Saturday, January 2, 2010

Under the Desk

"This has to go today";

Anupam, one of the dozen who joined Lighthouse Research this year, scratched his left earlobe and nodded.

"I know it looks like a lot of work, but once you get the charts ready, it's mostly copying and pasting into the right places", reassured the manager. Then as if to underscore the importance of the deliverable, there was an added bit of depth in his voice "the deck is critical to the client presentation today".

"Sure. As you said, it isn't a lot of work", Anupam smiled. His manager returned the smile "Great. Get started on it then". Pretension works best when it's on on both sides.

Walking to his desk, Anupam tries to swiftly calculate the damage. This could take hours and may well stretch beyond midnight. Well, this is how you make bones in this industry. He had a month of fun; induction, soporific speeches by practice heads and veeps and numerous soft skill trainings. Now comes the call of duty.

He wasn't complaining either. Those trainings were getting on to him, to tell you the truth. Four years in IIT prepared him for a lot, but not corporate trainings. He always had issues with listening to a lot of gyaan but these were altogether something else. To make it worse, most of the other rookies were from B-schools who seemed to (or at least pretended to) enjoy them, judging from the enthusiasm they showed at role-playing and asking questions.

His momma didn't raise no fool, either. Anupam knew that though he was definitely not an exception, there were very few here straight out of grad school. The company is run by MBAs. Anupam and some others are the select few who have broken through the ranks simply because of the buoyant job market these days.

Back to work.

A couple of hours later, Anupam was almost cursing aloud. There had to be something he was missing: the FIFO figures refused to tally. He stood up and glanced over at his manager's desk. It was empty; craned his neck to check whether his bag was there. Nopes. The leather bag, which he suspected was modeled on the one Shahrukh carried in Main Hoon Na was gone. Damn!

Anupam looked around. The crowd was thinning. There were some pockets of resistance (!), a select few who still haven't retreated to their abodes. With a kamikaze grin on his face, Anupam sat down and got at it again.

Didn't help much. Still at loggerheads. Frustated, his hands directed the mouse to the internet
explorer icon on the desktop. Wikipedia is a trusted old friend, and a few moments of surfing can't do him much more harm. Ten minutes into the Large Halidon Collider, Anupam's thoughts drifted into the spreadsheets and then he got it. It was the Budapest figures- he hadn't added them up.

Problem fixed, he went back to finishing up on the charts. A better part of an hour passed. Partial darkness jolted out of his work-induced reverie. They were switching off the lights as there were a very few people on the floor. He checked; only five were remaining on this part of the floor, and he had at least a dozen slides to go. He recalled the dictat "This has to go today" and cursed. Frigging time Zone management.

More lights began to be switched off. The floor looked strange, with pockets of illumination.
Struggling with the formatting, Anupam soon discovered that he was the last one on the floor. Standing up, he scanned the floor. There were none to give him company and he almost did a double take. Hard to accept that you, the rookie, is the only one left on the floor. Just then laughter drifted in from the gate, the reassuring banter of the security.

Anupam, now relaxed at the familiar sounds, began to stretch his limbs. His bottle was empty. He wasn't particularly thirsty but felt he needed some exercise. Holding the bottle, he began his journey towards the cooler.

The office at night is a queer place. A beehive of activity otherwise, housing at least a hundred
people,looks somewhat unnatural at this hour. The computers, embattled by the ferocity on it's
keyboards and constant lumination of the screens, look to be resting in peace. In fact, if he
didn't know any better, the dark monitors looked like ghosts. Like hundreds of ghouls staring back at him. The darkness (only a few lights were now on) helped nurture the scene. Quite an unnerving feeling, Anupam could feel a slight shiver.

The cooler had a surface mounted CFL right on top of it. He sighed and put his bottle to fill. Straight up were the washrooms. Dimly lit, the straight corridor reminded of the numerous horror pictures he'd seen. There was something about horror and corridors. Or maybe all horror writers are claustrophobic. But surely there has to be some connection.

His bottle filled, he wished to hurry back at his station. Picking up a brisk pace, he didn't want to
stare around.

Suddenly all the lights went out. Anupam froze in his tracks, terror suddenly gripping him. It took a few seconds for the antibodies of reason to fight back. Wait a minute, he told himself, must be some sort of outage. Backup will definitely take care of it soon enough. Still, his throat a bit dry, he took a swig and started walking towards the gate. They don't call them security for a reason.

They were there. Four of them, one struggling with the emergency light and the others engaged in some local drivel. They looked up at him. "Kuch nahi, saab. Do minute main theek ho jayega". His confidence restored and prospects of a client escalation encouraged him to get back to his station.

A strange thump on the ceiling. Anupam spun around, trying to narrow down on the cause. Then a lot of thumps in concert, as if something was running around. Rats. Amazing, really; no one could have guessed that this glass and concrete marvel had rats in it. This is India.

Rats were trying to kick up a ruckus and for a split second he considered getting on the intercom and alert the security on the menace. Then decided otherwise; some good it will do, perhaps only serving to distract him as it would surely be entertaining to see them jumping around, with their shoes or some contraption in their hands, donning the role of exterminators. He knew how funny it can all be, having seen his Dad cavorting around to kill those pests at home in his adolescence.

With the rats trying to give him company, Anupam started on the Org Chart. A bizzare noise jumped him. It was as if someone was furiously typing on a computer. With no one around, this was definitely weird and a strange fear gripped his nape. He could feel the hair rising on his hands and neck. He looked around. Nothing. No one around, yet the clackety-clack kept on.

Anupam suddenly felt two very appealing reactions: to explore what's going on or to hell with it all, write an apology to the client, marking the manager and head home. He was already a wreck and things were getting worse. One more funny thing and he could actually cry out. The acute sense of embarrassment, always very strong in the salaried classes, told him that would be extremely unwise as the guards will talk and in no time he'll be the laughing stock: A rookie who got scared on his first all-nighter. Nopes, that can't happen to me, Anupam reasoned. He calmed himself, slow and long breaths actually helping him regain his composure. Let's finish this up, and save the goddamn job.

His last chart finished, all the while ignoring whatever that was happening in the background, Anupam felt a tide of relief sweeping over him. Checked his watch, two frigging AM. The executive summary and then...

The ping of the e-mail sounded unnaturally loud. His neighbour had locked his desktop and not switched it off. Typical but scared the hell out of him. He quickly finished the exec summary , wrote a hurried mail and after pressing the send button, he threw his head back and closed his eyes. Tried to whistle, but only a 'phew' came out. It's time to go.

Shit! he forgot to mark his manager on the mail. He dug it up, forwarded it with the standard FYI... Lights out. Once again. This is getting better and better. He ought to better go now, before he loses it entirely. Getting up, he felt something tugging his shoe laces. Formal shoes; can't do with them, can't do without them. Must be other foot tying up the laces. He looked down.

They must have been cat's eyes. They burned as brightly as a star, but hid under the desk. Anupam tried hard but could not spot the cat's silhouette. This was odd; rats are possible but surely no cat can enter the office. Not with the security and the setup.

To confound matters, as a sick joke, the computer finished it's job and shut down, the screen turning black. Was it him or did ... the eyes shine brighter?

He swallowed; swallowed hard. He desperately willed to move but his feet seemed glued to the ground. Then he felt it. It was here all along, that sense of morbid fear which was only brushing past him, alerting him of it's presence and going away, as if teasing him. But now it wasn't going anywhere. It was behind him. He slowly looked around.

At first it was nothing.

Then hundreds of eyes shone under the other desks.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Vir Sanghvi's too rich...
Indy's too much into history...

I need a new hero.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Some guys have it all made.

I mean, lookit him, all chiselled and all, decked up in shiny overalls. Look at the strut, the gait as he walks on to his drive, waving to the crowds. Thinks he is the good ol' Schumi, I tell you. Fact is, he just a kid; a lucky one. The camera focuses on his ride; yup, he's got one there. Kid's got taste, I'll give you that. Kid wins a race, then goes on to that futuristic hangar (!) where that platinum blonde briefs him about the stuff he can buy, all the time flashing a million dollar smile. Some guys have it all, I tell you.

Kid's roaring up his engine. We know better. We as in Max, Fuller and me, patiently waiting for the hoot, ready to go when it's time to. Kid's good, and today it looks like he's got some chicks come by see him race. I can almost hear them fawning over him; almost. The noise that kid makes can drown out pretty much everything else. Show-off!

Vrooom... here we go. Max and Fuller fall behind, as they always do. It's me and the kid, for now. The countryside races past by, the wind mercilessly flapping at our faces. Kid's got this sideways grin pasted on his face; I dunno how I look, the cam never bothers about me. The track's pretty standard, all full of twists and turns at sectors and then straight-ups at places. We are at the straight parts; kid's driving too fast, he's got a thin lead over me but I know better. Everyone's gotta fall back when the sharp turns begin.

Yeah baby! smoke that, kid. Someone's gotta tell him that you can't burn up the tarmac when it's twisted so much, kid. All that testo ain't everything, a man needs some grey stuff up there to ace this. What'cha Kid? feels stupid to get all those girls come over to see me win?

I put miles between us. All right, not my day...yards actually. But I swear there were times me, Max and Fuller could beat this kid hands down. Those olden days the kid could hardly finish. We'd be waiting at the line, for the young harridan to come by and finish the ordeal. Now lookit him, he's got into winning, podium pics, champagne flourish and all. Yet he was always the camera kid. That dastardly cam's always been on him. Go figure.

We're almost at the last lap, Kid breathing my smoke. He ain't gonna let up, not today, with all those frocks awaiting him. One thing, he's got jolly good support; you can almost hear the girls egging him to the finish line. Must be cute girls; god knows what they are wearing. Dunno, don't get around much. God knows what they look like, smell like, taste like. I just race. It's just me and the beast. It's like I'm programmed to do only one thing in this life, to race. Thanklessly. Not for me the fanfare, the music and all. I race.

You can almost see the line. A draft of sense blows over me. Who am I kidding? He races therefore I am. He'd get the girls if he wins now; what'd I get? Another race? A dry, snorting, soulfucked laugh bellows inside me. I slow down, but not by too much to make it look suspect. Kid zooms by, still wearing the same grin. If I din't know any better, I'd have thought he's like that only.

The fanfare follows. Orchestra, lights, camera... champagne. We are there too, looking smug, filling up the podium like we are somebody's afterthought. Kid relieves us by opting for a race- this time in the sunny skies of California.

Awwright, Kid; buckle up. Winning twice in a row might mean you'll dump me for that bald old hitman. No kid gloves this time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Overwhelming Senses

Me and death, separated at birth. This Chuck Palahniuk line is one of my favourites- typical of how creative (in an unorthodox way) the man can be.
What really makes our lives special? It could be the power of the senses- I like to travel very much, explore to different places, going back to the same place over and over again, observing something new every time; but the experience wouldn't have been the same without the visual treat. Without the power of sight, the green valleys of the Sahyadris would have been indistinguishable from the snow capped Himalayas. The ferocity of the Eastern coast no different from the deceptive calmness of the Konkan coast.
Music: though I'm not big into it, but I appreciate the audio experience as well. Life surely would have been much less worth it if unexposed to Rahman, Beatles, Dylan and the like.
Touch, well, makes it all feel real. The audio visual treat can perhaps be simulated in theater screens and the telly. The fresh drops of rain on your palm when it starts raining, the reassurance that one gets when checking out that the mobile, keys and the wallet are safe, the irrepressible confidence that exudes from a weapon (especially guns- I guess the feel that you can prey on someone from a distance brings forth the courage, ironic in a way) and the incredible warmth of love.
But it gets a bit overwhelming at times. At moments, when faced with indescribable sights, I feel the senses are sometimes an embarrassment of riches. Walking alone in the streets, I get lost in my thoughts, the sounds and the sights. Time just goes by, me losing track of all time and reason. This is how I meditate. You lock me in a room with overpowering silence for long, I'll scream out so hard, I'd probably rupture my throat. Leave me in a crowded street with the rhythms of life beating all around, I let my thoughts fly- a pity they don't go too far.
But lately I drown out the noises- I envelop my ears with a headphone. The auditory experience becomes more customised. And that has helped me see. Things I'd miss otherwise, I take keen attention to. A man sleeping with a weird pose on the street, a patch of grass growing out of nowhere, a fascinating zig zag pattern of mud or even oddly coloured curtains on windows.
Suppressing noise is something yearned for in the face of a beautiful sight. Though noise has it's own charms, I'll admit. A laughter out of nowhere in a seemingly lonely beach is a sensual experience in itself. It jolts you out of any reverie you were in.
Perhaps for someone with sight, suppressing noise comes forth. But I can imagine music without sight would probably a divine experience. I am not so naive to think that if I just blindfold myself and turn on a mix of flutes and violins, I will enjoy it as I never have. But if I do it more than a couple of times, give it a little time, I am sure the experience will be unforgettable.
Speaking to a loved one, yearning for the touch, but not getting any, can be an experience in itself. Definitely not a welcome one, but sometimes they say this makes the desire stronger.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Need to Know

A professional life such as mine has many benefits. It has not yet started to sap all my energies, provides enough for a bohemian living and the reason for this post, puts me into contact with people and situations I wouldn't be involved with otherwise.
In the land of desktops, 4 day formals and free coffee, I have observed a certain pattern of trust. If there's a major reorganisation (or even in the worst case retrenchment) in the corp, the word is kept tight. The seniors are called in for a meeting, and the news is let out discreetly. The seniors are instructed to keep it tight, and not to worry, every one's going to know it all in due time. The seniors, armed with the knowledge, either act as instructed or flaunt it, by dropping some hints to drooling subordinates.
The rationale is simple. Or so they say. Seniors have earned the right to hear bad (or good, depending on the point of view) news earlier than the plebeians because they have able to exhibit the right level of prudence, commitment and responsibility in all situations, especially during change. Their work speaks for them and they are secure in their positions. A little change does not bring out the worst in them.
The plebeians are of course different. They are first rate gossip mongers, impulsive and prone to panic. Information cannot be presented in the raw form to them- that will only lead to chaos. Information needs to be filtered, sweetened and then let out in the appropriate hour. It's obvious: they still haven't earned the trust of the golf club.
Is this imagined chaos reason enough for such levels of trust? Maybe not. Maybe this trickle down of information is part of the compensation. The tip gets to know it early. The high ones a little later and then a palatable form is presented to the base.
It is this that riles into my nature. Why is it that we are so afraid of this imagined chaos? Why is that minimum level of trust not there? Why do we keep on justifying protecting and prohibiting flow of information so that there is order?
If it is a form of compensation, then say it as it is. Do not hide under the camouflage of order. The plebeians put in as many hours as does the golf club and if they undertake less responsibility they get a lesser pay too. As being more prudent and reliable, let's be honest: the headlines are made by the golf club, not the Goregaon dweller. The problem is far rooted in the nature of crassness. There is an addiction to holding onto knowledge that should be public. The irony is that it is also our nature to be interested in information that ought not be public by any social norm- who's sleeping with whom, which color of knickers that chick wears and so on.
Trust begets trust. If the tip cannot trust the base, it ought to be time the base stop trusting the tip.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Final Destination: I

He stared at the sun.

The truck driver leaned to clean up the ketchup on his dashboard. He took his eyes off the road, but onlyfor a little while. It was an empty expressway, and he was doing good. The only roadkill will be an unlucky dog.

RATM blaring on his headphone, he adjusted his eyes to the sun. They said never hide, and admired the sepia tones of his newly acquired Ray-Ban.
The bus driver licked off the ketchup. Finger lickin good. Oh shit.
He took a look to his left. The beat rose to a crescendo, "What better place than here? what better time than now?". His left hand had instinctively started digging for the IPOD, trying to change to the next.

The impact barely made the truck move. But the driver knew.

General Reflections

It feels as if the flu is into me, gnawing at the very essence of me, my mind.
Watched Hitch last night, and as with the other notable Will Smith movie of recent years, it made me question my existence as it is now.
Hitch and the Pursuit of Happyness both stress on the importance of living beyond the ordinary: to seek out and claim the most important conquest of them all, love.
Will of Pursuit led his life to secure the future of himself and his kid, driven by the love for his son. He could have just as easily fell into a vortex of guilt, rage and frustation and sunk deeper into depression. He could have easily been a bum who lives off the street and sings out loud when someone passes by; just to make the other guy know what he's been through and what he thinks of the world. But he did not. He chose change.
Hitch is obviously not even remotely comparable to Pursuit. It's a movie with a much lighter vein, based on the subject of tackling the modern-day cynicism in relationships. It could have dealt this more seriously but chose not to, and insteaddrowned itself in candyfloss. Not that I hold that in contempt. Somehow I've come to realise not every movie has to make a point and that too seriously. Hitch can make analert guy think. And then he's free to comment and reflect. It's an encouragement rather than a thesis.
It certainly made me ponder. It's been too long trying to be a lone wolf.
There was a time, not too long ago, when I used to fall in love with any woman I see. It still happens, if only for a glance. Then the realities sink in, and the differencesamplify and the longing disappears. What makes it worse that I've chosen to be aneccentric type, which makes it difficult for me to adjust to an ordinary life, which most women seem to like to live.
Get real. Which chick would like to run off to the Sahyadris every weekend?
But perhaps the issue is deeper than that. Why is it that I like to run away?