Thursday, February 16, 2012

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'M ENGAGED!!!

It is fitting that I write this blog after the space of nearly a year, especially because my last post spoke about my resolutions for the New Year. And if you go through that post very carefully, you will note that one of my resolutions concerned finding myself a wife and, with her, making resolutions for the next year.

Now, lest you be misled by my last statement, my priority is not to have support for making my next year's resolutions, though such support is always welcome - especially from a loving wife, but rather to actually find that wife. And this, I might say with some satisfaction in my heart, seems to have become a reality. Which is also why I am writing this post now. I promised my beautiful fiancee I would have it ready before morning, though she, being the sweet, considerate soul that she is, told me not to stay up and put myself through the trouble. So I did just that, because trouble is just what loving fiances do to sweep their beloveds off their dainty feet (and man, my fiancee does have the daintiest feet you have ever seen).

Well, I did not actually find the wife myself. Nor is she my wife yet. The story goes something like this, in a nutshell. After going on for most of my life (28 years to be precise) without having so much as a single fruitful relationship, I began to think that I must have some chronic problem with my ability to impress the softer sex. I mean, it's not like I don't have the potential. There must have been something in me that drew girls to me when I was so high. In class 2, I was the king of all Casanovas. Little girls in blue pinafores used to chase me everywhere. That's not to say I was this huge hunk either. I was just about as little as them.

But then something happened after I crossed over into the world of adolescence and then adulthood. All of a sudden, my boyish charm had no effect anymore on the merry lasses. Nor did my merriness either. I mean, they did laugh heartily at my jokes, but all the while when on the arms of their hunky men. Not that I held it against them. I was always distracted by their laughter at my jokes. It's when the laughter stopped, however, that the pain hit home with all its brutal force. I learnt then to adapt my jokes to different situations, so that girls wouldn't give me that look which told me, "Prem, you're a nice guy, but you're also a nice dork." Then the laughter would return, and I would return home with a contentment in my heart that if I didn't have a girl, I did at least have the ability to make some people laugh. Which is something to live for. But not for long...

As I was beginning to push 28, I decided it was time I got some help with finding a wife. After all, the Bible says that he who finds a wife, finds a good thing. It says nothing, however, about he whose parents find a wife for him, but well, the Bible is full of such people whose parents did exactly that - and one of them actually became the father of Israel. Well, not him exactly - it was actually his father - but you get the picture. So we people are destined for greatness. And besides, everytime I think of my beautiful, God-fearing fiancee, I know that life couldn't be any better or sweeter, and that God is in His heaven, and all is right with the world.

So here I am. Or rather, here we are - my fiancee and I. We got engaged on October 10 this year, and that was truly a red-letter day in my life. I won't go into the details, except to say that Priya - which is her name - looked especially beautiful that day, and I felt especially happy, and our parents looked pleased as punch, and my infant nephew and niece looked like they wanted to sing, if they could. All these factors combined to make it a most perfect day, and I wouldn't be lying if I said that ever since that wonderful day, I have been walking around with an extra spring in my step, and I have stopped seeing nightmares at night. I have also been sleeping with a soft smile playing on my lips - that is what I believe, and I am sticking to that story. Proof enough? Well, even if you don't think so, my advice to you would be - never argue with a man in love!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The long and short of it...

As I get ready to sign off this highly eventful year, knowing I might not been able to post anything tomorrow night amidst all the festivities, I feel there would be no better way to toast the past year than by talking about the greatest miracle that happened to me in 2007 - my new job.

I know the story is long in the telling, and I am also highly aware of my propensity for rambling. So I shall I make every effort to tell it as briefly as possible, keeping in mind the salient points and not mentioning details that have no real consequential bearing to the narrative.

Today it seems like I am living a dream, and it seems so hardly real that I continue to wonder at how long it is destined to last! But I am not one of your perpetually pessimistic sad-sacks who look too far into the future and see only blackness. For me, though I wouldn't say I'm not the type to look ahead (I do it all the time, if only for the sake of my spiritual well-being), I still live life in the present, knowing, and believing, that no matter how good things are, they can always get better. In other words, Murphy, take a well-deserved hike pal.

But at least eight months ago, things were not so great! That's where Murphy came in. He always does at such times, to remind you at troubled times that they can only get worse. What would we do without his blithe spirit. There comes a point in all of our lives when after we have taken our fill of his beating, we bite back, snarling and gnashing our teeth. It is then that Murphy retires, knowing that his mission has been accomplished and it is time for him to return to the netherworld.

Coming back to the key phrase - eight months. Remember this - it will come in handy. I was working in a newspaper described, by itself, as India's national newspaper. And my existence, from one day to the next, had become a living nightmare. This is not to discredit the newspaper, for which I still entertain the utmost regard. It is just that it just did not suit me or my personality, just as my woeful stint in the Brethren church (for which I am still grateful for all the spiritual nourishment I got) got me thinking at one point during the proceedings that I was far too living and breathing to be spending my best years among the silent dead (no disaffection again towards either institution mentioned - just an indicator of the resemblance both places had for me to the cemetery on Hosur Road!

I was suffering at work. The daily torment only grew in intensity and my weary spirit used to cry for sweet relief - but none came. And the volume of that inner voice telling me to head for the open spaces only grew in my heavy breast. The only thought that kept me going was that I had only a few more months to get through before I would complete one year in the organisation, and then it would not look so bad on my resume. But with the minutes seeming so long, and the end seeming so utterly lost in the distance, I began to lose hope that I would ever make it out from the valley of death. I used to count the hours at work - six hours left, five hours .... And so the day would pass, I would finish making my page(s) barely in time or after, and I would race home dreading the next day but glad that there would be a good many hours before it happened.

Then one day I receive this e-mail - one of many others - about a job opening in AOL, as a sub editor. The job profile sounded rather promising - and so did the pay - so I told my dad I would apply. He agreed, probably thinking that if it did anything to relieve me - and him - of my moroseness, it would sure be welcome.

Nothing happened immediately. So I began to despair again. One night, in a fit of anger and frustration, I did what any right-thinking individual in my position would have done - I updated my profile on the job site on which I had registered the previous year. Hardly two days later, the calls from job consultants began pouring in. And thus the fun began... and my real story.

My first offer was from a small technology magazine. I wasn't overly excited by the profile, but decided I would attend every interview I could, if only for the experience. So I made photocopies of a sample of my writing work, which I replicated for every single interview to follow, and set out for my first interview.

One thing is to be said at this point about the advantage of working in a newspaper as a sub editor. You get your mornings free to attend interviews - without your employers suspecting a thing. I decided to be entirely discreet about it this time - in my last job I had told one friend after another about my resignation plans, and before I knew it, the situation had reached such a pass that when I went in to the associate editor's office to put in my papers, he took the words right out of my mouth, leaving me speechless.

One interview followed the other. Many rejected me, some I rejected. One technology magazine even hired me, but not before the manager had made a few disparaging remarks about my technology writing, which he wasn't too wrong about but which didn't go down well for my esteem. Nevertheless, I pocketed the offer letter to brush over whenever I got discouraged about my quest, and continued on my way.

Finally, AOL responded. I was called for an interview. I went ballistic. I went mad with anticipation. I knew I had one shot at the perfect job for me - not only would it be in my line of work, in contrast to many of the other interviews for which I had appeared, but the pay packet also promised to brighten up my otherwise sorry existence (many Indian newspapers pay among the lowest salaries in the world).

On the day of the interview, I got my best shirt out, ironed it till every single crease known to man had disappeared, and set out. The setting out, however, had proved a bit disastrous - the lights had gone out an hour before I had to leave and I had neither ironed my clothes nor taken a printout of my resume. In my frustration, I cursed a good deal at the world and everything around it, and wondered if all would be lost. Then the lights returned - late, but in time for me to rush out for the interview.

I landed up slightly late, but when the interview got started this hardly mattered. I was determined to impress. A rather pleasant gentleman sat opposite me, and my words flowed as easily as they have ever done. The job was almost in the bag, I thought. When would I know for sure, I asked my interviewer. In about two days, he replied.

Those two days were the most tense yet of my life. Living through them proved to be uphill, but I managed to.

At the end of those two days, I waited for the call that would relieve me of my pain. But that call never came. So I made it instead. "I'm sorry, you did not make it," the girl at the other end informed me. "It was a hard choice between you and another person, but we've chosen the other. So you can continue your search (a biting reference to my request two days earlier that she tell me of the outcome soon enough so I would know if I should continue my job search)."

It was hard to describe my feelings at that point. Imagine having all your pent-up hopes over two days, combined with the frustration of wanting out of your present job at all costs (I had even at times wanted to just quit immediately and go about jobless for a while; but my dad dissuaded me, thankfully), dashed to tiny bits in one instant. I became suicidal that day. But it was only for the belief in the inevitable judgement to follow at the other side of eternity - a belief that has worked on previous occasions too, though this was definitely the worst - that I am still alive today. The feeling soon passed. But I stayed as morose as a cow. My mom, who is the sweetest in the world, took me out that afternoon in search of some other job options. My mom has always been there for me at such times!

Soon enough, after the manner of my breed, I picked myself up and decided to continue with my quest.

The offer that finally got me out of the newspaper was rather classic. It was for the post of content writer for a music website. The company was new, the colleagues I would have would be hardly my type, and the subject matter I would be dealing with would be totally out of my interests - Indian music and cinema. But such was my crying desire to be out of where I was that I decided to take it up. My dad believed it would be wrong for me. But I was desperate and this helped me bring all my debating skills to the fore. I managed to convince him that taking up the offer wouldn't be the worst thing.

There was a bit of drama at office when I put in my papers. I won't go into the details, but will merely say that my boss, who naturally wasn't too pleased, wanted me to give him a month's notice, but I wasn't willing to endure that. Besides, I had to join the other place in two weeks. So after a bit of disagreement, I soon had had my way and found myself out in the open spaces again. After a few deep breaths of some good, clean air, I was my good old self again.

I now had two weeks before joining my new job. So I decided to continue looking. I appeared for an interview at a software firm - for the post of content editor - and got the job. The terms were fantastic. Blinded by the perks they flashed before my eyes, I fell flat for the offer. So it was goodbye to the online music company.

The same day, however, I got a call from the sports producer of AOL. He wanted to meet me. No harm, I thought, and met him. He was a lovely chap, and spent the whole time trying to give me all the hardest facts of the online business. He ended by saying he would get back to me. But nothing happened for a while. By which time I was forced to join the software firm.

Just before doing so, however, I got a call from Yahoo for the post of content editor. I got excited again - but warily so. I wouldn't allow myself to get carried away this time. I passed the first round. The next followed a few days later. But the result tragically got held up a bit, and I joined the software firm.

Right from the start, I knew I would last here long. The place was just not for me. The deathly silence I was surrounded by was far worse even than that I had experienced in my last newspaper - something I had not thought possible. Somehow I hoped Yahoo would get back to me soon enough. About AOL, I had given up hope already.

It was on Thursday of that historic first week - and the last I would ever have in such a firm - that I got three interesting calls. The first was from Yahoo, telling me I had been selected and that I would have to appear for the final HR round that Saturday. The second was from the sports producer at AOL asking me to come for an interview with his boss. We exchanged a good many tele-conversations through the day as we sought to work out a decent time for this interview - taking into account the fact that the software firm made me work (or rather sit staring at a computer screen and play about on Powerpoint) through the day, thus leaving little time for me to then rush to AOL for a late-evening interview. Even as we were doing so, I received this call from my previous interviewer at AOL, asking me if I could join the news team for the post for which I had been rejected previously. One of his team members had suddenly quit.

I was now caught in a most interesting Catch-22 situation. On the one hand, Yahoo lay before me. On the other, AOL beckoned. Both were rivals. Something in me told me to accept my interviewer's kind offer.

It all now came down to Saturday's Yahoo interview. I knew that a most important and difficult choice lay before me. I wondered if I would be equal to it. But I knew this was not something to worry about - either way I couldn't lose. But which way would it be? I was most interested to find out.

On Saturday, I dressed for the occasion and turned up for the Yahoo interview. My heart beat with anticipation. In less than an hour I would be confronted with one of the greatest choices in my life. I was excited!

But I was shocked at how easy the choice turned out in the end. My offer from AOL had been handsome and there was little reason for me to expect Yahoo to be any different. After all, they had gone through the motions of asking me about my current salary and what I was expecting. But all that did not matter in the end. When the guy placed the offer before me, I was stunned. It was low - so shockingly, abominably and obscenely low. What was worse, it was even lower than what I had been getting.

I walked out from that interview calmly, my strides even in length. A happy smile played on my lips. I had made my decision, and I knew there was no fear of it ever turning out to be wrong.

That was in July. I have never regretted it since!

And yes, you have guessed it right (assuming that you did guess at all). My first interviewer at AOL is now my boss.

Happy New Year to one and all!!!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My cup of joy

Today I was reminded in a rather strange way of the first trophy/cup I won, which happened also to be the last, at least to date. My cousin in Australia had mailed me asking if I knew a certain girl she had met there who said she had studied at my old school. The name was familiar at the first mention itself. This girl had studied in my cousin's class, one year senior to me, and while I had no romantic feelings of any kind toward her, we had once shared a very momentous relationship; a, what-do-they-call-it, co-curricular association. What I mean to say is, it got me that trophy I just mentioned.

With that piece of delicacy behind me, here's how the story goes. I think I was in the eighth standard at the time. I was, and still am, one of those average fellows you see about. We revel in our average status, merely because it gets us from day to day. No sweat or tension, no high blood pressure that comes with achievement or over-achievement, just that forever peaceful expression that helps us sink our teeth gracefully into life with a contented, satisfied smile playing lazily on our lips. You get what I mean. I guess you wouldn't call us the go-getters of life. Of course, if we really want something, there's usually no stopping us - not from any fist or fury on earth or the hell beneath it. We are a determined lot. But for the rest of it, while we do go and we do get, we do so at our own time and pace. You cannot rush us. Why, heck, we cannot rush ourselves for that matter. That's just how we are.

The point I'm trying to make is, while my illustrious siblings were making marks for themselves in our school and in other schools, I pitched in my bit from time to time, but disturbed no lives in the process, least of all my own. And so life passed peacefully on. Then it happened.

As I mentioned, I certainly didn't sit on my ass the whole time. I did try my hand at different amusements, studies included, apart from music, public speaking, quizzes and all the other fun stuff we try to invent for our little minds in school. Man, I feel old. I got a few certificates and they felt good to my touch, but that's about it.

Then one day, they were selecting people to be sent out to another school, a girls' school if I remember right, for one of those inter-school competitions. There was this girl I mentioned who did not have a partner for the crossword competition. So the teachers cast their eyes far, they cast them wide, and that's how they fell on my lazy form moving about somewhere minding its own business.

"Prem," they called me. I ran up. I am capable of a lot of forward movement when it comes to two types of beckoning voices - that of authority and that of the opposite sex.

They asked me if I would accompany the girl as her partner for the competition.

"But I'm not really good at crossword," I protested weakly.

"That's okay," they shut me up immediately. "You only need to go along with her. She'll do the rest."

"Yes, don't worry about it," the girl said, only too pleased to finally be qualified to enter the competition. So I agreed, jumped onto the bus with the rest, and, my mind is a blur about the exact details, reached the other school.

Soon the competition was on in right earnest. I sat along with the girl while she attacked some of the most cryptic clues I had seen at the time. I hadn't actually seen much either before that time or after. But the girl amazed me. She was a real whizz. Stuff I would hardly even imagine, she had unravelled, not without some difficulty of course. But I remember this, to my credit. There were these two clues she just could not figure out. Perhaps it was that my untrained mind was fairly unscarred by previous battles of the kind, but after working the mental machinery just a bit, I had figured the clues out. The girl was grateful. We did get two more points after all. I felt a bit useful too.

We finished and went to kill the rest of the day in the main hall where the other competitions were being held. They were all great fun, and we passed a most relaxing time, at least I did, for I was not thinking overly much about the results. Probably that's why, when it did come, it caught me by surprise. We won the blessed competition. I was thrilled. My companion more so. I was not much the hugging type at the time, nor was she, but we beamed a good deal at one and all. On the whole, a most satisfying experience. I think my hands shook a bit when I went up to collect that famous trophy.

When we returned to school, we went on another congraulatory round with the teachers, who were just as thrilled. "I didn't do much," I said modestly, and honestly too. "She did most of it."

I returned home proudly with the bronze trophy. When I placed it in the family showcase, I noticed with some relish that it was the largest one around at the time.

I had forgotten of course that my younger brother was yet to grow up. Well, he soon did and his trophies soon pretty much filled up all the space in that showcase. They were all larger than mine anyway. All the smaller trophies soon got shifted to some inside cupboard. Mine is probably now lying on its side somewhere sorrowfully nursing its wounds. I must check up on it sometime. Its owner, however, has picked himself up and moved on.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Daily bread

My latest quote:

"Nowadays, 'earning your daily bread' literally means being able to afford a pizza every day after work."

N.B.: Refer to a post in September 2006 called "My quotes".

Monday, March 12, 2007

The folly of procrastination

Two days ago I learnt an important lesson in life from what might seem the most insignificant of incidents. But then I guess that's what greatness is all about - gleaning the most not-so-obvious truths from the almost absolutely mundane.

Well the story goes like this. About fifteen days ago, I got hauled up by a traffic cop trying to make his end-of-the-month earnings in the way only cops know how - pull up someone for not carrying on his person his vehicle papers, or not wearing his helmet, and make him pay a heavy fine. I say 'him' or 'his' because you don't generally see cops stopping women, either because they don't have the heart to do so, or because they don't have the guts to do so, or they take it for granted that women always obey the law. Don't get me wrong - no hard feelings here. Just a small observation and totally inconsequential to my story.

Anyway the cop asked me for my papers. I was totally bored and just wanted to get home without too much delay. This man in front of me seemed like a pesky interference in my plans to retire peacefully to the comfort of my bed for the day, and I threw at him all the boredom and nonchalance that I possessed. I lazily and deliberately brought out my licence and he scanned it closely under the streetlight. That done he asked for my vehicle's emission test certificate. I pulled that out even slower. None of this escaped his keen official eye. But correcting my manner of expression lay quite out of his penal powers. So he did what only he knew best - scanned this document too under the streetlight.

Next he asked me for my vehicle's insurance papers. I produced this too. He scanned them as well. Ah. His eye lit up. At last he had got me. Very casually he pointed a scrubby forefinger at a spot on the papers and told me in Kannada that my vehicle's annual insurance cover had expired. He was triumphant, but professionally casual about it. To me I couldn't care less. My bed still beckoned me. I didn't feel like arguing with him. Besides I couldn't even if I had wanted to, considering that I can hardly put two words of Kannada together. And anyway I was feeling too lazy to part my lips. So I looked at him through half-closed eyes and nodded. He asked me for 500 bucks. 500? - I uttered a mild exclamation of surprise. He nodded indulgently. I shut up and pulled out a note. This was all too boring and I wanted to be on my way again... Soon. He took the note. I asked him for a receipt. I wasn't going to pay a bribe after all. He pulled out the book.

"Name?" he asked.

"Prem," I replied. That was easy.

"Profession?"

"Press (the colloquial equivalent for journalist)."

He stopped and stared like he had bitten into something really hard. I was like, next question please, or so I said with my eyes.

So he continued. "Organisation?"

"The Hindu," I replied. He stopped and stared again, this time like he had bitten into something both hard and bitter.

Then before I knew it he had launched into a barrage of Kannada that absolutely escaped me. Nor was I even bothering to try to understand. But he wasn't angry. In fact, if possible, he seemed even mildly apologetic. This was a strange turn of events. Maybe all my lazy arrogance had suddenly struck him in a new light. I realised, cops are for some reason shit scared of us journalists. Anyway, all of a sudden, amidst this barrage of verbal crap he was throwing at me, he returned me this 500-buck note I had given him, showed me the list of traffic offences that informed me that he was indeed justified in charging me the amount he had asked for, and then waved me on. So I beat it, amused, but thinking, my profession does have its merits. That was something comforting to chew on.

The next day I went over to the bike store to renew my insurance policy. The man went through with all the formalities and told me to return after 10 days or so. When the time came, I went and collected the papers, photocopied them and stored them away in my bike locker.

Now here's where the lesson comes in. One year ago, when I had got the last policy, I had promised myself that I would photocopy it immediately and lock it up in my bike. But, true to my nature, I procrastinated and kept putting it off, thus forcing me to carry it around in my bag everywhere I went. All I had to do was hop across the road from my house and get the thing done. It was a matter of two minutes, approximately. But I kept delaying it and a whole year passed.

It struck me suddenly even as I made a deliberate decision to photocopy the new policy immediately. If I had allowed myself to procrastinate something so small, for a whole year, how much more would I procrastinate bigger decisions in life? Possibly I have been doing so for a long time too. The thought struck me to my bone and it wouldn't be going too far to say I quivered at this point. Procrastination was Hamlet's tragic flaw that actually did him in. There are many things in life I don't want to be, and one of them is a dead Shakespearean hero.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The urge to unload

My latest quote:

"Having a sympathetic friend around is like visiting the loo... There is great relief when you unload."

(For those who came in late, I have a section in this blog that I posted in September, 2006. It's labelled 'My quotes' and I had promised to update it as I go along. Do check it out, if you haven't had the misery of doing so till now...