay back. I talked to her a few weeks ago. Her reasoning is simple “I worked so hard for this. How can I just leave it all and go? Maybe I can do something like this there too. But again, that will be from scratch. And what is the guarantee he won’t move somewhere else soon?” Her parents are dead against her decision, but she has decided to give it a try. So S with two kids here and V visiting them every weekend.

Then there is J and his wife S. He had at least five moves in the three years I worked with him. S was a kindergarten teacher who just adored kids. Just as she got comfortable in a school, a move would happen to J. She tagged along wherever he went. Then came a five-year stint in Cochin again. S did some professional courses and is established in her work today. And then the inevitable happened. But S has decided to stay back. Their only son started his professional course and he is somewhere else. Theirs is a truly national family now. Father, mother and son in three different states.

We met H and his wife R yesterday. Yes, H will also be on the move soon. R says, if she can manage to get a long leave, she’ll go. Resign?, no way. Again, it will be R and kids here and H elsewhere.

A new breed of women is emerging here. Maybe in the metros they have already been there for long. This is a new class, who knows their mind and is ready to follow their heart and intellect, striking a balance between their dreams and that of their family. They work, not because they have to, but because they want to. Maybe they have realized that “you can make those around you happy only if you are happy with yourself”.

I for one, know it for a fact.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back into the Night

Except for a few nocturnal souls like me, almost everyone has a skeptical look on their face when I tell them my work timings – four in the evening to one in the night. For me, nothing could have been better. I don’t have much to complain about my health, my wealth is limited to my friends and family and I hope age will make me wiser. No point being early to bed and early to rise just to make me healthy, wealthy and wise.

Even I was a little apprehensive when I started these timings two years back. But my logic was simple. When my son started school, I wanted to be with him for a few days, get him ready in the morning without me also being in a hurry and be there when he got back from school. And whenever he had some programme in school, I did not want to choose between a deadline at work and my anxious son at school. As an added bonus, after a few hours sleep in the morning, I would have plenty of time for shopping or whatever I wanted to do. The fact that I was lucky enough to get an excellent maid has also helped me no end. (All of us workingwomen are so much dependent on them, I need to write another post on this).

It has worked out pretty well for both of us. Now with another baby, the questions started nagging me much before she was even born. Knowing me, my managers had told me just to get back and they would work out the most convenient timings and project for me. Kept my fingers crossed till Naomi was born. And everyone kept telling me the second child would be exact opposite of the first one. Georgie was a very calm baby and as long as his stomach was happy he would also be happy. So, there I was, expecting a thunderstorm in my hand every night. The first few days were kind of peaceful. Now everyone said you would know the real nature of the baby after the first week. To cut a long story short, she has been as calm as her brother till now, thank God and touch wood. By the second month, I had decided to give the same timing a try.

Got back to work a week ago. Naomi had absolutely no issues. She had got used bottle-feed in a week, had started solids also, so food was not an issue, neither was sleep. In two days I could make out, she would not be a trouble to anyone. She would be awake in the mornings and I could get some relaxing time, feeding, bathing and playing with her.

But me at work was another matter altogether. Eight months of sleep whenever and wherever I felt like had made me a sleepaholic. One hour at my desk and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was a walking zombie. Next day, or should I say night, was no better. My two friends who just couldn’t wait for me to get back was like, hey, what is wrong with you, you are not the same anymore. At 11 the following day, one of my team members told me very quietly, “Bindu, carrying you is not an easy proposition, so why don’t you just go to some corner and catch a few winks”.

I was getting jittery but by Thursday things started getting better. I guess it was just my 'old' body getting back intoa forgotten rhythm. By Friday, it was the same old me. So here I am, back in the graveyard shift again and enjoying it thoroughly.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

To be or not to be

Another four days and I'll be back to work after eight months. I still do not know how I got through the first five months – hospital, bed rest, back pain – was literally counting the minutes and hours as it went by. And, I do not know how the last three also went off, it was as if everything was on fast forward mode. Can’t believe Naomi is three months already.

Almost everyone who knew me years back took me to be this fiercely ambitious, highly competitive, hard-nosed career woman. The decision to take a break from work after marriage came as a shock even to my family. I could never imagine having to compromise either at work or at home. So I thought, ok, one thing at a time, let me see how things go. Basked in the newfound freedom for the first six months. Then started the boredom, then frustration. Before I could go mad, my son came. The following two years just whizzed past me.

Once he turned a year old, started working part time. A small CA firm, I could come and go as I pleased, just needed to put in four hours a day somehow and the proprietor could boast of a qualified person on his rolls. Worked out fine for both of us. Work was no great shakes, not that I expected it to be, it was something to get out of the house and meet some people.

Then came the shift to northern end of Kerala and a year of absolute frustration. Couldn’t imagine working in another small town firm. But there were plenty of apprehensions about a full time job as well. Did not want to compromise on my son’s happiness. That is when the BPO idea started taking root. Get something where I could work at night, and I get to spend time with him. After months of search and several interviews, got something I liked first in Bangalore and then shifted to Kochi. It has worked out pretty well for both of us.

Now, the same doubts and questions go through my mind when I think of leaving my baby at home. Will she miss me, am I being to fair to such a small thing, the apprehensions never end. The look of absolute dejection on her face as I try to get her used to bottle-feed is tugging at my heart throughout. She starts with a small wail, gulps in a few drops, barely enough to satisfy her hunger and then starts the vociferous protest. But slowly, I can see her getting used to it, as if she realizes she has no choice.

Should I take another break? After the first break it took me almost two years to find something, which suited mine and my family’s needs. It was not a perfect solution, but the best compromise that I could make. A fine balance between what I wanted professionally and personally. If I take another break now, it will be even more difficult to get back, and before long I would have passed that fine threshold between youth and middle age. But what about my baby, how will it affect her?

Career woman with no thoughts other than work, full time home maker, working part time, doing something on my own, balancing act between work and family – been through it all. Not doing something makes me an absolute grouch and it will rub on to the kids also. And I realize this is the best I can do. There is someone to look after the kids, I have a somewhat flexible work schedule and a five-day week. And I get time to spend with my baby during the day.

I realize this is something each working mother goes through every day of her life. At least I have been blessed with so many things. A good maid, my in-laws at home to oversee her and if needed, an option to quit and be a full time mom again. There are so many out there who have to work, come what may, leaving their kids at someone else’s mercy, struggling to make both ends meet. Let me be thankful for what I have and do the best I can.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Dream not,
Need not,
Sing not,
Want not,
And you shall never cry.

But, what is life without
A dream come true,
A need fulfilled,
A song from the heart,
A want taken care of.

So, here we are,
Dreaming, though it may all be shattered,
Needing, though unfulfilled,
Singing, even if there is none to hear,
Wanting, hoping it will be taken care of,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Simple Things

warm clothes dried in the sun after days of rain...

a couple of hours sleep when i feel like it...

watching rain blowing away in the wind....

listening to my son's tales after school...

a dish well turned out and relished by my loved ones...

watching harry potter movies....

the radiant smile on my baby's face as she wakes up in the morning...

just lazing around now and then...

seemingly simple things, yet words are not enough to describe the joy it gives....

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Neighbour across the river

The inevitable question whenever I tell anyone I am from Kavalam - "Is it near Kavalam Narayana Panikker's house?"
And the usual reply, “Not really, you have to go slightly interior, across the river. But, I have seen his house” (Yeah, in movies, I add in my mind)

There is this old house opposite to ours, right across the river, which was said to belong to his family. From the time I can remember, one doctor or other used to stay there. The last one was there for almost ten years. He used to come out to the “kadavu” for an evening stroll everyday. We teased our grandmother saying her boy friend was out to see her. A few years back, when I went home, the house seemed to be empty. My mother said the person who sold the house to the doctor had cheated him and the property was in dispute. Kavalam’s family finally won it back and no one was staying there then. The house wore a deserted look for many a visit after that.

Went home a month back after a year. Whitewashed, neatly fenced, with a brand new ‘padippura’ , the house wore the typical look of an ancestral home. Seeing my questioning look, mummy said, “Guess who owns it - Kavalam Narayana Panikker. He is rarely there though.” During my one-month stay at home, I even saw him once, in his trademark ‘mundu’ and long jubba.

Now, if someone asks me the same question, I can reply non-chalantly, “Oh yeah, he stays right across to us.” (and add in my mind, ‘across the river’)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Beauty and Brains

One of the eligible bachelors in office to the HR Manager, "Your recruitment practices need to be revamped completely."
An indignant HR Manager, "Why, what is wrong with it? We have the best people."
"We need more good looking females here, yaar."
Our no-nonsense, conscientious DGM, "But good looking girls, do they work?"
Two of us, who takes any reference against women as a personal affront, "Hello, what do you mean? What about us?"
The DGM, in all earnestness, "But I meant good looking girls."
Huh ?!!
Compliment or......?
Another session:-
One of the Team Leaders watching a particularly pretty new comer with a characteristic Christian name, "These Christain ladies have such good skin and hair."
Then looking at one of us sitting right in front of him, "Of course there are exceptions, like the two of you."
What we say :-
These guys are so overwhelmed by our brains. They don't realize what beauties we actually are!!

Friday, June 29, 2007

"Like the Flowing River"

Loved "The Alchemist". Got hooked on to Paulo Coelho reading "Veronica Decides to Die". He is one writer who pens the most profound of thoughts in the simplest of words.
"Like the Flowing River" is a collection of his thoughts on spirituality, people, life in general. There are a few reproduciotns of his earlier writings too. Not attempting a review here, I am too ordinary a mortal to even think of it. Just wanted to share something which really caught my thoughts in this book.

"Beacuse it has lived its life intensely
the parched grass still attracts the gaze of passers-by.
The flowers merely flower,
and they do this as well as they can.
The white lily, blooming unseen in the valley,
Does not need to explain itself to anyone;
It lives merely for beauty.
Men, however, cannot accept that 'merely'.
If tomatoes wanted to be melons,
they would look completely ridiculous.
I am always amazed
that so many people are concerned
with wanting to be what they are not;
what's the point of making yourself look ridiculous?
You don't always have to pretend to be strong,
there's no need to prove all the time that everything is going well,
you shouldn't be concerned about what other people are thinking,
cry if you need to,
it's good to cry out all your tears
because only then will you be able to smile again."

(written by Mitsuo Aida, a Japanese poet and calligrapher)

Realized early on in life that it is impossible and impractical to please everyone in everything you do. Do what you think is right, if possible without causing pain to your dearest ones. It's been working for me, at peace with myself most of the times - always is impossible, 'coz I have too many loved ones and a few whom I love too much!!
Being true to myself is also really difficult many a time. A strong stubborn streak sometimes stands in the way between me and how I behave. Got to get a hold on that.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Discovering girls already?

Yesterday was color dress day for my 5 year old son in school. He went in his favorite t-shirt with a hood.

"Amma, everyone was pulling at my t-shirt today", as soon as he got out of the van.

Trying to pacify him, "Maybe because they liked it".

"No amma, it was not the girls who pulled it, only boys!!"

Girls when they like it and boys when they don't ??!!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why do boys have all the fun ?

A few weeks back, one Wednesday, my husband calls up from office and tells me "I am going on a trip to Silent Valley on Saturday". I was like, "Huh?" Vagamon was just two weeks back and another one, so soon?

Well, he is this auto crazy guy, anything and everything with wheels is his passion and he had joined an online community of even crazier guys sometime back. You have to go through the discussions they have, to believe it. They have regular get-togethers and one of them came up with this wonderful idea of driving their beauties through a forest with no roads, in the monsoon. Envy was not the word to describe my feeling when I heard it.

There was this person from Coimbatore with a farmhouse somewhere in the middle of a pristine forest and he had thrown open its doors to some 18-20 of them, many of them absolute strangers to him. A couple of others organized the food, barbecue, drinks, beds, blanket and God knows what else. They had the time of their lives and I have no words to describe the place. The stories and pictures are out there in http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/team-bhp-meet-section/25027-monsoon-meet-hills-4.html (mansidea is my man, by the way)

A few years back, four of us friends wanted to get together in some place. Two of us were in Kottayam and the other two in Kochi. It took us almost a year to find a date convenient to all. One’s husband would have a problem, the next one had a PTA meeting, other’s kid fell ill, the list of reasons was endless. Finally we managed to meet, drove to Alleppey in the morning and got back in the evening. And there these guys are, deciding, planning, organizing, executing, all in a matter of a few days. Don’t blame me if I turn green whenever I think of it.

Are there any communities, online or otherwise, where women of similar interests get together, I wonder. For a majority of women, interests are limited to family, children, dress, jewellery, cooking. Do not misunderstand me; I am not being judgmental here. That is just the way things are. So it is no surprise, I guess, why it is so difficult to find such forums anywhere. Or is it that I am such a frog in the well, I do not know what is happening outside.

Now, let me imagine there actually is such a thing and someone organizes something like this. Would I be able to go off, just like that? Without even the need to think, the answer is an outright no. And it is not a bitter or reluctant denial. Reminds me of something my friend had told me sometime back. She had this great guy for a boss who treated her like a long lost daughter. He was always urging her to learn as much as she could before getting married because “Now, your time is yours only. After marriage, you are lucky if you get 50% of it for yourself. First kid, it is down to almost 15%. Two kids, it will be a miracle if you can manage a couple of hours a week just for you”.

Another friend of mine with two school going kids and a busy husband came out with this classic quote “For men, family is something they occasionally get back to and for women, it is something they occasionally get out of”.

There has always been wanderlust in me. However impractical I know it is, my greatest dream still is a trek in the Himalayas, all alone – just me and the mountains and streams and valleys and flowers and trees and sheep. If I were a guy, it would have happened long back, I’m sure. And just for that freedom to travel whenever, wherever and however I feel like, God, let me be a man in my next birth, please…..

Monday, June 25, 2007

Home, sweet home

Fresh air, loving care and yummy food, the stay at home was too short. Back in the city for about a month and still trying to get back into the groove. Going back is impractical I know, but the longing is too much sometimes. But then, we always long for what we cannot have or what we have lost, I guess.
Can't imagine there was a time when I hated the simplicity of that place. Life has come a full circle now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Take me home, country roads...

The long veranda which runs round the house, a cup of hot coffee in the morning in that dilapidated old easy chair, and steaming hot masala dosas which only mummy can make - good old home and to think that I haven’t been there for more than a year now!!

Getting in to hospital tomorrow and I am already waiting to get out and go home, to be pampered, of course.
Looking forward to those cool summer breezes in the evening, the river in front shining in the silver moonlight, the coconut trees alight with all those glowworms, and then the “karimeen” and “thaaravu”.

Back to Kochi when the rains start and the schools re-open.

Happy holidays to everyone and to me too!!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Pronouncing English

A classic.

Found it at http://www.ahajokes.com/

File description: If you can read these pronunciations out loud and quickly, you deserve a prize.

"Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!"

Friday, April 27, 2007


There are interviews and then there are some. When there are hundreds of them going on daily, these some others make our day. Thanks to a free flowing press meet along with the opening of our Kochi office, the coverage we got was immense. Suddenly news spread about this MNC who wanted Commerce graduates in droves.

The fun started the very next day. Walking into the office was nothing short of a shock. The entrance looked like one of those seedy recruitment drives. People of all sorts flocking the door and a security guy who didn’t have a clue about what was happening. Some sort of order was forced in an hour and then the one to one started. The criteria were very clear to us, to the ones outside, well….

Target of 200-300 in the coming few months, we decided to see almost everyone who came in initially. First round, just to check the communication skills, then a short accounting test, second round and then the final interview – the routine was fixed. The security guy was the most important person those days. By the time we reached office, he would have made everyone wait in order, collected their papers and got them ready.
The first question naturally “Tell me something about yourself”.
Three out of five would answer “Njaan, ente peru…”
One of us, “We do understand Malayalam, but we are sorry, you have to talk in English. You have to deal with western clients and we would like to know how your communication skills are”
A long silence.
“Did I say something wrong?”
“English, difficult. But I’ll do any work”
“Sorry, we have no choice”

Another one, a BA in English Literature.
“Well, this is an accounting BPO. How do you think you will fit in?”
“Are you not doing data entry?”
“Not really, we are doing accounting work for foreign clients”
“Oh, then isn’t this a BPO?”!!!!
So much for our talks about high-end accounting work and similar jargons.

Next, a lady in her early thirties.
Didn’t give me a chance to ask her anything. “Madam, my husband is good for nothing and I have two kids. I have a job now but the pay is not enough for anything. Please give me some job here. I’ll do anything, I just need Rs.3500 a month” and all this in a non-stop Malayalam monologue.
Sure, I felt really sorry for the lady, there was nothing much I could do about too. And to think that she had come all the way from Vaikom just seeing some news item in a newspaper!!
Made me thankful about many a thing in my life.

This one was the best. I still don’t know how I kept a straight face throughout. Did his CA Inter long time back. Then went for Law, claimed to be a rank holder and practicing with “one of the top-most firms in Trivandrum”.
“What brings you here?”
One moment of silence and then with full force “Accounting.. (a significant pause) is my passion. I (again a pause) have always dreamt of seeking a career in this magnificent profession. Blah, blah…….more blahs for a full 10 minutes”
Somehow sent him out and burst out laughing, much to the shock of the entire office. Wonder how many days it took him to learn the whole script by heart.

Our office building was just getting ready and Infopark had given us an incubation center – their small auditorium converted into workstations for a few months. Life was an open book there, interviews used to take place anywhere in there and everyone knew what was happening. The best was one of our Managers. Whenever he took an interview, all eyes would be on the computer screens in front of them and ears tuned towards the Manager’s seat.

First, he would have a look at the candidate, feet up till the head. If someone came in sandals or slippers, boy, that just wasn’t his day.
“Is this the way you come for an interview in an MNC? Go back and if you want a job, come back dressed properly”.
Half of them would never come that way again. But we got a few good ones from those who actually dared to.

Dressed properly, you would be offered a seat. Then the scrutiny of the CV.
“What is it with you guys, all the CVs look the same – Name, Date of birth, Father’s Name, Religion, Marital Status.. and then two sentences about education and work experience. Why should I be bothered about your Father’s name and age? Tell me about your work”
Couldn’t argue with the logic in his statement. To give him due credit, even if the person was not short-listed, he would get a brief class on how to prepare a CV and attend an interview.

Then , there was this qualified guy.
Communication ok, technically fine, so the next step.
“What is your expected salary?”
“35 – 40,000”
“What is your current pay?”
“Gross or net?”
“Oh, don’t you think the hike you are expecting is a little too much for your kind of experience?” (He was working as a chief accountant in a nearby hospital)
“Isn’t this a BPO?”
Well, another one of those……

Being an accounting BPO, we used to get lots of CA, CS and CWA Inters.
In comes this lady to one of our managers.
“So, what are your qualifications?”
“Sir, I have done Inter course”
The manager claims the first thing he immediately checked was her marital status.

The auditorium was proving to be too public or maybe everyone was having too much fun , the venue was slowly shifted to one of the Infopark conference rooms. This was one of those rooms with floor to ceiling glass walls. The only way you could make out the door was the handle in one of the huge glass panes.
One day, a big crash, and a sudden commotion. To this day, we have no clue how he managed it, but this guy actually broke one of those thick glasses. He was sent off to hospital immediately. After a few hours, a knock and a face peeps into the auditorium. Then comes the body – bandages on hands, dried up blood on his dress, “Sir, now can you take my interview?”

For qualifieds, even for the initial interview, one of managers would be there. There was this guy, after every question we asked, he would look down and search something and then look up with a very vague face and equally vague answers. After a couple of these, I looked at my manager very subtly and there he is very surreptitiously looking under the table to figure out what this guy is up to. Well, actually he was searching his palms for the answers, maybe he was adept at reading it.

Another one did fairly well in the test, experience was kind of ok and we felt he could be developed into someone better. Nonchalant throughout, as if getting this job was the least of his priorities, at the end of the interview he offered us a visiting card of his.
“You see, I am actually into marketing and exporting of handicraft items. Yours being an MNC I wanted to know whether I could get some contacts or at least some orders”

After the usual questions in yet another interview, one of the managers asked a candidate, “Do you have anything to ask me?”
He swears the look on the candidate’s face had to be seen to be believed. He was shocked beyond words and with a hand still over his mouth, “Sir, you are qualified with so many years of experience, how can I ask you anything?”
The poor chap thought he was being asked to interview the manager!!

My personal best was when this lady walked in, gave me a look and, “Hey, I know you”
“Even I know you”
We had a common friend, used to somewhat know each other during our CA coaching class days, liked whatever we knew about the other and promptly lost touch for the next ten years or so. Needless to say, we are partners in crime in almost everything that happens in office now.

We have a swanky new office now with separate rooms for interviews, discussions and trainings, and formal tests for the initial screening. Everything is so organized but we ordinary mortals are denied a major source of entertainment in our official lives.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Countdown

Just about a week more to go, hopefully. It has been a really long wait this time. BP, Bed rest and Blood Sugar had put me down for much longer than what we’d expected. Had to take rest for the first one too, but somehow it didn’t seem so long. Maybe because I was already used to being at home then and of course, thanks to my hilarious friend Shruthi, who was staying next door. In she would barge, any time of the day or night with wise cracks in her very own inimitable style. And I just had to say I feel like having something, it would be ready the very next day.

Five years have passed since Georgie came and I haven’t grown any younger. A more or less sedentary lifestyle, hypertension was already my friend. To expect some complications was but natural. I had already told my manager that even though the baby would come only in May, I would be out before that. Little did I know then how early it would be.

Manu used to make fun of me last time saying I was like “Kilukkathile Jagathy” – in and out of hospital every other day. I have to admit, it was actually true. First it was a headache, not a simple one, mind you. I couldn’t move my head even an inch and it took two days in the hospital. Then it was a bout of bronchitis, which took me a week. The third one was a slight spotting and that was just for a day.

Well, to make a long story short, history repeated itself in a different form. This time, the hospital was different, causes were different, but stay I had to in hospital for four times till now. Durations were more or less the same as before, a day, two and then a week. The last one was just three days back – for a day. Now when I go there, the nurses treat me like a long lost friend. This time, no room was vacant and they put me in the post-op bed. One of the nurses came in looking for something, saw me there and with a pinch on my chin asks, “Ah, look who is here again”!! Another motherly one who used to take extra care of me every time told me very worriedly when I left, “Do remember to check your BP everyday, and pray that everything is alright till next week”. Made my day, is the least to be said.

The most depressing part was the two month long rest in bed. As it is, with my chronic sinusitis and a bent nose, I have to sleep with my head elevated to breathe properly. Just imagine my plight when I had to be in bed 24hours a day with the foot part up by at least a feet. Got used to it slowly, in fact started finding it really comfortable after some time. Now I have a permanent companion in bed – a bottle of nasal drops. Can’t breathe otherwise, my nosed is blocked, perennially.

Then came the next shock – gestational diabetes. When it comes, it comes together. The bright side of it was I had to get out of bed to go to hospital every morning and evening. Surprise of surprises, two weeks of going up and down everyday, nothing happened, except a constant back pain. Who is bothered about that when expecting to be in bed for at least another three months? Started getting out on weekends slowly and then to Thrissur too. That was another luxury which none of us had expected till July. Well man proposes and as always, God disposes in a different way.

Now, here I am waiting for next week. The wait has been too long, I have lost patience. Anyways, sometime in between this forced house arrest, I have started putting out my sometimes wild and otherwise mild thoughts. And my friends seem to enjoy it. There is a purpose for everything in life, you see.

The day is fast approaching and I am waiting for the big relief that comes with it, purposely trying not to think of what comes after that. The never-ending feeding sessions, diaper changes, constant eyes on a crawler, running after an active toddler….. Well, this time there is an elder one to run after the little one and I just can’t wait to watch the two of them together.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Bitch

Those daily bitching sessions in the office cafeteria. That is what I miss the most in the now 5 and soon to be 8 months long hiatus from work. To get at least one other on the same wavelength at the workplace is a miracle. So three – four of the same ilk is nothing short of a major lottery.

This is one industry you’ll never grow old if you at least have a tendency to be young at heart. And throw a few of us who absolutely refuse to grow up, into this lot, imagine the fun we have. Just picture some 500 odd individuals whose average age is less than 25, and think of what all would ensue. Light hearted banter, affairs – casual and serious, wedding plans – some which materialize and some which don’t, egos – mighty and puny, oh, the list is endless. And in the midst, a few of us, whose main aim in life is to have fun (hope none of my bosses ever see what I have written here), oh boy, do we enjoy ourselves.

Our unofficial day starts at around 6.15 pm in the cafeteria. Miss it for day and it feels like the loss can never be compensated. No one is spared and no holds barred in these daily sessions, mostly on face too. God knows how many hates us there. But who cares, we just want to have fun. In the midst of even serious work, any small thing to be discussed, an immediate con call and we all are together. How many of the rest have been jolted from their seats by a sudden burst of laughter from one of us. And any meetings, the only ones to open their mouths to agree and disagree are these gossipmongers.

I don’t miss not working, the ‘rush of adrenaline’ when you do something worthwhile. But the “hey did you hear?”, “I’ve got something to tell you”, “he is such a creep”, “she is such a bitch”……God, how I miss those. But for my friends who call me up every other day for an update over phone, I would have been dead of boredom by now. If that makes me a bitch too, so be it.

Few feminine thoughts

In the conventional, much maligned sense of the term, I am not a feminist. But in attitudes, thought process and outlook towards many a thing in life, I definitely try to maintain a feminine perspective. A few, stray thoughts on my take on gender-based issues.

Harassment, exploitation, gender bias - the terms are many and the issues, never ending. What triggers these, what causes it, who is at fault? Do the so-called victims ‘have it coming’ or is it the warped mindset and attitude of the harasser?

First, the often heard and opt repeated phrase – ‘they were asking for it”
When a girl is teased in a public place, when a man leers at her and misbehaves, this is the most common reaction we get to hear. The same is true in the workplace harassment issues also. How far can it be true? Though I hate to admit it in public, in many cases, this is a fact. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not merely referring to how someone dresses or acts. It is a combination of how girls in our society are brought up and how the girls themselves behave.

Traditionally, girls have been brought up in a home centered set-up. Right from childhood, restrictions are heaped on them. Don’t talk loudly, don’t go there, don’t do that – and the primary reason behind all this, you are a girl, how can you? And the end product, you get someone who is not sure either of herself or of the world around her and easy target for any predator of the human species. Look at most of the reported issues, you find a girl who was not very clear what she wanted from her life, who to trust and not to. And how can she, when others have always decided everything for her.

Now, why do some men behave the way they do? We can understand some tomfoolery at the age when the hormones are at their highest peak. I mean the real perverts and the chauvinists here. Again, the ultimate answer comes to the upbringing. Someone brought up in a culture where everyone is respected for what they are and not their gender, will never stoop to low levels pf perversion and harassment. On the other hand, a boy who has daily doses of the women folk in his home being relegated to the kitchen just because they are women will always tend to see other women in the same light, be it in his personal or professional life.

No, I am not trying to justify or condone individual’s behavior on the basis of their upbringing. Still, the fact remains that some shades of childhood impressions will always be there in the sub conscious mind of the individual and it influences certain behavior at certain times. Some strive to grow out of it and succeeds to a large extent. Some others just let it deteriorate.

Things have changed a lot in the last decade or so. You see women in almost all the conventional ‘man’ areas. You find them working anywhere, everywhere and at all odd hours, day and night. Most of today’s youngsters are crystal clear about what they want to do, how they want to do it and when. Options to them are never ending. But sometimes you wonder, have things really changed where it matters? Society has always respected a well-educated, accomplished woman, but only after she is educated and accomplished. What if she tries a road less traveled on her way to that success?

Go to any of the usual evening haunts of the youth or even families. How many girl groups can you find there? Next to none, we all know. Can it be because our girls do not like an evening out with their friends? I am positive that is not true. Even if someone ventured out, the world will not leave them at peace for more than a mere few minutes. I remember a group of girls who ventured out on an afternoon outing to Bolgatty Palace around ten years back. Within half an hour, different gangs started hovering around, passing lewd comments and generally making life miserable for the girls on that beautiful evening. They tried ignoring it at first, but finally had to give up and get back. Years after that, one of group went to the same place with a few other friend and had one of the loveliest evenings in her life. The difference? The Palace is now a star hotel and naturally, admission is restricted. Otherwise, something similar would have happened even today.

I know many men who say what freedom do women want, why should they do that, who asked them to go out after dark, why did they have to go alone. And to those – just as you do, even we love the sea by the moonlight, chat with our friends by the waterfront, breeze on our face on a hot summer’s evening, raindrops on our head and face, a walk in the park when the lights come on. We too love all the fine things in life.

Now how do we tackle this? There can be no cure to this malaise, only prevention. To change the attitude of many who have been born and bred in a set attitude is a task which even Hercules himself would not be up to today. The best way to go about at present is to accept the fact that our society behaves likes this and act accordingly. For tomorrow, bring up our girls to have faith in themselves and go for what they think is right and our boys to respect their sisters as separate individuals who have their own dreams and a separate life to live. At least the next generation will have a carefree life.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Media Overhype

Switch on to any channel, and you see Richard Gere trying to tango with our very own 'Celebrity', Shilpa Shetty. So called responsible news channels, don't they have anything else to talk about?

Our Ms. Shetty realy did look shocked. Poor girl, didn't know what to do, I'm sure. But, why do we need to focus so much on what some westerner did something which was quite natural for him? Let those people out there trying to save the 'sanskaar of bhaaratiya naari' turn to their own homes and give some freedom to their womenfolk, for a change!!

Friday, March 23, 2007

'Shesham Screenil'

To be interviewed by a TV channel for one of their woman based programs. "By God, are they so desperate!!" was the uniform reaction from friends and family. With no claim to fame in any form, how could I blame them.

Susan, my friend and colleague had asked me a few months back about this. Her sister, a very successful entrepreneur and one of the well-know personalities in Cochin knew this producer. She herself has and keeps on appearing in similar programs. My first reaction was ‘why not’. For a teenager who grew up on Prannoy Roy, his “World This Week’ and election coverage, being a microphone wielding journalist was one of my secret dreams. Needless to say, the dream got lost somewhere along the way. Well, if I can be on the other side of the microphone, so be it.

Months went by and then this phone call. “Hello I am ….. This is regarding a TV interview”. Oh, ok, better late than never, I told myself. Then the next shot “Madam, I’ll call you tomorrow. By then, can you have a CV of yours ready and about 20 questions which we can ask you?”
“You are a CA, right? Something relating to your profession, how it affects you as a woman etc.”

For a few minutes, I didn’t know what to say. Never thought interviewees had to provide the script too. Then light dawned. Who am I, that a total stranger would know what to ask me about myself? He needed someone to fill in his program, someone had given him a lead, and the closet narcissist that I am, had taken it up without any second thoughts. Served me right.

Too lazy to spend time on the phone talking about myself, I offered to send something through mail. “But madam, I don’t have a mail id. I’ll create one and then send you the details”. A media person without an email address?!! Well, it takes all kinds, I guess.

Weeks passed and another call. “Madam, is the CV ready?” How could I say “Not really”. So, the next best answer “Yes, sort of. I’ll mail it to you.”
“But ma’m, I still don’t have an ID, so can you just summarize your life over phone?”
A summary of my professional CV and some feminine jargon, he was satisfied. The date and venue was fixed.

I was having second and third thoughts everyday. Turned to my closest friend, confidante and the one most trusted to give a frank and honest opinion about anything. Manu said, “ Go ahead, what do you have to lose?” and added in his inimitable style “kai vittu pokumo?"

Being at home for more than two months, all my hennaed gray hairs had turned back into their original colors. So off I went for a complete refurbishing not for once forgetting the old adage “kaakka kulichaal kokkaakumo”. Still, even an once of extra confidence is worth it. The day dawned, turned into noon and there I was at the Infopark cafeteria waiting for the camera and the crew. Half an hour after the scheduled time, the producer and his team turned up. A young girl, with a very familiar face, all painted up, walks up, smiles and starts talking to me.

It is obvious that the man is not happy with the ‘location’. “No choice”, I have to say. Office is out of bounds, thanks to BS 7799, client confidentiality and the usual stuff like that. To add to the discontent is the fact they cannot connect they high voltage equipment to the available power points.

We start in natural settings in even more natural lightings, what a befitting background for a natural beauty!! First question from the girl “Everyone has a preconceived notion that CA is a very difficult course. What do you say about that?”
Tongue in cheek I reply, “Of course it is difficult. But it is not impossible for those who study systematically and religiously. You have to be really focused”. Like one of my friends say,” You can afford to say whatever you want once you have cleared it. The one question no one should ask is how long it took you”

To be honest, it was a very informal session and I didn’t realize an hour was over. And I don’t remember much of what she asked or what I replied. The funniest part came after the session was over. The girl asked the cameraman “ Reactions?” Then she started making faces at the camera, literally. Nods, ‘aha’s with an enlightened look on her face, amused laughter, all the reactions we see on an interviewer’s face on TV. Little do we know how artificial all the natural looking stuff are on celluloid. I burst out laughing when she told me I have to do the same. But she did a good job of it, asking me some more silly questions to get the required reactions.

They said they’ll let me know when it is to be telecast. As they say in the old movie notices, “Shesham Screenil” , that is if they decide to show it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Death, before and after

She was the youngest and the prettiest of the four sisters. One look at the first three and you would immediately know they were sisters. But not her. Straight brown hair, very fair, a slightly upturned nose and perfect white teeth, she was the best mixture of the paternal and maternal genes. She was the pet of her elder sisters and the perfect partner for their only brother, the youngest of the lot.

Right from childhood, she was different from the rest of the brood. Her sisters used to rag her saying she never grew up, was always mama’s pet in spite of a much sought after son who came eleven years after the first girl and then three more. The girls fought tooth and nail with each other while they grew up. The fights inevitably ended with a standard dialogue from one of them “ I am not your sister and you are not my sister any more. Don’t come to me for anything again.” Of course, the pledge was seldom followed strictly for more than a day, maybe two in case of an especially sensitive brawl.

In aspirations, ambitions and outlook towards life, she was closest to the eldest one. But the younger one’s was more matured and mellowed and less rebellious. The eldest one’s earliest memories of her is that of a doll like five year old in a blue pinafore, clinging to her skirt, refusing to go back to her class after lunch. One in the sixth standard and the other in the first of the same school and lunch coming in the same packet from home, they were forced to have it together. She would have to wait till the class teacher came back to hand over the crying one and rush back to her own class. How she used to hate it those days, she herself on the verge of tears most days. And now she realizes those are what fond memories are made of.

The brother was born when she was a little more than five. The two of them were a sight to behold. A little one carrying a tiny one all around the house and the neighboring houses too. As both of them grew, fights were routine. But one could see the deep love and affection between the two. One could not live without the other and couldn’t be separated for more than a few days.

Unlike the lazy elder ones, she joined the ‘Girl Guides’ in high school. One of the most active members and the trusted lieutenant of the teacher in charge she would be right at the front for all the marches, rallies and camps. That is why even the mother didn’t give too much of a thought when she started complaining of pain in her joints. The doctor who stayed close by also said it must be because of the strain of too many activities. She was in her ninth standard when the pains started getting worse and then a well-known physician was consulted. One look at her and the symptoms, and she was immediately referred to a cardiologist. ‘Rheumatic Fever’ it was, something which children between the ages of five and fifteen are prone to, if their tonsillitis infections are not treated properly.

The elder sisters too had severe tonsillitis infections, but staying at a different place, a different doctor had treated them and none of them had any problems after that. By the time the younger one developed the infection, the family had moved to a different locality and to a different doctor. Not a single day has gone by since then when the mother has not regretted not taking her youngest one to the same doctor.

No one in the family knew what to say or do when the cardiologist said one of the valves of her heart was already affected and she had to be on some strong antibiotics immediately. She was also referred to one of the best-known heart institutes in the state capital. Sooner or later, she had to have the affected heart valve replaced. And the earlier she got herself registered, the better, he said.

Tenth standard and her biggest dream till then came true. That year, the President’s Scouts and Guides from the district were to go all the way to New Delhi to collect the award from the President himself. Needless to say, she wanted to go with the rest of her friends. The doctor was not too happy but left the decision to the family. Maybe the mother had a premonition of what was to be, and she wanted her daughter to be happy.

Off she went on a two week trip, that too in the cold winter of the north. That she would enjoy it was a foregone conclusion, the only worry was how it would affect her health. Rashtrapathi and his Bhavan, all the customary tourist locations including the Taj Mahal, she was thrilled. On the way back, they met someone in the train who professed that he could read palms and predict the future. She couldn’t believe her ears when he told her that she was ailing from a heart disease. And her joy was boundless when she was told she would be all right within a few years. The sheer elation on her face while she narrated this to her family was a revelation to them of the anxieties she was going through daily.

College days brought new friends and dreams. For graduation, she selected Commerce and went to a co-ed college. She was the favorite of her class mates, both boys and girls. Her sisters would tease her about one particularly affectionate boy. It was so obvious that he adored her. And he was a sweet heart too. She had a couple of very close friends but none of them knew about her condition. She wanted to be a Chartered Accountant and in her final year degree had already applied to one of the largest firms in Cochin.

The monthly consultations with the local cardiologist and the yearly ones at Trivandrum continued. During one of the routine consultations, the doctor suspected something was not going on as expected. The valve had deteriorated further and the surgery had to be much sooner than expected. Strings were pulled and a date for the surgery was fixed a few months after she graduated. Her CA dreams had to be put on hold for the time being.

Finally, she had to tell her friends. Her best friend would not talk to her for days and then she cried and cried. She just couldn’t believe that in spite of the umpteen sleepovers at each other’s places over the years, she didn’t have a clue about this. The teachers were also shocked, but were confident she would come through in flying colors just as she had in whatever she did all her life.

The year after her graduation was special for the mother. The daughter was at home with her throughout and the two got very close to each other. By this time, one of the elder sisters got married and had a daughter of her own, and the other two were studying in different places. Distance made the hearts grow fonder by leaps and bounds and the sisters were closer than they ever imagined. There was nothing under the sun, which they couldn’t discuss with each other. The mother, herself young, and the father joined in and the brother grew up amidst this girlish chatter and nonsense. They made fun of each other and there was no way one could think too high of one’s self when there were so many to bring you down to ground with a loud crash.

She was admitted to the hospital on 19th of a December and the surgery was scheduled to be a week later. Today, someone tells you about something, you log onto ‘Google Search’ and all the information you need is at your fingertips. The only information one could get in those days were what the doctors deigned to tell you. The success rate of such surgeries was supposed to be very high and the patients were expected to have a normal life for years after that.

The surgery went off without a hitch, she responded to the artificial valve well. For a few months, she was advised to monitor her temperature in the morning and evening. Even a slight variation would mean something was not as expected. The variations started a week after the surgery. The valve was working perfectly and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Her condition stabilized after a few days and she was discharged on the 19th of January.

The hospital did not allow any one to be with the patients and the visits were restricted to two at a time, that too for two hours a day. The mother stayed with her uncle and visited her very day. When her sisters came to see her, they pulled their mother’s legs together saying she was getting very friendly with the young doctors there. The youngest would tease her saying one of the doctors even had a crush on her. The mother would play along with her daughters.

She reached back home after a month and every weekend after that was a celebration with the other sisters returning home religiously. The family had their first instance of worry when she vomited after a particularly riotous dinner session when everyone was in splits for hours. A few days later, when the mother was giving her bath, she noticed that the wound had started festering. The doctor was consulted immediately and she was put on another medication. Her temperature started rising slowly. The look on her face after seeing the thermometer readings in the morning and then again in the evening betrayed how much she knew about the seriousness of her situation.

Asked to go back to the hospital in Trivandrum, she was admitted again on another 19th, in March. The married sister was expecting her second child and the other two were preparing for their exams and none of them could visit her as frequently this time. The eldest one wanted to meet her so much, she coaxed her aunt to go with her.

At least once in their life, almost everyone would have thought of how life would be without their dear ones. But seldom does any one think of what if they knew they had only a few days left to live. The look on the younger sister’s face that day is something, which the eldest one will never forget in her life. In place of the effervescent, ever pleasant, bubbly sister was someone with a blank look on her face. Not listening to any of her attempts at making fun of their mother, she just sat there, neither listening nor talking. Then she coughed and spat out some blood, and the elder sister could understand her silence.

Two days later, another 19th, a phone call in the early hours of the morning, her sisters knew it was over. The loss of a very dear one how much ever expected it may be, is still too painful for words, they came to know. The tears in their parent’s eyes when they brought their little one home broke the sister’s hearts even more. The brother sat in one corner of the room, staring at his closest sister with a stoic look on his face. What thoughts would have been going through his mind, others wondered. He didn’t shed a tear even when she was taken out of the house. Prayers and final kisses were over, she was lowered down into her final resting place, and then he broke down, totally and completely in his eldest sister's arms.

The day passed in tears and condolences by dear and near ones. The real feeling of someone not being there forever, hit later. Her sisters and brother started noticing an empty space everywhere. A sudden and deep void. Anything and everything would trigger off a host of memories, their hearts would swell up with emotions and eyes with tears. The excruciating pain subsided slowly, but the memories would always be fresh. Years have passed by, the sisters are settled with families of their own, and the little brother has grown up to be a young professional. With kids of their own, they now know what their parents would have and still would be going through.

It has been eleven years now, and I still miss my youngest sister, oh, so much.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Kahlil Gibran

My all time favorite.

No one has defined marriage as well as him. Even almost a hundred years back, in what must have been a conservative and orthodox society, he writes about how important personal space and individuality is in a successful relationship.

On Marriage

Then Almitra spoke again and said, "And what of Marriage, master?"
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow

Most of us today's parents have so many dreams and aspirations about our children. He reminds us - " You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts."
How much better life would be for so many kids if their parents read this once a day.

On Children

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

With so much simplicity he says what prayer is or should be - God knows our needs, our need is only Him. " For if you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you shall not receive."

On Prayer
Then a priestess said, "Speak to us of Prayer."
And he answered, saying:
You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.
For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?
And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart.
And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing.
When you pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very hour, and whom save in prayer you may not meet.
Therefore let your visit to that temple invisible be for naught but ecstasy and sweet communion. For if you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you shall not receive.
And if you should enter into it to humble yourself you shall not be lifted:
Or even if you should enter into it to beg for the good of others you shall not be heard.
It is enough that you enter the temple invisible.
I cannot teach you how to pray in words.
God listens not to your words save when He Himself utters them through your lips.
And I cannot teach you the prayer of the seas and the forests and the mountains.
But you who are born of the mountains and the forests and the seas can find their prayer in your heart,
And if you but listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them saying in silence,
"Our God, who art our winged self, it is thy will in us that willeth.
It is thy desire in us that desireth.
It is thy urge in us that would turn our nights, which are thine, into days which are thine also.
We cannot ask thee for aught, for thou knowest our needs before they are born in us:
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

kerala syndrome

Smart city, IT city, BPOs, the talks go on endlessly. Glad tidings in plenty for the young Indians. Open any business magazine and there are articles on the new avenues in outsourcing, why India is going to be 'the destination' for the next 20-25 years and so on and so forth. Yet, a common thread that runs through all these talks is a major worry - the demand supply disparity. We talk about lakhs of young boys and girls graduating every year. Not to forget the engineers and management graduates who come out of institutions, which have mushroomed in every nook and corner of the country during the last few years. Experts say just about 10-15% of these is readily employable. The rest are well - graduates, engineers and managers in paper. What has or is going wrong?

I am not so sure about the rest of the country, but of Kerala I have a good and fair picture. And this is based not on any hearsay or business article, purely on personal experiences. The organization that I am a part of started operations in Kochi about 2 years back. The start was in a small way, but the plans were to ramp up massively in a very short span of time. The company is part of a New York based organization and is a pure play Finance & Accounts outsourcing service provider. Their first office in India is in Bangalore. Now, why did they choose Kerala and Kochi as the second destination? You look at any office in any city in the country and you would at least a few commerce graduates from Kerala. Most of the boys who graduate in Commerce go out of the state in search of jobs. The reason is obvious to everyone. The management was sure if there were so many outside the state, there should be even more here and many who would like to come back to their home state.

We started with a core team of around 12 people who were selected a few months back. There was a major press conference announcing the opening of the center in Kochi and plans for the tremendous growth in a couple of few years. There was wide coverage in all the newspapers. There were also reports how hundreds of commerce graduates would be needed for this major expansion. The fun started the very next day. First it was phone calls then the walk-ins started. Somehow news spread that there is this new BPO who wants commerce graduates in hundreds. Every morning, we would be greeted with a crowd of hopefuls at the door of our temporary abode.

One had to see and listen to our youth to believe it. In a couple of days I could understand the reservation of my colleagues in Bangalore had about the kind of people they could expect to get in Kerala. In would walk one guy in a shabby shirt with rubber chappals on. Believe me, I’ve seen ladies with torn blouses and lazily draped saris walking in with husbands in tow. If hundred people walked in a day, we would be happy if we could select at least five. The qualifications are good in paper, no doubt absolutely about it. Sadly, most of them could not speak two sentences together properly even in Malayalam, their mother tongue. Many wouldn’t even look at you straight in the face. There were qualified accountants with years of experience who couldn’t talk a single sentence in English properly. Politicians are talking about job reservations for locals in Smart Cities and the like. Are they really aware of the basic requirements of an industry like this, I wonder. Whatever you say about westerners, one thing I have noticed is they are not bothered too much about your accent, but you have to be clear and confident in what you communicate to them.

We sure did get a number of excellent young boys and girls amidst these hundreds. For them also the going was good. A world class work environment, good pay packets, a comfortable culture and all the amenities that an ITES company would provide for. All the projects got off to a good start. There were hiccups in plenty. Anyone who has worked in the initial stages of a project on any industry would know the challenges that come along with it. This is especially so when the industry, the kind of work, and the culture of the people you deal with, in fact almost everything is entirely new.

After a few months, comfort level started setting in. The reservations which our counterparts in Bangalore had about the quality of work here were already a thing of past. Happy clients, work going on smoothly, we had a good work force, but the party could not last for long. Slowly, the so much talked about Kerala syndrome started setting in.

This industry works best as teams and as managers we were always conscious of how one mistake by one team member could affect the whole project. The client talks only about whether their requirement is met or not, and not how person 1 fared compared to person 2. We always made it a point to talk to our team in groups and also individually to gauge their comfort levels and to identify any potential problems even before they started. Casual talks were revelations to us.

The first round of formal feedbacks came with the yearly appraisals and along with it some very interesting observations too. Many of them came with “I am not so sure about the future of this industry. I feel like I am not doing creative.” Well, why did they join the industry in the first place? A couple of others wanted more than hundred percent hike in their pay. Mind you, this is after just a few days more than six months with the organization. Then the qualifieds. One had started giving hints even before the process started. “I have some other offers in the pipeline. If the company is not able to match what they offer, I will have to quit”. And he quoted some out of the world figures. That too, from a person with 7-8 years experience but could not talk to anyone senior without his knees shaking.

Being part of the team who interviewed the initial batch, I could remember the attitude of most of them at that time. Desperately in search of a job or ready to jump for an extra thousand bucks. Many of them were asked to go back and come dressed properly. Not even six months into the system, they start making demands.

Pay and content of the work is just one side of the coin. Being part of the graveyard shift, food and transportation is provided free of cost to everyone. It was a luxury at first, and then the grumbling started. Complaints galore about the quality, quantity and variety of food. And the less said about on the transportation front, the better. The company has an excellent policy of female staff being dropped off at the doorstep after the night shifts. The vehicle leaves only after ensuring that she is safely inside the house. Now, the day shift girls wanted that too – to be dropped off in front of their house at five in the evening!! The guys were no better either. They want pick ups and drops from all parts of the city and even beyond that irrespective of the extra cost and time. The saddest part is all these are demanded as a right and not as requests. No wonder people say, “In Kerala everyone have rights and no one has duties”.

These are just a few instances of what goes on daily. Why do we behave this way or are people everywhere the same? Desperate to get a job, and once in, everything has to be as they want it.
Even after years of experience and approaching their thirties, a majority of them have no clue about what they want from life. They just know they are not happy, but do not know what will make them happy. There are boys and girls who have been writing their CA exams for years and expect a month long leave every six months!!. Where are we going wrong? Is it our education system, is it the way we bring up our kids or a combination of both? If yes, how is it that the attitude changes out of the state?

Not all is bleak, I should add. There are a few middle aged members in the team, whose attitude is amazing, to say the least. Probably because they have seen what it is like to work in a traditional organization, they realize the value of a free and congenial atmosphere like this. They are the first ones to be there when the work load increases and the last ones to leave. And then there are the young ones who have worked outside the state or in mutli culture organizations. The difference in their attitude towards work is unbelievable. So when I see campus recruitments for companies out of the state, I am too glad. Let our boys and girls work outside for some time, come back and train the youngsters here. The difference would be mind blowing and Kerala indeed will have a bright future.

Friday, March 9, 2007

taste is in the buds

ever wondered why one person can't stand another's favourite food? has to be the way the taste buds are habituated in childhood, i'm sure. for a true blue "kuttanaadan" like me, any talk of food begins and ends with “appam”, “duck roast” and “karimeen fry”. my cochinite husband and malabari brother-in-law can’t for the life of them figure out what is so special about these.

anyone who has ever been to that part of the world as a guest to one of the Syrian Christian families would vouch for the relish with which these delicacies are served by the mothers there. when my sister got married, my mother’s main grouch was that the new son-in-law didn’t know how to eat “karimeen” properly. eating “karimeen” is an art in itself. the tail portion is easy. it is the head that beats a novice. a true connoisseur would leave back a clean and tidy skeleton, which would be the pride of any zoology lab.

then she got her second son-in-law, my husband, another big disappointment on this front. finally, the last one, from Alleppey – one after her heart. and his favourite – duck roast. you have to grow with the taste to enjoy it. it is a little difficult to acquire this late in life. for the city breds who are used to skinned broiler chickens, pieces of duck with the skin in tact and the fatty tissue just underneath are anathema. especially scintillating for us is that special aromatic smell of all those spices. the very same aroma, which is said to be disgusting to many. “kuttanaadans” in any part of the world would die for a Sunday breakfast of “appam and duck” .

talking about duck is particularly nostalgic for me, makes me think of my grand mother’s famous duck roast. talk of guests and the table is full, literally. and at the center, decorated in her inimitable style, a full duck, stuffed with all sorts of delicacies inside and roasted till golden brown. how I miss those days. having grown up like this has its own drawbacks. cooking for guests, I am almost paranoid about the taste and number of dishes. and of course, the table has to be at least half full.

even I make all the appropriate sounds of disgust when people talk about far eastern delicacies like snakes and monkey brains. the feeling must be the same for my vegetarian friends when I talk about chicken and duck and fish. again, it is the kind of food you grow up with. sometimes, we are forced to make conscious changes when our health doesn’t permit, couch potatoes that we are today. i sure do envy my grandfather at ninety who still enjoys the same diet that he used to have seventy years back.

Monday, March 5, 2007

elephants with ID card!!!

elephants in Kochi are being provided with ID cards. all their details will be inscribed in a microchip and stuck behind their left ear!! talk about technology advance!!
just imagine, all your info starting right from the moment of your birth, or maybe even before that, installed in a microchip and implanted somewhere in your body. it gets updated automatically with new info daily. wherever you go, there will be an invisible scanner, so they know who you are, what you prefer, even what you might be thinking!! sounds scary, right? one bright side could be crimes may be avoided even when someone starts thinking about it. but what about the surprise element in your life? soemone or other always knows where you are, what you are upto...
ugh..hope it doesn't happen in my lifetime

Saturday, March 3, 2007

where are my friends?

a compulsary bed rest has confined me to my bed and room. that's when i thought i'll give a try to one of those online communities which anyone and everyone was raving about. sure enough, found an alumni group of my school and college.
reality sometimes hits you hard. years have passed so fast. almost all the members there had passed out at least six or seven years after me. can't say i couldn't meet anyone i knew. started getting messages from my younger sister's friends. now i am more in touch with them than my sisters.
but, what happened to my friends? am i the only odd one out? or is it that i refuse to grow up?
i would prefer to leave it at - maybe i am one of the few ones who is in tune with the changing times!!!