Friday, July 26, 2013

TRING- TRING... the phone rang

TRING  TRING … the phone Rang …

Good afternoon, this is Ana speaking. How may I help you today?

Hey .. my name is Mike and I have a bit of a trouble with my card payment.

Sure, can I have your …

Anandhi suppresses a yawn and continues with the trained upbeat tone that she has practiced for a long time now. When Mike has been attended to, with his holiday booking, she looks out of her window at the moonlit sky and instantly knows there is atleast another three hours to go before she can call it a night. From her cubicle on the 11th floor of the massive glass structure, of what was once a faraway suburb of a sleepy city, Anandhi gets a view of the six lane highway lit with passing vehicles and street lights.  

On either side of her building are two other massive glass structures brightly lit, floor by floor in the middle of the night.  Thousands of fellow workers are busy helping the Mikes, Rons and Anns of the world with their broken vaccum cleaners, insurance policies, virus infected laptops and holiday bookings over a call, from half way round on the other side of the earth.  

 By 6.00 in the morning, Anandhi  would board her cab that would drop her home. She would be just in time to wake up Rohan, her six year old son, get him ready, pack his lunch box , fix his  breakfast  and pack him off into the school bus by 8.30 a.m .

By about 10.00 am after the day’s chores are over, Anandhi would draw up the thick dark curtains over her bedroom windows and go to sleep.

TRING … TRING...the phone rang …

Good morning Mr. McArthur. What Can I do for you today? … says Bhavna with that trained upbeat tone.  
 Can you suck my dick … you bitch …
I will be happy if you can get this good for nothing cursor of mine to move on …

Certainly Mr. McArthur .. may I know which browser you are using ? …

Bhavna suppresses her irritation and continues with the trained upbeat tone with as much an authentic Accent as she can muster up.

It might unruffle the already exasperated Mr. McArthur if he suspected that the call was being answered by a brown skinned,  twenty something with an acne infested face in the middle of the night from half way round on the other side of the earth. 
For Bhavna, it has not been the best of days.
She has been irritated for a while now. 
And Mr. McArthur’s indecent request has nothing to do with it.
She is used to much worse from her callers.  

PMS, she hopes.  Pre menstrual syndrome.
She is actually looking forward to it.
It has been about 53 days since she last had it.
The red circles marked on her desktop calendar confirm that.
 Before that, it was 47 days and the one before that was delayed by months.     

PolyCystic Ovarian Disorder (PCOD) , explained her gyanecologist when she showed the test results.

When the circadian rhythms of your body clock get affected, it affects the production of your ovaries and the hormones. Very common in your profession, explained the doctor casually  without an eye-contact. That explained how many patients she sees with the same complaint during her course of the day.
PCOD is treatable. It requires a change in lifestyle.
The doctor had told her, when scribbling down the prescription that was to provide her some immediate relief by bringing on her long over -due periods that she was expecting today.  

Bhavna has made up her mind. When the phone does not ring she usually searches and applies for jobs on the job portals over her smartphone. She has been hoping to get a job that lets her sleep during the night and remain awake during the day.
But they pay less than half of what she currently gets and like everyone else she needs the extra money.

Extra money... So that she can get married ASAP and start a family before infertility and other related disorders take over her life.   

TRING … TRING the phone rang …

Shireen has just finished her dinner when her mobile phone rang. It is about 9.15 pm. That must be her Cab driver.

Shireen has had a good day ( night) yesterday and she is happy.

Yesterday, during the quarterly Rewards and Recognition ceremony she was pleasantly surprised when she won the ‘soaring eagles’ trophy for best performance across North-West region. Her client manager had specially recommended her for the award citing her outspoken qualities and leadership abilities during the last three years with the team.

The cab driver is waiting outside on the main street. She looks out of the window from her first floor window to confirm the car number. Shireen pulls up her Burkha over her salwar kameez, slips into her sandals and walks towards her cab.  Her fellow cab mates are already asleep in the cab. She is usually the last to be picked up.

The cab driver, mumbles something about the traffic and the delays, and how he would lose half of his day’s wages for no fault of his and zooms the car past the narrow alleyways of her street into the main road.  From the middle of nowhere a motorbike emerges and stops in front of the cab.

B*&^%C ...D shouts the already frustrated cab driver, peeping his head out through the window of his vehicle to the two riders on the motorcycle.
The motorcyclists are unperturbed.  One of them quietly walks over, opens the door of the cab and pulls Shireen out.

Shireen protests and screams. The fellow passengers are woken up by the sudden brakes applied and screams emanating from the only female member of their cab.     

Before they realize what is happening, Shireen has been pulled out of the cab onto the ground and is being kicked around by the two gentlemen who alight from the motorcycle. Her fellow passengers get down and manage to stop the motorcyclists from bashing up Shireen.

Shireen gets up. Her clothes are torn and there are bruises all over her body.
What she says after that takes everyone by surprise. She asks her colleagues to move on, since this is a family matter and promises to explain to them in office the next day.

The next day, Shireen is back in office with a black eye and swollen jaw. Explanations are unnecessary.  To those around her cubicle, this is a familiar sight. This month, Shireen refused to part with her full salary. Even worse she had walked out on her husband a few weeks back and was staying at her mother’s place.
A bruised body, a swollen jaw and a black eye was the price she was paying for the decision.

TRING… TRING … the phone rang.


Congratulations Shireen, on winning soaring eagles award, beamed Jennfier’s voice from half way round on the other side of the earth. We are so proud of you. Outspoken leaders like you are an invaluable asset to our organization.  Keep up the good work.

Thank you Jenny, says Shireen, with the trained upbeat tone, suppressing the acute pain that shoots from her swollen Jaw.

This blog is based on true characters and happenings.
Some names have been changed to protect their privacy.   

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Creepy wild forest ...Part 2

My Creepy wild forest is getting dense.
There are two butterflies , a pigeon and plenty of honey bees who now have a visitors visa to the little forest.  I would have given them a permanent residency, but for amma who believes that honey bees can be dangerous if they decide to make their home in our creepy wild forest.

In the good old days ( which was not so very long ago) when the house sparrows were a common bird. If human kind had not put them on the extinction map i am sure we would have had them chirping around in our creepy little forest.

The last time I spotted one was outside the Uffizi  gallery in Florence.
 Instinctively I reached out for my camera and clicked them.

In the early eighties when Pune was still Poona, we lived there in what was then a suburb surrounded by streams, villages, mountains and a  faraway aerodrome where one Indian airlines plane landed once a day.   

 In the cold winter days two house sparrows would somehow manage to get inside the house through the ventilator and sleep in the corner of our wardrobe loft cuddling each other.     
We christened them Simpoo and Dimpoo.  They were a part of the family and shared the bedroom with the rest of us.

House sparrows were a common sight and no one in our wild imaginations would have thought they would be relegated to the ‘exotic’ status like a parrot or a peacock . This was not very long ago. We are only talking 1980’s and 1990’s.
Who would have thought they would get endangered and extinct in our lifetimes ?

Anyway coming back to my creepy wild forest, we are having a fantastic harvest of Jathimalli.
If you are regular reader of my blog you know my obsession with fragrant flowers. 

Creepy little forest is currently home to a strain of Thanjavur Mullai and Madurai Malli , two other varieties for fragrant flowers . They flowered briefly a couple of months ago and have since then taken a sabbatical.

For now Jathimalli flowering in the garden is a joy to behold.  I plucked a day’s  harvest sometime back and strung them into a mala. 

Every day, I spend time in the creepy little forest, closely watching over the progress that the creepers and plants are making, giving them a support or charting out a growth trajectory for the ones gone wayward, while I sip my morning cup of tea. 

I like my tea nicely spiced up.  It would normally be a generous piece  of crushed ginger or a splash of cardamom. Ginger and cardamom have now been replaced by Tulsi or Mint or Ajwain leaves.
Freshly picked  from the creepy wild forest. 

Ah ... the little joys of seeing your plants flourish, seeing some of them struggle against a heavy downpour,   watching them stand up and move on in a few days, seeing them flower , off late seeing them infested with monsoon pests and insects and sometimes seeing them just wither away.
It is a pleasure and pain watching and experiencing  their lifecycles unfold day in and day out.
Gardening is indeed a great stress reliever, is addictive, gratifying and a profound learning experience.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Unusual Occupations - Personal Bodyguard

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I hate writing for prompts. It does not appeal to the creative instincts in me.
 I feel it clips my wings of creativity.
But then I have been suffering from bloggers block for a while now.
I am thankful to blog where  I chanced upon this prompt on WOW ( Write over weekend) that inspired me to shake off my bloggers block and get more disciplined with blogging.

This is a long overdue post for my blog on ‘unusual occupations’.
Almost an year overdue.   
Regulars to this blog have been introduced to the mysterious data entry operator, coconut tree climber, Grocery shop owner and a casino hopping –games programmer in my previous features of Unusual occupations.

This time .. unusual occupations features a Personal Bodyguard. 
No, nothing like that Silly Sallu.
A real ‘Personal bodyguard’.

Derek,  the Top Boss of the top Multinational Corporation that I work for was visiting India. 
It was absolutely critical for us in India to plan his trip perfectly.
Among all the frantic planning and execution we reviewed and rehearsed some near to infinite versions of power point presentations before his visit. We got the finalized agenda a few days ahead of his visit. It was decided that  I was to take the entourage out for a Bangalore sight seeing and enlighten them with information on India, culture, cuisine, economy and history.
My job also included chaperoning the visitors for some souvenir shopping .

Receiving the entourage at the airport was not part of my assignment.
Derek and the rest of the entourage arrived around midnight and so I did not go to receive them.
I met them the next day to chaperone them around for a sight seeing cum shopping trip in the lobby at the hotel.

We met and exchanged hellos and Hi with each other.
Along with Derek, was this handsome hunk dressed in jeans and a linen shirt, who did not care to introduce himself.

I did not want to seem to be too forward and be the first one to initiate the conversation and introduce myself I am usually not the shy types when it comes to formal social occassions, but this handsome hunk rekindled in me my ‘mills and boons’ days and that explains why I was so tongue tied.

He came over and boarded the coach that was to drive us around the city.  I must confess, I could not take my eyes off him. Thankfully he never caught me staring. (Or atleast...I would like to believe so )  

Our Bangalore sight seeing trip went on well. The visitors were intrigued by everything.   
The slow moving traffic, the roads that are anything but perpendicular, the hawkers and their wares, the cows on the road jostling for space with autorickshaws and motorcycles, the onlookers gaping at the foreigners and all the hustle and bustle of commerical street on what is a quiet Sunday afternoon by Indian standards.

I answered their questions and interpsersed some little tit bits about culture, history, economy etc. with a practised fluency that I seemed to have acquired over the number of chaperoning and shopping assignments that I have been doing for visitors from abroad.
Earlier on, when the visitors went quiet and were not asking too many questions, I would attribute it to the jet lag. Over many such trips, I have learnt that it may not really be jet lag but the fact that India overwhelms its first time visitors from abroad with a visual, auditory and sensory overload that makes them unusually quiet.

I let the quiet moments pass so that they could soak it all in.

In this trip, everyone but the handsome hunk was unpertubed.
His eyes were restless all the time, but the cows on the road had no effect on him.   

Everywhere where Derek set his foot, he was a few feet ahead or behind.  If Derek was to cross the road, he would do the pilot.  His movements were quick and seamless. His eyes were sharp.

It took me a while before I realized he was the personal body guard for the Top Boss for this trip.  

Harish – the handsome hunk, who so intrigued me all this while, worked for an agency that supplies personal body guards when High profile and popular visitors visit Bangalore or any other part of India.
Through the course of the day I gathered that Harish worked for the Indo Tibetian Border security Force before he joined this private agency.
He has been personal bodyguard to many such high profile visitors that include Shah Rukh Khan and Bill Gates.     

Escorting celebrities from an unruly crowd without seeming rude and intrusive can be a very unnerving job. The job can sometimes be dangerous as well. You never know a fan who is hunting for an autograph from a mercenary or a sadist who can cause serious physical injury.

Harish recalled how challenging it was when he was the personal bodyguard for Bill Gates during his visit to Bangalore a few years ago. His eyes were sore at the end of the umpteen press conferences and meetings that he escorted Bill Gates to, because he is trained to keep his eyes on a constant vigil to spot a potential danger while scanning the crowd during public appearences.
Someone like Bill Gates could get photographed a thousand times during his visit and it would not have been an easy job to be on constant vigil keeping a sharp eye on the all the camera flashes to spot a potential danger in a micro second.  

The next day we headed out for lunch with Derek to a new mall that had come up round the corner. Derek was intrigued to see India change so rapidly since his last visit which was about 8 years ago. He wanted to go round the mall to see what American brands had camped out in India since he last visited. 

Harish was in the restaurant having his meal at a far away corner with a direct line of sight that  overlooked our table, but at a distance where we could not have been heard.
Derek had finished his meal while Harish had not.  As Derek got up to go around for his walk around the mall, a flustered Harish who was still having his meal at the faraway corner table left his meal and came running to chaperone his Master.

Such are the occupational hazards of this unusual occupation.

Harish seemed like a quiet guy who knew his job as a personal bodyguard. He was dressed in smart casuals and therefore a casual observer would never suspect his presence or his occupation.

I am told he is always armed with a small but powerful gun that is never visible to an onlooker. ( May be he tucks it in his Jeans pocket … ).  This fact about him made him a sort of ‘cool dude’ among my male colleagues that happen to be in awe of his job.  

Ah … boys and their toys.    

When he was around, I discovered that his presence had indeed caused a flutter amongst the girls as well.
( So .. I was not the only one). Not many knew who he was and what he was doing at our office. When they saw me talking to him, some of them came down to make enquiries.
I think I saw a tinge of jealousy in them. ;)

Ah…  girls will be girls …

Looks can be so deceptive.

He turned out to be a shy guy. I noticed that whenever Derek would try to strike casual conversations with him, he would give one word syllables for answers or sometimes just an incoherent smile. Maybe Derek's foreign accent was incomprehensible or maybe he was just genuinely lacking social skills.

By day three, Harish and I struck more conversation, this time in Hindi. I discovered he was more comfortable with Hindi than he was with English.

On the last day of Derek’s visit I asked Harish, if he would pose for a photograph with me.
From the looks of it he was genuinely surprised as to why someone would want a photograph with him.

I told him that I wanted to feature him in my ‘unusual occupations’ blog.

I do not think he understood what I said or the world that I inhabited.
I let it pass.

As I pulled up an onlooker to click the photograph on my iphone in the lobby at the Hotel, 
Harish, the tall and handsome hunk, surprised me.
He gave a mischevious smile, hugged me close and posed for the photograph.


 This post is a part of Write over the weekend ( WOW)  an initiative for Indian bloggers by                            
Write over the weekend 

P.S : Names have been changed inorder to protect the identity of the people mentioned in this blog.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

About pigtails, jasmine flowers and half sarees

Yesterday, sitting in the lobby at the Marriott, I could not take my eyes off watching a lady staff with long beautiful lustrous hair, whose job it was to dust the tables, cushions and remove the litter left around in the lobby, that the guests would not care to remove themselves.
The session that I was supposed to attend was getting a little over my head. Moreover the room was packed with a thousand people and could have been the place for a kumbh mela style stampede if any more were to be accommodated there.
I stepped out for some fresh air and space in the pretext of making a call and attending to some urgent emails. 

Jasvinder  came over to the table that I was sitting to do some cleaning up and I let her know that she had lovely long hair. (I do not know Jasvinder by first name … this is the name that I read over from the batch she was wearing over her uniform). She thanked me and walked away pretty pleased with my compliment. 

It feels good when someone genuinely compliments you for your beautiful hair.
I should know it. 
Many years ago, I was standing in the queue to buy a railway ticket at the VT station reservation terminal  in Mumbai. A white man presumably a tourist on a shoe string budget (they were not too many expatriates in India those days) was behind me in the queue.  It was not a long queue by Mumbai standards.  As I finished my transaction at the ticket counter and was about to leave, the man behind me made eye contact with me and let me know that I had lovely long hair.

I blushed, thanked him and moved on. But I must say I was pretty pleased with the compliment from a stranger.

Jasvinder, I am sure was equally pleased with my compliment.

I almost stopped myself before I wanted to tell her, you know what, I too had long hair dropping over till my knees a long time ago.

A Long time ago, I went to school with two long pigtails, well oiled, plaited and doubly folded tied up with red ribbons that were a part of the school uniform.

Every morning grandmother would untangle the knots in the hair, oil and plait them into two long pig tails, fold them up and tie them up with red ribbons.   
The long string of fragrant Jasmine (malli) or Jathi malli or Nitya Mullai that would dangle between the two pigtails would be the icing on the cake.

The uniform was a brown and cream half saree.
Half-saree – that attire that blatantly announces the onset of puberty and the intermediate step to embracing the inevitable womanhood and all else that it comes with.

To be fair - Half saree is a sensuous attire.

It accentuates one’s feminity reasonably and yet adequately covers up one’s modesty.
(Depending upon how much of it you choose to cover up).

With the passage of time, the onslaught of the convenient and fashionable salwar kameez has left the inconvenient and not so fashionable ‘half saree’ a lot less popular among teenage girls. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few girls in half sarees at this public function I went to in Kumbakonam.        

In my days, I was the one with the longest and the thickest hair in the class, if not the entire school.  I can say I had a great fan following from across all genders for my crowning glory.

My nieces, now aged 11 and 7, think it is so uncool to have long hair.

In order to keep up with the times, I too have slowly but steadily begun to subscribe to that view point.
It is indeed uncool to have long hair.
It is even worse to have them oiled and plaited.
It would be the ultimate fashion disaster to put on some flowers over your hair and go to school or work or even attend social functions.

Those are moments when you feel times have changed and a generation has passed by.

Unoiled, unplaited hair even on Sunday mornings was a sign of being unkempt.
Something that one had to be ashamed of.

Ha!! May grandmother’s soul rest in peace.

Lessons in Humility at the Golden temple

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