August 21, 2011

Stereotypically Yours

When we tell people in the Netherlands what brings us to their country, the standard reaction is a smirk, and the statement (sometimes preceded with an apology for the generalization) that they should have guessed! Indians in the West means IT and computer programming!

This used to rile me up but I had nowhere to take my impotent rage. Just as I imagine Dutch babies being born on bicycles, they probably imagine bespectacled Indian babies being born tapping away furiously on keyboards. While I hope both images are making you smile like they’re making me, it’s all wrong, wrong, wrong!

I’ve been thinking about it, and from a purely sociological perspective, one can imagine why the average Indian the West encounters is an IT person. Remember our lives 15-20 years ago? Between our family backgrounds, our religions and communities, our role model relatives, peer pressure, our still limited options, and the absence of an international perspective in our daily lives, life for us was going pretty much in directions determined by external forces. Then the computer (even without the Internet) came in and changed the rules of the game. Costing more than they do today, they probably never made it to most homes, but at reasonable prices, they became accessible to most urban teenagers in “training centres”. Here was a new thing that parents who wanted kids to be 100% studious could not say no to. No caste or community could lay claim to or criticize this machine. Rudimentary English skills could get you into this hobby/profession. “Accomplished” Uncles and Aunties could not say whether this was better or worse than being the doctors, engineers and architects that they were.

One machine came and lifted an entire generation out of a spider’s web of tradition and expectation, and did not discriminate based on Daddy’s salary, Mummy’s hopes, your academic grades (based on irrelevant-to-life syllabi) or your geographical location. For anyone who wanted to be an individual, West-style, the computer was a passport. And many used it. And aren’t we glad they did?

It’s these escapees you see programming computers and creating apps in your country, O cycle junkies. The funny thing, though, is that the spider’s web has now comfortably woven itself around the computer. All the relatives now want you to be a “computer engineer” and “status families” are willing to pay huge dowries for geeks. However, it’s still something anyone can work towards, and that’s why the next Indian you will meet at Schiphol, coming in with his suitcase full of Indian spices and a pressure cooker (C’mon! THAT isn’t about to change anytime soon!), is going to be a computer programmer.

P.S.: I am not a computer programmer, and you won’t give me a job. That is another reason why you don’t see more people like me, and I have a feeling you’re happy about that. Now sell me your bike at half price a.u.b. Dank u wel.

August 02, 2011

11 Benefits of Unemployment

After going on a not-so-joyous joyride up and down the sinusoidal curve of dealing with unemployment (rejection, reapplication, stern rejection, depression, ah chuck it!), I am pleased to report that I have figured out a bunch of advantages that my situation allows me, and am making the most of it. If you are huffing and puffing on the job hunt treadmill, this post will give you reassurance. If you are approaching a coronary in your hamster-wheel of a job, this post will make you insanely jealous. So, without further ado, the bright side of joblessness:

1. Look at your sofa. Look how the sun’s rays caress it gently. Now lie down upon it. See how you can stretch you entire Indian height on it easily. Now hug the cushion and take a nap. When you wake up 20 minutes or 2 hours later, life will still be the same, except it will look nicer!

2. Remember your workday morning routine. Do you ever remember the back of your knees ever being dry? Whether it is the hasty dressing after a morning shower or the running about, or just the sitting in a chair all day, this crucial part of your body suffers! Now each time you bathe, pat dry the underside of the knees and sun-dry completely before puling on sweatpants!

3. Take your cycle out of the garage. At 2:30pm, your only enemy on the road is UPS trucks. Get fake confidence in your cycling abilities. Fake confidence begets real confidence. You could never get that in rush hour!

4. Watch 10 episodes of a sitcom in a row. Ok, that just makes you a loser. But you know it’s fun, and it’s the one item on this list that you might end up doing, so I’ll leave it in…

5. Earn some good karma. Go to the railway station, where hapless tourists from across the world are seconds away from missing trains, or are walking confidently in the wrong direction. Startle them by offering them help. You’ll get more smiles in a day than your colleagues give you in a month!

6. Throw the clothes iron away. Pack away your stupid shirts and their collars that are limp enough to not be presentable, but not too limp to bend into grotesque shapes! Buy some nice wash and wear clothes, and wash and wear them all the time.

7. Experiment in the kitchen. Do not have goat cheese with sundried tomato bread, or put red cabbage on nachos to make them healthy. There’s creative and there’s stupid. Remember the difference.

8. Did I mention naps already? Oh yes, the ones on the sofa. Smile to yourself as you make your bed in the morning. Soon enough, you’ll be back for a nap, or to watch sitcoms and eat cabbage nachos propped up by pillows. Try doing that at work, you employed smugmugs!

9. Go for walks! We all know that every branch of every chain store has the same stuff at the same price, but the thrill of discovering it for yourself is something else.

10. Plan holidays! Did you know that well-planned trips thought out thoroughly in advance are about 3-4 bucks cheaper than impromptu ones? And the stress of planning them makes them all the more welcome!

11. And finally, get your lazy ass to send out job applications daily, and do all the freelance work you get! This blasted honeymoon is not going to last forever! Do something! How come everyone else can find a job but not you! Shove that fancy degree where the sun don’t shine! Why did you not become a computer programmer? What’s this wishywashy thing you call a resume? Maybe showing up at some office with a WILL WORK FOR TRAIN TICKET placard will get you somewhere?? Ok breathe…breathe…

August 01, 2011


Everyone learns cycling as a little kid. If you grow to be a chronological adult before you can ride, you still transform into a wide-eyed kiddo the moment you can balance and pedal at the same time, for the very first time! This past month, I've stood on the pavement of the lane near our house and bent from side to side in automatic imitation of my wobbly darling on his first ever bike as he tumbled down the slope going this way and that. After about a dozen such sessions, something clicked yesterday, and as he turned back to beam at me after his first successful 10-metre stretch, he looked like a 7-year-old boy.
Here's his account of the adventure.