Thursday, 1 December 2011

French Leave … The Indian version



There was an article in the papers this morning which reminded me of an incident from a while back. I had just joined the work force then.


Some folks had come to work in jeans that day. Not standard regulations. Turned out that they were on leave. They were on leave as they could not claim their LTA otherwise. But apparently had too much work, were too busy, were too important to actually go on leave. Wearing jeans at work was their honour badge. The vacation … only on paper.


It was the 90s.


Kolkata actually. Not Mumbai.


Then a new century started. A new city for me. Mumbai. Another corporate concept… ‘Half day’.


I remember at least two occasions…in two different companies where folks went all the way to the office gate taunting their colleagues, who were leaving just a bit after official closing hours, with a kindergarten bully-like taunt of ‘half day … half day’. A very prevalent form of sledging then.


Luckily I only once worked in a place where holidays were a four letter word. Bought my first cell phone with the leave encashment money when I quit.


I think things have changed a bit now. Having a life is not always considered to be a social evil in corporate India. And some day folks would realise that by letting people go on vacations companies can save a lot of money that they would otherwise spend on employee motivation workshops.


What’s your take on this?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Just a little bit over the top

The barber shop traditionally was a  man's last bastion of serenity. A place away from domestic chores and feminine wiles. A place to talk about man stuff. The barber often multi-tasking as a shrink.

My genes tell me that haircuts are one thing that I don't need to set aside money for in my retirement fund. A few more haircuts and soon that's one thing that won't need to be ticked on the to do list. Which is how I explain spending a ridiculously high amount for haircuts. 

I don't know if I want to name the place I go to. Simply because I am sure they would like folks with thicker manes to be their brand ambassadors. 

It's an airy, glass and chrome place, young folks in black, lounge music that I recognize from the gym.   

There are no barbers here. There are stylists.

I had a 'stylist' for the last couple of years. S was the exact  opposite of the swarthy barbers of yore. Over time our conversations became interesting. The usual stuff ... jobs, clients and bosses...the state of traffic ...religious fundamentalism. Yes, pretty much barber shop conversations in the modern salon. Then she left for a break. 

So I walked in today to meet a new stylist, R. A 'junior' stylist just as S was before she became a 'top stylist'. 

"Have you come here before?"

I looked at the young girl like the kids of Sound of Music did at a new governess, scowled and said "Yes. For a couple of years. Always to S".

So the process began. Wash, snip ... you could have cut the silence with a butter knife.

And then the usual conversation starter at Mumbai.

No, not the weather.

"Where do you live?"

"Oh, next door? I live at New Bombay. Never know what it means to reach work at twenty minutes. I just take the train to Wadala. Then to Andheri. Then another here. An hour and a half each way versus three by road." 

"And what do you do?"

"You do? I used to work in market research too".

Then the ice broke. Turned out that R had worked for two years in the same agency that I used to before this! 

"You have never come across a hair stylist who was a market researcher before have you?"

She said she had enjoyed research. Liked the 'corporate' world. Felt that the agency was one of the best places to work at.

"Corporate and yet cool".

"So why did you shift?"

 "Well I always wanted to be a hair stylist. Research was fun but I didn't see myself at the desk all my life. 

I wanted to try it out. Took a while to convince my parents. Being a hair stylist is not regarded to be a career yet here. Not like abroad where they respect whatever you do. Even if you are a janitor. But eventually my parents agreed. They said well you are grown up now. Even funded my course"

Then she looked at me proudly and said "I am a trainer now. And financially not too far off from my market research salary. I have done good".

"So what do you do in research? You are a food blogger too? You cook? I love to cook. I baked a cake the other day. For the first time. I followed all the instructions. Came out so easy. I was surprised."

And so our chat continued about the need to follow one's passion. The merits of blogging as a pressure valve. And about a former colleague, a legendary workaholic ... the other side... the need to have a balance in life"

Yes, chats on life in the salon continue well into the twenty first century.

Even if they are now with your stylist.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Nowhere Man

Bumped into a few Bangladeshis at Sydney's Miller Street.

They were talking in Bengali and I asked them for directions in Bengali.

We began to talk. Turned out they were at the 'Uni'.

On hearing I was from India, they asked me if I was from Kolkata.

Mumbai, I replied without thinking.

Got a bit philosophical when I left them.

Where am I from?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Chinese whispers go Digital

I saw a tweet at 2 am a couple of nights back. A friend tweeted saying that people were throwing stones on the streets of Bandra and that she had a scary ride home. Soon there were others tweeting about 'riots/ stone throwing' on the streets of Bandra and Khar and asked people to stay home. Some wondered about the relevance of asking people to 'stay home' at 2 AM. But this is Mumbai. I retweeeted some of these tweets too.

Then I switched on the TV. All the English news channels were showing repeats from the Grammy Award ceremonies from earlier in the day. Even the ticker didn't mention the stone throwing incidents. Ditto for Aaj Taak, the only Hindi channel I could think of. This was twenty minutes after the tweets started.

No surprises that the newspapers didn't mention this the next morning. But 2 AM was well after papers were put to bed.

I guess news travels fastest on social networks these days. Within that, possibly on Twitter. I didn't see a mention of the disturbances at Facebook. Which, of course, could be a function of Facebook groups being closed or limited ones. At Twitter you have access to a larger world.

There is another angle to this. Next afternoon I saw that someone retweeted a tweet on the Bandra riots. Many of us windered whether the riots were happening again. Some tweeted asking about this.

Turned out that the person, a friend of mine, intially didn't realise that the tweet was from the previous night. The moment she realised she sent a tweet explaining the mistake.

I guess social media could be a good cop. And a bad cop too. Potentially explosive in the hands of those who want to spread rumours.

The story doesn't end here. Turns out that the the street agitation was in protest against a hate page on Facebook.

Social Networks can shock. And awe.

Ask Grandpa Mubarak.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

How green was my Bandra

This is an e that I got from a twitter friend who only DM's or e's me. Interesting perspective

"Really nice to read about your pleasant experiences at good ole Candy's.
I witnessed something peculiar a few days ago - was on my way back
into town, decided to stop at (big) Candy's & buy a cup of coffee to
keep me awake on the drive home.

A young lad, possibly in his late 20s - girlfriend in tow, literally
shouted at the guy behind the counter.

Why? Because they had run out of the items he wanted to order.

Reached a point where I thought he might actually jump over the
counter and molest the staff.

Funny how Bandra has changed. Wasn't like this less than 4 years ago.

Ah well, proof that I am indeed, an old fart.


 K: Well, that makes it two of us.When the crowd at Candies gets too much, I walk away. You can't hang them for their popularity