Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In the cold

I have a cold and the flu too due to some unwelcome organisms inhabiting my person. They are actually welcome to stay if they are willing to follow in house rules like 'no wanton multiplying' and other obscene stuff. Now dear friends the ‘cold’ is not actually ‘cold’ in the thermal sense. It is actually a term that has been coined to describe the absolute helplessness faced by General Practitioners in curing the said condition. In other words, the ‘cold’ bacteria or virus has left the GPs in the ‘cold’.

I am now taking a break from work and enjoying some ill deserved rest at home. Mom is making sure I do not miss the stress and tension of office by her constant commando style raids to my room to check on my meds. The decreasing number of tabs is carefully noted to ensure I am actually swallowing it. I hate the cough syrup prescribed by my doc. I prefer the sweet and mentholly Vicks Formula 44, but the doc has prescribed some icky, chemically, nasty, sleep inducing stuff. And to add to his sadistic pleasures, he advised my mom to ‘ensure’ I drink it down. I am gonna change my doc if I survive this illness, but cannot get rid of him completely like the ‘cold’ because he is my cousin…. grrrr.

To make sure I don’t miss the office cafeteria atmosphere my mom is making some of her own cure all decoctions that 'mallu' moms are so fond of making. The smell of the decoction is all-pervasive and I can see a steady stream of cockroaches leaving the kitchen. I tell her that she will make a pile of money if she could only sell the recipe to some MNC insecticide maker. Her sharp glance cuts off any further hopes of talks with Bayer India Ltd.

I am missing the peace and quite of my cubicle and the sonorous snores of Subbu from the next cubicle. Having said that, I need to go to the nearest Greeting Card outlet and buy a ‘Missing You” card for my Boss, my Big Boss, my HR, the Cafeteria guys and my entire department.

Tomorrow I shall go to work a changed person with some noble resolutions.

I will appreciate every corny joke, every 6:30 pm call for a meeting just when I am ready to go home, every vendor call and the 2366th design change to the website. I will take every call asking me if I am ‘Housekeeping ’ and transfer the call with a sweet smile to ‘Housekeeping’ instead of HR/Applications Team/Testing Team as I usually do. I will swallow the cafeteria food if I have to forcefully wash it down with water and offer a gracious thank you to the lunch caterer instead of asking him if he was a prison cook as I regularly do. And lastly, from now on I will avail my medical reimbursements by checking myself into the nearest hospital next time I get a cold!

And I owe all these changes in my attitude towards work to my Mom. Thank you Mom. Because of you I just can’t wait to get back to work.

Btw the cough syrup….. do I have to take a bottle three times a day or a teaspoon three times a day? Damn the doc’s illegible handwriting!!!! (hic)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Work Perils

I am sitting in a cubicle surrounded by gently flowing water, landscaped gardens, chirping birds and typing a very important letter to the Big Boss. However MS Word is giving problems and certain features have become unavailable. I do not have the time to get it re-installed as the network may be disconnected due to some work going on around me. I typed the letter without the help of “some features”. My letter is an example in ‘organizational efficiency with limited resources’. Any way, here is the mail I sent to Big Boss.

Mr. Big Boss
Dot Bust Corporation
Bungler ( read ‘Bangalore’, my spelling sucks and spell check is not working, but the cleaning lady Muniyamma from housekeeping has kindly consented to proof check)

Dear Big Boss (delete ‘Dear”. Delete function doesn’t work)


I hate this internship! (Delete the entire sentence).
I hate you ! (delete this line too)
I hate my cubicle ( and this too)
I hate cafeteria food ( yup this one too)
I need a whopping big raise (and... this one too)

This is to bring to your kind notice (delete ‘kind’) that I am slogging my arse off in this corner from time immemorial ( ‘arse’ is underlined in red. I dunno what to do and neither does Muniyamma).

In case you haven’t noticed, the building around me has been pulled down and they plan to make a swimming pool where I sit. I have complained to the Facelift Manager (read 'Facility') and he has very kindly consented to dig around my carbuncle ( read cubicle) so that it remains as an island in the swimming pool. However due to lack of funds he will not be able to provide a bridge to my cubicle. I will apparently have to swim to my cubicle every morning, but HR says that a swimsuit will not be appropriate for office wear. I am in a tizzy now and plan to learn walking on stilts. However the good news is that during winter I will be able to walk through the pool to my cubicle.

The Netwreck Madman( read 'Network Admin' ) met me during lunch break and informed me that he will have to remove me from the network soon. However he has promised to network me witlessly (read ‘wirelessly’).

Since my access card is not accepted in the other buildings, I am forced to eat my food at the road side food cart and drink the piped water used for watering the plants. I am unable to attend meetings and my salary is dumped on my desk in fifty paisa coins. I am still counting last month’s salary, which HR says will keep me gainfully employed this month. While counting and recounting the coins (as the noise of the bulldozer is quite distracting) I have realized how lucky I am to have a job. Therefore I will not ask for a raise. (I can only count so many coins in one month and Muniyamma agrees.)

Gratingly yours (delete and replace with ‘Gratefully Yours’)


The Big Boss never replied, even after three months of counting 25 paise coins (since my mail they have been paying me in 25 paisa coins and I have become very thin). Last evening I heard the Facilities Manager remark to the contractor that as soon as my cubicle vacates he will convert it into a floating bar. I am hopeful now, as this could mean that I will shift into the other buildings with the rest of the employees. The BMTC bus conductors do not accept 25 paise coins so I am forced to stay back in the cubicle in the night. But the frogs are friendly.

I am afraid this Internship is turning out to be lot more difficult than I thought. Perhaps I should try the Housekeeping Department as HR had suggested when he interviewed me for this post in the first place. I’ve heard that mopping the floor and cleaning toilets does not require MS Word or even a computer!!! Wow!

(This post is a result of a boring afternoon when MS Word wouldn’t function and I was covered in dust and grime due to some redecorating work going on around me. Those of you, who think I have been benched, may please wipe the smirk off your faces. But... if my HR gets hold of this post, then you may reapply that smirk again)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Friends, philosophers and guides

I have been book tagged by fellow blogger Neil,
And so here an account of my journey into the world of books and their influence in my life.

One summer holiday I stumbled upon an old wooden trunk in the attic of my grandparents home in Kerala. It was a treasure chest and this is no fiction. All I am about to reveal is true. I opened the trunk and saw several dusty books covered by the dust of time ( Ok I am getting a little carried away here). I picked up a book from the top and saw it was “The Keys of the Kingdom” by A J Cronin. On turning the page I saw my grandfather’s name written in neat cursive letters with an ink pen. This treasure chest was the sum total of my grandfathers travels around the world for the UN. I sat down in the gloomy attic and began reading in the half light of the one glass tile of the tiled roof. I finished this book in 12 hours. The story was so gripping. I will not spoil it for you by giving you a review but it is a must read. The next day I picked up ‘The Nuns Story’, which is adapted from a movie. Another 12 hours and the elders were getting curious about my disappearances into the attic. My uncle came to investigate and I came back home to Banglore that summer with the treasure chest sitting proudly on the cars’ roof.

Total number of books I own: Plenty at last count. All time favorites however remain all book of James Herriot, Gerald Durrel and Betty MacDonald’s hilarious classic‘Onions in the Stew’. I think Betty MacDonald has influenced me most in my writing though I don’t see even an iota of that class reflecting anywhere in my writings! A personal thank you to her for shaping my views on life. I think I read her ‘Onions in the Stew’ in Class 6th (yeah guys I did go to school). I was amazed at her ability to scrape out humor from the driest of situations in her life. And since I read her book in my formative years, I was able to laugh through most of my teenage years when rebellion and doubts and frustration at parental restrictions were at an all time high.

Last book bought: ‘Blood, Brains and Beer” an autobiography of David Ogilvy.

Last book read: Dave Barry in Cyber Space. I am not gonna apologize for this. After a tough week in the office I was in no mood for “Song of Ice and Fire” however it is highly recommended by fellow blogger Jake and I will get down to reading it soon! . Dave Barry in Cyber Space will keep you chortling and is not recommended for reading in public areas.You might risk incarceration in a mental asylum due to the demented laughter that will burst from within your person from time to time. The digs on Microsoft and Customer Support will catch you off guard.

Books that mean a lot to me:

1. All the Fairy Tales I read in childhood: These books are the trigger that made me take up reading. It lead me to fantastic lands of fairies, elves, wizards, witches and helped my imagination take wings. These books also made childhood a very happy place indeed.

2. Oliver Twist: This book led me to read almost all the works of Charles Dickens and also flagged off my journey into English novels. This is the story of Oliver Twist a pauper child who runs away from the ‘workhouse’ only to land in the dragnet of a criminal gang. The entire narrative is gripping and reveals facets of the English society where the lot of the poor was indeed grim. The book ends on a happy note but if Dicken were alive today I would definitely walk up to him and say “ Please Sir can have some more.”

3. Treasure Island: How many kids have embarked on treasure hunts after reading this book? Set in the days of pirates and sail ships this book is about the buried treasures of Captain Flint an infamous pirate. Robinson Crusoe: Another adventure in the sea. Yes the sea and pirates fascinated me after Treasure Island and so it was natural that I picked up Robinson Crusoe. This book is considered to be the first English novel.

4. The Mahabharatha: The entire Mahabharatha especially the many tales of the Pandavas in exile is perhaps one of the best Indian story books I have read.

5. Anne of Green Gables: Anne Shirley the protagonist became a sort of role model for generations of girls since the early 20th century. This classic is still a hot favorite with school and college girls in India.

6. A Farewell to Arms: This book by Hemingway is an account an American ambulance officer's disillusionment in the war and his role as a deserter.

There are so many more, but lack of time forces me to cut short my remiscences.I am supposed to pass on the book tag. Therefore with malice towards none here are the lucky ones. (Wow that rhymes)

Leon Cyril

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Teaching a guy to cook and other horrors

Teaching guys cooking is like pulling your tooth out without anesthesia.

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After successfully teaching many a cousin brother to cook and explaining to them for the 284762468 th time that “No”my mom wont be a better or more patient teacher than me, I think I have found a fool proof method of teaching guys cooking. Here are the necessary ingredients to make a successful guy-cook.

1 guy (preferably willing to learn to cook)
1 clean kitchen
1 tape recorder (to record everything that happens during the class in case you need to defend yourself in court one day)
Several Calmpose tablets
One or 2 bottles of strong liquor incase the Calmpose doesn’t kick in early enough.
(If you can’t get the Calmpose without prescription, bribe the pharmacist with promises of marrying his daughter/son. It always works)

Now get out of the clean kitchen as fast as possible and set up a gas stove in an open area preferably a football ground, but far away from schools, hospitals and military installations. Make sure the guy has medical insurance, vehicle insurance and life insurance. The medical insurance will take care of his medical bills after he eats what he cooks. The vehicle insurance will make sure he doesn’t make excuses to come late for classes like, ‘I got caught by the cops because I had no Vehicle Insurance”. Of course this clairvoyant cop has a personal vendetta against this particular cousin and so on every cookery class day catches him without fail. The Life Insurance will make sure that his next of kin get back his college tuition fees in case of his unfortunate demise due to food poisoning. Make sure he doesn’t have an engineering degree. Among my cousins the engineers are the worst cooking students. They argue too much, use expletives like “I’ll think I will watch while you cook first” and “I will have a beer while you demonstrate” or worse “Why don’t you cook and we will tell you how each dish turned out”.

Among my students I remember a cousin, Suresh a first year MBBS student in St Johns Medical College , Bangalore. Suresh wanted to learn to make omelet or fry an egg for breakfast. He had an electric stove and a non stick pan which he mostly used to keep his bike keys and other miscellaneous articles. After an unfortunate accident though he had to discontinue cookery classes and rely on the Hospital canteen. I still remember the day:

Suresh: I have bought you some spirit from the lab. Very good for removing nail polish my Chechi (elder sister) says.
Me: “So sweet of you.”
I liberally apply some on my nails. Quite effective.
Me:“Da listen, how much did you have to pay for this? I don’t want you spending your pocket money on purchasing stuff for me ok?”
Suresh: “Oh it’s free Chechi, I just filled up this bottle from the tank”.
Me: Tank?? What tank?
Suresh: “The tank where they keep the dead bodies.”
Me: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek

Six months after the incident, I still use fork and spoon and knife to eat. Of course I had to temporarily give up cooking for some time too. But there were plus points. The stray dogs now look at me with a lot of respect. Though I don’t know why they drop their tails and slink away the moment they see me. Anyway no more medical student cousins I have decided. I think I will let a more experienced Mom handle them.

Ok so here are some facts I have learnt after teaching a motley group of cousin brothers the basics of cooking. I hope you gals find it informative and migrate to the US or marry a chef or take up transcendental meditation instead of trying to teach a guy to cook.

· You can teach guys to cook however you CANNOT teach them to clean up after them.

· You Must enlighten them that it is necessary to have a stove to cook.

· And also that it is necessary to have utensils to cook.

· You have to listen with sympathetic understanding when they say that they never noticed the above two points at home.

· After every culinary success the guys will say “Cooking! It’s so easy. It’s like Chemistry. You have just got to put the right ingredients and its ready ha ha ha.”

· After every culinary failure they throw their arms and the cutlery in the air exclaiming, “If I want to eat home cooked food I will get married hmph”

· Before every Sunday cooking session they will have beer, which they will buy at the eleventh hour and then insist on keeping it in the freezer and ‘waiting’ for it to chill.

· You have to gently point out that Beer is not recommended when you are learning to hold a knife for the very first time.

· You have to firmly tell them “You CANNOT put whiskey into every non veg dish to ENHANCE the taste.”

· You must repeat for the 284762468th time or longer that washing hands is not enough; you HAVE to wash the vegetables too.

· You have to emphasize that it is not wise to turn the gas on and then sprint across to the grocery store to buy a matchbox.

· You also have to emphasize that while he is at the grocery store it would NOT be a good idea to stop and have a smoke before he gets back to the kitchen.

· And that if he does have that cigarette at the grocery store and then gets back to the kitchen, then it would be very wise to wear fireproof clothing before lighting the matchbox.

· You have to explain that going for a movie while the chicken is cooking is not a good idea.

· You have to also explain that asking the girl friend to learn cooking can be potentially dangerous to his relationship or lack of it.

· You must assure them that they need not be formally dressed to cook.

· And that they don’t have to be in a state of near undress because the cooking is a hot and sweaty job.

· And that blaring music louldy will drown out important instructions like "Your shirt is on fire"

· You have to remind him that he MUST put water into the pan if he is trying to boil the egg.

· Also remind him that he cannot pass off your cooking as his when the fiancée is visiting because she knows that he cannot even boil an egg.

· You must smile and say “I know Chetta that inserting the lid on the Hawkins pressure cooker is tricky.” Don’t yell “ THEN WHY THE HECK DID YOU BUY IT WITHOUT ASKING ME?”(Because you know the answer to that one. The sales girl was pretty)

· Give him a hint that making jokes to his friends on the mobile on how he is trying to humor his little cousin sister by pretending to learn to cook can be dangerous, especially if that little cousin sister is in the vicinity holding a very sharp knife.

· And that Fish fry is good, but you have to clean them first. And ‘NO” he cannot send them over to your house to be cleaned ( and preferably cooked).

· Tell them patiently that they can’t call you every time they have to put salt in a dish. Last time I had to make an entire group of people on a teleconference wait while I patiently explained that two teaspoons of salt would be too much for one fried egg.

· You have got to teach them that egg shells don’t walk themselves into the dustbin and that the stink in the kitchen is not a dead rat but the egg that had fallen under the refrigerator last week and is now peacefully decomposing under the fridge.

· And ‘NO’ having a dog will not take care of aforementioned problems.

· Let them know that leftovers can lead to high attrition rates among maids.

· You must tell them that the printouts of recipes you email them can get smudged if you use them to wipe hands.

· And that laminating these printouts would be a very good idea indeed.

· You have to bite back that expletive when he tells you flippantly that he is going to get married anyway and then in all probability he will not have to cook, after you have taken him step after laborious step of making a Biryani. Don’t wail “Then why oh why did you waste my precious Sunday????” (Because you know the answer to that one too. Saturdays are for nursing hangovers)
Pity I don’t get Mondays off to do the same because after that remark I feel like washing the Calmpose tablets down my throat with the strongest available liquor.

· Tell them strictly that calling you ‘kunjumole’* and 'chakkare'* will not get them off the hook after they had burnt the biryani you asked them to watch over because they and their pals suddenly felt like a game of one day cricket at the BCC ground next to Bethany School. Let them know that a bottle of very dry white wine will make you feel indulgent enough not to empty the burnt biryani over their collective heads.

( * mallu endearments used to placate supposedly stupid cousin sisters after you have done some act of $#^@&(#%@ stupidity yourself).

· You have to let him know that not having his mom/sister in Bangalore is no excuse for forgetting a cousin sister’s birthday. Especially since she is on the verge on mental breakdown teaching him cook. And that a potato peeler is a not a very good idea of a belated birthday present.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Friendship Day

Saturday was my Uncle Ronnie’s birthday. As usual the family gathered at his and Susan aunty’s place in Basavangudi. Uncle Ronnie is an entrepreneur and his charming wife Susan aunty is my mom’s second cousin. The youth after the usual pleasantries drifted to the verandah , our favorite haunt. As cousins we do get along well and soon the jokes and leg pulling started. One cousin ( lets call him Jose), a brilliant recanteur kept everyone in splits with his jokes and an account of his visit to the movies with his fiancé on Valentine Day. He had noticed quite few ‘Uncles’ and ‘Aunties’ at the theater and made quite a few digs at the pot bellied uncles and fat aunties who were watching the mushy romantic fare at the theater that day.

I felt it was soooooo sweet that these couples with teenage kids would take the time out from their busy schedules to watch a movie together on Valentine Day. All the girls agreed with me emphatically. Some of the guys of course had a different opinion. My aunt Susan who is always welcome at the youth ‘enclosure’ as she terms it was privy to this conversation. She is a vivacious person, with a sparkling personality and wit to match. As the hostess that day she could not devote much time with us as but she kept meandering into the verandah to join in our conversation. For most of our family gatherings (which are many) she is usually found with the youth keeping us in splits with her witty anecdotes. She is in her early forties with a 14 year old six footer of a son and a gorgeous 12 year daughter. Her rapport with her children and relationship with her husband is amazing. I couldn’t help but notice the deep friendship that they shared and the pleasant atmosphere in the house.

“Well Jose, you are going to be an ‘uncle’ soon” she remarked to my cousin Jose. His smile dried up instantly. And the cocky attitude gave way to an uneasiness, we had never seen before.

”Scary, isn’t it?” continued aunt Susan. “You are not going to be in your 20’s forever you know. Soon you will be 30, then 40 then…..”

Jose had the grace to look a little ashamed. I was thoroughly enjoying his discomfiture.

“What matters is that when you become an “Uncle’ you and your fiancé will be able to go for that mushy romantic movie on a Valentines Day.”

So saying she walked back to into the house to attend to her guests. A simple sentence, but you could hear that proverbial pin drop in the silence she left behind.

I watched her recounting her husband’s frequent attempts to diet to an appreciative audience inside, and felt a strange sense of happiness. If there is a God I prayed please fast forward me this instant into her shoes, with a loving husband, one or two kids and contentment I am sure she worked hard to bring into her home. But life aint that easy is it? Guess I will have to slog and work at my relationships and be content if at aunt Susan’s age I will be half as happy as her.

So this Friendship Day I wish all the Aunt Susans and Uncle Ronnies in this world “Happy Friendship Day”. Frankly I can’t think of any other people who deserve this more.

(Also Happy Friendship Day to my mom and dad for remaining such good friends till today. They can still sit and talk till the wee hours of morning.)

And Happy Friendship Day to all of you!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Miss Communication

This attrition levels in the IT industry is creating havoc. I mean till the day before the day before yesterday I minded my own business i.e. helping the marketing team in all their communication needs. There was peace, bliss, contentment and job satisfaction.

Then out of the blue the Public Relation guy resigns and as is wont for some strange reason I am asked to take over the portfolio till the next incumbent walks in. Today the Corporate Communication gal quit and of course this portfolio is also handed over to me. And all this because the term communication is an appendage to my designation.

Now the web defines public relations as “the acts of communicating what you are to the public.”
To equip myself for the important task of PR (since the PR guy was leaving the next day) I followed him around diligently the whole day. Evening I was witness to a brilliant PR exercise at the BWSSB ( Bangalore Water Sewerage and Sanitation Board) canteen.

PR: So how much do you want to let our sewage pipe into the Kaveri?
Govt Employee: One lakh saar.
PR: (calling the finance manager): Mr Moneybags? He wants two lakhs!
Finance Manager: Excellent! Excellent! Well within our budget!!
What? He won’t give receipt? Hahahaha of course not you silly this is a bribe ha ha ha.
Don’t worry about the receipt.
Please come and collect the cash.
And do it fast. The smell is unbearable.

The web defines Corporate Communications (CC) thus: “Corporate Communication is the management tool, which tunes all intentional forms of internal and external communications in a way the organization creates and keeps an image towards its major target groups.”

I think I succeeded in this objective in an interview with a reporter I handled the day the CC gal left.

Reporter: Is it true that your company is letting out sewage water into the Cauveri?
Me: Duh!
Reporter: Just as I thought! Is it also true that your big boss is being sued for s***** harassment by his male secretary?
Me: Huh?!
Reporter: Thank you. One last question, you have been so helpful. Is it true that your company uses pirated software?
Me: er….um…hmmm( scratching head)

Reporter: Thank you!!!!!!! That will be all. We will be giving you exclusive coverage in tomorrow’s edition. Watch out for the headlines.

Wow that was easy. I didn’t give out any misleading information. I feel proud. Afternoon the ex CC gal mails me.

Dear Miss Present Incumbent

Given below are some the terms (and it’s meanings) that you must avoid while talking to the press.

Duh: (means) Oh yes, yes, yes, it’s true
Huh?!: (means) I admit he did it.
Er…um…hmmmm:(means) Yes I admit it and we are proud of it!

p.s. Scratching your head makes you irresistibly attractive to journalists.

Warm regards,


Next day 9:30 am the phone rings. It’s the big boss.

Big Boss: Miss Present Incumbent, there is this article in the newspaper. It says that I used pirated mail software to s******y harass my male secretary who jumped into the sewage pit and tried to commit suicide. Did you have anything to do with this?
Me: Duh!

Today while going home the big bosses car careened wildly missing me by inches. Poor man was so upset that he nearly killed me. Last time I saw him he was banging his head on the car and kicking his car tyres over and over again. Nice man.

I think I will move to PR.