I didn’t have the time to write a current post so I decided to recycle an old article of mine from my previous life, with a few minor changes…
Oh Darling Yeh Hai India
A couple of years back, I started my rediscovery of India – I’m told Nehru likes to be tossed and turned in his grave every few years. These are a few impressions; sometimes mere open questions that I continue to puzzle over.
I’m sure you have read many versions of the ‘Driving in India’ story. So, I will skip it, except for a few little nuances I am seeking help to understand. Have you noticed how vehicles sometimes communicate with each other? I am talking about these flashing head lights exchanged between vehicles. My wife tells me they are strictly initiated by the drivers and it serves as a tie-breaker; one who blinketh first shall have the right of way. I don’t think so. I think it’s a mating call – initiated and reciprocated by a pair of vehicles without the drivers having any part to play. Btw, this happens across species, I have seen bikes do that to my car. I really don’t mind all this as long as the vehicles can resist the urge to ‘bang’ each other, pardon my French. Many egoistic drivers pretend to take control and stick those headlights permanently in high beam. At least, that is what I want to believe tempts many to drive on high beam all the time. If anyone has a more convincing theory, please enlighten me; may be the next time our vehicles meet on the road?
By the way, how do you recognize a one-way, specially if there’s nothing to indicate one-way or the other? There’s always a few who go against the grain. I usually count the number of autos in both directions and pick the way which has fewer of them. Of late, I even join those brave souls and adventure on the less-trodden paths. Highways throw up a unique set of amusements. As you cut through villages, you will find many local folk making roads their home. I just tell myself I’m driving through Kumbh Mela and that keeps me alert on the wheel. I even drive slow to keep the engine hum at a minimum, lest the old guy napping on the road should wake up. And then there are folks who use unsuspecting vehicles to separate out chaff from their harvest. It’s the Indian ‘freeway’ after all, everyone’s free to use it, any which way.
Let’s get off the road. I always hated elevator conversations. I was worried as I approached the elevator on the first day at work, specially since weather is not much of a topic for idle banter in India. No NBA, NFL, even cricket is seasonal! However, I guess no one could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. Some twenty plus warm bodies displaced about two hundred cubic feet of air and I was frozen in time until a gush of fresh air woke me up. The ride was over! In an atmosphere almost as thin as that of Mars, conversation was not really in my mind; fortunately, others concurred. When the doors opened, there was some sort of welcome party; at least that’s what I naively assumed. I told myself the India office rocks. Yeah right! It was just another bunch of heavyweights who just couldn’t wait for their turn. If the guy next to me hadn’t stamped my leg jolting me out of my stupor, I would have been forced to join this incoming squad on their packed ride back to the ground floor.
I didn’t attend any job interviews in India but sure do feel like I did. You see, my wife was the one ‘HotJobbing’ but it seems like I was interviewing vicariously! Sample some questions she had to answer. First question: ‘What’s your name?’. Redundant, you say? It was aimed at being an ice-breaker. They must have digested too many Law & Order episodes. By the way, why do they ask the suspect to verify his name after hauling his rear into court? Do they presume the person at the box could be someone else? Anyways, I’m digressing here. With the ice broken, it gets more interesting. Second question: Where does your husband work? Third: ‘Oh! Software! Will he be relocating back to the US?’. Of course, not every interviewer was interested in me. There were other focus areas like her in-laws, any kids in the making etc. ‘Do your in-laws live with you?’, ‘When do you plan to make babies?’, ‘Will you quit working after the first one?’. Heck, after such questions, I’ll quit today! I wonder if this constitutes workplace harassment. Anybody?
Before I close, I have to dwell a bit upon the mobile crazy generation. How impatient are we getting? We cannot wait for someone to pick up their mobile, so how about some music in the while! So, we invent Hello Tunes. Or their look-alikes (don’t want to be an AirTel-chauvinist). The other day, I was calling up my car loan advisor, Srivatsa Iyengar and I get an ‘Aum…fill in the blanks…Namaha’ in the deepest of voices. For a second, I thought I called up Bikram Iyengar! Maybe the guy at the switchboard messed up the first name? But then, they don’t use switchboards anymore, do they? Well, it turns out, our Srivatsa is god-fearing and assumed all his clients would share his religious fervor. Now, combine this with our fascination with ringtones. Recently, I called a friend of mine, he was so engrossed with his new ringtone that he refused to answer my call. I didn’t mind either tapping my feet to ‘It’s the time to Disco’ on Hello Tunes. It’s almost free entertainment for both of us; we do this often these days! More recently, AirTel extended a goodwill gesture and signed me up for this service, obviously without my consent. I have no idea what music has been cherry picked for me but if you called me and happen to hear ‘I Wanna Make Love To You’, get this straight, I don’t wanna!
Anyways, to cut a long post short, I had been unplugged for a while but I regurgitated the red pill and sunk myself back into the rabbit-hole.