One badly groomed day

“Dear K, you have been registered for a course in Communication skills. This is based on a comprehensive assessment  carried out with all project managers.”

I was shell shocked. Poor communication skills! What the heck! Here I was, Vice President, Education at the Company’s Toastmasters Club and I had been nominated for a communications training program. If the people at the club came to know, they would laugh at me. The president may actually demand my resignation if he got to know. How could they have a Vice President, Education with poor communication skills?

My shock turned to resentment. How could Abilash have done this to me? I had always looked up to him like an elder brother or father and he had stabbed me in my back! What had I done to him that he had done this to me? No wonder I had not got my promotion as well. Or were my communication skills really that poor and I was refusing to acknowledge?

After some deep thought, I decided the best thing to do was to broach the topic directly with him instead of letting the wound fester in my mind. I set up a call with him that evening.

“Hi K, how are things going on in India?” He sounded so nice and cheerful. Would he of all people have done this to me? I made small talk for a few minutes and then cut to the issue bothering me. 

“What was that about? I don’t remember recommending you for any communication course. You are pretty decent. I don’t think you need to take any such course.”

“But the Learning and Development department has sent me a mail that says they have identified me for this training based on your feedback on that survey.”

“Oh, now I remember. I had not paid much attention to my responses on that survey. It was on that day you know -the day when I was pissed with you!”

I remembered that day pretty well. He had been pissed with me just once. I still remembered that day vividly. We had had that client meeting. I had forgotten to shave for 3 days running. And that day I had gotten up late and in my hurry to come to office, forgotten to comb as well. As if that was not enough, I had pulled on the old moth eaten looking sweater that was meant for home use. In short, I looked a complete ragamuffin. No wonder he had been so pissed to see me like that in the review meeting. That evening I had gotten a nasty dressing down. The survey must have come in that evening and it seemed like he had vented it out there.

But luckily for me, he was quite gracious. “Don’t worry. I will drop a note to the L&D team and tell them you are not required to take that program.”

Phew! That had been close. That one badly groomed day might have turned out a complete disaster for my career.

This post is a part of #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette

I am acknowledging the tag by Ranjith

Kitna chain hota hai na sachchai mein

“So, tell me – why did you quit your last job within 8 months?”

Finally! This question had to come! I had been preparing the answer for the last 3 months. So it should be a cake walk. But shouldn’t it have anyways been a cake walk, you may ask. After all I was not being asked to explain the theory of relativity, right? There must have been some reason why I quit my job. I just have to state it. How difficult can that be? Unless of course I want to do a David Copperfield and start from the events leading to my birth and narrate the chain of events that eventually lead to my quitting the job!

To answer the question, we need to go back 3 months. A plump lady with double chins is sitting in front of me. “What do you want us to say in your relieving letter – that we are letting go off you or that you are resigning?”

I was still under the trauma of losing my job. I was not sure what to say. Seeing my blank stare, she decided to take initiative on my behalf. “Ok – we will make it that you have resigned. That way it would be easier for you to find a new job. Many companies do not view layoffs too positively.”

I could only nod in agreement. 

Then the job search began. It was peak of recession and there were limited opportunities for a person to be gainfully employed. E-mails carrying resumes disappeared into black holes. Phone companies seemed to have developed a heuristic to cut calls the moment the taboo word ‘job’ was mentioned. The only people interested in me were the sales executives of the job portal whose ever alert noses seemed to have sniffed my increased activity on their sites. Seeing no success from my individual efforts, I finally yielded to their charms and loosened my purse strings to them. While my CV came back, hardly recognizable, decked with all fancy words that made me sound like someone else, the luck with jobs continued to remain the same.

Then I decided to change my strategy and leverage Linked In. I began to look up senior folks in companies in my area of expertise and began to seek introductions through common contacts. This strategy worked and finally I landed an interview. I cleared the recruitment screening and the technical interview. Now I was in front of the business unit head. I had managed to establish a reasonable connection with him and things had gone on smoothly. And then suddenly – this much dreaded question!

Of course I had prepared and practiced it so many times. “My aged parents are not keeping good health. So I wanted to find a job in my home city.”

Simple and elegant, isn’t it? And vague enough to be true in a broader sense! But then was that the truth? Was that why I had quit the job? Or for that matter was it I who had quit my job?

I mean what harm was I doing to anyone with this little white lie? Hadn’t even the GM, HR of my last company suggested I do that? Hadn’t she even given me relieving letter to support my claim? Maybe this is the way of the corporate world. Why do I have to act eccentric and miss out this one opportunity I had got after so much effort? 

I had always prided myself on my truthfulness. Not like I am the paragon of truth or anything. But this was deliberate willful lying for personal gain.

Then again this was but a small lie. In fact it was not even really a lie – just a minor rearrangement of facts – why was it such an issue? Wasn’t I trying to live by unrealistic ideals?

“I wanted to know the reason for your leaving the services of your last employer,” he repeated.

“I did not leave their service. I was retrenched.”

I felt light and carefree as if a load had been lifted off my head. I quickly answered his remaining questions and returned home. I no longer seemed to care if I got the job or not.

 But then problem with any kind of high is that it lasts only for limited period of time. By that night, all the good feeling had evaporated. I was cursing myself for my stupidity. My family would be so disappointed with me. The recession was getting worse. God knows when I would get another interview call. Ideals don’t fill empty stomachs. Well, I have this habit of dramatizing – I had savings to at least keep the wolf from the door. Basic necessities were not going to be an issue. At least not immediately!

The next day my phone rang. Some strange lady was on the phone sounding like one of those call center ones selling credit card. “Is it Mr.K ? “

“Yes?”

“Sir – we are happy to let you know that xyz has decided to extend you an offer. Can you please come down to our office and collect your offer letter? “

Phew! I had not been penalized for saying the truth. I don’t know if truth always triumphs. But definitely there are people in this world who value truth. 

This post is part of a promotional campaign organized by Kinley. Click here to visit their website and find below the promotional video.
 

Blogging - The Genesis


I am nearing the completion of the 7th year of my blogging. Over these years I have made so many friends. One of them is Saravana Kumar Murugan who blogs at Few Miles. He is celebrating completion of 5 years of his blogging journey and he asked me to write a guest post for him, one of the rare requests I have received in my 7 years. So here goes - the tale of how it all started - the tale of Genesis of blogging.

This was a long time ago. A very long time ago! There were people then and people now. But all that people then did was going to office. Every day they got up in the morning, brushed their teeth, finished their morning ablutions, had breakfast and went to office. From morning to evening, they slogged and came back home, tired. Waiting for them at home, was this small box, made especially for idiots. It held them glued till they feel asleep. Next morning they got up, again brushed their teeth, finished their morning ablutions, had breakfast and went to office. So their life went on and on, never ending in its drudgery.

Some of the people tired of their wretched lives escaped from the concrete jungles into the mazes of imagination and prayed. They did severe penance for years and years till finally the Great God Intahnato appeared before them. They told Him their tale of woe and sought salvation. He thought for a while and then said, “Let there be blogs.” And then there were blogs. Over the next five days, the God worked without rest – creating blogs of every genre – tech blogs, fashion blogs, satire blogs, travel blogs, literary blogs. On the seventh day, tired after his toil, He sat down to rest. As He rested He broke out into a song.

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way home


Click here to read the rest.

Picture Credit : https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7422/9116314504_2603c6da70_b.jpg

 

Puppeteers of Palem - Review and Giveaway



A good story must have a good concept, a well-knit plot, memorable characters and a strong narrative. Usually readers are partial to one of the three elements. I generally tilt towards concept, more so because I am hard core science fiction and fantasy buff. At times, I even forgive a plot full of holes, a dry narrative and cardboard characters if but I find some novelty in the concept. That way Sharath Komarraju’s ‘Puppeteers of Palem’ stuck the right chord with me at the very outset due to the interesting concept. The aptly chosen title and beautifully drawn cover image aptly reinforce the theme of the story and kind of intrigue the reader, making him or her involuntarily pick up the book for reading.

The story is structured in a jigsaw puzzle style with different timelines running in parallel. The ending is already known in the beginning. A mood of suspense is created right from the beginning and is maintained till the very end. At the start of the book, we come to know what happens to the protagonists in the end. The main hook that holds the reader till the end is the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of it. The story starts with the mysterious murder of six people. We also come to know the last one to be murdered and the how he is murdered. The story then cuts back and forth between the investigations following the murder, the events just before the murder and the events many years before the murder. Then there is this air of supernatural evil lurking behind the scenes promises to be something more sinister than a typical ghost. So the story creates a strong curiosity to find out more about the origin of this evil. While we know the evil being is somehow related to the death of a woman who had died many years ago, the author drops some hints of it being something more akin to an alien monster out to destroy the entire planet rather than a mere dissatisfied soul seeking personal vengeance.
One of the things the author does very well is descriptions. He vividly describes various things seen in the village, evoking all of the five senses. The metaphors he uses are all dark setting a depressing mood that goes with the overall dark tone of the story. In the very first chapter we are presented with the imagery of an old man killing a moth with his hands. Later we are presented with the disturbing imagery of a murder of crows attacking, killing and eating one of their dissident members. We have more imagery like this that invokes horror in the mind of the reader. Another thing he has done well is to give the place a realistic feel by drawing upon his personal memories of rural Andhra Pradesh. The authentic Indian settings are something which Indians can really relate to. It is something I am sure many of us would welcome after reading most of our stories set somewhere in Britain or America.

Of course there were some areas which I would have liked to have been better. While the idea was novel, somehow the final explanation did not entirely meet my expectation. I felt things could have been tied up more neatly. I found the narration at times too forced and formal. But I guess that is a matter of personal preference – I usually prefer to read a more friendly, informal style that I can relate to. The characters were all interesting and unique. But there were too many of them and we did not get to know any of them deeply enough and I definitely could not relate to even one of the characters. The characters were also I guess by design unpleasant people who the reader would not want to root for and the focus was more on the atmosphere and mystery.

Overall I would say this book is a decent read for a casual reader looking for some chills and thrills.
And now the interesting part: if you felt you liked my review and want to read this book, you don't have to shell out you hard earned dough. Just leave a comment on this post to give yourself a chance to get a free signed copy of the book from the author himself.
Book Blurb:
The village of Rudrakshapalem awakens, and tells her tale.

Five friends return to the village of their childhood to find that nothing seems to have changed, and at the same time everything has. Whose voice is it that called them back, and whose hand is it that now hunts them down, one by one?

Palem’s grand old man, a Brahmin landlord, their childhood storyteller, makes one last ditch attempt to save his village from ruin at her hands. Will he succeed or will his past catch up with him and demand fair price?

Two boys, one blind and the other lame, skirt the village borders at the old Shivalayam, listening, staring. On their faces they wear smiles of contentment. They sleep well. They see happy dreams.

A TV reporter arrives to study the village, only to sink deeper into the mystery with each passing day.

And hovering above all of these is the shadow of Lachi, who is believed to haunt the old Shivalayam on full moon nights. Some say she’s consumed by lust, others call it madness, but all catch the red glint in her eye and the icy calm in her voice as she croons a sad, lonely song. The one thing she hungers for, that will satisfy her soul, is the fire that will burn Palem down to ashes.

The village of Rudrakshapalem awakens, and tells her tale. Listen closely. It will chill you to the bone.
The book can be purchased at Flipkart or Amazon. Also check out the book on Goodreads.

And here is something more - a sample from the book to decide whether you want it - the first 3 chapter.

God is a Gamer - Review



‘God is a Gamer’ is the second book of Ravi Subramanian that I happened to pick up after ‘If God was a Banker’ around 3 years back. He, Amish and Chethan are three writers I closely follow as they are the trinity who have kind of made writing an alternate career path for IIM alumni – each of them having chosen a completely different genre to shine in. Ravi Subramanian has often been called India’s own John Grisham. While Chethan created reading interest through his campus romances and Amish had opened up the genre of mythology based fiction, Ravi has pioneered a completely new genre – thrillers around specialized professions. What John Grisham has done for law and Dick Francis for horse racing, Ravi Subramanian has done for banking. Though in terms of pure writing alone, I would hesitate to compare him with his Western counterparts, he is definitely one of the best homegrown writers of commercial / genre fiction.

‘God is a Gamer’ I found was different from ‘If God was a Banker’ in the sense that the author is trying to step out of his comfort zone of banking and step into the world of politics, investigating agencies, organized crime, technology and online gaming. That way the book presents a novelty factor while the author still continues to leverage his rich knowledge of the world of finance and banking. Being a sucker for series stories, I was happy to see some of the characters from ‘If God was a Banker’ make their appearance again in this series: however, here they form part of the supporting cast.

The things I liked most about this book are the pace and simplicity of language that make it a real light, breezy read. There is never a dull moment. This book proceeds at break neck speed with murders, robbery, frauds happening all over. The chapters are all short and the story keeps swinging like a pendulum from US to India and back. This book is one hell of a roller coaster ride – pure unadulterated escapist fiction. I saw some of the other reviews calling the ending predictable. I did not find it so. It did throw up some surprises without completely pulling a Jack out of the box. 

One of the things which I usually like in escapist fiction that was missing in this book was a strong protagonist. The story had a huge cast of characters and all of them were given equal importance. So the reader did not have any one character to root for. One can of course bring up the example of Game of Thrones. But that is epic fantasy that runs over thousands of pages giving readers sufficient scope to familiarize themselves with each of the characters and choose their own hero or heroine. The author of a short thriller does not have that luxury. Also all the characters were stereotypical and none had any distinguishing trait that could really endear them to the reader.

While some of the concepts like bitcoins and the dynamics of the gaming industry were introduced, I felt the coverage was at best superficial. Also the plot was not perfect and a few gaps were visible hampering the suspension of disbelief that good fiction requires. I also found the narrative quite ordinary with lot of tell and less of show. But none of these should deter a casual Indian reader looking for a light read. They might actually, on the contrary, work to the book’s advantage. 

Overall I would say this is an excellent light travel read. It could be easily made into a script for a good Bollywood action thriller movie like say ‘Kahani’.

The book was given to me for review as part of the book tour organized by 'The Book Club' of which I am a member.

The Book Blurb:

Aditya runs a gaming company that is struggling to break even. A banker slips off a highrise building, plunging to her death. The finance minister has made some promises that he is finding hard to keep. The LTTE has unleashed terror in America that sends the FBI on a wild goose chase, bringing them to Mumbai.

Enter Varun, parttime drug dealer and fulltime genius. He turns around the gaming company before disaster strikes. Meanwhile, the investigators plunge headlong into the shady world of bitcoins and the Dark Net, websites that only exist for illegal transactions—drugs, sex and money. God Is a Gamer culminates in a stunning climax where money means nothing, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks, and nothing is as it seems.

Rise above Fear

What was I going to do? The numbers were stacked heavily against me. Every year only 5-6 people from my entire town achieved success. And I? I was not even in the top 10 ranks in my school.  This was way beyond me. Why did I kid myself into thinking I could do it? Shouldn’t I instead be focusing on something more within my capacity?  Was I going to lose the bird in hand in quest of two in a bush?

These were my thoughts when I was preparing for IIT JEE exam during my higher secondary.  But then there was a stubborn part of me that responded. I shall not accept mediocrity. I have made up my mind I want to get into IIT and that is where I shall get into. I am not going to hedge my bets. I am going to stake everything on this one thing I desire most and win it. I shall win because I have the determination to win. IIT is the only place I want to get into and it does not matter if I do not get into engineering anywhere else if I fail. I shall give everything I have to this one goal.

Yes or NO to Pre-Marital Sex?



“Yes or No to Pre-Marital Sex? Are you for it or against it?” – At the outset, it hardly appeared like a topic I would be interested in writing about. Also I am not writing much for contests these days and whenever I write, I usually like something fictional or zany. I hardly write article type posts. But following the discussions on the topic set me thinking. The discussion seemed to indicate that the topic was a no brainer. The answer was obvious – an overwhelming ‘Yes’. So what is the point of a debate if there aren’t equally strong arguments on both sides?

Thinking further, I realized a very similar trend in all debates of conservatism v/s radicalism. Generally the radicals are the cool ones – the young, the energetic, the intellectuals. The conservative space usually looks to be occupied by the old coots unwilling to change, the fanatics, the bigots. One can see in all the arguments – the radicals walk in with a flourish and present argument after argument to demolish the conservatives. The conservatives look to be on the defensive – they either tend to hold stubbornly that their view is right just because it is right and no arguments can be encouraged. Or they quote the authority of some holy book or a religious figure whose authority is inviolate and cannot be questioned. In worst cases they can turn to personal attacks against the individual radicals. So for a neutral person watching this battle, it not difficult to see which side would look more attractive. But does that mean status quo is always wrong and change always right?
Do even the extreme radicals really want a life where everything is under a constant state of flux with absolutely no certainties in life? Don’t they also long for some kind of anchor of certainty that they can hold on to and stay afloat?  
Change in my opinion is good when it happens at the right pace at which human society can take the change. It if happens too fast, it can destroy the sanity of individuals and the fabric of human society. That is why conservatives are needed – to put a break on the pace of change and let it come at a tolerable pace. So in a debate between conservative and radical views on any issue, the discussion should be around the original purpose of the societal or cultural norm that is proposed to be changed and its relevance in the context of the current times.

So here the societal norm being challenged is that of the taboo against sexual relationships outside the institution of marriage. This argument will have two aspects to it –the negative impact of societal approval for such relationships on the stability of the institution of marriage and the relevance of the institution of marriage itself in the current age. A discussion on the second would not be necessary if the first were to throw up the answer that the impact is minimal or that the impact is positive.
So what exactly is the institution of marriage at a fundamental level? It is a pledge of a monogamous relationship between two persons. So by the very definition, any extraneous relationship can be considered an antithesis to this institution. The obvious question would be how a pact can be violated before its formalization. Well, technically the argument holds. But it can be considered a violation of the spirit of the marriage vow. If a person intends to be bound by the vow and views it to be possessed of intrinsic value, then he or she would probably not feel the need to violate it. The need to violate indicates that marriage is perceived more as something forced by law, social pressure or religion than something of value in itself. Case in point to support the argument is Europe, where social sanction for pre-marital relationships has been accompanied by a widespread reduction in number of marriages.

So we do need to explore the relevance and need for marriages. To understand the need, we may have to go back to its time of origin. Since mankind felt the need to introduce such an institution, it follows that there must have been some logic to it. The logic that comes to my mind is the creation of the family structure which provides a support system for the elderly and younger ones.  Another aspect possibly could be to provide people some kind of security in their relationship to be able to devote time to other pursuits free from the constant struggle for mates. 
If I were to consider these aspects, I really do not see our society having alternate systems to support the care of the young and the old. And while we do not have concrete evidence to say that without marriages, people will end up spending too much time fighting hard to get and keep mates resulting in overall reduction of productive contribution to the progress of mankind, I feel the possibility does exist. So it is my opinion that society is yet to evolve to a stage where we can do away with marriages.
So, on the basis of these two analyses, I infer that society cannot sanction pre-marital relationships. There is of course this question of whether an individual needs the sanction. That is up to the individual and not a topic for discussion and debate. The aspect of individual freedom versus societal norms is however something that can be discussed. But I would prefer  to consider that in a different blog post.

Image is free to use or share from wikimedia. Contest sponsored by author Poonam Uppal as part of the promotion of her book  - 'A Passionate Gospel of Love'. Click here to see contest sponsor link.

Matches Made in Heaven - Cover Reveal


Cover Reveal:

MATCHES MADE IN HEAVEN

Romantic Short Stories by

Sundari Venkatraman

Sneak Peak

Swayamwar on TV reality show; Dating Clubs; Matchmaking websites; parents setting up their children with one another; friends getting married and more – there are many ways that couples get together for hopefully a “Happily Ever After” experience. MATCHES MADE IN HEAVEN explores the various premises in the form of short stories that one can relate to in everyday life. There is even one based on Gods falling in love. Shh! I am not going to say anything further. It’s for you to find out.

And there are thirteen of them. While many insist that “13” is an unlucky number, I am quite fascinated by it. I absolutely believe that it’s a lucky number for me. That’s why I decided to publish this anthology with 13 romantic stories. 


About the author

Sundari Venkatraman has authored four novels and a short story anthology till now, Matches Made In Heaven (anthology) being the latest. The Malhotra Bride; Meghna; The Runaway Bridegroom; Flaming Sun Collection 1: Happily Ever Afters From India (Box Set) and Matches Made In Heaven have all been self-published on Amazon under the banner of Flaming Sun. The three novels are regularly seen on Amazon’s Top 100 Bestsellers’ Contemporary Romances list. The Box Set and Anthology are bound to catch up soon. 


A great fan of Mills & Boon romances over the past four decades, Sundari has always believed in ‘Happily Ever Afters’ and all her books promise happy endings. 

Matches Made In Heaven is a compilation of thirteen short stories – all romantic – based on many situations anyone can come upon in their day-to-day lives. The stories revolve around the different ways a couple can get to meet and tie the knot in a culture rich country like India. Those reading the stories will definitely be able to connect realising that one of the situations has definitely been a part of their lives. 

So here you go........

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Book Launch by:



For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces