Saturday, April 29, 2006

mysterious death of one Ms.Biondi

Posted by Picasa death doesn't have a pretty face...

I saw her for the first time while I was climbing up the stairs. She was rushing downstairs. She paused at my sight, hesitated for a moment, and brushed past me. She had been up to something – something unpleasant; and she had been spotted. The expression of guilt and anguish on her face had given her away mercilessly. Neither the perpetual innocent look nor the setting sun could prevent me from identifying those expressions clearly. What has she done now? Upstairs, the look in Simon’s eyes told me nothing different. Something had happened, and it definitely wasn’t pleasant. And she was a part of it, or maybe even the cause.

She had moved in with us a couple of weeks ago. To move in with 4 men, none of whom would qualify as the pope even if they were the last four on earth, was a bold move. I had tried to befriend her. Somehow she seemed to send me a secret message that nobody had ever tried to, and nobody ever will succeed in befriending her. I gave up my quest. Time and a vast number of failed attempts had nearly convinced me that she was only a dream, a work of my semi-conscious mind. Whether it was the enormity of the apartment or the diminutiveness of my urge, I do not know.

The stench was unmistakable. I was just back from work and ran to the washbasin as soon as the air in the room started torturing my nostrils. Nearly suffocating myself to death with a hankie, I ran upstairs. There was no sign of her. I did not find her in the bathroom either. The creaking cupboard door grabbed my attention. As I neared the door, I could feel myself trembling. Then I saw it. A hand. There was the body too. Simon. I whispered under my breath. I knelt beside her. She looked peaceful even in death. There were stains of dry blood all over her head and her neck. I did not know what to do. I looked at her closed eyes once again and turned back.

What had she done to deserve it? Did it have anything to do with ‘that look’ on her face? What had she done on the occasion of our first meeting that had resulted in something as brutal as her death? What had she done to disturb Simon? Simon was a very patient man. To invoke this sort of inhuman behavior in him would have taken more than a mere act of disturbance. He had never been fond of women; in fact he had avoided them throughout his life. So any advances of that sort was improbable. Was it an act of mere sadism? No, definitely not if it was the Simon I have known for nearly 20yrs. He was glued to his computer most of the time to even notice her petite figure. Alcohol though has changed many a man to an animal. There was an empty bottle of rum next to Simon’s bed. My suspicion grew stronger.

The bell rang thrice to free from a quagmire of thoughts. I sighed and opened the door. It was Simon. Before I could ask him anything, he spoke. “I did it. I did it. I hold none of you responsible for this. I will clean up my mess and bear the consequences if any. Is that fine?” I was stunned at the indifference. He had just taken a life and he had no regrets or at least his face showed none. “But…why Simon? What did she do to you?” - I asked after a pause. I followed him quietly as he led me upstairs. He opened the door and pointed towards the corner.

There it was. Yes. Now I knew what had enraged him. After all, he had spent sleepless nights and hungry days for it. “What else could I do? Tell me. You know what that meant to me. Did we not give her shelter? Did we not give her food? Did we not give her company? Did we ever harm her? The why?” He nearly roared.

I was speechless. He was right. I knew what it meant to him, for it was a part of his life. It was a mess. Well, the murder was justified. We had given her everything. She had no right to chew up the Creative 7.1 speakers that he had purchased just last month. Especially, when her digestive system had no clue as to what to do with all the plastic she was swallowing. I went down and switched on the television. Simon laid the body of Ms.Biondi in a large plastic bag and walked towards the municipality trash bin nearby…

Is it just me or can anyone else still smell a rat?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One month @ a call centre

Posted by Picasa thank you for calling ...

note: Except for the title of this article, it has absolutely nothing to do with Chetan Bhagath’s book. On the other hand I feel that this has more meat than the one by him, as this is more factual than his cooked up work. Wholly my perspective, arguments not welcome yet again!

A call center to me would be what the church of Satan would be to a catholic. I had not the faintest of ideas as to what went on behind the high stonewalls, but whatever the deeds were, they were as black as hell. I despised it with more conviction than Manchester Untied fans hated Chelsea. I don’t know why. Despite Mr. Gandhi’s sermons about every job having a dignity, I couldn’t find anything dignified about picking up a phone and reliving pre-1947 yet again. So much for our father of the nation’s inspirational charisma.

I left my job at my ad agency, Opus, at midnight. Freedom at midnight part II. Reasons were aplenty. I don’t want to list them, as you would find them as meager and amusing as the ones Chandler Bing uses to dump his girlfriends. In the process, my bloated up ego prevented me from seeing the financial crisis that was lurking across the ‘month-end’ street. By the time sanity punctured the ego blurb and cleared my vision, the crisis had me by my balls. As my struggle for survival continued as per the ‘one cheap meal a day’ policy, I realized that the drinking curve was at an all time low and was hitting the ‘x’ axis with so much pressure that it could fall into the negative zone. Well, I can stay hungry for a day, but thirsty (in this case, thirst for whisky, rum, vodka, etc.) for a day is unheard of in my part of a self-created Utopia. I needed a job. I had begged. I had borrowed. It was now time for me to steal. I decided to steal my vow – the one that said - I would never ever work at a call center.

Time and circumstances change people. Time referring to the time of poverty and circumstances being the ones under which one turns to a pauper from a prince.
In spite of the long list of jobs I can boast of, trust me, an ad agency job is a hard nut to crack…especially in the creative department. Hence I looked for options.

I had a few optional jobs on hand – ways to quick money.

1. Looting the World Bank - Italian Job, Ocean’s Eleven inspired

2. Ingenious billion dollar ransom generating kidnapping of Laura Bush

3. Auctioning the torch statue of liberty carries, courtesy of my adulterous great grandmother’s French Connections.

4. I could cash the cheque for a million dollars; the one I found under Mr. Bill Gates’ table in a state of trance a couple of days back.

But I needed an option that was quick, easy and ‘possible’; therefore I opted for a call centre job.

I joined the Lloyds Bank Collection Process at IBM on the 24th of February. Very contrary to my expectations, it wasn’t a shit-hole. I was reminded of my college days as I walked in fashionably late into my training hall on the first day. I was greeted by the sweetest of the voices, cutest of the faces and the warmest of smiles – all the three belonged to my communication trainer – Kala. Mrs. was prefixed within a week when some bugger wanted to know whether she was married or not in a stupid game of ‘truth or dare.’ I would have preferred to have a Ms. Kala any day in the above mentioned, self created Utopia. Moving away from the unapproachable Kala, Raja was my best friend in the training room. He was a brand of chewing tobacco. As they don’t allow smoking on the premises, I had to find my ways to meet the nicotine demands of my blood. Shamim, a godforsaken heavy metal drummer from Darjeeling helped my cause. He was my second best friend.

Process training was ‘banking’ raining cats and dogs. I have had the fear of numbers since the year 2000. It started when I met this particular section in my largely unused mathematics text book called Calculus. Truckloads of numbers on the black screen brought back ‘not-so-fond’ memories. I conveniently renamed the black screen as the ‘Black Screen of Death.’ I smiled proudly at the baptism performed. I scared myself when I started liking banking. I was supposed to hate this. I was supposed to pick up my first salary and leave the damned job and head back. Against my will, I was liking it. I scored the highest in process tests. The last time I scored the highest in a batch was when … I can’t recall. It is not my fault. My brain is incapable of remembering and recollecting things that never occurred.

‘Credit card collections’ is indeed an interesting process. First of all, you get the British to listen to you; secondly, you get to boss around a bit - giving them threats as to the fines that will be imposed on them on late payments; how we could go ahead and hand over their case to outside agencies (money extorting thugs) and remind them of England’s poor show against India in the one-day cricket series. People were cribbing about and damning the process while I was bathing in the unforeseen and uncommon limelight.

The training was cut short. My heart broke with such a loud crash that it set off the fire alarm in the building. The requirement was urgent, or so did we hear from a cute, fat and ugly bong lady, who wore the assistant manager’s badge. What I understood was, in spite of all their ethics and principles, the Brits were just not paying back the money on time. If I were the bank, I would have unleashed the extortion dogs on them. Grrrrrrrr….

Call center, to me, was not anymore what the church of Satan was to the catholic. The walls had fallen down, the deeds were fairer and dignity had stormed into the scene and was in the spotlight. It was indeed a nice place to be. But as you know, some habits seldom die. I had to quit didn’t I? ;)

I had to take calls from the next day. I collected a few hundred pounds. As I left for the day I collected my salary. At the transport room I collected my ad hoc transport request, without which you were as good as a flat tire. At the cigarette store I collected my pack of cigarettes, paying 20% extra on each. At the gate, I turned back and looked around at the overwhelming building. I was going to miss the place. I collected the first and last memories of the call center, and in whole, and boarded my cab.

another note: I have nothing against the Brits. They have produced the finest writers and football players in the history of the world. Manchester Untied, William Shakespeare, Hugh Grant, Iron Maiden, David Beckham’s right foot and David Beckham’s left foot – they all rule.

Monday, April 17, 2006

How I took a bus back to advertising!

Posted by Picasa that's me in the corner...

It’s been nine months since I have been in this city. Looks like I have become immune to the hands of the clock and the flipping pages of a calendar. I have become immune to time. To justify, I am still finding it hard to digest the fact that it’s nearly been a year since Delhi saw the last of me. Good riddance, we’d both say!

Apart from time, the other thing that has glaringly avoided me is the public transport facility. Petrol prices are sky high, traffic is at its malicious best, driving is as tiring as a marathon; but when your friend has affectionately left his bike at home and deported himself across seven seas, the temptation and comfort are too much to resist. It is my first day at my new office and though I don’t care about first impressions- about bread and butter, I do. The temptation of the two-wheeler at one’s disposal had wooed my roommate at approximately 5:30 am in the morning and hence resulted my first bus ride.

I have enjoyed bus rides since college days. A seat by the window on the left side, (keeping in mind the right-hand drive in our country) drooling at the cute things at every stop is all I ever wanted inside a bus. Bumpy rides, torn seats with spring erections and bloodthirsty bugs are all ignored. A friend who was kind enough to drop me at the bus stop early in the morning helped me find this luxury without difficulty.

The engine growled to life (it was too arrogant to purr and didn’t have the energy to roar) within 15 minutes of my entrance. If I say I got Goosebumps, you’d call me a freak. Hence I won’t. If I were to, I’d be exaggerating. I’d be falsifying in order to attain an impact. In short, I’d be lying.

I get really excited when I travel through familiar territory. The thrill I get on predicting a turn or guessing the delay time between signals is quite unseen among humans. It is probably because of my general lack of road knowledge or my extremely poor sense of direction (I have once traveled around moolchand flyover 4 times before I could find my way back to the road). But there I was, sitting at my throne by the window, proudly analyzing roads and naming them in the process, loud enough for my fellow passengers to hear; foreseeing traffic jams with the finesse of Nostradamus and calculating the approximate time by which I’d reach the office! Quoting Jack Dawson from Titanic with slight alteration, “ I felt like the king of the world.”

I reached the office 15 minutes before time. The impression was made. Let me proudly state at this point of time that my travel time calculations were flawless. I walked up the stairs, looked at the lock on the door, returned to the stairs and lighted a cigarette. After a disappointing month at the call-centre, I was back where I supposedly belonged. I had taken a bus back to advertising!