Monday, September 29, 2014

Fifty-one and kicking (and screaming too!)

My life has always been full of ironies. When in my twenties, it was tough for me to get to first base with any woman. After all, when the conversation starts off with her calling me 'Uncle', it becomes sort of difficult for me to think that it is a promising start of a budding romance. Talk about getting friend-zoned, I was getting uncle-zoned. And, now at fifty-one, when the 'Uncle' would probably sit easier on my ears, I get everyone calling me 'Suresh'. Ah! No! No! No! It is not that my chiseled features, wavy hair and well-toned body have rendered me a damsel's delight. NOW, I am getting friend-zoned, that is all. AND, in a few years, I will probably get child-zoned - do they not call senility the second childhood?

And, no, THAT is not the reason why I am single. In case you did not know, when I was in my twenties, all it took was a decent job, and the arranged marriage system would take care of all the rest. The designated victim bride would (wo)manfully swallow her nausea at the sight of me and consent to the wedding - dutiful daughter that she would be. Not that women are less dutiful as daughters these days, it is just that they have redrafted their duties, and a good thing too. The previous draft was good only as an instruction manual for robots. (Can someone please enlighten me about why people are so happy with 'dutiful' sons/daughters/wives/whatever? To me, if someone said that I had a dutiful something-or-the-other, it always seemed like the other person would rather jump into a fire than do whatever it was for me BUT for their sense of duty. AND, the fact that I never could understand why their doing this under coercion of duty ranked higher than their doing something willingly shows quite clearly that I was born a social misfit.)

Where was I? Ah! I was about to say that turning fifty-one had not made much of a change in my life. I never did feel my age since I had always been made to feel old, even when chronologically I should have been considered young, thanks to the absence of a few strands of dead keratin. Since I never did feel my age, I could happily think of starting trekking at 41 without a thought of creaking bones and screaming muscles. Why, I could even think of venturing, for the first time, into the thickets of Social media at close to 50. Not that I could claim to be an adept at it or even think of becoming one over the course of what remains of my life. I am yet to understand the all-important role of selfies - that a selfie a day keeps boredom away. Leave selfies, I have not even graduated from the passport-size photographs, which is all my generation knew of self-photography. I know only one meaning for friends. That is grossly insufficient - you need to know of Like-for-Like friends; Share-for-Share friends AND be ready to measure the friendships based on "Have you LIKED/SHARED my status, lately?" No! I am still a total novice at the business and likely to remain so. Which is why I shall be left with only that handful of Facebook friends I have now and not the zillions that are possible.

Not much of a change in my life, did I say? Not really true. We all mumble things about 'Age is merely a number', while scheduling the visit to the dentist to take out yet another painful tooth. In my case, the teeth are not the issue, yet, the eyes are. When you see me sitting in front of my laptop with eyes pouring tears, please do not be mislead into the thinking that I have been moved by some sensational piece of writing. It is more likely that my eyes are in tears at the thought that I will not give them surcease from the glaring monster in front of them.

AND the brain! I have reached the point where I am expecting to see myself saying, some day soon, "I am...wait...the name is at the tip of my tongue..starts with 'S', I am sure...", and without even the escape of saying, "The face is familiar...I am just not getting the name." So, if you see me walking forlornly on the streets and I do not recognize you, please do not be offended. If you accost me and find that I do not recognize myself and ask you, pathetically (like the yesteryear heroines who seemed to be genetically prone to amnesia), "Who am I?", please do not shock me unpleasantly by abruptly telling me the truth. Take me kindly by the hand, lead me to some shady nook, seat me safely so that I cannot hurt myself when I faint away, and break the bad news.

All said and done, fifty-one is not too bad. In fact, life is pretty good, indeed. AND, I can look forward to losing all my bad memories when I forget myself!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mangalyan - So what's the big deal?

Apparently ISRO shot off a rocket and it put a satellite around Mars. Now, unless that satellite can take a top angle shot of Deepika Padukone's assets and get the Nation's largest daily to tweet about it on the lines of "OMG! Deepika's assets are visible from Mars", what is the big deal? The way it goes these days, ISRO needs to arrange for Mangalyan to do exactly that if it is to get TOI to seriously tout its achievement loud enough to be 'heard over the clutter in the Social media". After all, who cares, otherwise, if one more satellite orbits Mars than was the case previously?

The Nation is, of course, delusional in putting up a Mars mission when so many live in poverty. US, Europe and Russia have, of course, eliminated all poverty in their countries, and the people there live in lands of milk and honey. Thus, they can indulge their fantasy to play with fireworks, and, of course, when they do it they are doing it merely in a scientific spirit of inquiry, which has no taint of any delusion whatsoever. India, though, ought not to indulge in any such activity and, if it does, it is purely delusional with no taint of scientific inquiry. We can put up factories to produce fancy cars, splurge huge sums on the latest in Smart-phones and Tabs, erect huge statues to our leaders, get peppered with ads of deodorants and foreign travel - in short, we can indulge ourselves in any manner whatsoever on Earth without having poverty thrown in our faces BUT it can only be delusion that drives us beyond the limits of this planet.

The taint of that delusion carries to the people who worked to make it a reality. After all, what does it matter that these people were able to so precisely engineer the rocket - in a country which has elevated 'chalta hai' to a fine art - and so accurately compute the orbital mechanics that they managed to insert the satellite in Mars orbit without hitch. They did it in their very first attempt - something that no single country had managed before. BUT - big deal - what is the use of such efficiency and such effectiveness when it comes in the service of a mere delusion? AND, after all, even if all these things were about as difficult for a small payload as it would be for a larger one, it was a small payload after all. Better to have a world record payload crashing into the Indian Ocean than a small payload actually orbiting Mars. AND, of course, much better to concentrate on the all-important performance of CSK in the Champion's league T-20 tournaments.

So, well, what if we are used to saying, "It ain't rocket science" to mention that something is not as difficult as rocket science AND this IS rocket science in which the ISRO guys have managed to come off with such flying colors? It is not like they have won the World Cup for India, is it? Even the Prime Minister needs to mention that this small achievement of ISRO's needs to get SOME acclaim - much like hockey players plead for some attention from a cricket-crazy nation.

So, okay, just because Mr. Modi was present there, we will sort of mention them for a day or two - unless someone has tweeted about some other starlet's legs in the meantime. We cannot all be deluded into pampering the egos of the ISRO guys when more important things like this plague the Nation.

Monday, September 22, 2014

He was a nice man

"Hey! Not coming to the party tonight? Heard that you are saddled with an urgent job?"

"I am coming, no fear! I will request Akash to make this presentation for me."

"This is the fourth time this month that you are tapping him. Will he agree?"

"He is a nice guy. He will certainly help."

* * *

"Amma! I want two months salary in advance."

"You cannot keep asking...."

"Nitu! Give her the money. Where will our servant maid go in an emergency?"

"Akash! I don't think we should..."

"It will not bankrupt us, Nitu!"

* * *

"My Dad has been hospitalized. Can you do my presentation for me? I need to go to the hospital."

"I wish I could do it for you, Akash! But I am already tied up with urgent work."

An hour later

"Akash did your job so often and you refused today. If he sees you now, leaving for home, do you think he will help in future?"

"I would have helped him if I could. But I had so much work that I had to sit half an hour longer at office. I would need to sit another couple of hours to do his job. What can I do? Akash is a nice guy. He will understand."

* * *

"We need you to come early in the morning and just do the dishes. We have to go to the hospital."

"Amma! I cannot. The corner house lady will yell at me if I come fifteen minutes late."

* * *

"You know what? Akash has become nasty these days. Can you believe it? He refused to help merely because he does not want to sit late. And I thought he was a nice man."

* * *

"I thought that the middle house lady's husband was a good man. Can you believe it? I asked him for only one month's advance and he refused? And I thought he was a nice man."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Helpless Lines

We live in a very helpful world these days. For almost everything, there is always a helpline. So, if you run into a problem, you can always dial a helpline. Once you do that, the problem that you have with the helpline is guaranteed to make you forget the problem you thought you would solve by dialing it. Or, maybe, I exaggerate.

Truth be told, I have found helplines handy on a few occasions - notably when I was complaining about problems in my consumer durables. The problem for me, though, starts when I need solutions to issues pertaining to those sectors that arose as a consequence of the microchip.

There is a saying in Hindi 'Diya tale andera" viz "Darkness lies below the lamp". That saying is meant in irony - that the very thing that dispels darkness elsewhere hosts darkness under it. Seems to me, though, that people have taken it as an instruction - that there HAS to be darkness beneath the lamp. What else can explain the fact that the worst experiences on help lines arise when you deal with the very people who made help lines possible?

So there I was, approaching a Helpline for help. ("Tch! Tch! Naivete in one so old is SO unendearing", you say? This time, I HAVE to agree, alas!)

Voice: "Good Morning, Sir! I am ... from ...! How may I help you?"

(These people get trained to insult you, just with the tone of voice, while calling you 'Sir' all the way, as I soon would learn.)

Me: (Not realizing that the "How may I help you?" is as meaningless a phrase as the "Good morning") A couple of days back, you offered a 4G dongle in replacement for a 3G Dongle and said that you would activate it in 4 hours. Your executive said it would be activated within 4 hours of his logging in my papers. I have been using the 3G SIM card with the 4G dongle and it is not connecting properly. When can I expect to get the 4G SIM activated - now that it is 48 hours since I gave my papers?

(The 3G version used to connect me with all the speed of an arthritic tortoise ambling around to no purpose. With the 4G dongle, it moved with the speed of a frozen arthritic tortoise, so I was understandably peeved.)

Voice: Sir! Your connection status shows active on our Server.

Me: That's dandy for you. The problem is that I cannot connect.

Voice: I'll have to put you on hold. Is that Ok?

Me: (with visions of a sagacious superior being called to wave a magic wand to solve the issue) Fine.

(Music and, then, an astounding example of optimism. This company thinks that the time I am waiting, pissed with a product and biting my nails at the delay, is the time I would be most receptive to a sales spiel about other products!)

Voice: Sir! Your connection status shows active on our Server.

(A vague sense of having heard this before arises in my mind)

Me: That's fine but I am unable to connect. AND when are you likely to activate the 4G connection?

Voice: Do you have the executive's name and phone number, Sir?

Me: (quite flabbergasted by the thought that the personal bio-data of the executive was needed to activate a SIM card) No! If I would need all that to get answers to complaints, why did you not tell me to get those details when you rang me up to sell your 4G card?

(I must admit I was quite spoiled by the consumer durables guys. All I had to do was give them the product code of the errant merchandise and they were even able to tell me how many times and for what problems I had called them before. Here, this lady either had no access to information about whether at all someone had been sent to give me a 4G card and, if so, what was the status of activation of the new card OR was merely trained to be as unhelpful as possible.)

Voice: I need to put you on hold, Sir!

(By now, I knew that this was either a tea-break OR she was just stalling me in the hope that I would just go away. Well, I still wasn't prepared to go away)

Voice: Sir! You need to go to the nearest xxx Care Center.

Me: What? To get to know whether a SIM card is activated or not? A SIM card that YOU practically forced on me?

Voice: (distinctly sounding like an irritated school-teacher talking to her dumbest student) Sir! You need to go to the nearest xxx Care Center)

Me: (Spluttering)

Voice: (with the tone of 'God! If you had to produce specimens like this, why saddle me with answering them?') Sir! You need to go to the nearest xxx Care Center.

Yeah! Right! So, Helplines are meant to make you feel totally helpless. AND, they exist merely to tell you to do exactly what you would have done if they had not existed in the first place.

There the issue still remains. What amazes me is the fact that the companies MUST have trained these people. Most people are not geared to repeating the same thing over and over again like robots. The least that they do is tell you WHY the matter cannot be sorted over phone and WHY you need to visit in person. This robotic regurgitation of the same sentence can come ONLY from training. What beats me is why the money they spend on training is being spent to convert human beings into mere record-and-repeat devices, when a recorded voice could do as well? Why not in making them genuinely helpful?

OR do the companies think that this is all that the people they have employed are good for?