Psst..You know what??

Gossiping shares an infamous history with women. No one talks about men gossiping or even enjoying bitching about someone behind their backs. I am sure there are men who do so, although the tag is bestowed on the women folk. Since, I hang around more with women, I can sadly vouch for the enthusiasm some (note, not all) women have when it comes to passing disapproving comments on someone behind their backs.

It could be as innocuous as passing comments on someone's sense of dressing to something quite personal as parenting abilities or even marital problems. It is also an eye-opening experience to see how some people notice minor details enough to make judgmental comments later on. One would imagine that the people who find fault with others are themselves just and fair in their behaviour. But, of course, that is not the case. They go by the unsaid rule : If I do it, I have my valid reasons but if Ms.X did it, she definitely deserves to be labeled and bad-mouthed about.

Funnily enough, I've noticed that, these loose talks are done just to pass time or for want of better (read juicier) discussions. Gossip definitely is not a taboo word in this circle and is in fact even taken as having harmless fun (at others expense, of course). The gossip mongers can be ruthless enough not to let go even their own core members off the hook. If you are someone who has had a chance to be on the periphery with such groups, you'll agree that the picture can appear a little scary. At the least, I'd consider it cumbersome to be a part of a group that keeps me on the edge making me analyse every small aspect of my behaviour; if I said something right or if I've dressed right or have conformed to the "social etiquette"? Not to mention the side-effects of passive gossiping. Yes, I believe, like passive smoking, passive gossiping can be equally harmful to your thinking, outlook and not the least your self-image.

I am not adopting a holier than thou attitude here. Let me confess that I have also fallen prey to this practice on a few occasions. Of course, in my defense, it is only with my close-knit group and again never about sundry people who do not concern me. I've never used gossip as an excuse to only just "fit" into a particular discussion.

However I reserve my views about people who find "only" gossip as a way of outlet. It is perhaps the only way they know to make a conversation interesting? In that case, I pity them. Perhaps, they really mean it in a harmless way, not to be taken very seriously. In my opinion, they might alienate themselves before they know it and might run the risk of never knowing their true friends. What do you think?

My money, my right. I shall fight for it

ETA: This post won the second prize at the Women's Web contest. Thank you, Women's Web!

This happened when I was working as a freelance German translator. I was newly married then, had moved cities, and was just settling down in my new life. I wanted to give some time for this new phase in my life before taking up a full-time job. Since I also didn't want my skills to rust in the meantime, I registered with a translation jobs portal, so that I could take up work assignments that suited my new schedule. Soon, I got a call from a translation Agency that was based out of Bangalore. I spoke with the HR, did a sample assignment for them to judge my competency, discussed the rates and terms of payment and we were all OK with the preliminaries. The rate offered was on an average scale and the T&C mentioned a 45 day payment lag after the submission of the assignment. Which meant, I'd be paid 45 days hence for a project submitted today. Although, it struck as being on a wider-range, I naively accepted it since I was new to the whole concept and was excited to begin anyway. 

Work began well and progressed smoothly without any hitch for the first few months. I even got appreciation mails from the HR for prompt and good quality of work. The payment too flowed in without major issues. I started accepting more work. Work would overlap the payment schedule, obviously, since there were 45-days to kill before I got my first payment. Hence I maintained an Excel sheet, where I logged in meticulously the details of : the date on which I'd receive work, date of submission, expected date of payment, actual date of payment and finally the amount of pay. This enabled me to work in an organised manner and also importantly keep track of the dues.

There would be lag in payments, but with some reminders, the dues would be cleared. Then, slowly, the lag began to increase and inspite of repeated reminders, I'd get a standard reply that they are having some trouble rotating their funds as the cash inflow is being delayed and hence as a resultant chain reaction, their cash-outflow is being affected, so would I kindly show some patience. I took the excuse once, and then again. The third time, I refused to undertake further work until my previous dues were cleared. They were not too happy but didn't argue. There was a short period of lull where I was just waited for the payment but there seemed to be no movement from their end. 

Then, one day, the HR called up and had the audacity to ask if was available to take on some work. I sarcastically reminded her that the company owed me a good chunk of money and unless they clear the dues I could never be available for them. She mumbled a few excuses again. This time I was livid and threatened to defame them if they defaulted the payment. She didn't sound too apologetic and at the end of the conversation, I was pretty much convinced of their work ethics or rather the lack of it. As I pondered on my next action, I came across a section on the translator's forum called the Hall of Fame and Shame. Yes, you guessed it right. The freelancers could use this forum to enlist the errant and fraudulent companies they came across during their course of work experience to provide a sort-of cushion to fellow workers so that they could be wary of these fraudsters. 

I didn't have to think further for my next step and promptly added my woe story with the company's name on the forum. I noticed there were many others like me who had back-listed this particular company based on their experience with them. If I had only been more cautious before entering into a contract, I would have been saved the mental agony. I promptly received a call from the director of the errant company the next day itself. We had a long argument where she (note the cheek) threatened me with legal consequences for having defamed their name. I was not the one to back down easily and fought my case to make the point that it is I who was in fact wronged and I could easily move court against the company since I had proof of the contract, the details of payment and also the amount of time lapse. Also, since she knew about the Hall of Shame forum, she'd be well aware of the fact her company had earned the dubious label well before I had entered the scene.

The ugly story ended happily as I won the argument and received the payment in a few days time. But I had learnt my lesson well:
  • First, do your research well before entering into a contract with any company for a short-term or o long-term assignment. 
  • Second, know your rights and be aware of the procedures that can be taken in your favour if things do go wrong and finally,
  • the third, be bold to fight for your rights. In most cases, such fraudulent companies are insecure themselves and a well-thought of reply with facts and proofs will usually do them in.
Sending this post as an entry to the "I stood up Blogathon" contest by Women's web.

Draupadi's predicament

Draupadi sat in a corner brooding. It was exactly a month after the bloody war of Kurushektra and although she was in the victorious camp, the pandavas and their share of loses too. She ran her fingers through her hair, reminiscing about the spate of events. That was it. Her hair! They had turned into a mass of dry and rough stack of hay.

She had bravely taken the vow on that fateful day when she was dragged by her lustrous hair into the packed court of king Drishrashtra to avenge the disgrace that her hair suffered with the blood of Dushasana. Until then she vowed never to tie them. Years of neglect, dust and environmental harshness had reduced the once luxurious, shining and silky mane to a pitiable condition. She decides to discuss this issue with her husbands. After all, they were all mighty warriors and repectable kings in their own right. Will they not be able to find a solution to a problem so mere for their reputation?

The next day, she goes into Yudhistra's chamber. She finds him in a contrite and pensive mood, something that had become a regularity with him since the end of the war. After exchanging pleasantries, Draupadi places her problem before Yudhistra.

"Oh, Queen! I expected better of you. Of all the problems, you are worried about something so trivial?
I have other important issues to be sorted out. I suggest you get a nice massage with a good hair oil."

Draupadi was miffed and angered by the diffident and cold response. Hair-oil, huh? didn't she already know these solutions? Probably, it was foolish of her to expect empathy from her ever just and citizen-loving husband of hers. Blinded by fury, she stomped out of the chamber only to bump into Nakul. Nakul looked at her state in bewilderment and asked her the reason for her distress.

As Draupadi recounted the course of events, Nakul was unable to hide the smirk on his face. A handsome man himself, he felt amused at Draupadi's predicament. Sharp as she was, Draupadi was quick to catch the faint smile and chides him adequately.

"How dare you smirk at me, thus? Don't you dare rebuke a lady! You have already seen the consequence of such a misdeed in the recent past." ,  she hollered

Nakul, though a little vain, was a wise man. He knew better than to incur the wrath of an insulted woman. He was visibly chastened and wisely asked for forgiveness. Though, he was unable to provide any solution, he used his astrological prowess to pacify and mollify the hurt Queen.

"Oh, Draupadi, fret not. Your problems are to end soon. The glory and respect that your hair is worthy of will be restored very soon. Help is at the doors."

Draupadi calms down on hearing this and her spirits are lifted a little even. She goes back to her chamber to cool her heels. Discouraged by the responses of Nakul and Yudhistra, she goes back into a morose state as she is no closer to finding a solution. Arjuna would have been sympathetic and resourceful but as luck would have it he was away on an tour to the earth on an errand by friend, philosopher and guide, Krishna. Bheema would move mountains for her but again he was preoccupied with the cooking challenge that the neighbouring state had thrown.

"Is there no one who can understand my misery? No one who'd not belittle my problem and help me find a solution?", thinks Draupadi aloud.

"Oh, Sakhi! how could you forget me? I, who have stood by you in all your difficult times, did it not occur to you to think of me or am I not worthy of it?" , asks a sweet voice that is mixed with mischief and slyness.

Draupadi turns to see the blue cowherd, dressed in his trademark yellow dhoti and peacock feather tucked in his crown. His twinkling eyes giving away the masked seriousness in his question. Draupadi is about to offer her apologies and explain herself when Arjuna enters in with a packet tucked in his arms. He smiles and gives the packet to Draupadi, who is surprised and confused with the turn of events. Her mind running with questions of how did Arjuna come back early,  How come krishna timed his arrival with Arjuna?

She needn't have worried with Krishna around. As though, reading her mind, he steps in to answer her questions.

"Sakhi, I knew the cause for your worry and hence I had sent Arjuna to Earth to procure the solution. This packet contains the whole range of products by a company called Dove. They are experts in providing solutions to all kinds of hair problems. My ardent devotees on earth testify to their claims, so be assured of positive results."

Draupadi's joy knew no bounds as she had at found the miracle product -Dove that was to put an end to all her hair problems. She couldn't thank Krishna and Arjuna enough. Within a couple of weeks' use, she could see a visible improvement in the texture and health of her hair. In a couple of months, her mane was restored to their former glory and shine, one befitting a queen of her stature.

My attempt at fiction is a part of the contest ..and that was the end of my hair problems at Indiblogger

Utilizing space, and how!

Space matters. And no one understands this better than someone who has lived a considerable amount of time in a space-crunched city like Mumbai. Jostling for space is not a new concept for Mumbaikers. From trying to secure a standing position in a packed local to utilizing the tiniest corner of a one BHK flat, every inch matters. Only a person who has lived in this interesting city understands the importance of a sq.ft in the real sense. If  you've ever been to a typical apartment flat in Mumbai suburbs, you'd exactly know what I'm talking about.

No corner, niche, or extra (if any) space ever goes wasted in the quintessential home of a Mumbaiker. One can marvel at how people fit in an entire household replete with all the modern, essential and luxurious fittings in a 600 sq.ft flat that will have a complete functioning kitchen, a living room cum dining cum entertainment area, a bedroom cum study. Mostly every space doubles up as something else and every corner gets utilized into a relevant storage area for all practical purposes. A sofa-cum-bed, a cabinet shelf that doubles up as a study table when opened, a bigger than usual balcony that gets converted into a room by enclosing the window area, a dresser built into the wardrobe, all of these are trademark ways of optimizing utility of the available area. Space economics attains a whole new dimension.

A person used to living in these conditions also develops such a conditioned thinking where space wasted becomes storage wasted which is akin to money wasted. When a person from such a background goes to live in a different city that is probably not that space crunched, he begins to feel bad for the criminal wastage of sizeable living space that is squandered away due to poor design of floor plans. It can be highly frustrating and difficult to make peace with the situation where one has the luxury of spacious houses (in terms of sq.ft) on paper but valuable portions of such area goes un-utilised due to disproportionate allocation (for.e.g. a flat having a huge dining space but a cramped up master bedroom) thanks to incompetent floor planning by the builder. Sleep is certainly lost over how to increase productive area and decrease non-productive ones.

Working around the original floor plan involves a lot of work (read glib talk, marketing skills, in short a lot of headache). Knocking down and adding a few walls may not be as simple as it seems. The original design architect is mostly someone who does not have enough aesthetic sense or is perhaps wedged between the constraints laid down by the builder. For, nothing else can explain the sheer stupidity and lack of aesthetic appeal shown in some floor plans. The execution of these plans is overseen by site structural engineers who work in 2-3 hierarchy levels. A simple change can be okayed by the first level guy. If he does not have the required authority to sanction the change, the 2nd/3rd level guys need to be involved. In all this daunting milieu, the poor customer suffers greatly, for not only is he paying through his nose for a house he dreams of making into a home, but he is also required to make several layers of compromises with the look and structure of the house.

Is it too much to ask of the builders to work with some amount of conscience, ethics and sincerity when designing and constructing apartments? Will it be too taxing if they design each apartment with the end customer in mind? Will they lose too much of their wealth if they can provide a decent carpet area along with good amenities for a cost that does not seem as though the target customers are only NRIs? Why is that a common average man, even after gathering all his resources has to settle down for a house, not because it fits into his idea of a dream home but because that is only what he can afford?

The yearning

I am parched,
   my throat hurts dry

I long for thee,
but you evade my eye

One moment you seem to arrive
     but in the other you look to flee
  as if to mock at me in glee!
    Misdeeds of man
      I've borne, time again
    should ye too,
      desert me in pain?

Tears in eyes,
    prayers in plead
come O' dear,
    it's time indeed!

p.s. a humble prayer to the rain Gods. Have mercy and pour down!

Keeping quiet is an art..

..that is perhaps never taught to us. Yes, we are shut up many times and we do that to our kids too when the we do not wish to hear what is being said at that time. But, knowing when to keep quiet and being comfortable in quietude does not come easily to all. Vacations in the lap of nature is turned into a check-list of sorts to be ticked off in a hurry just so to revel in the knowing of having seen the must-sees. Who has ever heard of someone who takes a vacation to just be with oneself, aside from the Vipassana camps?

How many of us appreciate or understand the beauty of silence? Even when someone is talking to us, we are not listening silently. We are busy thinking of our response or delving into our knowledge repository for a more intelligent piece of information to share. And, talking over the phone, needs a separate set of etiquette. I, for myself, am guilty of quipping something before the other has had a chance to complete. Imagine, someone is about to end his part as a question but you have idiotically uttered something prematurely making you look like a complete fool. Yes, I have landed myself in embarrassing situations, so. I have cringed and blushed when I have replayed the conversation in my mind many times later.

If silence is good for the wise, how much better is it for the foolish!
IVAN PANIN, Thoughts

Silence is, paradoxically, the art of speaking. A necessary virtue to carry out a conversation. Two people can truly enjoy some moments in peaceful (note the word) silence when they are into a secure and comfortable relationship that does not always need words to express thoughts. When you are truly silent you can listen effectively. Very often we only hear and not listen because we are thinking a hundred things even when our mouths are shut. Selective hearing is what we do because we are rushed to get to the part that may be of interest to us. As a contrast I have also seen couples at restaurants who don't talk to one another, staring into the space blankly or fidgeting with their respective gadgets while the child is running amok near-by. The silence between them is ostensibly not that of comfort. I shudder at the nature of such silences and pray to the Lord to keep these away from the lives of my partner and mine.

A small silence came between us, as precise as a picture hanging on the wall.
                                                                                 Jean Stafford

A person who is by nature a reserved and contemplative person doesn't feel the urge to make small talk with another who is perhaps unnerved by the stillness of the atmosphere. The same situation appears different to different persons. One takes it as an opportunity to reflect and be in the moment while the other is discomforted and at unease with the calm. Coming to face with the inner self requires courage and in the absence of courage, people fill their lives with noise all around, to escape the silence in the din.

“Silence can often be more disturbing than noise, it reveals the complicated mechanism of our thoughts”
                                                                                                ― Jose Rodrigues Migueis

Leaving you with a song that I love for its lyrics....

Revelling in the honour

bestowed by a kind blogger Jaspreet of I was pleasantly surprised to find my name among the nominees for the following lovely and inspiring blogs award. In fact, I actually clicked on the blog address to see if it was actually mine :-)
Thanks a ton, Jas for considering me worthy of these. I am truly humbled and honoured.

So, as per the rules, I have to state 7 random facts about myself. I have done the random facts earlier too but here are some new ones.

  1. I panic very easily though I put on a brave face.
  2. Filling up official forms and signing at multiple places gives me jitters. I am always apprehensive of making a mistake.
  3. I like buying new clothes and love handbags of different varieties. (who doesn't???)
  4. I have a fetish for collecting good quality polythene bags- the fancy ones you get at the big stores.
  5. I like to browse through beauty products in a store even though I may not buy them.And, I hate those help who remain close on your heels and breathe down your neck giving unsolicited advice.
  6. I love to travel and see new places.
  7. I am (or rather used to be ) a very punctual person. It is sometimes difficult to keep up with the agreed time with a toddler in tow.

Now, to pass on the awards. I pass on these to some wonderful bloggers, some of whom I know since the time I started my blog and some of whom I have had the good chance to discover recently.


On Guru Pournima..

..I wish to make a confession.

A teacher shows the path of right to the students. She is like the ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel of ignorance. A good teacher not only inculcates the lessons but also guides the student towards the right path by walking the steps along. Indeed blessed are the people who have had at least one good teacher in their lives.

I have had the good fortune of having some good teachers in my life. Be it a couple from my school or the ones I learnt music from. My music teachers, from whom I learnt the Carnatic and Hindustani forms of music were always a source of inspiration to me. The class sessions were interspersed with good advice, light jokes, some inspiring stories of theirs and other great people, and some cookery recipes shared even. They gladly took me under their wings and motivated me to stretch myself to my best limits. To them, I shall always remain indebted.

I always wonder if I've fulfilled my duty as a student towards my gurus. This is my inner anguish especially with regards to my Carnatic music guru. When I was a student, I was a conscientious one, always adhering to the rules and doing my homework and striving to achieve perfection in what was being imparted to me. Yet, after I've had to discontinue my musical sojourn with her, am left with a feeling of vacuum. There is a nagging feeling of letting down my teacher in some ways. Upon introspection, I realized that with the discontinuation of regular classes, I have also cut ties with music as such. I've let the lessons that were painstaking taught to me gradually be washed away in the journey to conquer social milestones of a job, then marriage and then a child. I was always inclined towards light classical music rather than the hard core classical stuff. Perhaps, that is why I couldn't sustain the interest once the strict regime was stopped. Perhaps, that is the reason for the slackness and carelessness with which I've let genuine efforts go unacknowledged and disrespected. Yet, even that cannot be used as a good excuse to pardon my deeds for I've shown my ingratitude towards the teacher, thus.

They say that your misdeeds make a home in your inner most consciousness and surface when you are vulnerable. I can vouch for this for there have a number of times when my guru has appeared in my dreams, not in any vindictive or accusing manner. Yet, I would reminisce about the dream in my wakefulness with a feeling of guilt. Is is my own conscience that it is prodding me or is it books of accounts of karma Way Up that is working, I do not know.

The best possible guru dakshina a student can give a teacher is to uphold the lessons learnt and shine on the path shown. Today is Guru Pournima, a day when students show their gratitude and love towards their teachers but all I want to ask for is forgiveness from all my teachers for any disrespect shown towards them knowingly or unknowingly. I ask them to graciously pardon me and release me from this guilt.