Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mumbai Mumbles: This too shall pass...

A deep sigh - tiredness, satisfaction on the day on one side, concern about the near future - lot can be done, if everybody works together.   A day long, tired trip.  Out of his window on his return flight, he could see his bag being loaded into the plane's belly.   His mind switched to the recent events, a parade of flashback.

He had moved in to Mumbai alone - with lot of hopes and aspiration.   The company he worked for, was an established brand, large multinational conglomerate.   He did not have to spend time explaining his reason to meet customers anymore.   The customers he met were awed by his company's brand and size, but they felt that the engagement could be better.   Seasonal,  lacking commitment,  slow response - a littany of issues were thrown.    It always implied that ' you are big, but you are not there for us'.  

The last year had been challenging.   His family was in Chennai.  His wife was also working, and taking care of their kids.   Such a happy family, was going through testing times.   Every possible long weekend, every long holiday, he would fly to Chennai to see his kids.   They would be happy to meet them.   He longed to hear their cackling laughter and play with them.   He spoke to them everyday and to his wife.   'Just bear this, this too shall pass...'.  His wife would sigh, and enquire about the nitty-gritties of the daily life.

Mumbai was a tough market to work.   Too many things happened in too little a time.  One had to clearly prioritize in terms of which customer to go after, what deals to work, and who to meet.    This was an ocean, and his job as a business leader was in the spotlight.   His chairman and vice-presidents turned up every other week.   Too many deals happened in his client portfolio.  

Just six months back, when he landed in Mumbai, he was told that this is a green and mean business terrain.   Confidence and persistence, as always would be his allies.   But in the next few months, it was hard learning and hard work.   The team had to be built,  oriented and run.   Days after days disappeared.  Two quarters passed.   Reality sunk in.   The cycle of building a business and succeeding on a sustainable basis was tough. Tougher than he thought, indeed.

Every opening meeting will hold out promise and action.   The followup would fall apart.   The 'seasonal', 'slow' engagement still continued.   The dichotomy - whether the team showed naivete, passing time and lacked professionalism or whether it was his fault - was something he tried to fathom. 

The confusion had slowly seeped into his peace of life.    He always measured his success in terms of how well he would sleep every night.   Now that sleep was gone.   Everyday, thoughts around what he could do, how he could make the old magic work, crossed his mind.

He would try to immerse himself into his books, write a diary or a doodle on his blackberry.   The outflow of his feelings either in his blog or on facebook would be a great relief.  There he found some solace.   The books and blackberry.   Atleast, they kept him sane.  

Everyday, he would wake up with a thought of doing things but would lose track when he finished - his work was an ocean - still he was on a lifeboat thrown around by waves.  

It was going to be tough.    His life in Mumbai was going to be a sail in a tempest.    As always, as was in his yesteryears, he thought better days would be round the corner.

The PA crackled and the mechanical voice of the flight attendant admonished fellow passengers to wear the seat belt and pay heed to the safety demo.   He could now hear the whirl and swish of the engines beyond his window. 

His neighbouring seat was empty and he suddenly felt lonely.  Only his friends would be with him in his flight -the blackberry went off, and the book opened.   A hot sigh, and his mind said ' this too shall pass'.  

- The One

Pics Courtesy The One ( with consent of the subject of pic)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mumbai Mumbles :The Pigeon and the Eagle...

Eagle flying - view from my cabin
As I taper down in work, I look out of my window - busy traffic at the intersection.  Frequent honkings.   Humans - happy to be on terra firma.    Just as my eyes wander towards the sky,  couple of kites soar and saunter against the blue background.  

And just beneath my window, which is dirty ( my admin manager says will be cleaned when it is painted, which again, he does not know), I see some rumbling sounds - low throat;  two pigeons cuddle and then fly urgently away.

Pigeon at my window sill

What a similarity - these two very different avian species have adopted to the concrete jungle of the Mumbai city.  The kite is looking for an easy prey - a rat, a small snake, a birdling perhaps?   They live in the nearby mountains or tall trees, and scavenge over an easy left over from any of the eateries. 

The pigeons have made every nook and corner of the buildings their home.   They mate and live in the dark recesses of any building, making them a literal pigeon hole.  My window is home to couple of them.  The promenade outside my house have lot of pigeon poo, and my AC's external unit is unapproachable ( eik!).

While the humans run their race everyday, the birds have their merry.   They have lost their traditional homes, and there is no choice, but to adapt.   And they have,very successfully.  

And here am I,  recently having moved into Mumbai - and trying to adapt.   Now, in my office, I find answers - from the Pigeon and the Eagle!

- The One

Pics Courtesy The One...

Mumbai Mumbles: Coffee Shop- the perfect pit stop.

In the day when one literally runs to meet customers - in the vast city of Mumbai - in a rickety auto or a dusty cab, a much needed break is got in the form of visiting coffee shops.

I picked up this habit on a truncated work day in 2009.  I had so many things running in my head, that I packed up stuff from my office and drove around in the streets of Chennai.  I landed in this Coffee World, in Cenotaph Road, Alwarpet.   

The place is well laid out.  Spacious, nice air-conditioning.    Mild music that is non-intrusive.  Smiling lads form the coffee-crew.   Menu card is kept and the lad disappears into the background, wishing you good day.   I unpack.   There is a power point nearby;  I plug the laptop charger, and switch on the laptop.

 ‘There is wi-fi available, sir’ the lad interjects politely.  I say 'thanks, I have a datacard'.   I start work.   After sometime, I walk to the counter, and order an ice-tea and honey-waffles, my favorites.  

I get into my work, personal and official.  Some phone calls.  All like a nice work spot.   The guy polite serves the order on the table, smiles and leaves.   The work continues.  Time stands still - till the ice tea and the waffles disappear.

Another scenario - same place, another time.  I want to meet a person, well let us keep the trivia out.  We walk in, make ourselves comfortable in the cozy chair and place the order.   The guy and the music are non-intrusive and pleasant.   The air-conditioning is just perfect.   We talk and the order is served.   Time flies.  Finally, we leave.   Our job is done.  

Since my first discovery, Coffee Shops - Coffee World, Cafe Coffee day, Coffee Bean etc are my typical pitstops.  Between two customer calls.  In the middle of the work-day, when you don't want to be in office or home - the hiding closet.  A place to wait for somebody.   Time killer.   Rendezous spot.   As they say, a lot can happen over coffee.

In Mumbai,  it is more of about reaching a place early and work out the waiting period.  Like today, when I am waiting for somebody to join.   I can see my neighbouring seats - youngsters catching up  - taking pictures, apparently for Facebook, investment bankers meeting customers,  colleagues bitching about office life,  a loner like me immersed into a book - the common thing is the the ubiquitous coffee cup.

As I wait, my coffee is served.    And some time later, my friend walks in.   Coffee shop - a perfect pit stop.

- The One

Pic courtesy The One...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mumbai Mumbles :38 hours...

I was happy... eager to get off at the next stop ... and run into the small lane next to the railway track that leads to my house.   

I was carrying some 9000 Rupees of Diwali Bakshish, and new clothes for my maa, bhai, bhabhi and nieces - I can imagine them being so happy!

There would be soon shrieks of my nieces, the quite smile of my bhai, who was paralysed when he was young, and the warm mumble of welcome by bhabhi.  

My maa will caress me with her caloused fingers and say 'kitna din ho gayaa - thu abhi maath jaa'.   Everytime she would repeat the same thing, knowing very well that, I will leave by the next weekend.  

Then I would be offered small cup of tea and be asked to take bath in the water from the baalti in the backyard, and then would be asked to join for dinner.   Thava roti and aalu sabji - the routine menu for my dinner, but it is the best thing in the world for a hungry man, longing to have home-made food.

I tried my hand in repairing motor cycles, assisted my bhapu till he died.   After that there was no one with the skill to run the motor cycle shop, so I was again without work.  One week - I tried assisting in one of the restaurants, but the amount was too measly to feed 5 mouths.  

My bhai would cry every night - his inability to stand up as the man of the family, after my father died, made him cringe with guilt. 

One of my uncles works as a taxi driver in Mumbai. He would tell stories about the 'Mahanagari - the super city'  where people come and have made it big. 

This is the city of stars, lights and money.   Mahalaxmi - the giver of wealth, and Siddhivinayak - the destroyers of all evils,  blessers of the citizens.  

I took the train to this city- made of huts and tall buildings side by side, about 4 years ago.   I went to my uncle's house, who stays in Damu nagar basti.  He got me connected with the local friends, who do almost everything  - ek aur dho numbari for a living.  

My uncle warned - be honest and don't cheat.   Do what you can.   I found a group- who lives of the tall buildings.  They would do anything - electrical work, plumbing, occasional masonry, sometimes help people shift - those people in the high rises.

I know that these people in the tall buildings can help me live and save.  But, there were too many of us here - there is competition for each job that comes out.   I finally found one.   Clean cars.   Saahibs and Madams would drive their cars out in the morning, and they would want them to look swanky new. 

I charge about 400 rupees a month, and they are happy to pay.   I have 11 cars now - to shine!   I eat in the nearby shanty - naastha - dal chaaval, or roti sabzhi ' would cost about 40 Rs per day.  I give about 300 Rs for a raajai and a mosquito coil everynight.  Then add my kaini and paan, which keeps me going,  I still save about 2000 rupees every month.  

Our partner log or uncles go to our village - about 30 km from Agra in Uttar Pradesh,  and my family runs in this money.  My maa makes papads and achaar and that gives some money.   My two nieces study in a small village school, where I studied till 4th, and then I had to work in my father's motor cycle factory.

I can feel it now, going to meet my family after 4 years.  The journey has taken 38 hours ...another 15 minutes,  the Delhi-Agra passenger will slow down - somebody would pull the chain, as always is the routine.   And we jump, run across the track to small lane.

I lean across the window and already see my happy nieces in the dark... it is pitch dark...but lights are at a distance... something whistles towards me in the dark... and hits me ... suddenly everything goes dark... I could hear shrieks ... then darkness.

I wake up ... I can't see -  I can see murky shapes moving on my right, my left side is dark.   I panic, I try to speak... my throat is dry - somebody is shouting - Hosh aa gayaa!' .  I see my friends Munna and Kunal, and my bhabhi  faintly.

I feel numb and empty -the pain is white, I can tell you that...

I don't hear the shrieks of my nieces or the mumbling welcome of my bhabhi or the noisy breath of my maa,  I can't see the quiet smile of my bhai or smell the aroma of the aalu sabzhi that awaits me... 

I smell phenoyl and medicine ... see green curtains and white-dressed humans... After 38 hours I boarded the train - I feel empty!!!

- The One

Pics courtesy Internet...

( This blog is based on a boy in our neighbourhood whose left eye was damaged by a stone throw when he was about to alight from his train -  let us pray for his recovery)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vertigo - Momentus Horribilis

This happens when you drive.  I experienced it in a traffic signal.

These days, companies employ large buses of demonic proportions to carry sleepy and tired employees across one end of the city to another.   These buses are painted plush white - well mostly, fitted with air brakes, large mirrors, air conditioned interiors, dark glasses and intimidating side mirrors.  

My car was a basic hatchback and I was happy driving it - it was my world.  It could squeeze through traffic like an ant moving on the snake's back, and was easy to park.   Of the tall-boy type, it also gave great road visibility.   So one had to just whistle, hold the steering and drive - it was fun.

On this particular day,almost 6 years ago,  I was waiting in this signal, - a busy one, in Velachery, Chennai.   The signal waiting period is one of the longest in Chennai, almost for three minutes.   The road was empty and it was all music inside the car.   Slowly,  one of those demonic buses appeared on one side; and within ten seconds, another appeared on the other side.  

Within seconds, it was like two white walls on both sides, and I was stuck. I felt nauseating and claustrophobic ( am generally claustrophobic, when windows are shut and all, but this was a new situation)- and already some sort of discomfort had set in. 

Then it happened.   Both the buses started moving.

I could not see the signal,and apparently it had turned green.   One was cutting left and the other too.  I was paralyzed.  It was like I was going back at a great speed suddenly - but actually I was stationary.  

Suddenly, the buses had gone, and the view become clear.  But my panic was there for some 30 seconds further.  Persistent honks from vehicles behind my car woke me from this paralytic jamboree.  

What a horrible moment it was!   I have experienced similar situations since then - very occasionally though.  And I learnt it was a kind of vertigo. 

Then on, I am keen to avoid these white giants as my neighbors at a signal.  

Please share your experiences on vertigo - but am sure, the reader, if one has experienced, is a momentus horribilis.

- The One

Pics Courtesy Internet