Apr 29, 2013

Trip to Goa - I

It all started a few months back, when one of my friends sent out a mail saying "When and where do we plan our next vacation?". I got all excited, since I had a lot of PLs pending, and was keen to get away for a short break. Those of you who know me (and my legendary laziness), would have knowingly smiled and told themselves "What's new? This type of planning on email happens all the time. Nothing comes out of it." I agree, I have been guilty of starting quite a few of these 'grand plans' which (like the people involved) went nowhere. And like so many previous times, this one too fizzled out (although it was not SRK's fault this time. I blame a guy called RK!).

I should not be saying this, for my mom happens to read my blog, but it's been tough finding single people to go vacationing with. And I am not even expecting super hot single ladies who'll sit for a late night session and knock back a few drinks with me while we ponder the utter meaninglessness of life (although that would indeed be nice!). All I ask for is for some of the idiots with whom I spent countless nights sipping cutting chai and eating midnight-Maggi at hostel to take a few days off from whatever mind-numbing work they are doing and come along, so that we can go someplace far and sip cutting chai and eat midnight-Maggi and crib about whatever mind-numbing work we are doing. But those idiots are all married with kids (and in spite of my whining here, I am genuinely happy for them!), leaving me with fewer and fewer options.

And so when some of my friends at work pointed out that there was a mid-week break thanks to a saint called Mahavir who happened to be celebrating his birthday (and bless his soul for giving us this pathway to peace of mind!), and by taking a Thu-Fri off, we could take off for a 5-day holiday, I was so happy that I almost gave up non-veg and potato and onions. Till they mentioned Goa and thoughts of fish curry and prawn balchao restored my sanity.

And so, plans were made. And re-made. Flight tickets were booked and leave applied for. Umpteen mails were exchanged on where to stay, with each guy giving his opinion. Except me, all I wanted was a place which has running water in the loo. Not for me some fancy-shmancy deluxe pad where they expect you to use paper. And so, when the guys finally said they have found a place (close to the beach, has a pool, a pool table, and yes, water ass-jet in the loo!), I jumping-jhapanked at it (that reminds me, that lady Farah Khan needs a vacation. To some place far off. Permanently. For inflicting the most idiotic moves, movies and brother on us!).

Enough people, including some Goa ex-residents asked me whether I was mad to be planning a trip to Goa in this weather? They warned me that it'd be too hot at the beach and we'll just be cooped up in our room. That I'll come back tanned and dark-er (like I wasn't already!). I was just desperate to get out of the city (I mean, Bombay wasn't experiencing Bangalore weather, so might as well sweat it out in shorts and vest on a beach instead of full formal wear at office!).

And so it was, that five guys swaggered down (Kaante-, no Reservoir Dogs- style) through the security check-in. Correction, the other four did, I frantically ran in since I was late. All thanks to a taxi driver who insisted on asking for "Rs.50 above the meter" and then drove down s-l-o-w-l-y since I argued with him and threatened to complain to the cops. I even took a pic of his number plate, but now the vacation is done, and I have cooled down and am not in the mood to report him.

Anyways, as I stepped into the flight, I was ready to leave the hectic workplace, the disappointment of not going someplace better, the nagging of random uncles who meet me for the first time, ask my age and comment on why I should get married soon, the irritating taxi drivers and all my cares behind. If only for a few days. A few precious days. Preciously few days.

(to be continued... I wanted to write it in one post, but I have rambled on and on and we haven't even come to the start of the trip. And I am too lazy to edit. I promise to wrap it up faster than Ekta Kapoor though!)   

Apr 23, 2013

One of my clumsy attempts at story telling...

He sat in the cleanest corner he could find and clutched his head. He desperately wanted this to be a bad dream. But the pain from his nails digging into his temples reminded him that it was not. That, and the all-prevailing stench.

It had started as a trifle. Early morning, as he was dressing up, he had found that the top button of his shirt was missing. On any other day, he would have simply swapped it for another shirt and moved on. But this was not any other day. He had an important client presentation to make. It was a make-or-break deal for him, his career, his future at the firm as his boss had repeatedly reminded him. And though he frowned on most superstitions, this was his lucky shirt. He had got his job wearing this shirt to his interview. He had worn it the first time he had met the woman, who would end up being his wife. A woman who doted on him, and attended to his every need.

That reminded him. He had asked her to mend this button 3 weeks ago. And again last weekend. And again, last evening, specifically mentioning that he had an important meeting today. Till six months ago, he wouldn't even had to have ask her. She used to pick out the shirts which he had to wear, colour-coordinate them with the appropriate trousers, and lay them out for him. All neatly washed, pressed and smelling nice. Although he always told her not to indulge him so much, he secretly enjoyed being pampered like this. But those times were just a fading memory now.

She had become a bit distant recently. He could see that she was getting frustrated sitting at home. After all, she was equally well-educated and had been a starry-eyed bright intern when he had first met her. The first assignment he had given her, she had filled her brief perfectly. Staying back till 3 am in office and ensuring every 't' was crossed and 'i' dotted. And not a single typo. Soon, late nights at office became the norm, and she filled his brief perfectly too. He did not realize that a shared obsession with correct grammar, perfect formatting and wearing each others' briefs could lead to a commitment of a life long relationship. But rock-solid marriages have been cemented over much less.

She had given up her job after he got promoted. They had talked over it for quite some time, and he was initially surprised she made that sacrifice. But they both realized that his job was going to take over his life, and he needed someone to, as he put it, "be the wind beneath my wings". And at first, she seemed to adapt to the new role in her life as smoothly as she had pulled off her first assignment. But, she gradually became clingy, talking about starting a family and having kids. He gently reminded her that they had discussed this before marriage -  "kids simply drag your life down".  He knew she was getting restless now and, as he would have put it to her during her intern days "no longer had her eye on the ball". And thus, his lucky shirt still had a button missing.

And so they had had an argument. Which had started with a missing button and ended half an hour later with a screaming match on how he no longer seemed to love her. And he finally threw the shirt on the floor, picked up the first thing he could grab from his wardrobe and stormed out of the house.

That half an hour delay had ensured that his daily plan of starting early to avoid rush hour traffic was now just that. A plan. His boss had already mailed him twice reminding him to be on time. This was no ordinary client, this was what they called a 'whale'. Millions of dollars to be had in fees, if only he would bite. And whether the whale would, depended a lot, if not entirely, on the story that that he would weave. Because behind the pin striped suit and the 'pitch deck' filled with arcane numbers, what made any client tick was a story. And although he could rattle off every conceivable metric in his industry from memory, above all, he was a skilled story-teller. And that's the skill that had made him the youngest MD in his firm.

He generally liked to reach his clients' offices half an hour early. He was a perfectionist, and he personally ensured that the projector was working, the lights in the room was not too glaring, the room temperature was just right. It was the little things that made the difference between success and failure. Between a blockbuster bonus payout and a pink slip. Little things like a button on your favourite shirt.

And here he was, stuck in traffic, running late for the meeting. He quickly called up his boss and asked him to keep the client engaged for some more time. Just as he was getting a lesson on the importance of being on time, peppered with some choice things the boss would like to do to his mother and sister, the traffic cop stopped him. "Talking on the phone while driving" is a punishable offence, and on any other day, he would have smooth talked the cop into accepting a lower amount. After all, negotiation was his forte. Today wasn't any other day. He pulled a 500 rupee note, told the cop to note keep the receipt and sped off.

When he finally reached his client's office, he was half an hour late, And the client was an impatient man, who was used to making the bankers wait for him. Not the other way round. He didn't remember the details now, but the pitch was a disaster. He knew they were out of the reckoning for the mandate before he stepped out of the client's office. Trouble was, so did his boss.

On the drive back to his office, his boss told him in a low, solemn voice, "Management is thinking of cutting costs. It's a tough business environment. Am afraid we'll see some re-sizing soon." Management at investment banking was like the Mob. They rewarded loyalty and performance handsomely, but were quick to cut one off if they found slack. And he got the message. He'll have to update his resume soon. Getting a new job in this market would be tough. He could do with a miracle. Maybe his lucky shirt would help. "If all its buttons are in place", he thought bitterly.

He ploughed through the rest of the day, constantly worrying about how he would manage the EMIs for his fancy pad and the fancy car if he got laid off. He was evidently distracted and even made a typo in a mail (Oh, the horror!). And just as he was packing up to leave for the day, he got a call. It was her. She said she could not take it anymore, and she wanted space to think things over, and hence she was leaving to stay with her parents for a few weeks. He had sensed this was coming, but he hadn't realized it would be this soon. Maybe the morning argument had been the last straw.

There was a loop running in his mind, about how he could have handled the argument in the morning better, about how he could have taken the shortcut and avoided the traffic, about how he could have managed the presentation better... whether it was simple absentmindedness induced by this, or a temporary rush of bloody rage which blinded him, one couldn't say, but he evidently did not see the pedestrians who happenned to jaywalk in front of his car.

"Two men, three women and four innocent little kids." - their panic-stricken faces as their bodies bounced off his bonnet kept flashing in his mind at the police lockup as he sat in the cleanest corner he could find and clutched his head. He desperately wanted this to be a bad dream. But the pain from his nails digging into his temples reminded him that it was not. That, and all-prevailing stench. Of urine and blood and other horrible things he would rather not imagine.

Just then, his mobile beeped. New mail, flashed the icon on his blackberry. He scrolled down to see that it was from an idiot in the HR department, who was in the habit of spamming the global address with a 'Thought for the Day'. Today's read: "A stitch in time saves nine."