Aug 15, 2014

Indian Railways: It’s all about the journey

At the risk of sounding too middle-class, I admit that air travel doesn’t even come close to rail travel. In fact, travelling in a humble sleeper class coach of an Indian Railways train contributes to your life experiences in a way you cannot imagine unless you have been through it. Airports somehow seem to put a lot of pressure on you for updating check-ins on social media whereas railway stations don’t. HOW CAN YOU UPDATE YOUR CHECK-IN AT A RAILWAY STATION WHILE HAGGLING WITH THE COOLIES AND RUNNING ALONG THE TRAIN DRAGGING YOUR LUGGAGE TO FIND YOUR COACH AS THE TRAIN COMES TO A HALT?

Indian railways is the ninth largest employer in the world, if the statistics are to be believed. This is quite sad because after paying 1.307 million employees every month, there is hardly any money left with the government for betterment of the trains. We rant about the fare hikes and the shitty facilities provided in the trains and then move on to normal life after unpacking the luggage. Bollywood is smart enough to have utilized the trains for almost all kinds of scenes - dance, romance, robberies, suicides and even the legendary love making scene from Ishaqzaade. (yes, I have watched the movie.)

To begin with, the railway reservation system sucks as much as the Indian caste based reservation system. It isn’t much fun to wake up early in the morning and queue up for a tatkal ticket at the reservation counter for hours only to realize that the tickets were sold out in 0.22 microseconds after the tatkal reservations opened. The online version of this is slightly better. After some hours of demonstrating excellent perseverance which includes staring at the IRCTC website as it loads pixel by pixel on the screen, you finally get a confirmed reservation. The last time you were so much delighted was when your girlfriend tested negative on a home pregnancy test after her missed period.

Once you board the train and bid goodbye to your entire extended family whose platform tickets have contributed to 2.4% of the GDP, you settle down on your berth in the sleeper coach. Given the optimist that you are, you expect all the berths around you to be occupied by pretty females. (Pro-tip: Always go through the reservation chart to avoid heartbreaks.) Before you even realize, a large family of 6 invades the coach with 15 pieces of luggage and starts shoving the bags forcefully below the seats while their kid rushes to fit in the space between you and the window. If luck isn’t in your favor, you may also be approached by a middle aged uncle who insists on swapping your berth with him so that he can re-unite with his family. Being an Indian middle class guy, you happily oblige because you have been taught the virtue of adjustment by your parents even if that means having to sacrifice your dreams.

If you carefully observe, you get to see 4 types of passengers in the sleeper coach. The first type is a passenger who has superb negotiation skills. In spite of having an unconfirmed ticket, he negotiates with the TTE and fellow passengers, manages to get a good berth with the choicest blankets and pillows and then heads out to the door and stands near the footstep till the end of the journey. The second type is an over enthusiastic uncle who will be an expert ice-breaker. He will sit next to you, force you to opine about any random topic and then go on to show his knowledge on the subject. The discussion eventually ends at how our government sucks and politicians should rot in hell. The third type is the foodie. He, along with his family will ensure that they consume each and everything sold as food at every single station. Additionally, they also carry a supply of food enough to feed a village in Africa. (Pro-tip:  These are the biggest saviors. Stay around them so that you are spared from eating the pantry food.) The fourth type is an annoying guy who along with his entire travel troop is just waiting for the train to move so that they can clap and play Antakshari followed by cards.

If you want to learn the concepts of recycling, there is no better place than the pantry car of the train. The same gravy is recycled for all the meals until it runs out after a week. I am waiting for the day when Kejriwal exposes that the chapattis served along with the meals are manufactured by Bata.

Once you consume such a sumptuous meal, you are likely to race to the toilet, which is a nightmare in itself. You get the rarest privilege to perform your act while the cool breeze hits your ass and your eyes try to decipher the indigenous telephone directory scribbled on the toilet walls. It is still unclear as to what algorithm is used to calculate the length of the chain that holds the tumbler. If Murphy is indeed unkind to you, be ready with a bottle. Nature’s call was never this adventurous, isn’t it?

However pathetic the condition of our trains might be, there is something about the typical stink of the sleeper coach, the rhythmic melody of iron wheels hitting the rail tracks, the loud air whistle, the chants of hawkers, villages passing by the windows, the conversations with random co-passengers and that long wait to reach the destination that you cannot afford to miss. As the famous quote goes, focus on the journey, not the destination.

Jul 26, 2014

Why interviews make no sense

Interview experts across the globe advise you to be yourself in an interview. Well, if that has to be followed, you would just end up hurling abuses at the interview panel. Moreover, expletives don’t really go well with formal attire and that borrowed tie and suit. Most of us have been through job interviews at some or the other point in our lives. There are some questions which 99.9% of us would have faced at every damn interview. These questions are to interviews what Sooryavansham is to SET Max - redundant, repetitive and obsolete. Let’s crack them, once and for all.

Tell me about yourself:  This question is mostly the first to be asked even before you take a seat trying your hand at aligning your tie-knot to the center and carries no meaning or relevance. It clearly depicts the nervousness and lack of home-work done by the interviewing panel and while you answer this question, they get to read your CV and build up subsequent questions. 99% of the interviewers don’t even listen to you as you answer this question. If you want to double-check, try blabbering anything irrelevant and you shall be astonished that nobody noticed!

Why should we hire you?:   Well, a team of experts at their end went through your profile and did numerous checks before calling you for the interview. They haven’t wasted their time as well as yours in the interview process for no reason. They consider you fit to work for their company, and yet they want to hear it from you. Tell them how they would lose a great resource to their competitor if they didn’t hire you.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?:  Most recruiters think of this bland question as a wicked trick to undress the candidate. They would happily ignore your strengths but would be hell bent on interrogating you about your weaknesses. How on earth would your weaknesses benefit their company when they have never worked in your favor even once?

Why do you want to work at our company?:  Be frank and tell them that it is not only THEIR company for whom you want to work. Tell them about the interviews you would be heading to after finishing theirs. Tell them about the offers you have in hand. Make them feel inferior. Gain an upper hand.

Can you work under pressure? Try answering this with Yes, but I charge an extra million for every ten Pascals and then observe their faces.

Tell me something about our company: Another stupid question. You are reminded of the times when you have to keep waiting for 99 hours in the ladies section of a shopping mall holding a kid/ shopping bags and your wife/girlfriend suddenly emerges out of the trial room and asks you: ‘Main kaisi lag rahi hoon?’ in spite of having three life size mirrors in the trial room. Whatever your answer is, she’s still going to buy that dress.

How much salary do you expect?: Put forward a figure, and the next question they will ask is how much you got paid at your previous job. Counter-question them by asking how much they used to pay the person who was earlier in charge of your job. The funny thing about companies is that they will always ask you how much your previous company paid you but never reveal what they used to pay the earlier guy. Somewhere in the race for jobs, we have forgotten that companies need candidates as badly as candidates need jobs. It is somehow falsely assumed that a company has an upper hand over the job seeking candidate.

Where do you see yourself five years from now? Let’s see if you can afford me for a year; then we shall see for the next four’, you are prompted to say. But your education and etiquette have ruined you to such an extent that you keep on speaking shit like career, hierarchy and promotion.

Why did you resign from your previous job? Well, this is an uncomfortable question. No matter how much you have lied in your life, you always fall short of creative answers for this question. While your brain constantly thinks of the peanuts in your pay-slip or a bad-ass boss, you always end up mentioning good career/brand/money as the reason. If you have mentioned creativity as one of your strengths, here is the chance for execution.

Why should I hire you from the outside when I could promote someone from within? This is outright meaningless because companies hire recruitment agencies and pay them to find candidates for a job. Some of the recruitment agencies are even secretly owned by the spouses of those gentlemen with shining suits who are interviewing you! Promoting someone from within would mean loss of commission for the recruitment agency. No way they’ll do it.

How do you feel about reporting to a younger person? Tell them that your wife/girlfriend is younger to you and doesn’t even pay you for obeying her. You would be more than happy to report to a younger boss as long as you get paid for it. Impress them with stale quotes on age and intelligence/maturity.

Looking back, what would you do differently in your life? This is a game changer. Look back from the chair, literally. Pretend as if you thought deeply. Then answer: I should have knocked the door before entering. I am deeply sorry that I screwed up your Candy Crush scores.

Jul 22, 2014

When it rains in India

Most parts of India have got their first monsoon showers. The people there are done with going crazy about pehli baarish. However, rains can mean different things to different people, depending on lots of factors.

If Bobby Deol’s Barsaat is the first thing that comes to your mind when it rains, you are as jobless as him. Look around if you can see a Kent purifier shining in your kitchen and an alcoholic oldie trying to suck blood out of your dog’s body because the answer to every question is Kutte, main tera khoon pi jaaunga.

If you stay in Mumbai, rains are as terrible as a natural catastrophe. You are probably adept at anticipating rejection from 87563235512 auto rickshaw guys for plying to Andheri East because your accident policy doesn’t cover you for death by miraculously disappearing into potholes while walking. The local municipal authorities feel that the best they can do to solve the water-logging problems is to put up a board that says ‘Caution: Water-logging area.’ By the time you manage to reach home at 1:00 am, you sincerely pray to God that it rains so heavily that there is no office the day after. If at all there is office, you decide not to take a bath because you rely on Reliance for a shower in the metro.

If rains make you romantic, you might be a loyal Saffola consumer with a young heart.  You still have unparalleled faith in the power of love or you are simply waiting to get laid. You might not have to go through the horrors of travelling to work every day which is the reason why you feel a book + coffee + rains + sitting by the window + smell of the rain makes a perfect quadratic equation. Good for you.

If rains make you rush to the terrace/balcony for collecting the dried clothes, my heart goes out for you. You have been caught in the vicious circle of married life. You are extra careful about not bringing in mud with your shoes when you step inside. With the onset of monsoon, the cloth lines miraculously shift from the balconies to the interiors of your home.
If rains make you feel nostalgic in a sad way, it is quite likely that you had a failed relationship in the past. You can sit at home, turn off all the lights (if you are lucky enough to have power) and listen to the most depressing ghazals and guzzle some rum from a steel glass.

If you rush to grab a plate of fried oily snacks when it rains, you are a Gujju by heart. Your belly is large enough to rest a plate full of hot pakoras & green chutney. You take pride in having a big belly because it simply reflects how prosperous you are. What more, you are even able to maneuver your car merely with your belly as it rubs against the steering wheel.

If you are staying in an area that draws electricity from the state electricity board’s naked overhead cables, keep candles handy. The electricity board will drop the switch immediately when the first line carrying the current gets wet, and shall resume the power only when the last line carrying the current has dried off.

If you feel like going on a long drive when it rains, you are lucky enough to be born/staying in a city with good roads, or you might have inherited a healthy wealth from your ancestors which makes it easy for you to barter gold for petrol. The TATA sky connection at your home has anyways stopped functioning even before the meteorological department’s website was updated with a rain forecast, so no use staying at home.

If you have an intense desire to fabricate and float paper boats in the puddles of water which may later on become breeding mansions for the mosquitoes, you are either a child, or there is a child in you (no, not pregnant) or you are an adult unlucky enough to do this stuff as a kid.

While we are laughing away at this, let us have a moment of silence for Vishwa Bandu Gupta’s cloud CD which might be at the risk of losing all its data due to the storms and rains. (Ref: Vishwabandhu Gupta - Cloud Computing)

Last but not the least, watch out for your friends updating their Facebook statuses as: “I love walking in the rain, coz….” Unfriend them without a second thought.

I shall take your leave now because a high quality video of Tip Tip Barsa Paani with the Yellow Sari clad Raveena Tandon has fully buffered and is ready to be played.

Jun 15, 2014

Social media, Anti-social repercussions

A young techie got murdered in Pune over some Facebook post. I have deliberately avoided writing ‘Muslim’ because blogs don’t have TRPs. Nor do I interrogate people for knowing what they had for lunch under the pretext of saying that the nation wants to know it and then interrupt them while they speak because my opinions are called conclusions. Moreover, as the epic subtitles in a pirated DVD of a Nana Patekar film say, ‘Look Hindu Muslim blood same same’.

I remember the time when social media existed solely for ‘fraandshipss’ and was not taken seriously by anybody. Orkut was the market leader and anonymity that time meant uploading a shirtless photo of Salman Khan as your profile picture while keeping your original name and sometimes IQ too. From those days till date, the evolution of social media has been phenomenal. Lots of social networking sites have come up, vanished, stayed or went unknown. Between ‘look ma, what I made’ and ‘just prepared yummy pasta, yay’, we grew up, and so did the reach of social media.

As the rule of the universe goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. (For the ‘cool’ guys, poison refers to actual poison, and not your drink in a shallow glass which costs you a kidney and a human sacrifice at a bathroom sized pub in a city which never sleeps because an SUV can run over you any time if you sleep). Once the reach of social media increased, it started becoming a new way of getting noticed and heard. Flaunting muscles in front of the mirror is now replaced by a check-in at a gym. Praying to the Lord before food is now replaced by uploading a mandatory picture of the dish on Facebook and consuming it only after someone comments ‘yummmyyy’ on that picture. According to a survey done by nobody, every third person on social media either owns a DSLR or guitar or is a voracious reader who loves black coffee and dark chocolate or is a shopaholic or is a metal junkie or a combination of multiple things thereof.  You might be disowned by the ‘cool community’ if your Facebook profile doesn’t have albums named Sunburn, Metallica, Honeymoon, Goa and the mandatory ‘New Yearzzzz Eve picssss’.  Starving kids in Africa would have been dead if some of us hadn’t contributed an X amount of likes to a picture of a cloud in the sky which looked like Sai Baba because the journalists at India TV thought so. Posting a R.I.P. message miraculously makes the deceased get a fully furnished 3-BHK in the heaven with a high speed broadband connection and a Macbook so that all he can do is to look at your post and thank you.  Every time you post a good morning message, a rooster somewhere strangles itself to death.   

The trouble with us is that, our brains instantly think of destructive ideas whenever we see something free, public or unguarded, be it a state transport bus, Indian railway coach or social media. Morphed pictures and memes of famous people have been doing rounds on social media lately. Depending on your IQ, you can be the one who posts funny stuff or you can be at the other end of the spectrum and lynch such people because you think you are the ultimate savior of the universe.

Grow up guys! A legendary ruler who had won several battles single handedly is not bothered by your opinions nor does he need you by his side to kill people and protect him.

For the ones posting the funny stuff, hold on till the government releases a detailed annexure of topics on which you will be legally allowed to crack jokes. Till then, troll responsibly and keep cursing yourself for being born in a country where a terror bombing attack by a neighboring country is just ‘condemned’ and a Facebook post faces a strong action instantly.

Now kindly excuse me while I go and pimp about this blog-post on my Facebook profile.