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The Kitchen Sink

Washing Vessels – An Operations Approach

I’ve been washing vessels. This is not news to anyone who has spent time in the lockdown. Like many of my fellow countrymen, I’ve been living the charmed life, with hired help taking care of everyday household tasks. With the coronavirus lockdown, we have been left to fend for ourselves. We are the lucky ones – the most hardship we have to endure is that we have to wash our own clothes and vessels.

However, it is not safe to leave tasks such as vessel washing in the hands of a former operations fellow like me. You see, the trouble with operations folks is that they cannot meet something without wanting to organize it, streamline it, reduce it to a set of processes and sub-processes and then embark on a tweaking journey to increase the efficiency of aforementioned processes and sub-processes. And that is what happened with me and vessel washing. read more

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The Adventure of the Nexus One

Nexus One
Nexus One

A few weeks ago, I was stocking up on victuals at our local green grocer’s, which goes by the grandiose name of Veerabhadra Vegetables. Veerabhadra Vegetables is by no means a mean place – on the main road from Kothaguda to Miyapur, its location opposite Shilpa Park gives it a strategic advantage that the grocer has turned into an excuse for the most alarming (to outsiders) Nawabi attitude. It is also this that endears him to all his customers, me included. Wasn’t this the guy who looked at the awesome-looking Force India t-shirt (to buy which I spent a small fortune) I was wearing and complimented me on how it looked, and in the same breath said how lucky I must be to work for a company that made such nice shirts? Apparently all the logos on the t-shirt made made it look like it was a company shirt and not something anyone would pay for.

But I digress.

It was a couple of weeks ago and my re-victualling was taking some time as for some reason there was a bit of a crowd – a couple of noisy local housewives, a gaggle of grandmothers and a loud Haryanvi youth screaming into his cellphone were before me, and I had to wait. I could not help but wonder what would happen if I reached over, took the phone from the aforementioned youth and switched it off. His relative in Haryana would have no trouble hearing him even without the phone – he was talking so loudly – but he would have been annoyed, and as he was evidently more familiar with the gym than me, I desisted. After standing around waiting idly for a grand total of about two minutes, I took out my beloved Nexus One and was about to create a listing for Veerabhadra Vegetables on Foursquare when I felt someone looking over my shoulder.

I turned around to find myself gazing into the nut-brown eyes of a swarthy local lad, stout of frame and youthful of countenance, who was trying to steal a glance at the screen of my Nexus One. I could not help but notice the puny device he held in his hand – probably a MicroMax, Lava or even an unfortunately-named Lemon. Feeling rather smug and superior, I turned a bit so that he could see tha amazing 3.7 inch display of my Nexus One, and was flicking through pictures in my Gallery looking for a really dazzling one when I heard the aforementioned swarthy local youth make some comment to me about how big it was. The following conversation, brief though it was, was in Hindi – my broken, Doordarshan-inspired, Hafeezpet-honed Hindi to the swarthy local youth’s Hyderabadi Hindi that would make anyone from outside the former Nizam’s dominions cry. Since my Hindi is broken at best, and my recall of it is patchy, I’ll present the conversation to you in English. For convenience’s sake, we’ll call the swarthy local youth SLY.

SLY: That’s a really big screen…
Me: Yeah it is. It’s a very good phone.
SLY: I’m sure it is. How much is it for?
Me: I don’t know – maybe 30,000 or 35,000 rupees?
SLY: You don’t know?
Me: No – my company gave it to me free of cost.
SLY: Oh.
Me: [Grinning – still trying to figure out what awesome feature of the Nexus One to bedazzle the SLY with]
SLY: [Looking pointedly at his small phone] Does it have FM radio?
Me: [A bit taken aback] No.
SLY: [Looking more cheerful and confident] Dual SIM?
Me: [Starting to feel a bit numb] No
SLY: [On top of the world now] Oh. It’s also too big. No wonder they gave it free to you.

With that he turned around and walked off to his cart, from which he had been unloading vegetables into the shop.

What happened after that, I have no recollection of – just the mind-numbing certainty that my Nexus One, simply the most awesome piece of technology I have ever owned, had been bested in a brief conversation by the MicroMax/Lava/Lemon of the vegetable boy who supplied beerakkai to Veerabhadra Vegetables.

And no, I still haven’t created a listing for Veerabhadra Vegetables on Foursquare. But if you ever do, be sure that I will snatch Mayorship from you in a matter of days!

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The Art of Self-promotion

Insurance agents truly redraw the boundaries of entrepreneurship. A case in point is the image you see here. Vidya forwarded it to me, and I guess it was sent to her by someone to whom an insurance agent sent it. I have, of course, removed any personally identifiable information before posting it here, lest the agent be subjected to random acts of anger.

I myself am unsure of my reaction to this. On the one hand, it is easy to instantly lament the poor taste and opportunism exhibited by the agent. Recognizing this reaction for the knee-jerk it is, I am forced to think of another way of looking at it. I tried to imagine how this would have happened. For narrative convenience, I am positing a male agent.

Insurance agent is sleepily browsing his morning paper, perhaps accompanied by a cup of strong coffee. He reads “Notes and Tips from a Survivor” (which is actually excerpted from HLL GM Rahul Welde’s email – about which people Read More

Current Affairs

Sunday afternoon and Vidya was at the parlour. I was watching something nondescript on TV and trying hard to keep awake. The doorbell rang.

I blearily stumbled to the door and opened it to find a small boy, maybe ten or eleven years old, standing outside. He looked up at me and said, “Current?”

“Uhh…?” was all I could manage in response.

“Is current there?” he asked, a tad impatiently.

Now, this was a puzzling question, especially given that the TV was blaring rather loudly from the opposite flat. Then, I reasoned that the boy was probably from a flat directly below ours – maybe the wires ran in a particular way and he had been sent up to find out whether a fuse had blown or whether there was a power outage. Anyway, I wondered why his parents hadn’t just called the colony electrician or the complex office. My sleep-befuddled brain, though not operating very well lineally, seemed to be on a blisteringly lateral path. For a moment I even thought that I was at the receiving end of a typically Tamil joke where one guy calls up another and asks if there is power at his place. When he answers in the affirmative, he is asked to bring along a couple of kilos as there is an outage in the other chap’s house. I know – it sounds better and makes a lot more sense in Tamil. There was no telling what deviltry the little brat was up to.

I reached out and switched on the tubelight, which lazily flickered on. I looked meaningfully at it and then back at the little boy. When he remained unresponsive, I had no choice but to mutter, “Yes, it’s there,” pointing helpfully to the light.

The boy remained where he was, looking rather despondently at me. Finally he burst out, “Can you call him?”

It was then that it dawned on me that he was actually asking for his friend named Karan, and he had come to the wrong house. I quickly told him that he was at the wrong door, and before he could laugh out loudly at me, had closed the door and retreated to my TV.

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Observations on a Shaven Head

Summer has truly arrived in Chennai, and an appropriate revision of hairstyle was called for. Last evening, finding myself with some time in which I had nothing else to do, I went to the barber. After thinking of various alternatives, I did something I have never done before – had my head shaved!
The New Look!
Having never had a shorn head before, here are a few observations I have been making:

The first thing you notice when you have a shaven head is how airy it is. The joy of feeling the breezes playing about your shaven head has to be felt to be believed!

The second thing is the feel of everything against your head – its totally different without hair! As I stepped out of the barber shop, I tried to put on my cap. It rasped against my head, and refused to settle smoothly against my freshly-shaven scalp. When I feel my head with my hands, the feeling of scalp aginst palm is a new and fresh feeling. The shower is a totally new experience without hair – the spray strikes you and flows from you at completely alien angles. It took a bit of time before I got used to it. This morning, as I was driving to work, every time I leant back against the head-rest, it felt different. Right now, the draught from the air conditioning vent is gently caressing my scalp – I hope I don’t get a cold from it.

The third is people’s reactions to the new look. Vidya immediately declared it a disaster, and has since been letting me know she doesn’t like it and doesn’t approve. The security guards at my housing colony have not been recognising me and have been giving me quizzical looks. On my morning walk, the newspaper guy kept looking at me, until suddenly recognition dawned upon him and he broke into a smile. The car-cleaning guys looked clean through me. Magesh reached for the camera when he saw me, while Murali was non-plussed. The best reaction was from one of Vidya’s colleagues who lives in the same apartment complex as we do. He saw me, smiled at me and kept walking, as though nothing was different about me!

Getting your head shaved is like getting a tattoo – it is a lifestyle choice, only less permanent!

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Return of the Kadi

When we were in school, and later when we were in college, a genre of humour, heavily dependent on puns, homophones, and lateral thinking, flourished. These were the ‘kadi’ (tamil for bite) jokes. A few of us were accomplished masters, while everyone took a stab at it. At its peak, all popular magazines ran ‘kadi’ jokes, with Ananda Vikatan’s Mr. X jokes leading the way. Then slowly, the popularity of kadi jokes waned, and it went into a decline. Of course, die-hard afficionados kept the genre alive, punning away in like-minded company. Today, it seems to be making a comeback, taking the form of ‘Thathuvams,’ forwarded by email and text messages.

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That Black Dog – Again!

Okay, this is getting serious. There is this black dog that lives somewhere on the one-way street that I take everyday to get on to Mount Road (Anna Salai to the purists, or not!) from Usman Road.

I did write a post about him a few days ago, and here I am, doing it again! This guy is getting to be one celebrity of a dog!

Yesterday morning, I was passing by his street when I spotted him, sitting upright on the extreme left of the road, watching the traffic lazily. At this point, a (typical Chennai) cyclist, blissfully ignoring the trouble he was causing by his actions, was slowly cycling down the road, against the flow of traffic, on his extreme right. Now, our hero, the black dog, was sitting well off the road, presenting no obstacle to any one. Seeing the offending cyclist, he decided to teach him a lesson, and slowly got up, stepped out in front of the cyclist, and stretched. The cyclist, suddenly finding his way blocked by a dog, and having no space to manoeuvre, braked sharply. This threw him off balance, and he flailed wildly for a moment before jumping off his bicycle in order to save himself from the ignominy of falling off. By this time, our hero had finished his stretching and had returned to his former position. The cyclist, looking stupid and defeated, went on his way. The dog, secure in the knowledge that he had struck one for law and order, sat looking at his street. I came away with another story – straight from the dog!

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