Vasantha Priya’s email – Singapore Namma ooru maadhiri varadhu dii

Vasantha Priya
Sent: Sun 08/19/2012 3:45 PM
To: Bhuvana Parthasarathy

Hi daa,

Landed at Singapore airport last week, and I am still trying to get my bearings here. This place is like, sooo huge!! I know when we looked at the map back in your room it didn’t seem so big, but actually this place is a maze of roads. It is not at all like Chennai. The pizza delivery guys here drive Pulsars! It reminded me of how thrilled Balasubramanian was when he bought his Pulsar. And don’t say you don’t know, because I still remember you itching to get a ride on it with him (hee hee!)

Singapore is a strange place daa. Little India –nnoru place irukku, namma ooru maadhiri than. All Madurai and Chennai people only. And the Chennai girls here are as obnoxious as the ones back home. The guys are cuter, but strangely, everyone has these hideous haircuts, like an overgrown kudummai* They think it makes them look cooler, but it’s hideous.

You know, Singapore is in some ways sooo much more advanced than Chennai. You can wear shorts here any time of day or night, and no one gives a damn. Remember how those boys used to hoot at us when we wore shorts to the Inox? Here half the girls are almost naked all the time and no one comments.  You can go out at 2:00 am at night to the nearest 7-11 and buy a bottle of juice. No hooligans, and certainly no late night vettaikkarans.*

You can also catch cabs at any time of day or night. And the driver uncles are so polite and well behaved that you wouldn’t believe. Do you remember those stupid auto drivers in Chennai who used to adjust their rear view mirror to watch us as soon as we got in? Well, there is none of that here. Strange, I miss Chennai now.

Discos are a rage here. I met a cute guy at office. Vasantharaman from Mylapore. He took us out to a few discos and pubs here. I must tell you, they are very ‘color’ful places JI tried all the dance steps we learned for our college shows, and I think Vasu (yes, that’s what I call himJ) was impressed. He certainly told me he was impressed. Very unassuming boy. But I didn’t mean to tell you about Vasu. What I wanted to tell you was that the discos here are sooo much better than the ones back home. In Chennai half the time you have to be wary of the drunken 100 year old guy dancing next to you, hoping to cup a feel, and then you have to worry about some random political party goons coming in to beat you up or marry you off to that 100 year old guy. But none of that here. As a rule Singapore discos are very hep and clean places. There is a joint called Rupee Room here, and that is the only place where 100 year old Indian guys will try to grab any part of you they can get at.

The cell phone service here is absolutely amazing. It never fails daa. 3G services are so cool here, you wouldn’t believe. For the first time in my life, my Google Map actually worked. Remember when we used Airtel GPS back home, and it told us we were in Chennai, Ludhiana and Usilampatti all at the same time? Here they even show you moving on the map as a dot. Stud only.

But for all that, I miss Chennai daa. At the end of the day, namma ooru maadhiri varadhu dii* LIn fact, the last weekend I felt homesick so badly that I went to Rupee Room. A few boys immediately spoke to me in Tamil and showed me their kudummais. Even the 100 year old guy seemed so sweet. It was his birthday, apparently. We all had a nice time, and I felt really hep. 

Will mail you more, lotsa love,

Kudummai: Ponytail. Religious mandate among residents of Madurai
Namma ooru maadhiri varadhu dii : There is no place like Chennai
Vettaikkarans: [noun] : Molesters

Condoms ?!? Ram Ram !!!

Quite recently, having managed to contract a pretty strong form of viral fever, I presented myself to the friendly neighborhood pharmacist for the usual supply of drugs. While I was trying to decide between Paracetamol and Panadol, a curious incident happened. A young man entered stage right, confidently picked up a packet of condoms, paid for them and exited the same way. “What’s so remarkable about it?” you say. “This happens all the time”, you scoff. Ahh yes, but the point of curiosity was that this young man was an Indian.
Now, don’t get me wrong. With a population that’s fast threatening to overtake China, young Indian men need all the condoms they can get their hands on. No, that’s not the curious thing. The curious thing was how the deed was done.  While a 20 something young Indian male can swagger into a drugstore anywhere in the world and order a packet of condoms with the utmost confidence, he is often at a loss when it comes to his home country. The Indian society has not yet come to terms with the rather “western’ idea of pre marital sex. It is still considered a big taboo across the country unless of course, it is done in secrecy. With a healthy mixture of hypocrisy and dimmed lights, Indian men and women continue to enjoy the occasional picnic away from home.
Pre marital sex is not received favorably in a society where religious fanaticism, moral double standards and generation rivalry thrive. Hence young unmarried couples find it necessary to plan sex days or weeks in advance.   In fact, guys often take it to the next level with condom purchases, which take place in three steps:
1    Casing the joint – The first step is to locate a drugstore far away from home, to avoid the possibility of running into someone you know. No Indian guy wants to be caught by Uncle Manohar from Flat 5C, while he is trying to decide between Durex and Kohinoor. Uncle Manohar is sure to tell Aunty Manohar, who then will inform half of the residents in the flat, and the grocer who comes once every week. Not a good idea.
2    Choosing the time – The importance of choosing the right time of entry cannot be emphasized too much. Peak hours are a strict no no. So also are the morning hours. The ideal time would be close to midnight, when the dude behind the counter would be bored and itching to go home
3     Exit – Have a good exit strategy in place. This means a bike or a car (preferably a car) in good running condition parked right outside the drugstore, engine left running if possible. The whole operation, in and out, should not take more than 90sec. And oh yes, pay in cash
Poor geezers from villages are often hit the hardest by societal double standards. Most are often served by one pharmacist for every village within a 5 km radius. They often have to catch a train to the nearest town, usually hours away, to buy a pack.
But soon as you take this harassed Indian male out of India, you see a transformation happening. Confidence builds up, a swagger emerges and decisions are then made not between brands, but between ‘feather thin’ and ‘barely there’.  In a society that actively promotes safe sex, guys do not approach a condom purchase like they would a bank job.
It makes the occasional picnic away from home less thrilling, but far more secure.

Domesticated Kid and the art of Flex @ Work

In their inexorable quest to merge the corporate lifestyle and the modern employee together into one unified strand, companies have, in recent times, come up with the idea of flexible working hours. The idea of this corporate experiment is to figure out how much flex can your typical employee give before he breaks and goes off to join the Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement in India.  The program, rolled out for the first time in the early 60s by German entrepreneur Wilhelm Haller, was a big success.  In 1973, Hewlett Packard copied that model and molded it into the modern Flex @ Work methodology.

Note to those Indians who still work at Libraries and Govt. offices: Flex @ Work is nothing but what you have been traditionally doing at office between chai breaks, lunch breaks and social breaks anyway. So relax, and congratulations for staying ahead of the curve.
Now, one of the stated goals of this blog is to provide unsuspecting readers with useful information about the vagaries of professional existence – and how to deal with the aforesaid vagaries.  Unfortunately, Indians who work at “corporate” jobs often mistake flex @ work to mean “Stay back at the office every day until the janitor starts cleaning under your chair while you are still sitting on it”. This philosophy flies in the face of “firangi” culture, which places unimaginable importance on minor things as work life balance, vacation, family and health.
Once I started thinking about the myriad ways in which flex @ work could be detrimental to the average employee’s life expectancy, I decided to come up with solutions to alleviate the pressure a bit. The following three Zen meditative techniques are guaranteed to provide some measure of relief.
The Nimble Fingers: Recently, I have been utilizing a lot of my flex @ work hours. For me, this means staying late at office often to finish some work that requires actual thinking. I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely difficult to estimate the demand for black market office supplies when there are lots of co workers milling about the stationery room. One needs peace, quiet and stealth for that sort of work.  You need to start small, often with pencils, and graduate to printers and small scanners through years of flexing. It is of course, easy to get intoxicated with the euphoria of such flex. This is how, during annual stock taking, the company massage chairs are often found in the living rooms of ex employees entirely by some mistake.
The Ambush Mailer: Some small measure of satisfaction can also be obtained from informing co workers about crises situations in their projects at night or over weekends. Send a mail with the cryptic subject line “Re project Titanic: Latest financials show project expense close to Greece GDP. General Manager asking questions.  Take leave immediately” to your colleague and watch him go into cardiac arrest the next morning as he checks his emails.
The Conscientious Supplier: The next best thing to do is to mess with your office general supply providers.  This tactic is especially useful if you have one of those 24 hour ‘guaranteed’ services as promised on the smiley face sticker stuck on the empty water container.  Call them up tonight at 12 am and reorder the root beer on the 21st floor. Repeat with judicious mixture of soda and floors.
However, these techniques provide nothing but temporary monetary and mental relief. For the ultimate Zen mastery of flex@work, we must practice a higher order meditation – known as ‘Working from Home’. More about that in a later post.  It’s Saturday afternoon, and I need to send some mails.