Friday, February 29, 2008

Group Health next door!

I have to tell you about this. I don’t remember if I have mentioned earlier, but our company shares the same building as Group Health Medical Centre. There is a Hear Centre, See Centre, Behavioral Centre, Psychologist. This doesn’t mean that there are patients walking in and out of the building all the time. Yet occasionally there are weird people one might bump into, either in the elevator or in the lobby. These are mostly harmless people. There hasn’t been a single harmful or aggressive episode or event in the building, I have to mention this so as to get it out of way and out of your minds.

I have travelled to my office on the 3rd floor sharing the elevator ride with old couples. I find oldies and kids very similar. They both have soft skins. They both do not have most of their teeth. Invariably I have found both the kinds smiling a lot. Today in the elevator there was a old couple. They smiled at me and suddenly the old man said. "Do you know we share the same ancestors?" I was like WHATT. I thought he was talking about Chimpanzees or Monkeys. I thought maybe he just came from the Behavioral Centre, so best ignore him. If possible try and recite Ram Raksha Stotra. But well then he went on to say "Your ancestors travelled from Africa to India. And ours travelled from Africa to Europe and then to here. That makes us related in some way". I was almost walking away from them, but this sentence made me turn around and face them. "Huh? Well ok" I said and smiled. His wife smiled back at me. Then he goes, "That’s the reason you have good big eyes just like we do". I burst out laughing at this. He kind of made a grumpy face. So I replied, "Well Sir yours are blue and mine are black". It was as if he just wanted me to comment on his knowledge and kind gesture or something. It made him feel satisfied. He put his arm around his wife’s shoulder and took baby steps towards the exit while smiling at me.

At 12.00 pm today, I saw another old couple. The woman was dragging a small cylinder on a little trolley which she was pulling. I just caught a glimpse, so I quickly took fast steps to see what she is using it for. It was an oxygen cylinder. She had an oxygen supplying cable running to her nose. She still smiled at me; I felt awkward and called myself “stupid” at least 4 times because I had run to see what it was.

I also remember one time this old woman had walked into the lobby and spread out her hands as if they were wings and kept going round and round in slow motion. She was trying to locate some address. Weird eh? There are a couple of youngsters who come with their parents, teenagers really. In hip hop clothes and sort of disoriented looks. This bunch does give me creeps. There was one such kid who had not tied his shoe lace and kept flipping it over and over. It was like he needed something to distract him constantly. His mother was calmly standing along the wall of the elevator, eyes closed. I felt she was praying.

Then this other time, there was a young couple, both with weird hair. The guy's were really long, where as the girl’s were really short and spiky. The moment the girl entered the elevator, she dramatically hugged the guy. I kind of folded myself and stood in a corner, biting on my own nails. When we reached level 1 and the elevator door opened, they both exclaimed, "We did it! This elevator ride wasn’t scary". I looked around standing in the elevator while they walked out, wondering what could be wrong with this elevator and why a ride from level 3 to level 1 could be so scary. I never got the answer but whenever I am alone in the elevator I still wonder about it.

There was also another old couple one time, the hubby was arguing with his wife that he doesn’t need new glasses and she kept telling him how he certainly does because he looks sooooooooooo old in the current ones. They were headed to the See Center. Heheheh. This couple must be in their 80’s. But the nice part with all this is, you always come across someone who shares a quick smile, chats a bit and that makes you feel a part of this society. Sometimes you find home away from home.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bai Famine!!

I need to burp out this sales call issue which seem to be hovering in my brain. I totally understand the pressure of sales targets and all the so called cold sales callers go through to achieve them. I totally sympathize with them but then again the calls I receive, they are unforgivably barbaric. The point is, these merciless cold callers seem to somehow manage to obtain the number and blast a series of calls trying to sell anything right from office supplies to financial products to some stupid directories, was it nail clipper last time? Oh don't ask, it could be anything on the face of this planet. And the worst part is they try to con you. Yeah I said CON!! The same caller calls 5 times a day trying to sell the same product, changing his accent, tone, style sometimes he even tries to cough or sneeze or choke creating a different tone and voice. Ridiculous, isn’t it? But well the deal we have at my office is not to be rude to anyone who calls; it's like a karma issue I guess. So I try to calm myself by counting from 1 to 10 and trying not to focus on anything the salesmen is saying by focusing on replying to my emails.

On another note, I was thinking about maids in India, who doesn't think about them when you are trapped in a bai famine country. I declared Bai's whether its Sitabai, Savitribai, Moushi or Simply Plain Bai as one of the most valued assets when i moved to US. I remember at least 10 Bai's if not less who were employed by my mum. Their interviews were conducted solely by my Ma and the sessions were quite grueling. Grueling for me I say, neither for my Ma nor for the Bai but definitely for me. The most important decision making factor would be the salary and our Bai Candidate would simply turn out to be a no show on the very first day if it weren't for industry standard salary which meant same or more than her other employers or our neighbors. Ma would try to evaluate her on various parameters as in whether she would steal, cleanliness, argue, ask for raise, gossip with neighbors (meaning definitely tell us about them but not tell them about us) and of course how many times she would WFH (Dandi marne as we call in Marathi). So each one of the 10 Bai's have left a memory which makes me smile.

Savitribai (Not Phule, just our maid) used to constantly eat mawa or tambaku (tobacco), which meant visiting the sink to spit a thousand times while she did all the chores. Though she claimed to have cleaned the sink daily, the stains of her incessantly tambaku eating reflected on the sink. Savitribai was fired the day my dad logged a complaint to Ma.

Then came Moushi, I don't even know why I called her Moushi. She was definitely the award winner Bai. Why?? Coz in a few days of employment she managed to terrify my mother. I believe she had some sort of schizophrenic personality (disorder). She used to talk to herself while she swept bedroom. Initially it began by mumbling to herself but then later she was talking full volume. She was fired for the doubt of stealing my Ma's wrist watch (which has been one of Ma's all time favorite firing strategies).

And yeah how can I forget Kamla Bai, she was the one who always managed to flood the passage between kitchen and bedroom where we put clothes on wires for drying. How? Simple, never used to wring them. Get the clothes fresh out of a bucket of water and throw them on the wire. Water would drip till the entire passage was flooded. Ma, fired her went one day when Ma slipped in that passage and barely managed to grab the door before she could fall with a thud.

Kamla Bai left the job soon after that unable to cope with the constant nagging. Another unique character was Luckshumi (Laxmi really!! But that's how she took pride in calling herself). Luckshumi bai had a thing about tv serial especially the Saas Bahu ones. Ask her about any serial, the characters (not real names but serial names), their costumes, accents. Instantly she would turn into that character herself and mimic the character. It was quite disturbing to watch her perform I tell you. But anyways she was some character. She believed she had sinned in her previous life and hence ended up being a Bai else she would definitely be in the league of krishmas and kareenas of Bollywood. Most of the time I would find her day dreaming. She quit hoping to join Bollywood.

Then came Vimla Bai, she was a narimukti person. While all Bai’s before her had complained of being beaten up by drunken husbands. She on the other hand used to come home and inform that she managed to give two punches to her husband for getting drunk. I have a feeling she knew karate. Her husband Ramu washed all the cars in building. Was an extremely skinny guy. I don’t remember why she quit or guess she is still there.

Does all this mean its better not to have a Bai? Ofcourse not. I still remember Sunita, Anita and Sulekha who were so good at their jobs. Knew what we liked to eat, knew that the collars of shirts need to be brushed, the ironed clothes need to kept carefully and who somehow never felt like Bai’s. Really all I need is this Bai Famine time to end...can Bai's be outsourced here??

Saturday, February 2, 2008

True Lies

I was thinking about all the stories I either heard or read in my childhood. How I believed them and thought such things existed. It makes me laugh now, yeah laugh about all those silly stories I believed in. And for ages kids have been listening to the same stories and continue to believe in them. Take the tortoise and the hare story for instance. I mean how on earth can a tortoise win a race with an hare.

When I was a kid (Ahem! says the kid in me) my parents brought a tortoise home. He was the most boring pet ever. Every time anyone went close to him, he would simply curl in the shell and stay there still, not moving, seemed dead to me. I used to move the shell round and round at an alarming speed, hoping he would get dizzy and at least poke his feet or head out. But No Sir! He would enjoy the rollercoaster ride and stay there inside his shell. There was no playing, no hiding, no enthusiasm or energy. I would see him walking across the living room when I left for school in the morning and find him at the same spot when I returned. Trying to cross the miles of living room. Slow and steady ha!! The distance covered would be few cms at the most. Coz for anyone who walked past him and for any footsteps meters away from him, would be like some earthquake for this soul and then he would stay hidden in his shell for hours, till he was convinced that the natural calamity has disappeared.

And then this story of tortoise and hare. How?? I would ask Ma, how could the tortoise ever win any race. She would reply "Thats coz he slept". I bet even if the hare slept for a decade, he would still win.

And what was that crap about Thumbelina – the little girl. I mean literally a person of the size of a thumb. Wouldn’t she be squished while her mum tried to dab some powder on her face? I used to keep asking Ma size of thumb means whose thumb, your, mine? And she meets this mouse. So I would ask again, “Ma, the mouse didn’t eat her?” No!! Huh?

Then came the Fox and the sour grapes. Yeah right!! If only a fox could think so much. And the moral of the story was “Its easy to despise what you cannot get” Huh?? “Ma, what does that mean?” So if I don’t get a first rank and say that its too hard to get the rank, is it ok Ma?” "No its not ok. You shouldn't do that”. Why not? The fox did it. I could never understand whether the story conveyed “resentment” or to the fact that “someone who after losing denies the intention of winning altogether”. Too confusing.

Then there was the crocodile and the monkey tale where the crocodile wants the monkey’s heart and the monkey convinces him that its back on the tree. I mean really, what crap. Crocodile I believe is a predator and which monkey on earth would agree to sit on his back. Ridiculous! Moreover which crocodile would let its prey get away once its caught. But coming back to the truth- I loved these stories and I believed them and their morals. But I wonder if I would tell them to my kids and whether they would be as applicable then. Probably they would know too many facts, too much exposure and will just not agree with fantasies.

On another completely different note, rice sambar and fried eggplant make an awesome combination. Don’t worry I wont turn this blog into a recipe blog ever!!