Year: 2016

The Suspicious Disappearance of Rigan Sargose

Based on a true, one-day old event.

We both were sitting at our respective desks in the cabin. It was half past eleven, and no sign of Rigan. He usually arrives before eleven; at least that’s around when he’d normally show up since he had joined earlier this week. He was sent over from our head office to the client’s place after one of the original three of us moved to another firm.

Eleven forty. Still no sign, and that’s when V called him up. Rigan had quit the job. And we sat there baffled.

Apparently, Rigan had gone to the main office the previous day and had handed over his official effects to the HR. He didn’t mention why he was doing so to the HR nor did he call any of us up that evening. But the HR was smart enough to connect the dots. However, we only came to know about it on the next day. Rigan was sitting at home and here we were waiting for him.

The reason he gave for leaving was something about relocation, and while that is justified, the one thing that we can learn from this episode is that one should never go AWOL while working with an organization. You want to quit – all right, you have all the right to do so. Inform your team, your colleagues, and the HR, and give your employer some breathing space to analyse the way ahead.

This might not count wholly as burning bridges, but waking up one day and deciding to quit at whim by staying at home without informing your team? Well, that’s unprofessionalism.

Step Aside, Religion A. I’m Religion B.

As narrated by my sweetheart of a sister, A.

It was a CST-bound train through Kurla which was now chugging towards Kanjur Marg, its next station. A lady boarded with some difficulty and then experienced more of it when the time came for her to find a place to stand. Sitting is out of the question in Mumbai local trains unless you are a shameless superhero, as you may know. The problem was not her bulky frame but the huge blue bag that she was carrying in her hands. And the people who aggravated the problem were the ones who boarded along with her.

I was standing with my back leaning against one of the sides of an entrance which is where the lady and the people had got in through. As the train started moving, shouts and hoots from the people began reverberating in the train car. The case in point: the lady not allocating enough space for the people who would want to alight at the next station, Vikhroli. Earlier, while the lady was trying to find a place to stand properly so that she could also keep her bag safely somewhere near, the people were barging in from behind her not letting her even move, let only scrounge and find a nook. Like a girl would throw in a vibe of interest to a boy that she is interested in, I moved aside a little so as to give the lady at least some breathing space. She took notice and glided in, and the people who were noticing, too, as it appeared, took advantage of the opportunity and accommodated themselves in the little cavity that she had just created, further aggravating the situation. As a result, the lady stood there in the packed car like a TV remote that has slid behind a couch and which is holding itself against the wall unable to fall completely down to the floor nor defy gravity and move up where it got dropped from by that annoying 3-year old boy you have got yourself as your neighbour.

Within seconds, the shouts increased by both numbers and volume. People were bashing her for not providing space for them to move like they were on a cruise trip. Apparently everyone wanted to get down at Vikhroli, which, you should know, is not a famous place if you are not a Godrej employee. She tried to calm them sweetly down by reiterating her situation if it was not clear enough, but the people didn’t budge. I was her only source of sympathy, but then sympathy doesn’t help you when it is something else that it is all about. And she was further criticized for bringing her bag with her, for obstructing way, for not being able to find a good place quickly which moved the argument to her not being from Mumbai at all, and ultimately for being a person who follows, say religion A.

That is the primary reason. That the lady belonged to religion A that the people who belonged to religion B were so pissed about. Religion is the reason why sympathy won’t help. All that bashing the lady sustained was not for being inefficient in travelling in a Mumbai local train on a sweltering afternoon but because of hailing from a sect that practices religion A. Because religion A has no say or place when the train car is filled with religion B.

And sorry, I forgot to mention that I follow religion C and I could detect people of at least four more religions in that train car where this situation occurred. And as is always the case with religious uproar, the people still got down at Vikhroli, and then at Ghatkopar, and then at Kurla because Vidyavihar is a joke. The lady got down at Kurla and everyone went home proudly for having kicked up a ruckus for nothing. Nothing at all.

When You Accidentally Offend Someone

Other than sometimes letting it eat you for the rest of the day, what do you do when you accidentally offend someone? If it’s a friend or someone you know well, then you can talk it out freely, but what if it’s a stranger?

Last day I was asked by a friend to be an extra in a photoshoot for her upcoming wedding. The scenes were to take place in the campus of our alma mater, Agnel Polytechnic. Two charming and nostalgic locations were selected by the ace photographer who came in all the way from Malad to shoot the lovely couple and her “friends.” The first scene was completed in minutes, but it was the scene which followed when and where our incident in question took place.

The photographer had brought his assistant along with him to help with the tripod adjustment and replacement of lens between shots. A humble guy, was the assistant who looked way out of place to be a photographer’s helper. Honestly, the guy didn’t look like he was cut out for it; going by his appearance, I would guess heavy industrial engineering or construction. But here we are at the shoot. The second scene primarily involved the groom-to-be texting his fiancée, insinuating that that is how it all started for the couple – he saw her, fell in love, and messaged her to show his love – and since he had forgotten his smartphone in his car outside the campus, a sudden need for an appropriate phone that would look sleek on film sprung up. Obviously, all of us extras extended out our mobile phones so that when the final film would play during the wedding day, we could comment about the phone’s original ownership to our neighbour and take pride. Unfortunately, my phone was not selected. And by that time, even the assistant had extended out his phone.

It was an odd one out in a group of phones that all boasted of being oversmart. A Nokia piece, I am guessing, because even before I could ascertain what the brand of the phone was, I blurted out, “If he uses THAT phone, the bride is definitely gonna say NO.” A few of us chuckled, and then it dawned on me. The guy must have felt bad for one, being the only person with a phone that is not a smartphone, and two, for having ridiculed in front of everyone including his boss for owning such a phone. I realized it then, and so began my thoughts on how I could fix it.

Naturally, I couldn’t think of anything. I thought of immediately saying sorry in front of everyone, but then that would have confused some as to why I was apologizing, and then they would overthink it and finally get why, further causing embarrassment to the guy. So saying sorry was out of the question. Next I thought of going to him and personally apologizing for being blatant, but then that would confuse him, too, had he had not got the quip earlier and would now begin to feel offended. And what would others think, if they saw, what was I talking so closely about to this guy whom I was meeting for the first time? And by the time I reasoned all this, the photoshoot was over. Some other guy’s phone was used for the scene.

Conclusively, that guy must have considered me the most bumptious person he had met that day. I couldn’t salvage the situation being an ordinary man who affronts people inadvertently and then feels acutely bad about it. So that is the question: What do you do when you accidentally offend someone?

Singappooram, a Malayalam Comedy Web Series That is Worth a Shot

Comedy is one of my favorite genres and that is why the 1987 hit Malayalam comedy film Nadodikattu is one of my favorite films ever. So when I watched a couple videos that poke fun at typical events in the lives of Malayali expatriates in a foreign country, no wonder I cracked up. The videos talk about both the monotony and speciality of life, with added flavor of comedy and slapstick.

Created by We Are A Sambavam, a small Singapore-based group of self-learned Malayalis with a passion for the cinematic arts and everything photographic, Singappooram is (as of now) a four-part partially related Malayalam web-series comically narrating the events taking place in the lives of a married couple and travelling Malayali families. SJ is a man who likes to enjoy his life by entertaining himself watching funny Malayalam classic films or by refusing to eat that tomato rice prepared for the millionth time by his wife. The four episodes essentially chronicle the events happening in their extended matrimonial life – from the wife’s TV show addiction to the husband’s ex-girlfriend, Mary, turning up in Singapore.

Poster of Malayalam Web-Series Singappooram

Singappooram Poster

The humor is excellent, especially in episodes 3 and 4, aptly titled Theppu Petti and Thallu Jeevitham respectively, where the couple evince the stereotypical attitude of being a Malayali couple in a foreign country. They boast about the way they lead their luxurious life; while on the contrary, things are not as hunky-dory as they seem. Then there is Ikru Mon, the wife’s distance cousin, who helps SJ show off in front of Mary in return for a plate of Biriyani. The dialogues delivered by these characters during these scenes are terrific, and if you are a person well-versed with Malayalam slangs and Malayalam cinema, then Singappooram is going to be a treat. Of course, you may lapse into depression later because it gets over too soon. Overall, it is a well-acted, well-edited, and massively entertaining short series, which is arguably the first Malayalam comedy web series to adorn YouTube.

With an amazing soundtrack that samples popular and funny songs like ‘Oothappam Veno Penne Bonda Veno,’ the sequences are hilarious and totally relatable. However, it does go over the top in few instances which might turn you off if you are in a bad mood. But still, sticking to watching and completing the series (which will take hardly half an hour) may be a worthy experience because it is both funny and creative at the same time, giving us a taste of good old Malayalam comedy that today’s films fail to provide.

Experiencing the humor created by these artists is definitely better than watching Deepthi IPS dilly dally around with her stupid co-actors in the ridiculously overblown and enormously idiotic Television serial, Parasparam, or watching actor Mukesh laugh to Ramesh Pisharadi’s half-assed jokes in the reality show, Badai Bungalow.

Conceived by Sooraj and his lovely team of We Are A Sambavam, you can watch the online series on YouTube here (do select the episodes in their right order):

The Lost Feeling of Graduation

I have been ceremoniously conferred an academic qualification twice; a diploma in 2012 and most recently a degree, both in the same sphere of Engineering. The feeling was great, of course, but there wasn’t much difference between the feelings when I walked out of my last board exam back in June and when I walked out last Tuesday with a degree certificate in my hand. Further, that walk out of the classroom after the exam was much more delightful than my graduation day, and there’s a reason behind that. Reasons, actually.

I do not know how graduation ceremonies unfold elsewhere in the world, so this is not a comparison quip from my part. This is just a first-hand experience of having graduated from an Indian varsity, Mumbai University, in 2016. However, this is definitely an article taking potshots at Mumbai’s various degree colleges which handed out degrees to their most valuable and loyal customers last week, on and around the 67th Republic Day of India. Having said that, this article is not exclusively about my college unless wherever remarked.

For starters, an amount ranging from INR 100 to INR 500 was collected from students for the graduation gown as rent. Other than the gaggle of people (who are the same students who were going to graduate in the first place, and some of whom are my now former classmates) who scrambled to cash in on this opportunity by urging the college administration to tie up with their known garment dealer so they could get a cut out of it, bad management at my college’s part was the biggest highlight. Some students, who were connected with the college’s administration, urged us students to fill a Google form while others suggested we call some random guy and register our names for the gown. While in my college we were asked to pay INR 300 for the gown as deposit with a promise of getting back half the amount on returning the dress, at colleges like K J Somaiya and Vidyalankar, students were charged a strict INR 200 without the give-and-take nonsense. Most of us paid the amount because we are sentimental people, we Indians. Wearing a graduation gown and photographing ourselves so that we can joke about framing it later during the dinner that night and eventually posting it on social media is a custom we have been unofficially following for years. So, yes, we paid the amount reluctantly and registered our names. I am assuming this had something to do (at least partially) with the people who chose to remain at home. But of course, I believed them when they said that their employers wouldn’t approve leave, in spite of the convocation being on a Republic Day or a weekend, or when they said they were holidaying at a hill station. Now that I have experienced the ceremony, I guess they are the smarter lot.

There was also some chatter about the colour of hoods (violet), which didn’t look that good. At the end, however, everyone thanked goodness that the management at least hadn’t selected that grotesque red-coloured gowns like the Nerul-based college RAIT had.

Moving forward, now this is focusing only on my college because commenting on something that I haven’t seen or experienced goes against the policies of this blog. I have only so much info about the ceremonies that took place in other colleges, and most of my friends tend to exaggerate without even realizing. The reporting time set by my college was 11 AM, and at around that time, the main verandah in front of the office was an example of total chaos. Students from different Engineering streams stood there with no discipline at all. Not that discipline was something to be expected from them, but the thought that these misbehaving people, all in their early twenties, were going to be awarded one of the world’s popular degrees was somewhat disturbing. Moments later I joined my group of friends, and soon I was one of them, chatting and shaking hands with my classmates and other colleagues like we had gathered for a party where people with jobs threw their weight about around people without them. Of course, people pursuing Masters were not going to jump into a flight for this mockery of an event. Even the jet lag from that flight wouldn’t be worth of attending the ceremony.

The second biggest highlight of that day was the unavailability of a large auditorium which could seat all of those who were going to graduate (sans the smarter people who chose to stay at home). My college has a tiny seminar hall with a capacity of hundred or so people, and to everyone’s dismay, the convocation ceremony took place in it. This is how it worked: Because there are only so few students in the rare Engineering stream of Printing and Packaging Technology (PPT), they were sent inside first. The group of students bought their academicals and marched into the tiny room. After the ceremony, these students were asked to expedite their actions of clicking photos and selfies and returning the gowns because it was the time of the IT stream to go inside, and there are only a limited number of gowns available. Since the PPT students were few in number, IT and Computer stream students didn’t have much problem. Things took an ugly turn when the beasts – Mechanical and EXTC stream students – entered the scene, and unfortunately, I was from one of them.

While me and my friends were lucky to get our regalia soon as we arrived, some of our classmates had to wait. But since there was another version of chaos brewing at the tiny room, only 10 students were allowed to enter its lobby at a time, which was exactly the point when I crossed my ‘graduation day’ threshold.

I wanted to see my friends and classmates and the people whom I care for receiving their degrees. I wanted to click pictures of them receiving their degrees. I wanted to be snapped sitting with hundreds of students in arranged rows by the college-appointed photographer. I wanted to listen to candid speeches by college toppers, wanted to see them posing with their overjoyed parents. I wanted to bring my parents, wanted to click pictures with them. I wanted to feel those moments, and what I really got was a certificate stashed into my hands by some aged guy (probably a professor) wearing a red robe whom I didn’t know and whom I (or any one of the rest of the nine people) wasn’t introduced to before (the PPT guys might know who he was), and clicked by a lazy photographer who was in a rush. The only good thing that happened in the tiny auditorium was the compering, which was carried out by a student who thankfully remarked the achievements of certain meritorious students as they stepped onto the dais.

Between receiving the degree and walking towards the exit door, I was sought and requested to leave the room right away by, at last count, three people. Like it would take me a trek to get out of that tiny, non-air-conditioned auditorium! Anyways, after leaving the room, I was stopped by a volunteer and requested to snap as many photos of mine as soon as possible so that I could return my gown because the Mechanical stream guys were waiting and you don’t want to mess with them. There was also a rumour doing the rounds that someone had taken their gown home. The humour! The humour!

There was no proper dress code, and neither were the parents invited to the ceremony. My goodness, I would have needed cylinders of oxygen if that were to happen. Still, some students came in with their happy parents and probably went back home with horror in their eyes. River of tea flowing in front of the office, stamps of shoes on this river as it got thinner and thinner and wider and wider as time and more feet passed, students roaming around here and there because someone lost their hood, someone lost their mortarboard, someone misplaced their lakh-worth degree certificate, people complaining about mismanagement, etcetera.

The whole ceremony was nowhere near to what I had imagined. A graduation ceremony for what it’s really worth should be dealt with finesse and at least a dot of respect; that’s why in popular culture these ceremonies are regarded with reverence. Because it takes a person years to get a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree, the conferring committee should at least take the pains to organize a blasting ceremony that will be remembered by its passing-out students for years and who will share the stories that happen during this ceremony in the future alumni meets.

It has been hardly a week since I smiled into a camera wearing a rented graduation robe and holding my degree certificate, and I have no good memory of that day. Except that of the river of tea.

But who are we kidding!? An institution that cannot afford to rent few hundred gowns for the most happiest day of a part of their students’ academic lives is a testament to the fact that education in India is, sadly, only a business, nothing else.

What have been your experiences?