Monday, August 06, 2012

Green flashing arrows that don't exist

I blinked and gazed hard. 

My younger sister hollered for the second time, "the GREEN arrow, the green FLASHING ARROW Aapi!".  

My eyes hunted diligently for the "green" "flashing" "arrow". My mind jogged in compliance - flipping through all its visual memories and searching for every shade of green it has ever captured; not to mention every arrow shape ever seen. 

Nothing. The colorful animated screen of Sim City stared back at me, frozen in time. The same joyful music repeated itself over, almost mocking me. I could not find the green flashing arrow I needed to click to move to the next level of "training". I held my iPhone like a ticking bomb - desperate to be able to work it and look intelligent.

"HERE it is!!! Can't you see this green flashing arrow?! Its so obvious you need to click THIS to move ahead. Its green and its flashing! Come on! Even our 3 year old niece can do this!" My heart sank as the next barrage of instructions followed.

This was a game I was trying to get used to. I want to make it very clear that I did not purchase the iPhone. It was handed down. I also want to make it clear that I am not a murderer of technology. I just cannot understand why these days new things never get old enough for us to get used to them. 

OK may be I don't deserve to be born into this century. But take a look at those who care about that green flashing arrow. Buying and getting used to innovations is more important than using them. And the quicker they learn how to use them, the smarter they prove themselves to be - until the next production line hits the stores and they burn a month's pay to buy and "figure out" the latest model. 

I know I am not cut out for life on the internet, but I don't - I honestly don't think any of us can survive this age of "hyper-communication" without being overtaken by it. Lets face it, talking to your car to book a reservation is cheap and quick and error free. No doubt the obvious thing to do. But what will life be like if we really take all the people out of it? And what will generation after generation turn into if we stop talking to each other because some guy on Wall Street thinks its expensive?

What really annoys me the most is not the innovation, but the lack of it. My longest conversation of the day is on Whatsapp. My funniest moment an SMS. Most anticipated, a phone call. We could do this all in person. But everybody wants to save time for other more important, non-human things. Like finding that green flashing arrow so they can build their own fake city. And that seems like a totally unnatural way to spend one's evening. 

But I continue to join in nonetheless. Well at least not knowing where to click buys me a conversation with my little sister now and then... if that is what it takes.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Making the difference...

I am not a fan of Go - No Go decisions. Traffic lights, eating out, new movie, quitting jobs, bad habits, buying a car, selling a car. Why is it so difficult when the only two outcomes are so far apart? Should it just not be easier to make up my mind? But these situations, just like my annoying mid term close-ended papers at Uni, are the worst of the lot. They are really the end of the decision tree and you have to go through the entire process of ifs and buts and smaller yesses and nos before you reach the divine clarity you need. I find it annoying. It wastes my time and is sub-optimum if one is to follow the universal optimism that there is no such thing as a wrong answer. It is therefore, not the 'GNG' decision, but the fact that I am swamped with many and tiny GNG decisions that could change my life. My last big GNG decision, albeit a quick one, was whether I should purchase an enormously large box of Bounty chocolates at Dubai Duty Free on my way back to Copenhagen. The limiting factor was, hold your breath, that I risked losing them to liquid restrictions in hand luggage at the next airport I landed. But for my own entertainment, I really wanted to be held up by customs for what they presumed were 6 dozen venemous liquid filled capsules of mass destruction so that I would have something to write about on my blog. Unfortunately, despite my planned sabotage, I breezed through transit and managed to land in at my destination with no Interpol on my back. It was almost disappointing. You would think that as long as you did not stuff coke up your butt or smell of gunpowder, air travel would be just another means of getting from point A to B. However, the post 09/11 slash busted London bombers myth that holding up millions of passengers at airports around the world will deter terrorism has reached unacceptable levels of paranoia. And I would be fine with random checks as would Shah Rukh Khan, but it makes me hysterical to see how profiled this random selection is. To be honest, it does not offend me one bit and I actually find it quite amusing - Young, brown, Muslim, Indian woman living in the Middle East... I am the perfect bait, until I open my mouth. And so, my joy ride reached a fun ending as I was about to exit the restricted area of the airport. I suddenly noticed I was walking right past a sniffer dog. They scare the living daylights out of me. Thus, I jumped. How abnormal I know. That and I was whisked away by an important looking guy into a very cold interrogation room. He asked me if I was importing any cheese, alcohol or meat from Dubai. I said I was not a fan of a, I did not do b and I could not possibly manage c given the estimated time I would spent at each airport at origin, transit and destination. He was not amused, but he was not meant to be. I brought my chocolates home in the 72 pieces I bought them in. And I am going to push it up one notch and go for caramel filling next time. What could possibly go wrong.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Around the bend... with no excuses.

In 2008, I made one blog entry... after 10 months. I should be thankful to google for even keeping this account active. I am. On the bright side, my life did not really shape up like my blog over the last 12 months. This has been the year of the Ds for me... Deceptions, Deluges, Dramas, Dilemmas and worse of them all... Decisions. I think I scraped through with plenty of bruises to remind me of a painful yet immensely enlightening experience that will be etched in my mind forever. Deceptions. Have you ever discovered a talent in yourself that you never knew existed before? It is such a revelation. I actually suffered from a lot of deceptive conclusions about myself. Most of these myths were broken:
  • I can cook. Many edible things that can even survive a few days in the refrigerator. And I never thought I could do that!
  • I can go without a migraine attack for weeks and therefore, I have discovered the one single trigger for my migraine attacks that has hounded me for the last two decades. And I thought I never would.
  • I can survive without what I would rate as food, water and proper hygiene in the Danish wilderness, and therefore anywhere. And I never thought...
  • I can be dropped in the middle of nowhere, and still find my way back home. I can read a map with my eyes closed. I never knew...

Never say never because it only and always depends on how badly you want it.

Deluges. I was flooded with studies and work and studies all at the same time. That was my life for months on end. But the day I decided to move on to the next big challenge and wrapped up work in Dubai, things came to a standstill. And I felt dead. I was not enjoying the deluge. But I was not enjoying the draught! It was really a question of what I made of the situation.

Dramas... I was full of them. I guess I had the maximum number of fights and cat fights in 2008. I fought with drivers for parkings in malls, I fought with people who would jump the queue in the Embassy, I fought with people who fought with me (the never ending ones), I even remember fighting with inanimate objects - ironing boards that would not snap close, the 5610 i cover that never came off the back of the phone... And then when I wasn't fighting, I was lecturing. Everybody. Everything. This was a year when I went through some very challenging and critical times. I guess I failed to realise that not everybody else was interested in finding out what and why. I was basically present, prominent is the word, trying to get something out of my system I guess. And it just never happened. I fumed like a volcano ready to erupt, sending people scrambling for cover. And in my less aggressive moods, I turned on my loved ones with a story about the head or the back (they would know) or some part of me that is broken forever... telling them I was not going to live long enough and I better get treated right. The usual puppy-face act that guaranteed sympathy from people who cared...

And eventually the dilemmas and decisions that followed turned my life upside down. There was particularly one of course after which these simple daily things that were such a normal part of my life changed completely. When I graduated from the MISE programme, I was faced with many question marks. One question, always led to another. Am I moving to another country or staying back? Am I getting richer or poorer? Am I pushing my career path backward or pulling it forward? There was never an easy way out. Every decision I made changed one part of my life.

The sum of the bargain has been my move to Copenhagen, leaving all that I love behind. Ho hum... I describe a year full of misery and near fatal depression to tell you that I have left all that I love behind and I am coming out happier? Yes.

Well, sometimes our computers hang and we can kick them, smack them, tear them down until we give up and shove the Restart button in for a reboot. But then there are some times, when we know we've got it all stored in there and we just need to sort it a bit... so we back up all our precious files, clean the system up and start all over again before we reload our files... we reformat. I am not quite certain if one would call my situation getting thrown over the cliff or taking the dive, but I like to think I am reformatting my life. And that is not as easy as a computer. Because once you have rebooted, you really do start all over again. Although I will return to Dubai after two years, I know I have pushed the restart button... and only for myself! So what happens when I reboot, I have no idea!

I've seen mum over the weekends, I can easily pull off the house-keeping part. I am managing the Ds quite well actually. I scared myself a couple of times because only I am to blame for the missing pair of pants or the unwashed plate after dinner. From a year full of screaming and shouting and fighting for my rights, I have mellowed into a, hold your breath, reflecting, soul-searching peace-maker who sings to the birds and strides to work through sub-zero temperatures. Life these days is all about making the most of what I have and praying for the dollar to crash... Until I reboot, a lot will change. But at least I can expect it, and plan for it... or against it. Living alone is a powerful experience. It is the reformatting everybody needs at some point in their lives... not too often. And never too long... But certainly a one-timer. For better or for worse!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some things they never change...!

It’s back! The foggy misty morning that soaks my car and keeps it cool when I head out for work at 6:30 am every day… Foggy mornings in Dubai are the clearest sign that winter has arrived in this Metropolitan desert of the modern world. And they are my favourite. Imagine racing into the underpass leading to the infamous SZR Highway and seeing nothing! Absolutely nothing after 50 metres… huge towers shrouded in white, cars slowing down with hazard lights on, more people walking than driving… My favourite season is here! And that means I sit on an instantly cheerful high. I smile my Good Mornings, find excuses to stay out of buildings and am generally a nice person to be with. As I sit and plan my South American adventure that will start in a couple of days, I think of just how much this city and it’s daily life has come to be my own. The seasons, the people, the food and the festival – I am a fully developed expatriate who calls Dubai her first home. Growing up on the same block for the last 19 years of my life has given me the kind of security and comfort I could find nowhere else in this world. Year after year, I have seen the city go from an oasis trying too hard to accept western modernization - to a gem in the desert with an identity of its own. When the Shopping Festival first started out in 1996, it was a retail event that invited people to the creek side for a pizza or cake with their families, and some bargained shopping to do. Since then, it has turned into a jazzy experienced with retailers from around the world coming down to display artefacts that reflect the culture and heritage of their countries. Traffic was never a problem as there was just so much of place to drive around in and park your car. The buildings – they were buildings not towers. Trade Centre was the landmark. Today it is lost in the concrete jungle of Shaikh Zayed Road. This highway was our gateway to the capital city of Abu Dhabi – all we found was stop at the solitary supermarket to buy our picnic supplies from – I don’t quite remember which of the 56 supermarkets that now dot the highway it was back then. The roads, never had so many accidents. Accidents were for picnics and highways. People did not die on Maktoum bridge. Maktoum, Bridge – half of Dubai gathered to see the wonder when it first opened high up to allow dry dockers to pass through. But winters were just as beautiful. None the more or less. I remember standing on the street side waiting for my school bus to come pick me up a decade ago – I would look up at the winter skies and see the clouds swirling around. I remember once exclaiming to my uncle, “Abab! I can see the world go round!” And he nodded in amazement at this prodigy of a niece. I think that is the beauty of a season you love. Despite everything that you may have gone through, that the city may have gone through… the first ray of the summer sun (a not so special highlight in Dubai of course), the first drizzle of the monsoon and the first foggy misty morning, can only make you smile as you realize that beyond man’s destruction of land and forests and beyond his greed of putting everything on a chipset, beyond the need to make money to pay for these extravagances, nature delves its magic and still makes your day in the simplest way possible! What a fulfilling morning this was. Now… all I need is a flake of snow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Riding High...

The most embarrassing moments of my life, thankfully, have transpired when nobody was noticing – or rather – when nobody who mattered was noticing. Off the top of my head, I can recall the single most embarrassing journey I went on – a plane trip from Dubai to Copenhagen, via Milan… alone. I have to mention though that I had only traveled between Dubai and Mumbai before this and incidentally, never felt the need to use a blanket, the restroom or change the audio station on a 2.15 hour flight. I was a rare flyer who had towed along with mom and dad on an annual vacation for the most part of her life. What made this single journey so pathetic back then was the fact that I was over-prepared with everything – I have to confess I was nerve-wrecked, just as anybody on an important business trip would be, especially the first one. Let me just begin by going back to University when I was speaking with an exchange student from the west – asking her how her long-haul to Dubai had been: “Oh My mum was too scared to let me go ‘coz she thought I was gonna’ get blown up out here… I almost didn’t make it you know! I’m so glad I’m in one piece. You know mums…!” Of course I know mums. Shaky mum in the west oughta’ know that my mum doesn’t trust them either. She had a tough time letting me go. She knew I was prepared with two copies of everything – even the original passport I was carrying. She hates it when I get nervous, and yours truly here was bawling out orders to one and all even by the time the limo drove her to the airport. Erm yes the Limo… well by a stroke of luck I was traveling Business Class. To think it made things easy. I got an aisle seat. Bang in the front row of the Boeing. The airline does a fairly good job of ignoring passengers for what they’re worth. But I assure you, this trip did more damage to my reputation than it ever could to theirs. I was given the look when I asked if I could change over to the ‘empty’ seat alongside as I had to be next to the window to avoid getting air-sick. Lesson number one: If the plane has taken off, you can be quite sure nobody’s occupying that vacant seat. You don’t need to ask them in the first place because when you do, they will whip out a lecture on how you should have done this when you booked the flight. Lesson number two: Book that window seat when you book your flight. I was starving. But when lunch arrived, I wished it hadn’t. I really don’t know how meat can be grey. I was skeptical about the preparation and politely asked for an explanation. Lesson number three: Order an Asiatic meal when you book your flight. 7 hours in flight usually teach you how to use the restroom. I learned the very hard way. The typical smirk, a wave of the hand which they hoped I would understand. I did not. Instead of working my way to the grossly under-sized door that looked like the oven, I dashed to the pilot’s cabin and tried to jerk open the door. In a world of we-don’t-know-who’s-coming-at-us-next, I encountered the wrath of the entire cabin crew in that one moment. The most obnoxious Italian “No” I could ever hear in my life – fully justified – froze me in action. I turned in horror to see the senior steward walk up to me as if he was going to shoot me and blame it on my apparently evil intentions. I yelped as they waited for me to pull out a gun or a 3 inch knife: “I am so sorry, this is a big mistake… when I was a kid, it used to be somewhere in the middle… I have never traveled in the front of a plane, I could never know…” But before I could use any of those phrases, I was quietly whisked away - away from the groggy staring eyes of the senior executive frequent flyers who withdrew with suspicion as I passed them by. I did use the restroom on my way back though. Lesson number four was imprinted on my mind forever. I can never forgive myself for dressing in pink cargoes and an Esprit turtle-neck. That totally gave me away. When I reached Copenhagen, I confidently strode through the terminal, picked my bag up, exchanged my money, walked and walked and walked… and without having to pass through immigration… walked right out of the airport. This time, I was sure I had made a mistake. How can there be no passport control?! How was I not checked in?! Was Milan also a Schengen State?! With 30 kgs in tow, it was probably not the best time to ask passing strangers if they knew. But I did. I wonder why I finally brought myself to write about something that happened in fall last year. Since then, I have been transformed into a raving backpacker who knows air-routes and visa regulations in every major country in the world at the back of her hand. I guess, I think it’s funny now.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Other Side...

Last Wednesday, lunch hour in the office was different. I went on a mindless hunt all by myself to find a different than usual place to eat. But working in the hot spot of Dubai’s main business district meant that my options were, to say the least, boring. The unforgiving summer afternoon bore down on me and I cursed myself for walking half a mile to nowhere from my cool and cozy workspace. The smell of Somewhere Fried Chicken and Pizza Somewhere wafted by and spun around me. I stopped, inhaled and tried very hard to control. Beads of sweat trickled down and the ever-ready migraine made a quiet and creepy start in my head. As I turned to mop my face, the usual Somebody’s burger joint caught my eye. Nearby stood a posh cafĂ© that I had enjoyed a sandwich in a few days ago. A pricey little place with a snooty staff that makes Salads look like the greatest gift of God to mankind. Between the two, I was dying of hunger. I needed fast service. Really fast service. So the junk-house was my best bet after all. I spun on my feet and dashed through the revolving door of the building it was housed in. The first cool breeze of the centrally air-conditioned lobby hit my blazing face. All around, there was the familiar hobnobbing of office-goers all out for a breath of fresh air in a building other than their office towers. One passerby loudly muttered into his N70, making it a little too obvious of course, that “money was not so important”. It is always amusing when you walk through a crowded public spot and overhear bits and pieces of conversation. Human enough, your mind conjures up the beginning and ending of that story – one of its own. Perhaps the gentleman who bellowed that money was not so important probably had some bankers on his tail. But I didn’t have much time to cook that up while my tummy rumbled. I hopped down the corridor and made my way to Somebody’s Burger joint. The buzz was uplifting and the aroma of freshly grilled patties tucked under sesame seasoned buns reminded me just how hungry I was. I dashed over to the counter, erm, the line. Sixth. Fifth. The little kid runs away. Fourth. Third. Second. Grr… Miss-Neverland wants know the difference between spicy and original. Now she wants to wash that cola down for a diet version. First. Yay! I took a moment and rattled off my order. Everything I could think of on a tray or two fitted the bill. I stood there beaming… No, did not forget my purse. The bill was settled, the food was served. I bludgeoned my way through the meal. As I looked around satisfied, people from all walks of life sat there. Talking, eating, resting. The salad people reading through some terribly fancy magazines and picking on their bowls. The executives sawing their way into double sized burgers. Two teenagers tired of scouring for summer jobs sharing French fries. It was the teenagers who made me look twice… Back at University, meals were discounted in our food court, or so you’d think. Still quite expensive when I think back to it. So two of us shared one meal. It was a matter of personal pride to coax the servers into pouring extra chicken gravy on our combos. The girls always ordered the food for the group a) because the boys were lazy and b) because they returned with value for money i.e. more complements with the same meal. In our last semester, a new ‘fast-food’ restaurant opened up in the food court. Ridiculously cheap. The food was something we are all very accustomed to in Dubai. Homestyle wraps and sandwiches with a dash of French fries and fresh juice – a meal conjured up by the very ambitious South Indian entrepreneurs and served in almost every “cafeteria” you visit in Dubai. One of them had the brainiest of ideas to open up at our Uni foodcourt and instantly attracted a herd of students with large appetites and marginal pocket money. I went on those meals for one full week until I fell sick and swore myself off them. And here I was… choosing between a meal that costs 7 times my Uni meal and Somebody’s burger joint which by current standards is ‘cheap’. Gobbling an experimental burger down. Sipping orange juice. Tackling my apple pie and thinking of carrying donuts back to the office. Well, I was also thinking about the report that was due. And the cheques that needed my attention. The travel allowance I had to settle… Before I knew it, my meal was over… and I saw the 17 year olds sharing a funny sms on their phone. For a moment, I reacted with a giggle, just because I saw them laugh. They turned and looked at me. Dressed to the nines. My bulging branded wallet seated next to my Peugeot’s keychain. A prominent access card hanging from my neck. A couple of embarrassed faces giving me a passive smile as I reciprocated. I don’t know if at that moment, both sides wanted to swap places. I still don’t know what could be more fun. But I do know I envy the kids. Darn… do you have to give some to get some ?!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Part of my childhood memories go back to digging ambitiously in sandy backyards for what could possibly be a dinosaur fossil. “Paliyentologist” – because that is how I spelt it – was what I wanted to be. Even before the advent of the magical World Wide Web, I took recourse in newspapers and Science magazines to find out just how many teeth the T-Rex actually had and why the Brontosaurus had sworn to be a vegetarian. Their gigantic size and the serious mystery shrouding their existence have never failed to amaze me. Back then of course, it did not really matter if the pay would be good enough or if I would ever get an insurance cover for working on fossilized remains of the largest reptiles that walked on earth – it was fun! …While it lasted. On one of my expeditions in uncovering the true reason behind their extinction, I came across the ill-fated asteroid that crash landed on earth – creating a storm that wiped out sunlight for years – blocking every ray of hope for the living. Amazing – not the theory (which I rubbished) – but the Asteroid with a life of its own! My idea of amazing moved from over-sized lonely dinosaurs rampaging across the isolated planet to crazed asteroids shooting themselves from one point in the universe to another… When my idea of becoming an astronaut popped up in my head, I vehemently pursued it. Walk into my house today, and you will still see the radium stars peeking down at you from my ceiling, shining in the dark. I built a space suit I could wear and did some intense workouts on the merry-go-round to simulate as much take-off pressure as I could. I practiced the entire speech to be given right before my space shuttle would be lifted off closer to the heavens. I knew exactly why cracked tiles would allow extremely hot foam to seep through and blow up the entire space-craft if they had not been finished properly. No stone was left unturned in mentally preparing for this future of mine. Zero gravity was also on my list… unfortunately the sponsors were not. Moreover, even though the career was a lot more lucrative than grave-digging in the middle of Dinoland without a medical insurance, I had to give up because I could never continue with Science as a textbook story written and dictated by a bunch of brains. While their findings feed the discoveries we make today, I could not digest the idea of passing exams because I could find the distance between your house and my house when we walked at a speed of x kms per second for n number of hours. Commerce – I landed in the beautiful world of Commerce. It was an accident. It was just an escape from Science and an upgrade on Arts. I wanted to lie somewhere in between and get lost in the crowd. When Economics first hit me, I was stunned by the sheer amount of time I wasted in understanding just how one cross on that workbook sheet was a description of the entire market in the world! The subjects faded in and out until I finally stepped into my major in Finance… The experience was life-changing. Wealth maximization was a matter of personal pride to me. I thought I had read every word in the book and knew just how to turn cents into dollars and dollars into more dollars. When I graduated with a distinction, it was pretty obvious what I was going to do for the rest of my life… Shipping… hmm… my first and hopefully only occupation is miles and acres apart from all of the above. Container transportation and logistics, demand and supply, markets and consumers, seasons and trends, regulations and free trade, weather disruptions and crisis management… As a trainee on an international shipping education programme with fellowships from hundreds of countries, my career spans the globe as I learn from cultures and apply business practices. My eyes are always open for a new language for a new personality that I may encounter unexpectedly. The option (d) in the career list that never was, is now my bread and butter. It is no surprise however, as to why I have ended up in a brand new world of opportunities… My profession has never really changed. True, I was amazed by the mystery of the dinosaurs and where the asteroids emerge from eluded me – And yes, I wanted to know why money made the world go round when it was the world that created it… My quest for these answers was a quest for knowledge. I dug deeper, I thought further, I read far too much and I have traveled long enough only to realize that all I have done, all that I do and all that I will ever do for the rest of my life… is explore.