Ezine

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Margaret

This particular event occurred when I was working with a BPO called Zenta, in Hiranandani Gardens Powai. We used to have two shifts. 6 pm to 3 am and 2 am to 10.30 am. I was working in the first shift that day. My group was waiting for the cabs at 3 am to leave for home. My friend Milton said, "Laya when you go home today you will see Margaret." I got scared and told him not to frighten me as I had a long walk in the dark to my house at dockyard colony in Kanjur Marg.
We boarded our cabs and left for home. I got down at the gate of dockyard colony. As I began walking through the dark expanse of road, I heard the sound of heels clicking on the road. I began walking faster as I became nervous the sound of heels matched my pace. I began running and looked behind. I saw a woman in bridal finery in white. I screamed and somehow got into the lift of my building. I pressed the fourth floor and reached home. I pressed the door of my house open and went inside. I went to sleep when I opened my eyes, my sister was shaking me. She called out my name and asked me what happened. In the doorway, I could see the woman in white smiling at me. I screamed and fainted.    

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Festive Season

With the festive season around the corner
Festivity is in the air
The heart lurches with excitement
and the smells of the festive season intoxicate you
the wonderful smell of crackers, new clothes
the delicious aroma of sweets all fills us with a desire
It transports me back to childhood with Papa heralding the festive season with new clothes
Diwali still comes every year and leaves me with a nostalgia for childhood days
The wonderful times spent with family and friends
May this festive season bring new cheer to all our hearts.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Life is a maze

Life is a maze
serpentine in shape
meandering from here to there
sometimes stopping on happy moments and at other times sad.
Each moment leaves behind memories
deeply entrenched in one's psyche.
These moments mould the personality
Sometimes warming the cockles of heart and at other times
Freezing from beneath.
Anyhow life is a gift and in spite of its meandering ways
It is pleasurable.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The struggle

The eternal struggle within the mind wears me out,
A struggle of existence, qualitative living and eternal peace
I think, I deny and I acknowledge all three placed side by side
I wish for some respite from this struggle.
I wish somebody could tell me if they also go through this struggle
Is it normal to struggle in the mind, feel apprehensive sometimes, delirious at other times,
When I look back at the past and think of the times when I was 21-22 years of age
I didn't go through this struggle
My mind was not crowded with thoughts ugly and beautiful and sexual,
I wonder if these are my thoughts or some outside source has planted them in my mind?
Oh God! help me to find respite from these thoughts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Freelance writing

Dear friends,
It's been a while since I addressed my readers and wrote a post. Today I will discuss the origins and the pros and cons of working as a freelancer  A fellow scribe has discovered that the word existed during the times of Sir Walter Scot and has been mentioned in Ivanhoe. However there it refers to a soldier who offers his services and weapons to the highest bidder. Freelance as it is used, today refers to working independently. We will not go about tracing the etymological roots of the word. Let's rather discuss the advantages of working as a freelancer.
Firstly, you are your own boss. You can work according to your convenience and also earn as much as you want. On the flip side, you don't get a fixed income so when you are on a low phase it is difficult to make both ends meet. When I worked as a freelancer I was working for two companies and earning a decent package. I had to visit two offices and juggle between two companies. It was fun but now that I have a full-time job, I look back on my freelancing days with nostalgia.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Euphemism

Euphemisms all.
Is this world full of euphemisms or,
Is there a reality?
Life is full of euphemisms
How do I remain sane in such a world?
I seek reality, happy or sad
but give me a dose of reality, not euphemisms
They keep you drugged
Under a stupor
incapable of facing reality.
Give me reality
no euphemisms, please.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The disclosure

I landed in Mumbai; this was my usual once in a two-year trip to the city. The warm air, the familiar slums all strangely welcomed me to the city. They were a far cry from my cushy surroundings in Houston Texas. I took a cab and asked the driver to take me to Powai, Mumbai. I had a comfortable apartment there. In some measures, life was comfortable in India, as you didn't have to face the harsh cold weather of US. However, Houston was not cold. The other blessing in India was it was easy to find servants.
I reached my apartment. Kept my bags in my bedroom and decided to take a shower. The warm climate in Mumbai demanded that one have a cold-water bath. Meanwhile, the maid had prepared tea and some snacks. My husband and I sat down to have a cup of hot relaxing tea. The jet lag was wearing me out and I felt like taking a long nap. I settled in my bed and went off to sleep. I don’t know how long I had slept but when I woke up it was 11 a.m. I had gone to sleep at 8 pm the previous night. More than 10 hours of sleep! the jet lag had sure taken its toll. I brushed my teeth, had a bath and asked the maid to make some coffee and breakfast for me. I went to the dining table as the delicious aroma of breakfast hit my nostrils. I ate a sumptuous breakfast and the hot cup of coffee revived my spirits. I suddenly realized I had to go for my fund-raising session the next day. I sat down to unpack my bag. One by one I lovingly hung my clothes in the wardrobe, my eyes fell upon the sari gifted by my grandma. It was a jazzy affair with lot of zari work. I didn't wear it regularly but once in a while when I wore it, it invited lot of compliments. My grandma had gifted it to me on my 18th birthday. Eighteen years had passed since my eighteenth birthday. I had got married had two sons and life was good. My husband was loving and considerate and encouraged me to do my own thing. I involved myself in social work to keep myself busy. My work comprised of helping women become self-sufficient. We would raise funds to help women in need of it.  The women I worked for were very different from me in some ways that is life had not treated them as well as it had treated me. 
Then I thought of my grandmother and my mother, had life treated them as well as it had treated me? I suddenly became uneasy as I recalled my overbearing grandfather. He was strict and though I saw little of him, as a husband he was not very caring. My grandmother was treated very shabbily. She was confined to her quarters and she was only allowed to come out in the veranda. She met guests in the huge living room that we had in our haveli. 
My mother's life was not so bad, but she also had an overbearing husband that is my father. It was she who ensured that history wouldn't repeat itself in her daughter's case. She educated me and married me off at 25 to a nice guy. Whenever I look back and think of my grandma and mother my eyes are full of tears. But strangely they were not unhappy with their lot they accepted the fact that in their times it was the lot of women to be confined. 
Even my mother who had an overbearing husband that is my father was happy with her life. I wondered whether I was as satisfied with life as my mother had been with hers? Considering, I had all the comforts in the world and a supportive and loving husband. What more could one ask for? I brushed the thought aside as complaining about my lot was not how I wanted to live life. 
I picked up my bag brushed my hair applied lipstick and set out for the fund-raising venue. I had to give a talk on how important it was for all of us to help the unfortunate. I believed in the validity of my endeavour. As God had not made all of us equal in terms of prowess or the facilities each one of us had, we had to help each other. With these thoughts in my head, I reached my venue. I walked towards the podium. With all eyes on me I addressed the audience. I shared my story. How I was blessed however I had seen my mother and grandmother suffer. Many women raised their hands they also wanted to give their inputs. I welcomed them to the stage. Among the women who walked towards me there was a tall good looking woman, she was looking at me strangely. She approached me and said she wanted to talk to me personally. I agreed, I went into the room attached to the hall and sat down. The woman gave me a quizzical look and said that was an inspiring talk. I thanked her she shrugged and continued, are you happy in your life? I was taken aback. I said reasonably so, she replied what if you discover that your lot is worse than your mother and grandmother? I was surprised by her question, however, I asked the woman what made her make such a statement. She introduced herself as Anagha and said what if you discover your husband has another wife? I became angry but kept my emotions under control. I asked her how was she making such a statement, she said because I know. I'm your husband's other wife. I was flabbergasted, however, I asked her, what proof did she have to support her claim? She pulled out her mobile and showed me a picture of my husband with his arms around her, shaken, I  called my husband and  asked him whether he had another wife. He said yes and further added that he had sent the woman to make the disclosure as he was planning to leave me. I became belligerent and told him that I would sue him for bigamy. He said go ahead. I was shocked beyond comprehension and wondered whether I was luckier than my mother or grandmother? They had overbearing husbands and I had an unfaithful one. I suddenly realised that my lot was no better than the lot of the women I was supporting and I too would have to take up a job at this stage in my life to financially support myself. I decided to go home and began looking for an apartment for myself. Then I pulled out my certificates and applied for a teacher's job. I would have to forget my cushy lifestyle and support myself. Though my husband said he would financially support me and my sons I refused. My sons were grown up and one was pursuing Engineering in the USA and the other had taken up a job in a software firm. I wondered what their reaction would be to this shocking revelation. I, however, decided not to wallow in self-pity and moved towards the door to begin a new life for myself.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Songs

I was just now listening to Badi sooni sooni hai...the song never fails to touch me. Similarly whenever I listen to the song ae majhi re apna kinara nadiya ki dhara hai...I'm touched. These songs touch the very core of your being. I also love main pyasa tum sawan main dil tum meri dhadkan... also jaane kaise kab kahan ikraar ho gaya.
Among the English numbers sacrifice by Elton John never fails to move me. It is surprising how these songs move your soul. With songs in my head I can go on working for hours. Dear readers comment and share which songs move you. For my Indian readers they will immediately identify with the first four songs I have mentioned. The first two are about loneliness and the next two are romantic numbers.
Sacrifice is a special song. I love the way Elton John sings its not sacrifice just a simple word...
I'm winding up this post will write more about thoughts that come in my head.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Back to Work

With songs in my head
I feel the warmth of arms enveloping me
I have known this feeling before
Can't have traversed the long path of life
without experiencing this warmth
My thighs shiver in anticipation
I feel the familiar warmth washing over me
What is this confusion at this stage in life?
Suddenly I feel the sunlight hitting my eyelids
And I'm jolted from my reverie.
It was only a dream
Let's get back to work

Lonely Soul

My lonely soul looks for a helping hand
A hand that I could reach out to
Will it lovingly clasp mine or shrug it aside?
Am I wallowing in self-pity?
Dry-eyed I can't be indulging in self-pity?
I'm only exposing my lonely soul
They say you are born alone and die alone
I too am aware of this
Yet my lonely soul looks for a hand that would firmly grip mine
and provide my thirsty soul moments of suffusion from the parched moments

Inner Torment

This inner struggle
When will it end?
Will it make me a stronger human being?
Or be the end of me?
Oh! the confusion,
the self-doubt
Do I need to discover myself once again?
Or I know myself well enough
This inner torment is it guiding me to other shores?
Or reminding me to be satisfied with my lot?
If only I could find answers to these self-doubts
Ah someday I too will find my respite
Till then O mind rage on...

Friday, August 28, 2015

Inner Voices

Voices sing in my head
I look for peace, absolute silence,
 but the voices continue to sing
I struggle, fight, deny the voices
saying they are not mine
but what do I do with thoughts that rage in my head
I look for peace
I long to submerge my head in water and feel fresh water wash over the thoughts in my head
Will this struggle ever end?
Will I find peace?
I look for answers, but alas the answer eludes me.

Life an uphill climb

I climb the uphill climb
this drudgery that is life
does not change
neither does it shed tears at its helplessness.
I look for choices to bring about a change
But the choice eludes me
slipping through my fingers like grains of sand.
I turn around and look for more options but alas none come my way
I try to stir the muse in me to add a poetic touch to my otherwise staid life
but alas it shows no reaction.
Oh God when will a change come my way
when will there be a respite from this burning pain.
When will I find fulfillment
Ah perhaps another day
I too will see the dawn of a new day...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Problems and lovemaking

Poetry flows from my heart and it warms the cockles of my very being
as I watch the intense lovemaking the lovers grappling with each other
 as a person grapples with his problems and just as a person finds the solution
and is overwhelmed with the discovery the lovers reach their culmination and
are overwhelmed.
I wonder at my thoughts and the analogy I have drawn
Then it strikes me that isn't the angst experienced by the lovers similar to the
state of mind of a person grappling with a problem.
The same anxiety to find a solution
I watch as the lovers push towards their culmination.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Baking a cake

On Sunday my sister and I decided to bake a cake. The process took us back in time when we used to enjoy cooking. We were at an age when everything is new and learning to bake a cake from my work experience teacher was fun. She was so particular and would tell in detail why a cake had not turned out well. We had bought a round oven at home and did many experiments with baking. My sister used to bake a pie by mixing besan in the dough. It was a novelty and one can call it fusion cooking as it gave an Indian flavor to an otherwise western dish.
I can call the exercise almost therapeutic as it transported us back in time to the days when our family was a single unit. Everything was fun. Life was full of family and friends. I was studying in the 12th grade. Studies were important and a major chunk of our time went pursuing our studies.
Today there are no studies. Books have taken a backseat. I grew up in an era when reading books was a loved pastime. Life is not bad now but we miss the good old days when experimenting with cooking gave us thrills and an outing was a rare occasion which meant eating out. Today almost everyday we go out and the activity has lost its charm. How I wish the good old days would come back meanwhile I relive the moments listening to Carpenters, when I was young I listened to the radio waiting for my favorite song...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Death at close quarters

She died at the tender age or 16 or 17 of blood cancer. This was one of the most tragic experiences in my adolescent years. I was 15, when the school came to know that Urmila ( name changed) had leukemia. Till then we had seen instances of it in movies where the hero or heroine died of blood cancer. But this was my first experience of death at close quarters. The bone marrow transplant had been discovered but Urmila could not get a donor.
I saw her when she came to school to collect her school leaving certificate. Her face was pale and she was wearing a mask on her face. After a few months we got the news that Urmila had succumbed to Leukemia.
Whenever I think of her I wonder whether she had known the all important emotion of love. Perhaps yes and perhaps no. In either case she must have experienced deep pain on knowing that she had been afflicted with Leukemia.
An army officer's daughter Urmila had a cushy life and was the most brilliant among her siblings. When I look back on the incident I feel God also takes away the most lively and the most bubbly. Perhaps up in heaven he needs lively people.
I dedicate this post to the memory of Urmila, a pretty girl who died at sixteen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Yahoo Messenger

I recently read the book, "I too had a love story." Nice book. Very catchy and light. It took me back to the year 1998-99 when I used to chat on Yahoo messenger. There was no gtalk then. I met interesting people and also realized that beyond my surroundings there was an interesting world. I came across people living in far off countries and living a very different lifestyle. I also came across fellow Indians who had migrated to USA or had gone there for a short official trip. Times were fun I made many friends in the virtual world who taught me interesting things about life.
The matrimonial sites had newly started on the worldwide web. Dating sites had guys logged on to them.
The cute emoticons that Yahoo used were lovable and made chatting more fun.  Ravindra Singh's book transported me to those times. People used to stay awake late nights chatting into the wee hours of the night as phone call rates were half during night times and people had dial up connections. We would incur huge phone bills as I chatted a lot. Now the world has changed so much. I do not chat. I have what'sapp and almost everybody is logged on to it.
No longer do you come across interesting people, but the flip side of this is one gets more time to read and one doesn't get blank calls. Mobile phones are a blessing as no unknown calls and no harassment. Thank you Ravinder Singh for transporting me back in time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Meaningful Existence

Oh the ennui of it all
Is living a meaningful existence a compulsion or it follows the natural course of life.
Life like a caged bird longing to be set free
I in my lonely world longing for attachment of some kind.
I reach out, I bend, I cry I plead but do not find a hand that reaches out to me.
Is this also, life or it is the inner torment of my heart and has little to do with a meaningful existence
Do we attach meaning to life to make it more joyful?
Is simply existing not living?
Why give meaning to existence?
Let its futility unroll
Ah perhaps another day I will be in a jubilant mood and find meaning in life.
I will also get away from this ennui and angst
Meanwhile let’s play the game of life?

Hmmm why insist? 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why is the BPO Industry Looked Down Upon?

The BPO industry started operations in India somewhere around the year 1999. Some of the major players in this industry at that time were WNS, Spectramind (now WIPRO BPO) and MPHASIS. They set up base in most of the IT hubs in India namely, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune.
The BPO boom however hit India around the year 2003, when employees were hired on a mass scale and suddenly BPOs mushroomed everywhere. In fact the growth of this industry in a way caused an economic boom in India. Besides bringing job opportunities, it brought business to small time vendors like transport facility providers, security staff providers, caterers. This industry also brought in a massive social change. The conservative middle-class Indian parents suddenly allowed their daughters to work in night shifts. Jeans and t-shirt became the accepted attire and you would find every other youngster working in a BPO. The number of college dropouts increased and also the number of students preferring long distance study over traditional college study grew in number.
Youngsters had more pocket money and women who had dropped out of the work force due to marriage or pregnancy found they had a job opportunity open for them.
What was it about BPOs that was attracting so many? There were many factors that contributed to the mass scale acceptance of this profession that involved long working hours and night shifts. One was the better pay package that was offered, better facilities. All BPOs had great infrastructure-well lighted work place, clean cafeterias, clean bathrooms, pick and drop facility and an easy life style. You did not require an MBA from IIM or a software engineering degree to work in a BPO. In fact a college dropout could work here and get a decent pay package.
When everything was so good why is this profession looked down upon? Initially when the BPO industry started knowledge of good spoken English was a must but later when the requirement for employees grew and hiring was done on a mass scale standards went down. The transport facility was a major lacuna in the otherwise excellent management of facilities. The other problem area was the food facility.
The average age of a BPO employee was around 20-30. Some of the employees were even 18 and even the management was relatively younger. This brought in age discrimination in the work force. Suddenly there were headlines about BPOs and almost always for the wrong reasons. It all started with the health problems associated with long work hours and the biological clock getting affected due to night shifts; to reports about drug abuse and sexual harassment and discrimination.
When BPOs started hiring on a mass scale they started an employee referral scheme where you were encouraged to refer your friends and family to work with you and for each referral the employee was offered an incentive. Seemed like a great idea but what actually happened was that employees would request their friends to join and split the referral fee. Later the new joinee would leave the company after 3 months (that was the period required for the employee to get the referral fee). All this went on with the HR’s knowledge as constant new hires ensured their incentives as well, however the management had to grapple with the problem of attrition.
Why were there problems in such a perfect arrangement where everybody should be happy? The problems began because there was no background check done. Often by the time background check was done, the employee had already completed three to six months in the organization.
Transport, which is a major concern area, actually caused lot of security problems. Often there were reports of girls who were molested, raped, murdered and usually it was linked to the driver of the cab she traveled in. Susan (name changed) always had to call her team leader, as the cabbie would never report to her place. She was usually alone in the cab. Anita always found herself alone or with other transport employees in the cab. Her cab was once stopped by four men and when she complained the transport department did not take any action.
Another issue was security. Many BPOs did not take the no paper policy inside the operations area very seriously and many employees used customer account information to siphon money out of the customer’s account. A major case was reported in Pune and according to other employees, the unit manager was hand in glove with the employees who took money out of a customer’s account.
This industry also brought in phenomena of permissive behaviour and binge parties, which later on spilled on to the work place. Most of this happened due to the non-serious attitude of the management towards such behaviour. Hiring youngsters and having a lenient attitude resulted in a work force that was less focused on work and more in the fun that they could have at the work place.

All these factors resulted in the BPO industry being considered a work place for social outcasts and people who were not serious about work.