Monday, November 26, 2007

The coolest one!

How cynical you are is how cool you are.

I’ve found in literature down the ages characters who luxuriate in their own sense of being worldly and jaded. To be cynical is to know all there is to know, to be a person of the world. One who belies a sense of enthusiasm about something new is somehow vulgar, a cad.

And this is a very true to life. I have been a few places by now, done a few things. And from college onwards I have encountered a species of people (who usually travel in packs – the ‘in crowd’), who seem so booooored with the world. Like if something didn’t happen soon they’d just dieeeee of boredom. And the more gauche among us would watch them and wish they could be as bored as them. Because like it or not—it’s cool to bored. Cool to slump in your chair with a pissed off expression like you’ve seen all of that before. Run to them with something you find novel and exciting and they’ll look at you with sleepy eyes and sneer ‘Oh thaaaaat.’

Brrrr…it was so cool you could hardly stand it. But somehow try as you might, you could never manage to be half as unimpressed by the new stuff that happened around you. Especially in college, everything was so new, so exciting. ‘It’s OK not to attend classes? ARE you freaking serious? Am I actually using the word ‘freaking’ without being beaten to a pulp by my teachers?? It’s so wonderful I can barely think straight!!!’ Relay such sentiments to the one or two cooler people you knew and they’d stifle a yawn with thinly veiled contempt.

But on some level, I’ve always pitied them. Though not the most cheerful person at the best of times, I still can work myself up to a high pitch of excitement if something seems interesting enough. Almost a decade after I attended my first class in college, I still get all obsessive about a new book (most recently – Harry Potter) to be released, wait breathlessly all week for the next episode of whatever serial catches my fancy at the time, gush endlessly about how much fun a particular holiday destination is regardless of how passé it might have become. I still go into rustic tourist mode and gaze at famous landmarks (ask my friends and family) with my mouth very frankly open.

I pity them because these are the moments which make life worth living. If I couldn’t be thrilled about a good looking guy across the room giving me the eye, or my husband (I hasten to add) making a sweet gesture unasked, then life truly would be banal and brain-numbingly depressing.

If I refused to enjoy the fun moments of life and smothered it all with ‘Oh my God, how passé is that!!.’ Then I might as well blow my brains out before boredom did the job for me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Clothes undoeth the working woman

In my earlier office, one never had to worry in the morning about what to wear to work. Since there was no dress code and not too many people who cared what they wore, I was comfortable. I would slouch into office almost everyday in jeans and sometimes flip-flops to be extra daring.

Now Monday to Thursday one is expected to be in formals, and on Friday --‘smart casuals’. So though a lot of the time I manage to plan enough ahead to have both the the kameez and its corresponding salwar washed and ironed at the same time, it sometimes happens, usually by mid-week, that the whole process goes awry and falls out of sync. So I’ll have a reasonably unwrinkled kameez but its salwar will be dripping sadly on the clothesline outside. Those are the days you sigh deeply and prepare yourself for the ordeal ahead.

For one thing, the sight of the wet salwar outside is a signal for you to start trying on your formal trousers again, in the hope that you have miraculously lost weight since last Thursday and/or the button has miraculously attached itself to the front of your pants while it lay in the closet.

You try on your other outfits –you look too fat, too squat, too poor, too much like a cow in all of them. So you eye the one decent kameez (note to the men in my audience—a kameez is the top and salwar is the bottom in a salwar-kameez set) lying on your bed and you decide that it will just have to do. So you start trying on different salwars on the off chance that one of them matches your kameez but you’d just never noticed earlier. After trying on an appalling array of clashing bottoms you finally settle on the one that clashes the least.

By that time you’re late and tired -- and have just seen the most horrible color combinations in your mirror. So you pick the least offensive one.

Of course by the time you’ve walked into office your indifference to how bad your outfit is has worn off. And it doesn’t help that people keep darting alarmed glances at your legs and hurry away as though bad dress sense is catching.

So you spend the day writhing with embarrassment, darting behind tables and potted palms to avoid the inevitable shocked gaze from colleagues. You swear you will plan all five outfits over the weekend, and dazzle all with your sartorial elegance henceforth.

That is of course till Wednesday morning comes along again and you trudge wearily to the closet to try on those trousers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tips to tackle telemarketers

Though I completely understand that it’s just another way to earn one’s bread and that in most cases it’s not their fault that they’re tooth-achingly annoying, let me just say that next to autodrivers and bollywood comedians, telemarketers are the bane of my existence.

They’ll call you faithfully right in the middle of a tense meeting with an irate boss, or on a Sunday afternoon when you’ve just got to sleep after a heavy meal.

Yesterday I got a call that went like this:
(Trrring trring)
Me: Hallo? (I would love to have a more stylish way to answer the phone like “Good morning, Ushasi speaking” or just “Ushasi” in a firm voice with a hint of the sensual. Nothing erotic, just enough of it to make an impression. But in the excitement of getting a call I always end up with a high-pitched “halloo?”)
Which is just as well because it turns out to be a call from ICICI bank offering me a personal loan. (Where are they when you actually NEED the loan?)
Telemarketing girl: Who am I speaking to??
Me: You called ME, why don’t you tell me who you are? (A hackneyed but valid question.)
T.G: (Her bank spiel)
Me: I’m sorry I’m not interested right now.
T.G: Oh, OK. But could you tell me who you ARE?
Me: My name’s Ushasi Sen Basu.
TG: Usha what?
Me: Exactly. Tuh-tah!

Today I get a call from Barclay’s Bank.

(Tring tring…humor me on this…I’m trying to write it like a play.)
Me: Us…er…Hallooo?? (Drat! Foiled again, will practice in front of mirror tonight!)
TG: GoodmorningmadammynameisPeskyCallerweareoffering blah blah blah yadee yada yada talk talk talk…read at terrific speed straight off a typewritten page somewhere.
Me: I’m sorry I’m not interested right now.
TG: (SLAMM!!!)

Wow. That really brightened my day. Guess what Barclay’s bank…you’re never getting business from me.

I have a senior at office who was brought up in the US, so has an American accent. Whenever he gets one of these calls he simply says “You’re calling America!” and wait politely for the person to have a minor panic attack and hang up.

Maybe I can try that. “very sorry Pesky, this is Bangladesh...” and hang up quickly before she beats me to it.

Someone once told me that a friend of theirs says completely outrageous things to telemarketers: “Since you’ve called I had something to sell as well. I have a divan that’s just slightly used…”

Apparently he gets 100% results.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Boors and bears

I notice that there are some people who actually think that rudeness is a good thing. It's not that
they don't know any better, or that noone's ever made it clear to them that they are so insufferable
that they would gladly kill them and throw them into the nearest ditch if it wasn't punishable by
law.(Unless you're a politician, actor, or call center cab driver, i.e).It's that they think
'aggression' as they call their lack of manners is the only way one can get ahead nowadays, also
another very overrated activity if you ask me. So they shall be blunt (read: unnecessarily rude when
a more carefully worded sentence and a smile would've served just as well) they shall be 'assertive'
(read: pushy and selfish) and 'get ahead' (which is what Hitler did before he got burnt to a crisp.)
I can now avail the cab facility provided by my new office, the delights of which I shared with you
in my last post. Unfortunately for me, my earlier cab mates who now seem veritable angels in
contrast have been replaced with a single enormously pregnant woman. Even allowing for hormones, I
have rarely met such a singularly unpleasant woman. She will drive up awkwardly sprawled in the back
seat of the car in front of my eyes only to claim that they'd been waiting for me at the gate for
the last 15 minutes and enquire why I was late even though I went down the moment I got the
customary 'the cab will arrive in two minutes call'. She will look at you stonily when you say 'hi'
after you get in and growl at the driver like she would much rather rip his throat out than be in
the car with him.
She's quite a treat. I wonder who impregnated her and whether he went the way most amorous male
praying mantises go.
You'll meet dozens of people like this (surprisingly not all of them pregnant), proud to be uncivil
and under the illusion that they come across as 'no-nonsense go getters' when in actuality they're
just uncultured louts who spread discomfiture and bad days in their wake.

Happy Diwali everyone! ....And to all those proud boors and bears out there... may you never get a kind word or a helping hand when you most need them! (I thus strike a blow for all those who stand with their mouths agape when one of these boors start on them.)