Thursday, February 5, 2009

Performance Appraisal

Where I work, its that time of the year. Yes, February. Also, Appraisals. Having been here for a while now, I am familiar with how these things play out. About a month or two before the review happens, employees are encouraged to submit proof of having done more than just survived through the year. That would be like saying ' HAVE YOU DONE ANY WORK DURING THE YEAR? ... ', just in case you think like me and don't get subtle hints. ' ... IN THE OFFICE ...' in case you still think like me. ' ... NO, EATING CAFETERIA FOOD DOESN'T COUNT' - if you are still thinking like me.

So, a dedicated HR team (dedicated HR, thats an oxymoron!) continuously mentions submission deadlines which everyone (including HR) ignores. After these deadlines have been extended about a hundred times and submissions have been received at gunpoint , the managers sit together to discuss the rating through dedicated brainstorming and multiple rounds of intense discussions among diverse panels of senior executives. I just have a sample conversation for you all.

Senior Mgr1: I think Gabbar did a great job. Heres the proof. He deserves a great rating
Senior Mgr2: Oops, I just spilt coffee over my trousers .. gimme that paper so that I can rub the stains
Senior Mgr1: Take this paper printout of Gabbar's submissions
.. A minute of cleaning later ..
Senior Mgr1: Gabbar's submissions are coffee stained .. he is irresponsible
Senior Mgr2: Yes, he deserves a poor rating

Well, not really. But, these conversations can happen. I do see a lot of coffee getting consumed in these meetings. And many of the appraised employees do feel that their achievements have been treated similar to paper used in other .. ahem .. delicate situations. So, finally with the appraisals done and the coffee producing economies of Brazil and Colombia having received a nice boost, the delicate matter of communicating the appraisals to the employees begins. The HR team communicates a deadline to the managers by when the employee needs to know the rating. The employee unaware of this deadline, like all SriRamaSene-fearing 'true' Indians, is fast asleep while non-Indians born and brought up in India party in a secret pub somewhere in Mangalore. Many managers I know believe in having an open, frank and honest discussion with their reportees. A minority tend to call up the employee about a minute from the deadline. The former category being about 5 and the latter being about 5 million. I have a sample conversation for you all.

Time - Feb 4, 23:59:00 hours
Mgr: Hello Samba, how are you?
Employee: Huh .. *yawn* huh?
Mgr: You have been identified as mediocre, middling performer
Employee: Huh .. *yawn* huh?
Mgr: Well, thats it then .. Am looking forward to you doing a great job this year
Employee: Huh .. *yawn* huh?
Mgr: Bye!
Time - Feb 4, 23:59:45 hours
Mgr to self: Job well done!

Well, not really. But these conversations can happen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Consulting and other matters

Many of you have wondered why I haven't blogged in a while. Some of you haven't. The exact numbers being 2 and 2 million respectively. All I can say in response is "The laws of physics are the same for all observers in uniform motion relative to one another." Yes, I know it doesn't make sense to you. It did to good old Albert. He won a prize too - from the guy who invented dynamite.

Some of you wanted more info on Poli and his exploits. I am glad to tell you that Poli has tied the knot. Many of us have been tying it every day to work. Yes, the tie knot. And no, thats not the knot he tied, though he is known to tie tie knots that can leave most of us gasping. No, not in awe. Mostly due to breathlessness. The knot good old Poli tied is the wedding knot. Promptly, Mrs and Mr. Poli headed off to Europe for a well-deserved honeymoon. In true Greek God tradition, he first took her to Athens. As he left, there were riots in Greece. Subsequently our intrepid couple headed to Venice. As they left, the city erupted in tears and there has been massive flooding. They have now landed in good old Bangalore. There has already been a cab strike after they returned.

None of you wanted more info on me or my exploits. There is this famous saying - "You never ask the right questions even though the right answers are staring you in the face and laughing at your pimples" - attributed to a slightly drunk but mostly in control Avionic Spanker. Legend has it that he said this in Dec 2008. My point is: Thanks for not asking. Here are the answers anyway. I am in Bangalore too. And no, I was here much before the cab strikes began.

Continuing the glorious tradition of providing consulting services to random clients and following an unplanned career, I am now at the mercy of a client who "aims to reach the moon in the long term, but does not know how to get to Mysore from Bangalore in the near term". That last quote, which I would be proud to take ownership of, was by a senior executive of the client firm during a project review meeting. I wanted to get up and tell him he couldn't get from Bangalore to Mysore because these cities don't exist any more. Whoever heard of moving across imaginary cities! I could give him the rail route to get from Bengalooru to Mysuru if needed. As I was pondering when I should enlighten him, my survival gene which is mostly dormant, kicked in - and in all the wrong places, to ensure that I didn't actually tell him what I felt. So he was not able to get a sample of my brilliant insight. In summary, I still have the job. And the assignment. And yes, I don't think the said senior executive reads my blogs. On the other hand, if you are this executive, can I sell you a railway timetable?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Somebody's Watching You

Lets start with some good news. The evil force aka Maharaj has been vanquished. Quailing before my brilliance like a village idiot would in front of Einstein holding forth on Quantum Physics, he has fled to the remote village of Rajasthan from whence he emerged in the dark ages. The caretaker slyly suggested that he left to attend some festivities there, but I think he is just jealous of the fact that I singlehandedly wreaked havoc on their evil dominion. The cook has been replaced by his son. Slightly unsettling is the fact that the son has been trying to convince me and Poli that Misal Paav and Vada Paav are excellent nutrition-rich breakfast. This is in addition to the Poha torture routine that I have now got used to.

Now to the bad news. A few days back Poli walked up to me with a worried look. Before I tell you more, it is important I tell you more about Poli. A proper introduction is in order. Poli aka Rampant Orbit is someone I have known for about a month now. Drawing on my experience with mankind, I have concluded Poli is, by and large, a pretty harmless chap.

Once in a while he does start reciting some poems he claims he studied in school. Loudly. Without being asked. Usually this recitation starts while we are having breakfast and at the exact moment when I am about to swallow the cook's greasy cholesterol-rich offerings. Thanks to Poli's impeccable sense of timing and lung power he manages to startle me every time. Such minor foibles aside, Poli spends most of his time at work staring away at his laptop, mostly traversing through wikipedia. Meanwhile I traverse the blogosphere with unparalleled glee. Once in a while he pauses to loudly wonder where his career is heading. After having concluded its heading nowhere, he resumes his staring. I reassure him that mine is heading nowhere either and we both return to what we seem to do best. Browsing.

Yes, now back to the bad news. There I was blissfully sipping on my morning tea and catching up on Dr. Mahinder Watsa's invaluable advice when Poli nudged me. Luckily I had finished the tea, so there was nothing left to spill on my clothes after I heard what he had to say. "I think someone in the building across the road has been videotaping me", he said. "Poli", I said in a soothing manner," I know we are both single, handsome (Greek god good looks, Poli emphasises), strapping young lads in our late twenties and willing to marry intelligent young women in their mid-to-not-so-late twenties (early-to-mid, Poli suggests) but I don't think anyone would want to videotape us". "I am pretty sure someone did", he said. "When exactly did you get this feeling .. and what exactly were you up to?", I said remembering our last encounter with Mr. XYZ and wondering if the encounter had inspired Poli to do something that he shouldn't be caught doing. Especially on tape. "I was sleeping when I got this feeling someone was watching me", he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. I told him it must have been a bad dream. Nevertheless, we went into Poli's room and stared at the said building. Everything seemed normal. Patting Poli on the back, I returned to my room.

But after this incident, Poli is no more the Poli we always refered to as the Rampant Orbit. He is now more of the Suspiciously Rampant Orbit. He sleeps with a camcorder next to him hoping to record the person whos doing the recording from the building. So, if you just happened to notice someone in the building across the road pointing a camcorder at you and you are not the person shooting Poli, then thats Poli shooting you.

In other news, Mama-Mia has awarded me the "Brillante Weblog Premio - 2008'. "Head over to his blog for some seriously hilarious stuff", she tells her readers. Such nice praise. I am honored. I could say more except that my British upbringing doesn't let me do anything other than keep a stiff upper lip. Hmm, actually I am neither British nor have a stiff upper lip. So, I must say "Woo hoo!" What joy. Thank you, Mama-Mia. And you should really remind them again to head over to my blog. My life has changed after the award. In addition to allowing me to use two meaningless words - Brillante and Premio - in my blog, I wondered how I could get hold of prize money such prizes usually bring. So, I decided to search online how much money I could expect in my mail now that I am a 'Brillante Weblog Premio - 2008' winner. As expected, it has substantially added to my status in society. I am now an extremely rich, single, handsome(think Greek god), strapping young man in my late twenties and willing to marry an intelligent young woman in her early-to-mid-to-not-so-late twenties (Thank you, Poli)

I am also supposed to pass on this award to seven others. Seeing that everyone whose blogs I trawl through have been nominated for the same by ten others and have enough awards to fill a medium size tractor, I am hereby awarding myself this award 6 more times. For "Brillante Weblog Premio - 2009", I will nominate 7 other blogs. Just be here on Jan 1, 2009 as I start the sequence.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Socha Nahi to Socho Abhi .. Hmm, okay.

I remember a time when I enjoyed this song. Now I am positively bugged by it. I am tired of being asked to think. One of my multiple personalties, some chap who fancies his science knowledge, has kicked in. Thanks in advance to my teachers in high school. And my trusted friends - Google and Wikipedia - who helped in moments of extreme doubt.

Aasma Hai Neela Kyun, Paani Geela Geela Kyun Gol Kyun Hai Zameen

Easy. As light moves through the atmosphere, much of the shorter wavelength light, mainly the B in VIBGYOR, is absorbed by gas molecules in the atmosphere. The absorbed blue light gets radiated in different directions and gets scattered all around the sky.

Easy. By definition wet is to be liquid or be covered in liquid. Water is a liquid. Therefore, water is wet.

Easy. Earth is round due to gravity. Gravity ensures that earth retains a shape that is most optimal way for packing in mass - a sphere

Silk Mein Hai Narmi Kyun Aag Mein Hai Garmi Kyun, Do Aur Do Paanch Kyun Nahi

Tricky. The softness of silk is mostly due to the fact that they are strands of natural protein fiber. It has a smooth, soft texture which synthetic fibers lack. It is conceivable that silk woven from a spider also would be smooth but may lack the lustre from the silk woven from a mulberry silkworm.

Easy. Where there is fire, there is combustion - the main reactants being fuel and oxygen. The energy required to break down the chemical bonds in the reactants is less than the energy released during the reaction.This extra energy shows up as heat.

Fallacy Alert!
From school, 2+2=4 ..... (A)
Now, take two variables a and b
Assume a=b=1 .... (B)
a*a=b*a (* indicates multiplication)
a*b - a*a = b*a - a*a
a*(b-a) = (a+b)*(b-a)
Dividing both sides by (b-a)
Therefore, a=1+1=2 ..... (C)
4= 3+1 = 3+a (From B) .... (D)
5 = 3+2 = 3+a (From C) .... (E)
From D and E, 4 = 3+a = 5 => 4 = 5
From A, 2+2=4
Therefore 2+2=5

Pedd Ho Gaye Kum Kyun, Teen Hain Ye Mausam Kyun Chaand Do Kyun Nahi

Easy. Because of deforestation. Elementary. Reasons for that are also pretty elementary.

Easy. The number of 'different' seasons a region experiences are due to two reasons - one is due to the positon of the earth relative to the sun as it orbits around it and two is the position of the region on the earth. Thanks to where India is on the globe, we see three differentiated seasons.

Easy. The moon is a natural satellite of the earth. The earth probably doesnt have enough mass to support two satellites through its gravitational pull. Another moon would probably knock earth off its current orbit around the sun. There are bigger planets such as Jupiter that have multiple moons (satellites)

Duniya Mein Hai Jung Kyun Behta Laal Rang Kyun, Sarhaden Hain Kyun Har Kahin

Wars have been fought over issues such as land, religion, women, insults et al.

Amateur Philosopher alert!
Wars inevitably lead to blood shed.

Easy. Borders and boundaries are theoretically needed to define the territorial reach of any nation. Within a nation, boundaries may be defined to ease administration and to satisfy the need of the population to be classified on the basis of parameters such as language, ethnicity etc.

Socha Hai... Yeh Tumne Kya Kabhi
Socha Hai... Ki Hain Yeh Kya Sabhi
Socha Hai... Socha Nahi To Socho Abhi...

Actually, I have

Behti Kyun Hai Har Nadi, Hoti Kya Hai Roshni Barf Girti Hai Kyun

Easy. All bodies tend to move towards a state of equilibrium. Rivers, with enough water in them, tend to keep flowing downhill typically terminating in a sea or in a lake, through a confluence. As an addendum, rivers can stop flowing due to evaporation in arid areas. And sometimes they infiltrate the soil ending up as groundwater.

Easy. Light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum - this ranges from radio waves to gamma rays. Visible light is similar to other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. In this case though, the human eye can detect visible waves.

Tricky. Ice crystals in cold clouds grow when they pick up water vapour from the supercooled water droplets in clouds. Heavy snowflakes formed when these ice crystals stick together fall to the ground. If the temperature on the ground is below freezing, it results in snow

Dost Kyun Hain Roothte Taare Kyun Hain Toot The, Baadlon Mein Bijli Hai Kyun

Amateur Psychologist Alert!
Friendship, like any other relationship, is based on trust and understanding. Whenever any of the people involved feel that these core values have been violated, there could be a strain in the friendship. Phew!

Easy. A shooting star is the common name for the visible path of a meteoroid as it enters the atmosphere. The meteoroid tends to burn away due to the massive force of friction it encounters as it enters the atmosphere.

Tricky. Lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity. Ice inside a cloud is thought to be a key element in lightning development. It could cause a forcible separation of positive and negative charges within the cloud which leads to the formation of lightning

Socha Hai... Yeh Tumne Kya Kabhi
Socha Hai... Ki Hain Yeh Kya Sabhi
Socha Hai... Socha Nahi To Socho Abhi...

Been there. Done that.

Sannata Sunai Nahin Deta, Aur Hawayen Dikhayi Nahin Deti
Socha Hai Kya Kabhi, Hota Hai Yeh Kyun............

Easy. By definition, you would not hear silence in any form

Tricky. The wind that we all feel is air in motion. Air has the property of being transparent to light and also that it is homogeneous. As a result, changes in wind do not register in our senses. To truly watch wind, you could trying going high in the atmosphere. Due to changing wind pattersn over a wide area, it should be possible to see wind move.

Aasma Hai Neela Kyun, Paani Geela Geela Kyun Gol Kyun Hai Zameen
Silk Mein Hai Narmi Kyun Aag Mein Hai Garmi Kyun, Do Aur Do Paanch Kyun Nahi
Pedd Ho Gaye Kum Kyun, Teen Hain Ye Mausam Kyun Chaand Do Kyun Nahi

Duniya Mein Hai Jung Kyun Behta Laal Rang Kyun, Sarhaden Hain Kyun Har Kahin
Socha Hai... Yeh Tumne Kya Kabhi
Socha Hai... Ki Hain Yeh Kya Sabhi
Socha Nahi To Socho Abhi...

Haan .. socha hai!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

An Incomplete Search

The alert reader - one of my ten multiple personalities or that marvellous lady who publicly declared her loyalty to this blog - will remember that the previous post ended with me and Poli* surviving multiple spittle bombing attempts during our journey to the client premises.

In the lift, I did a quick check to ensure that there were no traces of mud, paan, grime or any carbon based lifeform on my clothes. We reached the front desk. I walked up to the secretary. "Spanker", I said with my winningest secret agent smirk, "Avionic Spanker." Blank look. Clearly the only Bond she knew had the first name Brook. Smirk duly wiped. "Avionic Spanker from the-company-you-are-paying-an-insane-amount-of-money-to-tell-you-nothings-wrong-with-you". I saw a look of recognition light up her face. "I am here to meet Mr. XYZ". "Of course, please wait. I'll let him know you are here" .. and so we waited.

Finally we were ushered into XYZ's room and I did a double take. Poli stifled a gasp. No, its not what you think. XYZ was not our friendly cook, Maharaj, in disguise. He did remind us of someone else though. As he stepped out to take a phone call, me and Poli exchanged notes. Our verdict was unanimous. He had a remarkable resemblance to an actor starring in multiple movies of a very popular genre. The name of the genre rhymes with torn. If you are familiar with the Indian word for this genre, it rhymes with brandy (If you haven't guessed it yet, stop soaking in the comfortable warmth of your ignorance and ask the first teen you run into) As we were trying to remember which movies we may have seen the actor in, XYZ returned to resume the meeting. I don't know if this has ever happened to you but talking to someone AND trying to match their face with someone you vaguely remember is a tough job. Now if this person you vaguely remember was always minimally or never clothed, the complexity gets magnified manifold. Besides you have to understand that as far this genre goes, the focus is never on the actors. Its always on the *ahem* action. As I mentally ran through an inventory of such movies I had seen, I realised all I could remember were the female actors.

This had to be a bad dream. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and in an absurdly wrong state of mind. This was like a 90 year old with arthritis deciding to compete with Usain Bolt. On ice. This was like being an industrialist in Bengal. With a name called Ratan. This was like randomly opening a page in Atlas Shrugged and landing in the middle of that monologue. Yes, THAT one. This was like entering the theatre and watching Tushar Kapoor's name in the opening credits. As sole lead. One just knows something bad is going to happen and that one will be scarred by the experience. And here we were, seated opposite a man droning on about his business as we racked our brains trying to identify his doppleganger. Never one to leave a question unanswered, I have made a mental note to go to certain websites as soon as I get unrestricted internet access and find XYZ's clone. I am pretty sure that industry has a very small workforce. Wonder how it is to work there. Everyone there must know everyone else. Intimately.

Many people have responded to my previous post to assure me that I do not have a future as a writer in EK's coterie. One of my loyal readers, most likely the 6th personality, even threatened to commit suicide if I joined EK's bandwagon. I have tried to think up ways of introducing saree-clad fat women with bindis longer than your average kitchen knife and their thin daughter-in-laws (or is it daughters-in-law .. pshaw!) with tear-filled eyes into this story. Sadly, I don't see how that can happen unless some of the characters in this story have simultaneous gender reassignment procedures and multiple plastic surgeries. Alas, joining EK is a dream that will have to die. Thanks for your feedback, people. EK's loss is your gain. I think.

*Poli refers to himself as Rampant Orbit and recommends you do the same

Friday, August 22, 2008

An Unfinished Journey

Me and Poli had been anticipating this moment for atleast 5 days now - the first client meeting in the new project. Poli, who henceforth prefers to be addressed as Rampant Orbit, even spent nights practising and preparing his introduction. One of the practice sessions resulted in a lightning shaped scar as well - no Voldemort and green flash of light at work here, just an old D-mart shelf making lasting contact with Poli's robust forehead as a flash of lightning switched off power.

Finally the day was here. It was raining - just perfect for football, enough to ruin cricket. Continuing on after that totally unncecessary sports reference - we rushed out of the guesthouse to the nearest auto stand. There were a number of empty vehicles there with the drivers all crowded at one location. "Hard working honest men taking a well-deserved break", I thought despite having had colorful interactions with their brethren in other cities. I walked up to one of them. I told him the destination - a place about a couple of km away. The driver stared. I repeated the destination, a little loudly this time. He responded with complicated hand signals. He may have thrown in a couple of dance steps too. I was too stunned to react. I wondered what he meant. Was that the handshake of some 'Make your customers wait in the rain so that they can wipe your vehicle seats clean when they sit on them' secret society? Was he a break dancer who had jumped out of the closet hoping Michael Jackson would jump into it? Was he a retired traffic cop directing traffic that only he could see? Finally he chose to tell me that he was in some sort of queue which started at the other end.

As passing motorists tried painting mud patterns on my clothes, I rushed to the other end avoiding puddles with all the grace of a drunken sumo wrestler. I almost got run down by one woman who clearly had murder on her mind. She had her face covered and sped along unconcernedly on her 'machine to deliver a painful long-drawn death to unsuspecting pedestrians' aka Honda Activa. As I reached the other end of the queue and checked with the driver, he performed a different set of hand gestures. There were no dance steps though. "25 Rs", he said. We could choose to either pay this obviously inflated price and reach the meeting on time or start bargaining and walk in as the client prepared to leave. Being total professionals and committed to the client, we knew what option to take - bargain, of course. After a couple of one-sided debates - we arguing and the drivers responding with grunts and faraway looks - we amicably concluded twenty five bucks should pay for the journey plus the driver's breakfast. We sat in the auto and waited for the driver to deposit us at our destination.

This driver had a peculiar habit of breaking into a song every minute. It was as if he was a human winamp (I don't have an iPod yet *sigh*) who had been set in shuffle mode. Transitioning seamlessly from one Hindi song to another, with the odd Marathi couplet thrown in for good measure, he sped along. The only moments he paused his singing were to spit. Evidently his body generated copious quantities of saliva that needed to be ejected immediately to make space for the next batch. Though he seemed to be a master of the spit generation industry, he seemed to be a novice in the fine art form of spitting it out on neighboring vehicles. Most of the spit landed to his left AND on his own vehicle. Paralyzed with horror, I sat behind him chanting a mild prayer to the Gods asking them not to change the wind direction. Somehow the prospect of getting drenched in the rain AND getting sprayed by fine droplets of pan flavored human saliva did not thrill me too much. For once, the Gods seemed to be busy listening to other prayers. Because whenever they hear mine, they get perverse pleasure by doing the exact opposite of what I ask them. Usually its a case of 'Spanker proposes, God vengefully disposes .. and then shoots the proceedings on some divine camcorder and uploads it on blessYoutube where all the other Gods get to watch the video over and over again'.

In due course of time, we reached the meeting place and ...

This is where this part ends. You see, what I am really trying to do is write a 2 part story. Eventually, I will learn how to stretch a simple story into 500 parts. Then I will meet Ekta Kapoor (or whatever the latest spelling of her name is) and join her pantheon of script writers and write the script for a detective series titled 'The chronicles of Avionic Spanker and Rampant Orbit'

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Whats cooking?

Faithful readers of this blog - currently the 10 split personality manifestations of the author, and counting - will doubtless realise that the previous entry hinted at a sequel through the simple plot device of a missing gas connection. With the gas connection having been obtained, me and Poli finally had the opportunity to eat at the guest house.

During our first visit to the guest house, we had been acquainted with the caretaker and the cook - two individuals as similar as chalk and cheese. The caretaker appeared to be one of those eager to please, helpful chaps. The cook, on the other hand, seemed like the kind of person who, for no fault of yours, would conceal a sharp object in one's palm before vigorously shaking hands with you. Well built, with a stomach to match, unshaven and possessing a fierce countenance, he displayed all the friendliness of a bulldog that has seen its favorite bone being passed to the neighborhood mongrel. Having fixed us with a stern eye and seeming to have concluded that he could whup us any time in a handicap death match, he let us know he was the cook.

D-Day morning arrived and we sat eating a satisfactory breakfast of poha and bread toast. I figured this would be the right time to let him know what our culinary preferences were. Having eaten at the other guest house for three days, I knew what I could ask for. However, assessing that discretion was the better part of valor, I decided to let the caretaker know what I liked so that he could, in turn, pass on the message to the cook. "How about omelette once in a while?" I ventured. The caretaker's face assumed solemn proportions. "The cook is a brahmin", he whispered. "So what, egg is no big deal" .. "Let me check with the cook, sir" .. "Err, on second thoughts, maybe you shouldn't" .. Too late.

The cook walked into the dining area with a malevolent look on his face. Pregnant pause. The only sound that could be heard was Poli blissfully munching away on the poha. The cook cleared his throat with a flourish to draw our already well-drawn attention to him. "I am a Rajasthani brahmin", he thundered, " There will be NO eggs in this house as long as I am here. You'll have to eat eggs outside this house". Poli's spoon landed with a bang on the plate. Total silence. The air was crackling with nervous energy. There was potential for war here. There were Kodak moments galore, and the odd Pulitzer moment for the taking. An earnest journalist present at the scene could well head off on vacation for the Bahamas having already mailed his Award acceptance speech to his editor - "Thank you so much, folks .. just reward for having risked my life in the line of duty". A Sergio Leone may well have conceptualized The Good, the Good and the Ugly. An Ekta Kapoor could have gone into paroxysms of orgasmic pleasure with the myriad possibilities. One can imagine her telling her directors and script-writers "Zoom in on cook, then on Spanker, then on Poli .. zoom back, slowly .. zoom in, zoom out .. in, out, in, out .. fast, slow, fast, slow .. gasp". There was potential for one 30 minute episode here. The cook was Megatron and Sauron rolled into one. Me and Poli were two lowly cell-phones without a ring, one way or the other. The cook was Gabbar and we were Thakurs wiping sweat off our brow with our phantom palms .. and I am out of metaphors.

I heard a sharp intake of breath. Poli was gasping. He was no doubt remembering the fact that he had just concluded a project where he had helped a poultry foods company to sell its products - eggs and meat - to all corners of the country. As he carefully planned how he could exit the area without sustaining any lasting damage, I - with all the negotiating skills and assertiveness learnt in college - said "Of course, no eggs. We don't want eggs." Poli pitched in to mention how we were joking all along and were merely testing his brahmin integrity. The cook walked off muttering ominously. Me and Poli exchanged high fives. We were two tough cookies who could handle any situation - as long as there was no brahmin cook involved.

We have finally reached a truce with the cook. We ask him to cook any vegetarian food we want. All requests routed through the caretaker, of course. And he summarily dismisses our requests and cooks whatever he wants.