The thing about your Indian colleagues

It’s only human for us to generalize people. But just as not all Americans are fat and lazy, not all Indian colleagues are sneaky opportunists lacking social skills.

The difference lies in the gender.

Men and women in India are different – way different actually. That’s because we’re raised differently.

Indian men grow up believing they rule the world. Their mothers, aunts and cousins reinforce the idea that they’re special. That explains why most Indian men have such gigantic egos. They can’t accept defeat, especially when they are competing against the “weaker sex.”

It’s therefore only natural for them to have a tough time accepting female domination at work. You can’t really fault them because that’s how they have been conditioned by our society. I mean, if you were told you were better than ANYBODY from the opposite sex, imagine how messed up you’ll be when you’re an adult. Suddenly, you are surrounded by smart, confident women who know what they’re doing. Worst part? They are better at it than you! The horror!

The easiest trick in the book written by Indian men to deal with the situation is to resort to misogyny. The first chapter involves a step-by-step procedure to undermine the confidence of their female colleagues. You have to tell them they are no special. And the “special treatment” they receive is because of their gender. That will ensure you get under the skin of the girl in your team you envy.

Next, you have to form a “buddy club.” The club should resemble a high-school clique and include all the bros in your team. Together you can crack sexist jokes and antagonize the women in your team.

The remaining chapters can be creative. If you have a female boss, refuse to cooperate. Gather your buds and discuss ways in which you will make her life a living hell.

Think all this is too exaggerated? I wish I could tell you so. As the only woman in my male-dominated team here in Bangalore, I cannot begin to describe how ludicrously honest these scenarios are. The men in my team (all from different parts of India) represent the classic Indian male psyche. Some of their most common shtick includes secretly sucking up to the remote managers, engaging in senile competitions (who forwards the mail from HR to the managers in Europe) and making sexist remarks disguised as plain humor.

Oddly enough, there’s no trace of their so-called humor when they interact with Europeans. They would retreat into their shells and simply avoid fraternizing with their foreign counterparts. Anybody else noticed that?

In a way, I consider myself lucky I was born in an era where it’s acceptable for women to work and earn a living. Psychologically, women in India have undergone a massive evolution that has helped them step out of their homes. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about the men here.

 

 

Confessions of a funny girl

I’m often told I’m a funny girl. Funny as in witty, humorous – not strange and unpleasant. Or is it the other way around? Who knows? I have never cared to check.

A friendly colleague once burst into laughter over something I had said. “Have people told you how witty you are?” She had asked. “Not as often as you’d imagine,” I had said. My best friend on one occasion told me I’d have to relocate to Arizona once she had her baby. “I want him/her to imbibe your sense of humor, so you have to stay with me.” “Sure, I never got married, never planned on having kids so I could become your kid’s nanny. That sounds fun!” I had told her.

The thing about wit is people think it’s part of your charm – your trump card, if you will. And that makes me chuckle, every single time.

The thing is, I didn’t work on my sense of humor to become more “charming”. If anything, it worked as my shield to protect my self-esteem and confidence.

It all started when I turned 12. Overnight, I turned into this plump, unattractive girl surrounded by beauties all around. Puberty had dealt a major, major blow and the boys in my class were starting to make jokes about my weight. I had several crushes, but I never dared to dream a guy would actually fancy someone like me. At 60 kilos, I knew I stood no chance.

My seniors in school were much worse than my classmates. I was ridiculed and I hated the sight of my school bus, where I’d be subjected to catcalls. It was a tough time. Oddly enough, those seniors were quite ugly themselves – and I can’t help but smile when I come across their morbidly obese profile pictures. Karma is most certainly a bitch. J

But I digress. I was fat – plain and simple. But I was also an awkward teenager. I knew my looks would never take me far, but there was something I had my classmates lacked: a sense of humor. So I started making fun of myself before anybody else got the chance. I made a joke about my clumsiness, how I’d invariably fall down on a Wednesday – when we were supposed to be in all-whites. Once the mishap occurred, I’d go and announce it to the class – and everyone would laugh. That way, I’d be in the joke and not just at the center of it, I figured.

I was a very observant kid, so imitating people came easily to me. Whether it was a character from a movie or a teacher, I’d entertain my friends with my impersonations.

Whenever I looked at a pretty girl, I’d think “You may have your good looks, but I have my wit and good nature, too.”

My sense of humor earned me several friends. And because I was a good student, my teachers dotted on me as well. And that played a huge part in giving me the confidence I needed so much. I was my class prefect for four years and a house captain for two. I took part in competitions and won every time.

And then came the surprise. After joining college, I lost about 25 kilos in very little time. It was a very tough time on the home front and I’m pretty sure that triggered the sudden weight loss. From that “fat girl” I was suddenly this “sick and tired looking girl.” The transition wasn’t planned, but I was happy because once I lost all my fat, I was able to run quicker and feel confident about my body.

I have a healthy weight now, but not a day goes by when I don’t obsess over what I’m eating. I look better than I ever looked in my teenage years (Take that, bullies!) and my sense of humor is still intact. But if anyone ever asks me how I manage to be so funny, I think “where do you even want to start?”

Why you need a plan-B for your career

Because nothing is permanent, including and especially your job.

At my current workplace, the most popular inside joke involves the phrase “The 5 year curse.” That’s because a suspiciously high number of people who were laid off by the organization lost their jobs soon after celebrating their five year anniversary. It could very well be a coincidence, but since it has happened way too many times, some of us have our own conspiracy theories.

Sadly, pink slips are a harsh reality of the present corporate world. Times are tough, people are ruthless and you are not as important as you may think. If the organization wants you gone, they will make sure you’re gone. It wouldn’t matter to them that you have bills to pay and a family dependent on your salary.

All this makes it important to have a plan B or a second source of income in place.

And here’s how you get started:

Identify your strengths

And see if you can hone your skills for some part-time gigs.

Start out small

To get a feel for the thing and what it involves. Take up small assignments to see the amount of time you need to complete work.

Update your LinkedIn profile

From finding interesting opportunities to getting connected with the right people, there are several things you can do on LinkedIn.

Start networking

If you’re living in a startup city like Bangalore, it will be easier for you to find part-time job opportunities. But it’s important for you to maintain and grow your network.

Be serious

The problem with many freelancers/part-timers is their approach to the whole thing. They won’t meet deadlines and sometimes submit poor work. It’s no surprise, they get more work. It’s important to treat a freelance gig as seriously as you would treat any regular job.

I have been freelancing for almost 10 years now – and I can’t recommend it more strongly to anyone who is serious about having a backup option ready. Give it a try!

 

The creepy guy at work who broke my heart

It’s often difficult to maintain a blog, especially if you have a full-time job and some part-time gigs to keep yourself busy. Throw in some medical crisis at home and voila! you won’t have time for anything. Maybe some netflixing (maybe). But that’s pretty much it.

If you’re single, the situation might present a crisis of another kind. I call it the dating crisis. Think about it for a minute. You spend 8-9 hours at work, 2-3 hours in traffic and 3-4 hours in logging in from home and doing some more work. Where’s the time to meet people? And if you’re a social snob like me, chances are you’ll never download some app and swipe right to meet your Mr. Right. You’d rebuff your friends’ ill attempts at setting you up with some nice guy they know.

To be honest, I wasn’t actively looking for love. I have enough melodramatic friends on Facebook whose mushy updates make me count my blessings. Does that mean I don’t look at the cute guy in bus and wonder if he too is a Tom Hardy fan (you know, mutual interests)? Hell, no.

When I met V for the first time, I thought he was cute. Way too short (he’s about my height, which is definitely not a turn on), but he had a nice smile and this nerdy/awkward thing that made him endearing. Brilliant, too. He had completed his post-doc, a tall achievement which I thought made up for his diminutive stature. It was therefore a happy surprise when I realized he thought I was cute, too.

Once I accepted his friend request and got talking to him, there was no stopping. He seemed really eager to get to know me – way too eager than I was, actually. But that just made me smile like a fool. Sometimes, he’d say cheesy things out of the blue, which would make me uncomfortable but I chose to ignore all that. Here was a cute guy my age I liked who liked me back, that was a great feeling to make me look forward to going to office every day.

Things started changing after he asked me out on a date. He told me he’d get back to me with time and place, but despite seeing each other almost every day, I never heard from him. Worse still, he started ignoring me, which seemed incredibly strange. When he decided to speak to me again, he told me he was having a hard time with his manager.

I chose to forget the first date fiasco, but the strange behavior continued. When I could take all this no more, I thought, I don’t want to wake up one day and feel sorry for not telling him how I felt when I had the chance. So I picked up my phone, dialed his number and asked him what really was going on. No straight answer – again. He’s been busy, his parents are in town, lots of work…I grew frustrated and finally told him I like him, too. To my utter surprise, he came up with an extremely blasé response. “Ya, I like you too. You’re a good person,” is what he said. It sounded more like a polite rejection, which I wasn’t really expecting.

Anyway few months later, over lunch I heard what I had long suspected. A common friend told me he was engaged and was going to get married soon. It made me feel sick and even sicker every time I saw him next at work. I congratulated him and he spoke to me like I was just an acquaintance. The girl eventually said no, but that apparently hurt him a lot. “Nothing is going right for me, I have to deal with this tragedy now.” I honestly thought he was mocking me. I wanted to scream at him. “I have a cancer patient at home and bills to pay, you jackass! How does that compare with your little tragedy of having a girl you barely knew rejecting you?” But I said, “I hope things change for better soon.”

Call it Karma, but in the following months, his manager put him on PIP, his parents had to be hospitalized and he was carjacked. As for me, I got another job and served my 2 month notice period as quietly as possible. He found out I had left much later. When he did find out, he called me and I finally got what I was looking for – closure. Of course, he didn’t have answers to my questions, but I did call him out on his little tragedy. He suggested we meet, but I made it abundantly clear that I had finally moved on and had no interest in meeting him. I said a little thank you to God for giving me the opportunity to say all I had planned to say.

The creepiest thing about this story is I discovered all the lies he had told me from other people. He wasn’t a Coorgi, his parents lived there but he was definitely not speaking Kodava at home. That was not the biggest shock, though. That was the fact that he was actually born in 1980! (He turns 38 this April) When I asked him his age, he took a second and said he was 35 (which was a lie). I told him it was funny because last year he was 30. He tried to play it cool and said he reduces his age because every time he meets a girl for marriage, they reject him when they find out his real age. To this, I’m proud of my retort, which was this: “Okay, but you didn’t have to lie to me then, did you? I mean you and I were didn’t meet to get married. We were never going to be married – no way.”

 

Breaking up with Flipkart

Dear Flipkart,

I know you don’t care, but just so you know it’s over between us. When I Iook back, I realize the signs were always there – your indifference towards me, sudden arrogance in tenor, prompt excuses every time you messed up. Friends and colleagues warned me about the change in you, too! They told me you were taking me for granted because I never complained. Alas! They were right.

Why then I decided to put up with you? Simply because I believed in what we once had. I still remember the afternoon I heard a knock on my door. There you were – fulfilling a promise you made online. I was surprised, ecstatic, floored and charmed. “Could this be for real?” I thought. “Honoring a commitment with a smile!” I admit it, I was bowled over.

As years went by, I thought our relationship grew stronger. I really believed in you even when I was being pursued by you know who. Those were the days, when my phone won’t stop buzzing with their messages; they sent me one mail after another, asking for just one chance to prove their worth. Strong temptations notwithstanding, I ignored all of them. Perhaps that’s when the cracks started appearing in our relationship. You assumed I’d stick with you, no matter what. Well guess what, I won’t!

You’ve mocked me through people who had a standard reply every time I tried making my voice heard. “Sorry for the inconvenience, madam”, doesn’t work anymore. Nor does your pathetic attempts to show how cool you are (those Facebook pictures aren’t fooling anyone).

I have deleted your number, uninstalled the app and cleared my browser history. I wish we could part ways on a positive note, but the way you betrayed me was indeed very cruel. So please don’t try contacting me to know what went wrong – both of us know the answer.

Goodbye,

Your ex-fan/customer

What happened when an Indian met a Pakistani for the first time

Rushing to reach our manager’s house for dinner one evening, my South Indian colleague and I hailed a taxi from Vesterport. Anxious to reach on time, my colleague hurriedly explained where we needed to go to the middle aged cab driver. Our Indian accents probably made him a little curious for he started asking us where we had come from. Once we told him we were from Bangalore, India, the long conversation started.

The driver was from Peshawar, Pakistan. He had moved to Denmark 30 years ago to support his family. Now, of course, he is older and wishes to return because the Danish climate is “so cruel.” He told us about his kids who would never go back to Pakistan because they grew up in Denmark and have a low opinion of their motherland. “Can’t blame them, though,” I thought.

He then told us about his roots in Old Delhi. His family had apparently migrated to Peshawar after the Partition in 1947. He recounted stories he had heard from his parents about their life in India and the place where they lived. “Too Bollywood-y,” I said to myself.

Being an introvert, I generally find random conversations with rank strangers unnerving. And when the talkative stranger happens to come from a country with which we share a bloody history, I honestly feel strange. At one point, he started talking about cricket. At that time, India was playing a series against South Africa. The man asked my male colleague if he was finding time to watch the matches while we were in Denmark. My colleague, who can’t tell if Anil Kumble was a top spinner or a wicketkeeper, was nonplussed. Meekly, he revealed to the driver that it was his female teammate who was, in fact, the cricket enthusiast. The man smiled and cheekily asked me who I thought was going to win the series. “India,” I said out aloud. “But they don’t play well against a tough opponent,” he said as if challenging me. “Well, we have been winning against all our strong opponents like Australia and Sri Lanka. Can’t think of any other teams to be worried about other than these three,” I said with a wry smile.

Confession #1: South Africa is my favorite team. I have always supported them, even when they’ve played against India.

Confession #2: I really doubted if India was going to win, but at that moment it seemed really important to rally behind our team.

We reached our manager’s home shortly afterwards and as we said our goodbyes, I kept wondering what it would have been like to tell him that I’m a Fauji kid whose grandfather also served in the illustrious Indian Air Force. I didn’t because I guess it wouldn’t have mattered.

Why indian managers suck – The curse of the Indian Manager

Lucky are those who don’t have to be under the vigil of a vexing Indian manager. For they must know that their noble deeds in the past life have borne fruits in this one.

Why philosophical suddenly? Well this morning I happened to read an interesting article on the same subject. Not exactly the same subject perhaps, but related anyway. An articulate gentleman shares his sad experience with one of the biggest IT brands in the country. To be honest, I always see homegrown brands with sneaking suspicion mainly because I have met many hapless souls who’ve narrated tales of terror, torture and trauma. Tales of such unbearable pain that I have consciously stayed away from all Indian IT companies.

Unfortunately, the problem is not just IT company-centric. It’s an endemic that has spread across companies and industries. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call it the curse of the Indian Manager. Now if you haven’t had the fortune/misfortune of meeting a member of this dubious tribe, let me help you break it down for you.

An Indian Manager is typically:

Always annoyed for no good reason

Nothing makes him/her happy. Sometimes you feel like reaching out to him/her to understand what makes him/her so joyless.

Opportunistic, conniving and greedy

Always trust an Indian manager to rain on your parade. He/she will never miss an opportunity to take credit for your hard work and make the most of it.

A sad excuse for the rational human species

Got a problem to solve? The Indian Manager will take the most tried and tested approach, stop you from asking the right questions and end up parroting what the client wants. Over time, you’ll start reflecting on your ability to think and understand.

Lucky to be where he/she is

You know what sucks more than having a terrible manager? Having a manager who obviously knows nothing about work. His/her only claim to fame is the number of years he/she has been in the industry to just pretend he/she knows the work.

The killjoy

So your company’s global HR policy allows you to work flexibly? Trust your Indian Manager to ruin this nice little perk for you soon. He/she will, in fact, spend hours preparing a colorful PowerPoint presentation to show your superiors in the US/UK why you don’t need such convenience in India.

The Yes man/woman

Almost every Indian Manager believes saying yes is the only way to rise in life. No, it’s not saying yes to YOU. It’s saying yes to everything your bosses sitting somewhere in Europe or US have to ask for. Saying no is just as blasphemous as questioning the Sharia law in Saudi. The only difference being there you get beheaded, whereas here you are mocked, rebuked and reminded of your goof-up until you’re fired.

My second boss who suffered from a severe curse of the Indian Manager made Gordon Ramsay appear like a genial Buddhist monk. She used to find newer ways to humiliate people in public and make them feel small. On one occasion she blasted me for a good 15 minutes over phone for a small mistake that I know I shouldn’t have made. After apologizing profusely, I thought it was better to just let her vent out. My bad. Once she finished her tirade she said, “You know what, I feel like I’m talking to a wall because all you say is hmmm.” Confused, I muttered, “Well I know it was my fault and that’s why I said I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say?”

Gordon Ramsay

By the time I resigned, that manager had warmed up to me. But I never stopped resenting her, which eventually led to this write-up.

Know any monster Indian Manager? Why don’t you share your experience here?

Why the Tum hi ho wedding video makes me cringe

Facebook fascinates me. It reveals new facets of my friends’ personalities and makes me wonder how on earth I could befriend people who are so different than me. This morning I asked myself this question, again. It was after my timeline was bombarded with links to one of the kitschiest videos of all time.

See it here.

I have always believed that friends are supposed to possess a basic understanding of who we are, what we like and most importantly what we don’t. The thought of my friends assuming I’d go awwww over a mushy and frankly over-the-top video was bewildering. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for emotions; it’s sentimentality that gets my goat. That’s why, I don’t see how a video of a guy singing a cheesy Hindi song to his bride should make us all gooey inside.

Could it be because?

  1. It’s not an Indian, but a Caucasian guy crooning the number to his wife?
  2. The bride has all the right expressions in place? Notice how perfectly surprised/touched she appears.
  3. We are a hashtag obsessed generation so caught up with anything virtual that viral emotions seem more real and natural.

Let me break it down a bit.

Reason a: A white fella starts singing a Bollywood song and everybody starts sighing. Now imagine a Guntur born and bred Ramesh doing the same for his Haryanvi bride, do you think we would have cared a lot?

Reason b: Her teary expressions made me suspicious. But then I read her name and everything suddenly fell into place. I mean what could be more filmy than a name like Simran Malhotra! In my imaginative head, I have already formed a picture of what she could be like. Young NRI girl, born and brought up in Kaneda (aka Canada). Shahrukh Khan fan. Favorite movie: Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. I think you get the drill. Actually, I have a strong suspicion that she must have dropped some not-so-subtle hints like saving the song as her ringtone or humming it all the time to her fiancé. What’s more, she probably just asked him to sing it at their wedding.

Reason c: #mywifemylife, #withtheloveofmylife, #thankgodforthebesthubby, #loveyouforeverandeverandever. Look familiar? Remember we are a generation that thrives on public display of affection on the social media. We are the same people who wish each other happy anniversary on Facebook instead of saying it to each other in person.

Since I’m trying to keep off sugar for some time, I think I will not log in to my Facebook account for the next few days. A little less sugar sometimes makes your life a tad spicier. #apologiesforthecornystuff.

Two months in Denmark – NOT on a techie assignment

Some days, I’m just completely in love with my job. There’s an unbridled excitement in working in a creative team, choosing my work hours and having no local manager to report to. Enviable, isn’t it? Except, not every day do I feel like breaking into an impromptu gig like Joseph Gordon Levitt, celebrating my near-perfect life. Some days, work really sucks and I feel like typing out my resignation letter. In fact, the inevitable ennui had just started creeping in when my manager asked me to work out of the headquarters for two months.  A colleague was going on her yearlong maternity leave, and my manager was keen on me covering for her. Now the problem with a sudden development like this one is that everyone expects you to be on cloud nine. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. But in my case, I was a complete mess. The colleague in question is one of the best performers in the department, so the bar was set quite high. Being an anxious idiot that I am, I lost a lot of sleep and kept praying for a miracle for the trip to get cancelled (not being pretentious, believe me). The trip wasn’t cancelled after all and I ended up spending two not-so-long months in Denmark. Stay tuned for more Denmark posts.

An evening in Copanhagen

An evening in Copenhagen