Tuesday, October 25, 2005

One Year

Its been a year since I started blogging. It has been a very positive experience, I was able to make a few new friends and stay in touch with my family and friends.Every blogger at some point in time dedicates a post to why he/she started blogging.If you are reading this post,I must say that you have endured a lot and you are entitled to know the history behind this blog.

I was a regular reader of Sanketh's blog and through his blog I got to read many other interesting ones. Some were phenomenally witty, some were thought provoking and some were just dedicated for ranting. But I felt it was a really nice outlet for a lot of things running through your head. Things that you would like people to know about but are difficult to express in person. So gradually I got afflicted by the "I wanna have one too" syndrome. So what I thought would start and end as a fad became more of a habit. Plus, I had too much time on my hands and blogging was the creative outlet that I needed...it was an exhilirating feeling...it was like..like...finding a toilet when you are in absolute need of one. :D You must realize that its my 57th post and all my creative juices have evaporated, thats the best metaphor I could come up with.

I have been published in print for a grand total of 3 times, so it was really nice to see blogger say that my post has been published everytime I posted something.Even if I had something outrightly stupid to say. I never had the luxury of friends going through whatever I had written in college (mostly crap), so this was a nice way to find out what people thought of whatever I wrote. I partially succeded on this front, the maximum number of comments I have ever got was 16 which was partly because of my delaying tactics in posting the follow up to a story.And at times I even stooped to begging and pleading people to go to my blog.I try to drop subtle hints about leaving a comment.The hints got too subtle that a friend of mine put me on his spam list for sending out too many reminders to drop a comment.

I have some really cool friends who can debate about anything under the sun. Topics range from "Improving India in 60 days"* to " The Venezuelan oil economy"**. Some of these debates could get really passionate and out of control. Anything out of control meant 5 guys busting your ass. Still remember my roomie*** pouncing on me (literally) from one corner of the room to the other when he heard me saying Rajini had everything to become the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. So this blog was a nice way to have some good spirited debates where I could take some cheap shots**** at a very safe distance away from the participants.

Thanks for reading Guys!

* Arun I hope you are still interested in that topic. It has given us many anecdotes to narrate for a life time.
** JAKS continues to speculate on diverse topics that he noses about. The latest being British parliamentary affairs in the 15th century.
*** Krish has taken a keen interest in Mexican politics and spanish cinema. So he doesn't express his opinions on anything Indian.
**** Karthik, sorry for leaving a comment in your name.But people seemed to believe it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Paging Mr.Gandhi- Short Story

Jignesh Gandhi walked out of a New Jersey theatre screening Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara on a chilly October evening. It was the premiere show and Jignesh a self respecting bollywood junkie decided that he had to catch Anumpan Kher in his new incarnation despite having an early morning flight tomorrow. He didn’t know what to make of the movie after he got out of the theatre. He couldn’t term the movie good or bad. It was strange he always had something to say about any movie that he sees. There has never ever been a movie that has escaped his scathing criticisms or rave reviews. But, this one did. Anupam did a fantastic job and so did the other actors but Jignesh couldn’t relate to the movie at all. Jignesh's mother was an Irish American and his father was a Gujarati who immigrated to the US when he was a toddler himself. So, being born and brought up in America didn’t make things easier for him either, he didn’t know much about Gandhi or the values he imparted. So he couldn’t comment much about the movie’s take on the fading public memory of Gandhi and dying Gandhian virtues. Well he didn’t know a lot about a lot of other things that can be called Indian. But the Johars, Barajatyas and Chopras have done more than their share of work in taking care of most of these issues (ranging from Karva Chauth to the great Indian wedding). Apart from the famous Hollywood movie released decades ago and a few articles on TIME commemorating Gandhi, Jignesh’s access to Gandhi or anything remotely Gandhian was limited.

Jignesh was tossing and turning in his bed and was thinking about Gandhi’s importance and relevance in today’s world. Even though the movie was flawlessly executed, the message it tried to convey didn’t make any sense? Does it make sense to follow Gandhi's “hate the sin and love the sinner” philosophy in this day and age. It is illogical to dwell on Gandhian values and extol his principles in a rapidly changing world where victory is what matters and not the means. The winner gets all the attention, and not the person who gets the fair play award. Jignesh didn’t sleep very well but he managed to wake up in time for his early morning flight. The cab came on time. The driver was a middle aged Ethiopian, who loved to talk. Jignesh obliged, it was a 40 minute drive and staring blankly at the trees wasn't fun. The driver talked about rising gas prices, rising college fees and mounting credit card bills. Jignesh thought that it was probably the routine 40 minute speech that the driver usually gave to coax customers to pay a higher tip. And, Jignesh has never been an easy prey for these 'tug at the heart strings'tacticians.

Jignesh arrived at the airport an hour in advance. He gave the driver his customary 8 percent tip and in the process of calculating 8% of $78.5, he forgot his travel pouch which had his travel documents and 1200 dollars in traveler’s checks. He didn’t realize it until he went to the check in counter. He immediately called the cab company and asked them to notify the driver and the cab company gently reminded him that they were not liable in case they were not able to track the cab driver. Jignesh doubted that he would ever get his pouch back, the Ethiopian driver’s narration of his chapter 11 predicament was still fresh in his memory. Jignesh cursed his luck and decided that he will never ever take a cab driven by blacks; each and every one of THEM meant trouble. He heard his name being announced on the PA system just when he was contemplating on going to the police.


Jignesh didn’t know what to expect, he hurriedly walked towards the help desk. He found the driver waiting for him with his black leather pouch. Jignesh thanked the driver profusely and tried to compensate his hasty appraisal of the driver’s integrity by taking out a 100 dollar bill from his pocket. The driver pointed to the name Gandhi on the pouch and remarked, “He has done a lot for us and it wouldn’t be right if I took money from you. Have a nice flight sir!”

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Benefits of being part of a capitalistic country

I am a strong proponent of capitalism. I felt that the reason why India is on the slow track to progress is because of the
1. Government regulating all businesses in the country very closely. This leads to needless red tapism which slows down processes.
2. Nationalizing everything under the sun....hotel chains, natural gas, banks, telecommunications, fertilizers....the list is endless. Thankfuly someone came up with the bright idea of privatization.
3. The third reason is a by product of the second reason: Corrupt government babu's wanting a cut out of everything, making people think twice before setting up shop in India.

But such instances now makes me feel otherwise. A calamity of such sort in India would guarantee the centre backing the state completely. Banks wouldn't see the commerical viability of giving loans to the state when they are in such a desperate situation. Probably New Orleans would have been better of if they were a part of India.

Monday, October 03, 2005

“How does it feel to come/go back home?”

A question that has been on everyone’s lips ever since the day I landed at CIA (Chennai International Airport). Everyone: comprises my friends and family in Chennai, my friends and family in Bahrain and my friends and family in the US. Yeah I guess I need to share the love, affection and concern that people (widely dispersed across different continents) are showering on me with the not so fortunate. Actually just 2 continents, but ‘different continents’ sounds better.

Before I answer this question, I would like to go over the trials and tribulations one faces when he makes the decision of coming back home for good.

It started with the interviews

I had so many telephonic interviews with my employer that I lost count. But every single call ended with a question.

“Kumar, Why India?”

I frankly didn’t know why. I wasn’t home sick and I actually liked the job but no one was ever willing to listen to that. I am patriotic but that was not the reason which prompted me to go back home. I just couldn’t tell my employer that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to do in Raleigh and the thought of having some 20 rupee Masala Dosas didn’t sound bad. Once my hiring manager said “Yes”, I was preparing myself for a battle with my relatives.

Then my relatives.
Tonnes of relatives called in and explained the perils of going back home….quality of life…. standard of living ….zero savings were some phrases that were dropped of quite often. Then they dropped the mother of all ashtras and shastras….the possibilities of me getting married very soon (Very soon in my family is a very loaded word could be even a week).

“ Kumar, Imagine how difficult it would be to take care of the Mrs. Needs with an Indian salary…(this shook me a little…I am 23 and they were already thinking of condemning me to the gallows read marriage)”

Once I got an Okay from my family (yeah, my 11 year old niece took some time to say her Okay but I finally got everyone on board), I thought things would be smooth sailing from here onwards.

Then my travel agent…WHAT?...you saw me right, my agent

I just had to book my air tickets and get myself into the airport. That’s when my ticket agent made me realize that an agent’s job profile is not limited to booking tickets. They are also a big brother kind of figure who makes you realize the enormity of the decision that you are taking. Just sample the conversation I had with my travel agent.

Me: I need one ticket to India.
Agent: Leaving date?
Me: Next week, 22nd Aug.
Agent: When are you coming back?
Me: It’s a one way ticket?
Agent: Is this ticket for someone else, mother….father?
Me: No it’s for me.
Static for the next 10 seconds
Me: Hello…Hello…you there
Agent (recuperating): Why are you taking a one way ticket?
Me (what’s this guy’s problem?): I don’t want to come back.
Agent: Have you thought about this?
Me ( none of your business): Uh..yes
Agent: But why?

It took a phenomenal effort for me to convince my agent.

Me: No, I didn’t escape the Institution of the mentally challenged
Me: Yes I am in control of all of my 5 God given senses.
Me: What do you mean 6?
Me: Oh its 6 for humans, Yeah I am in control.
Me: No no I am not the talking dog they showed on Animal Planet
Me: No, LSD is not my cup of tea.
Me: No I don’t have it with tea. I don’t have it at all.

My agent couldn’t do the vision and breath tests over the phone, so he very half heartedly gave in and booked my tickets.

Family friends can’t be left out…..

Once I set foot in Bahrain, I spent the next couple of days actively PRing my cause and explaining my position to well wishers and family friends. There were a couple of brain storming sessions about the Green card/H1-b situation in the US and the economic growth forecast for US vis a vis India for the next 10 years. There wasn’t enough time for us to reach a conclusion as my brief stop over in Bahrain was just for a week, so I had to pack my bags and leave.

On reaching India, my grand mother left no stone unturned and introduced me to everyone as the grandson who left the US and came back for good over some tea and biscuits with people who visit her. You needed women like my grandmother in these fancy advertising firms,she'd add a whole new dimesnion to advertising...grass roots level advertising.

So now since its been a month since I landed here, I can now devote an entire next post to tell you about the Chennai work culture and how it feels to be back home.
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