Indian Roads = Hot Mess

There are tons of things that irritate me no end about India, much as I love this deeply flawed country of mine. There are a few things that drive me into a murderous, but ultimately impotent, rage. However, one of my greatest peeves is the traffic.

In an effort to deal with the rising road rage I experience, I need to summarise my feelings so that I will be able to restrain myself from committing a crime for a little while longer.

  1. Honking: This point really deserves a series of posts of its own, because that’s how mad I get.
    1. At the signal: Is the traffic signal invisible to everyone else? Am I the only one who sees it is red? Or does red mean something else to pea-brained idiots piloting these cars? The even more annoying corollary to this is when the timer ticks down to 4 seconds, and then people behind start revving and honking. Really? You’ve waited 70 seconds, and those 4 seconds are going to make the difference between life and death? Are you insane?
    2. When someone is reversing: Can you not see the person trying to manoeuvre their vehicle with minimum disruption?
    3. In stationary traffic: Will your honking give my car (or your car) the ability to fly over the ones in front? If so, honk away!
    4. Lack of respect for no-horn zones: Hospitals? Schools? Anything ring a bell, apart from your obnoxious horn?
  2. Lack of safe distance: When I keep a safe distance between me and the car before me, it is not an open invitation to overtake, nor is it adequate reason to deafen me with honking. Safe distance is mandatory because one never knows what can occur on the road. Again, another corollary to this is when two cars move into the safe distance space. That causes me to facepalm rather violently.
  3. Not giving way: I’ve seen cars waiting for ages on the side roads, looking to take a turn. But will anyone give them way? HELL NO! That is a masculinity-destroyer right there! The sperm would shrivel up in their scrota, and their testosterone would spontaneously combust and become oestrogen. (This is scientifically proven.) How would they further their lineage? In fact, the only way to father children at all is to speed up as you see a car taking a turn. Bonus chest hair if you lean on the horn while doing so.
  4. Ambulances: This is technically the same as the point about not giving way above, but really this cannot be joked about. All I want to ask the douchebags in the cars that block (or tailgate) ambulances is: Have you considered how it would feel to be inside that vehicle, clinging onto your life, or that of a loved one? Wouldn’t you wish that people gave up their selfishness for a fraction of a second and moved? Tell you what. Block another ambulance, and you will soon be in the right shape to take one yourself. (Either I will beat you up (because I will Hulk out and suddenly gain the ability and strength to do so) or karma will kick you in the nuts.)
  5. Breaking a signal: You should just be clapped into prison. There are reasons signals are placed at intervals. And this just got personal, because of a road I was trying to cross a few months ago. The road is curved, so I can only see the colour of the lights. It was red, so I started crossing. Only to leap back in alarm when a car came whizzing past, breaking the signal, and leaning in on his horn. I really wanted him to skid into a telephone pole.



Writer’s Block

I have been convinced for over a year, closer to two actually, that I suffer from acute writer’s block. There are many reasons for this:

Firstly, I got a job. The biggest creativity-killer in the world is a job that you don’t really feel passionate about. The work is all right, the compensation is good, and it addresses my immediate needs very well. But it sucks up so much of my day, I don’t have time to write.

Secondly, the little time I do have is spent in being ferociously tired. I am flagging and always on the verge of falling asleep because I haven’t had enough hours before to rest. Then, I just want to do something passively entertaining, like reading or watching TV, rather than engage my depleted energy resources in something worthwhile.

As a corollary to the second point, I have massive lists of content I want to consume. It drives me crazy to see the podcasts, RSS feeds, Facebook saved links, and watch/read lists overflow with unread markers. Without exaggeration, I think that the cumulative time of all those things far outstrips a reasonable life expectancy. I think the Internet has a term for this: FOMO or fear of missing out.

Finally, I feel like the spark is lost. I was typing up hilarious posts on Facebook, dreaming up the occasional zinger on Twitter, before I thought about restarting blogging. I was desperate to retain that lightness of word and sparkle of narrative that comes naturally to me when I am happy. But that’s the trouble: I haven’t been happy. There is a lot weighing me down, and one of those things is my unfulfilled expectations of myself.

I haven’t blogged in a while, because I can’t see the sparkle in my writing any more. But to regain it, I need to stop feeling trapped by those confines, and just write. So, this blog is changing direction a little bit. It is now a practice space for a newly resurrected love, and all the attention I need to lavish on it.

Office Woes #5: Poor Note-taking

My ultra-dedicated colleague is really funny sometimes. I have to work with him quite a bit, and we frequently attend meetings together. I have, however, learned the hard way not to rely on his notes.

*during a meeting with the boss, about the content for transactional emails*

Boss: Make the email more personal. Connect to the customer, talk about their needs and wants. Also, add in a bit of personal information. He or she should feel almost sentimental on reading it, and thus be catapulted into the action we want.

A day later, when we were implementing all feedback and suggestions, I read ultra-dedicated’s notes of the meeting. The above paragraph was succinctly summarised thus:

“Make email more senti.”

Attitude Takes a Tumble

My mum always said attitude was everything with respect to an employee. And she should know, because she was a corporate hotshot in her day. (Yay mom!) I heard her, I believed her, but I never realised the full impact of what she said till recently.

Attitude is an indefinable sort of feeling for me. There may be many textbook definitions, but they don’t resonate. Perhaps because I don’t really know what constitutes the perfect attitude exactly, but I do know the subtle and not-so-subtle signs of a poor one.

We recently hired a second technical content writer, based on his technical knowledge chops and experience. His interview wasn’t the greatest, because he was absurdly nervous the whole time and he messed up his assignments. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, because I am generous generally, and I was desperate at the time.

The guy was fine, a little quiet but that’s fine too. He was nervous, for no reason because our office is a relatively benign place to work. His work was also all right. So, the only niggling issue I had was that he consistently came in late every morning, and left early every evening. I had the HR have a quiet word with him, and the latecoming stopping entirely.

So far so good, I thought, putting the experience down to teething issues. No big deal. I was wrong. So wrong.

For a few days, it was perfect. He was undergoing training, and I was happy enough to have some help. Then training slowly came to a close, and there were periods in the evening where waiting was necessary. That’s when it started to go downhill again. Every day, I got a puppy dog look asking to leave early. Not by much, 15 minutes, half an hour at the most. The trouble is that this begins an erosion. I gave in initially, in an effort to be reasonable, knowing deep down that it would come back to haunt me. And so it did.

With training finally over, work started in full flow. He had tasks, needed to get approvals, have meetings, the works in short. Always, he would finish just shy of 7:30 pm, with a good half an hour till the end of day. And I would get the inevitable request.

While this may seem perfectly reasonable to most people, my office’s culture doesn’t operate like that. People here spend a minimum of 9 hours in office, most extended well over 10.5 hours. This is due to a variety of reasons, the chief being that we don’t have enough talent to work on the projects. Seeing someone bolt early regularly is not only demotivating for everyone else, but also against corporate policy.

Then, his mum fell ill. No doubt, he needed to be at her side. But, she doesn’t stay with him; she resides with his sister. His mother’s family is around, and by his own admission, he spends a little time with her, before heading home. She has a huge support system, and he is but a small cog. Then why take so much leave?

The next nail in the coffin was his knee. One morning, he came to work, saying he has hurt his knee pulling a stunt on his bike. A whole slew of medical appointments, conveniently timed in the middle of the day, followed. And I started seeing less and less of my so-called team member.

The final straw was again the same knee. He came to work one Monday morning with a severely bad knee. He had hurt it again the previous day. It was bad, no doubt, and he clearly needed (but didn’t have) crutches. He adopted the most awful loping gait to compensate for this dearth. It was painful to watch, and finally it all became too much, so he left in a few hours.

The next four days, I received calls and messages to say his knee wasn’t better, and he would need more time off. Understandable. Friday evening, his girlfriend called me to say he was being admitted to a hospital for, I kid you not, weakness. Not for his knee; for “weakness”.

Monday of the next week dawned, and I figured this chap would come in, since I had no news to the contrary. So I walk into the office, expecting to see him. I don’t, but his company laptop is. I shrug, assuming he is having breakfast, and get started. A few minutes later, the finance guy comes up to me, to pass on a message: he came in, but had to rush out for an appointment, and would be in nearer the middle of the day.

I was initially surprised that he had asked the head of finance to pass on a message, rather than leave me a note, or, since we are in the technological era, send me a message. However, it quickly dawned on me that the head of finance was the only guy around at 10-ish in the morning, and he didn’t want to commit to a time with a message.

I waited. And waited. And assumed he would come in by lunch, or just after. But no. Nothing. Nada. Zip. No message either.

Monday was, funnily enough, the last of the month, which is significant when you think that our salaries go out on that day. His salary was withheld, till he returned to active duty. So the next day, he came running to the office, first thing in the morning, again before anyone was in. Headed straight to the finance team, and asked about his salary. And zoomed back out again, right after, making the same assertion about coming back later in the day.

Our HR is not a tough nut, but she does resent this sort of flagrant lack of commitment. She called him, and asked him to send over medical reports. He didn’t have any, he said. Not even from the hospital, she asked. Yeah, some of those.

He did hotfoot it to office after that call, even though she didn’t ask him to come in. There ensued an excruciating meeting with him, her and me. Wherein I told him that his weird behaviour over the last two days was unacceptable. Wherein I told him that the previous warning (a friendly, casual chat with the HR and me) had not been considered at all. He had just gone on his own merry way, and become a byword for absenteeism in the company.

Two months in the company, and he has racked up a formidable 14 days of leave. This is 10 over his entitled leave, doesn’t account for the latecoming nor the early finishes.

Yup, his ass got canned superfast.

Office is Comedy Central

But with Indians and geeks.

Two conversations I was so grateful to be part of, just because they were so funny. For a bit of context, the UI/UX/Design team lead is a character. A REAL character. He has a juvenile sense of humour, is politically incorrect and inappropriate on purpose, is very moody, but is generally a nice dude who is completely hilarious on several occasions.

Conversation 1:

Design team’s second-in-command and I were discussing a new page that has to be added to the site. I have frequently commented, in the past, on his striking similarity to the team lead I described before. He doesn’t like it much, but can’t really deny it. So, to spare his feelings, I use various cartoon characterisations to refer to their relationship. My favourite is Gru and his minions. On this occasion though, I called him a young padawan. And so..

Chief minion: “Oh, so that makes him Obi-wan?”
*We are then joined by another colleague, who is very dedicated and seems to take pleasure in just work and study.*
Very driven colleague: “What is OB1? Operational Behaviour 1?”
Me: “Dear Lord. Haven’t you ever heard of Star Wars? I mean, judging by that response, you certainly haven’t watched the movies!”
Very driven colleague: “Oh. Is that the one where they fight with tubelights?”

Conversation 2:

Again, the team lead of Design is involved here. We were standing around in the pantry, while he was describing a monster hangover from the night before. We were joined by another colleague, whose birthday it was the previous day.

Design TL: “So what did you do for your birthday?”
Colleague, who birthday was the day before: *shakes his head, as he didn’t hear the question*
Design TL: “You moved your head around? That’s a weird thing to do.”

I’m already trying not to laugh at this ridiculous scene, so I stay mum.

Colleague, who birthday was the day before: “Um no. I was trying to say that I didn’t hear what you said!”
Design TL: “So what did you do for your birthday?”
Colleague, who birthday was the day before: “I stayed here (in office) till 10.”
Design TL: “You stayed in a tent.”

Clearly someone wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I wish I could’ve stayed longer, but I was laughing too hard.

Office Woes #4: Banana Discrimination

One would imagine that colleagues with a certain level of responsibility would have a corresponding level of maturity. In my office, one would be wrong. Very wrong.

I have Malayali heritage, and by that I mean that my father is a Malayali, but he is useless at being true to his roots. I grew up mostly Maharashtrian, courtesy my mom, till I moved back to India, spent a few years in Pune, and learnt to detest regionalism with every fibre of my being. But that’s another post. This one has to do with banana chips; the delicious snack from Kerala, which constitutes wafer-thin slices of banana, fried to a delicate shade of yellow, in white-hot coconut oil. I especially love the Calicut variety, where the chips are almost translucent in their delicacy, and crisp without being hard.

Not that I meant to sing a paean of praise for the banana chip, but there you go. Feelings cannot be contained some times. Moving on.

The office cafe recently received a food upgrade. We now have vast quantities of fattening nibbles, in addition to the already sizeable existing range of unhealthy nibbles. One of the latest additions is, you guessed it, banana chips.

Of course, I zeroed in on those the second I saw them. They were, well, meh. That’s the best way to describe them. So when I heard a couple of North Indian (aka clueless about South Indian food) colleagues waxing eloquent about them, I scoffed mildly. Of course, this elicited a response. Very rarely do I not get a response, sadly.

I described the unparalleled gorgeousness of the Calicut banana chip. And this was the response I got:

“Real banana chips have curves, K!”


Office Woes #3: Comic Relief

I am fortunate to be quite fond of several of my colleagues. They are irritating boys, for the most part, but nice nevertheless. And their teasing, irritating behaviour is mostly to get a rise or reaction out of me. Case in point:

I was at lunch with one irritating idiot, and two nicer blokes (or so I thought!) One of the latter has the same phone model as me, and I was stunned to see cracks spidering across the screen. So:

Me: “Hey! What happened to your phone?!”
Him: “It is a revolutionary new wallpaper, hyper-realistic. Also, since I decided to up the look by peeling off the glass near the front camera for better visual effects.”
Me: *stink eye*
Irritating idiot: *also has the same model* “My phone falls a lot too. The cover broke entirely once!”
Him: “Mine falls a lot too. This crack is because it fell from a height straight down on the edge.”
Me: “Wait a minute. How come when he asks about your phone, “it fell from a height”, but when I ask, “it is a hyper-realistic wallpaper”?!”

Cue laughter all around.

Not surprised really, because this happens to me a lot. Sigh.