Food Harassment

For a while, I was rather taken up with the Answer this question thing on Facebook, because it was like a mini writing prompt. One of them was:

Not because I particularly love cake, but because of my predilection for baking. I wanted to bake because my mother wasn’t a fan. Growing up, very few of my friends’ mothers baked, but those that did made the most amazing stuff. [In retrospect, it wasn’t that hard. My mother just doesn’t have the yen for it. Fair play.]

Then the whole cake fairy nonsense erupted at work, and I was repeatedly harangued for food. The demands moved from cake to just about anything that my mom or I cooked, because cake became too specific for many.

The food harassment, as I like to call it, took on some hilarious proportions. There was a time set aside for this machinations to take place: my lunch time. The way the office worked is that people could go have lunch in the office cafe any time they wanted, so that was logically the best time to corner me. There were scouts posted [well, those who worked near the cafe] who were meant to send off alerts to the main perpetrators when I went in for my meal.

In the beginning – the first 2 days at the most – this was protocol. After that, it was largely scattershot. Having said that, after spending an hour AFTER I had finished eating, literally cornered by 3 boys, I started sneaking in to have my lunch.

The cafe was in the shape of an L, and the large part of the L was visible from the pantry area. The little part though was not, so if I sat there, no one could see me, unless they walked the full length of the L first. There was more security this way, so people in the pantry wouldn’t suddenly spot me, and make the most of the opportunity.

This plan, for the most part, worked very well. It did mean that I ate my lunch alone, but I had podcasts to keep me company, and I could come and go in peace.

Until one fine day, when the founders came to the cafe for their lunch, and they decided to pick the table at the end of the cafe. Yup, the only place you could see me from, and the way the tables were placed? It meant that although we were at different tables, they were sitting right next to me.

I groaned inwardly because, knowing them, they would attempt to converse with me out of courtesy. But at least, I could make good my escape when I was done eating.

However, the first question out of their mouths was: “Hey! Why are you eating here on your own?” and the second, before I could reply to the first, was: “Are you hiding?”

Now, I was known for being a bit of a cartoon with a sarcastic tongue. The founder I reported to – my boss – knew this, but his counterpart didn’t interact with me on a day-to-day basis. Basically, I should have chosen the words of my response more carefully. Because my reply was: *smiled* “Yeah, I’m hiding from AP, DG, and RP. Last week, they kept me here an extra hour till I promised to bring them cake!”

In my defence, I laughed a little, and shrugged. It was not something to be taken seriously. However, not in my defence, I should have noted the widened eyes that followed my remark. My boss laughed too, and I assumed that was the end of that.

Um. No.

The next day, I got called in for a meeting with the head of HR. I had no idea what the meeting was about, because there are many times I’ve been asked to edit policies and generally support their function. In no way did I connect my lunchtime conversation of the previous day to this.

Hooboy.

She sat me down gently, and asked me whether I needed water and how I was feeling. Now this in itself took me by surprise, because I have been at the office longer than her. I know where the water is. I said I was fine, and then it occurred to me to ask what the meeting was about.

“Oh, the conversation you had with Nakul (the other founder) yesterday. He said that 3 of the engineers are harassing you, and I should sort it out. I also had a word with the guys about it.”

After blinking in astonishment for about 20 seconds, I burst into peals of incredulous laughter. I only stopped laughing long enough to explain the utter ludicrousness of the situation, where I would complain to a co-founder about my petty bickering with 3 of my office FRIENDS. Not colleagues, friends!

The HR was relieved too, although she was slightly miffed about the misunderstanding. I calmed down finally, and explained that she knew the equation that existed between me and the engineers. We bantered and fought, but it wasn’t ever serious. She agreed, and suggested I have a word with Nakul to lay the issue to rest. I acquiesced and the meeting ended.

I looked for Nakul, and found him next to one of the guys, DG. And without preamble, because this needed sorting out, I launched into a short speech: “Hey Nakul. You know what I said about food harassment yesterday? I was kidding! They do harass me, but it is just a bit of fun. I wasn’t upset or anything!”

To his credit, Nakul accepted that he misunderstood, but I see that he was just making sure everything was on the up and up in the office. I can appreciate that. However the other 3? Still haven’t let me live down my “complaint to management and HR”.

Bloody idiots.

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The Genesis of the Cake Fairy

So, a few months ago, I had written about being a cake fairy for my friends. I was recounting this story to someone else, and I finally recalled the exact circumstances under which I became the accursed cake fairy.

[How many times did I use the term ‘cake fairy’ up there? Far too many is how many. Moving on!]

I had been experimenting with baking for a while, trying out recipes out of books of celebrated chefs. I was wary of Internet recipes because I had tried a few and failed dramatically. So I found a chocolate cake recipe that looked sufficiently idiot-proof, and tried that. It turned out well.

The next day, while chatting with a fellow food-obsessed colleague who loved to cook, I brought up the cake. He said that next time I baked, he would love to have a slice. I nodded and left it at that.

A few weeks later, I made the cake again, and it turned out better than the first. Remembering my conversation with my colleague, I took half the cake, in 4 thick slices, to work. One was for him, and the others for whoever sat at my table.

In retrospect, I should have known this would cause problems. Because when has anyone ever learned to keep their mouths shut?

The first pain in the ass was UK, he of the Kanpur wedding fame. He came to our table for some work, and saw the box of cake. He was offered some, on the pain of death if he revealed its existence to anyone. He didn’t, to be fair to him, but the others sang like canaries.

The next day, I was cornered by so many of my friends, all demanding how I could have been so mean so as to feed only a fraction of the office with cake. I pleaded in vain, saying that the quantity didn’t justify an email to the whole office, and let’s face it, table above office in terms of loyalty, amirite?

No. A resounding, thigh-slapping, unequivocal negative.

So my punishment was set: I was to be hounded for cake once a day, every day, till I made reparations to the office. Even if I brought a very small amount, it was to go to everyone’s inbox, and each one’s luck would prevail.

And so the cake fairy was born. They carried out that threat, incidentally, till I caved and baked a full cake for the office. What a mistake. Because after that? The following nonsense has happened:

– One chap opened my purse, looking for cake. In my PURSE.
– One chap took the box of crumbs that were left over, and returned the box only the next day.
– One fellow posted on my Facebook timeline, and my mother joined forces with the asses.

And much more besides. The latest cake story was the wedding one. I should have some peace for a while. Here’s hoping!

Kanpur-Famous

I have my doubts about the veracity of this claim, but my friends assure me that I must be famous in Kanpur. Of course, they are idiots of the first water, so I rarely take them seriously. But it is a fun story nevertheless.

All this transpired during a friend’s wedding in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. A fair few of us were travelling and attending the wedding together, although there were only 2 women in a contingent of 12. I was one of these women.

Just after the baraat [the groom’s entry], we were entering the reception area. Because the actual wedding was at the ass-crack of dawn, the reception unusually took place first. I hear this is common practice with North Indian weddings, but it seems a little upside down to me. At any rate, hair mussed with the humidity and dancing, and panting thanks to uncomfortable heels, we traipsed into the venue.

Of course the bride’s side was set to welcome the groom’s party, and there were multiple photographers capturing all the goings-on. As we entered as a group, there were several pictures of us like that.

Then, the photographer waved to the boys to move aside. They obligingly did so, because they knew the other girl was not my favourite person, and that I would set my teeth at being alone with her in a series of snaps. I did set my teeth, but I went along with it for the sake of politeness, and in the interest of not making a scene.

After the photographer clicked a few pictures of the both of us, he waved us off. Or so I thought. We thanked him, and prepared to step aside, when:

Photographer: “Not you madam, the other madam only.”

In some surprise, I looked at him, and then at the other girl. I shrugged, because I wasn’t bothered by this development and started walking away.

Photographer: “No no no no no no! Madam stay. Other madam, side please.”

To my absolute horror, and to the unending glee of 10 miserable boys who live for fodder like this, the photographer wanted solo photographs of me. I stood in electrified shock, smile frozen in a rictus of growing dismay, as the photographer proceeded to move around me for various angle shots.

Yep.

After a few moments, I collected my scattered wits and firmly put a stop to the photographs. But the damage was done. I turned in some consternation to the guys, and saw them brimming with barely suppressed mirth. Barking a ‘oh shut up all of you’ in their general direction, I limped off to the buffet.

A little later, one of them sidled up to me to tease me. I fixed him with a baleful glare, and accused him of putting the photographer up to that stunt to embarrass me. He chuckled and said: “Dude, this is Kanpur. It costs less to bribe people here.” A response that made me feel miles better, I might add, because at least then I know it was a prank.

Fast forward a month or so later, when the groom was back in office after an extended break. Of the original group, 5 of us had put together a hamper as a wedding gift, and we wanted to know whether he liked the coffee machine we got for him.

There was a little ribbing because turns out he thought it was a mixer-grinder, and was pleasantly surprised to hear it wasn’t. Silly ass. I was laughing at him when he comes out with:

UK: “Oh by the way Karishma, my relatives thought you were a foreigner.”
Me: *blanching, because this was said in the middle of a big group* “What utter rubbish. Stop making shit up UK.”
UK: “Seriously! They asked me whether I had invited people from our ‘foreign ka office’.”
Me *starting to beat a hasty retreat amid gales of laughter*: “Liar liar, pants on fire.”
DG: “Dude! They asked her to dance with them too, during the baraat. None of us were asked to join in!”
Me: “Stop it!”
AG: “And the photographer took SO many pictures of her on her own!”
Me: “Guys..”
RP: “Holy shit, yeah! He asked us all to move aside! Even <other chick>!”
Me: “Wait! DG bribed him to do that!”
DG: “No I didn’t! I swear!”
Me: “Screw all of you. I hate you all.”
UK: “Um. I’ve been through all the photos. There are no pictures of just Karishma.”

Pin drop silence reigned after this bombshell hit, as each of us grappled with the implications. I was the first to run off, sped on faster by the shouts of laughter from the table.

To this day, over 2 years later, I still get teased about being a foreign pin-up girl in some Kanpur photographer’s studio. I’m not kidding: I really hate all of these guys. 😐

Kanpur Bulldozer

In March of 2016, I went with a bunch of people to Kanpur to attend a colleague’s wedding. He had invited quite a few people, and many of us went. 12 to be precise. The office was quiet for a few days. 😛

Now, Kanpur is in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the states with the unofficial reputation of being a patriarchal, cow-worshipping, conservative, Northern state of India. I was really ok with going there because I was with a huge group. But UK (the bridegroom) felt differently:

UK: “Have you booked your tickets for the wedding?”
K: “Yup yup!”
UK: “Good. By the way, Karishma, I needed to tell you something.”
K: “Sure! Shoot.”
UK: “Do not leave the campus.” [The wedding was in IIT Kanpur.]
K: “What?”
UK: “Karishma, do not leave the campus.”
K: “Why? There must be other stuff to see in Kanp..”
UK: “Karishma, do not leave the campus.”
K: “Arrey, but I am with a bunc..”
UK: “Karishma, do not leave the campus.”
K: “You’re being ridiculous!”
UK: “Karishma, do not leave the campus.”
K: “FINE.”
UK: “Promise?”
K: “Yes.”

I didn’t leave the campus; except to go back to the train station and head to Delhi. Sigh.

Poor Joke Central

I’ve undoubtedly been in a funk for a few days, and there have been several contributing factors to that funk. However, the very act of smiling sometimes helps to lift the mood in unexpected ways.

I messaged a few friends to chat, hoping to distract myself from the thoughts rattling around in my mind. I counted on their self-absorbedness to occupy my mind space, and thus flush out my own thoughts. Of all of them, the pal is the one who came through in spades. Because the silly ass keeps cracking the worst jokes imaginable.

[Note: Fort and Khar are areas in Mumbai. I had gone to the Bombay High Court in Fort for some legal work. Of course this explanation was also joke fodder.]

Can’t lie; they made me chuckle a lot.

Thongs and Things

Utterly random post up ahead. You’ve been warned.

This morning, I decided to choose a podcast I had subscribed to in 2015 [really], but of which I hadn’t heard a single episode. Just to put things into perspective, I’m subscribed to about 80 podcasts in total. Several of them, I can’t bring myself to delete a single episode without listening to it. Here are some of them. The list has since expanded. So it should come as no surprise that I have 1200+ unlistened-to episodes.

The easiest way for me to tackle this load is to listen to them when on my morning walk. Yes, music is more traditional but it is truly hard to beat The Now Show on BBC Radio 4, on an otherwise booooooooring walk. The belly laughs are like ab exercises in themselves. 😛 And yes, I’ve managed to knock off several by doing this.

Today, I decided to crank up.. *drumroll* My Dad Wrote a Porno. I am not making this up. It is an absolutely bonkers bit of talk radio which is unexpectedly funny. The first episode was the first chapter with copious amounts of commentary, disgusted, wondering, surprised, witty, and hilarious by three people.

If the podcast itself wasn’t hilarious enough, the whole premise was so bizarre, I found myself laughing even more because of it. [Matunga East had very surprised crows this morning.] The text of the erotic novel is so cringe-worthy that it surprises a laugh out of you every so often.

After I had finished the episode, I was debating whether or not to stay subscribed to this podcast. It was funny, granted, but I still found the text a little too cringey for my taste. Thongs, nakedness, and “labial pinkness” made appearances in the FIRST chapter. Doesn’t bode well.

Anyway. I didn’t reach a conclusion on that point, and I guess I will give the second episode a go before deciding.

But. The whole erotica aspect reminded me of an incident with visible underwear lines. [Don’t ask me why. My mind is a mystery to me too, at the best of times.]

This was way back in 1999, and I was in Scunthorpe in sixth form college. A friend from college, also an international student, and I were walking into town. We happened to be walking a few feet behind a lady. This lady was dressed in a well-fitting grey pencil skirt. Office garb, by the looks of it. I cannot remember anything else about her, and you’ll realise in a moment why I remember the skirt.

We were walking on the pavement, and all of a sudden I hear my friend gasp in shock. I looked at her in some surprise, obviously, and she whispered to me the following words: “That lady! She’s not wearing a panty!”

Of course I stopped dead in my tracks in shock, questions coursing through my mind. WHAT? Which lady? Are you sure you meant ‘panty’? Do you know what that means? HOW do you know? Do you know her? Why would she tell you that she doesn’t wear underwear?!

Turns out she was referring to the lady in front of us, and her reasoning was that a skirt that well-fitted should show panty lines. And if it didn’t? No panty.

I was 16 at the time, and raised in UAE. She was 18, a Sudanese-origin Arab, born and raised in Oman.

We had no idea that thongs were a thing. Or commando, for that matter. *giggle*

Sitcom Setup

In spite of being 1) significantly younger; 2) a dude; and 3) calling me ‘mom’, I feel quite lucky to have a really decent guy as a good friend. Which is why, when I was a little low about my non-existent love life, he came up with this plan:

J: “So K [he really calls me just ‘K’], listen. I have a plan. I make bad relationship decisions; YOU make bad relationship decisions! You see where I’m going with this?”

Me: “Not really.” *knowing very well that the whole pact-to-get-together-if-both-still-single-in-20-years was not happening here. EVER.*

J: “Let’s make a shitload of money. [We also work on projects together.] We can then buy houses next to each other, and live out our days like that!”

Me: *laughing*

J: “I’m serious! It will be AWESOME. You make cake, I’ll eat it. We drink coffee at 1 AM together. You listen to me playing guitar. Life set hai.

He’s the absolute best. I love him.