Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The 'Phone' Identity

At work, the cubicle right across mine is shared by a couple of new joinees from another team. One of them is this jumpy youngster who can be often seen having outrageously loud conversations on the phone. When he’s not on the phone, he keeps himself busy with free coffee and snacks in the cafeteria. Both ways, ensuring he utilizes the office resources to his fullest capacity, of course. His repertoire also includes top-of-the-line acting skills, which is at its best when he swings into action, staring really hard at the monitor or typing away on his keyboard, at the sight of his project lead approaching his desk!:) Interesting bloke this huh?

But this is not about him.

This is about his cube-mate - the really quiet and unassuming Tamil girl, M. One would hardly notice M in that cube, except maybe on days when she’s wearing that extremely fragrant posy of jasmine flowers in her hair. Those are the days when the maintenance guys breathe easy, considering that they have one less task on their hand –of spraying room freshener in our floor.

M and I do exchange smiley hellos everyday and there’s the occasional small-talk about work. But, nothing beyond that.

So this week, as I headed home from work, I met M in the elevator lounge. As soon as we stepped into the elevator, her cellphone rang. And what I saw when she held up the cellphone to see who was calling, left me stunned!

Husband” said the caller id display.

Husband? HUSBAND??

Alright,in my defense, I didn’t really mean to snoop or anything. But then, all thanks to the horde of over-enthu people wanting to run home, squeezed into the elevator , I had her standing right in front of me. And in the extremely small distance that separated us, if she held up something to her face, it was as good as holding it up to mine!

As I picked up my jaw that had dropped to the elevator floor by then, I wondered for a second if I’d misread the display. It couldn’t be that, could it?? Sadly enough, I hadn’t.

My first thought was this - You’d probably store your plumber’s name as “Plumber” in your phonebook, just because he’s identified that way a little more quickly than by his name, if he called. But surely, your husband deserves a better deal, doesn’t he?

And then through my daily
bus journey back home, as I wondered what on earth made her refer to her husband by a name as cold as err.. “Husband”, a particular ritual in my wedding came to mind..
That was when the new bride (that would be me), was welcomed into G’s home for the first time after the wedding. The ritual is to stop the bride at the doorstep and “taunt” her by asking her to pronounce her husband’s name.
The rule is that the new bride has to act all demure and blush till her cheeks turn a dark shade of red and keep refusing. And the “taunters” will have the question on loop until you decide to give up.

Not meaning to sound curt, “G” , I blurted out immediately, in a tone that asked a “Didn’t you know that?” to the aunty who asked. Of course there was this cuteness factor associated with the ritual and most of them had a good laugh and all that. But still, I’m sure there were a few aunties and grannies in that room who’d frowned upon the rather audacious bahu.

Of course, we all know scores of women who don’t call their husbands by name. Most of our grandmoms and sometimes, even moms don’t. In fact, its commonplace to refer to one’s husband as one’s “yejamanru” (literally translated to “master”) in many a household in our state.
I ain’t no rabid feminist, but then this one still gets my goat.
Clearly, the term “better half” for a wife, wouldn’t sit well with people who coined this term.
I don’t even see them agreeing to “half”, let alone “better”.
To them, it all probably stems from the thought that your husband is someone you put on a pedestal. Someone you look up to and believe is only second to God (“patidev” after all eh?).

Does it sound a little too archaic for our times? Maybe, it does. But then, for M, it probably doesn’t.

I hope, things change soon with time and M gives a nicer name to her husband in her phonebook
For all we know, maybe I am just over-reacting to an innocuous phonebook entry or probably that’s her nick for him(it's possible, you know) or maybe she’s just being funny!

But seriously.. “Husband”??

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


My earliest memory of receiving a prize goes back to the time when I was six years old. I was at this Annual Day event at school where the agenda, apart from the “cultural programs” (read song and dance numbers from kids made to wear make-up of at least two inches thickness!) also included a prize distribution ceremony. The idea was to reward kids who’d scored the highest in every subject in the curriculum, individually. A jolly good idea to avoid one smart ass namely the class topper, walk away with all the glory!

I was slated to receive three prizes, for English, Science and Social Studies. I was summoned on stage three separate times and was given three different books and some coloring pens. Well, the reality was that the only rewards I could ever dream of reaping were strictly restricted to academics. It was a distressing sight every Sports Day , when I'd get thrashed black and blue in all "races" I competed, by kids with far superior athletic abilities!

As I sat there with my friends, proudly showing off my heist, I was caught unaware, when I heard my name being called out yet again! Much to my surprise, I found out I'd found out that I had the highest scores in all three sections of 2nd grade! The management had decided to award a special prize for that particular feat as well!
The prize was a cool kiddy story book, a Russian publication that had this really amazing wrapper and lots of pictures. I remember L’il sister being particularly besotted with that book. So much so that, at the age of four, she’d mugged up the entire book and would compel everyone in the house to listen to her recital (both backward and forward!) at least once every day!

As for me, it was like being announced “Man of the Series” soon after you’ve been announced “Man of the Match” , the perfect icing on the cake! No prizes for guessing that I grinned from ear to ear during the rest of the day.

To think of it now, I feel it’s purely the surprise element or rather the shock element that’s left this incident etched in my mind, even after all these years.

So the last week at work, as I stared at the monitor pretending to decipher a complicated software architecture diagram, while actually surfing the net for the best spots to holiday in Malaysia in another window, I spotted my manager walking towards my desk. After the initial "how's it going" small talk, he went on to ask me to attend this meeting the next day with a different team(that he manages, apart from mine), in order to help them out of a major crisis that they'd landed themselves in. Now, this was not something that I was not used to, since I'd helped the same team resolve some issues even earlier.
Although I muttered a “Damn!Not Again!” under my breath, sending out silent curses to the goofy guys in that team, who messed up so regularly, you can't really refuse when your manager makes a personal request, can you? And I agreed.

The next day, as I walked into the conference room, expecting a room full of glum people, I noticed my manager looking a little too cheery for a crisis resolution meeting. Considering that he'd described the crisis situation as really colossal, I wondered how on earth this guy even managed a smile, even if it was fake!
But then, the smile only got bigger, as he rose from his seat and proceeded to deliver this absolutely fancy vote-of-thanks kind of speech, acknowledging my earlier contribution of having resolved some rather unnerving issues in that team. All praise for my effort, he went on to say how those issues had the team vexed for weeks and how I was able to resolve it in a matter of hours. As I sat there, feeling rather embarrassed, he dished out a cool backpack, and presented it to me, amidst much fanfare and applause.

After the meeting, he explained to a really-taken-aback me, that the whole crisis resolution meeting was just a decoy, and he'd called the meeting to ensure he recognized my effort in the presence of the entire team. The unjustly cursed 'goofy guys' hadn't really messed up in reality.

And I thought to myself - A "nice manager" is not really the oxymoron that I thought it was, after all! He very well could have let me know beforehand, but then he'd meant the whole thing to be a surprise, just to make me happier! What a darling eh?

Déjà vu! The surprise element had done it again! Enhanced the pleasure of being rewarded, many fold.
Whether it’s the story book or the backpack, they will be remembered fondly as two of the most memorable prizes I’ve received, all thanks to the happiness they’ve brought, when you least expected it.

Even then, it’s never about what prize you’ve been rewarded with, Is it?

It’s always the memory of the experience, that turns out to be the prized possession!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Turning Twenty Seven

When I returned to work this week, after a blissful trip to my l'il sister's at Hyderabad, I heard many a ‘what-i-did-over-the-long-weekend’ conversations in the elevator.

So, what did I do?

I turned 27.

As a child, my birthday was always the best day of the year. That was the day when mom would make my favourite Mysore Pak. Doting aunts and uncles would arrive to wish their neice. It’s another matter that the 50 bucks they would gift interested the neice way more than the wish! And for once, dad was not allowed to yell at me for anything goofy I did that day.
The only thing that peeved me was the date, that fell during the summer break in school. I could never be the gleaming kid in her brand new dress, distributing Nutrine pineapple flavored toffees to her class, while they sang the birthday song in unison. Funny how I was relieved about the exact same thing ,no-school-on-birthday when I got to high school though!

But then, the picture is not quite the same, when you are older, is it?

“27?? Oh you don’t look that old” said my visibly surprised co-worker, after she’d wished me.

And I thought about the “that” in her sentence. Should I be smiling about the fact that there are people who think I look younger than I am, or should I read into the way she stretched it making it sound more like a “thaaaat” which makes 27 borderline old-age?!

And then there’s my really really concerned aunt.

27?? And you still don’t have a baby? Don’t you realize time is ticking away? Atleast, give me the good news by your next birthday!”

She's set me on a race against time now. Timed by not just one, but two clocks- biological and regular.Sheesh.

If that wasn’t enough, I recently saw this mentioned in a skin care article in my favourite mag, Cosmopolitan. They’d sectioned the advice by age group and of course, I had to look in the (26-30) age group.

“We hate to break the news to you. But your skin is no longer going to be as naturally radiant as it used to be when you were younger.”

Et tu Cosmo? Life can suddenly get so cruel once you fall outside the (21-25) bracket . Sigh.

But what the heck? Birthdays are for celebrating right?

It was the first birthday I spent with dad, l'il sister,brother-in-law and G, together.
Li'l sister and BIL played perfect hosts when they took us out for a midnight buffet(!), a first for me. I did have my suspicions about whether this was the restaurant's ploy to get rid of leftover food, but I was soon proved wrong when we were asked to wait for 20 minutes for a table when we arrived at the place at about 12:15 am and the food turned out absolutely delicious!

While at the buffet, we did click a few snaps. But here's the one that takes the cake, well, literally!

Courtesy the worst photographer in the world - my sister. So much for the enthu G was posing with, for this snap! :)

And in the morning, I woke up to a barrage of phone calls from friends and family. And my Orkut scrapbook, abound with messages from friends near and far. L'il sister and Dad made sure there was abundant supply of Mysore Pak at home. How sweet is that?

And yeah, G's promised an air conditioner(!) for a gift. Considering that he's gonna be sharing the room with me, I am trying hard to ignore any hidden agenda here. And to believe that this is going to be my gift and not ours! :)

Oprah couldn't have said it better when she said this.

"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. "

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Addicted to Abhiwarya

Movie director Gurinder Chadha , of Bend-it-like-Beckham fame has proclaimed that she would christen her twins, ‘Aishwarya’ and ‘Abhishek’ after we know who. So this entrepreneur in our locality was not to be left behind. He's decided to pay his own tribute to the couple by doing this.

Beauty salons (or parlours as they are commonly known) carrying Ash’s million-dollar face on their signboards is a pretty familiar sight in Bangalore. But in this instance, even her beau has earned a spot beside her , helping market a men’s beauty salon! Yikes! The prices you pay for deciding to marry a beauty queen! Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing less macho about men frequenting these “beauty” salons, but it somehow creeps me out to see men getting manicures done!

Undeniably, they are the most celebrated couple in the country right now. The media never tires of chasing them. The engagement came as such a relief to the nation. A nation sick of watching news channels scream "Breaking News" even when they'd brush past each other. Well, it's a different matter altogether that they did Mani and themselves a huge favour by deciding to announce the engagement at the brink of "Guru"'s release. Never mind that the announcement set the cash registers ringing! What's commerce got to do with it? Yeah, right!

Ash being labelled a 'manglik' by the family priest has had the Bachchans go on an incessant temple hopping spree. And what's more, they've even had their bahu-to-be marry a tree to help her wash off her manglik induced misfortunes! And the worst part is that, the Miss World touting dignity and respect for womanhood in her speeches went ahead and did it How on earth are we supposed to make foreigners believe that India is not just about snake charmers and ridiculous superstitions, when our most recognized faces abroad resort to such ludicrous "rituals"?! Sigh.

And then, there's the beaten-to-death-by-the-media question of whether Ash's going to continue acting after marriage. And what better person to ask this question than the father in law himself right? The Big B was ready with a reply - "It ain't my prerogative to decide. It's Abhishek's". Hello sir? The question was about Ash's career, not your son's?!

Now that they've announced their marriage date, the media is back to their 'breaking news' ways. There's supposedly going to be none of the 'Liz-Arun'esque affair. Thank God! We've already had enough of the L-A wedding being forced down our throats, thank you very much! I mean, I'd rather watch my own wedding video over and over than watch two obscenely wealthy firangs who have absolutely nothing to do with my country, get hitched. Even if the wedding was the most spectacular event of the year. Whatever!

Alright, that’s enough vitriol.

In all fairness, the path to marriage hasn’t really been easy for them. They’ve had to deal with their share of angst over broken relationships. For poor Aishwarya, it’s been more than once. When things turned ugly with the perpetually shirtless guy and the second time with the one-hit-wonder guy flaunting their affair to the entire world, much to her resentment. As for Abhishek, he’s had to get over a broken engagement plus a string of flops before making a mark in the industry.
Here’s wishing that peace finds them at long last.

So the next time we hear about something breaking on TV, let’s hope it’s good news about their marriage and not the marriage itself.