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Friday, July 28, 2006

Chp 83. To Call Center or not to Call Center


Content :
  • Shocking news
  • My great misconceptions about Call Centers
  • An independent zoman
  • Beware of the Organization quicksand
  • Changes implemented in Call Centers
  • Some possible changes that might take place after the unfortunate Tania murder incident
Another Call Center employee murder incident making headlines across the Nation. TOI reported that she’s an Aviva employee while the Mumbai Mirror said she works for 24x7. Both are more or less correct actually as “Aviva 24x7” is some sort of a joint venture (Aviva contributes nearly 25% of 24x7 Customer’s revenue). But the name Aviva is definitely more popular among my IIMB friends, while the other name 24x7 is much more popular among my Call Center friends.

(Just a passing thought. My ex-roomie works at Convergys which handle calls for Microsoft, HSBC, JP Morgan, Sedex and Cisco to name a few. He’s in the Microsoft division. But he’s known as a Convergys employee, not a Microsoft employee. Was TOI wrong in saying the victim was an Aviva employee?)

My two roomies back in Bangalore work at Call Centers. Atleast 70% of the Bangaloreans I used to hang out with are all Call Center employees. And most of the people I got to know over the Net are also working in various Call Centers. Some of them don’t even handle calls, yet they all come under the Call Center umbrella (Many people still make the wrong assumption that all BPOs are Call Centers handling calls)

Thanx to my friends, I got to know a lot of Call Centre jargons, like incoming process, outgoing process, daylight savings, ACD, ASA, screen name etc. Sometimes they even use these in their daily vocabulary. Once, me and a couple of friends were sitting infront of the TV waiting for an EPL match to commence. It was 9:30 pm already and the match was supposed to start at 4pm in UK. That’s 9:30pm here in India as we are 5:30 hours ahead. But nothing was showing on the TV. Later we found out the delay was due to a light rain that formed a puddle in the field. But while we were waiting, one of my Call Center friends nonchalantly said the delay was due to Day light savings . And then there are my two Call Center roomies who would actually use “LOL” and “BRB” when they speak! (Before this, “FYI” was the only chat jargon I’ve ever heard people use while talking).

Six years ago, midway through my engineering college course, I knew a squat about Call Centers. Back then, my World was still very small. I thought people who work in Call Centers were those women who answered the phone when you dialed those 1-800 numbers. Lolz. Ok sorry but hey, it’s not my fault. I blame AJ’s bro who would come back from America with a suitcase full of Playboy and Penthouse magazines. Hey don’t give me that stare! Those magazines had pretty good articles about the Presidential Election . On those mags, there were a lot of advertisements, always with a see-through lingerie clad model in the background. The Ad usually goes like this “Wanna have a good time? I can satisfy your inner most desire and fantasy. Call me at 1-800-246-SLUT-67”.

Ok fine. So now you know where I got the inspiration for my Bangalore mobile phone number . I fought tooth and nail to get the particular number 9845554625. All because, when translated into the letters corresponding to your key pad, you get 9845-5-KIMA-5.

Anyway that’s what I thought Call Centers were all about. But when I started meeting the elder sisters and brothers of my College mates, they didn’t exactly seem like the dirty sex talk type. So I said to myself, “Kima you narrow minded perverted freak. Call Centers aren’t just about sex calls. A Call girl is given that name not because she works in a Call Center. They can also be those Suicide help-lines where people call if they are feeling depressed or have lost all hope”. I even thought Call Center employees were also those people who work in those outdated switch board machines, connecting pins here and there while answering all the calls with people on the other end of the line saying “Operator”.

Anyway, I finally got to know what Call Center employees really do towards the end of my Engineering course. But I never actually got to know anyone personally, until I moved my ass to Hyderabad after Engineering College. I met Ashley, an Anglo. Along with some other basketball mates, we soon formed a small gang like thingie. He was a voice trainer at a Call Center. When he first told me that he was a voice trainer, my first impression was, boy he must be a really good vocalist, probably playing for a cool rock band in the city. Hehe. How wrong was I. He told me his job was to train Call Center employees on how to improve their voice modulation, enunciation etc. Well, I still thought it was a pretty frivolous occupation then, but during a game of basketball when I had the ball and am surrounded by the opponents hustling and shuffling all around me, I usually blind-pass the ball to him as his “extremely modulated” shouts for “pass” was the most audible among my teammates

A year later, I was in Bangalore. Met a lot of new people, new friends, new brothers, new habits. Most of them were working at Call Centers. I even read “One night at a Call Center” by Chetan Bhagat. Finally got to know the real life of a Call Center employee, especially after dropping out from IIMB as these are the guys I started spending my entire time with. I love their lifestyle. So relaxing, except for the odd working hour timings. But then, there are also Day shift employees working during the daytime just like regular people. And then there are those who can actually choose anytime of the day to show up for work, just as long as they put in 8 hours of calls a day. And so many of them work in a non-voice process that does not involve a telephone. Boy what a misconception I initially had about Call Centers

They have monthly team outings, team parties, team road trips, and the salary they get is more than enough to make ends meet. They have incentives and appraisals of all sorts. Their network of friends through the various Call Centers is extremely wide too. After dropping out from IIMB, my friends told me to apply for a Call Center job. But I refused. It looks very inviting indeed and I can still have a good time in Bangalore without depending on my parents anymore. Finally I will be an “independent zoman” . But, something in me just couldn’t do it. I need to think of the long run. I always had this dream about joining an Organization at the middle management level. I know, I know, one must start from the bottom to reach the top. But life is short. I want to find the shortcuts before I am too old to do anything. Yes a wise sage once said there are no shortcuts in life. But the IIMs came and proved him wrong

The only thing that does not appeal to me about Call Centers is when it comes to climbing up the executive ladder. A year in IIMB has completely brainwashed me into being a complete target-oriented growth-committed position-motivated ambitious wannabe manager. My goal is to climb higher and higher, without ofcourse jeopardizing the Company’s interest or my own social career within the Organization.

In most Call Centers, one usually enters the Company as a Junior Agent. From there, they go up to a Senior Agent, a Team Leader and then a Supervisor. The terminology may differ from Company to Company. Another Company has a Junior Agent, Senior Agent, Focal, Assistant Manager (equivalent to a Team Leader), Operation Manager, Senior Opr Manager and so on. I just don’t see myself working as one of those designations for the rest of my life. I need a more stable, higher wage, daytime job once I start my own family. I’ve heard of many couples who hardly see each other because they both work at different Call Centers with different shift timings . Recently one such couple had a baby (my frens “N” and “G”). Can we call that a Process Result baby? Lolz. After all it was the result of N’s incoming that led to G’s outgoing. Haha. PJ!!!!

Anyway coming back to the topic, that’s not the future I want. Maybe as a part-time job, I don’t mind working in a Call Center for a short while. But I know so many guys who initially planned to work there for a short time, but are now so attached to the job that they just can’t seem to leave the Company.

Working for an Organization, especially after your Graduation, is like getting sucked into a Quicksand. Once you’re in, it’s mighty mighty difficult to come out. Unless you are completely dissatisfied with the salary or the working environment or the location or there are other job opportunities available etc you will remain shackled to that Company for the rest of your life. I once asked my friend “Dude, you’re an Engineer. Are you planning to work at a Call Center for the rest of your life?” and his reply was “Man, you have no idea how hard it is for me to leave. I am satisfied with my paycheck, my boss is a great man, I have made so many friends in the Company, and I lead an easy life. I know I can’t do this forever, but you gotta be in my shoes to know how hard it really is to leave.” Well, a definite 5 star rating to the Company’s Retention Policy, while my friend there sink, deeper and deeper, every passing day.

Being in Bangalore, I have seen with my own eyes the changes that have taken place. People once complained that Call Center Cabs drive too recklessly. Immediately there was a change and most Cabs now have a bumper sticker “If this driver is driving rashly, please call up this number to report this incident”. Ofcourse if the driver was driving that fast, there was no way we could have taken down the number, but it was indeed a good effort from the Call Center’s part to reduce the number of complains (I find it a bit funny and ironic that some outsourcing Companies actually rely on other outsourcing companies (Cabs) to pick up their employees). A close friend of mine, born and raised in Bangalore, even told me “Before it was fun. We used to drag race with these Cab drivers in the night. Boy they really throw a mean competition. But now, not one of them will take up your challenge for a race”. A part of me was extremely relieved. “D”, who never go below 140 while driving through Intermediate Ring road, will now have to drive like normal people. Phew.

And then came the ghastly news about the rape and murder of Pratibha, a Call Center employee. Immediately the Companies made serious changes in their policies, like the first pick-up and last drop cannot be a woman and if there is a change of Cab drivers, they must first confirm this with whoever is in charge of the Cabs etc. These Organizations cannot afford another scandal like this.

But now, with this latest unfortunate incident, once again, I’m sure there will be a flurry of changes again. I won’t be surprised if it will be made mandatory for all Call Center employees to use the Call Center Cabs unless they have their own transportation. They might not be allowed to come and leave as they like using taxis, autos or friends anymore. I know so many employees whose shift timing ends in the evenings and then they go directly to a Pub or disc if their break was the next day. And I know people who decide to stay over at their friend’s place for the night/day instead of returning home at the end of their shift.

If it is made compulsory to use the Cabs provided, then it won’t be possible to do all that anymore. You’ll have to be at your house during the pickup and have to return to your house after your shift ends. Then only can you go where you please from there, even if you had passed your destination on your way home. You will always have to be in time for your Cab (My roomies used to take an auto to their Office whenever they wake up late and miss their Cabs). You cannot make short stops on the way to have tea, coffee or buy cigarettes anymore.

Boy, this is definitely a Call Center employee’s nightmare. But seriously, this might happen one day, especially if the employees’ folks hold the Company liable for their son or daughter’s safety from the moment they leave for work until they return home safely walking through the door. In the current scenario, 24x7 might say they are not responsible for Tania’s murder as none of their Cabs and Cab drivers were involved in this (unlike the Pratibha rape and murder case where the bastard responsible for that was her own Cab driver). But if enough voice is raised by concerned parents, especially those who are out-stationed, there might be a possibility of implementing this draconian strict Cab rule where it is mandatory to be picked up and dropped by the official Call Center Cab.

Because this is not like a School/College or other day time offices. At those places, one ofcourse cannot expect the Institutions and Offices to provide transportation for the students and employees. But a night shift Call Center is different. During the day, even if your so called “friend or colleague” had picked you up or dropped you, there is a high chance that he won’t do anything else, like stab you 32 times. But under the cover of darkness, sometimes even someone who you trust with your life can be the very one who takes that away from you.

I shuddered a bit as I tried to imagine what Tania’s last thoughts were. She must have probably screamed out for help, but unfortunately the night had swallowed up anything that was remotely living. As Kishore continued stabbing her, she must have pleaded and begged for mercy, but all she could see were his bloodshot eyes, until she could see no more. She would have probably crossed over to the Otherside way before he stabbed her for the thirty second time. And all because she said no to his proposal? Jesus… And she was going to turn 32 soon. Was this his sick demented and psychotic way of wishing her a birthday? A stab for every year? Makes me sick man...

As for me, I’ve lost count on how many times I have picked up or dropped my friends from their respective Call Center Offices, most of the time usually somewhere between 2 and 4 in the morning. And ofcourse they completely trust me. Tania probably trust Kishore the way my friends trust me. And to know that he betrayed such a trust, leave alone kill her, is enough to make me pissed off like Hell. Son of a bitch.

I pray that an incident like this will not happen again. It may be just another brick on India’s wall of shame, which is already occupied by much bigger bricks like communal violence, bomb blasts, wife beating, rape, bribe, caste discrimination etc but the entire wall will be much easier to break if there are lesser bricks.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Chp 82. Tour de France : Tour d’ Inde ?

Finally, the Tour de France, the most famous and prestigious bicycle race in the World has come to an end. American Floyd Landis finished over all 1st with a mere 52s lead over Spaniard Oscar Pereiro who infact had a 30s lead over Landis in the 19th penultimate stage. I just love watching the Tour de France, which has been held every year (except during the two WWs) since 1903.

It’s not just about raw power or brute strength. There are a lot of techniques involved. It’s more like a game of chess, where riders try to anticipate their opponents’ moves. The other cyclists of a team also help out their team leader like the climbing specialist who clock him, another rider protect him from the wind, while the task of another cyclist can be fetching water for the team leader (Exactly what I used to do when I first joined the School Basketball team in 8th standard )

Only three Americans have won this tournament. Gerg Lemond (1986, 1989 and 1990), Floyd Landis this year, and the Legendary Lance Armstrong (1999 – 2005) who holds the record for the most number of wins with his 7 consecutive wins. (The second most number of wins is 5 times, held by four people).

As I sat watching the tournament on TV, I just wondered why such a similar beautiful tournament was not held in India. We have roads connecting the entire country and we also have lots of hilly areas to conduct the “King of the Mountain” stages. And then reasons after reasons bombarded my head and hence decided to come up with this post.

16 15 Reasons why there will never be a Tour d’ Inde :
  1. At every starting point, the race will get delayed because that particular region’s local politicians and film stars will want to make their presence felt. They will also bring along a large number of party supporters, fans, security, P.A.s and media people concentrating more on them rather than the cyclists or the race. Sometimes they will even make long speeches that have nothing to do with the tournament or the bicycle Industry in India.

  2. The actual race will stretch because half the time, the riders will be replacing their cycles with their spare ones as they are damaged from the potholes present everywhere on the race course. Very soon, like how Tour de France is known as the most prestigious and famous cycle race, Tour d’ Inde will be known as the most difficult and grueling cycle race in the World.

  3. Apart from this, the riders will have to frequently stop cycling and wait on their track because they have to let one of these pass: a train; another train; a convoy of Ministers and small time VIPs; a couple of vehicles traveling the wrong way down the one-way street; yet another train.

  4. A large number of cyclists will get injured from crashing into the many cows and buffaloes freely roaming on the race course here and there. The PR of the Tour d’ Inde might even state that the presence of these animals are obstacles which are a part of the race.

  5. As the cyclists travel from one State to the other, at every State check point, the cyclists will have to dish out bribes to the cops so that they will not be checked and delayed unnecessarily. Hence they will have to carry many fifty rupee notes as they go about on their tour of India.

  6. Atleast in France, as the cyclists travel from one Province to the other, the medium is usually French, which may be spoken with a different dialect here and there. In India, every State has its own language completely different from the other. The cyclists and their team cars will have a tough time carrying all the various language translation books and also trying to figure out which one to use at which place.

  7. The cyclists will have to cycle with heavy army protection while traveling through Kashmir, the Northeast and the Naxal dominated areas of a few States. Hence the Army will have to start training its jawaans how to ride cycles while remaining in full battle gear. But later it might be revealed that the Army cycles provided by a certain manufacturing firm are largely defective, resulting in another investigation and political scandal about kick-backs.

  8. Now and then the race will have to come to a halt because, up ahead some people are blocking the roads protesting about a dam demolition or a reservation policy or a defacement of a statue. The blockade can even be because of a large marriage procession.

  9. Sometimes the cyclists will even have to wait a day or two in the middle of the race because of a bandh declared by various parties and factions. Some races can also be halted because of floods, while others are because of prank calls about a bomb hoax.

  10. If an accidental collision among the cyclists occurs resulting in many injuries, a certain political party will immediately blame a certain minority community for the debacle, sparking off defamatory speeches and somehow trying to link this accident with various other terrorist attacks that had befallen India in the past.

  11. The race will trigger a fresh round of Cola war in India as Pepsi and Coke will carry out a campaign to advertise as hard as possible. During the entire Tour d’ Inde, the only commercials we’ll see on the sports channels are boring redundant Cola ads that will appear every now and then featuring star studded film personalities that have nothing to do with the spirit of cycling.

  12. Airtel and Hutch will once again start spamming their subscribers with hundreds of daily irritating “Sms this number to win exclusive prizes. Just answer a few questions about Tour d’ Inde” smses or “You could be the lucky winner standing and cheering at the finishing line as the race ends. Just sms this number at Rs.5/msg…” text messages.

  13. The sale of Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong” wristbands will quadruple in the Indian market, prompting many P3 celebrities who had never watched Tour de France before, admit to the media that they will be cheering for their favorite cyclist Lance Armstrong again, not knowing that he already retired from professional cycling at the end of 2005.

  14. Some Bollywood directors will approach the cyclists, paying them to appear for an item number on their latest film while they go about with their race. Hence, these cyclists will be at the background cycling as the Hero himself is cycling and singing at the head of the race while chasing the heroine who is also on another cycle.

  15. At the end of the final race, politicians will once again be there, ready to garland the winner, and then taking the entire credit for his victory. If none of the cyclists make it to the finish line, then the opposition will blame the party in power for a complete failure in law n order, foreign policy, infrastructure and tourism.

  16. And last but not the least, we will see Mandira Bedi on our TV screens again, trying hard to talk about anything that has anything to do with cycling, this time wearing aerodynamic cycle head gear and dressed in skin-tight shirt and shorts. Wait a sec, did I say skin tight? Ok scratch this last point off. This belongs to the “Reasons why there should be a Tour d’ Inde” post .
Hence these are the 15 reasons why there will never be a Tour d’ Inde in India like the one in France. Disclaimer: All the comments I made about the various people involved in this post are done in light humor and I had no intention of maligning anybody, and I duly apologize if I had offended anyone (Please don’t ban my poor little blog).

Readers are most welcome to add any other points on why they feel Tour d’ Inde will never be held here. Thankyou. This is me, the friendly Mizo-next-door signing off. Cheers.

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Some helpful links:

Tour de France for Dummies
Some road rules of the Tour de France
A few dramatic Tour de France moments

Friday, July 21, 2006

Chp 81. Vaastu for Web: A Sham?

When it comes to Vaastu, I think there are three types of people: Those who firmly believe in it treating it as the Sacred Word of God itself, those who find it utterly ridiculous and mock those who believe in it, and those who don’t believe in it but respect the feelings of those who do. I think I fall in the third category.

But much as I try to have an open mind about it, when I read an article in the Mumbai Mirror a few days ago about Vaastu being applied to the internet and website designing, I tried my best to suppress a light snicker. What will they think of next?

Before I came up with this post, I just wanted to know the reaction of the blogging Nation about webVaastu. Since Vaastu is related to Hinduism, I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s sentiments (Just because none of my Hindu friends believe in Vaastu doesn’t give me the right to make fun of it). Patrix, Deep, Ian, Shivam and Vasanth had already written about this and I found their posts pretty mirthful, the way they talked about webVaastu.

According to wiki, Vaastu Shastra is “one of the traditional Hindu canons of town planning and architecture. Distinction of style exists due to each document’s place of origin. Vaastu Shastra deals with various aspects of designing and building living environments that are in harmony with the physical and metaphysical forces/energies of the cosmos such as the gravitational, electromagnetic and supernatural.”

Similarly, the dictionary definition for the Chinese version of Vaastu called Feng-shui, are rules in Chinese philosophy that govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to patterns of yin and yang and the flow of energy (qi); the favourable or unfavourable effects are taken into consideration in designing and placing buildings and graves and furniture. Just like Vaastu, Feng-shui also tries to harmonize the flow of energy (The Life force, known as “Prana” in Sanskrit Vaastu, is the “Qi” in Chinese Feng-shui).

At this point, a mind can easily get influenced. How can the two largest populations in the World with completely different religion and traditional backgrounds end up sharing the same belief? Surely this cannot be a coincidence.

Well, maybe this might have something to do with scholars of both Ancient Kingdoms visiting each other and sharing their scripture, who knows. As for me, superstition is a complete no no in my life. Sometimes I wonder how come I’ve never believed in Vaastu or Feng-shui. I’m a Mizo and Mizos ofcourse don’t believe in these two, but I’ve lived most of my life with non-Mizos. Thinking about it, none of my South-Indian and North-Indian friends ever believed in Vaastu. I’ve met their parents now and then, and boy some of them were hardcore superstitious. But the children of my generation however fail to share their parent’s enthusiasm. Growth of modernism?

Anyway, I have no objection with Vaastu as it goes way back to ancient Hindu beliefs, but webVaastu???? For a non-believer, the only word coming to my mind when I hear that term is “CON”.

I mean, take a look at India. A huge majority of Indians believe in Vaastu, and with the internet boom even reaching across rural India, what better ways to make easy money than by combining these two. To me, a webVaastu consultant is nothing but a con artist out to swindle your hard earned money. But then ofcourse, this is just my personal opinion.

According to webvastu.com, Vaastu comprises of five natural elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. Each of the elements corresponds to a natural force that affects our lives. They are:
  • Earth : Magnetic field of the earth
  • Water : Gravitational force of the Earth
  • Fire : Solar radiation
  • Air : Wind energy
  • Space : Cosmic radiation

I agree with the author. So far so good, because this is what Vaastu is all about. This is the Vaastu that was written down nearly 3000 years ago. But as the chapter progressed, things became more and more hilariously ridiculous, especially as the author of the book tried his best to link these five elements with the internet. He even had the audacity to point out which “natural forces” of a website these five elements correspond to! This is what he came up with:

  • Earth : Layout of the webpage
  • Water : Fonts and Graphics
  • Fire : Colour scheme
  • Air : HTML
  • Space : Name of website



Damn! I’ve never laughed out that much in a long time. But I gotta hand it out to the author; he really deserves a couple of points for creativity! And to do it so convincingly with a straight face must be one of the hardest tasks to do.

What will people think of next? smsVaastu? Lol! Let me give it a shot!

“smsVaastu” by Kima.

Have you ever felt like nobody’s paying attention to you? That none of your friends are replying to your smses? Ever had that funny feeling they are trying to ignore you? Don’t worry, for this has nothing to do with you or your personality. It is only because the flow of energy within you is not harmonized. There are more negative forces around you than the positive ones. To obtain more positive forces, you need to consider the five natural elements and what they correspond to when it comes to sending an sms:

  • Earth : Your mobile phone, which company, which model.
  • Air : The network you’re using, post-paid or pre-paid, roaming etc
  • Fire : Whether your phone display is in colour or black n white, camera/video/mp3 option etc.
  • Water : Whether your mobile is water proof, dust proof, shock proof.
  • Space : How sleek/small is your mobile phone and what’s the size of your memory card.

Once you buy my book “smsVaastu” for just Rs.750/- I assure you that you will get so many smses from people, you will not be able to handle it. And yes, I promise that, that cute girl in your computer course whose phone number you slyly obtained from the registration desk, will definitely reply to your “Hi, want to be my fraand?” sms, once you follow the instructions in my book.



See! How difficult was that? I guess anybody can become a tech related Vaastu consultant. Lolxxx…

Coming back to webVaastu, you don’t need a professional to tell you what to put and what not to put on your website, nor does it take a genius to figure out which layout is the best for your site. The most important “element” is the content. You get visitors for what is there in your site, and not for any flashy heavy graphics that takes ages to download. After content comes the layout. It must be appealing to the eye. No matter how good the content of your website is, nobody will feel like reading it if the rich colour contrasts hurt their eyes.

Unless ofcourse the author here is going deep into astrology and numerology trying to calculate which direction the webmaster must be facing while designing the website. Should he face East as he type? Or South? And where should the mouse be located? How far apart should the two speakers be from each other? What is the appropriate song to play while designing the site? Is it ok to keep the cabinet always open (like mine) or it should be screwed shut while designing? Should I use a 17 inch or 15 inch monitor? And did the Vaastu Shastra written thousands of years ago mentioned anything like whether I should specifically use only Microsoft Frontpage Editor for designing my website or I can any other Editors? Unless webVaastu is going into those, I see no reason why you cannot be a webVaastu consultant yourself.

Google on the net for tips on designing a good website, and you will get much better result than all the webVaastu consultants put together. Simple facts. Like, unless you are going for a Flash™ website, try to have a simple HTML layout sans flashy heavy flickering graphics, something that is appealing to your eye. But then, the term “appealing to one’s eye” cannot be generalized as one type, because one man’s meat is another man’s poison. For example, according to a Govinda fan, what is appealing to his eyes might be a bright orange fluorescent background with shiny green fluorescent fonts . And oh, try to avoid pornography on your website, especially if your website is about religion or an NGO organization . Hope I make a good webVaastu consultant! Feel free to call me anytime. I charge people by their level of Hotness. Lolz.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Chp 80. Birthday Boy Tommy


It wasn’t such a long time ago when I came up with my “Meet my friend Tommy” post for which I actually got a couple of commendation from many bloggers who don’t know Tommy.

Well today is his birthday and since he is thousands of miles away in small town London and since I am too stingy to make an ISD call (Relax, I ain’t that kanjoos. Tommy bhen chod hasn’t mailed me his London number till now.) I thought I’ll just write a post from India wishing him a happy birthday.

I already wished him at Orkut on Saturday nite. It was around 11:30pm and I was at M’s place online from her lappy (haha faith_no_more, wipe that dirty smirk off your face). I was trying to spice up this really happening Orkut community that I created “Worst Pick-up lines/Intro of Orkut”. As I logged into Orkut, my Orkut b’day reminder back then said “Tomorrow is Tommy’s b’day”. By tomorrow, I just assumed they meant Sunday as it was still a Saturday nite then, but I never knew Orkut was already on a Sunday. So there I was happily wishing him at his scrap book from M’s place when the clock struck 12 that Saturday nite, wondering why nobody else had wished him so far.

Then yesterday, Sunday, Amol called me up from Gurgaon.

“Yo today is Tommy’s birthday”
“Bastard, you wished him a day early at Orkut. His birthday is tomorrow.”
“What crap. It’s today. 17th July. Check Orkut.”
“What check Orkut? Check your freaking calendar!”

And there I was, oooops! 17th is Monday!

“Fuck. Stupid Orkut”
“What stupid Orkut? Stupid Kima!”
“ok ok… comon… I goofed up. I don’t wanna be the odd one here. Please wish him a happy birthday too! Today! Right now! On Orkut! Give me company dooood!

Asshole Amol laughed so much he couldn’t even speak. And then we started making some really crazy plans like trying to convince him that Sunday was actually his Birthday, and that we’ll even call up Haridwar to inform his parents that it was their son’s birthday that day and not Monday. Lolz. Maybe if it was Muthu, we might actually be able to convince him (Muthu is a friend of ours who will fall for any crap I feed him, however far-fetched it may be. He’s a legend from our Batch. Maybe I’ll come up with a post about him later.)

So here I am, to make up for my blunder, a post specially dedicated to him. Happy birthday Tommy (Arnab Deb who?)

His birth name is Arnab Deb, but everybody calls him Tommy. And after our summer internships, whenever our gang went out for a movie/dinner/pub, when it was time to pay the bill, Tommy was no longer called Tommy. He was then suddenly known as Mister Morgan. All of us would look at him and shout out “Mor-gan Mor-gan Mor-gan” in synchronized unison, and for the umpteenth time he would reach for his wallet while saying “Bastards, I swear this is the last time man”. LoLz. Tommy was one of the few guys who did their summer internship in an I-Bank, literally minting cash. He got into JP Morgan for his summers, hence the name Mister Morgan. His stipend was atleast twice that of our entire gang’s put together.

But comparing his real name and his nom de guerre, one can’t help but smile at the aberrance. This kinda reminds me of Russel Peters who made fun of Indians who go to The US of A and introduce themselves with an American sounding name that is completely different from their Indian name (Quote Russel Peters: “Hi. My name is Rajendra, you may call me Steve” ). Arnab Deb – Tommy? Atleast if this has something to do with Tommy Hilfiger’s line of expensive boxers, I can understand. But no, it seems the reason his IIT friends started called him Tommy was because he looks like a Tommy! That’s what he told me. I asked him “Which Tommy? Tommy Lee Jones? Tommy Lee Pamela? Tommy Ramone? Tom(my) Jones? Tom(my) and Jerry?” And he replied with a grin “I don’t know. Some Tommy. A typical Tommy.”

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you ever want to know how a typical “Tommy” looks like, then I guess you should take a look at my friend Arnab Deb. Can you imagine what it would be like at a crime scene? The cop is busy taking notes from a distraught paranoid victim “The person who just tried to rape me… well… he is around 5’9… medium built… face description… somewhat like a Tommy.” I guess his photo will probably be there in our geography text books years from now. His full blown image will be in the “History of Human evolution” chapter, standing at the end of a line: Homo erectus… Homo neanderthals... Homo sapiens… Homo tommy.

After a stint at JP Morgan, he is now at Barclays, London. But in between these two Mints, he was still the same old stingy Tommy. We always had to wring him hard until he finally shelled out money to pay for the CCD Black Velvet coffee, which was just 3 bucks a cup. Ofcourse sometimes we made him pay for the Tequila bottle but… *Kima slyly points his finger to Monu and Amol* . I even had to literally drag him by the collar to the Reebok Showroom where he bought for me this amazing Iverson “Loyalty” tee-shirt as a treat for getting into Barclays. His last words to me before we parted ways were “Here Kima, take my 10 years old flickering fucked up permanently de-saturated computer monitor. Sell it and send me the cash”. I didn’t sell it. I donated it to the museum. That’s the fun part about Tommy. A lot of his things belong in the museum. His computer, his trademark fluorescent orange bag, his IIT days’ “Tommy” tee-shirt and his “Bank of Dad” tee-shirt. Barclays is definitely going to profit this fiscal year, after all, they’ve just recruited someone who will use the same office supplies throughout his entire career there . I won’t be surprised if Management Gurus use him as a living module example for an efficient Cost cutting method within an Organization.

He is the most fraud Bhong I’ve ever known. Doesn’t know any place in Kolkata and have never played or watched football in his entire life. Bastard doesn’t even like chaats or sweets!!!! Can you imagine that? I loooooove puchkas (Cal version of paani puri). I’ve even dedicated a post entirely to puchkas. Yet here I have as one of my closest friends, a Bhong, who can’t even stand the sight of any chaats or sweets. What a waste! And what a loser

He’s a big hit among the ladies. They drool over him. Although there was a brief scandal about him being a “silent killer” (read my previous post about him), most of the time he is completely clueless about the birds and the bees. He’s the type who would say “Thanx, I’ll call you if my Company’s on a recruitment drive” when a sexy voluptuous babe hands him her phone number on a napkin at a night club . He’s the type who would use “What’s your favorite subject?” as his opening pick-up line. And sometimes the girl makes the mistake of thinking this is some innovative pick-up line and reply “Biology” or “Chemistry” with a wink. That is when Tommy would talk non-stop for two hours giving gyaan to the girl that there is no future in Biology or Chemistry today and that she should do Finance and concentrate on Hedge funds and the Options market.

Sometimes we think he’s actually confused about his sexuality. Maybe it’s because some juniors in IIMB selected him as their mentor because of his “killer looks”, and a majority of these juniors were guys! Once, an old friend of mine from Engg College days, Paolo, came down to B’lore, so Tommy and I took him to a pub. We made the mistake of going to Bunkers on a non-rock music night. It was hip-hop nite and the place was filled with guys, a complete sausage fest. The DJ was playing “My Humps” and all the guys were dancing with each other to that song. Paolo and I were like “WTF!” and decided to leave immediately bottoms-uping our mug. We looked at Tommy and he was actually tapping his feet and nodding his head as his thought and trance were completely lost in the midst of all those guys dancing and rubbing against each other. We had to drag a protesting Tommy out of that place with all our might.

Ah… good ol Tommy. From all of us here in India, Amol, Monu, Kata, Momo, Ankita, Shubha and me, we wish you a happy happy birthday dude. We miss you (although we miss you footing our bill more ). Hope you have a blast there. And please, for once, just today, for the love of Almighty Lord, stop thinking or talking quantitatively and go to a nice Pub and get yourself a lap dance. It’s on us (we’ll send you the cheque later).

Happy Birthday once again bro.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chp 79. Underworld 3 : The Movie

A possible part 3 sequel to the popular Underworld movies.

The story so far. Selene from the vampire clan fell in love with Michael Corvin who came from the half-werewolf half-vampire bloodline of Alexander Corvinus. Together, Selene and Michael managed to kill Alexander’s two immortal sons, the vicious bloodthirsty Marcus, forefather of the vampire clan, and the rampant barbarous William, forefather of the werewolf clan. Now that there is absolutely no other threat to their lives, the chances of making the third sequel of Underworld almost seem impossible.

But taking reality into consideration, there is indeed a great script for the third sequel and a chance to make it a great trilogy series. Here goes:

Underworld part 3: Racial Profiling

Michael was the first ever cross breed between vampires and werewolves (first Human to survive being bitten by a werewolf and a vampire). He was a confused man. Being a half-vampire and half-werewolf, he didn’t know whether to half howl at a full moon or full howl at a half moon. And when it was time to eat, he didn’t know whether to suck his victim’s entire blood with half a fang or use both his fangs to suck out only half the blood. He spent most of his days trying to figure out what to do. Well, if you think this is getting complicated enough, then read on, because this story is not concentrated around Michael, but rather on Michael’s offspring. It’s about how Michael’s son faced discrimination in College and how he dealt with it.

Michael and Selene got married and voilĂ , they had a son, Alex Corvin. He was neither a pure bred vampire nor werewolf. In distasteful derogatory terms, he was a “cocktail”. Right from kindergarten he started having a bad time because he was different from everybody else. He did not fit in with the Humans, the werewolves and the vampires. So his classmates started considering him as an outcast. Nobody ever shared their lunch with him. He was alienated from the rest of the crowd, and when it came to reservation, he was neither eligible for the vampire quota nor the werewolf quota. And this continued till college.

Infact the situation worsened in College. His first year at College was sheer torture. Humans were scared of him and avoided him in the College canteen. The vampires never invited him for any of their blood thirsty mid-night rave parties. And his werewolf classmates shunned him out from any of their group study activities or full moon binges. He was indeed a lonely man.

But Alex faced all this bravely without shedding a single tear when he laid down to sleep each night, all alone in his hostel room, just staring at the ceiling with the lights switched off and imagining what it would be like to have a friend. Somebody who would be there by his side, telling him that it was time to visit the dentist again because his vampire fangs were looking ridiculous or someone who would make fun of his hairy werewolf back. But the only people he ever spoke to on a regular basis were his parents who call up once a week.

Just a floor below, the humans were having another of their strange dance parties where they would dance to the rhythm of a “song” which was not sung but instead spoken. He overheard one of his Human classmates call this “hiphop”. Strange people, he thought, after all, the only music Alex ever heard were songs and incantation chants by Gothic bands like Arcana, Theatres Des Vampires, Adiemus, Cruxshadows and his favourite, Dead Can Dance. He still cannot figure out what was the big deal in dancing to a song that does not involve whispering to the dead, sexual orgy or spiritual offerings to Mother Nature.

A floor above, he could hear the shrill shrieks of women followed by weird gory laughter. Guess his vampire classmates had found some more victims to feed on while they partied the whole night. He did have a lot more in common with the vampires than the Humans when it came to similar taste in music, but he once happened to witness how his vampire classmates party. It made him sick. One stormy night, he had just finished taking a shower in the hostel’s common bathroom and was on his way back to his room. He had to pass by a couple of rooms occupied by the vampires. There was a party going on in one of the rooms and the door was slightly ajar. Alex, out of sheer curiosity, peeped inside. Instantaneously he regretted he ever peeped. Because inside that room, his vampire classmates were busy biting and sucking the very life out of his Economic professor, like a hungry pack of street dogs who were throw a single bone to chew, blood dripping everywhere, making a complete mess in that room. Alex found it so repulsive. How could they not use a napkin? He walked back to his room hazily. Well atleast the good news was that he didn’t have to do his economic assignment that night.

Just as he was about to sleep, the eerie howling of his werewolf classmates made his crossbreed heart skip three beats. He looked at his hand and it was as hairy as Anil Kapur’s chest! Damn, he thought, not another full moon night! He covered his ears with the blanket, resisting the urge to howl at the full moon too. He did not want to howl not because he didn’t want to join the other werewolves, but rather because due to his mixed blood, his howl sounded different. When he was young, the other werewolves used to make fun of him saying his howl had a tamilian accent. His mother would hit back at them asking who were they to judge which howl was a perfect howl? And she would shout out that their howls were funny too as they had Bengali accent, Mizo accent, Punjabi accent etc. Good ol Selene, always there to protect her precious child. But now Alex is all grown up and must take care of himself. He decided never to howl again.

The only time he ever spoke to other people was during the inter-college basketball tournaments. Being half bred, he could play the daylight matches along with his Human teammates as the sun did not affect him. And during the floodlight matches in the night, he would once again play for the College, this time along with his vampire and werewolf teammates. But he preferred to play with his Human teammates as the opponent college team usually wins at the night matches because half his teammates would be ejected from the game with a technical and flagrant foul for biting the opponents or even worse, the referees.

So that was how our hero Alex led his college days. All by himself, hardly taking part in any of the group activities. Until his final year at College. That was when Sarah entered his life. Sarah, a Human. Not just a Human but the most beautiful Human Alex had ever seen. He had been noticing her for quite sometime but never had the courage to speak to her, until that fateful day during the Home science class. He walked up to her and calmly asked “May I?” to which Sarah smiled and gladly said yes. So Alex lifted her out of the boiling cauldron. And it was love all the way from then onwards. If it was not for that Home science cooking class where the vampires tried to use her as an ingredient, Alex and Sarah would have never fallen in love.

But Alex and Sarah faced much criticism from the entire College community because of their relationship. The Humans even stopped talking to Sarah but she didn’t care. The werewolves threatened Alex by saying that they will use her as a sacrificial offering on the next full moon, to which Alex calmly replied “You guys never accepted me as one of you. So why are you suddenly so concerned now about me going out with a Human?” To which the werewolves had no answer. The vampires on the other hand were too occupied during their final year to be bothered by Alex and Sarah’s relationship; they were busy trying to catch their Chemistry professor and feed on him because he failed seven vampires the previous semester.

Apart from all these, Alex and Sarah had problems of their own. Being a half bred vampire, Alex must be careful not to give Sarah any love bite no matter how intimate the moment was. He still remembered the furor they created in the College campus one day when Sarah came to class with a dupatta tightly veiled around her neck. Ofcourse she wasn’t hiding anything and all she wanted to do was wear her salwaar kameeze that way. But the College grapevine was bustling with rumours and gossips and the Humans even played a mean prank by dedicating to her a song “See you on the otherside” by Ozzy on the College assembly speakers. But Sarah was unfazed by all this and instead grew more and more close to Alex.

Finally it was Graduation Day. More than half the Humans who were admitted at first year were still alive, which was a positive sign for the College as it meant the vampire and werewolf students were spending more time studying rather than hunting. The class photo as usual looked funny because none of the vampires could appear on the negative print of the camera film, hence showing odd empty spaces here and there in the group photo. The faculty voted Sarah as the best outgoing student, while Alex earned the “Most disciplined Unnatural Being” award. Both Michael and Selene were there that day too. Selene cried, shedding tears of happiness on seeing Alex kiss Sarah, while Michael held back his tears because he was afraid the other Humans around him might consider cross breeds to be pansies.

And thus end the third sequel to the movie Underworld. Believe me, it will make a big box office hit! Hoping to hear from one of the Hollywood Directors to buy my story. Till then, goodbye and hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Chp 78. Dowry or go the Mizo way

Almost everyday in India, there’s an incident of a woman committing suicide because of dowry pressures from her in laws (“official report: 16 deaths a day! ). Hail to those women brave enough to put their dowry demanding husbands in jail.

Dowry, which is a punishable offence under Act no.28, 1961 known as “The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961” and considered a social evil by many progressive modernists and various Women’s Organizations, is still very much in practice today. History makes no mention of where and when exactly this system came into being. One school of thought believe it to have originated “from the Colonial British who forcibly introduced land ownerships and hence the people had to trade or gift lands to each other using marriage as an occasion, while another set of researchers said Dowry was introduced before the British Raj came to India as a measure to discourage the increasing number of Polygamy and Polyandry within the society.

Collins Cobuild English Dictionary define dowry as “A woman’s money and goods which, in some cultures, her family gives to the man that she marries”

Most people accept this as a normal practice because they believe that after all, the woman is going to live with the husband for the rest of her life and it kinda makes sense for the husband to have some sort of additional financial income to support an extra person in his family. But it doesn’t make sense at all when it comes to 21st century true love or gender equality. Getting married is not like booking a room in a Hotel and paying for that accommodation (That’s just the Honeymoon part). Call me a dreamer, but to me my idea of a perfect marriage has always been with somebody who truly loves me the way I love her, and that I will be the head of the family earning bread for the whole family while it’s up to my spouse to work or not. She doesn’t need to bring her fortune into my family… I mean ofcourse it might make our life easier but if she’s not able to contribute, it doesn’t really matter to me because what matters the most is that she is already bringing the most precious gem into my family, herself, the greatest dowry one can ask for. From then on, we can always work out things together.

While I was doing my engineering course back in Coimbatore, our English ma’am once asked the class how many of us were planning to do an MBA after our BE. A couple of hands went up and when she asked one student why, he replied “To get a larger dowry”. And the whole class erupted in laughter while I just sat there clueless not catching the humour. Even our English ma’am clearly did not find it funny and she changed the subject. Later after the class, when I asked my friend what was so damn funny, he explained the whole dowry concept to me. Damn! Right then I did feel a bit sick. All these time I thought people go for higher studies to get better paying jobs and hence have a more secure future; I just didn’t know getting a bundle of your wife’s cash and jewellery was a part of that security.

In our mizo culture, there is no such thing as a dowry. Ever since the earliest written record about the Zo Chieftain warlords who ruled their respective settlements/clans now collectively known as Mizoram was archived, there is no mention of any dowry settlement or the girl’s family paying the husband-to-be any amount of money.

Infact, according to our tradition, it is the complete opposite. The man’s side has to pay a certain amount of money to the girl’s family! How cool is that! The bride does not have to pay anything; it’s the groom who must come up with the moolah. I’m sure by now many of the ladies out there must have moved a bit closer to the monitor screen ok just kidding. But it’s true. According to our customary law, the husband has to pay the bride’s family some amount of cash or livestock if he wants to marry their daughter. No dowry from the woman’s part. Ps. Ladies, I’m single. *wink wink*

In our culture, when a male child is born, the elders (Upa) bless the son by saying “Mipa huaisen sai kap tur” meaning, a brave young man who will kill an elephant (those days, for a male member of a family, it was necessary to kill an elephant single-handedly if he wants to be accepted in the society as a man, until which he is considered just a boy. This probably explains why there are no more elephants to be found in and around Mizoram today!!!) And when a female child is born, the elders bless that baby girl with “Hmeichhe hmeltha se man tur” meaning, a pretty girl who would bring fortune to the family.

In a way, a girl child is considered to be more precious than the boy child. Female infanticide is one thing you’ll never find within our community. Ofcourse when you consider this situation literally, it actually means the girl is being sold. But it’s not as bad as it sounds, like the many gory news you read in the papers where some poverty ridden family sold their daughter off to a stranger because they need the money. No, it’s nothing like that. Mizo community has always been an open one, where guys were allowed to court the girls freely. And once they are in love and wants to get married, both sides of the family have to approve of their marriage and the girl’s family has every right to reject the guy’s side if they don’t find him worthy enough (maybe the elephant he killed was not big enough… )

The closest thing that comes to a dowry in our culture are the personal belongings of the bride that she brings along when she moves in with her husband, like her clothes, shoes, wardrobe, mattress etc. But all these, called “thuam”, belongs to the bride and the husband has no right to dispose any of it without her consent “except in times of famine”. These items play a significant role when it comes to a divorce. Divorces, like in many other societies, had been shunned upon in our society even those days. But when the Upa (elders) fail to make the bitter couple come to an understanding, then they do get a divorce (History and books I have read on early mizo divorces only mentioned about divorces due to adultery). If it was the husband who cheated on the wife, she was entitled to her belongings. But if it was the wife who cheated on the husband, she has to leave him and her belongings and go home. In such a case, the money paid to the bride’s family has to be returned too. Suppose the bridegroom passes away, then the bride has the full proprietor right to his home and belonging. And she’s free to marry again once the three months long mourning period, called “thlaichhiah”, is over. (Guys, beware of black widows! Hey what’s that white powdery substance floating in your tea? Lolx. )

Not surprising that Mrs N.Chatterji, in her book “Status of women in earlier Mizo Society”, has rightfully said “…the status of women in their society was in no way inferior to that of man and she suffered none of those derogatory and discriminatory treatments as may be found in some of the more advanced societies”.

So I guess that is how our culture differs from most of the other cultures in India when it comes to Marriage. As far as I know, the Khasi community of Meghalaya is the only other community in India whose early traditions and practices do not involve accepting a dowry from the bride during marriage. But I can be wrong too and would be grateful if anybody else can point out other such communities where dowry was non-existent during their days-gone-by times.

Thankyou, and say no to dowry. Kima.

Reference:Essays on the history of the Mizos” by Pu Sangkima, loving father of Stephen (classmate and one of my closest friends in School).