Archive for the ‘Humour’ Category

Fuck! Why did I take this job?

My eyes were already weary.  I was sifting through website after website looking for data that does not exist. It never existed. That is why I was looking for it. My professor told us once that if you find enough data on a market, you wouldn’t want to be in it. Back then we thought that was one smart thing to say. Now I think he must have been joking all long.

They had sold themselves well during placement presentations; so well that I knew this was what I would want to do. Besides, they were paying. In times like these, you never think twice about something that paid and kept you in an air conditioned office all day. They told us they supported key business decision making efforts of Fortune 100 companies. “..We do it each day (never told the night part). We put together the information that I-banks want. We put together strategic stuff that companies like Merck or Oracle need. You will do it for us. Just imagine the stuff that consultants do. It will be a great learning.”

I was sold at “we do it”…

On day one, I was thinking about those brave hearts that let this pass and chose those sugary cola makers for something substantially lower. By now they would be sweaty, tired and jaded accompanying those rickety trucks that delivered soda pop to every tiny kiosk in the city. You cannot learn distribution sitting in air-conditioned comfort. Now the joke was on me. I could not do it anymore. My eyes hurt. My mind was numb. The cafeteria coffee had more sugar than caffeine and my hands shook. The guy next to me did not help much as he kept killing the keyboard of his computer.  He sat so close that I could smell the Wills Navy Cut fumes off his darkened lips. Everybody sat this way. The tiny air conditioning ducts strained hard to circulate C02, ciggie fumes, curry burps, garlic farts and cheap aftershave out of this environment.  The jungle boy sat a few metres away from me watching me intently. He was my supervisor, a yokel from Pentapadu, Andhra Pradesh with some Podunk MBA.  He was supervising us because he never left the firm. His unflinching loyalty and dedication to sweatshop policing earned him a little promotion that put him directly above us. He knew the place and process like the back of his grubby fat hands. He was himself fat, shabby and sweaty.  They told me he never slept and worked 17 hours a day. Those dark circles around his eyes made him look like Idi Amin and to help the matter, he never smiled. The creases on his forehead were etched. He was as ubiquitous to the place as the worn out furniture.

I got up to take a little walk and release the aching tension that built up in my legs. Besides, I wanted to walk away from Jungle Boy’s stare as I could not find any data on the French chewing gum market. It would have been exciting to think of researching chewing gum market of France back in college. Now I did not care. Probably the French did not chew gum. Probably they just choked on cheese. But Jungle Boy was never convinced. So I kept my relentless search going on. I must have turned every page in the internet except porn sites which could not be accessed on the office server. Probably the French hid their market data in porn sites. I wondered if Jungle Boy ever watched porn.  He would still not smile I guess.

I must be thinking loud or he read people’s minds but Jungle Boy walked right behind me.

“Did you complete the report then?”

“Not yet. I’m doing it” I hissed quickly trying to keep my mouth open for as less time as possible.

“Why don’t you do some real work then?” he retorted. I knew this was coming. “Start calling people in France. Do some real research”.

Nobody liked to make calls. But jungle boy was known to kill people by making them call. If there was anything worse than calling pot-bellied traders in old business districts to sell insurance, it was calling faceless strangers in foreign lands begging for information. One, they never understood what you asked. Two, they never have any information. Three, they do not get anything out of it anyway. But jungle boy still insisted. To make matters worse, he sat next to me now. I tried a last line.

“I cannot speak French”.

“Speak English.”

“What if he or she does not speak English?”

“Ask him or her to connect you to someone who speaks English”

“And how will I ask that in French?”

“Ask in English”

“What if the person who speaks English does not have the right information?”

His eyes started to dig mine out of their sockets. He picked the phone and looked at the screen having the number and dialled. Good…the boy is going to show me how to make a call. I could hear the beeps and swishes and finally the ring tone. Suddenly, he thrust the handset to my face

“Speak. Be polite. And smile”

Before I knew, I was listening to some woman saying “Bon Jour, XXXX , Puis-je vous aider?”

“hmmf…err..um..ewf..h..ello”

“Oui?”

I collected myself…”Good morning…err..afternoon (looking at my watch)…err..morning (realising the time zone difference)”

“Oui?”

Jungle Boy thrust a piece of badly crumpled paper into my hands. It had the standard prescribed script for making an opening statement about our company and my purpose for calling. We used it for everyone… Chinese chowmein associations, Mexican mustard unions, Bulgarian bra manufacturers and Argentina alfalfa cooperatives…everyone. So I read it…word to word, line to line, exactly as it was written while jungle boy observed. He knew every word in it by heart. I could not cheat him. You never cheat jungle boy. He will bite your tongue off.

“Quoi?”

. I read it again. Word to word, line to line even as jungle boy gestures “SMILE”

“ce que vous voulez?”

Right.

“Parlez vous English?” I ask and bite my tongue as the boy raises his eyebrow quizzically at my French. That is the only French I know. Hope the boy understands that.

“Quoi?”

Finally a few more quois later, someone speaks English.

“What do you want”, a gruff impatient voice.

I recite the script without looking at the paper.

“Click”

I look at my tormentor for whatever I could get…poison darts, cuss words or some sympathies for a change.

“Try again. You were not smiling.”

Fuck! Why did I take this job!

(with some  inspiration from Michael Lewis’ Liar’s Poker)

Thank God I’m Single!

Bought a four-pack Duracell Alkaline battery set for my camera at the local departmental stores this morning. 

Late this evening, as I  emptied the pockets of my jeans to wash it, out came the store reciept for the  purchase:

img_0055

Had I been married…would have had a lot of explaining to do! eekie

PS: The store clerk typed DUR into the system and probably selected the wrong one!

Power words – I

A power breakfast is a meeting of influential people to conduct business while eating breakfast. It is made to sound something like an elite class thing. The dhobi and watchman of my building do that everyday…eat breakfast together and conduct business. They are influential as they carry the neighborhood gossip and can pull a few strings to get things done. A power tie is one that has a striking colour, pattern and style that makes the wearer stand out or grab eyeballs. Then there is this power nap thing that is a short sleep meant to kill drowsiness. Phrases that are prefixed with the word power amuse me. The word adds weight to anything. Creates a sense of importance. In a sense, they render anything else as mediocre.

n the past few days, I was making a mental note of some corporate jargon being thrown around at my workplace. Words and phrases I would term as ‘power words’. These are utterances that separate you from the usual chaff.  Words that imply your command and control over matters and words that qualify you as a ‘power executive’.  Everyone seem to be catching up with these. I am no exception although I do not like to ‘jargonate’ everything . Presented here is the jargon of my workplace. They are in no specific order. Add yours to the list:

ASAP: I find it funny when they actually pronounce it like a word (A-sap). But it sounds more friendly, trendy and slick than ‘as early as possible’. Only bosses use this to magnify their own sense of importance (including me) over their subordinates, ” Need this asap. Just put everything else on hold”

Buy-In: A trendy sexy phrase I would say. A single word to define agreement, participation, commitment or approval. Buy in means your commitment to the success of something whose failure means your backside is as much on the line.

Basically: Now, basically everybody uses this prop word because someone before them used it and it caught on. It is a disease that germinated in those Tier 2 and 3 B schools where everybody tackled the common problem of communication skills. The word is supposedly used to introduce a simplified explanation containing only the most essential point. In real life, it is hardly used that way. It is mostly a meaningless filler to buy time to think up more things to say. Mostly used by people who have no clue about making an effective start to a sentence. They are dogged by self doubt and insecurity.  This is not typical corporate jargon but a lot of people use it to start a sentence more so because it just clung on to them. Best avoided!

“Sort of…”:   We all love to hear ourselves sound American without having the slightest idea that we are nowhere near being American with phrases like “sort of”. Pronounced as “sod off”, it conveys a picture with no detail and is a useful phrase to use when you are not sure about something and yet wish to reply to a query.

Recall value: No idea why are they using this ad world phrase but sounds uber when used, especially with a sophisticated gesticulation of the hand to aid the visualization.

Sign off:  Approval sounds too pubic sector I guess but sign off also means that the boss or senior honcho blesses your initiative and it is your baby now. Implementation teams use it a lot (probably to highlight their own exclusivity from the rank and file structures that operations teams bear)

Put together:   Not exactly a corporate phrase but when your boss calls you at night and asks you to “put together a few slides ASAP” on something he wants to present in the morning, you cannot escape the feeling of being fobbed off. A more sophsiticated phrase for the word “make”. Also conveys a boss’ apparent lack of idea on how something can be done and so pushes it down to someone to figure it out.

Solutioning: Ah yes…effective corporate communication depends on verbing the noun.  Heard my boss use this the other day. Don’t know if the other person was impressed but I was. It is uber cool to pull out fresh verbed nouns to power push an otherwise mundane thing. So testing becomes solutioning.

Disconnect: It works the other way too. Noun the verb. I first heard this word in 2004 just a few days after I joined this company. It was a kind of a power enclave one afternoon led by the hyper enthusiastic CEO and his team of young managers. The enclave was meant to “tackle operational roadblocks and generate fresh ideas”. I was the new one in and hence invited to witness the ‘method to the madness’ and ingrain the ‘work culture’. There was this super cool Tamil ‘enthu cutlet’ with a super cool American accent who spoke all things cool. I could not make a dick out of what he spoke all afternoon but picked up this neat little word that means lack of coordination. “Disconnect between implementation and operations can be addressed with a templated solution….” Ho hum!

Process Mapping: A phrase for non technical people to sound impressive and knowledgeable about processes. Again implementation teams use this to display their apparent control over elements. In reality, it is a silly exercise of using elaborate icons and diagrams to depict a process on a powerpoint slide, something a reasonably good engineer just creates in his mind.

Documentation: It used to be ‘paperwork’ before. But new word covers everything that paperwork covers and also anything that gives people like me an opportunity to show our usefeulness by wasting time typing out things on MS Word and converting it into a pdf document.

Reports: Again a trendy, efficient word. No I am not talking about meaningless MIS. That is not trendy. But reports here mean people reporting to you. “How many direct reports do you have” would mean how many people are directly reporting to you. As I stated earlier, it is equally trendy to noun the verb.

Key Learnings/takeways:  From womb to tomb, man is always learning. Any exercise always has key learnings. Even boring workshops on people management or knowledge management. Every failure has a lesson and is a learning. Also if anyone with a white skin says anything and as long as he or she is on the customer side, there is always a key learning or we would create some and impress the hell out of them whites by bulleting the key learnings. Takeaways is more trendy. Useful stuff from a generally boring event, speech or workshop. ‘Basically’, nobody cares but we always close events by bulleting key learnings from it to acklnowledge the usefulness of the event.

I guess these will do for Session 1. More to come

Yo Mama!

Remember the poem recited by Robert Di Niro in “Meet the Parents”? Well I reproduced it below:

My Mother”, by Jack Byrnes.

You gave me life,

You gave me milk,

You gave me courage.

Your name was Angela,

An angel from Heaven,

But you were also an angel of God,

And he needed you, too.

I selfishly tried to hold on to you,

While the cancer ate away at your organs,

Like an unstoppable rebel force,

And now we’ll meet in Heaven,

And I shall see you

Nevermore, nevermore, nevermore.

A random search for something today led me to a poem not unlike this one.

Call me insensitive, impassive , rude or obnoxious but no matter how cute and touching the poem is, I cannot help compare it with the De Niro piece :-).  A real gem this one!

Mega outlet

Just one of those things that greet you while you wait at a traffic signal 🙂

KV-KV Bhai Bhai

Ever since I left school, I met many people who had also passed out of a Kendriya Vidyalaya. There are more than 900 KVs that collectively represent a cult. No self respecting KV bhai would consider himself well groomed, well educated or well mannered. We bear a semblance of mediocrity and an occasional crudeness but are actually well grounded, bold and adaptive to any situation. KV bhais have no airs. They know where they stand and what they want. Plus there is a strong bonding between KV almuni. It would be a chance acquaintance with a stranger and one day we discover the common KV gene which would become a great equalizer between us. A typical meeting would be like this:

Chimpu: Hey Ranga….meet Chokkalingam here. He is my roomie.

Me: Hey Choks…nice meeting you.

A few minutes later …

Me: Say Chokks….you speak good Hindi dude…

Chokka: That?…As a kid I lived all over India. Dad was in a PSU. He kept getting transferred.

Chimpu: Then what about you school…how did you manage?

Chokka: Well I was in a KV.

Me: Hey! I passed out from a KV too…which house did you belong to?

Chokka: Cool! I was the captain of Shivaji house.

Me: Cool! Dude! So was I.

Chokka: WoW! KV KV Bhai Bhai! (Shaking my hand or giving me a High Five).

And then Chimpu gets sidelined.

This one is for all the KV bhais out there for old times sake:

A classic Simpu Singh clipper from Channel V that takes out on KV. The kids (of some KV) are singing the cult KV school song…an utterly boring thing that we guys were made to sing from time to time. Note how they sing it. Not at all different from how we used to do it reluctantly under the watchful eyes of the teachers! The same open mouth impersonation of serious singing, the foot tapping, those guys with the ubiquitous mistuned harmonium and sad tabla – just like a real KV 🙂

Whoever thought AC coaches are luxury!

I am back from the “Shoe-less trip’ through Kerala. More on the trip later.

I had alighted the Ananthpuri Express today at Tambaram this morning after a night in AC 3 Tier from Nagarcoil.  I was travelling in IIIA coach.  Now whoever thought Air Conditioned travel is luxury read this!

Unfortunately, I am a ‘wide-girth’ traveller (add 6.2 feet of height).  As always, my luck regurgitates the mucus and spits it on me every time I book on III AC on the internet well in advance. Yet again I was dumped on a side upper berth. Luck was a little on my side as it was not the usual Berth no 64 that I always end up with. This time, I beat it by half to 32.  All my hopes of exchanging it or occupying an un-occupied lower berth shattered once I entered the coach of the train that just arrived from TVC. The coach was FULL and everybody wants to upto Chennai Egmore. Of all the trains, this was the one with all the ‘senior citizen’ and ladies in one coach. As I said…luck spit on me.

Beer inspired two of my fellow travellers to make an attempt that hit the Times of India pages. The same beer conspired to get me down the side upper berth 5 times during the night!

Those who travelled on a side upper berth would know. It was nothing short of gymnatics to get up the berth. The well-padded ladders provided to climb up were of no use. Trying to get my foot on the lowest rung would tear the seams of my jeans, thanks to the size of my….

So I had to spread eagle myself in space above the aisle of the coach with one leg on berth 26, another on berth 29, left hand on berth 30 and right on berth 27 and heave myself with utmost accuracy onto berth 32. Had I missed, the 77 year old gentleman sitting on berth 25 would have been paste!

Imagine I had to recollect this sequence as soon as I woke up in the middle of the night. How many of you can recollect the multiplication table of 13 upon waking up from deep sleep? Got it? Now add a threatening bladder to the situation and imagine!

The bladder’s threat was the last thing on my mind as I tried to get down. I was more concerned about the 77 year old man. For some reason, he chose to make my night more challenging. He slept with his head towards the aisle while the rest chose to sleep the other way. My top concern was not to land my foot on the his throat.

When I returned, I had another challenge…I had to get back up there in the darkness. It was better the first time. There was light and the berths were not occupied. Now I had to contend with darkness, pairs of innocent hands and legs and one geriatric neck.

I tried a variation this time and used the ladders on either side to climb up like a monkey. Only I landed the wrong side on my berth. The pillow was under my feet! Now Indian Railways strongly believes that only babies travel by AC. So their pillows are tiny pads of cotton that can comfort only a 6 month old!. I need a good support for my head thanks to my apnea which causes me to snore like a disgruntled boar! I had sacrificed the rug and the two flimsy sheets by folding them up and plcing them under the pillow to increase the height. To add more height, I had piled my towel under the pillow as well. Now I had them under my leg. It took me a great deal more gymnastics (this time as a contortionist) to get the pillow set from my feet to my head.

The second time I rushed to the toilet, I decided to spend the night on the attender’s berth by the doors. Bad luck again. As I flushed and stepped out, I found a man snoring on it. His paunch was better pronounced than mine and his girth propotionately superior. His tight pair of jeans had an anomaly that told me that he had not only beaten me to this berth but was also better prepared. He had left his zipper partly open…probably to save precious moments.

By the time I was through round 5, I had mastered the entire exercise.

I would prefer the side berths of sleeper class any day. At least the windows are open. Imagine the situation in the IIIA Coach when the AC goes off and all the different cuisines in the tummies of the passengers start to pronounce their effect!

The programmed sounds of the wheels on the rails provide the much required rhythm to lull me to sleep and negate any other sound. The silent interiors of a IIIA coach accentuate the snores…multiple rhythms thanks to multiple cases of apnea. If this were not sufficient, one can clearly hear the wind blow, everytime a traveller lets go! In my case it was a concert of all the senior citizen around me. Since I could not avoid it, I joined the orchestra with my own little piece of “light music”.

Now there are reports that the railways is planning to add an extra berth between the side upper and side lower berths in III AC compartments Imagine the situation with 8 extra berths! This is a bid to increase revenue per coach. The railways would make money. The passengers would make war! People like me will die of claustrophobia or asphyxation.  It is time to move to even more constricted spaces…the low cost airlines and their sardine can aircrafts. This one is even more frightening, but at least I would not have to endure it for more than two hours!