Saturday 31 July 2010

an idiot

The very first time I meet him I have come to his office to present website designs. It takes me a little time to find the office, to realise that it’s in a room built on the terrace of a blocky, mid-sized office tower that looks like it was built in the early 90s. I know that a certain kind of self-styled entrepreneur likes to talk about empires that were born in garage offices, but this just seems tacky and cheap. In the office, I speak to the woman I’ve been corresponding with about this job for the last few weeks. She is apparently the Head Of Operations of this organisation. Later on, I am told that she is his wife. A mom-and-pop data mining company. How very Bangalore. During this time, he is closeted in his corner office, talking to someone. It’s such a tiny space, I’m a little impressed that he even managed to squeeze in a corner office. After a while he finishes his conversation. The man he was talking to comes out. He is in his 50s, he looks like the sort of person who has been a manager at some level in various mid-sized to large organisations, several in the public sector, almost the entire span of my life. He talks to the lady I have been speaking to about the plans he has just been discussing. He conveys the impression of someone trying to convey the impression of being an experienced and shrewd managerial person.

After a while, the man he has been speaking to enters the room I am in. He is also in his 50s, has grey hair and a french beard, also grey. Is dressed in khakis and a short-sleeved shirt. Wears rimless spectacles. Says he’s seen my work - I had to send his company samples of my past work at the beginning of this job - ‘Some good work there. I hope you keep it up.’ Already, I dislike him. It’s the way he says it. Suggesting that my entire career until now may just have been a fluke. The meeting happens. I leave.

A week later we meet again. It seems he wants a far more extensive job to be done than was first envisaged. I tell him it will cost more. He asks how much. I tell him. He agrees. Later, I send him a quote. He writes back saying that he accepts it. He asks me to ‘note that I have not tried to negotiate over pricing and I hope you will fulfill your end of the bargain. Should you fail to deliver what we expect, steps will be taken to penalise you.’ I seriously dislike this man at this point.

When I show him what I’ve done, he starts asking for more things, things that were not defined in the initial brief. I sense that I should start putting my foot down, but some of these are fairly easy things to do. In another meeting, he shows me the ugliest site I have ever seen and essentially asks me to copy everything on that site, reword it and use it on his site. He asks me to take this other company’s case studies, change their titles, rewrite them and put them up under the case studies section on his site.

I spend a couple of weeks doing all this. I miss my first deadline because my designer takes an unexpected vacation. His site goes live a day late. He sends me vaguely threatening text messages and I reply asking what he is implying. He immediately calls up to chew me out for missing the deadline. He talks about how the ‘wow factor’ is missing. About how his site is his business’ lifeline, and how it is completely screwed up. I begin to understand why his previous web company did such a half-cocked job on his old site, to envy them for no longer having to work with him. I respond that I am sorry for the delays, but that he has also expanded the scope of work with new requests along the way when I’d told him to be very sure of what he wanted right at the beginning. I raise my voice a little. He says ‘I can’t shout, I have a problem,’ and gives the phone to his wife who concludes the discussion. It turns out that he is using an obsolete browser on his laptop, one that the site does not display properly on. I point out that almost no one uses a 2-year old version of a browser anymore, but they ask me to optimise the site for this browser anyway. I wonder what kind of a tech businessman doesn’t even upgrade a free internet browser.

So I make various changes and additions. At some point he calls me and asks if I can add a social media connect on his site. I say I can. He says a lot of business happens through internet networking these days. Then he asks me if I can register his company on facebook twitter and linkedin. Rather than point out that I am not his secretary, I give him some line about password security and how I wouldn’t be able to fill in all the details of his company properly, it’s best he does it himself. He agrees reluctantly.

Finally, the revised site goes live. He calls me the next morning at 8.40. I am in my garden having tea with my wife. He tells me to go sit in front of my computer, that there are ‘glaring errors’ on the site. It turns out that some material he asked me to add at the last minute is actually copyright of another organisation. I ask him how I was supposed to know that, I assumed that any material he gave me would be above board. I tell him I do not appreciate him calling me out of work hours and barking out orders. He tells me to keep a civil tongue, at which point I cease to. I tell him he is a fool and an asshole and that I would rather not work for him anymore. I hang up.

He sends me another threatening mail, speaking of ‘penalties’ and so forth. I reply explaining in detail how I have done everything he asked for, including things that most web companies would charge extra for, and inform that should he choose to make this a legal matter, I also have rights and am not without recourse to legal aid. After this he sends a remarkably meek email asking me to please just finish the last few corrections and changes that need to be done. After this, the remaining correspondence is between his wife and, beyond a certain point, my designer. For once in my life, I am glad that I lost my temper and told a fool he was a bloody idiot.

Friday 30 July 2010

no extended fight scenes, explosions or guns in sight.

bleak hospice yards circled by barbed wire fences, peopled by horribly disfigured lepers endlessly stumbling through the damp and the wet, herded about by harridans in Mother Teresa saris

a stadium in the middle of nowhere filled with bizarre sideshow freaks and stalls selling rancid food and shiny gadgets that don't work, all overseen by a crew of evil children

a spaceship landing on a distant world where reality is shaped by imagination, the crew's Utopian endeavour, the fate of the one crewmember who flees this world, and why...

I don't know. I just don't dream like the people in Nolan's universe.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

blind singers

Seen this morning at Kammanahalli. I last saw them in Indiranagar last week.

Monday 19 July 2010


So I woke up a week back to find that the R-word was doing the rounds. You know, the one that kind of rhymes with ‘escapism’. An American humorist did what a lot of humorists seem to do these days -- turn a stream-of-consciousness blend of reminiscence, observation and cliché into something that he hoped would be funny. As an essay, it was hardly Bacon. As humour, it was undercooked. But was it racism? It skirts the borderline between mocking and perpetuating stereotypes . It’s a muddle and to a large extent it received the muddled responses it deserves.

Most commentators have taken a few standard routes: take Joel Stein to task for an article that was insensitive at best, offensive at worst, point out that racism is an equal-opportunity sport that Indians indulge in too, or claim there was no racism and this was just another tantrum thrown by the PC brigade. These responses miss the point.

What is the point? I think the issue is a more fundamental one that relates to how we as human beings adapt to the realities of our world. An interesting slogan did the rounds some years ago: ‘This is Bangalore. No Kannada only English.’ While making one wonder about the mindset that framed a slogan which managed to negate itself so thoroughly, it showed that xenophobia doesn’t just operate across racial lines. Most of the people speaking English in Bangalore are from the same community as the sloganeer if not the same country.

Another slogan that I remember is ‘Bangalore is full. Go home’. It’s an egalitarian slogan, applicable to people from Adelaide, Atlantic City or Ahmedabad. To my shame and remorse, I once raised it myself, late one night in my lamented twenties when a group of western tourists wanted to enter an already packed establishment on Rest House Road that I used to patronize. I wasn’t being racist – I have nothing against westerners. I gleefully claim the best of their art, literature and music as a part of my universal human heritage while being equally comfortable with using a language and mode of dress that was originated in points westward. But at that moment, this particular group of westerners wanted to enter what I perceived as my space and that made them the enemy.

But was it really my space? If anyone, it belonged to the landlord and he obviously had no problem with admitting any paying customer who observed a modicum of good behavior. And did they really change it? Maybe a little, but places change. The Bangalore I used to know has changed for ever, if not for better and most of those changes were engineered by my fellow Indians. Change happens, and the thing is that it’s happening faster and more thoroughly than ever before in human history. This makes us disoriented, and disoriented people can get punchy. There are a lot of people who feel left behind by changes they didn’t anticipate and lash out at someone, anyone who might be to blame. It’s probably too late to decelerate the rate of change, so it may be time for us to start redefining our concepts. I believe that we tend to cling to a lot of 19th-century concepts that had a lot of utility at one time, but are now counterproductive if not actively destructive. And that might just include our definitions of race, place and identity. Perhaps the world is too small to sustain these artifices anymore. It’s worth thinking about.

A slightly edited version of this piece appeared in the Sunday Herald on 18th July, 2009.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Continuity Error

My wife and I have identical mobile phones, so she's pasted a few stickers on the back of her phone to help tell them apart at a glance. This morning, as we were sipping our morning cups of chai, she picked up my phone from the table by her side, looked at it, turned it around, looked at it again.

'That's weird,' she said.

'What's weird about it?' I asked. 'It's my phone.'

'No it's not,' she said, turning the back of the phone to me. i now saw that it was indeed her phone, stickers and all. Comparing notes, we found that we'd both seen the same thing - my phone in all its stark, stickerless glory when she first picked the phone up, then after a moment, when she turned it around again, her phone with all its stickers.

Collective hallucination? A flicker in the hive mind? A glitch in the reality tapes? Who knows. It's Philip K. Dick's world, we just live in it.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Enjoy your talent, even if no one else gets to read it. Enjoy your hard work. Enjoy the moment of creation.

- Jane Yolen

Monday 12 July 2010

You can buy various kinds of musk melon in most fruit shops in town, drink freshly squeezed musk melon juice at street corners, all redolent with the heady aroma and rich flavour of this Really Quite Superb Fruit, and yet Coffee Day found a way to introduce a completely tasteless, odourless off-yellow fluid with synthesised chunks of fruitlike material in primary colours floating in it as part of their World Cup promo, and claim that it is musk melon juice.

How stupid do they think sports fans are?

Oh, wait...

Saturday 10 July 2010

'Better than the truth because as big as you can think.'

- John Crowley

I know I've been lazy lately, just using this as a dump for gnomic utterances scissored out of other people's words. I've been taking on ridiculous amounts of work, good (rewriting the manuscript of a book about cutting domestic energy usage), bad (writing articles about asphalt) and ugly (creating a site that has to look like this atrocity). I was ill for a while and I'm still kind of run down, I'm spreading myself pretty thin and I haven't had a proper break since that fateful day in November 2008 when I was hurled up screaming from the abyss by a jealous adversary. I've been playing bass for a friend's band for about a year and our rehearsal schedule is stepping up as we prepare to finally record. I've been dealing with severe pangs of depression, self-doubt and self-loathing as magazine after magazine rejects the best story I've ever written. I'm trying to find the courage to pour blood and sweat into a new batch of stories that may be as good as the one that no one wants (hah!), only it won't work unless I let it bleed. I've hardly had time to even read in the last couple of months as a glance at my 'Books Read in 2010' sidebar will show.

In short, I'm cracking up.

And yet, I have plans. Big plans. Stay tuned for some/more.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

I cannot wait

The way publishing works is that you go from not being published no matter how good you are, to being published no matter how bad you are.

Tibor Fischer, famous literary patricide

Monday 5 July 2010

The writer finds himself in the increasingly ludicrous condition of having nothing to write, of having no means with which to write it, and of being constrained by the utter necessity of always writing it.

Maurice Blanchot