Worst trip ever

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I had been looking forward to my trip to Mt Abu. This is where I spent 7 years of my crucial school life. I had the best memories and only good things were associated with it.

Yesterday was a wake up call. KC and I rented an Activa and drove to school. I wanted to show KC as much of the school as I could and decided to take permission from the nun in charge so I don’t break any rules. I waited outside the room while a lady in a ghoonghat and lehenga and a man spoke to the nun. Strangely the nun was seated behind a desk but there were no chairs for other people to sit on while they speak to her.

I introduced myself and told her I was an ex student and wanted to see the school. Her first statement “Don’t you think you should dress more appropriately?” I was so shocked I thought I had misheard and made her repeat herself. After that she got a piece of my mind. I told her she had no authority to impose a dress code on those who aren’t students in school and my dress is none of her business.

Her : Are these the values we taught you in school?

Me : If these are the values you are teaching students, the school has gone downhill since I was here

I asked her name but she refused to tell me because I mentioned that this incident would be all over social media.

I realised the school wasn’t a great place at all. The nuns don’t have educational qualifications. They aren’t trained professionally. They don’t step out of the school for 9 months in a year and they don’t even interact among each other. I have never seen a nun laugh. I am serious. They don’t even laugh.

Nuns are the saddest group of people I have ever come across. They were rude to our parents and our middle class parents took it because they were intimidated by the English speaking stern looking women. Kindness, compassion, humanity etc aren’t words I would associate with any of the nuns I have interacted with. They can make any rules in school and nobody can question them. They wouldn’t give us holidays on Diwali and we couldn’t go home but the annual vacations were conveniently in the winters so the nuns could leave the city for X’mas.

I didn’t bother trying to meet any teachers because I didn’t want to be further disillusioned.

The entire town is sad with bad crowd. It doesn’t even feel like a hill station. Has it changed or was it always like this? What do I have fond memories of?

The past wasn’t as good as we think it is and the future isn’t going to be as great as we hope it to be. That’s the sad reality.


Being on the other side of the table

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I spent the day at a campus for recruitment of summer interns and well, it was quite an experience. I was hoping it would get cancelled so I could get some real work done but that didn’t happen.

Summer projects are a big deal these days. Crazy amount of stipend is paid for mediocre work and the competition to get into a good company is mind blowing. We were on campus to pick 1 trainee instead of 3-4 due to budget cuts. Guess the number of CVs we received? 50% of the batch applied. The batch has 700 students. Why? Because good candidates get PPI (Pre placement interview) which leads to a PPO (Pre placement offer) and that’s the only way a B school fresher can get a job with the organization. Stakes are higher than ever during summer internships.

How do you shortlist out of 350 CVs? There are many ways and while I don’t agree with what was done, I don’t have a say in it. Basis academic records, 36 candidates were shortlisted. We had to give a Pre placement talk to these 36 candidates, conduct group discussions and then interview 6-8 candidates. I kept asking the HR person “What am I supposed to say? How will I select people in GD? What will I ask them?”. I was as nervous as any of the candidates.

The volunteers kept us fed and nourished throughout. They would have made all our wishes come true, food wise. All we had was upma, poha, tea/coffee (twice), watermelon juice (twice), sandwich, dosa and then we turned down the offer for lunch. Somebody escorted us wherever we went. I was sure the female would come to the loo with me but was disappointed when she took my refusal seriously.

2 students had to drop out due to illness so the HR quickly shortlisted 2 others basis their previous work experience and ignored their academics. The students were divided into 4 groups and we split into 2 panels. Both the case studies were very lame but ours was better compared to the other panel.

Highlights from the GD:

  • People who start the GD, summarise the GD and try to act as mediators are just buying time without adding any value. They are very, very irritating. We rejected a candidate who made good points because he spoke too much. He wasn’t listening to others and wouldn’t let others speak.
  • If a student spoke well during the GD but couldn’t summarise well at the end when he/she was given a 1 minute to speak, we didn’t select him/her.
  • The girls outshone the boys. They were far better communicators.
  • My expectation from a GD is that the group comes together and discusses the topic instead of turning it into a competition. The person with more relevant views gets selected.
  • We rejected candidates who used management jargons. Words like leadership theory, Malsow’s hierarchy of needs, positive reinforcement, group dynamic and more such terms were liberally thrown around, making our job easier.

The person who came through in the interview was someone with mediocre academics but previous work experience. He didn’t speak much during the GD but made relevant points and summarised well.

The interviews were quite casual. Our expectation from the students was nil. They had just joined the course and nothing of relevance would have been taught. What do we question them about? Some common traits among all of them were :

  • None of them knew the difference between sales and marketing. After the 2-3 students, we stopped asking this question because it was obvious they were clueless.
  • None of them liked being in AC and looked forward to the 40 degree weather during their summer stint. Strange, considering how much their faculty apologised that the AC was not working since the basement of the campus is still flooded with water from the rains.
  • All of them like travelling on the Mumbai local trains and that gives them the right skill sets to work in FMCG sales.
  • All of them hate an office job. Sitting on a chair is so boring.
  • They are all skilled singers or dancers or theatre people. I wanted to burst their bubble and tell them to bid goodbye to the Sa re ga ma little champs singing competition, theatre groups, bharatnatyam etc.

The competition, desperation and the cluelessness in the room was discomforting. This is still the easiest way to get a job and the stakes are the lowest. These students don’t know that. I hate to be the one to guide them into the disillusionment with the corporate world. Why are people still pursuing MBA? In times of start ups and people following their dreams, why are people still choosing to conform?


Footloose run – back to basics

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Coach Ravindra/Run with me Foundation organizes the most innovative running events every year. There is the Qutab Minar to Chandni Chowk half marathon, starry night run, double challenge (where you run the same distance on both days and try to beat your time on the 2nd day) and now the Footloose run. We were not allowed any gadgets in the event – no phones, no smartwatches and trackers, no earphones, no watches, no pacers and no asking people around for time etc.

The run had 2 objectives:

  • To get us back to the basics. Everyone’s first run is without all of these gadgets. Why do I need music to run? Why can’t I track the speed and distance without a tracker? After 3-4 years of running I should be able to.
  • To predict the completion time of the run. Can I predict my time? I still don’t know in what time I completed the run. Did I meet my target or did I better it? Can I train for timing without a tracker?

People who can’t afford gadgets run too. Why are we so dependent on them? Have running and marathons become a thing of the elite? Are running groups a new way of networking?

What I learned from this event :

  • I don’t know what pace I run at. I only track the average pace so when I go fast I don’t know how fast I am and when I slow down, I don’t know how slow am going.
  • The first 4 km are always challenging for me. That is the point where am wondering what am doing and why. In an event, the initial excitement and the other runners around me get me to a decent pace till 4 km. My body goes in auto mode after that and picks up pace.
  • I slowed down in the last 3 km. That is where I kept hearing the body pump trainer Anand’s voice in my head screaming “don’t stop. You don’t stop”. At this point I missed my smartwatch and music. The numbers on the watch would have made me push myself. The music would have been a good distraction.
  • I need to remove my dependence on a gadget to figure out my pace. It’s stupid. Does that mean I cannot run if I forget to carry a gadget?
  • This is the 2nd event I have participated in this year. Too many setbacks have impacted the running. Events help push you and meet a timing goal. You are always faster at an event vs while running alone or in a group. I think I will participate in more 10km runs this year.

How was your Sunday morning?

 


The horror of hunting for a shared flat in Mumbai

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It has been 3 months in a shared apartment and I think I like the place. Hope I haven’t jinxed it. Sure, I miss Suzette’s and Haiko. But Worli, Peddar Road and Colaba are close enough to go for a morning run.

But this post isn’t about that. I had expected the experience of finding a shared flat to be hassle free compared to staying alone. It wasn’t. I ended up having some weird experiences and meeting weirdos.

Flat no 1: At Versova

I hadn’t ever been to Versova until that day but I was looking for a decent flat in any suburb of Mumbai. I had landed from Goa from holiday and headed straight to the flat in Versova. It looked very quaint and attractive in the photos and the flatmate sounded nice on the phone. It was Tuesday night and the traffic was bad. I reached the apartments, somewhere deep inside Versova. There was a weird fish smell in the air and the building looked dilapidated. I couldn’t imagine where I would go for a run. I messaged the flatmate and told her I was heading back without checking out the place because I didn’t like the area.

Her reply: You are not even coming upstairs?

Me : No. I don’t see the point

Her : That is so rude. I cancelled plans for you

Me : I am sorry but I have lots of luggage and will have to book another cab. Plus am too exhausted for niceties

She was not happy and did not hold back on the anger.

Flat no 2: Chembur

A female shared pictures of a lovely flat in Chembur. But it was unfurnished. I was looking for a flat where I could move in with only my personal belongings so the lovely flat was off the list. This female sent me 10 messages trying to convince me that buying appliances was so much better than renting them or going for a fully furnished flat. I had to politely decline and reply to the messages in monosyllables.

Flat no 3 : Powai

This was the first flat I checked out. A fully furnished 3 bhk in Nahar Amrit Shakti that I fell in love with. The room had a BALCONY. I thought everything was final when I left for the Goa trip. But the female dropped a bombshell that the other 2 flat mates are vegetarians and I won’t be able cook non veg. I rarely cook chicken but eggs are my life and soul. And I don’t understand people who want to impose their life choices on others. Did I really want to inhabit the same space with such people? The females were stringent on this criteria and I had to let the flat go.

Flat no 4 : Powai

A lovely room with a tiny balcony through the bathroom and a great view. The rest of the flat was mediocre. The 2nd room in the 2bhk was inhabited by 2 females. I checked out the room and the flatmate mentioned she was moving out at the end of May. She had to speak to the owner for the agreement since it was due for a renewal. I kept following up for weeks. Finally, the agreement issue was sorted out. But the owner hiked the rent and it went out of my budget. Then the other 2 females decided they wanted to move to the other room and their room was up for grabs. That is when I gave up.

Flat no 5 : Chembur

I saw lovely pictures of the flat. It sounded like a perfect match – fully furnished 2bhk with only 2 people (so rare for only 2 people to share a flat in this city) and attached washroom. What could go wrong? The flat had a weird damp smell, there was no ventilation, the lift wasn’t working,  the white goods were a million years old and the furnishings were horrible. The flatmate was frustrated since she couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t been able to find someone. I was honest with her for my reason for rejecting the flat.

Finalising the current flat wasn’t easy either and involved lots of back and forth. Moving in wasn’t a cakewalk and it took 2 months to get the agreement done.

Dealing with flatmates has been as painful as dealing with owners or brokers. Infact it has made me appreciate brokers. At least you don’t have to deal with 2-3 people who dictate terms. Thankfully I haven’t had major issues with my current flatmates and hope it continues that way.


Victims of fat shaming

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There is a debate on fat shaming happening on my IG right now. I don’t know why unhealthy (includes fat and skinny people both) people feel victimized. It is the health conscious people who should cry about victimization. Don’t believe me? Try adopting a healthy lifestyle for a change. People will laugh at you, mock you, raise their eyebrows, assume you don’t know how to have ‘fun’, force you to booze, dope, eat junk and force feed you desserts. All of this has happened to me. From acquaintances to family to colleagues to close friends, they have all been an impediment on my fitness journey. Here is the funny part- none of these people are healthy. In fact, most of them are fat or on their way to being fat.

I will give you a picture of what these ‘victims’ are like. Few months back N, a colleague from my previous team, and I went for coffee to a nearby coffee shop. She ordered waffles drizzling with chocolate, ice cream and what not. I don’t remember the last time I ate something with so many calories. Atleast not in those portion sizes. I had to take a bite or two. The conversation revolved around her love for chocolate and while she gobbled up 500-1000 calories in a snack, she complained about how much weight she has gained. She didn’t stop there. She grabbed the fat on her waist and showed it to me. While eating the waffles dripping in chocolate.

In all aspects of our life, we agree that we are responsible for whatever turn destiny takes. More or less. I am not talking about tragedies or life threatening diseases or other things beyond our control. But when it comes to weight and health, general tendency is to act like it is beyond one’s control. That isn’t fair. I have worked hard, trained like a maniac, read up on health, sucked up to trainers for their knowledge and help, isolated myself, killed myself with guilt over every piece of chocolate devoured. So when someone who hasn’t even tried, screams victimization and fat shaming, I can’t help but guffaw at them. Sorry. You are not getting any free passes here.

If you are genuine, I will provide you with all my support but there are no shortcuts in life. This reminds me of women who refuse to stand up to their parents when it comes to arranged marriage, then spend all their lives acting like victims without lifting a finger to try and get out of the situation because it’s too hard.

I am pretty sure someone is going to defend such people too. The weaker you are, the easier life is for you. I have seen that happen all my life. You only get support when you act like a victim. Shirk it off and act like you are strong enough to deal with it and nobody gives a shit.

 

 


The Meeting 

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Friday evening was significant. Very casually, my mother invited KC over for lunch at the new flat in Mumbai. KC’s schedule in Mumbai is always packed. Over 2 days he has to catch up with school friends and MBA friends. And spend quality time with me and his mother. Sometimes at the same time. I didn’t want him to reschedule his plans at the whims and fancies of my mother. 

I told her it wasn’t possible but left the final decision on him. I wondered how I would feel if he didn’t make the effort to make the time. I was going to resent him forever. I have suffered his mother for 8 years, he couldn’t take out an hour for mine?

To give some context, my parents met him and his family in 2008. It did not go well, to put it mildly. They haven’t met since. My relationship with my parents has mostly been stormy over the years. My dad’s heart ailment is what got me to call and visit after almost 2 years of no contact.

KC readily agreed. I was surprised when he insisted we accept the invitation. I moved it to breakfast because it was more convenient and we wouldn’t have to linger for more than an hour. It was a peaceful breakfast and I ferried KC out in 45 mins. 

I don’t know what prompted this change in my mother. I can only speculate. What I know for sure is that it doesn’t matter. I’ve gone through the whole circle of hurt, pain, tears, loneliness, learning to live without family and turning hard hearted. Am at a point where their views, opinions, affections, approval or disapproval have no place in my life. I walk on egg shells around them because they don’t understand me and I don’t understand them. It’s too late to repair anything now. Polite distance is all I have to offer now. Any gesture towards appeasement is too little, too late. 

My family is fraught with manipulation, jealousy, happiness at relatives’ misery, distrust, gossip, slander and selfishness. Everytime a relative calls after years of not staying in touch, my first thought is “what do they want now?”. I can almost predict their intentions and political designs and keep myself safe. It is a vortex I can’t get drawn into. Worse, pull KC into it. I will get out unscathed but he may not be so lucky.

This meeting was to test the waters but I have no intentions of breaking down the fences that have been built in the last 9 years. They do not get to mess my life again. Once was enough. Unfortunately the damage they’ve done is permanent. I will always be cynical about a parent child relationship. 


Appraisals

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Now is the time for mid year appraisals. That time of the year when your salary must justify the judgement someone gets to pass on you and your skills. My idea of a good appraisal is when you can anticipate correctly what’s coming your way- good or bad. Whatever feedback that comes your way must not be a surprise. This can happen when you’ve taken feedback at regular intervals and can read the signals given by the reporting manager accurately. 

Of course, this feedback should be taken with a handful of salt. There are certain skills that everyone can be better at but at the end of the day, the corporate wants robots. Everyone evaluates everyone else against themselves. Every manager wants their reportees to be like them. “I am people friendly and have lots of informal, after work interactions”. So should you. “I treat people like pawns”. So should you. Etc etc etc. 

It’s a tricky balance. You have to show you have worked on the feedback without actually turning into the reporting manager. The higher you go, the tougher it is to say No. Being upfront about your views is actively discouraged at the top. And yet, I have worked with managers who are upfront and yet successful. Their rare breed does exist. You would expect that your power to say No increases as you move closer to the top. But it is the opposite in reality. And if you are a person who can cut through the bullshit easily and are upfront, you already know expecting you to be politically correct will be the first topic on the feedback list. 

Key takeaway – pretend to change while not actually changing. Have at least 1 person who you trust, preferably someone senior, and take their feedback and work on their advice. 


Crash and burn

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Forward and backward.

Backward and forward.

Round and round in circles.

Take me back.

Back to where?

Where is now?

Where was then?

 

Backward and forward.

Forward and backward.

Round and round in circles.

I crash and burn.

Crash and burn, if I stop.

 

No closer to the answers now, than then.

Backward and forward.

Forward and backward.

Round and round in circles.


Train in the rain

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Most days am a sensible person with burts of insanity but there are some days when I act surprisingly out of character.

I was back in Mumbai after 10 days of break and it was raining. I was dressed early and decided to reach office early so I could leave early in the evening. I had enough time to put on my highest heels I brought from Gurgaon and apply everything in my make up kit. From mascara to brow pencil, my face had everything on. I tried booking an Ola share (no Uber pool in the area I have moved to. No markets either. Or restaurants) but couldn’t find one. Uber Go had bhayankar surge pricing which lasted for 48 hours.

I decided to take the train. Not a big deal in Mumbai EXCEPT I haven’t even been to this harbour line station before. I knew there are trains which take 20 mins to Vile Parle (where my office is located) so I didn’t think much about it. In my heels, with gym and lunch bag in tow, face painted with make up and without an umbrella, I hailed the kaali peeli to take me to the station. I paid 80 bucks for the 20 mins drive, bought the train ticket (Rs 50) and waited for the train. It was raining but I had avoided getting drenched. The train to Andheri came in 5 mins and I got on. The first class was mostly empty but the seats were wet so I would have to stand. It wouldn’t be an inconvenience till Bandra, when the train fills up. Another 5 mins passed but the train didn’t move. People started getting off. Rains picked up. What was happening? I got off and enquired. Mahim station was flooded and the train was getting diverted to Vashi. Just my luck. Nobody seemed fazed. People continued to wait. A train to Panvel came and went. Another to some other harbour line. It was 8.45 am, 45 mins since I left home, 15 mins past the time I had expected to reach office.

I walked out of the station, in my heels, face painted with waterproof make up, gym and lunch bag in tow, without an umbrella. And walked. And walked. And walked. In the rain. All the cabbies rejected me. Ola couldn’t detect my location. Uber had surge pricing. So I walked. And walked. And walked. Till one kaali peeli decided to drop me.

I reach office at 9.45 am. 1.45 hours after I originally left. Spent 100 bucks more than what Uber was charging me at surge pricing.

BUT… my mascara or make up didn’t run. So, I made one decision right. Right? Right?


Foodie shoodie

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Few years back, someone visited a restaurant I recommended and asked me “What do I order?” My reply was “Whatever you want”. I was a little surprised by the question. I have never asked anyone what I should order. It depends on my mood and craving. How can anyone tell anyone else what to eat.

I am wiser now and realize that the new world, with its social media icons, has a group of ‘foodies’ who treat eating out as a tick mark activity. They will go to a new city and ask for food recommendations. Then they will travel from one end to the other end of the city to mark it off their to-do list. This gives them a status of a true social media icon when it comes to food. Then they will go around telling people what to eat where. And to only eat that specific item in that restaurant.

They don’t enjoy food like you or I do. They don’t have personal views about a restaurant. The objective is to proclaim that all the popular places have been visited and now every person can turn to them for recommendations. Unsurprisingly, all these people have tried to make money out of this, by way of food walks or blogs.

This is how the conversation went with one such person:

Him – Arya Bhawan, Ramashray etc etc

Me- I have been to Arya Bhawan. Great food.

Him- But what did you eat there?

Me (confused because I have been there 4 times with different people and ordered something new everytime. Also, I helped my companions finish their food too)- Many things.

Him- What you should eat there is the thaat idli. For Pongal go to XYZ…

Me *subtle eye roll*

When I like a restaurant I end up trying as much of the menu as I can. In fact, all my favourite restaurants serve consistently good food. They won’t make a good sandwich and a bad pasta.

Sure, there are places like Smokehouse Deli in Khan market where I have only ordered eggs benedict. And yet, my answer to “what should I order at SHD at Khan market?” will always be “whatever you damn well please”. Because my preference for eggs benedict is personal. Am I the most knowledgeable or well travelled person? No. Neither are you. So, the best sandwich in your books won’t be the same in my books. So shut the fuck up and let people eat.

Don’t go to a city and ask people “where can I get the best dosas? or the best sandwiches? or the best kebabs?” Just experiment and come to your own conclusions which should be kept to yourself unless someone specifically asks you. Or check out Zomato and tripadvisor for balanced views.

And if someone asks you what to order at a restaurant, give them one tight slap and point towards the menu.