Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Sad Smile

A Sad Smile
Pleading for mercy
that was hard to come by

A Sad Smile
That extinguished the dew of love
from your lips

A Sad Smile
Memory of which
fills me with guilt and remorse

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sparks in a Book

There was not one amongst us who looked forward to being born. We disliked the rigours of existence, the unfulfilled longings, the enshrined injustices of the world, the labyrinths of love, the ignorance of parents, the fact of dying, and the amazing indifference of the Living in the midst of the simple beauties of the universe. We feared the heartlessness of human beings, all of whom are born blind, few of whom ever learn to see.

The Famished Road by Ben Okri.

A Spiritual Guru may take reams of paper or hours of discourse to say something so profound, which a fiction writer has done so simply. Here is another beautiful example:

“D’you know what happens when you hurt people?” Ammu said. “When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

These kinds of sparks do elevate our spirits. And, they also spur us to dust up the characters idling in our heads and to weave stories around them.

I’ve no illusions that anything I put on the paper will be worth seeing the light of a printing press at least for the next twenty years. By then I hope to acquire some decent skills of being a fiction writer.

But one needs to spell out such grand missions when life seems to be stuck in a black hole.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A harried woman and a few cyber coolies

Read this article by Jenni Russell about her horrid experience of dealing with some Indian cyber coolies working for BT.

Earlier this summer my father, who is in his late 70s and disabled, had a stroke. It happened on a Friday, and my distraught mother rang in the late afternoon to say that he had collapsed, and could neither walk nor speak. She was calling the neighbours around their remote hillside in rural Wales to see whether they could help her lift him up. Forty-five minutes later I called her back but there was no reply. Fifteen minutes later: "This number is not recognised."

In a panic, I rang BT. The first person I spoke to was in an Indian call centre. Could he check the line please; this was an emergency. He asked me for the account number. What account number? The telephone number? No, he needed to know the account number before he was permitted to check the line. How would I find it? By asking the account holder. "But that's why I'm ringing you! I can't speak to the account holder because something's gone wrong with your line!" Then he couldn't help me. Well, could he transfer me to customer services, or the engineers?

Number, name, postcode, account number. Desperate, I explained the situation to person number two. This one was in England. She told me there was no record of my parents' line. And that, as far as she was concerned, was that. Please, I said, look again. This line existed until an hour ago. Meanwhile my father might be dying on a Welsh hillside. Complete indifference from person number two. I plead to be transferred to someone else.

I explain everything again to person number three. She finds the line and confirms that it has been cut off that afternoon. I know this isn't about bills, this is some madness. Can it be reconnected as a matter of emergency? She's not interested in my emergency. Nothing can be done until BT can determine why it has been cut off. I am transferred to person number four.

It is now an hour into the call. Number, name, postcode, account number. It turns out BT has been confused over the validity of the line, whatever that means. It is their mistake. They do not care. The engineers have gone home and I cannot talk directly to them anyway. I will have to go on a list for reconnection which could be a fortnight. Tearful, I ask if the wait can be shortened for cases like this. The answer is no. Person number four is as bored by me as the rest have been. Not one has said they're sorry - either for the situation, or for BT's mistake. Can I speak to a manager? No, they've left. No, there's no one else who can help. If I want to make an appointment for reconnection, I will have to speak to person number five.

Person number five offers me a date. It is a month away. Incredulous, with knots of fear in my stomach, I explain it all again. No reaction. This is the system, she says. Do I want to make the appointment or not? Because if I don't wish to accept it, she will terminate the call. As an afterthought, and because it's clearly on the script, she asks: "And is there anything else I can help you with today?"

I put down the phone and burst into tears. It has been an 80-minute call, and I have either been listening to machines, or conversing with automatons throughout. The indifference of the system feels brutal, and I can't break through it. It is now seven o'clock. As a last resort, I ring directory inquiries and ask them to put me through not to the faults line, but to BT's head office.

A real person answers the phone. She is a middle-aged Welsh woman with a comfortable voice, and when I tell her why I'm ringing, the first thing she says is: "Oh dear! That sounds terrible!" She is the chairman's secretary, and she isn't following any script. She says immediately that she has a list of managers and she will start ringing them now until she finds one who will deal with it and call me back. And she does. The phone is reconnected within 40 hours, and many apologies sent to my father as he recovers.

We all may have our own sordid tales to tell about dealing with the so-called Customer Care Executives working out of call centres for our cell phone company or our ISP.

But, we rarely hear any stories from the other side. I had a friend working in a call centre representing a Credit Card Company in USA. Once he got a call from a customer of Sri Lankan origin, he wanted his card to be activated immediately. My friend said to the gentleman that he had crossed the credit limit and it was impossible for him to activate the card unless the old account was settled. The customer (in a drunken state) argued for hours saying that he wished to talk to the Manager and that he deserved better treatment because of his long association with the Company. My friend pleaded that he can only register a complaint and someone from the Company will get back to him very soon. My friend got to hear choicest expletives English, Hindi and Tamil (the gentleman on the other side had understood that the Executive was an Indian and had asked him which all languages he followed). The situation stretched for three days and when he brought the issue to his senior’s notice, he was advised to resign before the issue blew up.

I also have a couple of friends who have worked in BPO sector who feel burnt out before crossing their twenties.

Here is the original article published in the Guardian.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Playing God?

Long back I wrote a post wondering what difference it would have made to people around me if pre-natal detection of cerebral palsy was possible in the initial stages of pregnancy as it is for Down’s syndrome. I haven’t got a clear cut idea of what I feel about the matter or to put it plainly I’m confused. Some days I feel I’d be the first in line with application if ever euthanasia is legalised in our country.

(I know that the glass-half-full theorists among you are itching to pounce on me for thinking about euthanasia. Don’t worry; I’m the same old jovial person if you talk to me. I still get excited if I see a poster of a new film on the road. I still wish to see the next release. It is just that I feel ‘Survival of the fittest’ is the most correct statement and I’m not fit enough to survive).

If you’re wondering why I suddenly dug out an old post; the circus on news channels regarding an abortion plea in the Mumbai High Court as the foetus was supposed to have congenital heart ailment.

The hospital given the charge of assessing the medical condition made a clerical error and another offered free medical care. I don’t know, but all this feels like a joke to me. I’m not being judgemental here about the action that Mehtas took or being a pro-life advocate. Still it gives me a ticklish feeling somewhere. You’re talking about a life and you say ‘a clerical error’. On the other hand, if the child grows up to be ok and finds all the media clippings what kind of emotions he/she will go through or what kind of equation he/she will have with the parents? At least the identity of the couple could have been kept a secret.

Wonder what the parents of Naga Naresh Karuturi would have done if they’d premonition of what their child will go through in his life.

There will more such instances as we make progress in science. But, I believe that Nature will have its own way of getting even with us.

There is a beautiful passage in Jurrasic Park by Michael Crichton about how we tend misuse scientific power:

"You know what's wrong with scientific power?" Malcolm said. "It's a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are. It never fails."

Hammond said, "What is he talking about?"

Harding made a sign, indicating delirium. Malcolm cocked his eye.

"I will tell you what I am talking about," he said. "Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it is your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.

"Now, what is interesting about this process is that, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won't use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the power changes you so that you won't abuse it.

"But scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast. There is no discipline lasting many decades. There is no mastery: old scientists are ignored. There is no humility before nature. There is only a get-rich-quick, make-a-name-for-yourself-fast philosophy. Cheat, lie, falsify-it doesn't matter. Not to you, or to your colleagues. No one will criticize you. No one has any standards. They are all trying to do the same thing: to do something big, and do it fast.

"And because you can stand on the shoulders of giants, you can accomplish something quickly. You don't even know exactly what you have done, but already you have reported it, patented it, and sold it. And the buyer will have even less discipline than you. The buyer simply purchases the power, like any commodity. The buyer doesn't even conceive that any discipline might be necessary."

Hammond said, "Do you know what he is talking about?"

Ellie nodded.

"I haven't a clue," Hammond said.

"I'll make it simple," Malcolm said. "A karate master does not kill people with his bare hands. He does not lose his temper and kill his wife. The person who kills is the person who has no discipline, no restraint, and who has purchased his power in the form of a Saturday night special. And that is the kind of power that science fosters, and permits. And that is why you think that to build a place like this is simple."

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Chasing a mirage called love

On the tarred highway of life

With the sun roasting your flesh beneath the skin

Telling you that it is just a reflection of the insatiable fire

That is consuming you bit by bit.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Can he write?

“Can he write?” is the question my parents and others very close to me have had to deal with since the day my writing aspirations started trickling into the public domain.

The first instance I remember is of the Special School I’d joined in my mid teens. Those days the physio mat and the Principal’s table were in the same room. I was kneeling holding the walking bar behind her and could hear her talking to some prospective donor about me: “he is very intelligent, we’re preparing him to appear for SSLC in a year or two. We’ll seek a scribe who’d understand his speech or provide him with a typewriter. He writes well and a small typewriter would do him good”. But the donor’s question may have stumped her: “does he understand the concept of ABCD?” I don’t remember how the conversation ended as in my mind I’d started laughing thinking of the futility of my beloved teacher’s efforts.

Such instances have kept happening thereafter. Sometime they are hurtful and humiliating. But most of the times they’re fun; like once (in pre-internet days) I’d written in a review that a topless shot of the hero and the heroine was there just for titillation and signified nothing in the context of the story. I was mischievously asked how I know what that scene meant and I bluntly said it meant that they were #@%$ing.

It is more fun when I show my efforts in fiction writing to my friends; how do you know that a cigarette would burnout if not used quickly enough? Or how do I know what happens on the first night of the marriage? The reply I itch to give is; “I peeped into your bedroom on your first night”. But that would be gross.

Such anecdotes can fill a chapter in my autobiography (if ever I wish to write one).

If you’re wondering why this sudden hyperbolic rant; nothing serious, I just read a sweet story about a ten year old spastic girl Jemma Leech winning a prestigious essay competition in the Houston Chronicle

PS. I thank everyone who appreciated, contacted and praised me after reading this. I must tell you that I’m not a role model material. If you really need a role model, please chase Alexis Leon, it is his indirect influence that writer Paresh exists.

And, for you doubting Toms: “Hey man/lady, life may not have given me the capability to experience everything. But, God/Nature has not deprived me of the faculty to observe and understand anything. So, I’m fit enough to write about anything.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Write Something

Write something; is your plea, a request or a command.

But the emotions don’t allow my mind to express them in words.

To say how much is my love for you.

Or showing how precious you are for my soul.

Making me doubt whether I deserve the affection you shower on me.