Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Close encounters with the employment office

I remember the last time I was unemployed. After my last day at work, I packed all the office stuff into cartons and headed home and nothing seemed particularly different except until the next morning when I was bidding goodbye to the rest of the family in pyjamas and wondering whether it was worth changing into something more respectable-just in case I needed to go somewhere. But this was not the case; all shopping had been done and no one needed me to meet them anywhere anytime. The phone rang a couple of times with promises of gifts if I travelled twenty kilometres to look at their collection of inexpensive chinaware probably made in china..

The next few days passed by in blissful extended mornings and longer times on the web than ever before, trying to catch up on friends and finding that they were all usefully employed contributing positively to their respective societies in terms of knowledge, man(woman)power and such until one day the employment office decided to take my case up and to figure out why and how I can once again climb back onto the treadmill. Mind you, I wasn’t really hot on climbing back on to the employment carousel but social pressure is to be considered important in such cases. An “idle mind is the devil’s workshop” one is repeatedly warned. Everyday numbers are published in important journals counting the number of unemployed persons which is considered to be a national shame. Politicians try to do all they can to keep the population from dissipating into idleness. So, armed with a recent CV, I wandered into the unemployment office.

After what I had read in the newspapers and novels I had expected a long line of depressed indifferently dressed men and women but I was pleasantly surprised that there was none of this. The office was posh with a reading room with the latest newspapers and I was immediately taken charge of by a smartly dressed woman of say 30 years. She was efficiently trotting on her high heels and I found myself running behind her to keep up with her brisk step. Once we were inside, however, she seemed a little less sure of what to do with me and so indicated that I should start defining a professional plan of some sort.

“What is your project for the coming year?” She said triumphantly holding a pencil poised to write on a blank sheet of paper with long manicured fingers and deciding that now it was all up to me.

Well, that kind of foxed me. I wanted to say that I was over qualified for some jobs and not qualified at all for all other jobs. I tried telling that there were no jobs in my field and whatever jobs there were, they had already been taken by other better connected and brighter individuals. But she was sure that an extraordinarily qualified person like me should have found a really good job by now. While thus engaged in this cat and mouse game, she was called on the intercom by a suited gentleman sitting in another office and she excused herself and smoothing her skirt trotted out.

I sat there and calculated that the time it took for her perfume to disappear was a full 10 seconds.

After a while, she came back looking very happy and said, “I think you have over emphasized your knowledge base and under valued your personality”

This was the first time I had heard that one.

“You need to prove that you are special and unique “ she said deciding that this was going to be the aim of my life from then on.

“ I am going to send you on a four week training” she said as I sat there totally zapped as if  my life was being taken over by unidentified aliens

“To learn how to write your CV and  formulate a nice statement of interest defining who you are “ she  continued taking the air of a person who knows you better than yourself.

Well, that kind of surprised me since I always thought I was pretty good at writing letters, you know, having written a lot of them in my life and so going for four weeks just to learn how to write letters seemed like an awful waste of time.

To be continued..

Friday, 26 March 2010

On getting old

I find that as I get older, I spend more time in front of my mirror than when I used to be younger. This is contrary to what we have been told since time immemorial. “ angam gallitam palitam mundam dasanavihinam játam tundam" (Strength has left the old man's body; his head has become bald, his gums toothless and leaning on crutches) warned the great sage and scholar Adi Shankara, who made a surprisingly lucid portrait of old age for someone who had never been through a mid life crisis let alone feel the despair of an ageing body. Age-old wisdom tells you that you must spend your life from now on thinking of higher things- they knew what they were talking about, best is not looking down at your sagging body where breasts seem to gravitate towards the belly.

Living without mirrors and the complexes related to it is easier said than done since society requires that you stop ageing and any disregard for appearance is immediately diagnosed with a terrifying certainty as “Depression”. Doctors are ready with pencils poised to delegate all responsibility to Prozac, the mother of all medications. The verdict is clear-if you look old, it is your fault and God forbid you from getting fat, since fatness is equated to weakness of mind- this time for food. A starvation routine is prescribed with not more than three raisins for lunch and “drink at least 2 litres of water per day” says the dietician washing her hands of all responsibility for my weight.

“I will drink this water only when I am thirsty”, I tell my husband who is now my official water bearer.

“ Why don’t you drink it all in one go right away in the morning –then you don’t have to think about it for the whole day”.

“What a good idea! But coffee is water too “ I say, pouring myself a generous mug of the nice Arabica decoction.

“Coffee is bad for acidity mom” says my son, whose knowledge of medicine is limited to taking revenge on me for making him eat his “veggies” as he calls them.

“Don’t talk back! “ I say desperately to somehow close the discussion.

Several weeks pass by and I continue to drink my daily two litres and in the process make frequent trips to the womens. Not bad in terms of exercise if the toilet was at the top of a hill for example but in my case there is no effect on my weight. I continue to starve that only made me bad tempered. A web site declared that jumping up and down to bad music the first thing in the morning would somehow miraculously make your body like that of Claudia Schiffer and they even guaranteed success by showing several fat males and females looking confident and self assured after having jumped up and down several times a day they claimed.

I give it a try and end up being not only drowsy from lack of sleep but in bad humor-not surprising if you start your day doing something as stupid as that. “All this jumping is for fleas and goats” I say to myself as I prepare to stay in bed just enjoying the nice morning sunshine when I didn’t have to jump.

Even plump people can look good with a good hair do, I reassure myself. A bad hair style made even Einstein look stupid didn’t it? So armed with my check book I head to the nearby hair dresser where I find several grand mothers colouring their curls violet and reading Paris –Match while discussing the latest exploits of the first lady. The old lady next to me was having her hair colored in several different shades making it look like the feathers of a cock. She seemed blissfully unaware of the effect it was having on the rest of us.

While I was enjoying the bliss of having warm soapy water that tickled my scalp and the feel of the soft hands on my head,

“Your hair looks all dry and anaemic, happens if you don’t nourish it correctly” says the hair dresser making a totally unsolicited expert comment and comfortably taking the upper hand of things.

“But hair is just keratin or some such thing, can it actually be anaemic” protests my scientific mind but I wisely murmur something to the tune of “Really? Perhaps I should have cut it earlier”.
“Your hair seems to be splitting right from the top, where should I cut it?”
In the end it seemed like a relief to write a cheque- at least there I had the last word.

“My next hair styling is going to be at Thirupathi” I promise to myself making a quick prayer.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

To be or not to be on time

As a rule, I try to be as punctual as possible for all my appointments but I am wondering whether I should start the late comer act. Generally you think that if you are punctual, it means that you take your rendezvous seriously and you are ready to give it the priority it deserves. It might be astonishing to hear that punctual people are not always the most liked. “Punctuality is the thief of time” declared Oscar Wilde in desperate anger. May be he turned up on time for a dinner and didn’t get food until the last guest arrived. “Punctuality is the virtue of the bored “said another equally popular satirist Evelyn Waugh. I know a person who said in a disarming manner, “I had to be there at five and I started out punctually at five” and so on. So I have decided that I should perhaps give myself airs and be just a little bit late from now on. I will tell you why.

The most important reason is that punctuality is no longer in. It belongs to the colonial imperial times when watches were the most popular Christmas or birthday presents. Today, if you are on time, this means that you have had nothing to do the whole day except waiting to be on time and that would never do. Being late for everything is the hall mark of youth or youthfulness if I may say so. It goes without saying that only grand mothers (this includes grand fathers but as a rule, they have far lesser appointments than grandmothers) are too soon for all appointments and end up waiting long boring hours at doctors' offices, airports and railway stations which is all very good for publishers of useless journals, super expensive airport coffee shops and an excellent source of income for paid toilets in railway stations.

Even the swiss, for whom punctuality is a national obsession, have started to give in. Of course, no self respecting French would dream of appearing on the dot for any important event. I have seen guests who don’t think twice about turning up two hours late for a dinner appointment and others who come in earlier than needed and are made to drink beer and eat chips thus putting them in a thoroughly bad mood. So when the late arrival turns up, fresh as mint (or daisy if you like) having spent precious hours on an invigorating shower, fresh make up (or a shave as the case may be) the early arrivals can only simply stare at the insolence of it, too bogged down by the code of polite behaviour to give vent to their frustration. “I am so sorry I kept you all waiting” gushes the late arriver not meaning it for a single moment “not at all” murmur the disgruntled hungry crowd and mutter politely. A chilly atmosphere sets in but thankfully at this point, the entrée is served and everyone is happy.

So from now on, the era of looking at the watch every twenty seconds and craning my neck in eight different directions is past. As they say, an early bird catches the worm but I say it is the early worm that gets caught! Perhaps I should buy this T shirt.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

On not answering a cell phone

Should I or not answer my ringing cell phone? It is disturbing me right now- I have tried using as melodious a ring tone as possible but it still screeches into my unwilling ear. Somehow, a non mobile phone doesn’t seem quite so invasive. A cell phone cries for your attention, reminds you of urgency, tears you away from lazy thoughts and gears you to action. Mind you, I don’t doubt for one single minute that it is useful, it clearly is. I had to take some cheese for my friend and in order not to forget it in the confused corner of my overloaded fridge, I set up what is called a “cheese alarm”. It rang faithfully just as I was about to get into the car and reminded me by displaying in comic sans ms font with bold and italic lettering the word cheese.

As useful it may be, you don’t want to hear it ring especially when your mind is clearly lost in the past and refuses to acknowledge the passage of time. Once I was meeting a long last friend and everytime we tried to take a nostalgic trip, my friend’s phone would chime ‘ Mustapha mustapha’. “ I am sorry, I really have to take this call’ the friend says clearly enjoying the benefits of modern cellphone technology that tells you who your caller is. I feel a pang of jealousy, ‘ this is someone who is more important than myself’, I think feeling like a child who has had a new sibling. But my self pity doesn’t last long. My friend is free from the clutches of the unknown caller and says wistfully “ Oh, where were we? when something desperately vibrates in my purse. Darn, I better look who the caller is, I say to my friend who by now is busy sending off an sms to fill the precious time. I curse myself for not having paid for having the caller ID of this mysterious caller and try to fish the phone out of the purse before it stops ringing and I hear it beep informing me of a missed call. I fumble hurriedly for the keys of the phone, log in several times into the games directory before getting on to the message. ‘Keys’ says the phone in bold and italic comic sans ms font and I realize that I had forgotten to leave the keys of the house with the neighbor for my husband . ‘ Look, I really have to rush now, I say to my dismayed friend and hail a taxi”.

In the taxi I desperately try make a couple of calls to my neighbor without success. I get home to find my husband in relaxed conversation with my neighbor over a coffee. They seem to be clearly happy to have had this chat and much neighborly feelings were being exchanged. I cannot  take part in this joyful meeting. I dial my friend’s cell phone to explain but get the answering machine’s request to wait until the beep before launching into explanations. I am worried now that my friend will never want to take my calls anymore. I try to console myself by assuming that the cell phone had been switched off to attend to important tasks like living, cooking, cleaning, reading etc., not believing this lame excuse for a moment.

“Let us not go inside but let’s go for a walk’, says my husband.

“Let me first get into the house to leave my cell phone at home’ I say

“What if some one called”?

“Let them think that I have seen their caller ID’ I say callously.

Monday, 1 February 2010

World population and india

In 2007, the population growth rate of the different indian states were published. Andhrapradesh, Tamilnadu and kerala had less than 2% growth rate whereas Karnataka was just over two. This growth rate is on par with the rates in Europe and Australia. However, UP, Bihar and the north east continue to increase with very high rates from 3-4% that makes the indian aRank verage to be 2.7% way behind china.
State Fertility rate (source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population
1 Andhra Pradesh 1.8
1 Goa 1.8
1 Tamil Nadu 1.8
4 Himachal Pradesh 1.9
4 Kerala 1.9
6 Punjab 2
6 Sikkim 2
8 Karnataka 2.1
8 Maharashtra 2.1
10 West Bengal 2.3
11 Assam 2.4
11 Gujarat 2.4
11 Jammu and Kashmir 2.4
11 Orissa 2.4
11 Tripura 2.4
16 Chattisgarh 2.6
16 Uttarakhand 2.6
18 Haryana 2.7
- Whole INDIA 2.7
19 Manipur 2.8
20 Mizoram 2.9
21 Arunachal Pradesh 3
22 Madhya Pradesh 3.1
23 Rajasthan 3.2
24 Jharkhand 3.3
25 Nagaland 3.7
26 Meghalaya 3.8
27 Uttar Pradesh 3.8
28 Bihar 4

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Air quality

Here is something funny that I read on the web today.


Made me wonder about the contribution of animal waste to environmental pollution.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Snow in Toulouse

Today is a snowy day out here in Toulouse, France and this is an extremely rare event in this part of the world. The landscape is beautiful but driving is fraught with skidding and sliding. Our snowman turned out to be a snow seal but looked rather cute.