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?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Generation Gap?

The one thing that every young person is sure of is that the old suffer from 'generation gap' sickness. The old, of course, are equally as sure that what the young suffer from is 'chronic disrespect'. Despite the fact that I belong to the 'old', I am here to prove, conclusively, that 'generation gap sickness' IS the truth. What is more, I shall call upon my good friend Billy, the Bard, also known as William Shakespeare to help me prove my point.

There is this piece of advice Billy has a parent give to his son and, in modern days, a more utter set of absolute stupidity masquerading as advice can never be heard. If this does not prove that what one generation thinks of as the epitome of wisdom is arrant nonsense for the subsequent generations, I advise you to take recourse to your shrink and, if possible, just do not emerge into the world again.

There is this scene in "Hamlet" where Polonius advises his son Laertes about how he is to comport himself.

See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Huh! What did the man think I would do for FB status updates and tweets. If I keep silent about my thoughts, the world would think I am dead and start mourning me (rejoicing is more like it, maybe, but allow me my illusions).

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.

Hmm! Whatever happened to "What have you done for me lately?" I mean, I may have tried the adoption of a few friends - based on how copiously they have admired my blogposts - but if I grapple them to my soul with hoops of steel, how am I to disentangle myself when they stop their commenting?

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.

Yeah! Right! Now I cannot even go around yelling at people for known and imagined slights - what did the man think FB existed for? And, what does he mean 'opposed beware of thee'? When I find too few Likes on my status castigating someone, I am not allowed to gracefully vacate the scene by apologizing? If I follow this crap, 'unfriending' me would be the world's favorite pastime.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

This is antediluvian advice. WHAT? Listen more, talk less? Get yelled at but do not yell back? Is this man for real? If I followed this, I would be drowned in an ocean of words AND every Tom, Dick and Harry (This is once that I won't get the women yelling at me for not using every Jane, Tess and Mary) would take turns at yelling at me for all the injuries done by people at whom they dare not yell.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Now here is a fine piece of advice. I have no clue how it is in France, but the 'apparel that oft proclaims the man' is unlikely to fit in to 'thy purse' - unless you are Dhirubhai Ambani's son. And what is that guff about 'not express'd in fancy'? Dressing up IS all about fancy. Just remember those tail coats - did anything resemble fancy dress any more than that?

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Fine - lending IS a dicey affair but does the man mean that I should not work in a bank? AND, ever heard anything as stupid as that last line - 'borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry', indeed! Does he even realize that we scrimp and save on everything in order to pay our EMIs? That, but for those loans to be repaid, most of us would enjoy more leisurely lives and not work as hard? It is borrowing that keeps the world running at a hectic pace and the chap thinks it would 'dull the edge of husbandry'. Nonsense.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

THAT is the crowning stupidity of this piece of advice. Whatever gave this man the idea that anyone would not want to be 'false to any man'? I mean, just imagine the entire swathes of the economy that would be destroyed. What a dull world it would be with no marketing professionals, no advertising, no financial advisers - all of whom rely on the fact that the Truth is injurious to the health of Society. AND, if you agree with this idiocy because you are none of the above, stop and think. Without advertisements there would be no TV and no social media - now does THAT pinch? AND, everyone knows that, to lie convincingly, you must first convince yourself that it is NOT a lie. Which means that this advice ought to be 'to thine own self do lie, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not be caught out by any man'

The fact that this advice proves so inappropriate does not prove the existence of generation gap sickness? Why so? Ah! You think that Billy used this in THIS play to prove the conclusive insanity of the advice, considering the number of people who go insane in it, and die, kill or get killed? Hmm! That is YOUR point of view. Me - I think it is conclusive proof - so there!

Whatever else we may disagree upon, on one thing we shall have perfect agreement. From that day to this day, parents are very generous with advice and niggardly with money when children would prefer it the other way around.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

God save me

You are safe from no-one these days. The one truth that we all live by is the fact that we can safely blame God for anything without any comebacks from Him. When it comes to me, though, even THAT truth fails. There I go, happily blaming God for being remiss in some things, and the next thing I know He comes over at night to tell me off for it.

God: Where do you get off blaming Me for being remiss?
Me: Wait a minute. Ain't I got no privacy? You been spying on me - that's against the privacy laws.
God: Really? Ever heard of My being omniscient? There IS no privacy when it comes to Me.
Me: You have nothing better than to eavesdrop on me? No wonder the world is going to Hell in a handbasket.
God: Wait a...ah! Contact with humans is corrupting. Why am I sounding off on My powers? After all, you put that up in the public domain, so what is all this nonsense about privacy?
Me (embarrassed): Well - I didn't know you were active on Social media, so how could I know You would know?
God: You had the gall to blame Me for sending different instruction manuals? All of them are similar with only minor differences.
Me: Come on! You do not even have the same appearance in all of them. Some have you looking like You now do - an old, wise man; others have You with supernumerary hands and even heads; still others make You look like ...
God: Why not? You call Me omnipotent, don't you?
Me: What has THAT got to...
God: Do you think, then, that I HAVE to be in one shape? Omnipotent in everything else but forced to remain in one shape?
Me: Not exactly...I could also see you as a Lion, for example.
God: Named Aslan, I suppose. Well - no matter what you think - I can appear and have appeared in any shape I choose to anyone. So, what about it?
Me: Then, what was that about making Man in Your own image?
God: Any image IS My own image, so what about that?
Me: That is as it may be but what do You mean all instruction manuals are similar. They are vastly different. They all seek different behavior from us.
God: Yeah? Tell me. Is not Greed a sin in all of them? Envy? Do I not ask you to love your neighbor..
Me: Come on Lord! Of course, You do not mean that. You meant that I should love him IF he believed in the same things I do, looks the same way I do, talks the...
God: What is this? Some sort of amendments to the Commandments? I do not remember putting in any exclusion clauses to My Commandments.
Me: You must understand that what You ask IS impossible. How can I love my neighbor? If You had known him..
God: I might have excluded him from the requirements? Is that not what you always say? If he gave you all you wanted, looked as you would have him look, behaved as you wished him to behave, and asked nothing in return, why should I even need to enjoin you to do it? Does a starving man need a diktat to make him eat food?
Me: Well - my neighbor is an atheist. Surely You cannot mean that I should love someone who insults You?
God: You really DO think I am like you. But then, when you keep saying that I made you in My image, all you meant was that you conceive of Me as being made in your image. Do you think that I care more for whether a man worships Me than whether he lives the life I seek humans to live? That, unless he is My follower, he is a bad guy and whatever he does is evil?
Me (changing track): Your instruction manuals do say different things about how to treat woman, treat different types of people...YOUR messengers said so and THEY ought to have known what is the right way to live. BUT each one has said a different thing.
God: I hear that there was a man called Einstein, who once said, "When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity"
Me: You know I hate physics and are trying to confuse me. What has Einstein got to do with this?
God: Do you think that Einstein said that because he knew that THAT was relativity or was he communicating to suit the audience?
Me (pretending to think): Hmmm...
God (relentlessly) : Or do you think that Einstein was saying that the courting experience ought to be enjoyable ONLY to the man and NOT to the girl?
Me (confused): I do not get your point.
God : You have no intention of getting it anyway, so why do I bother? The point is that My messengers can only open a window on Reality for you. It is for you to see what you will. AND, practically none of you bother to look through the window to see and understand Reality to the extent you can. As far as I can see, the best you do is to start worshiping the window, and fighting about whose window is the real window. Most of you do not even bother to do that - you worship the messenger who opened the window for you, and do not heed either the window or the Reality behind.
Me: You can't say that. Why, we have been insisting on all the rituals prescribed by you, the dress codes, the...
God (despairingly): AND that is all that you have learnt of My Word? You see Me merely as a fashion guru crossed with a finishing school? AND a further exclusion clause on my omnipotence, that prohibits me from making any changes in even the dress code and social behavior from time to time?
Me (soothingly): No, Lord! We have allowed certain modifications to suit the modern world. You know, we have deleted all the seven deadly sins from the list. And that thing about non-violence; that thing about respecting your elders; that thing about caring for your parents in their dotage....

There was a Cosmic sigh and God vanished.

BUT - was it God, really? I mean, could it be God if, when it came to people who did not adhere to his code of conduct, He would be against my beating them up or beheading them as per choice? It must be some trick of the Devil. God save me from the blandishments of Satan.

Meanwhile, I must stock up on a lot of garlic!