Saturday, October 06, 2007

Laziness as the Mother of Invention

As a school kid I read in the English language text book "Necessity is the mother of invention". They even had a fable to prove the point. I am not sure what that story was but I am sure a there are a lot of people who endorse this school of thought. I have a slightly modified version of the above school of thought. I call it the lazy mind. According to this "Laziness is the mother of invention". I am sure a lot of people will be there to refute this claim and I welcome them all. In the next few paras I'll present my perspective so as to get the reader thinking of Laziness as the mother of invention.

I mentioned about my English text book at school and the fables it presented. However as I grew up, I discovered that a lot of inventions that are a part of our daily life, are not entirely inventions that came out of necessity. They were more likely the children of some lazy mind.

At the epitome of the Lazy inventions is of course the object which is a cause of a few tussles in every family with a single TV - the remote control. I bet some wannabe couch potato somewhere figured that he/she was losing a lot of weight by just getting up to change the channel or volume. This lazy mind / body then worked hard to serve the laziness and invented a device that we all know as remote control. It is one invention which has ushered the emergence of a whole breed of couch potatoes.

Then of course there is a whole industry which might have (I suspect) its root in the laziness of the man kind. Consider this, locomotion in all terrestrial life form is traditionally the function made possible by legs. For centuries that was the only form of transport for Man. As man grew smarter, he learnt that domestic animals could carry them. Then came the carts pulled by those animals. Of course not all people could afford to own animals like horses I guess average man was still compelled to use his own legs for personal transportation. Then somewhere some one invented the bicycle. Very soon the bicycle was a hit. But imagine what its inventor was thinking. "I am sick and tired from walking to work every day. I want to spend less energy in going to work." In short the lazy devil had taken control and then that person must have looked at coming out with something that went on wheels and allowed his ass to rest somewhere while he moved. Thus was born the bicycle. Then of course I guess some one lazier thought that the bicycle was a lot of effort and that animal driven carts caused a lot of mess (read dung). This led to the invention of motorized vehicles. Again an invention that was driven by the lazy mind. Soon enough we have the whole automotive industry revolutionizing the 20th century. It has revolutionized and made mankind so lazy that now the basic activity of walking (or even cycling) are considered forms of exercise.

There is no denying that these motorized vehicles save a lot of time in travel and that may be the most important benefit of those at this point. However one may also argue that their existence became possible because there were some lazy minds out there who were willing to work hard so as to achieve a result which would provide betterment for their own laziness. Contradiction (hard work to serve laziness?) .. huh ... of course...

I can bet there are a whole lot of inventions like the ones mentioned above that are really the results of lazy minds. To get the reader thinking, here are a few more examples .. Washing machine (my mom and I think that clothes are cleaned better by scrubbing by hand but still both of us prefer usage of washing machine),dish washer, vacuum cleaner, coffee machine, lazy boy chair (for all people who watch "Friends" TV series .. there are a couple of these in the Joey - Chandler apartment)

Another important aspect to some of the inventions today is that while they serve the laziness of a person, they have other advantages to such as saving of time, effort, cost etc which can translate to a monetary value and hence the inventions are sustained or were backed with investment to be able to see light of the day as some of the appliances mentioned above. Thus while necessity is a mother of invention ... I postulate that the necessity itself is created out of laziness and hence we may view "Laziness as the mother of invention"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Art of Sleeping III

3. Geek Stance
In the first article of this series I mentioned how it is difficult to catch a good night's sleep in Mumbai. As I entered work life, I figured that the bookworm stance wasn't quite possible given the new settings where I am in a cubicle and a computer monitor stares at me. Of course since everyone around me is working seriously, sleeping should perhaps be the last thing on my mind. After all I get paid to work and not sleep. However often the lack of sleep in the rest of the day meant that I had to pay of my sleep debt somehow. That's when I learnt the power of Power Nap.

Put simply it is a short sleep of 10 - 15 mins taken during lunch breaks, tea breaks or simply breaks from work. The best way to do this is to simply put the head down on the desk, or sit back in the chair. However I soon learnt that not all colleagues / bosses are appreciative of power nap. So I invented the Geek stance. All one has to do is support the head with both palms and stare at the monitor. Then open some sort of document, code, spreadsheet, presentation, email etc. This gives an impression that one is actually reading / thinking through the document on screen. Then simply close the eyes and steal your power nap. This way the enemies of power nap think you are reading and you get your much needed nap.

Again there are pit falls and this stance may not work well if the cubicle walls are less than 5 feet since the lower height would mean someone could even spot your closed eyes from a distance. If someone stands behind for sufficiently long then that person would realize that you are not reading at all since the page hasn't moved. Of course a really long power point presentation may be used to offset this since the presentation is capable of turning pages automatically. In short given the office settings and their openness this stance requires a lot of alertness, lest some one might catch you. This strategy can of course cost you the job if the manager hates power naps so this is a "handle with care" type of strategy. Be sure to gauge your surroundings well before trying it out

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Offbeat Mainstream Bollywood

As the mall - multiplex culture engulfs the Urbane Indian, so does a new look Bollywood. Not that Bollywood is undergoing a plastic surgery of sorts but there is a subtle, seamless yet definite change that has arrived in Mainstream bollywood. An avid Hollywood fan would say that Bollywood is aping Hollywood, but the change I am talking about is perhaps not aping of Hollywood. It can't be denied however that the new look bollywood has started to produce movies with varied themes, Themes which till a few years ago were considered, by many Indians, as the forte only of Hollywood and something which was acceptable only in Indian "ART" Cinema.

We have grown up watching the formula bollywood movies. Thus any standard bollywood movies has one or more of the following elements from Shakespearean novels
  1. Merchant of Venice - Good Natured Hero Beats up the bad guys and saves (the world, his family, his village, himself, etc) or plain revenge. Now Antonio or Portia didn't really beat up Shylock but lets pull in Hamlet to add that twist.
  2. Romeo and Juliet - Rich girl falls in love with poor guy (or viceversa although I consider the formed to be more common) or girl and boy from rival families in love giving rise to family feuds etc.
  3. Twelfth Night - Brothers meet 20 years after being separated (in Kumbh Mela /due Murder of their parents by the Baddie /due to Father goes to jail for a crime he didn't do) etc. Actually even Sisters meet this way, but Brothers seem to be more common. This not truly Twelfth night but the separation - meet again part comes close.
  4. Last but not the least - Family melodrama involving quarrels (Saas - bahu, bhai bhai, baap beta etc) instigated by a internal baddie (Mama, Chacha, Step Mom etc) - I think this is more Indian with roots in Ramayana / Mahabharata than Shakespeare. Thinking of Shakespeare however reminds me that yeah there is King Lear which might prove some inspiration.
  5. Of course there are other novels who provide their bits like Macbeth, Othello etc (etc refers to the rest of the Shakespearean world / other authors I haven't really bothered reading)
Of course all of the above are completely Indianised with several song and dance sequences and lot of good old emotions. Thus a typical Bollywood move would have complete entertainment (or so they claim) with the customary happy ending (except for perhaps some Romeo - Juliet types) . Having grown up on an appetite of such cinema, Hollywood always provided the much required relief by providing themes that catered to the need to watch something different.

The mainstream Bollywood could be thus defined as cinema that sticks to the standards above and aims to make money. That films can also be a creative art is often ignored by the so defined mainstream. Thus creative art or social / current affairs based cinema was thrown out of the mainstream and branded as "ART" meaning don't bother looking at their Box office records or entertainment value, just appreciate the art.

However last few years I have observed that now mainstream cinema apart from the formula movies also produces some movies which are different and creative or based on social topics or even current affairs. These are produced with an eye at the box office and entertainment value.
So what sets them apart - simplicity, entertainment value, creativity, and most importantly different story lines. The story lines do not follow the mainstream that we have grown up with.

What really prompted me to write this article is the fact that number of these movies has increased so much that in last 4 weeks I watched 4 movies in the cinema halls and all of them were not really traditional mainstream. Given their entertainment value and box office returns they can't be branded "ART" either. Thus I came up with the word "Offbeat Mainstream"

So here are some takes on a few of the recent "Offbeat Mainstream"

1. Rang De Basanti - No intro needed, for any bollywood fan has probably seen it. A movie about contemporary carefree youth woken up by history and and a sense of duty to friendship and to the nation. Its one of those movies that really has inspired the Indian youth to take a look at doing something for the nation. The ending was realistic with all the main characters getting the poetic "immortality" albeit not a happy one. Yet the movie was a hit with an audience that loves happy endings.

2. Kabul Express - Not many liked this one. Yet it was a good attempt to bring out the reality of war ridden Afghanistan in an entertaining way. The reality brought out shakes you up but then again reality is never sweet as sugar.

3. Shootout at Lokhandwala - Now Gangster movies are not very new to bollywood and we have had a trend of those movies for quite a while now. What's new here however is the fact that this is a movie which tries to glorify ordinarily unknown real policemen who have gone beyond the corrupt image of police. It brings out real life heroes, without projecting them as larger than life characters. This is one very violent movie yet the violence, fights, shootouts are quite realistic. Although it does have elements from main stream bollywood (read romance, music, good guy beats the bad guy) its indeed a complete shoot out.

4. Life in a Metro - A movie about extra marital affairs. The plot has a nicely intertwined web of extra marital affairs which spans almost all the main characters. A great sound track and some great performances. A story about a section of society which looks beyond their lives for the happiness that eludes them within. Its not necessarily a story of you and me but definitely entertaining with some very hilarious moments and yes scenes perceived as "Very bold" for Indian cinema.

5. Khosla Ka Ghosla - This is a smart, humourous story about a bunch of middle class junta who swindle a nasty builder / businessmen to lay claim to the land which is rightfully theirs. A simple story line and ordinary characters like you and me, yet a very entertaining movie.

6. Bheja Fry - Now this one is very difficult to describe. Its a movie with no story but just a sequence of events that lead to a situational comedy. Its indeed a Bheja fry, for the one character responsible for the laughs in the movie can do exactly that to the brains if one of is lucky or unlucky enough to bump into one. A must watch for any one who likes the Garfield jokes where Odie is being kicked around.

7. Ek Chalis Ki Last Local - A movie about Mumbai. The dark side of the city very smartly brought out in a comedy. Its a movie which presents everything bad in Mumbai - overworked professionals, prostitution, gang wars, corruption, extortion, ladies bars, gambling etc and even some not so spoken about topics like homosexuality, eunuchs etc. All that quite explicitly and realistically in a single movie and yet at the end of it you come out laughing. A must watch for any Mumbaite and someone who doesn't mind a slightly adult comedy.

My list could go on. These however are a select few which I watched quite recently and have managed to entertain me (not that it is difficult to entertain me). However these are the movies that mark the acceptance of the Offbeat Mainstream Bollywood by the Indian audience.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Cook Like a Bachelor

In my post on Cook like a Lazy Bachelor, I published a process which was till now a closely guarded secret by lazy bachelors like me. Thus publishing some serious cooking tips for bachelors becomes imperative.
The next few tips will be useful if a "lazy bachelor" ends up with another lazy bachelor or a smart guy who can see through the plan. These may also be considered Survival tips .. to be used when other options are ruled out.

1. An onion a day, keeps the ophthalmologist away :
Whether you like cutting onions or not, onions are arguably the most important and universal ingredient of a bachelors recipe. They can be used to add taste and a little bit of that crunch to almost any vegetable. The Dal Tadka is incomplete without onions. Most egg preparations only taste better with onions.
Cutting onions is sometimes boring and does definitely make you cry. However given the onions importance I choose to look at the bright side. Crying means that my eyes will be cleaned up of any dirt and unwanted particles. So fewer trips to the ophthalmologist.

2. Ande ka Funda..
If Onion adds taste, the Anda (egg) saves the bachelor. If onions are the universal ingredients, Anda forms the universal content of the side dish(sometimes even the main). Eggs can be prepared into various preparations - half fry, full fry , boiled eggs, omelet, bhurji , egg curry and so on. They all go really well with bread, so you have bread omelet, bhurji pav, french toast etc. The best part is all the egg preparations are extremely easy to make and bread is available off the store shelf. Thus the combination of Bread and Eggs soon forms a important part of a Bachelor's diet. Those unfortunate souls who prefer being vegetarians, have learn cooking more complex dishes for they cannot buy the "Ande ka Funda".

3. You can't go wrong with "Two Minute Noodles" -
This is perhaps better known as Maggie. A Nestle brand which has become synonymous with 2 minute noodles. Easy to cook, hassle free, and fast, not to mention that reasonably nutritious too.
For a novice cook nothing is as straight forward as Maggie. As one learns more cooking this becomes the back up food as it is not as tasty if it were the only thing available in each of the 3 -4 meals in a day (breakfast, lunch, tea time, dinner).

4. Breakfast = Cornflakes / Bread Jam.
Corn flakes and milk or Bread and Jam - not many breakfast items can claim to be more nutritious and easy to prepare as these two. Again like all things mentioned so far, the key is simplicity, and easy to cook (read as I am too lazy to try cooking something else). US of course provides many more variations to this list in form of Texas toasts, break fast snacks, oat meals, cookies etc. With all those options available, whoever thought of anything else , would have to give up his claim to being lazy.

5. Masala = Put it all together -
For any Indian female who can cook (most of them can cook well), a masala is an assortment of spices - chili, turmeric, coriander leaves, cilantro, asafoetida and a wide variety of other spices that only my nose can smell but my vocabulary can't describe. These of course are used in carefully measured quantities and most women are so finicky that the slightest change in any content or quantity seems to spoil the whole meal. However for a bachelor a masala is literally put it all together. So my masala consisted of whatever of the above mentioned spices I could lay my hands on and in acceptably small non measured quantities. All of that thrown together so that it would taste different (hopefully edible) each of the time. That way the meal has a element of surprise and you don't have to hunt for new recipes each day. The same recipe can taste different seven days a week.

6. Fruits and Juices are good for health.
As Laziness reigns supreme the drive to cook goes down. On the other hand the sinful stomach (paapi peth) yearns for food. Often (especially weekend mornings) a clash between the two brings out the importance of having fruits. Fruits are nutritious, natural, wholesome food. Not to mention they are very good for health and are even known to have medicinal properties. With all those advantages mentioned, it is but natural that having only fruits on one of the days is definitely a good idea.

7. Married couples need others for company as well.
It is interesting how humans are social. That's one of the reasons most people marry is for companionship. However I think the companionship of just the spouse is sometimes to boring. Especially after a few years of marriage. As a bachelor, me and my roommate were sometimes getting invited to a dinner or so by married couples. That's when we realised that even married couples need other friends for company. Naturally we were ready to fill in that void. So soon after that realization dawned upon us we were inviting ourselves to dinner / lunch at other peoples places and then our hosts would be quite happy to feed us. This is one survival lesson that I learnt cause my roommate was as lazy a bachelor as me. Often neither of us wanted to cook and that's when this solution struck us.

8. Lazy Bachelors invented the Pizza delivery.
If nothing else works you can always call up the Pizza store and have a pizza. Nor really a very healthy food, but it tastes good and comes for a reasonable price. After all this is a last ditch effort to keep your hungry stomach at bay.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Art of Sleeping - II

2. Bookworm Stance
This style is particularly useful in college and school. It takes advantage of the fact that people who immerse themselves into books usually end up being considered as studious people or simply "bookworms".

To use this stance one needs to first find a place where this stance may be executed conveniently. Most lecturers tend to pay attention to people sleeping in the last benches. The front benchers on the other hand are usually people who like to raise their hands either to ask or answer questions. Thus both these places have fair amount of attention from the teachers. Thus the middle benches are most appropriate as most teachers end up ignoring these benches.

Once the place is selected, open a relevant page on text book and set yourself up in a position to read it. This means that you are now looking down into the book and no one can see your eyes. Next place your elbows on the desk and use your opened palms to support your head. This way even if you fall asleep your head won't move much to reveal your truth. The best part is that in this position every one else will think that you are concentrating real hard on the current lesson in the book. Most people don't want to disturb a bookworm immersed in his books and thus you are safe. A pair of spectacles if available with you will only add to the book worm feel.

The above set up seems perfect but there are pit falls.
  • If you are caught up on the same page for too long or if the chapter is changed, some one might realise that you are not reading.
  • If the teacher suddenly poses a question to you, you might be caught.
  • If the teacher doesn't like people opening the text book in the class and prefers students paying attention to the black board, then this style will make you an obvious target to questions.
In short, this style is more suited to cat naps upto 10 minutes or so and beyond that the probablity of getting caught sleeping increases exponentially with the amount of time spent sleeping. Thus this is one of those styles which you want to use with care, lest it reflect bad on your grades on getting caught .... (i can vouch for the bad grades)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Devotee

I have written a lot about my ex roommates. There have been various experiences but one of the most unique ones was the one with my first ever roommate.
We happened to be roommates by chance than choice when we had just joined a new company as trainees. The training was to be for a month and a half and we both ended up sharing a hotel room by pure random selection I guess.

So first thing, I started talking to him in my usual Bombayya hindi and after talking to him for some 5 minutes the first word he spoke was "What?". That's when I learnt that hindi even though the national language was still beyond the understanding of a whole lot of people from Tamil Nadu.

The next few days for me were spent talking in Bombayya and then translating all of that into plain English so that my tamil speaking roommate might understand. Soon I learnt that I could tolerate a lot of south Indian music and Kamal Hassan movie flicks were about to become my favorites. After all the only thing I couldn't understand in those movies was the language, otherwise they were all the good old dance around the trees, bash the bad guys, cry with your family kind melodrama.. Not too different from the menu of a bollywood masala flick.

On the first day to office, I was still struggling to come to terms with the dreaded alarm clock, my roomie almost scared me with some mumble jumble. I discovered that he was an devout follower of religion. For an agnostic like me any sort of rituals were best avoided. However with this guy as roommate I couldn't continue ignoring them for long. The first day he was up at 5: 00 am and was performing some pooja at that unearthly hour. I was too sleepy to pay any attention and told him to wake me up when he was done.

A few more days and I depended on him more than my alarm clock to wake me up in time to catch the morning bus. Now even though the mumble jumble of his pooja's and his early morning breathing excercises etc were scary for me on the first morning, my laziness reigned supreme. Soon I would wake up only when he or my alarm clock woke me. My laziness was contagious too. Towards the last few days of our 3 weeks (it was truncated due to some organizational reasons) of training, he was skipping his morning sessions for the much wanted sleep and on an odd day I would even wake up before him.

I couldn't get to know this guy too well like some of the other roommates. After all we spent only 3 weeks of which most of the time was either spent in office or sleeping for me. Thus the only real picture I can remember of this guy is that of a devotee in a squat position offering prayers in the middle of sleepy night (5:00 am is more like midnight for me)

The Art of Sleeping - I

Mumbai teaches one a lot of things. Every outsider is either shocked by or is raving about the fast life in the city. Some say it is a city where everyone is just running around. In a way it is true.People are running to catch the train or bus or flight almost all the time. The sprint is almost inevitable. However admist all the grind of the city where travel times can be as much as 4 hours every day, travelling is a significant part of the 24 hour day. Most small town people haven't known traveling times more than an hour and 4 hours .. that's huge. It also means that with the work day of >8 hours, the lunch, dinner breaks, getting ready and all ... there is hardly any time left to sleep.

For some one like me it is difficult to let go the precious 8 hours of sleep. With the hectic lifestyle I couldn't spend that much on my bed and thus I learnt the "art of sleeping".
Here are some golden words tips on how to get your days sleep...

1. Horse Stance
They say, horses can sleep while standing. I find it difficult to believe that those graceful beasts can stand after all the running they have to do for their owners, let alone sleeping while standing. However in Mumbai, this style of sleeping while standing is an art worth mastering. To do so, first thing you need to find is a crowded area. So crowded that there is barely space enough to stand on one foot. Yes, I am talking about the famous local trains. So once you have spotted such a crowded spot in the fast train (fast train because there are fewer stops), all you have to do is find a support handle overhead. Next grab the handle with both hands, rest your head on one of the shoulders and there you are ready to fall asleep. Some ignorant people may ask won't you fall when the train brakes or shakes ... That's where the crowd comes into play. The fast train will be so crowded that any movement by you will be easily offset by the crowd around you. Even if the train stops or your leg muscles give in to your weight .. you can't fall down.

If you have been starved of sleep during the rest of the day, these sleepy travel hours in the train can now help you attain the serenity of a Buddha amidst all of the crowd, the manly odour of sweat, the sound of the moving train etc..

In the subsequent posts on this series I'll spill out my beans on some other forms in the "art of sleeping"..
Till then happy sleeping ..

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cook like a Lazy Bachelor

I have spent a fair amount of time living away from home with roommates. Now most of that time was spent in India, where cheap, edible food is easy to come by. As a bachelor miles away from home, the mom's home cooked meal might become a paradise, but there are several options to cheap , edible food. There are small hotels, dhabas, canteens (mesh), food stalls (e.g. pav bhaji) etc. As if that is not enough, there are the dabbawalas and even cooks for hire. All these mean that as a lazy bachelor like me doesn't have to cook in order to get fed.

However I also spent a significant amount of my bachelor's life in US. That's were I learn't that all the options mentioned above are, like my Mom's cooking, a luxury. My instincts did ensure that I could still survive without cooking much. However, what was instinctive turns out, is actually a process worth defining. Thus the next few points are my words of wisdom meant to help those in need to serve the sloth in them.
So here is the 5 point approach to getting fed with good food in the US without having to cook or get married.

1. Searching
The whole process starts with the all important search. The search for a guy who can cook well and is either looking for a room or a roommate. The search really doesn't have to be for a guy. It coule be a better if the result is a girl but frankly I am a conservative Indian and the concept of live-in was not ok with me when I was in the US. The important thing here is a "cook in need" of a roommate or a room.

2. Marketing
If you have found a "cook in need" then this point is not too difficult. All you have to do is sell yourself well to this guy and convince him to be your roommate. You would even be in a better bargaining position if the "cook in need" is looking for a room and you have one with space for one roommate.

3. Cooking
This process might be shocking for the true sloths and perhaps even risky. Its a process which is contradictory to the very purpose of the 5 point approach. It's however arguably the most important one too. Once the "cook in need" is your roommate, offer to cook for both of you. Take pride in whatever you can cook. Then prepare the best of your recipes and appear to be putting your best effort. The most important thing here is to ensure that whatever you cook only looks good but tastes like shit. Actually looking good part is optional, but "tastes like shit" is mandatory.

4. Eat S**t
By cooking for both you would have ensured that the only edible thing available in the house is the meal you just cooked. Now all you have to do is eat this meal with total commitment to eating and take much more pride in doing so, than you did when cooking. That way you have proven that you can eat almost anything. By cooking a useless meal you have also ensured that your roommate is going to either have an empty stomach or order a pizza. From my experience I have observed, that a good cook would rather cook than eat s**t or order a pizza every day. Whereas for a bad cook like me, almost any cooking is better than the s**t I cook. Thus you have now ensured that your roomate knows that you can't cook and can eat anything edible.

5. Be prepared to cry
This last point is more like putting nails on the coffin. By point 4 you have now acquired a roommate who is willing to cook for you. However what is to stop him from looking for a roommate again. That's where this point comes in. All you have to do is be happy in doing 2 things. First always be the guy who does the dishes. Yes it is a little hard work but better than having to eat a meal cooked by self. In US, a lot of apartments come with dishwashers. If yours is one of those, then doing the dishes doesn't count towards a significant contribution. Then be prepared to cut the vegetables and most importantly the onions (unless your roommate is a jain or gujju who doesn't eat onions). All good cooks like people who can cut onions as per their size specifications (i even claim to cut them in terms of square mm). Onions make you cry, but it is better to cry over onions than to eat a self cooked meal or order pizza everyday. It is even said that the tears drawn by the onion's smell help the health of eyes in some way.

Thus I have now brought out the 5 point process. However it is important to remember that for lazy people a lot of this process is instinctive. My ex roomie referred to as The Owl seemed to know this whole process instinctively even as I narrated this to him once. Thus if your "cook in need" is also a sloth then you might face some serious competition.
Another disclaimer, this process will work only with roommates. I think that most wives are quite smart to see through this process and any married men wanting to try this out please be prepared for the couch and a little bit of the "belan"

Friday, April 20, 2007

A life called Infosys - When I was in the US ...

In my last post I talked about the American Reality. However I did forget to mention that the reality also included several other non material experiences. These however form a part of cherished memories and not just material aspects of the life in US.
These include various experinces around the daily life like Driving, cooking, friday night parties, travelling, the snow fall, the autumn colours. I would have to write a whole different post(s) on those memories to be able to do justice to them.
This post is however about the after effects that those memories and the American reality have on an individual who returns to India after a really long time

My first observation as I came back to India, was of the vibrant life out here. There are people all around in the city of Mumbai .. even at 4:00 am in the night.It was a pleasant change after moving on roads which only had vehicles. So now that I am back in India to stay I might as well highlight (in no specific order) the after effects of coming back after a long stay outside India.

The Amnesia
After shocking my Mom by turning up unannounced at 4:00 am, I set out to rediscover India. Things had changed a lot in that 1.5 years that I was out. The stock market indexes had more than doubled themselves, the Indian economy was on an unprecedented growth path, old sick industries were replaced by tall buildings or shopping malls, there were many more cars on the street. It was almost a place alien to me.
That's when I realised that coming back from the US was more like waking up with an amnesia and as if I just can't remember what had happened in last 1.5 years. It was almost as if I had a void in my life for that period and the whole country had somehow propelled itself several light years ahead. Thus apart from the economic changes there were some other significant differences. Indian cricket team was no longer the world beater (except Australia) that it was in 2003. Himesh Reshamiya was a hit, and you could hate him but not miss him on any channel. Stand up comedy was now a big hit and Jhonny Lever, Shekhar Suman could now be seen as pioneers of a growing cult. Cheap airlines where everywhere. I thought wow ..where was I, when all this was happening... I guess I just lost two years of memory .. Frankly I didn't lose any but yet there is still this feeling of Amnesia.

1 Usd = Rs 45
The first few weeks on return spent shopping. As yet I hadn't received my rupee salary so I was still converting everything into USD and thinking .. wow India is so cheap..So I ended up buying goods worth more than a couple of months of my Indian salary in just 2 weeks. The good old 14 inch T.V used to suffice in the bachelor's room but now I wanted to unleash a 29 inch gaint in my 1 bedroom apartment. The I was even thinking of buying a small flat on down payment, but to my surprise I discovered that along with the booming economy the real estate prices too had doubled. Around the same time my first Indian salary came down and thankfully realty dawned on me. The fact that I wasn't really getting paid in USD any longer and that rupee is still a poor currency.

Traffic Sense .. What's that ?
Even as I stepped out of the airport into the front seat of a an out of production "Premier Padmini" taxi, I was still stuck in the traffic discipline of the US. Then I realised the first "When I was in the US" effect. As I sat on the front seat, I was searching for the non existent seat belt. The lack of it did make realise that I was back in India, but for the first time I was scared about effect of accidents in absence of seatbelts. After all "when I was in the US" wearing a seat belt was cumpulsory on the front seat. I also discovered that the 2 second rule exists only in books (all 2 / 4 wheeler license holders who haven't heard of this rule .. please do 10 sit ups as a punishment for getting the license through corrupt means). Every time the taxi drew close to the vehicle in front I was scared that we would rearend the vehicle and was shouting in my mind at the peak of my inner voice ... "Brake Brake !"
Later I realised that in India people do appreciate the concept of brake, except that they prefer optimising the distance between 2 vehicles to virtually zero.

Cooking and cleaning
"When I was in the US" I used to cook my own food and wash utensils. This had left a lasting impression. For the first few days I was still used to washing utensils and it was difficult to let go off the lunch plate after eating. That even if my Mom insisted on me not entering the kitchen. Of course my laziness ensured that I didn't resist much, but I have to say that being served and taken care of was a very welcome change. Apart from that, I was always out there to proclaim my culinary skills with head held high. Of course, that only upto the point till some one asked me to cook up something. Then I realised that I could cook excuses better than food. .On day one. I proudly announced to my Mom, that I could cook well. To date I haven't cooked the fried fish or chicken that I promised would leave her licking her fingers. At least I learnt cooking excuses I guess.

Now even though I had that amnesia, I discovered that there was something useful also about it. As I entered my Infy campus, I realised that there was a whole set of people who had joined after I left the campus on my deputation. Thus the campus was full of whole new and younger crowd. Suddenly there was a new found sense of seniority. There were now people who took even my crap quite seriously. Afterall I had the onsite return tag associated with me. The managers treated my ideas with more respect and seriousness. The new joinees seemed to look up to me. Informal "Tu" and "Tum" words in the daily hindi were replaced by a respectful "aap" except by people who had like me recently returned from onsite. In fact for some time they were the only people I knew. Hence I guess the associated "seniority" factor. Soon I got tired of hearing the formal diction of people with me and decided to give up the seniority feeling for a more peer feel. However it is one feeling which was a pleasant change for some time at least.

Art of Story telling
I was never a stranger to the art of story telling. I think talking from own experiences coupled with using simile, metaphors and hyperbole comes quite naturally to me. Most of my blogs are also thus written. However the seniority factor had kicked in quite well and people listened (especially juniors) quite patiently to all my stories. They showed keen interest and I happily obliged. I soon found my stories starting with "When I was in the US .....". Soon as the seniority turned to peer feeling, the term "When I was in the US ... " was used more to pull my leg whenever the "Amnesia" seemed to hit me. Thus the name of this post.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A life called Infosys - The American Reality

This post has not much to do with Infosys, except that Infosys sponsered my Ticket to the USA. After looking forward to the "Great American Dream" ,mentioned in the previous article, when the dream finally comes true the experience is totally different. It is almost unexpected. Right from the time one lands on the airport to the point when one leaves the country for the trip back home, its a mixed bag of experiences. Some which one cherishes others which serve as a reality check.

The first thing one would notice at any US International airport is that it is a country which is now a home to, in a sense, a whole world. Thus one sees Africans, Asians, Europeans and of course Americans all in the same place. Its afterall it is a country built through several hundreds years of immigration. Immigrants who came in search of their own Great American Dream and then became a part of it. Diversity is nothing new for me, as a Mumbaite and an Indian but this diversity of the whole world is definitely a different experience.

The next thing I observed was wide, flat roads and speeding cars. After being so used to the bumpy rides all over India, it was a welcome change to be able to move around in a car without risking a sprain in the back. However while there were such wide roads and fast cars, I soon realised one big thing missing. There were almost no people moving around on the footpath. From a country which was densely populated with people all around, this was a change that was definitely not welcome. I guess as social animals, being around people is quite important for us. It was a strange and eerie feeling to be not able to see people walking around. Its almost as if all those fast roads and comfortable cars had made people forget what walking was all about.

A few days into the country and i came to know some important definitions. Definitions that marked the presence into a country which seems to value people so much, Yet the full life revolves around materials.

1. SSN
The Social Security Number is a unique number identifying every US tax payer. However its beyond just being a number. Its almost a number without which, as a foreigner, one cannot exist in US. Whether it is opening a bank account or getting a drivers license or even a mobile phone the SSN is a must.. In short if there anything that either identifies you or is related to your finances .. you don't exist until you have an SSN. The physical presence and passport identification don't seem to be enough to change that lack of existence...
However, Pubs, Discs and Gentlemen's club allow entry with just a passport..Had it not been these -- lack of SSN makes it feel as if its a dog's life ... The scariest part especially for some one on a work permit is that the Salary reportedly cannot be credited without a bank account and a SSN . Thankfully though I got mine quickly.

2. Credit histroy

Now even if one has an SSN, in a country where there is perhaps more plastic money than paper money... it is again difficult to imagine making do without a credit card. Its a country that's almost driven by Credit.. So much so that there is whole credit history which is maintained against an individual and his SSN. This history is queried by anyone who is considering lending money or a service that involves credit payments.. Be it a bank loan or even the mobile service provider every one checks your history... Paradoxically however, without having availiing any credit one cannot build that history.. There are of course ways to do that, like secure credit cards .. but it is a long and painful processes to be recognized as a credit worthy individual. The ironical part however is , once established as one, the people extending credit (retail banks) won't stop haunting you to take more credit.

3. Shopping Malls and Mega Stores
As I write this post, India is changing. There are shopping malls everywhere in India. However when I made my first trip to US, shopping malls were an alien concept in India. There were huge stores which called themselves malls and there were true shopping malls in some of the metropolitan cities. However none of those compare up to the sheer size of a Walmart or a Sam's club or some of the Shopping Malls that house these Mega Stores. As one enters one of these malls, a realization dawns. This place has practically everything from a safety pin to large furniture. For a shopper its a paradise... Several racks full of merchandise to pick from. They also define the competitiveness and commiditization in almost all goods. The malls are a defining moment of America to an Indian. As a friend put it "For me the defining moment of entry to America was when we walked into that store picked up the TV, table, kitchen stuff and other things, and walked to the checkout counter to finish shopping with a swipe of a card" ....
So simple huh ....

4. Bills.
Bills stand for a lot of things in this country. If you are paying the bills its a great thing because it also means that you are earning bills .... The statement might sound illogical or paradoxical but its true. Almost every service that is provided and involves credit, has an associated bill that the service provider sends to you. You have to pay the bills to make a good "Credit History" and enjoy uninterrupted service. To pay a bill, of course, you have to be earning money. To pay a bill you have to shell out bills .. the Dollar bills.. What we,in India, call as currency notes are also known as bills out in the US.
For any person, within a month or two this list of bills becomes quite long ... so long that life seems to just revolve around "Due dates".. To name a few bills - telephone, mobile, credit card, internet, cable tv, DVD subscription (movie buffs .. take a note) ... and so on ..
After all its a country which runs on Credit ....

5. Laptop with wirless lan
If you are a techie or for that matter even conversant enough with computers to be browsing the internet then there is a good chance that this point applies to you. Soon after entering the country and settling down in an apartment, you would realise that you need internet. Afterall chatting with your friends and family back home is important. If you can afford it you'd choose broadband which of course is not too costly. This is also one country where laptops are quite affordable. Thus almost anyone who can afford it has one. If you are a IT employee like me then add to the list a company and possibly a client provided laptop too. Once you have a laptop and broadband you want to be able to connect to net from the comfort of your bed ... There you discover the convenience of wireless LAN. If you are a corrupt DESI like me, you probably discovered that convinience without even having to buy a wirelass router .. God bless those non techie neighbours for setting up unsecured LANs..
Soon you would realise that every waking moment that you are seated home and not doing a household chore .. you are in fact accessing the net .. mailing, chatting, browsing, reading, "Dealing" (more on this in the next para) .. Soon your main means of communication to the outside world becomes the net ... For all you know, you are in an interesting conversation with a chat friend and you figure out that it is none other than the next door neighbour you never care to say "hi" to when in person... Remember Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in "You got Mail"... That's the power of Laptop with wireless Lan.

6. Dealing.
I think this is one an art rather than a concept and that it is more common to Indians in America than Americans themselves. The American salesman has a unique way of making sure that the consumers buy 10 things they don't need. Its called "Deal". Put simply they would offer various options like instant rebate, cash back, mail in rebate (you are paid back by check if you care to send them a snail mail saying you are entitled to it), buy one get one free,coupon discount, and so on.... These are advertised as deals.. Not only that these deals are advertised, there even websites that bring you information from the various stores, service provides, sellers, companies etc, about deals on a product that you choose to search on. Thus you can find out the right deal from the comfort of your bed (Laptop with wireless lan). Talk about lazy shopping. Then there are the highly marketed Deals on the big shopping days like the day after Thanks giving day sale.
I have to say though that if you are a patient and smart shopper, all these deals mean that you can actually get hold of something that you have a fetish for, at almost a throw away price. The key is keeping a track of all the deal sites, on a regular basis, watching the objects of interest and making notes. That is the art of Dealing. I remember I had quite a few friends who were quite skilled at this art. One of my collegues was so preoccupied with this art that "Deal" became his middle name. Need I say more on this art...

7. s***p Clubs.
No comments... Lest I blow out my truth.

My next post would be life after coming back to Mother India ... the homeland

Monday, March 19, 2007

A life called Infosys - The Great American Dream

The Great American Dream
Most of us from the developing economies like India, have grown up looking up to the US as a land of opportunities, where nothing seems impossible. A lot of us have aspirations to go this land of dreams and make most of the opportunies if offers. It is a dream about living a comfortable life, having lots of money to spend, owning a fancy car, a small villa somewhere, having fun at the casinos, watching the gorgeous looking hollywood babes, the XXXX clubs (sorry that is censored), travelling half way around the world and so on ... A lot of the dream is, fuelled (apart from the money part) by our appetite for the hollywood movies, may not be a true representation of the US. However whether the representation is true or not it does form "The Great American Dream"

Now how does Infosys link up with this dream. That can be explained quite easily. Just like any typical Software services company, a large part of the Infosys business comes from the USA. Thus as an employee it offers a lot of opportunities to travel. So within weeks of entering the company a person would come to relate the term "onsite" (stands for the project team that faces the client in the US) to "The Great American Dream". Its true because the people at onsite are usually Indian employees on abroad deputations and for all those in India, they are living the Dream.

For anyone remotely interested in any part of the Dream (for most of us it is the money), a subconscious build up to that dream starts very soon. Thus its a time to party when the manager asks some one to file the papers for a Visa, or when the Visa interview is successfully cleared, or when the travel date is announced. Never would anybody be so excited about a short term transfer as some one who is about to get that ticket to the US. I think even Europe or Australia would be good destinations but then they don't have the "Dream" associated with them. The best part is that any person with a sufficient work experience, an ability to get the job done and acceptable communication skills, eventually ends up getting the chance. In short most people would eventually get that chance to party.

Its a dream that literally shakes up the life for some. It should be, for it involves moving physically to the other end of the globe. Thus the announcement of an onsite opportunity is not just a time to party. Its a time to spend several thousand rupees in shopping. The time to perhaps even sell of some of the household items like furniture, electronics etc, if the trip is expected to be a long one. For some with stable relationships it is a time to even tie the knot in a hurry (for who knows when will I get to return?). Its a time to start bothering about things like do I have an international driver's permit, how many $s should I save a month, do I know any one there, can some one fix up an apartment for me and so on. I cannot think of any event, other than marriage, that shakes up some ones life so much and yet that person is excited about it. There is the anxiety, the fear, the pain of separation from loved ones but I think usually the excitement reins supreme.

For some this dream becomes true the first time the manager announces about the opportunity. However for many this dream also has an additional twist of the "law of uncertain dates".
The law as I would quote it is "A person is not at onsite until having cleared all the immigration checks at the US airport and taken the first breath of the air in the US" Any one would say that the above statement is obvious and this very statement does not mention anything about a Date. The reason is that this statemen is the consequence of some of the uncertainties that bother people. As mentioned in the "shake up of life" para above, the announcement on onsite shakes up life and yet a person is excited about it. It is because most people have in their dreams already started living the "Great American Dream". However every now and then due to delay in formalities the dates get pushed, the trip gets postponed in definitely, the trip even gets cancelled and so on. I have even heard stories of people having confirmed tickets in the hands and then being recalled from the airport. Of course given the business model of the company there is rarely a case who does not get the opportunity at all. As I mentioned before "eventually" every one gets the chance. However the uncertainties mentioned above mean that the excitement will often be met with grave dissapointment for short while. Thus the simple statement at the begining of this para,turns into "The law of uncertain dates"

Thus every infoscions "Great American Dream" is now summarized in few words. My next article would be about living that dream.

A life called Infosys - The bulletin boards

In my last post in this series, I mentioned about the bulletin boards. While the clubs and canteens are important to the life called infosys, the bulletin boards are perhaps the single unique feature that really sets apart, the life at Infosys.

So what are the bulletin boards. For all users of MS Outlook, they are nothing but a set of officially set up public folders open to all employees for posting anything as long as the "anything" complies with a certain set of restrictions. As for non MS outlook users, imagine it as being like a wall where every employee could come and post his / her thoughts, only that this wall is not a real one but a wall in the virtual world of the computer network.

So with the context of the bulletin board set, its now time to bring it to life .. at least in words.

My first encounter with the bulletin board was when I was looking out for a rental flat in bangalore. Me and my roommates to be were all new to the city and also new to the concept of renting apartments. The brokers charged a hefty commission and most of us were without any cash as we hadn't yet received our first salary. Then we came across a bulletin board folder dedicated to real estate, buy and sell .. So what was this folder, a virtual market place with buyers and sellers all posting their messages, views and reviews about anything and everything that could be bought or sold legitimately. For us as the new comers it was just the ideal thing we could ask for and soon within a couple of weeks of searching we were in an apartment that was almost perfect. Thanks to the bulletin board we directly contacted the owner, had already got reviews on the area and the location. All we had to do now was to sign the contract and move in.

As days passed by I discovered that the bulletin board was more than just about buying and selling. There were various folders which served different purposes. If differently put, the purpose was pretty much discussion and a place to put opinion , but the topics were many and hence grouped logically very much like discussion forums on the net.
Thus there was a board each for sports, heath, entertainment, events, buy / sell etc. As if they were not enough there was also a general board for everything under the sun. Not to mention the fact that being in the information technology industry there is the need to collbarate and share information / knowledge on the technologies itself. Thus there were a whole lot of boards for each and every technology that people worked on.

Soon my day, usually started with checking emails, followed by getting to work. Every now and then I felt the need to stretch and relax for a minute and there were the bulletin boards. I gradually starting depending on them for the time I chose to sneak away from work. The best part was that my boss wouldn't be able to spot that I was not quite working as it would seem like I was reading my mail.

Thus to serve my break time reading, there were the cartoons like Calvin and Hobbes (till some one discovered that posting cartoons on the boards was a potential copyright violation and it was stopped), there were the discussions like "is Lara or tendulkar the best batsman", "Why can't the canteen cook better meal?", "Why should there be a dress code?" and so on. I realised that apart from a few fruitful discussions most threads would start with some useful knowledge sharing which was soon hijacked by a set of totally useless yet entertaining comments and then the thread would take a whole new direction.

One example best illustrates the entertainment value of the bulleting boards. I recently read one thread where some one complained on the non availability of whole milk in the coffee dispenser in a particular DC while other DCs had that facility. The argument was that tea with milk powder does not taste as good as with whole milk. While I agree with the argument itself, what discussion ensued later is probably still doing rounds in the email forwarding zone. The discussion soon turned to the sources of getting whole milk in the campus, which in turn pointed to a need for Infosys to enter Animal husbandry and then the most hilarious twist was the question whether the animals would be made to wear identification badges like all human employees. Thankfully though Infosys does not seem to interested in entering that business ..

Apart from providing entertainment the bulletin board also served as a vent for pouring out the frustrations and the stress of the work. It also served as a place to share information. A place to even form a network. I think a whole lot of clubs would have had their roots starting out in a thread on the bulletin board. I myself know of one such club and the number could not be down to just that. Apart from real clubs there were also virtual clubs. A good virtual one which I came to be a part of albiet for a short time was a Mithun da fan club were all people were hell bent on proving that Mithun made up for the most entertaining action hero with all his stylish antiques. Now for most people who have grown up avoiding his action flicks, the number of people who responded to this club would seem incredible but I guess the entertainment value of the club was to blame for that.

A description of the bulletin board would be incomplete without talking about the types of people who could be found posting on the boards.
So here is a guide

1. Information seekers - The people who would more often than not start new threads. They represent the need of a bulletin board in the company.

2. The guides - These are the people who share useful information based on the context and are very valuable to the sustainance of the bulletin boards. Usually a post seeking information will be met with a post from someone from this group.

3. The misguides - These are the people who are very important to the side effect of the bulletin boards - entertainment. It is a very useful side effect as described in my above paras but not necessarily a desired one as far as the management goes. Put simply the misguides provide the twists to the threads so as to take the discussion to new levels. My example above demonstrates the result of posts by the misguides.

4. The experts - These are the people who are not really experts on any particular subject but they are the experts on the bulletin board itself. They are in a way an advanced form of the misguides. Like misguides they too provide twists and turns to most topics but theirs grip on the art of misguidance is at a completely different level. They are the ones who check the bulletin board messages like their own mailbox and consider it their duty to reply to every post to the best of their abilities. Thus no thread can go without having a comment from the experts. Gradually these experts by their ability of misguidance become so important to the entertainment proposition of the boards that their absence is also felt.
I remember once when one of these "experts" was on leave for a week. Within a day there were postings asking where he was. In short some of the experts also end up developing a fan following for their posts. They may also be thus refered to as the "the celebraties" of the bulletin board.

Of course with these varied types it is important also to point out that no person can strictly fit into one single category. Most people take all roles from the information seekers to misguides.
Its only the "experts" who are few and even they occasionally wear the shoes of the information seekers or guides.

With this I salute the bulletin board and the people that maketh the boards a reality

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Owl

As a kid, I often read fables which always depicted the owl as a wise bird. Of course I don't seem to remember any of those fables now. What I do remember is that the owl is considered a wise bird. As a teenager most of us are the young birds, ready to take the flight, metaphorically speaking of course. If one could then extend this metaphor to people each of us could end up being named after one of those birds. Thus I have decided to name one of my ex roommates as an owl.

I have known this guy for a very long time now. We started our undergrad in the same class and lived in the same locality. Naturally we ended up spending a lot of time together in the classroom and while travelling back and forth to college. Gradually we came to know each other quite well and shared a lot of our thoughts. I guess both of us have influenced each other in the way we developed in our late teens.

We mostly chatted about a variety of topics in the bus right from how to tackle a particular subject to who's the better actor .. Amithabh or sharukh ...Talkative as I am, I mostly talked and he listened. He always seemed to have a quite confidence about him and I thought he was constantly thinking and analysing things around him (even while he was sleeping in the bus). He seemed to show a lot more maturity than most teenagers his age, albiet he was not as street smart as most teenagers his age. However I realised gradually how much of a thinker he was and gradually also realised that he had become an advisor for most of our common friends in a variety of matters.. In that sense he had become the wise man .. the owl..

However it would be unfair to him if I called him the owl only for his thinking prowess. As a thinker he has always been a definite competitor to me (perhaps the winner too)... but our competition does not stop at that. Both of us have been and still are nocturnal and lazy creatures. The word noctornal definetly justifies his claim to being the owl although I can't say the same about laziness. However at both these characteristics he has always been a very tough competitor.

We came to be the real competitors when we became room mates of late. It was all about being the lazier guy now. The nocturnal part had been destroyed by now due to the entry into the corporate world, where being asleep in the morning hours was not necessarily considered a virtue. However our profession is such that we can hide our laziness and perhaps even use it to our advantage if only we could disguise it well enough. Thus now the competition in laziness had come a long way from boasting about it en route to college to really proving the point.

So there we were trying to out do each other at who could figure out the way to the TV remote by expending the least energy possible. The competition was so intense that usually proximity to the remote was the clinching factor , or rather lack of it. We always tried to prove to each other how the other guy was closer to the remote or to the switch board. If on an odd day, the proximity factor was high enough for both of us that the remote was beyond the stretching leg or hand then,we would wait each other out so that the other person would get up say for a natures call thus increasing his proximity factor and thus bring about the tie breaker.
I don't think either of us ever kept scores but I am sure that the competition was tough.

Another place where we competed a lot was video games. Here I think he was always the guy who had an edge, for somehow despite all his laziness he was a great button masher and I was not. Additionally the usually quite owl would suddenly start shouting loudly and taunting his oponents during the game and thus it was always fun and challenging to play mortal kombat or halo against him.

As if gaming and laziness were not enough, we had a few more common interests - trekking, travelling to mumbai, sleeping in the bus, watching movies.. and so on. Thus I have known him as one of those guys who was usually there just one phone call away, be it going out for a boring movie to get rid of our boredom or going off for a trek to beat the stress..
I remember how after one of those frustrating viva - voce, where both of us had faired really bad, we came close to the train station and decided it was time to go to a movie. I don't remember who came up with the suggestion first or how did we decide which movie to go to. All I remember is that we saw arguably one of the worse movies and came out of the theater with all the frustation gone .. How ... simply by passing expert comments (read as cursing and cribbing) on every possible scene...I think our commenting habits (more so mine) meant that irrespective of rating of the movie, we always came out of the cinema hall quite satisfied with the movie..

Over the period of time he has become one of those friends, who has not only been a friend but on occasions the philospher and some times even the guide.. Each time either of us had something to discuss, be it how to approach that girl I like, or what to do about accelarating professional growth or simply talk about how the new Don movie was different from the old Don we would just go to the cafeteria and have a long chat... In that sense I think the feeling of friend, philosopher and guide was a reciprocal one for both us .. Thus he has been the owl to me..

As I end this post,I have to bring out the fact that he has now taken a huge step which is expected to change a lot his traits.. He has stepped into the world of married people.. I expect that soon his laziness would be treated by his better half and I would emerge the winner the next time we compete (unless something earth shattering as marriage happens for me too). His gaming habits will definitely have to go out of the door in favour of quality time (read as time spent listening to his better half) ... Actually even as his marriage date was closing on, he had already given up a lot of the movies, games, treks etc in favour of quality time.. However now those changes are only going to be overwhelming to him .. and all I can say is my best wishes with married life ..

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Casanova

The word casanova for most "James Bond" fans stands for someone for whom it is just about an hour from the roulette table to getting laid. However bring it to the Indian context and roulette table it self is not available and getting laid is not something that is not so much in fashion for the general lot. Thus the term takes a new definition. Someone who spends most of his time either chasing or being in company of females, with the hope that some day he would be able to forgo his virginity. Some succeed others have to wait till marriage.

Now given this "Indian" context of Casanova, I have to say that I had a roommate who fits the bill perfectly. I had known this cool dude for almost 5 yrs before he actually became my room mate. We had been together in engineering college too. So his personality was no surprise to me. Soon after he became my roommate I started counting the numbers.. No I am not talking about the expenses or electricity bills. I am not talking phone numbers either. I was simply trying to keep a track of the number of girls he mentioned to me. Soon I figured there was no point of counting. There was one for pretty much every big suburb of Pune and some suburbs of Mumbai. A lot of them had names which ended with "ali". So every time he came home late I would say "aaz kon ali?" (Who came today - ali also means "came" in marathi).

My question was usually returned with the response which said "There is a female ... blah blah (that's what his stories would sound to me) ... I think I am in love" Then I would remind him of a dialogue from dil chahta hai "Aaj Pooja to kal koi Dooja" ... Within a month or so there was usually the dooja and thus a new story all together. For me and my other roommates these stories were nothing but free entertainment.. (God spare me for enjoying at the expense of my friend's sensitive stories). I guess "Casanova" knew what Iwas upto. He however kept me interested by promising to introduce me to a friend of one of the girls he was chasing. He would even ask me to clean up the house saying that somebody would be coming there. I did fall for it a few times (I dusted the floor once) but mostly nobody ever turned up. At best my friend would come back and tell us another sensitive story about the problem in life of one of his "aalis".

Soon I figured out that Casanova was not really a casanova in the true sense of the word. He was just trying to be one, but at heart he was really a great friend to his "aalis". He was someone to whom they could talk out their heart to. I guess some of them even loved him. But unfortunately to his dismay it was more the brotherly love rather than the boy friendly, that he wanted. Frankly only he can tell for sure what it was. However I like my version of this, cause again that's how his stories were a source of entertainment for rest of us. I could almost bet, that given him, he would perhaps end up in a relationship that was arranged by his parents. But my bet would have to wait a long time to see the result for he never stuck to one female for a significant time.

However outside of his Casanova aspirations, he has been a great friend. He has always been helpful and always has the intent to help even if the situation meant that he cannot really help. He is one of the men who actually listen. I guess that's why all those aalis could talk their hearts to him. Unlike most men he actually listens and empathises with others. Now that's a quality which is hard to find. He has been a great friend over the years and hopefully continues to be after reading this blog too.

As I decide to bring the curtains to this casanova story, I cannot go without having talked about the bet which I never placed. If I did I would have won. Ultimately his parents did arrange for a homely girl for him and those to hit off very well. Soon the wedding bells rang and they are now happily married. So much, for the years of trying to be the casanova.. I guess that's what the happy begining to his next phase in life was meant to be. I hope that his wife doesn't read this post cause if she does, he is sure going to have a lot of explaining to do ... maybe sleep on the couch for a few days ....

A life called Infosys - The clubs and canteens

Infosys is a big software company now and like most software giants they have several campuses spread across the country. These campuses are better known as Development Centers.
As expected these DCs have a few to several thousands of employees, state of art office spaces and state of art hardware to get the job done. They have those break out rooms, coffee vending machines, security cameras ...etc ...All things that one might expect from a company this size. Of course there are the canteens and clubs ... However these are the 2 very facilities that differentiate Infosys DCs from a lot of peers.

One might say so what's so special about these, every big campus has these facilities. Yet they are different.
Lets start with the clubs..
There are again two parts to these .. the people and the material. The "material" being a state of art and well maintained Gym, which might put any commerical gymnasium to shame. Not to mention the swimming pools (complete with jacuzzi and sauna beside them), TT tables, basket ball and volley ball courts, Tennis Lawns and at some DCs even indoor badminton courts.
For any man of muscle (or those without muscles like me), or woman of curves (no naughty thoughts please) one look at the building is convincing to shell out the small premium to use the facilities (yes good facilities come at a fee, albiet a small one here compared to any commercial facility). Even a person who dreads the gym (yours truely) would end up joining the place after a look at these facilities . As for me, despite my laziness I ended up learning swimming. Its a different story that for every 20 minutes of swimming lessons I spent another 20 minutes just standing in the water convincing myself to have another shy at going the distance and another 20 minutes (at the end) were spent relaxing in the jacuzzi.. However had it not been the last 20 minutes I guess I would have never endured the first 40 .. Now that's what I call a good Gym ... the one that entices the laziest of persons to expend some calories (for the uninitiated even spending 5 minutes in jacuzzi will burn out a lot of calories )

Then there are the people... The very software professionals who also happen to have diverse hobbies. ... And thus as many hobby groups (clubs) as the hobbies .. You name it and you have it ... adventure club, music group, theatre group, Toastmasters club ... the list goes on.. At last count there was even a Mithun da fan club (more on that in a different article when I get to the bulletin boards). Beat that.. For some these clubs are avenues to fulfil their hobbies and for several others they are the places to discover new ones.. I, for one, am among the discoverers and can attribute my "Shanbhag Travels" posts to the Bangalore DC Adventura club for helping me discover the trekker in me.

The clubs are so much a part of the Infosys culture that, for people like me they are one big reason, the years at Infosys are what I have come to call as "The life called Infosys"

If the clubs where are not enough to make one a part of the infosys culture, there are the canteens.
As dictated by big campuses the canteens are also big. They have their own separate buildings. A typical canteen is a spacious looking hall with lots of chairs and tables occupying the space and the food counters at some corners. Some even have chairs in the open air which make them quite ambient. However with the size of the DC one cannot ignore the people factor. Thus each canteen is charaterized by the long queues to get the food coupons, and then the hunt for empty tables / chairs. In some DCs the lunch queues give a feeling as if there was a gong that announced the lunch time at a factory and all the workers have suddenly flocked to the canteen. Of course there was no gong here and the software professionals (workers) are dressed in well creased formals rather than boilers suits. The situation frankly is not too different given the numbers. Then there are the caterers who will feed you almost anything in the name of food. There is competition in form of multiple caterers being allowed to set stalls in the same DC, yet all of them seem to be bad. I guess when there is plenty of demand, there is no motivation for the supplier to provide good quality. Contrary to the clubs so far I have only criticized the canteens.. then why are they places which are so important to the Infosys culture...

Despite all the criticism, the canteens are an integral part of the DC. They are the place where all of us took our long tea breaks. A canteen is a place where people are not just eating food but a place where people socialise. Be it cursing your boss, discussing the last "sachin" century or taking about the highs and lows of the stock market. Its a place where some great friendships are forged, the ice is broken between complete strangers, the solutions to some of the trickies coding problems are found. Its a place where the accumulated stress from work melts over a cup of tea. (The tea by the way was pretty good in most canteens especially compared to the vending machine on each floor).

Some of my most memorable times in Infy have been the time when I was waiting for a project soon after a transfer (better described as when I was on bench). In the office I had nothing to do but pretending to be working. Instead I found that the canteen was a very good place to be. So I used to catch some or other friend who had some time on hand and go for a cup of tea. The tea usually would take a long time where we would discuss topics of national interest, like why the vending machines were not serving good tea ?, why India lost last cricket match ?, what came first the chicken or the egg ... etc. The canteen is also the place where I came up with useful ideas like why not open a public speaking club in Infosys pune (now they have a Toastmasters Club at Pune) or Why not go out to cycling trip to Sinhagad ?

A typical day when on bench began with a half an hour of breakfast at 10:00 am, followed by an hour of lunch at 12:00 am, followed by another 20 min tea break at 3:00 (thanks to another friend on bench) and then another tea break at 5.30 before leaving for the day at 6:00 pm. In short for every 1-1.5 hours spent in office I used to spend half an hour in canteen.
So much so that some friends even started to believe that I spent all my time in canteen. Thankfully my manager didn't think like that.

Given that this is a bachelor's log and we are talking about canteen, one topic cannot go without a mention. That is Girls ... It was a time when I would ogle around looking for my next big relationship (unfortunately this is one purpose, the canteen didn't serve for me). It was a time when I would spend hours doing nothing but glancing around and not get tired. I could appreciate how despite a dress code there was really none for the fairer sex. Actually thankfully so, because "Ladies usually look good" and they variety of clothes means there always something new to look forward to (even when there is a dress code). Apart from a place where young bachelors like me are merely ogling around doing nothing, there are also the smart ones who actually used the canteens to get "tables for two" at a highly economical price and make it count. I know at least 2 couples now who used these "tables for two" to convert friendship into a useful relationship and have ultimately gotten married. If not for those canteens it would have been difficult to imagine those couples. The canteens do have a greater good to offer apart from just feeding thousands of hungry workers .... oops, software engineers.

As I end this post I would say only that there is more to these DCs than work... There are the clubs and canteens