Bringing Things Onto Myself

I am not convinced I do, but perhaps I’m wrong?

There is a traditional aspect of Indian weddings, wear the men wear turbans. Or at least the groom’s side does. I am not entirely sure, but then a Google search should sort that out. [But lazy.]

So at the wedding in Delhi, the boys lined up to get turbans tied. They looked really good, in suits and turbans, and I was mighty proud [and felt slightly sentimental] being part of that group. [Will never admit it to them though. Otherwise won’t live down the teasing.]

Side note: There were a number of complaints from the idiots though, because the turbans are tied fairly tight. So I heard stupid things like: “I can’t feel my ears!” [As though he feels his ears normally.] or “My brain will pop out my nose.” [As though he has a brain.] and so on. Also the tails at the back were very long, so they were absurdly conscious of them.

On reaching our destination, the wedding venue, they took off the turbans with considerable relief. And everyone’s hair was mussed up as a result. Of course no one had foreseen the need for a comb, and mostly everyone ran their fingers through their hair a couple of times and called it quits.

Except for one.

He kept asking how his hair was looking, and it was, to be fair to him, in complete disarray. I guess it was because he has thin hair. He was being ignored by the rest because he is an excitable fellow with chronic foot-in-the-mouth disease. They adore winding him up, because he gets wound up easily.

So I took pity on him, and offered to set his hair, if he so wished. He was surprised – both at the offer and my apparent ability to set hair. *rolls eyes* But he agreed. Thus, I set him hair.

While his head was bent in front of me, another friend started laughing, and whispered that I brought this sort of stuff on myself. I ignored him at first, because I was only trying to be kind.

I finish setting dude’s hair, and he looks up in even more surprise than before.

Him: “Did you set my hair?!”
Me: “Yes. What did you think I did otherwise?” *in some surprise myself*
Him: “Well, your fingers barely touched my hair! Or are you really THAT gentle?”
Me: “Um, OK. I did set your hair dude!”
Him *to the others*: “Is my hair set now? Did she actually do anything?!”

By this time, the other friend was clutching his stomach in agony, trying to suppress his laughter. I had fixed dude with a beady-eyed look, because REALLY?

He finally looked at me again, and reiterated: “Are you sure my hair is set? I could barely feel your fingers!”

To which I said, not with a little menace: “Come here. I’ll do it again, and this time I’ll make jolly sure you feel it!”

And he beat a hasty retreat.

I do bring it on myself, don’t I? Sigh.

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Mum and I dissect the world over our morning cuppa, and it mostly leads us down memory lane. This morning, I was recounting the story of Bunty, of the sardaarni fame, and went on to describe the rest of his conversation.

Now, the guy doesn’t seem to have travelled a great deal, so is forgivably unaware of the housing sitch in aamchi Mumbai. After the exhortations about my definite Punjabi origins subsided, he started talking to me about Mumbai. And how he wanted to find a job there, in someone’s kothi [bungalow/house/mansion], and settle down to a steady job there.

I felt a stab of sympathy for the guy, because he was currently working with an event management company cum tour operator, by the sound of it. And there were times he had to drive off to far off locales for sightseeing, with a group and so on. Can’t be easy to have that sort of lifestyle. But then again, being a personal driver in Mumbai is no cakewalk either.

So I started telling him, first, that Mumbai doesn’t really have houses. There are the affluent sector that do have sprawling residences, but those are very much in the minority. The very affluent also live in apartments. He couldn’t seem to wrap his head around this fact.

Then I explained that Mumbai is a tiny city. It is the traffic that makes it torturous to traverse. 15 km in any other Indian city would not take an hour or thereabouts.

Finally, I gently described the kind of lifestyle that Mumbai people lead; especially those with personal drivers. There is a lot of late nights for party-going young people, and early starts by business-running parents. Possibly sometimes even overlapping. He was unfazed by this aspect though, credit to him, although the other bits kind of dampened his spirit. Poor chap.

The funny thing is, and I didn’t immediately remember this, this isn’t the first time a taxi driver has asked me to find him a job. My mother remembered it. She recalled me recounting an interesting episode with a rickshaw driver in Pune, who was absolutely convinced I was a TV serial actress, and asked me to place him in the industry as something. I, of course, was and am completely incapable of doing any such thing, seeing as I am as removed from the acting profession as is possible.

I am not entirely sure why people tell me these things. I hitherto assumed that they must have these conversations with any congenial passenger. Until, one of my friends made the following comment, albeit in a different context: “Karishma, you really bring this sort of thing on yourself!” [Next post.]

Do I?

Beware of Girl

When I interviewed at ParserPile, I was oblivious to the gender mix of the organisation. I walked into an open office, and registered that there were about 30 people there. Give or take. Nothing else. I was too nervous and highly strung, and frankly it didn’t even occur to me to check for fellow females.

During my first week, I was taken into a conference room a few times by one of the founders. It was for orientation, and he explained the products, the company ethos, the different teams, and the policies to me in brief. A lot of it went over my head at the time, because I was new and nervous again. But one thing stuck.

He: “So, as you may have noticed, you are the only girl in the office.”
Me: “I hadn’t actually. It’s my third day, and I figured that there could be some people on leave.”
He: “Nope. I am a little nervous about having you here amongst all these guys. But please be assured, if you feel the slightest discomfort at all, you must come to us.”
Me: “Thank you I will.”
He: “No I really mean it. Anything at all. This is a safe office environment.”
Me: “I believe you, and I will. But judging by the people I have interacted thus far, they are more inclined to be wary of a female in their midst, than the other way around.”
He: *smiled*

End of topic.

Cut to 2 years later, and the HR had come up with this idea of telling stories about ParserPile in a big company bonding session. I had initially backed out of speaking, because I couldn’t think of anything to say. But I got hauled up in front of everyone, as the first female employee and was impelled to speak.

There were a number of anecdotes that sprang to mind then, because I am surprisingly [to my own shock] good at extempo speaking. [Previous experience has not led me to this impression.] And one of my anecdotes was partially the one above. Except, it now had an ending.

Me: *at the gathering* “.. The funny thing is that I recounted this conversation I had with the co-founder to some of the others, after we became better acquainted. And one of them retorts with: ‘Oh he gave you a warning about us?! He should have warned us about you!’ And that, my friends, is how I have a full circle in this organisation.”

XY Denial

There is no real background to this story, although now that I think about it, I remember vaguely being called a ‘dude’ by my friends from college. Maybe my old blog has a post about it, but I don’t immediately recall any incidents.

However, AP took the cake this time. Literally and figuratively.

At most Indian weddings (Hindu, Jain, and Muslim that I know of), alcohol is a definite no-no. So there is almost always an unofficial daaru [booze] party organised by the young male members. In popular culture, this is depicted as a minibar set up in some enterprising young man’s car boot. The word spreads in whispers around the event, and soon enough there is a roaring do happening in the car park.

At AP’s wedding, we – his old colleagues – knew off the daaru party well in advance. He announced on the group that he was setting aside two bottles of whisky for the clandestine event. I am the only female on that group, so I messaged him privately asking whether there were any other girls going to be there. He said there would, seeing as his other group of friends were mostly married, and wives were around.

For the record, I was in the middle of a group of my pals, all of whom are ridiculously afraid of girls overall. And for some reason, absurdly protective of me – someone at least a handful of years older than the oldest of them. So I wasn’t worried about the dangers of being in a group of guys who were drinking, but more about the boredom factor. But since girls were expected too, I heaved a sigh of relief and let it go.

On the night of though, the official festivities ran incredibly late. And the daaru party participants were already in bed (at 2 am) by the time the groom was released by the wedding party. He, not having any of this, stomped into rooms and roused his friends, while we waited in one of our rooms patiently. [We had the illicit booze.] The wives refused to come. I was the only girl. Sigh.

After rousing and rounding up his friends, AP commenced proceedings. We had all been introduced to each other briefly before, but this was a more congenial, more relaxed environment. So he reintroduced everyone, adding a rider about each one’s personality:

“This is X. He has OCD.”
“This is Y. He is crazy.”
“This is Z. He is <insert insulting clause here>.”

You get the drift. Then, it was my turn. And as usual, I always seem to draw the short straw. Because:

“This is Karishma. She’s actually a guy, but she’s in denial.”

I may have thrown an empty water bottle at him, but he jumped out of the way at the last second, and it went whizzing past harmlessly. Damn that idiot.

Cake/Grammar Nazi?

Note: I hate being called a grammar Nazi. Very simply because I am certainly not one. I do like correct grammar and sentence structure; yes, I am a writer by profession; but none of those factors makes me an infallible expert. I make mistakes in all honesty, out of ignorance, and I would prefer to be corrected with the intention to help, rather than the superciliousness of authority. End rant. Also, not the first time I have expressed this opinion.

Anyway. Kudos, self, for slipping into a tangent at the beginning of the post. Achievement unlocked.

ANYWAY.

There is a recurring theme amongst my friends from work, and that theme is cake. I don’t remember how it started, but I think I wound up taking about half a cake for a few people, and some of the others found out.

It was a breach in unofficial food protocol, because any food that is shared in the office must be announced via an email to everyone in the company. And when AP found out – he of the Delhi wedding fame of a few posts ago – he proceeded to drive me completely bonkers till I got him cake too.

Of course, this sort of harassment [ooh there is another post for this!] took a long time to fructify, because I was [and still am] a novice baker at the very best. But eventually I did cave, and took cake for the office, sending out that all-important email in the bargain.

That sealed my fate as the Cake Fairy. And other people were invited onto the harassment bandwagon, so I got asked for cake at least once a day thereafter.

Just to give you an idea: These were 3 different people. Annoying idiots, even though they are great really. Shh!

This trend has continued after I left ParserPile, and takes the form of occasional texts on Telegram or WhatsApp. Or comments on Facebook posts.

Cut to last year, and AP messaged me to invite me to his wedding. His one request? “Please bring cake with you.” And lest I weasel out and buy cake from an upscale bakery, the rider: “One that you baked!” was added shortly after.

Another friend and invitee pinged me closer to the wedding, to say: “AP ke shaadi mein toh cake banta hai!” which loosely translates to: “Cake is really a must for AP’s wedding!”

I didn’t agree, because I wasn’t sure of the time that it would take in addition my other commitments. But then I decided to do it. And:

Me: What is the ParserPile attendee headcount?
AP: 4 people for both days. 6 people for wedding day.
AP: That is minimum count. Should be a couple more, I think.
Me: So if I account for 8 people, I’m covered?
Me: Or 10 is better?
AP: Karishma, I am not able to process jokes at the moment. Are you saying that you have multiple personalities disorder?
Me: I’m not joking you idiot.
Me: I am calculating how much to bake. 🙄
AP: Ooooo
AP: You got to bake for at least 20
Me: 🖕🏽
AP: 19
Me: Keeping going and I’ll save myself the time and effort and bake for 0.
AP: Around 7-8 people after taking the margin.
AP: 8 should be good
Me: Thanks. 👍🏽

Sigh.

 

Gene Pool Rant

Mum and I had a quiet snuggle moment this morning, after wrapping up morning chores. I was supposed to head off for my daily constitutional in the building compound, but I would be about half an earlier than the last few days [although a good deal later overall than I would’ve liked but never mind that]. [What a mess of a sentence. Can’t be bothered to correct now though.]

I was telling her about the myriad cures I had tried to cure my dandruff. Nothing off-the-counter had worked. No drugs, chemicals, ointments, balms, salves, creams, lotions, potions, shampoos, rinses, conditioners, oils, powders, patches, or capsules had made more than a superficial dent. The dandruff came and went as it pleased, and I hated it. Finally last week I tried salt. Not sea salt, not Himalayan pink rock salt, not salt scraped off the bottom of the legs of the endangered sea turtles; just plain ol’ salt. And it worked. The WikiHow article [yes please go ahead and judge me after reading my litany above] said it needed to be done for a week. Today, I’m on my third day, and I see a dramatic difference. In fact, the dandruff has vanished, and I’m continuing on in the hope that it STAYS vanished.

In the middle of this eulogy on the effects of salt on dandruff, I happened to reiterate to mum that it was a recurring problem from childhood. I went further and explained that I put it down squarely to a combination of dry skin and an oily scalp, or in other words, my father’s genes.

This was a bad thing to say.

Why? Because my mother has been feeling slightly aggrieved for the past couple of days, thanks to pain from an infection, and she only needed the smallest spark to ignite a major pet peeve. A pet peeve, I would like to note, I had/have/will have ZERO control over.

I am essentially a copy of my father. Looks-wise, temperament-wise, behaviour-wise, etc. I will assert here that I am far better-behaved than he ever was, and less prone to outbursts overall. But yes, I do look a lot like him, to the extent that photographs taken around the same ages and sizes make us look like twins.

My mum is not particularly thrilled with this. To be fair to her, she did the heavy lifting of bringing me into this world, and to have offspring that is the living spit in every way of her irritating, childish, yet lovable husband is quite insulting, seeing as his part of the proceedings was minimal.

So, this morning, I had to cut short an amazing snuggle, and beat a hasty retreat downstairs because a 20-minute diatribe on “how dare you have only your father’s genes, and all his bad habits too!” was completely unanswerable.

Obnoxious Times Two

“It seemed like a great idea at the time!” – the battle cry of the chronically impulsive person.

It is no secret to anyone who knows me even a little that I am incredibly impulsive. And those who have even a tiny speck of sense know that impulsiveness is good only in very small doses. I have enough sense to recognise this; but apparently not enough to control my deeds every time.

This tendency is further exacerbated by extreme emotion, like anger. Or joy. Or sadness. In most cases, I can reason myself down a few notches, but the “what-the-heck” element really kicks in when I’m annoyed. Which brings me neatly to the following incident. I am by no means proud of my behaviour, because even if the stimulus was obnoxious, my handling of the situation was equally if not more obnoxious. Sigh.

So, back during my first year at ParserPile, hardly any of the boys spoke to me. Therefore, my interactions were limited to the guy who I was sort of reporting to, the other members of his team, and the one other girl in the office. Although I was initially happy to interact with, keeping in mind the extreme paucity of other interaction I had overall, over time I started to dislike her.

It wasn’t that she was annoying – which she was, and thus starred prominently on my Twitter feed as the Office Idiot – but more that she had strongly held opinions about everything. Again, strongly held opinions in of themselves are not bad, but 1) don’t shove them down someone’s throat; 2) when you aren’t actually part of a conversation, neither are your opinions; and 3) when they are horribly mean opinions, do yourself a favour and keep them to yourself.

Because I am chronically incapable of being sustainably unkind to someone without feeling horribly guilty, I continued to interact with her, keeping my dislike hidden the best I could, and mostly listening. I learned a lot about her life, and to a great extent her history was sad enough to excuse her somewhat in my opinion. But since I am not a saint, nor a judge, I couldn’t help recoiling at her obnoxiousness every so often.

One fine day, we were being taken out for an office party to the nearby Hard Rock Cafe. The founders said we were welcome to bring guests, the understanding being that family [like a spouse or children; someone brought their parents] or a significant other were welcome to come with. Mostly people invited their wives along, Office Idiot asked her husband to join in the festivities, but I was solo, as the French Student was sailing at the time.

We were, of course, sitting together at one of the tables, when one of engineers [RN] came to say Hi. To me. Because I interacted with him somewhat, and the engineers were just starting to get comfortable around this unmarried girl [an explosive factor, I guess] in their immediate precincts. We chatted, and I asked who he was bringing to the party. He replied that his girlfriend would join us after she finished with work. I responded, as one does, saying that I was looking forward to meeting her. Ordinary, commonplace small talk, absolutely pedestrian and socially apropos of the situation.

And then the Office Idiot strikes. Remember I said that she butted into conversations with all of her opinions? Yeah.

She expressed her immense surprise that he was bringing his girlfriend. Now I don’t recollect the exact nature of this exchange, but I remember turning to her in some astonishment at the sheer scale of her surprise – and also at the fact that she actually expressed it out loud. To him.

Credit to RN, he shrugged lightly and walked off. I, on the other hand, continued to gape at her. She continued on her mountingly obnoxious train of thought, where she JUST COULDN’T BELIEVE that RN had a girlfriend. UNBELIEVABLE. Could I wrap my head around the fact that he had a girlfriend?! Oh. I didn’t think it was shocking? Or weird?

After grinding out, between clenched teeth, that I didn’t think it was weird at all, I beat a retreat. I found more congenial coworkers to hang out with, and proceeded to box myself into the group, so that even if she joined us, I was safely tucked away from her negativity.

I gather there are many reasons people find engineers socially awkward, and find it mildly surprising that such an individual could have found love easily. I am not of that ilk, simply because I have mostly fallen in love with engineers myself. The fact that RN has a mild disability also may have factored into her surprise is something that struck me much later. Anyway. I legged it from her immediate vicinity is what the point is.

Till, RN brought his girlfriend over to me to say hi. Because that’s when Impulse Brain took over completely. I greeted her warmly, and said how pleased I was to meet her. And it was a pleasant few seconds before I did this:

Me: “Please wait right here a moment; I want you to meet someone.”
She, understandably confused: “Sure.”
RN: *grinning broadly, probably having guessed what I was up to*
Me: *frogmarched Office Idiot to her* “This is <Office Idiot name>. She thought you were a fictional character, like a fairy or unicorn.”
She, even more confused: “What?”
Office Idiot: *trying to laugh and butt in*
Me: “Oh she didn’t think you existed! Therefore you are like a fictional character, no?”
RN: *quietly fist bumps me out of everyone’s sight*
She: “Okay..”
Office Idiot: “Oh! I meant that RN looks so young and innocent. I didn’t think he would have a girlfriend. So I was surprised. Nice to meet you.” *beats hasty retreat*

I’m the first to admit that it was awful for me to put both of them in that position. I could have handled it much better, by having a conversation with Office Idiot about how her attitude was judgemental and discriminatory. But no, I chose to go up in flames, making RN’s significant other supremely confused in the bargain.

Last month, I was invited to and attended RN’s wedding to the same girl. And a week later, the newly married pair attended the next wedding together in Delhi. I had an opportunity to explain myself finally to her, and apologise for our first meeting.

Her response was a hug, so I’m guessing all is forgiven on that front.