Oct 24, 2010

A Question of Trust - Part II

Read Part I first. Not that it is going to help you make any sense of this, but still...

“Hello, Mr. Krishnaswamy, I’m Suchitra Sengupta. I look forward to working with you and your team”, she smiled and held out her hand. Krishna Iyer mumbled a hello, limply grazed her fingers in what he thought was a handshake and turned away towards the CFO’s cabin. It had been bad enough being told that the company was engaging a consulting firm to help modernize their accounting process to be compatible with IFRS guidelines. But to take orders from a 25-yeard old, a woman at that!

“Simply not tolerable! Totally out of question saar! At least they should send some senior person saar. What does this kid know about business to advise us?” KV Krishna Iyer pleaded with his boss.

“Iyer saar. You know it is not my decision. MD payyan US la MBA pannitu vandhurkan. Ippo private equity kondu vara porangalaam. Nammakku atha pathi oru ezhavum puriyadhu. Periya edathu decision, no question saar”, the CFO sounded equally helpless. (““Iyer saar. You know it is not my decision. The MD’s son has returned with a US MBA. Now he wants to attract private equity. We hardly know what rotten shit that is. High level decision, no question saar.”)

“But at least some senior person saar...” KVK still held some hope.

“For the record Iyer saar, she is a graduate from IIM. With a CA and a CFA.”

“Enna saar periya IIM MBA kimbeeyay. Naan antha kalathu B.Com Honours! Gold Medallist! I was drawing up ledgers before she was even born!”

“Iyer saar, I have explained the management stand. You will co-operate with her. And I don’t want any complaints from their side. Or from you.”

KVK stormed back to his cabin, muttering under his breath. Only to see the pretty face of Ms. Sengupta waiting for him. He forced himself to smile. “Tea, coffeee?”

“No thank you. Mr. Krishnaswamy, could you please take me through your processes here. I want to create a process map, and an organizational chart. Would also need to understand your internal audit system. And which software do you use for your accounts? And Mr. Krishnaswamy, please don’t mind, is there any easier way to address you?”

“What do you mean by process map? Or organizational chart? There is no internal audit, I sign off on everything below 50 lakh, for everything else, the CFO does. And no software. Those boys there, they do the accounting entry in the journals. I check the totals daily. Don’t even need a calculator! And oh, you can call me Iyer Sir.”

Suchitra bit her lip. This assignment was going to be tougher than she had imagined. She had dreamt of making high powered corporate strategy presentations to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies when she signed up for this job. Not sitting in a dingy office in Coimbatore with manual accounting, dealing with a difficult client who clearly hated her. But there was a reason she had taken up this particular assignment and she intended to complete it.

She had gotten off to a bad start with ‘Iyer Sir’. And things progressively went downhill after that.

She hated the archaic procedures and the dusty filing system. He hated computers because he couldn’t understand them.

And the mutual dislike extended from the professional domain to the personal. She hated the fact that this man held such bigoted views. He hated her for her modernity.

“I hate the slurping sounds made by a grown man licking his fingers while he ate curd rice!” she said, in her daily calls to her boyfriend, Shankar. Carrying on a relationship with someone halfway across the world was not easy. But she loved him. Loved him enough to not give up.

“I hate the smell of that fish in her tiffin box. Ennavo macher jhol aam. Enna ezhavo!”, KVK muttered to his wife at dinner, about how he had had to first change his table at lunch, and then when he could not bear it any longer, change his time-table! She was surprised to hear him talk about something from work. Something he had never done in, you guessed it, the last 25 years.

“I hate the way he dresses, in cheap polyester trousers and those bush-shirts which are never tucked in. And in such atrocious colours! I hate his oiled hair too”, Suchitra whined on another call.

“Azhaga lakshanama oru salwar kameez potukalam. Idhu ennada na pasangal aatama suit potundu varadhu! Mudiya vera otta nariki vechundu. Bob cut aam. Kandraavi Kandraavi!” (“She could wear a salmar kameez like a decent girl. But this one chooses to wear a suit like a boy! And has cut her hair so short! Says it is a bob cut. Utter nonsense!”), KVK rambled on, surprising Lakshmi Ammal even more. She had never seen her husband this agitated.

In fact, it made her worried enough to mention it in her call to her son in the US. A call he dutifully made every night, even though his father rarely spoke to him, and he had to get all his news from his mom.

“I don’t know what has come over your father. He is obsessed with finding fault with that new girl in his office!”

“Obsessed with her faults or obsessed with her? Kezhatuku indha vaisula kadhal kidhal ayidutho?” (“Has the old man fallen in love, at this age?”), the son asked, half in jest.

That question set in motion a mini-storm in the life of KV Krishna Iyer and Lakshmi Ammal, a married life that had been peaceful forever...

PS: The usual disclaimer. I am picking names of characters at random, going with whatever sounds right to me. All characters are imaginary!

Oct 21, 2010

A Question of Trust

His fingers started tapping the floor, the rhythm measured and regular. He didn't need to look at the clock to see that his wife was 2 minutes late in bringing him his breakfast. For Kalpathy Venkatasubramaniam Krishnaswamy Iyer (KV Krishna Iyer) was, if anything, a man of routine. And he sat erect, with legs crossed, in padmasana pose, the rhythm of his fingers slowly picked up speed. He didn't like to be late. He hated it more if other people made him late. Especially, if it was his wife of 28 years, Lakshmi Ammal.

KV Krishna Iyer had followed the same routine for the past 25 years. Wake up at 5 am sharp, brush, have water stored overnight in copper sombu, a bathroom routine of 'morning work', shave and bath that lasted precisely 45 minutes, sandhyvandhanam at 6, followed by suryanamaskaram, morning poojai that involved individually removing the dried flower from each of the 24 divine photos kept in the poojai-arai and replacing them with fresh flowers which the flower guy would have delivered in the morning, reading the Hindu (first page, editorial, obituaries, sports page, strictly in that order) while sipping coffee from 7 to 8 am, breakfast at 8 am, leave for work at 8.30.

The plate of steaming idlis arrived. Finally. As Lakshmi Ammal bent to serve him chutney, she winced. The years had not been kind to her back. But she knew, even before she began her well-rehearsed plea, that her loving husband would sooner let her collapse on the floor than agree to sit on the dining table for his meals. He viewed these 'modern fancies' with an emotion that bordered between callous indifference on the rare good days and vicious lecture-spewing hate on most others.

It was the same hate of modern fancies that led him to cycle his way to work, steadfastly refuse his son's offer to buy him a car. 'Work' was a day filled with journals, ledgers, petty cash balances and bank reconciliations. Or at least supposed to be. In truth, it was a day filled with two really pitiful juniors listening to the famed orator KV Krishna Iyer holding forth on one of his many pet topics - society (the glory of the caste system, the wistful reminiscence of the British Raj era, the intellectually bankrupt western influence, the evils of tobacco and alcohol), governance (the blase corruption in Indian bureaucracy), international politics (Pakistan - a nation of crooks!), economics (the US dollar is a worthless piece of paper, made valuable by the stupid Chinese...), local politics (the DMK is nothing but a bunch of godless thugs who want to finish off all Brahmins), diet (vegetarian food is the healthiest! no question about it!), films (Rajinikanth? bah, a non-actor made famous by the deranged fans! Sivaji Ganesan was the only one qualified to be an actor), sports (that Sachin Tendulkar seems to be a good chap, but Rahul Dravid is the best)...

Let it not be assumed that KV Krishna Iyer was a man who whiled away his time in office shirking work and doing chit-chat. In truth, he was too talented to be kept occupied for more than 2 hours a day by the accounting work for Rajalakshmi Industries International, which truly was involved in a global business. Of importing palm oil from Malaysia.

And his routine in office was also a set one, unchanged in the past 25 years. Coffee at 11 am, which he would drink by pouring exactly one-third of it into the second glass, twirl it thrice, sip, twirl, sip, pour, twirl, sip.
Lunch would be from the dabba with piping hot food brought by the servant precisely at 1.00, which will always have 4 containers, one sambhar rice, one rasam rice, one curd rice and one vegetable dish. The combination of vegetables in the sambhar and for the side dish for each day of the week had been drilled into his wife over the years, and he would know before opening his tiffin that the meal for the day would be vendakai sambhar and beans kari. He had a coffee again at 4, this time with 2 Marie biscuits. At 5.30, he would pack up and leave.

Just outside his office, he would stop to buy salted kadalai (groundnuts). "Innum rendu podu... enga kaalathla ettu anna ku evalo periya potalam varum!" (Put two more... In our days, we used to get this big a packet!). The vendor knew this dialogue by heart, having heard the same line for the past 3 years when inflation forced him to use a smaller magazine's paper for wrapping the kadalai.

The evening routine consisted of a quick pradakshinam of the temple on the way back, evening sandhya, dinner at 8 while pretending to listen to his wife narrate neighbourly gossip, a leisurely walk (stroll, actually) for half an hour, and he was off to bed by 9.00.

KV Krishna Iyer found great comfort in his routine. It kept his mind off the fact that his son had not visited them for 3 years now, citing leave problems and some US visa issues. Or that his daughter has not spoken to him ever since he refused her permission to marry her college crush, and she chose to walk out. Little did he know that his routine was about to be given a jolt...    

PS: Yes, in spite of the Ramaiah and Julie.T fiasco, I refuse to learn my lesson and again start a story, with only a vague plot line in my mind of how to take it forward. This one will also be in episodes, but hopefully will not drag on forever.

PS1: Yes, all characters are fictional, so if some Kalpathy Venkatasubramaniam Krishnaswamy Iyer actually exists, or if any of you see yourself reflected in him, no sir, I am not talking about you. Or you. Or you, for that matter.

Oct 12, 2010

Tamil Fans protest against word 'Rajnigandha'

The Vengayam
Our Ordinary Correspondent

Thousands of enraged Tamil fans are protesting in front of the Hindi Prachar Sabha, against the word "Rajnigandha", demanding it to be renamed into something that is not demeaning to the name of Superstar Rajinikanth.

"Rajnigandha sounds very similar to Thalaivar's name... plus our Indhi teacher taught us that gandha means dirty! These North Indians keep referring to Rajini saar as black, bald and ugly, but now they have gone too far with this flower's name. Bloody phools. We want that word removed from every Indhi dictionary!", said Annamalai, proudly waving his badge "Vice President - Rajini Fan Club, Mettunasuvampalayam" in our reporter's face, while two of his cows mooed in the background.

On being told of the subtle differences between ganda and gandha, another fan, Muthu bellowed "Da, dha, tha...  all look the same to us. When Thalaivar wants to convey sandosam, he says santhosam, which clearly shows that they are all the same! And you write kanth, or gandh, it looks the same in Tamil! Try it in Google transliterate if you want!", thereby scattering 'pearls' of knowledge about the Tamil script and google products in the same line.

Meanwhile, another protester was seen demanding that the Amol Palekar movie of the same name be  banned from releasing. When told that the movie was released in 1974, he said "So what? You think we won't ask to ban the movie just because it is old? First that Amol Palekar steals our Rajini Saar's Thillu Mullu and calls it Gol Maal. And now, he releases this offensive movie to demean our Thalaivar." He refused to entertain any argument that Gol Maal had in fact released before Thillu Mullu, pointing out that Gol Maal 3 is yet to release!

Protesters were also seen outside the Singanallur office of a mouth-freshener company, demanding that the company change the name of its pan masala. "Thalaivar's name cannot be used for some stupid pan masala. Who do you think he is? Sania Mirza?", said one more 'tall' fan, while simultaneously spitting out some chewed up Manickchand gutka juice.

Meanwhile, the man in question, the Superstar, sat unperturbed in his home. With Raghavendra calm. He was seen composing an email forward from his id gmail@rajinikanth.com. The subject read: Rajnikanth Facts.
PS1: Yes, totally running out of ideas. Totally.

Oct 10, 2010

Nine colours of Navratri

On the first day, they decide to go green
"Wow, you look nice" they pout and preen
What in God's name! I shake my sad head
In that colour, I wouldn't be caught dead!!
But the gals do make for a pretty scene :)

On the second day, they wear grey
as they march to the temple to pray
Now, that's a colour that I don't mind
In my wardrobe, it's one that I can find
So, on this I have only nice things to say...

On the third day, they opt for pink
"now that's a girlie colour", I think
but horror of horrors, I own one of that
if you say "that's gay", I'll kick your butt
It's a chick magnet, like Barney's wink...

On the fourth day, they put on white
I like it, especially if it is skin tight ;)
It's supposed to be pure like a lily
or something like that, equally silly
say, like ghosts on a new moon night!

On the fifth day, they choose to go red
it's sexy, it says "O baby, come to bed"
Of course, some tend to overdo that part
and end up looking like a cheap ass tart
making us mad as bulls, horny and bent head...

On the sixth day, they  come up with blue
reminds me of camlin ink and some glue
ok, I made that up, just to make it rhyme
god promise, I won't do it a second time
but seriously, what word rhymes with blue?

On the seventh day, they don some yellow
bright, sunny, smiling, like a happy fellow
my mind goes back to that cartoon... Tweety
yes, the bird that spoke like girls: cho-chweety...
and oh, the obligatory Mallu phone joke: Hyellow

On the eighth day, they pick the colour violet
and the boss told the secy: "please file it"
ok, now I am coming up with random shit
coz I am reaching the end of my limited wit
but what the hell, my mind flies and I'm the pilot!

And we reach the ninth day colour: peacock
they say "birds of a feather, together they flock"
but, but, it is not a colour, it is a frikkin bird
but women can identify that colour, so I heard
like magenta, lavendar, or that Ramar-pachai frock!

PS1: Inspired by a mailer that was sent by some lady to all ladies in the company about "what colours to wear for Navratri", dutifully forwarded to me by a colleague who believes in equal opportunity, and thus decided that the men should also support the "uniform" movement.

PS 2: I. want. Sundal. :(