Friday, June 02, 2017

House of Cards: Season 5, Episode 1 - Homecoming of terror

Alert: If you haven't watched the previous seasons of HoC, this review will contain spoilers that you may want to avoid.

"Watch out for each other and watch each other, to keep us all safe and sound," says Claire Underwood in a chilling message addressing the nation. Thus begins the first episode of season 5, aptly titled 'Homecoming of Terror'.

The Underwoods' problems are far from over, even though a full year has gone by between Seasons 4 and 5. To recap, by the end of Season 4, Tom Hammerschmidt writes a Herald article detailing Frank Underwood's murky journey from being Congressional Whip to becoming POTUS, radicalised domestic terrorists execute an American citizen on national television and Conway steadily gains ground in an election that seems almost over for the Underwoods. 

The Season 5 pilot is off to a promising start, befitting of its title, with Frank turning up the rhetoric in the House, for war against terror. It is quite a scene out there, as Frank derails the House agenda in order to push his own, much reminiscent of the Frank from seasons past, only louder, larger and more dramatic than ever before.

However, the episode does sag in between. Claire defends Frank about the Herald article in what seems to be a very defensive interview, while Hannah, the perfect wife and mother of that promising Republican candidate goofs up even though it turns out favourable for Conway. As Tom Yates puts the viewer to sleep with some unnecessary appearances and boring dialogues in his sleepy voice, Macallan and LeAnn have a heart to heart that leads nowhere. For a few minutes, it feels like the director owed one each to all the characters and hence had to figure out a dialogue or two for each of them. Except, except, for that one meeting on policy decision between Cathy Durant and the POTUS, which seems to have been picked straight off the real world.

As we get into the last 15 minutes of the episode, the set-up gets craftier and more intricate. Terror can be manufactured on home ground, especially when it is the necessary condition to regain and hold on to immeasurable power. Some of these scenes towards the end are unreal, and send a shiver down the spine, of how possible and probable it is to create stories that can be fed to people in order to dial up the fear in their hearts. 

While there seems very little chance of a second innings for the POTUS, the stage is set for the Underwoods to fight this battle like none other they have fought before, using the considerable resources at their disposal. As Claire and Frank sign off, the viewer knows that this is going to be one riveting season of twists and turns, and perhaps, it isn't yet time for the deck of cards to come crashing down.

Overall, it is an episode worth watching, of a season worth the year long wait!

Frank Underwood is coming to India with the television premiere of House Of Cards Season 5 on Saturday, 3rd June, 5 PM onwards, only on Zee Café! For more details, check out the Zee Cafe Facebook page here.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

I don't want to cry

The past few days have been terrible, terribly scary. Memories of the past have been gushing into my active mind from the passive storage at the back. After the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, I have been scared of bomb threats and potential terrorist attacks - I remember spending all of last year's long weekend during Republic Day holed up at home fearing a potential bomb blast, also informing V that I had a "bad feeling" about this. He gave me strange looks, and thankfully, didn't commit me to an institution. And, of course, contrary to my very smart intuition, nothing happened. 
To cut a long story short, I have been paranoid the past few days about going online. Are you asking me why? Have you been living under a rock? Else, there is no way you didn't hear about the WannaCry RansomWare attack. No matter - I give you here a few quick tips to avoid such cyber threats in the long run. Thank me later.
  1. Don't open bank accounts. Even if you do, don't keep money in said bank accounts. Keep everything as cash in your house locker. And keep the keys of that locker under your mattress. And keep the mattress in the loft. Also, move the loft to the top of the Himalayas. 
  2. Burn all your credit cards. Wait. Don't. Just keep applying for new credit cards every month for your online transactions. Since you don't have a bank account or money in the bank account (from Step 1 above), there is no way you can pay your credit card bills. So, it's cool. 
  3. Don't open Facebook or Twitter profiles. Or open them, but give details of your next door neighbour. Oops. This is 2017. You perhaps don't even know if a door exists next door. And, you don't want to find out because you are trying to minimize human interactions, hence the need for Facebook. Don't worry - Just open a profile under Justin Bieber's name. However, be careful not to list "lip sync" as an area of expertise. People will figure out that your profile is fake.
  4. I know what you are thinking, but you should be off Tinder too. That's difficult right. Actually, I will give you an easier way. Just throw away your million rupees smart phone. Hmmm... get it. Tough to throw away a million rupees. Change the settings to flight mode and use it as a camera cum mp3 player. You can click that corner near the curtain with precision using that 20mp camera while listening to some soul stirring sufi music on decibel high. But, but. That ain't enough. Take a big cutting plier and hack away that wire connecting the broadband. 
  5. That leads to our next complication. What happens to that Jio Prime connection you took in the hope of some more free 4G? Forget it man. Let Ambani enjoy some money.
  6. Did you upload that photo of the corner of your house under Justin Bieber's name on Facebook? Now, the thieves are on their way to siphon off all your money in hard cash. However, little do they know that you have stowed the loft containing the mattress under which the key to the locker exists, away atop the Himalayas.

Feeling safe already? Don't. Google maps has marked you, mapped you and is watching you, and there is no way that footprint is going away. The thieves might still come over in the hope of getting your kidneys. And, I can think of no smart way to save you from that.

So Long!

P.S. All in good humour only, so don't hold me responsible if you decide to implement any of the above steps and start suffering from SMWA (Social Media Withdrawal Anxiety).

Monday, May 01, 2017

Z for Zipping up

It's done. And I am a day late in wrapping it up, spilling the challenge over to May. However, as things stand, I am amazed I even got this far. So, firstly, pat on self's back. Followed by a few bullets on takeaways from the challenge.

  • Friends matter. Friends who care about a blogging challenge that the general populace might find silly matter even more. However, friends who care so much about your challenge that they remember it more than you do, pushing you to deliver every day, matter much much more. Thanks Ramya, for the encouragement and push. I am so terrified of you now that I will zip up and refrain from mentioning any such challenge to you ever again!
  • Thanks to everyone on my Facebook friend list who diligently followed the blog from A to Z, 'like'd when the posts were nice, commented when they were better than nice and chided me when I wrote utter crap. Your views and reactions kept me going as much as Ramya's pokes did.
  • I hate to admit this, but it was a difficult challenge. And, I was supremely stupid to even attempt it this year. Which meant I churned out a lot of posts in which my heart wasn't. It has been a satisfying challenge in that I managed to complete it (credits to mom for sharing the load so beautifully), but in terms of quality... nada.
  • And, the quality question brings me to the most important takeaway. I believe that my best writings are ones where I am most honest. There are testimonies to that in the past. But, it has been difficult for me to be open and honest in writing this month, save for this one post. Given the new entrant in our life, my days are filled with Little Person (LP), and hence fodder for the posts are restricted to LP rather than the whole wide world of work, working and the works. But, my heart hasn't been in it. Writing about LP feels like a violation of LP's privacy, and has stopped me from writing honestly. That feels quite disheartening, to say the least. Maybe, a personal diary is the way to go, to open the faucet and let out all those emotions that are dying to join this world of words.
  • I think I will take this challenge up next year too, it does add meaning in a strange sense to my life. Perhaps, I will try my hand at a particular theme so that the randomness is reduced and I have more discipline in writing something useful.

P. S. This post is the twenty sixth and last in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.

Y for Yeman

A conversation between me and my Mind Voice (MV)

MV: OMG! You are going to die.
Me: Huh? What happened?
MV: You just consumed poison.
Me: Wha..? When?
MV: Just now. You will replace that Mukesh fellow who comes as a warning before every movie in the cinemas.
Me: Hello! I don't have the habit of consuming tobacco or any of its ancillaries. What drivel are you driving towards?
MV: Tobacco only leads to cancer. And cancer has a cure. What you ate will lead to Yeman* knocking on your doors soonish.
Me: Dude! The only thing I had this morning was bread, with butter by the side. Are you referring to the butter? And what the hell is DBGOA?
MV: Not just any bread. You had white bread! The only evil in this world, yeah it is worse even than terrorism. You will Die By Guilt of Association, mark my words.

* Yeman is Tam for Yama

P. S. This post is the twenty fifth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.

Friday, April 28, 2017

X for X-mas

As a kid, I had a silly fascination for Christmas. There were all things right about it - twinkling stars, red and white costumes, cakes and chocolates. Conveniently for my parents, I was not gullible enough to believe in Santa Claus. Every year, I would want to celebrate Christmas, which really didn't mean anything more than installing a star outside our house. But, there was considerable effort involved in that as dad had to get a special bulb for it, fix the wiring and then tie the star out on the porch. Every evening, I would switch on the light religiously at 6 pm and admire the star against different backgrounds of the evening ranging from twilight to night, before retiring to bed, my contribution to Christmas celebration complete. Mom had the more difficult job of explaining to people why a TamBrahm family had a star hanging outside the front door, giving company to the mango leaves thoran atop the door. She did manage the situation with elan, offering a simple explanation - "Because Kavitha likes it". 

After New Year, the star and the bulb would be brought down and carefully packed, rendered to safe custody till next Christmas. Oh, wait, wait. The bulb would have another use in the September-October season. Do you remember that doll festival I spoke about here? The bulb would be installed to give company to the dolls as night lamp (yeah, the dolls sleep better with a night lamp on) during the Navratri celebrations. Quite a secular bulb, that one. 

I didn't just have a fascination for Christmas but I liked going to the Church as well in those days. My parents contributed their bit by worshipping at the Church and the Mosque as well along with the zillion temples already on their list. Perhaps, they believed that appeasing all gods was a smarter way to keep the family safe and happy than being partial to one or one set of Gods. Looking back, I can attribute my love for the Church only to the fact that it was clean and silent, unlike many of the temples I was subjected to. I had no view on the religion itself, but I had a couple of large pictures of Mother Mary and Jesus hanging in my room because they looked beautiful.

I did of course harbour the idea of a Christmas tree at home, but that was shot down with the "Don't push it too much" look from my mother. A few years back, I ended up traveling to Australia during Christmas and had my fill of photographs with big, small, wide, narrow and all-kinds-of Christmas trees as backdrop, to satiate my forever dream of a Christmas tree. But, the travel also left me with a lesson learnt hard: Don't travel to Australia during Christmas. Almost all restaurants, cafes and eateries are shut from Christmas to New Year, as the people who run those places take off to celebrate the holidays.

P. S. This post is the twenty fourth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.

W for Words

Potent like poison,
Can bite, seep through, make a mark, spread like wild fire.

Empty like air,
Can swoosh through people without so much as a tremor.

When used right,
Convince, confuse, jolt entire worlds.

When used as fillers,
Get ignored like the ad in a YouTube video.

Action following them,
Are difficult to combat, let alone ignore.

All words and no actions,
Are difficult to digest, let alone revel in.

Words, words,
Short, long, simple, complex,
Meaningful, nonsensical, deep, shallow,
Not just a bunch of letters but
A whole load of emotions and attitudes.

P. S. This post is the twenty third in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V for Views

I am a sucker for interesting views of cities and towns I visit. From atop observatories and castles and hills, cities look like lego sets, with toy houses, little specks of people and moving wagons in the backdrop of sun and the clouds. From other places, it is fascinating to catch the fast pace of the city, from ferries and trains and coastlines.

These are some of my favourites:

Prague: A quaint little town with red rooftops and a greenish castle amidst it from atop Petrin hill's observatory tower

Sydney: The view from inside the Sydney Opera House onto the Bay

Ljubljana: A quaint little village, idyllic in every sense of the word, as viewed from the Predjama castle

Hong Kong: New Year's Eve, from the Star Ferry, onto Hong Kong CBD

Bosnia and Herzegovina: While traveling by bus from Split to Dubrovnik in Croatia, the roads pass through a small patch of Bosnia in between (with passport check points included)

Dubai: The very famed musical fountain inside the Dubai Mall, where one can lose many hours without spending any money

Macau: A busy street filled with holiday shoppers on New Year's

Udaipur: The entire City Palace, as viewed from Lake Pichola

Mumbai: My most fav, Mumbai during monsoons

Mumbai: Gateway of India, viewed from the top floors of the Taj Mahal hotel

P. S. This post is the twenty second in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.

U for Useless

I am a great fit for Bombay. I have major OCD that extends beyond just arranging things in order and putting 'em in their place. I hate clutter, am always on the lookout for throwing away items that are not useful. V is the polar opposite. He can never really make up his mind about whether to keep or discard anything, which means we have piles and piles of stuff that may-potentially-be-partially-perhaps-useful some day, things I think should walk out on their own into the garbage bin across the road right this minute. 

We had an incident once that made me realise how real the struggle is. This was Prague in 2015. We had trekked too much (by my standards) up a smallish hill and the sole of one of my shoes gave away. We managed to come down, hunt up a shoe shop before closing time (do you know they start closing at 8pm :O) and found a brilliant pair as replacement. I immediately wore the replacement, packed the old ones into the new box and tossed the box into the garbage bin nearby. V was flabbergasted. "How could you throw it away?" he asked me, as if I had thrown away an autograph from A R Rahman and not a worn out pair of shoes which it would make little sense to transport all the way back from Prague to India only to... throw it out. I tell you, between us, the struggle is real.

Anyway, despite my OCD and occasional arm twisting of V (figuratively), I still end up with a lot of the following. Hence, my life has become one long decluttering exercise.
  • Papers - Bills, credit card receipts, toll bills, the works. Half the reason these stay is because I have conserved my consulting mentality in the hope that someone is going to reimburse these bills some day. The other half is because V keeps them in his wallet and keeps the wallet out of my sight. You may ask why something in his wallet bothers me. Just that, sometimes (most times), his wallet bulges so much that he stuffs them in his jeans pocket, puts the said pair of jeans to wash, and makes sure all my clothes come out glittering in damp credit card receipt paper. 
  • Old apparel - Worn out shoes, dresses that have become too small are all stashed away in the far corner of the many lofts in this house in the hope that... in the hope that what?!
  • E-commerce boxes - This one is my contribution and I am not proud of it. I ordered a small packet of decorations from Amazon, it got delivered in a large carton fit to hold 20 Maggi packets, and I retained the carton in the hope that it will come handy some day. That's not the only time I have done it. I hate you, e-commerce!
  • Obsolete tech products - I have two old kindles, one old tablet, a dead laptop and a phone that no one is willing to exchange for the phones I vie for. And, I have no clue what to do with those. Those are times I know our civilisation is in decline, we will all drown in molten tech hardware someday.
This post has given me new hope. Once this blogging challenge is over, I am going to bounce back to clearing out the junk lying around here. It is too difficult to declutter and de-junk our minds, but surely it must be much easier to declutter the space we live in. No?

P. S. This post is the twenty first in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.

Monday, April 24, 2017

T for Tiger

Following this, little person and I are ready with our next story, again translated from Tamil in which language I narrate the story.

Veer the tiger was in a contemplative mode. He was not able to focus on anything - walking, running, hunting, eating, sleeping. Nothing. This hiccup was killing him. He had always hiccupped a lot but with time it was getting worse and he did not know what to do.

Getting up resolutely, he decided it was time to ask someone for advice. Off he went, in search of Bully Bull, who, he heard was a pro at health tips. 'Hic... Hic... Hic...' he said as he walked towards Bully's hang-out area in the jungle. Frustrated with his 'Hic'ing, he led out a low groan "roaaaaa..... hmmmm....hic... hic... arr". Hearing this menacing sound, Bully Bull, who was up until then happily lolling about in the shade of a large tree, got up and jumped into the wilder parts of the jungle in an attempt to escape from Veer. As Veer slowly reached Bully's spot, he realised that Bully had left. Too tired to follow him, he meandered slowly, unmindful of where he was going.

With time, he came upon the Deer settlement. Perhaps, Dancer Deer would be able to help, Veer thought to himself as he made a beeline. Sensing a predator in the vicinity, all the deer fled off the settlement, leaving Veer alone. "Hic... Hic... why is no one around to help me? Hic... Hic... Roa....groa....nnn", Veer moaned dejectedly. 

That's when he heard a voice from up above. "Hey Veer. What's up?" said Wise Monkey swinging from one tree branch to another. "Hey Monkey... Hic... Give me a solution for my hiccup issue," said Veer hurriedly before the onslaught of another set of hiccups. 

Wise Monkey: Hmm. Ok. Let me ask you a question. Answer me honestly
Veer: Ok... Hic Hic.
Wise Monkey: How do you eat your food?
Veer: Hic... What question... Hic... is this? With my mouth only... Hic Hic Hic...
Wise Monkey: Uff! Not like that. Tell me the process.
Veer: I snatch my prey, stuff it into my mouth Hic Hic Hic... and gobble it up! Roarrrrrr
Wise Monkey (closing his ears): Ok Ok. Listen to me. You should always chew your food well before swallowing it. That's how you can avoid hiccups.
Veer: Oh! Hic Hic Hic. Ok let me try this solution. If it doesn't help, I will come in search of you and... Roarrrr.. Hic hic... roarrrrr
Wise Monkey: Haha sure

And then, Wise Monkey swung away from tree to tree till he was far away from sight. Veer resolved to chew his food well and eat next time he caught his prey and went humming in between his hiccups, dreaming about his next prey.

P. S. This post is the twentieth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S for Serials

I was born and brought up in Chennai, with the typical English as first language and Tamil as second language, education. I didn't see the need for knowing Hindi then, and neither did my parents. In fact, there was absolutely no discussion or confusion about what my second language should be in primary school (we had 2 options - Tamil and Hindi). The reasoning was simple - mom and dad refused to enrol me in for a subject they wouldn't be able to help with at home. But, that didn't stop us from listening to Hindi music and going for Hindi movies. The former is still manageable but imagine three pure-bred Tams sitting in the cinema hall watching a Hindi movie set in deep rustic Uttar Pradesh. Actually, don't imagine. Just think about how we didn't even have Wiki to read up the story later on. We still managed to enjoy the movies because we most often than not went for the sake of them songs. Those were the days! Anyway, I digress.

I did struggle though. I liked (still like) humming songs, and my idol A R Rahman was becoming big in Bollywood. Which means I had to, had to, hum Hindi songs. And, become the butt of all jokes in school because of those mean girls in the other sections who had Hindi as their second language, and also looked North Indian (white, you know; if you don't, read this). So, I was always on the lookout for learning Hindi words, in bits and pieces. 

And, I got the perfect tool for that in that '90s Doordarshan world, when Tamil DD didn't even have serials of its own. We used to get serials dubbed from Hindi, titles included. Which means Junoon became Pidivatham (adamancy), Imtihaan became Sodhanai (challenge), Dard became Anbai Thedi (in search of affection), Shanti stayed Shanti and Tu Tu Main Main became... I don't remember. I still don't know whether those Hindi titles really match in meaning to their Tamil counterparts, but they are still stuck to memory.

The serials themselves were not noteworthy, and if I remember right, many of them were never taken to completion. Not that my parents let me see any of them, except for those snatches in between after dinner time when I had furnished sufficient evidence of completing my homework and revisions. However, I did insist that I would watch "Dekh Bhai Dekh", which I think aired every Thursday from 9.30 pm to 10 pm. That's when DD would decide to throw a bummer. Half the time, the tamil version wouldn't get telecast, leaving me alone with the Hindi version. Which meant I spent half an hour watching Shekhar Suman prancing up and down an elaborate joint family set, while Farida Jalal would put in guest appearances on and off with some wisecracks (I think so, because the serial would have that silly laughter track running when someone said something funny).

Sundays were a different deal though. There was Shaktimaan and Jungle Book on TV and I was "allowed" a couple of hours after getting up in front of the idiot box. Do you know who my first crush was? It was Captain Vyom, of the Captain Vyom fame. Did you click through and figure out who that is? Had my head in the right place even then, didn't I? Why don't they make such gorgeous looking serial heroes anymore on Indian television?!

P. S. This post is the nineteenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

R for Remarks

Why are you studying that course? You won't get married.
Why are you still studying? You won't get married.
Why are you in such a high paying job? You won't get married.
Why don't you do housework? You won't get married.
Why do you argue so much? You won't stay married.
Why aren't you married yet? You aren't the marrying type.
Why are you marrying that guy? You aren't the marrying type.
Why do you work after marriage? Quit your job.
Why don't you cook? You are married now.
Why do you travel so much? You are married now. 
Why don't you have a baby yet? Quit your job.
Why don't you have a baby yet? You aren't the baby rearing type.
Why do you still work? You have a baby now.
Why don't you breast feed your baby? You aren't the breast feeding type.
Why don't you augment with formula? Your baby is tiny, you aren't the baby rearing type.
Why don't you have a second child? You aren't the baby rearing type.
Why do you still work? Your kid won't grow up well, you aren't the kid rearing type.
Why are you divorced? You were never the marrying type.
Why are you marrying again? You will never be the marrying type.
Why are you traveling solo? You aren't the family type.
Why do you live alone? You aren't the family type.
Why do you need a big house? You are a widow now.
Why are you a widow? Because you are a sinner and this is your punishment.
Why do you have no son? Because you are a sinner and this is your punishment.
Why do you work so much? You won't stay married.
Why do you work so much? You aren't the baby rearing type.

Types and typecasts, comments and more comments, judgments and more judgments - It takes a special something thick skin to navigate this world and its ugly remarks all through life, from birth to death.

P. S. This post is the eighteenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.

Q for Qing

I have been nursing this crazy idea of learning Mandarin for a few years now. Idea because, doing business with China is becoming an increasingly important factor in wealth amassment. Crazy because, I have this theory that knowing the common language is an important factor in doing business or for that matter, doing anything better. 

So, breakthrough happened a couple of years back when good friend K also evinced interest in learning Mandarin, and we enrolled for a basic spoken Mandarin course with the most famous institute in Mumbai. It was a 2 hour session every Sunday for 12 weeks. 

My fighter alter ego kicked in, and I am proud to report that I attended all but one class (which I missed because of a holiday I had planned much before enrolling for classes). I am also proud to report that I did my homework every week before the class, which meant that Saturday nights were spent practising mā, má, mǎ, mà and ma (having five different meanings ranging from mother to horse). Surely, that's not how V would have liked to spend Saturday nights, but, hey, variety is everything.

Overall, those were a great three months, and reminded me of how I have always enjoyed being a student, learning something new and wanting to show off what I have learnt. More importantly, the class was composed of a motley group of people across age groups and professions (starting from 18 years all the way upto 60) which was refreshing, for I have been in classrooms and offices interacting with mirror images of myself for over 25 years now.

The age group is of note here. The 18 year olds were obviously the biggest fighters in the class, and the fighting tapered down with the increasing age. I was definitely behind the real students on the fight meter, but much ahead of the rest of the class. Eventually, Judgment Day arrived and emotions ranged from "Please, let me pass" to "I am going to top this one" as we answered our test papers. Since this was Mandarin 101 and our teacher was a native speaker from Guangzhou, we just had to hang around for 10-15 mins while she corrected our answer sheets and distributed the same. I liked the number I saw on my sheet, kept it down and looked around to sighs of relief from my friends (yes, made a few out there) who had also become eligible to get their certificates that evening. Meanwhile, you remember that friend I had enrolled with? - He came over grinning saying he had got some 85 and what did I get? (We are friends from B-school so exchanging marks is a die-hard habit). I told him and I heard a 'hush' from behind - It was one of the 18 year olds. She had got 88, had already seen her fellow 18 year old's paper which had a 92, and now she was in for a shock - she wasn't second in class but third, because I had got a 94.

At that point, I really felt sorry for having disappointed this kid. But, hey, come on! You cannot always underestimate someone because they are older and more prone to memory loss and Alzheimer's, can you?

Q for Qing because it is realllllly hard to find a word starting with Q, and Mandarin is a unique language where q is pronounced ch (qing is pronounced ching that is). Also, qing means 'please' in Mandarin, for the benefit of the knowledge-thirsty ones.

P. S. This post is the seventeenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P for Performance Pressure

Pressure is real, performance pressure that is. I have felt performance pressure all through my life. Sometimes, I have performed well, sometimes I haven't. However, conquering performance pressure isn't a test I have passed ever, forget winning. And, it has never bothered me much, the fact that I suffer from performance pressure, though the pressure itself is quite a deadly thing, leading to, amongst other things, severe anxiety, unending headaches and a constant fear of under-performance and ridicule.

The one common thread to all these situations is that they have all been under my control - school tests, exams, interviews, excel models, presenting to CxOs. If things work out, I know it is because I put my best foot forward. If things don't work out, I know I should have put a better foot forward.

However, pregnancy changed all of that. It is obviously an unknown, but the actual experience makes one realise how much of an unknown and erratic nine months it can really be. Every blood test became a make or break, every scan a do or die. I would beat myself up for every increase in blood sugar level, blame myself for any scan that showed any of the measurements of the baby outside of the normal range. I couldn't rationalise the pressure I felt because it was not rational. There was no explanation because I was doing all that was under my control right - healthy food, exercise, check-ups, supplements. In fact, I once asked the doctor what exactly I had done wrong to have ended up with this scan result. She looked at me as if I had walked down from Mars, and told me, in that matter of fact tone she used for pretty much any explanation, "Has nothing to do with you. Each female body is different."

And, I know it is just the beginning. There is a long road of pressure to be handled, longer pathways of irrationality to overcome. Then again, that's the thing about irrationality. There is no rational way you can overcome it to become a saner person.

So, cheers to irrationality and erm... motherhood.

P. S. This post is the sixteenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

O for Outrage

The doorbell was ringing incessantly. Outraged, Kovakkari* woke up and tossed the blanket aside. For a second, she blinked, and then picked up the blanket again, only to throw it across the room with tremendously righteous force of anger. 'When did I buy a saffron coloured blanket?' she yelled at no one in particular as she got up to deal with the doorbell.

As Kovakkari pulled open the door with a huff and a puff, the milkman stood there with the monthly card. It was that time of the month. Already. Kovakkari looked at the bill - 325.75 rupees was the value of the milk she consumed last month. "Bloody demonetization. Bloody saffrons. Bloody..." as she attempted to curse further, the milkman gave up, telling her he was ok to collect it next week if she could keep the exact change ready, and made off in a hurry.

Losing the one person audience she had for her anger, Kovakkari scuffed against something papery down on the floor. 'What the...' she started, realised it was her morning newspaper, picked it up in a hurry and brought it in. 

Making herself a cup of black tea (she had signed up for the 'Black is Beautiful' campaign against 'Fair and Lovely' the previous night) and picking up a Ragi cookie (the nearest to black that she could get without compromising on her 'Made in India, No Swiss chocolate' oath from day before yesterday), Kovakkari settled down and picked up her laptop. Of course, as the laptop booted up, she conveniently set aside the fact that it was a white coloured 'Made in China' device. If you had questioned her on the choice of laptop, she would have said, "Arrey yaar, it consumes lesser electricity. I am saving for the sake of my power deprived country no."

Going directly to her Twitter feed, she skimmed through for the latest in the world of outrages. Nothing worthwhile, she realised, as she started flipping through the 'Paper of India'. "Ah! Here it is, I got it!" she yelled excitedly as she circled an item in red, before going back to Twitter. "Yo saffron brigade, stop promoting exclusive orange sarees #bhakt #stopthisnonsense", she typed and clicked a photograph of the paper as evidence, to post along with her tweet. It was an advertisement for 'Govinda Sarees' with models waving the pallus of their red, orange and yellow coloured sarees into the air, heralding 'Ram Navmi'. 

As Kovakkari finished her black tea in silence while monitoring the RTs on her tweets, she came across a tweet on 'Azaan' by that famous singer. "What is this Azaan? Sounds Urdu-ish", she told herself as she googled up the meaning. 

Another outrage brewed in her mind, as it did elsewhere in the world of social media.

* Kovakkari means 'Angry Woman' in Tamil

P. S. This post is the fifteenth in the 
A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

N for Networking

Not many of us have fine tuned the art of networking, the real face-to-face networking that is - alumni meets, office parties, get-togethers etc. In fact, a lot of us aren't even well versed with the ABC of networking which is just walking up to someone unknown, introducing ourselves and hitting upon a topic to speak about. 

To solve the problem of real life networking and to further our professional interests, providence gave us LinkedIn. Thanks to this invention, we can really walk upto anyone and ask for a job straight out, without introducing ourselves or finding a common topic to speak about. How cool is that? Not really. 

Let's all spend a silent moment thinking about all these things we do on Linkedin, and ask ourselves if we will think it decent and productive to do any of them in real life, in a social setting we attend with the precise focus of advancing our careers.

  • Cribbing - Thinly veiled attempts at cribbing about investors, entrepreneurs, recruiters, candidates etc. are silly. If you have something not so nice to tell someone, go and tell them. If you are afraid of doing that, don't tell them. If you want to let it out of your system, call up a friend and tell them. If you don't have any friends to tell it to, perhaps, the issue is with you, not with the other person. The people on your LinkedIn network aren't volunteers at AAI (Agony Aunt Inc.).
  • Posting for a job for someone else - Recently, I came across a posting by someone looking for a job for their good friend. The poster said, "She is a great HR manager with 'x' years of work experience. She is currently in a very bad job with a very bad boss blah blah blah". The poster had of course tagged the lady in question, which meant anyone on her LinkedIn network, including her bad boss and the employees in her bad company could see it. If this isn't bad blood and the antithesis of a graceful exit, what is? It may have been a signal to her company to buck up and treat her better, but it still is in bad taste.
  • Expressing interest in public - Someone posts a job profile and mentions that if you are interested, you need to send in your details to a specific email id. You promptly go there and type "Interested" in the comments' section. This serves two purposes - 
    • Exposing to everyone on your LinkedIn that you are looking for a job. Maybe, that was the idea - so your boss will know you are on the lookout and will up your salary and give you a promotion 
    • Pissing the job poster off - Didn't they expressly mention that you need to contact them separately? How lazy is typing a wayward 'Interested' in the comments' section?
  • Sending a LinkedIn request to connect with no information about yourself - At least update your profile before sending out invites to connect. Imagine walking into a networking event (not a masquerade ball) in a mask and expecting people to shake your hands and introduce themselves. Similarly, you cannot have a name that says "A. R.", 2 connections (B. S. and C. T.) and send out invites to connect. The place for that is Orkut, not even Facebook.
  • Sending a LinkedIn request to connect with too much information about yourself - I recently got a message from someone I don't know (not a 2nd degree connection) that started off with "I lost my job at XYZ company and I am urgently on the lookout..." It sounded similar to those scam emails we get about the Nigerian widow who has billions that need to be got out of the country. Do any of us want to sound like a scam, do any of us want to come across as sham on a professional networking site? Even if that's not the case, do we want to wake up the pity hormone in the receiver when sending a message, and not really talk about our areas of strength and profile as an introduction? I guess the answer to all those questions is no. 
Do you have any more such do's and don't's for LinkedIn? What are they?

By the way, after an internal struggle with my saner alter ego, we have decided not to post this on LinkedIn and fall under the first category of peoples outlined here, out there.

P. S. This post is the fourteenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

M for Miniature

I have a fascination for miniatures. I think all of us who have played with some doll or the other (even a teddy) as a child would, for that matter. More so for me because we have been ardent celebrators of Navratri or the doll festival since I was born. For those not familiar with this festival, go right here

A few years back, when I happened to visit Amsterdam's Rijks' Museum, I was fascinated by the collection of miniature doll houses there. Apparently, it was quite a tradition amongst the rich households of yesteryear Amsterdam to commission and design miniature doll houses of their own houses. It was a favourite pastime of the lady of the house. In fact, calling it a pastime seems to trivialize the money, time and energy they put into getting it done - replicating the curtains, carpets, flooring, furniture to the exact fabric, marble and wood used in the actual house. 

Look at this one I caught in Rijks'. Isn't it beautiful?

Very recently, I read this book "The Miniaturist" which is set in seventeenth century Amsterdam, and while the premise borders on a miniature doll house commissioned by the lady of the house, it does eerily get into how whatever is designed for the doll house happens in real life. The miniatures have minds and souls and lives of their own, living on in that little doll house, directing what happens in the real house. Almost!

I have little person in my hand as I type this, and it is fascinating to note how babies are miniature versions of human adults - mini hands and legs, mini mouths and faces, mini mini fingers and toes. But, it is also equally fascinating to think of how they are not miniatures in every other sense of the word - the amount of time, energy and love they consume and absorb is quite unparalleled really!

If I were a theist, I might even call babies miracles. But, since I am not, I will just leave it at calling them babies, absolutely adorably cute miniatures that are infinitely better versions of what human adults corrupt themselves into becoming in the course of a lifetime.

P. S. This post is the thirteenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.