Thursday, June 30, 2005

Vanishing Childhood

“Vinu, wake up my dear, mamma is going to office.”

His mom’s voice used to be the morning alarm for Vinu.

“Have your break-fast which is kept on the dining table. Don’t forget to drink the milk. Yesterday you didn’t drink it and it was wasted.”

By the time he wakes up from his bed, Vinu’s pop and mom would have left for their offices. The maid would have started her work in the kitchen. Though Vinu is only three years old, for him, time immemorial this has been the routine.

Straight from the bed he went to the window of his bedroom to have a look at the world outside. The sun was already up and running and so do the crowd in the roads outside.

Their flat was located in one of the busiest corners of the city. There was no space left in the city. So less so that even the buildings found it very difficult to stand up. There weren’t any independent houses with lawn outside but only flats with balconies of the size adequate only to hold some junk, two three flower pots and a rope to hang the clothes.

Vinu never went outside for playing. There were't any free spaces for him to play. In fact the case was the same for any other child in the city. He used to see cartoons, played with the pokemons and did some artistic works on the bed sheet. Very rarely only he saw his father and mother. At first he felt sad. But then, even at that small age, he kind of adjusted with it.

Once, his cousin from the village came to Vinu’s house for a visit. Vinu was amazed by the stories he told. He said they have a very large open space in front of their house. They have very big fields. He even explained its size to Vinu. He said it would be covering a distance equivalent to that from his flat to the junction nearby. Vinu became extremely jealous hearing all these things. He even presented the topic to his parents thinking that they all would go and stay in the village. But his pop’s and mom’s job was in the city and they said they will be falling short of food and toys. And he agreed to them.

Vinu looked out through the steel grid attached to the window. In one of the branches of the lean teak tree which stood beside the flat, he saw a bird-couple with their small kids. The kids were about to fly and the birds were helping them learn flying. While he was observing this, one of the small ones took off from the branch. Its parents helped it to fly towards the open sky, towards freedom. And the other ones followed.

Vinu watched all these carefully. He didn’t feel much about the happenings. In fact he was so young to think about those. To think about growing up in the open world, to think about doing things he liked, to think about playing in the open space, to think about how his childhood is being killed inside the four walls of a flat. Only thing which was there in his mind was his mom’s words.

“Have your break-fast which is kept on the dining table. Don’t forget to drink the milk. Yesterday you didn’t drink it and it was wasted.”

He ran towards the dining table to drink the milk. He didn’t know that the milk was already frozen.

Monday, June 27, 2005

thE faireR seX

#include universal_disclaimers.h
I was watching National Geographic Channel which was showing some documentary about animal life that this thought came to my mind, once again, after such a long time. It used to be one of our favorite discussion topics during engineering days and the absence of the discussing gang somehow had killed those discussions. Sorry, I haven’t mentioned till now, what this so called topic is. Carrying forward the fairer assumption you got from the heading of this post, and living up to its expectations, it is nothing but, who is the fairer sex? Male or female? Men or women?

Let the story start from the birds and animals because they were the first inhabitants of planet earth before humans. Let it end with humans because that is where the basis of this thought lies.

If we look around us and observe the nature for a while, there is something which doesn’t go without attention. Its beauty! Beautiful flowers, beautiful birds and beautiful animals! But hey, there is a small problem! All these birds or animals are not beautiful. In fact only half of them are beautiful. Always one class of birds or animals is more beautiful than the other. In birds and animals, this class is the Male! To be frank, I am not becoming chauvinistic. Instead I am trying to look at this case with a neutral stand point.

Well, for a bird or an animal beauty is given by nature to attract their female mate.

The cosmetics industry of India had a size of Rs. 126 billion (Rs. 12,600 crores) in 2001 with 8.7% growth rate. By this rate it would have grown to Rs. 175 billion in 2005. And who are the users of cosmetics, females! I know this is not entirely true, hence let me have an estimate of 90% of this usage being done by women. This story is similar world-wide.

Here I find a problem. When it comes to humans, who are the beautiful class? Men or women?

By the law of the nature, extending from the case of birds and animals, it has to be men. Does nature got it wrong in the case of humans? Or does it deliberately put it the other way round when it came to humans?

But nature played a mysterious role here. It didn’t give man or woman, the brilliant colors of a male bird, the long tusk of a he-elephant etc as the differentiating factors denoting beauty. Or in the case of humans, the definition itself of beauty went wrong?

During the previous sessions, we had our own view points and opinions. I am inviting you to take part in this discussion. What do you feel about this? Who exactly is the fairer sex? Men or women?

PS: These are my own views and are not intended to hurt anyone's feelings. I want to give a thought as to why this happened in the case of humans. On a much more personal note, I believe that women are indeed the fairer sex, the beautiful class. But that should not stop me from finding out the reason, right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

An Untold Autobiography

I was alone in the Eden on earth. Small-small dreams filled my days and I spent my time patiently waiting for my love to come. My love, my prince charming; he would be the strongest in a million. He will embrace me with all the passion. I know he will turn up here one day and then my loneliness will come to an end.

I dreamed about building a small house near this river. We will have one child. She will be the most beautiful girl in this world. But now I am alone, waiting for my love to come.

Days passed and the faith in me grew stronger. Then a day came. I had never seen such a day before. Everything was trembling around. The earth quaked. Birds flew away. Animals ran and hide in their caves. And then, there was a landslide.

In the peak of the tremor, I saw my prince charming being carried, down the river, by the landslide. He was fortunate enough to ground on the river-side. The moment he saw me, he seemed to have reinvigorated from the sufferings he had. Then he embraced me. In front of the world around us and we became one.

Seasons passed. Like two souls in one body, we lived happily in the Eden on earth. I told him about my dreams and he agreed to fulfill those. He said he will take me to a distant place. A place which is full of colorful flowers, blue sky, beautiful birds and above all, a place where there would be people like me. I was so excited.

We listened to the voices coming from that distant land. Once I heard a rough voice, “Definitely, if a girl child!”

It was a moody afternoon. Hearing a loud noise I woke up suddenly. It was from a distance. The noise was growing louder and louder and my ears started paining. Something was coming towards me. It was a machine. It was destroying everything on its way. I ran for my life; as quickly as I could. But it was following me.

Finally it caught me. I struggled for my breath in its strong grip. My body was becoming weak. Before the world around me turned to darkness, I heard a word, “MTP”.

PS: MTP – Medical Termination of Pregnancy
Courtesy: My friend Aravind Nair, who once put this idea into a beautiful poem.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Janu’s Small World

It was a foggy morning and young Janu was sleeping peacefully in her house. She was seven and had five siblings. They lived in the heart of the busy city. Her father took his family to the city from the village because of his work. Her mother was supposedly a house-wife, but was always out working with her father.

Janu’s days were fascinating. She used to go to the road in front of her house and watched the vehicles which pass by. She waved her hands to the people inside those vehicles. When a plane took off from the nearby airport, she watched it going up and finally disappearing in the sky. She never waved her hands to the airplanes. When the initial drops of rain came down, she catched it in her hands and also counted it. Later she gave up due to losing the count or due to the rain turning strong.

Janu maintained a collection of paper clippings. Every night, before sleeping, in the light of the candle, she used to look at all those clippings. She was able to identify some of the alphabets. Her father used to say that he will send her to school next year. Thinking repeatedly her father’s words, Janu used to embrace sleep. No one from her family had ever gone to school.

The school was near their house. Both shared a common wall. Students of her age studied in that school. But they never played with her. The school had a slum nearby. The school authorities disliked the presence of a slum next to their wall.

Hearing some loud sound, Janu woke up from her sleep. Her father and mother had already gone for their work. Her siblings were already awake and were playing outside. An odd looking vehicle, the biggest she had ever seen, was approaching her house. She was amused to see that vehicle. She ran towards it to see it in close.

The big vehicle didn’t stop and continued its way towards her house. From a distance, she saw the bulldozer sweeping away her house!

On the next day a small column appeared in the last page of a local vernacular newspaper. “The slum near the city school was evacuated. The school authorities are planning to build a park there. It is really sad that a school which is supposed to spread the light of knowledge is doing this.”

Thursday, June 16, 2005

hyderabaD blueS

The beginning
When the exams ended everyone was in joie de vivre. Each one had different reasons. For some, it was the mere feeling that the grueling first year has come to an end. Some were happy because it is just one more year to become a manager who hire & fire thousands, get and expend lakhs and churn & burn crores. Some were more than ready to go to their homes. Some were going abroad for doing their summers. Some were enthused of embracing the fun-filled life of a tuchcha (colloquial term for a final year student).

The company where I was doing my internship was located at Hyderabad. And during the interviews, they had agreed me to pay for my travel. Before we leave the institute, we had to submit our room keys to the warden. Since I was one of guys who was leaving last from my dorm, my dorm friends gave their keys to me to submit to the office. After submitting a bunch of keys at the office, I set start in an auto rickshaw to the airport. En-route, I realized that though I submitted all other’s keys, I forgot to submit my own room key. I heard somewhere that this could invite a fine of some obscene amount. It was just the beginning of my eventful two-month stay at Hyderabad.

At the airport
I reached the airport on time. With all the arrogance of a 21st century customer, I handed over my ticket to the counter staff for a boarding pass. It was an apex fare ticket. The lady at the counter said me that there was some problem with my flight ticket and it got cancelled!

“We have enough seats”, she continued, “But you may need to pay the extra amount required for a normal ticket”

“Mam, it is very urgent. By any chance I need to reach Hyderabad today itself. May be I could pay the extra amount”

I still don’t understand how I made this statement with only 1000 bucks and an expired credit card in my pocket!

“I need to talk to my manager” she said.

And the once arrogant customer, that is me, stood at the side of the counter, having some heavy luggage and wondering what to do next.

When the queue was finished, she called me up and said. “Ok you are allowed to travel with this ticket. You don’t need to pay any extra amount”. A set of advices followed. In the Ahmedabad heat of 44 degrees, I felt my self cool.

The coolness ended abruptly, when I entered the flight and discovered that the cabin crew didn’t contain anyone from the fairer sex. These people made my entire 2 hour journey end up in vain. I remembered the flight owner’s parents as the plane took off from the land of diamonds...

Agony of a middle manager
I was given two main projects and a few filler projects in between. It was like the company was all set to use everything I can offer them to its maximum. I was becoming a value for money product. In fact I knew that in future each and every one of us, when working for a company, would be considered like this. I was given a crew of 7 for doing a survey.

Well for the first time in my life I felt myself the painful life of a middle manager. The bible got a famous sentence to describe my situation at times. “Between the Satan and the Red-sea!” A few days were filled with superior’s rebuking and subordinate’s cribbing. Agreed that this is an exaggerated version of what I intended to write, but to a lesser extent it contains some genuineness also.

Things were different after my interim presentation. The presentation gathered appreciation from top shots in the company. That was the time when I felt that I was not that idiot as I thought myself to be.

But yeah, altogether it was an amazing experience. Even though I was doing some studies and making some suggestions, in each and every work I was doing, I could feel that I was doing something which may change the fate of a company. It was there in each and every simple thing I was doing, that those are as serious as it can be. Figures of 8 or 9 digits, though appeared small in my calculations, were able to make me feel the real power associated with them.

Survival Strategies (Food & Accommodation)
This was one of the rarest times that I felt I really need a company. Almost all of the hotels in Hyderabad serves food so voluminously that either you get some one along with you and share the food or simply watch the food being taken away after your defeated attempt to finish it. Since I didn’t find the much famous Hyderabadi biriyani up to the mark, food was bit of a problem for me there. Prabhat, one of my colleagues at the company was kind enough to let us (me and my friend) in to his house, to sort our accomodation problems.

Hyderabad – In & Around
Doctor, my friend and colleague, was equally enthusiastic as me with respect to exploring places. We covered the entire city, explored most of the hotels, shopping centers and also went to bit far away weekend destinations like the Ramoji Film City etc. My shoes won me a gift at a gathering in Ramoji Film City, though I had to run around the crowd a few rounds.

Once we decided to go to Golconda Fort and the more-than-helping crowd of Hyderabad ensured that we reached our home safely instead of reaching Golconda Fort. We never knew that when we ask directions, we should sample the crowd, where the sample size is more than 30 (so that normal approximation can be applied) and then arrive at a consensual result. Golconda Fort remained more of a dream than a destiny. We never visited it.

The last day
Everything that got a beginning has got an end. A period which started with a glitch should end at least with a quake. My gold chain and ring were stolen on the penultimate day of my stay at Hyderabad. I went to the police station on my last day to complain the thievery. The police came to the flat and took a suspect, the security of the building who visit our flat usually, to the station. I went to the police station after one hour and found that the police men had employed the security to do some work in the station. I felt sad about the security. He got a wife and two children. I asked the police men to release him and then went to the office. Evening I was supposed to catch the train to Kerala. On my last day at office, the status of my yahoo messenger read, “Hypedabad, at last you took me to the police station also”

PS: These are my personal feelings. Please bear me if these hurt anyone else’s feelings.

Friday, June 10, 2005

a daY aT mY collegE

It was fun tracing those old paths. Spiced up by a cup of hot tea from the college canteen, lunch from the Lords restaurant, lime juice from the chechi's shop opposite to the main gate, a peep into the green room of the empty open air auditorium, a jump over the college wall, making fun of each others which was our favourite pass-time three years back, giving a complete scan, free of cost, to the fairer sex who were passing by and what not. For some time we felt we have reincarnated in our beloved CET. The place where we spent four years of our engineering life.

Ok, now the gang who did all these great things. Names apart, lemme concentrate on their professions. Two were lecturers teaching at two famous engineering colleges in Kerala, two were doing their MBAs at two prestigious b-schools in India, one was doing his MTech at another prestigious institution in India and one a software professional who recently got married and just returned from the US. Further to the famous adage, "Inside every man there is a child", we also proved that "Inside every man there is a nasty, mischievous, engineering college youth".

Each and every point of CET was saying something to me.

The ramp said, "This is the place where you rested your head on a girl's lap and the head of the department (HOD) came and took away your identity card."

The seminar room said, "Don't you remember the last series exam of your college life? You brought an alarm and fired it 15 minutes after the exam started. Later the alarm was confiscated by the professor. Did you get it back?"

The college bus said, "Ha ha ha, I still remeber you sitting on the seat next to the door. I know the reason. She usually get inside the bus through that door and you wanted to help her by holding her bag for her no? What happened to that crush?"

The canteen said, "Eight guys fighting for a single cutlet bought using the money from some one else. You guys still do that?"

The class room whispered, "There was a strike that day and some fight was going on outside the classroom. In order to see that you left the class whilst the professor was teaching. No one has ever done that. Before or after"

The corridor said, "I remember you putting a 100 rupees bet for taking 100 push-ups and failed miserably at 47 itself. It took two weeks for you to get well from the body pain right?"

The concrete bench said, "Its here that you gave a red rose to a lady, which was bought by someone else, on a valentines day which she didn't accept and apparently your crush saw that and both the things ended up in a mess."

When I heard all these from them, a laughter errupted in my lips. It turned its way to a nostalgic smile. And then I was thinking. In the fight for a career, for a life, I'm missing a world. A world created by such small small mischievous things. In this hectic life, if I would have gotten enough time atleast to remember those beautiful moments... I was still thinking...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Hairy Tales

George was born bald. In fact most of the children are born like that. But when little George celebrated his first birthday with his head not showing any signs of vegetation, it was a cause of concern to his parents. In the photos taken during his second birthday, George stood out among the children; with exactly five long hairs on his fore-head as the differentiating factor. Eventually, their son having a full fledged hair turned out to be the wildest of the dreams for his parents.

Right from the time he realized that there is something called hair which grow on one's head, it was a reason for worry to George. It was this hair, rather hair-less-ness, that turned him to an introvert, right from his school days. He was always concerned about his hair and did his best to find some bushy thing, up and running on his head. During his teen-age, George believed that hair was the first thing a girl look in a man.

When George passed tenth grade the density of his hair became almost similar to the density of population of Siberia. His hair population could be best represented by a normal distribution. The peak happened when he was doing his graduation and has shown a decreasing trend when he finished graduation and started working for a manufacturing company. He became partially bald. The concern grew on him when he was nearing the age of his marriage.

It was during this time that George read in a newspaper about a technique called hair transplantation where in hair from some other part of his head would be transplanted to the upper part. He decided to try his luck on that. He applied for a housing loan to pay for the surgery. After consultation with the doctor, he eagerly waited for the D-day, the day on which the transplantation was scheduled.

Days went like centuries for him and at last the particular day arrived. George was escorted by a group of beautiful nurses to the altar of plastic surgery, the operation theatre. The nurses fenced the boundaries of his existing hair with needles, giving sort of anesthetia. If it wasn't for his hair, George definitely would not have entered into such a place and suffered such a pain. When pain filled his eyes, through the tears he saw the nurses around him with some mischievous smile in their lips. He doubted whether they were making fun of him. The doctor started ripping off hair from his lower head and planting it on his forehead. "We want exactly 1250 hairs with the root", the doctor said. George was wondering whether something would be left out at his lower head after the removal.

The three hour long, painful surgery was over and when George got discharged, the doctor said. "Take care of the hair as if they are your children. Don't show it sunlight or water for a few days." The doctor also gave him a cap to serve this purpose. The cap read "Under Construction" on its front.

The implanted hair grew like a wheat field served unprecedented with fresh water supply and chemical fertilizer. It fluttered in breeze and George moved his head a little bit in tandem, to accelerate the movement. He was feeling himself on top of the world.

With this new vigor, George's marriage was fixed. He got engaged to a beautiful girl from an orthodox high class family, having very long hair, as he dreamt.

His marriage date was nearing and George realized something peculiar happening on his lower head. The place where there was hair before and from where 1250 hairs were removed for transplantation was showing plain head beneath.

It took only a week for the hairs at his lower head to clear off their way for the scalp. And George's head resembled that of the 7-UP mascot with hair only on the top-most part of his head. George was upset. He doubted whether his marriage will happen.

In the next few days, George shut himself in his room. He was feeling reluctant to face the bride during the marriage. After thinking a lot, he decided to write a letter to the bride quoting all the incidents. Some how he was feeling that things were going out of control.

His fiancee called George on a morning. She wanted to meet him some where. At last George decided to show himself up. They met over lunch at a hotel. She dressed herself well and her hair was as beautiful and long as it was.

The moment they settled themselves, the bride said. "I want to give you a surprise". And she gave a gentle pull to her hair. It came off! It was an artificial hair! George saw a normal boyish-cut girl on his front. And she continued, "I liked you the moment I saw your photograph. But your demand for marrying a girl with long hair was too much. I put this wig on my head when you came to see me. I wanted to tell you these, but you were so excited and I didn't want to change that. I also feared that I may lose you. It is not the external appearance that make people love each other."

For the first time ever, George was feeling relaxed. Their marriage happened as planned. And they lived happily ever after :-))