February 17, 2008


It is five months since I started my stay in this house here in Chennai. It is situated in one of the decent residential localities of Saidapet, my roommates have been staying here on a rent of rupees 6000 per month for more that two years. This rent was increased to 7000 one month before I joined them. Our house is on third floor of the second building in the compound, the owner and family lives in the ground floor of the first building. This is the history and geography, now to the present.

I first came here on a mid-night after my flight from Singapore and immediately slept off. On the next day (which was a Saturday) morning when I got down the stairs, I met Ammachi for the first time - an old woman in her early sixties, bulky in appearance with mannerisms of a typical tamil woman. She was staring at me from the moment I was visible from her verandah while I was climbing down the stairs. As soon as I reached the ground near to their Verandah and was about to open the gate to outside street, I heard Ammachi asking in Tamil. "Who are you?". That was a very shocking question, especially to me who had learned to say 'thank you' to all the strangers in those Los Angeles shops and malls who opened the doors for me or who asked 'how are you doing?' It suddenly reminded me that I am back in India and my polished manners wont help anymore. I managed to say in broken Tamil that I am a friend of her tenant and escaped the scene rehashing some of the Tamil words that I knew for my future use.

Later, when I met my friend and roommate he cautioned me about Ammachi, the wife of house owner who may ask about my whereabouts. My roommates were nice guys (like me!), and so did not comment much on Ammachi. So it was my turn to discover things myself. The house owner was a retired employee, they were living in that house with their son and family, and Ammachi ran the show in the household. She was weary of thieves, so kept the exit gate latched all the times and made all the tenants do the same. She locked the gate during day time and questioned anyone who came through the gate. She did not allow any maid inside the compound other than the one who worked in her house. This approved maid was the only option for all the tenants who wanted a maid, cook or helper.

Ammachi was usually present at the Verandah most of the times in conversation with some other old men and women who were their neighbours. When she was not and was without a company in the verandah, she would ask questions to her tenants if they pass by. It was not possible to collect all the information in one instant as the time she could see us from her Verandah till we reached the exit gate was very less. I some how did not like these conversations which were an intrusion into my privacy and managed to escape before many questions. Most of these questions were asked to find out how much I was earning, which religion I belonged to, etc. Moreover, information thus collected was the topic of discussion for Ammachi and company in their next meeting.

It was Ammachi who told my friend and told that the neighbours have complained about our unruly behaviour after consuming alcohol. (My friends are social drinkers if you know what does that mean. No, no, do not count me). She also told him that her husband was really angry for making this an issue in the neighbourhood and wanted us to vacate the house as soon as possible. My friends being nice guys, and me being a nicer guy who did not know the local history, we began to look for a new house. But two days later my friend again talked to Ammachi (apparently on the trajectory between stairs and the exit gate) and she came down on her terms. If we were ready to give a higher rent, she was ready to convince her husband to let us stay (whose agent is she?). So we finally decided to give that extra rent which we thought would be 8000 rupees, a 1000 extra. But Ammachi gave one more shock, she (her husband!) wanted 9000 rupees from three of us. Since this was a convenient house for me who worked near to LIC building and my roommates who worked near to Porur, we decided to stay back.

After paying the additional rent for two months we decided to find one more guy to join us since the expenses were going higher. We got a new guy who was colleague of my roommates, and my friend went to inform Ammachi. Before my friend could finish, she demanded another hike in rent to 10000 rupees. This was considered as a big insult by my roommates who were staying there for long, so we decided to shift. Meanwhile the new guy who joined us for time being was having a tough time. He has a bicycle which Ammachi made him to carry and keep inside our apartment on third floor. Her agent, our house maid complained to Ammachi that he keeps his shoes inside the house. So he was asked to keep his shoes in the shoe rack outside. He found a house near porur and shifted today with one of the roommates, in a hurry to escape from Ammachi. Me and another roommate will be shifting to a near by house in Saidapet itself.

There is one thing that all of us agree, that Ammachi is a misfit in the locality. She would have done better had she been a commander in the army.

* Ammachi actually means Mom in Malayalam, but is used colloquially as a reference to any old woman.

February 15, 2008

One more day in the life of a Software Engineer

We, three team members, were gathered at one cubicle and were discussing about some defects when our Senior Project Manager (SPM) came. We were little worried as he had told in the last meeting that the defect count in our project was raising and should be checked. He saw three of us standing there actively discussing something technical which he could not understand. He was in a very happy mood, and saw one more team member approaching the scene with a slip on which was written a defect number. And here is what followed:

SPM: (smiling) Defects?
One of us nodded, and the fourth guy talks something about his defect to us.
SPM: One more defect...good

SPM moves off to the next cubicle where a Junior Project Manager (JPM) sits.

SPM: What is the planned work % to be completed?
JPM: 28
SPM: How much did we complete?
JPM: 27
SPM: Any surprises?
JPM: no
SPM: (happily) good

I know that this has close resemblance to a scene in Schindler's List, we are still investigating who had seen the movie and fooled the other guy or if both of them had seen it and was trying to fool us?

O Valentine, Where Art Thou?

Sidin gives some tips on how to get your Valentine on his rediff column, and another-frustrated-single-male calls him idiot for wasting the time. Sakshi gives an Agony Aunt advise to a frustrated-lonely-single-guy. And eM gives a quick guide on women. Had I seen these blogs earlier I would have behaved differently than how I did. I was hooked on to TV more than blogs and got my ideas from those 'idiot box' advertisements where man-gets-a-women in 10 to 15 seconds.

  • It was the close-up advertisement that initially got my attention. They showed how it is important to have full-mouth-open-to-public-laugh to get your girl interested apart from using the close-up toothpaste. I was already using close-up then, but started being conscious to open my mouth wide open while laughing , which gave me some initial attention from the people around but did not end up in any relationship. Overtime some of them got so uncomfortable that they stopped smiling at me, forget sharing those funny (poor) jokes which was our major time pass in office. I am still using close-up, but have considerably reduced the area formed out of my open mouth while laughing. For a change I am not sure whether to try Colgate or Pepsodent, those ads still show kids as if the toothpaste is not yet ready for grown up adults.
  • I would not have had the habit of tasting mints, had it not been for the minto-fresh ad in which the coolie gets the heroin because his teeth were sparkling and breath was seductive after eating mint-o-fresh. I tried just eating it for a while, and began directing my open mouth to those girls whom I wanted as my valentine but the results were nothing positive. I have been searching for that new Mint (without poison-marijuana-etcetera) which this guy in the ad uses to seduce none other that Celina Jaitley.
  • My hopes of getting a girl in this janam were fading when I noticed those very very sexy ads of Set-Wet hair gel. I wanted to look like the angrez guy who had white and brown hair set in umpteen directions as if he was electrocuted. I tried to empty half the tube of gel on my head to create the 'electrocution', but all I could manage was the wet look without anything sexy about it. All day in the office, people were asking if I forgot to shampoo my hair after applying oil. A fellow female colleague whom I thought had some interest in me was giggling whenever she saw me on the floor that day, particularly after I combed my hair to get the 'mafia' look! I tried those set-wet body sprays as well which came to market a little later but was of no use, this time I had no big expectations though.
  • Then I saw that wonderful ad which was any man's dream any day. Millions of bikini clad women chasing a man wearing an underwear on a beach, all because he just used the latest deodorant from Axe. I thought I had been wasting my time with Set-Wet and immediately got one Axe. But after prolonged excessive use of it before going out (including a trip to the local market to buy fish), no woman even asked me what was the smell. Instead some of them complained to my company human resources that they are getting head aches because of the excessive smell inside the air conditioned room, so I had to stop using it. After all, your first preference is for survival then only comes the valentine.
  • Abhishek Bachchan is a well known actor now, people say had it not been for his father it wouldn't have been possible for him. But Aamir Khan says in Tare Zameen Par that junior Bachchan became famous because he had Dyslexia. I did not think twice before buying that Motorola mobile phone which Abhishek endorsed, the ad shows how difficult was it for him to get a girl until he bought one of those phones. If his father, hard work or even Dyslexia could not help him to get a girl which the phone could, why should I think twice? But even after the phone crashed exactly one month after its warranty period was over, I could not find a girl who had a crush on me!
  • I was getting tired of trying, valentines day was fast approaching which made me more desperate. I had made up my mind to do anything when I saw the frenchie-x underwear ad on TV, a girl resists all attempts by her boy friend to take her to bed until she saw him wearing nothing else but a frenchie-x. It looked a real cool method to me, I went and purchased one dozen frenchie-x undergarments and started wearing them right away. It was then that the real difficulty of this method struck me. As shown in the ad, I did not have an option to go in front of my/any girl wearing just the undergarment. So, I had no other option while I went near the girl but hope that she would understand that this fully dressed gentleman has worn this 'cool' thing inside. But till today girls have failed to understand, I could not do anything dangerously daring and remains single on this Valentines Day as well.
There are other advertisements of bike, car and almost-everything-under-the-sun that shows a single handsome guy finding his girl when he uses the product. I can't afford to try all of them, so I have been selecting the cheaper (pun intended) ones. What have you been trying?

February 14, 2008

Take on(e) Tare Zameen Par

While trying to sleep yesterday after watching TZP, I was wondering if I had Dyslexia. The symptoms I had were similar to Ishan, I tend to interchange while writing words that sounded similar like there and their, whether and weather etc. That I also write the number eight in the exact opposite way (mirror image) of how my classmates did was another contentious argument in my mind.

The movie has been in theaters for a while now and my friends including Chennaites who saw it had only good opinions. Being an Aamir Khan starrer-director, I concluded it to be another typical Bollywood flick. But it turned out to be a miscalculation! The story of TZP is about a dyslexic child Ishaan Awasthi who finally overcomes this with the help of a teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh.

The subject it handles is one which is usually taken up by the art film directors (and not definitely of a usual mainstream Bollywood cinema). As every one already knows, Aamir chose to direct the movie when he was not happy with the scenes shot by the debutant script writer of the movie. The movie may not have had this genuineness in treatment and wouldn’t have had helped to create the awareness it has done if not for Aamir. In fact I felt the second part after interval was no less than a documentary on Dyslexia, had it not been for the comic strips with the teachers in the school. It was these comic caricatures in the movie that kept the spirits high for the film which otherwise has a subtle feel about it, even the songs are tuned to this mood.

Apart from those momentous silly insinuations that I had about me being dyslexic (which was probably an attempt by my subconscious mind to place me beside the stalwarts mentioned in the movie with learning disabilities: ), Tare Zameen Par confirmed my belief that Aamir Khan is the one of the best actors in the present Bollywood. He chose to direct a movie when it would have been easier for him to act in another flick with a song picturising all the Bollywood actors and actresses alive. And to my amazement, TZP collections are nothing short compared to the well marketed multi-starrer.

February 12, 2008

Another Day in the Life of a Software Engineer

So here starts another day in my professional life.

My earlier project had been in the concluding phase for many months now. After my return from on-site I had only minor tasks to accomplish till this project successfully concluded on last Friday. Since everybody was aware of this from earlier, a new project to enhance the application was scheduled t o start on the very next working day.

As per the above plans I was entrusted with the task of creating design documents based on another document which provided the requirements. Today being Monday and the first day of this new assignment which spans over two long years, and with the guilty feeling that I have been sitting idle for so long a time, and with the interest to do something productive and brain cracking (duh!), I started to office one hour earlier than my usual time (which I wont declare here, read the disclaimer if you have doubts. )

(If you still have doubts don’t read further)

As expected, no one had come in the cubicles near to mine when I reached. The usual start time for my fellow colleagues on Monday was later than usual! (not a bit of doubt allowed!)

So, with the satisfaction that I have already achieved something I opened the Mainframe terminal and started my analysis to find the design changes for the requirements. During this time my team members arrived one by one and were amazed at finding me working. Well, my sense of achievement increased.

Again as expected, my manager came to office about one and half hours after I reached. And he began to forward those mails which he normally would not understand but will forward to the team member whose name is mentioned anywhere in the contents or cc list. And I got three mails in order!

I opened the mails to see three documents attached with a note that those were detailed description of my requirements. I opened them with apprehension that "detailed" is another word to make my task difficult, and what did I find?

There it was the line by line design changes to all the requirements, the very facts which I was trying to find out by coming early on a Monday morning. Thanks to the on-site guy who thought that me (the dumbo) cannot create it from his requirements document.

Well, I did the next best thing you are expected to do at that moment. I logged off from Mainframe, opened my Firefox browser and started typing in the name of one of my favourite websites...

Its life as usual, again!