Saturday, December 22, 2007

How to work for an Idiot

For months, Jiju has been bitching about his manager. He even bought a book called “How to work for an Idiot”.

“He doesn’t come for meetings on time.
He doesn’t care about my project.
He is rude.
He gives unacceptable timelines
He is blah blah blah…” Jiju's grouch list was endless.

When this very same manager bugged him to attend a seminar held by the Landmark Forum, Jiju was none too pleased. He dreaded going alone and roped me in to be a co-scapegoat. On the day of the seminar we were joined by Sony, Jiju’s cousin.

It is said that life’s experiences are totally unexpected. The seminar proved it right. It was held at a hall in Mahaveer Jain College on a Saturday between 11 and 1 P.M. The seats were comfy and I planned to slip back to sleep ASAP.

The session started and participants were supposed to speak out their first impression on entering the room. Some people stood up and told that “I saw so many smiling faces… it was such a wonderful sight”…. Did it ring a bell with me? No it didn’t, not yet. But something definitely sounded/looked familiar.

Slowly, the tempo of conversation changed, the expectation from the participants was to tell something, anything that they feel they should be doing in their life but was not able to do for whatever reason. A society’s tragedy spilled forth. All this sounded very familiar to me, but I was still unable to place it.

Now came the testimonial section (and the hunger, my belly was protesting violently by then).

There was this lady who came up and told
“I thought, I was always right, I never cared for anything anybody else said….. I was arrogant without knowing it… Landmark Forum opened my eyes now I am a changed person."

Another guy came up and told “I had problems with my wife. I was always justifying all the lousy things I did. Landmark Forum showed me what I was doing and I felt so bad that I had been such a lousy guy. After the session even my business prospered…”

The testimonials were endless. Students able to learn better, businessmen doing better in their business, spouses jelling better and even love between daughter and mother-in-law!

I was blind with hunger by then, but it was all so emotional and riveting that I stayed put. I had expected this seminar to be like all seminars… a royally boring affair. It was not. To put it bluntly, the "seminar" was actually a glorified sales pitch. I didn’t mind though, they were going about it so beautifully!

Even though most of the speeches were right from the heart, none had broken the “tear-barrier” so far. But that was till a middle aged woman came up and started crying almost immediately. She had been very cruel to her sister-in-law after she married, her self-hate list was endless. Nearly had me in tears too! That was when it finally struck me! I had been through these emotional speeches once before in my life.

As a practicing (my mother practiced it for me!) catholic who did school in Kerala during the 90’s, I was one among the millions who had to make a trip to the divine retreat centre at Pota. There was no escaping that fate. Even though Amma gave me hell if I didn’t go to church or tell my prayers piously every day, my parents were actually not so religiously inclined. The visit was put off for one reason or another for a long time. But in the end, they had to bow down to pressure and make the pilgrimage.

I was in the 8th and would have been happier playing cricket and chasing the neighborhood dogs, but no sir, I had to pray on my knees for a week. Cribbing and exaggeration apart, I actually liked most of the retreat. Unlike the adults I was doing it at the “Christeen Dhyana Kendra” for children, which was filled to the brim with boys my age. We had a whale of a time. But again, that was before the testimonials began. Most of them had me in tears! I felt terribly unhappy that I had such a happy childhood and no testimonial!!! Really felt left out, I did!

Now that I had placed Landmark Forum in perspective, things started making more sense. One of the first conclusions I made was that this was for truly screwed up people, not cool dudes like me. But that was till this cool dude came up and gave a testimonial about how he thought he was such a cool dude BEFORE he did the Landmark Forum course. There went my defense!

Jiju(that double dealing low life!) was the next to strike, “My manager has improved a lot in the past two months, since he did the course. Maybe this is actually good!” Somehow I felt bitching was better! Call me materialistic, realistic or whatever “ic” you want to, but I knew that the cost factor was gonna come up any second now. True to my prediction, it did come up in a short while. 5.6k for a 3 day program! I wouldn’t pay half as much for a 3 day trek in the Himalayas! Maybe I should become catholic again! At least the retreat was free of cost.

I was nearly convinced to do the program when, at the end of the program we had a chat with Jiju’s manager. He told us that this was one of the best things that happened to him. He struck me as a very straight forward guy.

Manager: You don’t become a changed man just coz you do this 3 day program. No program can do that, you have to put in hard work after the program.
I(Thinking): Ah! Hard work… there is my excuse for not doing it!
Manager: What this program does is, it gives you a feeling of how screwed up you are and a support structure to deal with it. I still contact my helper from our class whenever I feel I'm in trouble.
I(Thinking): If the helper is a mallu nurse I would too!
Manager – Speaking To Jiju: I know I have been a very bad manager, but I realized it only two months back and I am trying to make amends.
Jiju: Yeah, I also thought so! Of late, you have been very sharp with your timings. You are never late for a meeting. I have noticed changes. Maybe I should do it too!

That really set me thinking. I had been given an opportunity to lead 4 guys since two months ago. Mostly we worked well, but sometimes things didn’t go as planned and it was really hard to keep my cool on all occasions. Suddenly self doubt reared its ugly head in me… what if I was a jerk? Did they hate me? Was I doing everything properly?

On one side was Rs.5600. On the other, an opportunity to become a better individual. I was totally confused. I cursed Jiju for placing me in this predicament. After much thought, consideration, deliberation, what-not, I finally came upon a solution.... To buy a copy of “How to work for an Idiot” and present it to my team!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mind your language!

Tony’s Story
Tony a.k.a Pullachen, came back from office a seriously depressed man. Now, if you knew Tony, you would also know that his depression was highly unusual, almost like India winning a Gold medal at the Olympics. A man to man talk was imperative and what better place than a bar to hold it? So off we went to Gangothri to drown his sorrow with that ambrosia called beer.

A few beer mugs later, I found out the cause of his depression. He had lost an offer to work in Singapore, just because he couldn’t understand the Singaporean interviewer’s English accent. That he had lost the offer was of little importance, but the fact that he couldn’t even understand the interviewer’s English really hurt him to the core.

My Story
For quite some time I have been thinking seriously about personality development. Call me a perfectionist if you will, why else would somebody with such a perfect personality (me! U dumbo) go in for more development. On a more serious note, some facets of my “perfect” personality have been giving me a pain in the wrong places for a few months now. Part of the “maturing” process I guess.

Our Story
We decided to join an English speaking course, him in the hope of developing his career and English speaking skills and I in the hope of meeting up with some good looking mallu nurses on their way to England, the IELTS route.

We joined speak easy, an institute in Koramangala, Bangalore. Tony, with his good intentions had some divine backing. The course offered exactly what he was looking for and then some. Me, with my bad intentions and no divine backing ended up in a class with 15 males and one female! No prizes for guessing who was depressed now!

The first part of our course comes to an end tomorrow. It has been a good learning experience to say the least. The course offers basic English grammar, public speaking, dining etiquette and even tips on your wardrobe! But more than the English we learnt, the body language and dining etiquette sessions we had, I felt great joy in meeting up with so many new people. All of whom had one thing in common, a desire to become better in something that they were weak. Alchemy at work!

Some of my classmates are job pursuers, others, like Tony, looking for a change in career and a betterment of their communication skills. Our trainer, a flamboyant lady from Srinagar is one of the most riveting personalities I’ve seen. Altogether we are a motley crowd but one that has jelled well over time.

I am looking forward to the second part of the course which deals with accent neutralization. Hopefully, it will have at least one mallu nurse! Tony, on the other hand has gone completely off his rocker. He actually wants to neutralize his accent!! I guess depression does that to you, makes you serious and goal oriented! If you ask me, he has got his priorities wrong. Hope he doesn’t make this a habit!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Broken Heart!

Warning: Not a happy ending!

To those wondering who is Tony? I am afraid that I can give you no single answer. Is he the protagonist? Nope! (Actually he is, but since I am part of this story and I am the one WRITING this post, it was my humble decision to take that “unassuming” position). Is he Mr. Broken heart? Not really, at least not now. But he was once. And I was the one who did the breaking. Sick minds reading this can wipe off that “gay” thought from your minds. It is a bit more complicated than that!

The story begins like most stories do, with the awakening of true love in our pseudo hero’s mind (remember, I am the protagonist!). Tony fell for the girl and he fell hard. That he fell was no surprise to me. We were both in that “falling” stage, with a new love blossoming every other day. What surprised me was that even after a long time (read one month) he was still hooked to the same girl. Is this true love? I asked myself. Is this true love? Tony asked himself. No! And Yes! Were the respective (and emphatic) answers.

I was ready to wait and see the outcome. But another month passed and he was still laid low by this new and powerful emotion. Maybe it is true love after all, I decided. The problem with true love is that it can work black magic on your tongue. Tony, a normally talkative person found his tongue on strike whenever he met his love. Things got so bad that each time he met her, he used to gibber out some rubbish and make a royal fool of himself. I being a true friend was immensely perturbed by the situation. A wave of sympathy for my dear friend engulfed me (big mistake!!!!).

Due to all that sympathy hanging in the air when Tony came up with that utterly hare-brained solution to the problem, I ended up saying “yes minister”. His elegant solution (monstrously screwed up idea, if you ask me!) was to do a slow build up of his sagging image in front of his beloved (responsibility --> MINE!!!) and then he would ride by like a knight in shining armor and have the lady swooning in his hands. Blinded by love (straight! normal! casual!) for my dear friend, I agreed to take up my part of the deal vis-a-vis the image building exercise.

Whatever his faults, Tony had one winning advantage and that was his logic. He had thus come to the logical conclusion that since his tongue was on strike some other tongue had to wag. No prizes for guessing who ended up doing this miserable wagging! Somebody forgot to tell him that love has nothing to do with logic!!

To enumerate my role, I was supposed to call the girl in q every other day and if possible, several times a day and talk high and mighty about Tony. I was never a natural with the ladies and this new task gave me the butterflies. But love for a friend was love for a friend no matter what and I took up my task with utmost seriousness (which, if I’d applied to studies, I wouldn’t by typing this here in the first place!). Tony was very helpful regarding the logistics part of the operation. He provided me with the phone number and other details to get started.

Now, I had my own plan of action. First and foremost, I had to build a friendship with the girl for all the wrong reasons. The idea appealed to my crooked mind, but the execution was not that easy. I called her up on a regular basis, but I never had anything to talk, it got so tough that on many occasions I felt like giving up. But my duty bent mind and my superb criminal spirit held sway and I persevered to build up something reasonably close to a friendship. At last, after weeks of effort we were on talking terms.

Now started the hard part, I had to talk high and mighty about the biggest wimp on earth. The art of lying was never too alien to me, but to do it in such bulk quantities was tough even for my non-existent conscience. Day in and day out, I would sing praises of Tony to her. “Tony is that, Tony is that...blah blah blah” but she would just kind of skim over those comments, or totally ignore them. Getting the conversation hooked on to Tony was near to impossible.

On top of it, I had to deal with Tony’s incessant questions regarding our conversations. In the end I guess that was the undoing of it all. He would call me up and go through our conversations in detail, trying to analyze them logically for any sign of a break through. At the end of all that analyzing he would be very disheartened.

I kind of felt that I was letting him down even though he wouldn’t tell me so. In fact, I used to feel so bad about him feeling bad that I started adding a bit of masala to our conversations to make him feel better (Yeah I know, very big mistake!).

Tony was now coming to the logical conclusion based on some truly questionable data that she was “softening” up. As such, lying to the girl itself was hard on my conscience, but at least I was telling good things about someone. But lying to Tony was definitely giving me the nightmares. As the days went by, my conscience troubled me more and more. Many times I thought of telling him the truth of the matter about how she didn’t care two cents about my praises about him. In fact I wonder whether she ever understood that I was actually talking about Tony the whole time.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that she would never fall for him with this dumb approach. The time to tell Tony the truth about the matter had come. But I did not get the right environment to open my heart and it was weeks later on the day before our Tamil Nadu entrance examination that I finally found the environment “suitable”.

Sitting in a lodge in Comibatore, his mind full of formulas and equations for the approaching exam, Tony looked tense. But I decided to end this melodrama once and for all and took this opportunity to put up the hard facts.

I: Da, I want to tell you something
Tony: Hmm…
I: It’s about her.
Tony: Hmmm?
I: I’ve not told you everything about the phone conversations.
Tony: what???
I: Well you see, when I talk about you to her, she doesn’t really respond much.
Tony: But you told me that she was lapping it all up.
I: Well I told you wrong. She hardly says a word about that.
Tony: What!!!
I: Don’t get worked up yaar, but it’s the truth, she isn’t responding at all.
Tony (Gibbering much like when he sees her): but but…
I: I wanted to tell this for a long time dude, but you were so emotional about it that I didn’t have the heart to tell you all this before.
Tony: And you tell me this right before the exam! You ******
I: Sorry yaar.
Tony: !$^%&%&#^&#*$^*#&^*#%^&*
I: Sorry maan!
Tony: $^$%&*%&%^%^&%&@&*^%#&**
I: Go ahead. I deserve to be called all that and more.
Tony: you deserve to be burnt at the stake!!!
I (Looking and feeling pretty bad): That too.
Tony: You just broke my heart!

It is a tribute to our friendship that it stands strong and tall today even after the traitorous stuff I did.

Tony was resilient though, showing more courage than you would expect of him, he did what was logically to be done, proposed to her! Naturally, she rejected it.

Never ready to lie low just because of one failure, he went ahead courageously and had many more such failures in life. If an association be made for the love failures of this world, he could chair it any day I guess.

Yesterday he called me up to say goodbye. He is flying to the US of A in search of a bright future and a great career. He was always a great fan of Gandhi and now has taken a leaf from the great man’s book to “quit India”! Hopefully, he will find the love of his life in the shores of that friendly nation*.

*God save America and that poor girl!