Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Happy New Year ?

Its that time of the year again ... when greeting card companies, restaurants, hotels etc etc make a killing. Actually thanks to our progressive media, we are being inundated with various other "days" like Fathers' day, Mothers' day, Friends' day etc etc. I am strongly against any such "days" celebrated for random stupid reasons, whose one and only purpose is to part me with my hard earned money!

Actually it is not just these "days" which are guilty of promoting a consumerist culture. Take any festival like Diwali or Christmas. All shops will be offering "special" discounts to encourage people to loosen their purse strings a bit. The real reason for the celebration of a festival gets lost amidst these "great" offers. In a country like India, where population of Christians is quite small, it would be a bit unrealistic to assume that all of your friendly neighbourhood shopkeepers are Christians and are offering you a Christmas discount to do their bit to spread the festive spirit.

So most probably, given the demographics of India, they are not Christians, but still doing their bit to celebrate Christmas. That of course, would not bother me, but the fact that they are probably pretty much ignorant about the story of Christmas does irritate me. Without any knowledge about the reason behind the celebration, a festival gets reduced to just another ordinary day, with a big hype behind it. I was witness to this ignorance at a function at my workplace, where people were gorging on free food and booze but appeared to be pretty ignorant about the Nativity of Jesus or Christmas carols.

If there is no particular reason to celebrate a festival on particular day, it could just a well be celebrated on any other convenient day. Given the tendency to reduce festivals to just days to have a good time, we might as well bunch the whole lot of them conveniently together, in order to give a boost to the tourism industry!

There other days like National holidays, which have pretty much lost their significance. Trampling over all of Gandhiji's principles for the whole year, remembering them just in time for 2nd October is quite revolting.

But days like New Year deserve a special mention. I remember that there was a time when New Year meant sending cards out to people, probably just to keep in touch with them. The Internet with all the IMs and sites like Orkut have pretty much rendered this exercise irrelevant. Today New Year more about partying at the most expensive places and generally spending lots of money on gifts. The newspapers are full of advertisements of all kinds of places offering unlimited food and drink and some even touting the presence of minor celebrities. At the dawn of this millennium, some people had hired a plane to go around the world with the rising sun, to celebrate the New Year in every time zone. I doubt that 2nd Jan was any different for them than for their other less fortunate fellow earthlings.

Well these revelers may be forgiven because the millennium is a once in a lifetime experience, but otherwise, the New Year does come every year! It is also a pretty meaningless day, just denoting the start of the year. You could count 365 days from any day to make your own year. This anniversary is not even something personal like a birthday.
Everyone milks this day for their own benefit ... the media with its extremely boring analysis of the news of the year, the various top 10 lists for X of the year, the hotel industry hosting the various new year bashes, the astrologers who predict your future for the next year etc etc etc.

It is just a bloody day. And you guessed correctly, I will not be doing anything which would have a remote chance of being construed as celebration on the 31st of Dec. Life will go normally on the 1st and I will go to office. Take that New Year!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The year gone by ...

Although it may be a bit premature to ponder on the year gone by, since its not yet officially over, I shall nevertheless take the liberty to do precisely that. Having been given two days off, the workaholic in me is already bored of sleeping and desperately hunting for more challenging activities.

The year began on a pretty good note, I had already been placed and my sincerity towards work was the only thing between doing nothing the entire semester and slogging to get my degree. Being a sadist for punishment, I chose the latter and put in my long hours to achieve a dream I had cherished for long - getting a dassi!! Critics may point that 15 credits, with 12 being of a project do not make a valid dassi, but my grade sheet says that I had an SG of 10 and thats the end of that discussion.

Another high point of this year were my Goa trips! A normal man may go to Goa once or twice in his lifetime (unless he has friends or family there). A man who goes there twice in a year is decidedly not normal, although since both the trips were corporate junkets, it can be said that he is pretty jugaadu. As a side note, both trips were not much to write about, other than experiencing 5-star treatment I didn't do much. In one trip, I attended a conference, in the other I slept and ate alternately!

This year also marked my arrival as a seasoned air-warrior as I logged up the miles, flying all the various airlines in India. Spice, Deccan, Indian Airlines, Kingfisher, Sahara, Jet ... all except newbies, which I am sure I would experience pretty soon. For someone who sat in a plane for the first time only two years ago, this is not a bad report card. Kingfisher is of course head and shoulders above all the others, but thats another story.

Somewhere in the middle of this year, I was able to complete my degree and in one fell swoop, I was proudly ticking the "post-graduate" box in any form that I filled. From 12th pass to PG is a pretty big jump and it took me all of 5 years to complete. The final test in this saga was the actual convocation itself. It took me a lot of blood, sweat and tears; not to mention two nighouts to actually make it to the ceremony. Koun jane koi aur degree milegi ki nahi. A convocation in hand is worth two in the bush!

The year was also a time when I stepped into the BIG BAD corporate world. After working for so long on "interesting ideas", it is a different ball game altogether to make your customers successful and happy.

And amidst all this, I also moved to a new city, made new friends and took on new responsibilities. Like paying for the electricity bill or the rent. It was a time of great change and excitement. It was a new experience for all of us, coming from the sheltered environment of hostel, where you deposited a lump sum at the beginning of the semester and didnt need to bother about groceries or bills for the next 4 months.

I hope I haven't missed out on anything important which happened in the past 365 days.

PS: I am not much of a new year celebrater and think that the whole concept is over-hyped to increase consumption. Will have a post on it later.

PPS: This view has nothing to do with the fact that I read "Brave New World" yesterday. The book merely reinforced my long-held belief.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Orkut is a wonderful place to catchup with old friends (and for some; make new ones). I mostly stick to keeping in touch with friends and discovering long lost ones. One such freak incident took place last week when a classmate from school popped out of nowhere to announce his presence. He was a nice chap who left when we were in 11th standard to go to the US of A, where his father had been transfered. Being technically backward at time, and with low net penetration in India (a time when dialup ruled and broadband was unheard of) I did not use any IMs, leave alone social networking site.

I did have an email address and got my friends email too, but never bothered to send him one and promptly lost that scrap of paper which he had given me. A few months ago, my batchmates from school made a community on orkut and I actively started hunting for other lost souls.

Anyway, the purpose of this buildup was that this dude was in Montreal, had been in Montreal for quite sometime. Now you might wonder whats so great about this chap being in Montreal. Well, the fact is that I was also there sometime in the recent past. Of course we didnt know that we were in the same city and so we didnt meet up or anything. Just the thought if I had spotted him somewhere (or he had spotted me), it would have gone a long way to show that the world is a very small place indeed.

Well, the above thoughts were mostly a digression from the main topic of this post. The main topic is something which has been troubling me with quite some time - Wanderlust. Whenever I look at my orkut friends' list, I see places like Barcelona, London, Paris, New York, California ... places where I would really really love to go. I have often discussed this with my friends and it seems that I am not the only one with such desires.

However, at this point life plays a cruel joke. If you are a student, with loads of time and vacations in which you fidget and sulk at home ... you probably dont have the money to finance yourself half-way across the world. On the other hand, if you are working, you probably can finance yourself, but I guess you dont have the time to go! Welcome to the real world.
Still working to solve this riddle.

To end, life always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Probably many my of riends in these exotic places are pining to come home to India. Or perhaps they are happy and content that their grass is the greenest ... Dont know, dont care.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Home Sweet Home

There is of course no place like home. Especially, when the current place where you are living makes you feel like an outsider. Much is written about about Bangalore being a cosmpolitan city, but I feel that murky depths below the shining glass and steel IT buildings tell a different story. Of course, any comparison by me is probably biased in favour of Delhi, but nevertheless, I shall persevere and try be an impartial observer.

So firstly, lets talk in terms of infrastructure. Delhi has perennial water and electricity woes. Approaching summers herald a time of sleepless, sweaty nights and furnace hot afternoons. A time when stepping outdoors means getting drenched with sweat and sapped of all energy. And add to this a water and power shortage, which means that cold baths and comforts of an AC or cooler are out of bounds. Bangalore seems way ahead of Delhi on this count. We have had (touchwood!) no such problems here, although I am yet to experience the peak of summers here. Another factor which might affect the comparison the place of residence. In Delhi, NDMC areas dont suffer from these issues, since all the politicos live there. Since I am staying in a posh area of Bangalore, I might have been sheilded from a fate reserved for lesser mortals.

But one thing where Bangalore sucks big time is the condition of roads, or rather the lack of pukka roads. In Delhi, alot has been done to improve road conditions. A large number of flyovers have been constructed and many busy intersections paved with special reinforced roads. There is no way that the clogged 2 lane Bangalore roads can compete with the wide tree-lined avenues of New Delhi. In terms of drainage ... both cities suck! Bangalore has the excuse that its a hilly city, Delhi doesnt. All in all, one can use gensets or order water-tankers, but one still has to use the roads to commute!

Talking in terms of climate, its a bit of a no-contest really. Bangalore's pleasant climate vs Delhi's extremes. However, yours truly, being of a slightly masochistic kind, longs for the chilly winters and the hot summers. Seasons, where you do seasonal things (revri/gajak anyone ?) and wear seasonal clothes. The same kind of weather throughtout the year kind of takes the variety out of life :).

Places to visit/see: Again a no contest. Delhi, with a thousand year history has infinitely many places of interest than Bangalore. With so many people and so few hang-outs, the weekend crowd in Bangalore's hotspots like MG Road or Forum Mall makes me claustrophobic. The only time in Delhi when I faced such a crowd was at Priya when RDB was released. We have never been turned away from restaurants in Delhi on weekends, since they were full. Probably never been turned away from any restaurant in Delhi. But in Bangalore, we once needed to book a whole day in advance!!

Which brings me to an additional point - the food. Yahan par halwai ki dukaan nahi hoti :(:(.

Public transport : Delhi's bus system is much better than Bangalore's. Buses are more frequent and less crowded. The names of places are written in English too, as opposed to Bangalore where only Kannad is used, leaving you to decipher destination from the bus number. Delhi autowalas are a bunch of crooks out to fleece you, and Bangalore is going the same way. Only that, in Bangalore you dont have any other option, apart from autos. If any autowala showed any attitude to me, I used to show him the finger and go by bus.:D

Now the final point of comparison. I find that Delhi does not discriminate against its citizens on the basis of their region. That is definitely not the case in Bangalore. With pro-Kannada activists indulging in hooliganism at the smallert pretext, one cannot help but feel a little insecure. Be it the autowala with a flag fixed on his vehicle who jumps out of the auto and starts arguing for more than his due or the bandhs and rioting for Kannada pride. It is difficult to adopt this place
as your own, with people howling for jobs for Kannadigas and baying for the blood of outsiders. Delhites have their flaws, but we do not display this xenophobic attitude towards "outsiders". Probably the influx of a large number of people into Bangalore with no roots in the city is the cause of resentment. A large percentage of Bangalore's population probably works in the IT industry and is a largely floating population, which can easily migrate in to other places, searching for better opportunities. In Delhi, a larger number of people are engaged in other occupations (IT hubs being NOIDA and Gurgaon), hence they have a greater sense of belonging to Delhi. And having people from all over the country living in Delhi makes it difficult to mobilise the masses against "the other".

Like I said earlier, my bias in favour of Delhi is pretty evident :D .... mujhe ghar jana hai!!

Friday, December 08, 2006

It was not meant to be like this ....

Or was it ? How many times do we ask this question to ourselves ? I have been asking this pretty often of late and so have some of my friends. After finishing college from one of the top colleges of the country, one would expect all of us to be happy.

A high paying job with a life free of cares and worries. A job of a "software engineer" no less, something which lots of bright young students in school dream of becoming. We were(are?) one of them too. Everyone enters college with a lot of enthusiasm, however, the system sucks out whatever drive you have pretty soon.

As the hour of graduation draws near, one is suddenly snapped out of the reverie and begins to make frantic efforts to get a "good" job. So after following this script, we should have had a sense of accomplishment and been happy and content.

Then again we come back to the refrain ... it was not meant to be like this. I mean, come on, who wants to sit and code all day ? That too in an alien place where you cannot even communicate with your maid without an interpreter ? Where the lunch in the office is full of surprises everyday ? Where the roads are clogged .... oops my mistake, where there are no pukka roads? After the wide open roads of Delhi, its openness, it largeness, Bangalore makes me feel claustrophobic. More on that in another post.

So coming back to the point, it was not meant to be like this. After busting your ass to get into college, and then busting some more to get out, leading to further busting to earn money..... I guess the script writer of this story was a bit of a sadist ? Methinks that he didnt like the color red (for those who dont understand, please ignore).

But then, what about those who sleep on the pavements each day ? Or those who see islands of shiny buildings and bright cars dotting their filthy oceans of poverty ? Those in the heartland of the country, who struggle for survival each day ? Where drinking water is a luxury and caste a reality ? It was not meant to be like this for them either.

So where does the solution lie? I am currently reading a book called "Holy Cow", where an Australian woman details her experiences in India. She remarks that people in India count their blessings. No matter how bad their position may be, they thank God for what they have; that they are better off than those below them. Perhaps this is where the answer lies.

For the job which is a burden for you, there will probably be hundreds of people more than willing to take it up. For the person living in some remote village, living in Bangalore might be a dream come true. In fact, it could be the dream of many a NRI, longing to come back home. For each grouse in your, there will be someone who will look at it as a blessing.

Life is not always what you want it to be. The only thing that you can do is keep your chin up and weather the storm. Always try to make the best of the situation and remain positive. Having just embarked on a careers, one should keep the big picture in mind. Minor irritants in the present should not distract from the bigger goal (dont know what it is at the moment and pretty confused about that).

To end, I would like quote a shloka which I learnt in school which goes something like ...

In life, who has got only happiness or who has got only sadness ?
happiness and sadness in life are like a wheel, which keep coming back again and again.