2017

So 2017 is here, and I have stuck to my word and taken it very easy – no resolutions, no I-have-to-do-x-y-z-today-so-that-I-do-it-through-the-year on Jan 1st, no anything. Instead, I woke up on 1st Jan to a very messy house, something you can expect when the night before involved 3 couples and 3 extremely high-on-adrenaline girls between the ages 5 and 7, let loose to do their thing after dinner – which lasted way past midnight. Plus, our house help was also on an official off celebrating. So if the 1st of Jan is a trailer of how the year is going to be, the one thing you should avoid is visiting us.

I also did not do any of the things I ensure I do on the first day of the year. Like I did not read, at all, not even the trashy fashion magazine I subscribe to. I did not write, and there was no pressure this time – because I did not sign up for the Blogathon this year. I definitely did not eat healthy, because how else were we supposed to finish all the leftovers from the party, including the delicious cake one of the guests brought?  And the 1st was a Sunday, so there was no workout class either that would force me to move my butt.

What I did do was relax. I woke up, drove down to the mall to check out clothes for Zo (it’s amazing how nothing lasts more than a couple of months, and not just because they grow out of them), and came back empty handed – again a never-before kinda thing to happen to someone who thrives on end of season sales. The clincher was the fact that I did not even wander towards the aisles and aisles of clothes displayed for grownups, and not even ‘70% off’ tags in gigantic fonts deterred me from my plan. I actually only checked out what I had come for – Zo’s clothes, or to be even more specific – Zo’s leggings.  Anyhow, that was an epic fail mission, so we returned, finished all the Chinese food and some of the tandoori platter’s remains, and then slept for 2 hours.

In the evening, The Dude decided to go to the gym. Once again, his decision to workout did not motivate me, at all. This is also to be noted as a rarity because the only thing that makes me guilty about not working out is if The Dude does. Talk about being self-motivated. Anyway, I decided to continue my day’s schedule of having done absolutely nothing and took Zo out to the sand pit. And we spent a good one hour doing just that – nothing, and surprisingly, neither of us got bored.

Once we returned, we finished our dinner, and Zo watched her first hour of TV in the day – big win for a no-school, no-daycare day. After which, she went to sleep because Monday was school day, and I wrapped up the day with some online shopping to make up for the stuff I got nowhere in the day. I think we were all in bed by 11, though it would have been 12 before I fell asleep because of all the afternoon sleeping.

Now that the week’s started, nothing’s changed still. I am still taking it easy. Only, I can slowly see that line demarcating easy from lazy disappearing, so I thought why not visit the blog? And that’s the only reason why I am taking the pains to update you with the details of my laid-back, resolution-less, unplanned, useless, lazy 2017.

As far as I can see, I am on the right track.

Making way for the new year

I have been dying to do a 2016 round-up post, more so because everyone around me in the virtual world is, but I had two things stopping me – 1) Laziness (surprise!) and 2) A precondition I had set for myself, something I just had to do before I was “allowed” to post.

I know I am supposed to explain the precondition a bit more at this point, however, I would rather make it a part of my retrospection. 2016, as I already mentioned in one of my earlier posts (I think), began quite bright and enthusiastically, but through the year it slowly faded away because (and here I will ask you to excuse me for using such exaggerated cliches), life happened. 2016 was crazy busy, professionally, personally, generally. And quite honestly, I had myself set myself up for it.

There were a few things I had decided to ensure in 2016, quite simple things really. Things I claimed I loved doing. Like read more, and write more, spend more time with Zo, spend more time with The Dude, work out, see new places and also, study. Considering I had also started a new job in December, and a new job pretty much means flailing your limbs around trying to catch hold of something, anything that would keep you afloat, there were just way too many things to handle. In other words, 2016 punched me in the face with all that it had.

I did not give up, no. Thankfully. I did what I do best instead – I got completely stressed out. Nothing seemed to be working in my favor, and I seemed to be doing nothing right, or atleast right enough. So I whined and whined about it, to myself mainly, and then to The Dude. 2016, on the other hand, decided nothing of this was worth it’s time and refused to slow down. Time just flew. And I went along with it.

Things happened, ofcourse. For one, I wrote, a lot I might say. I did two blogathons, one in January, one in April – successfully. I started one more in November but heh, who was I kidding? But still, of the total 510 posts I have published in 12 years, I did 76 posts this year. And this is only second to maybe 2004/2005 when I was jobless, baby-less and a B-schooler, which pretty much explains it all.

I read a bit, not as much as I would have liked but I fell more in love with the two Japanese authors I feel rule the written world for me right now – Keigo Higashino and Haruki Murakami. I did not study at all, and I missed the deadline for my assignment submission by “let’s get real, you haven’t touched the books till now”.

We traveled ok – there was his gorgeous trip to Germany and Switzerland. We did just 2 road trips, much to the indignation of The Dude. And we closed with a short trip to Goa, our back up plan for holidays that don’t materialize. I definitely did not meet my own expectations when it came to spending time with Zo. Again, maybe it was the new job, maybe it’s because I think a lot about what people think, but I was unhappy. This added to my general melancholic attitude towards the year.

I definitely worked out a lot this year – not in terms of quantity maybe. But I joined classes for the first time, and I stayed put. With 3 months of bunking between March and now, I think I still rate myself “achieved” for this goal. Also, I grew to love this form of a workout, where you have company, variety and basically new levels to push yourself to each day.

There were things I did which I did not plan to as well. Well, there is this one thing I did. I started driving. This was a big tick off my mom’s “must-do” list. I still think it is a wee overrated as a concept, especially with all the options available now, but I do enjoy the bit of time I spend behind the wheel. Also, it beats getting drenched in the rain or waiting for the Uber to arrive or the surge to go down. And I am sure it will lovelier in summer.

So after all the moaning and complaining through the year, I am strangely at peace now. I have worked out a couple of things for myself, including charting out a timetable of sorts, that lets me give my all to work, and also to Zo. The last two months helped me in that. And just going by that, I do not dislike 2016 as much anymore. I am fine with it, there were goods, there were not-so-goods, there were bads too. But eventually, it’s all worked out ok. Except for maybe the study thing.

Which brings me to the precondition that was the bottleneck to this post. I have 4 subjects, and the new timeline for submitting the assignment is March 31st 2017. I finally started studying in December, and promised myself to finish one of the assignments before I wrote on the blog. But man, it’s not easy. I mean who knew that writing an essay on 20th century British Drama, or attempting a critique of Shakespeare’s Dramatic poesy, or discussing The Alchemist as a satire (only ONE of which I had to do, since everything else in this course assignment was done), was so bloody tough! I tried and tried, and finally found a loophole. I did a 20 mark question in another course to sort of make up for it last night.

Which is why here I am. And I have decided that I am making no wondrous statements and resolutions for this year. 2017 is the year where I will not pressurize it with my expectations of awesomeness. 2017 is the year of letting it be.

And then sitting back and seeing how it goes.

Work rant

Over the last 2 years, I have had the thought of quitting work more often than ever. And I have also wondered why I feel the way I do. Is it the work itself? Is it the folks at work? Is it the stress? Is it the fact that it eats into my time with Zo? Is it the people around me making sad, sorry faces when I tell them I work?

I don’t have an answer. I guess it is way too many things together that give this feeling. Yes, so I have started feeling this way a lot more since Zo came, and definitely more since she grew up a bit. But it’s not the only reason. It is the general attitude of people towards work.

I have spent 12 years in a relatively ‘less stressful industry’, as they like to call themselves. But I cannot think of one month, or day when I was completely off work, mentally. It doesn’t work that way for me as an individual. But unfortunately, those are things only I am aware of.

The great Indian working scenario, I believe is still sarkaari at heart. I also find the analogy extremely offensive because the folks who define sarkaari as a bunch of seat warmers who will leave when the clock strikes 5, are pretty much doing the same thing today; albeit in larger MNCs with better air conditioning. Maybe not as much 9 to 5, as 11 to 8, or 12 to 9 – only now this is the timing of choice because who can get up and rush to work so early anyway? Also, the plethora of entertainment options at work – ranging from online shopping to social media to Youtube videos means that they can hang around for even longer hours -10,12,14, and do exactly what they would have done back home, only there will be no one nagging in the background to lend a hand in the kitchen.

Slowly being at the workplace becomes the definition of hard work, rather than getting work done. And God forbid you fall in the latter category, because then, you are destined to be deemed as average.

I have a life beyond work, I always have. I was quite proud of it, still am. But as I grow up the ladder, this seems like an odd thing to accept. Doesn’t matter if I am dot on time to work, have lunch at my desk, skip tea and have my calendar blocked continuously through the 9 hours; just so that I am done on time. Doesn’t matter if I do all that I am expected to and even more, just because I know that I will be one of the few folks who will leave when it strikes 7 to go home.

Go home for those little things that matter just as much, if not more than work. Like checking Zo’s homework, or reading with her, or reading for myself, watching a TV show with the Dude. But no, it seems to amaze people that I want to do these things, and not hang around chatting a bit more because you know, networking? Apparently, how can you expect to grow if you are not giving it your everything?

Thing is, I cannot give work my ‘everything’ because it is not my ‘everything’. It will never be. I refuse to make work the most important thing in my life, at most give it a sort of low position in the top 5, but nothing more. And the more vocal I get about it, the more hurt I get in the process. This is where the Indian-ness of the people comes across, because I have worked with folks in the west, and there everyone – men and women, seem to think the priority is to get your work done and head to your family. Here, eh, not so much. Here, having an hour long tea break takes precedence over wanting to help your kid with homework, because your wife will do that.

And whatever I do to make up for it is not enough. Doesn’t matter if I am taking calls every day after Zo goes to sleep, because well you left office on time right? Doesn’t matter if I take up more projects than any other damn person because, well, you won’t come for the sports event on Saturday right? Doesn’t matter if I come in early so I can leave on time, because well the others work from 2 to 11, so they can’t be expected to stretch right? Eventually it’s about how you have taken a call to not grow beyond a point by being restrictive in the time you spend sitting at your work desk.

I try not to think of it but it is true. Companies on paper these days are much more flexible, but what goes on in the heads of those you work with is best known to them only, and no policy, no ‘best place to work’ ranking , no mention in the ‘list of most women friendly organization’ fixes this. Once they have made up their mind that the person will always do less than the others because she needs to go home, there is no looking back.

Like I said, it sucks, and it makes me very unhappy. It makes all versions of me sad for being made to feel not good enough – the professional, the mother, the wife, the individual. And I have absolutely no idea how I can get out of this rut, except for maybe wish for a miracle.

Employment status

Over the last year at my new work place, I have concluded upon one thing. Working as a concept has changed, a lot.

And it sucks.

Here’s a list of pre-defined conditions that seem to govern the work ethic of way too many folks who have just started working.

A normal day at work will and must include

  • An hour for lunch
  • A half hour for tea
  • An half hour to generally loiter around ‘networking’
  • An hour on social media

I cannot come in the earlier shift (earlier meaning anytime before 12 PM) even if the business needs it because –

  • I cannot wake up so early!
  • I live so far away
  • We get water in our apartment at this time and I need to fill bottles

I am late to work every day because –

  • There is just too much traffic on the roads
  • My clothes were not ironed
  • I overslept and didn’t hear the alarm

I am really stressed because –

  • I stretched for an extra hour for 3 days in a row.
  • I did not even take a tea break, just lunch.
  • My wife has a terrible headache

I thought I was doing my best and I’m unable to see why you are not happy. All that went wrong were a few numbers on the P&L. It can happen to anybody.

I logged in late into the call/meeting because

  • I was having tea
  • I did not see the pop up
  • You mentioned it was around 3:30, so I thought it was 3:30, and did not check my calendar to see that it was actually at 3

I can’t believe you guys had to work 14 hours during month close when you started! It must be because

  • You had different priorities
  • Maybe you weren’t as efficient back then

Yes, I am looking at leaving early because

  • There’s no work
  • We all need downtime
  • Oh by the way, please sign off my overtime for that extra half hour I worked this month on that day.

So these are only some of the very real statements that I have experienced in the recent past. And all of it makes me wonder what just happened? Is it just that we had it all wrong when we started working? Or did we hire wrong? Or were people different back then?

My only explanation to myself, is that when we started, we ended up spending more time with folks who were more like us (which in the words of the guys might as well be inefficient, with wrong priorities and unnecessarily high benchmarks for ourselves), so we never encountered this species. And now that we handle large teams, it is obvious that there will be a big mix of people, and hence this situation.

Oh, and to wrap up the rant, and also specify what brought it out. Now that it is Appraisal season, each and every of these individuals has rated themselves ‘Exceeded expectations’ on every damn parameter on the self-evaluation sheet.

This brings me to my questions –

  • Whose expectations have they exceeded?
  • Where can I find this person and gun him down?

Day 8 – Overrated

I was reading through the comments on the idiot box post I had written a few days ago, and it struck me how some shows are so grossly overrated, of course, in my personal opinion. And that got me thinking about all things that overrated – TV shows, movies, even food items. And then that got me thinking about how I could actually make a post out of it, because why not?

Since I started with TV shows, I think it is only fair to start with them. I watch a lot of shows, a lot of them. I mean, I think I am almost addicted to TV shows, which is interesting because we were so particular to not let that happen when we were kids. And I am forever on the lookout for new shows to watch. And most of the shows I have tried, I have enjoyed – especially if they are highly rated. Barring a few – two to be exact.

One is, and I’d want you to hold your breath for this, Game of Thrones. Ok. Please don’t over react and close the page, because I might actually explain myself here, but the issue is that I have absolutely no reason for this.It’s just that The Dude and I watched 3 episodes in season 1 (with great difficulty I have to add) and then gave up. We tried again, this time reaching 5 episodes, but couldn’t carry on. Then my sister said I had to wait for the  season to get over and for half of the cast to die to love the show. But I did not have any enthusiasm to give it a shot.The other was True Detectives. I thought no show could be too bad if it had Matthew McConaughey in it, but oh boy, was I wrong. I lasted exactly 2 episodes before I got all nostalgic about Krishi Darshan on Doordarshan.

In terms of movies, and I am talking Bollywood here (considering my love for all the cheesy, unrealistic things they churn out), I never got myself to like or understand Hum Aapke hain kaun. One of the biggest hits that year, I remember that I had zero excitement about watching it, and so I didn’t. Also, despite the rave reviews, I found the music exceedingly meh, and still do. And this is big coming from the one who watches Maine Pyar Kiya and listens to it’s music even today.

In terms of food, I think the most overrated dish I have come across has to be Haleem. I am a converted non vegetarian, and sometimes I feel that to make up for that, I am open to trying all sorts of meat. And I love most of it. But somehow, Haleem never made the cut for me. People in this city, wait for Ramzan to be able to gorge on all the Haleem they can, but I look at it as an immense waste of calories.I’d rather have my Tandoori chicken and be happier.

On the same note, I have to say that I am a true-blue Hyderabadi who loves her mutton biryani. Which is why I also need to say that while Hyderabadi biryani is by far the awesome-st; Paradise is extremely hyped. I understand that it’s grown from nothing and was probably the best at a point of time, but there are way too many places in our city that give you better biryani. Bawarchi is one. And so is ShahGhouse (which I feel is AMAZING, yes, capital letter deserving amazing). But Paradise is visited only when we have firang visitors particular about where they sit and eat.

Now I am sitting and thinking of other things that I find overrated, and turns out, as expected my life and opinions are limited to food and entertainment only. Which is why I cannot for the life of me think of anything else I want to add to this list. And then I remembered books – and by that – The Alchemist, which I thought was so overrated I wanted to hang myself for having bought into the whole deal. But right when I was about to type that, I had a sense of dejavu, that have I said this before? Here, on the blog? So I searched and here we are, from 6 years ago. Where I announced how unimpressed I was with cheesecake. The same tone, the same sense of disbelief, the same vehement opposition to accepting something mediocre (in my opinion) as awesome. So I guess somethings just don’t change.

Except some things that do. Like my not-so-new found love for cheese cake.

 

Day 7 – Politically correct

I decided to work from home today, to get done with all that was put on the back-burner for a while, because that’s what always happens when important stakeholders visit. The typical showcase of PowerPoint skills, the hundreds of meetings, the dinners and lunches and teas and discussions – and before all that, the preparation, which also means a working Sunday sometimes. Not always, but this time it did.

So a day working from home makes perfect sense, considering you get time to recuperate from all the talking overdose. I am also trying to recuperate from a runny nose, which made a sudden (but expected) appearance when they decided to recreate Antarctica on the floor, to welcome the Westerner. It made no difference that he was in a jacket all the time, which might have been a sort of an indication to tune it down, make it Canada maybe? But all we got was Antarctica, and I am no Eskimo to survive it, and so I sit here sniffling into a handkerchief.

As I am typing this, my phone is continuously beeping, thanks to an ongoing political discussion on my B-school whatsapp group. Only, by ongoing, I mean “going on for more than a year”.  And by discussion, I mean “Look what the folks you are supporting did wrong today” match. I have very limited political opinions myself, and more often than not, I see myself shifting from reasoning or facts to “let’s stay positive and hope what’s happening is good” – basically abstract gyan. Also, I think I am way too selfish to think of the greater good or bad as of now. While there are some things I am pretty opinionated about, politics is one thing I feel I only give any importance if it impacts me or those who matter to me.

Let’s take Trump as an example. I remember joking with a colleague a day before the election that Trump winning would be as big, if not a bigger joke than Rahul Gandhi becoming the Prime minister of India. I also added that if the people did elect him, maybe they do deserve to be governed by a guy like him. But he won. He did. Which means, maybe I just didn’t know as much about what him being elected meant to the folks who elected him. So while I walked around in disbelief for a day, I pacified myself later that maybe it’s for the greater good, only I am not aware of it. Plus, how much does this impact me? It doesn’t.

Which is why, when it comes to Social media and politics, I keep my trap shut. I am friends with folks from either end of the spectrum and I think that while my opinion about any political party, or anything that they do won;t impact me as much directly,  as saying it out in the open will. Because either way, there will be detractors, and these are folks who I assume are my ‘friends’. And in my case, even my immediate family has highly opposing views. So, I am better of ignoring all that they have to say. And even if I do notice it, I’d rather nod along in agreement or vehemently oppose it – in my own private space.

Because while it might look like a frog in the well situation, heck – it is;  atleast I will be a less stressed out, happy frog.

Day 6 – Weekend(er)

This weekend was spent at NH7 weekender – which we had pre-booked back in August, when the first announcement that the event was happening in Hyderabad came out. I was beyond excited, because the one time I attended this event in Pune, back in 2013,  we absolutely loved it. The three evenings we spent under the skies, listening to all these bands we had never heard of (and some that we had heard of, but hardly heard) were pure bliss.

This time, it was for 2 days – and it had a plethora of indie-bands performing as is always the case. The line-up was declared almost 2 months ago, and there was a fair bit to look forward to. Plus the Dude and I are always open to new music of any kind, and this genre falls into neither of our regular fare, so we were on even grounds. And my only pending dilemma was – what do I wear?

I am not sure if I have said this before, but I am stickler for “dressing for the occasion”. What I mean is, while I  really believe in dressing comfortable (except for them heels, I cannot stop wearing heels) and dressing as you want to, I also believe that each place and occasion has a dressing-type one should adhere to. Like a coffee place warrants jeans or shorts, and a fine-dining place warrants something dressy (and definitely NOT jeans), and a pub or a disco can be more casual, but a lounge can be blingier. Which is why, when the Dude says “let’s go out somewhere tonight” I bug him until he gives me the finer details of where, so I can pick my outfit in advance.

The other aspect to my dressing is I seriously dislike standing out of the crowd. I just don’t like it. So while I might want to wear a dress to a pub, I have to be sure that it’s a pub others (atleast some) are wearing dresses too. Like, at my last work place I was totally ok wearing skirts to work because others did, and I am not ok in my current work place. Stuff like that. Boring, but true.

So the problem with Weekender was that the last time I attended it was in Pune, which is infinitely cooler (or less conservative) when it comes to dressing. Again, by this I mean that in Pune, shorts are casual, not dressy. You wear them for comfort. Which is also why I had decided that shorts and a tank had to be the outfit for the event. Only, I was not sure how the rest of Hyderabad was going to turn up.

But when I reached there, man was I shocked – and pleasantly so! Hyderabad not only met my expectations, it went above and beyond and almost crossed the fine between pleasant shock and actual, real shock. To say it was amazing, was an understatement. Not only that, we were also worried about there not being enough turnout, which would mean the show would be a damp squib and not happen again – but no. There was a spectacular turnout – not so much that you would choke to death, which was the case in Pune, but enough to have the high energy vibe in the air.

And we loved it, yet again. Squatting on the grass, from 4 until 10, for two days in a row. Squinting at the sun, which was so damn pleasant I was confused this was the same city, sipping on the iced breezers (because they don’t serve beer!), and enjoying the music wafting through the  air. And then watching the lights come up, as the sun went down, and band after band came up on the stage, for their turn in the spotlight. It was after a long time that a Sunday evening felt this good, because the music wouldn’t allow the blues to set in.

Or allow the weekend posts to go up, because there was just no time. Only, this excuse was way too awesome in itself to allow any guilt to set in. Fair enough, you think?