Friday, June 29, 2007

the last train home

The last train is never on time, he waits at the station, in the company of a few stray dogs who barely acknowledge his presence. And he waits. The usual suspicions stir inside his head, am I late, was the train canceled? but no, the indicator still shows that its expected...bah! since when have the indicators been 100% correct! He cranes his neck to see as far as he can without toppling over the platform, but cannot see the headlight of that oh so anticipated train. If he misses this train, he'll have to either stay on the platform of this merciless city, or risk spending some hours trying to persuade cabbies to take him to his destination. Faced with awful odds, he decides to walk out into the city. As if on cue, he hears the train rumble into the platform, just as he has stepped out of the station. Rushing back to the platform, without considering the risks of running up wet stairs, and dodging sleeping dogs, and then running down more wet stairs, he reaches the platform just in time to wave goodbye to the guard at the back bogey. No point cursing the rains, or his decision to leave the bike at home. Looks like he'll have to camp out at the office one more night. He wonders to himself, thank God he has spare clothes, a bar of soap, deodorant, toothpaste and his brush in the second drawer of his desk, and then something hits him so hard he stops breathing...why am I so well prepared for a night at the office?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

here comes the pain...oops, sorry rain

Its funny when you think about it. The MET department and the BMC predict heavy rains, thundershowers and gusty winds, send out sms's to every body and his dog, warning people, making them think twice before leaving home to get to another workday, threatening them that the next 48 hours will make you wish Noah was still around building that wooden floating vehicle. And the next two days go by, with just a few scattered showers, barely inconveniencing anybody except ants and pavement dwellers, and everybody criticizes the BMC and the MET department. Calling them names, making rude jokes, the works. The BMC goes around beating its chest and making statements like 'We are ready', last time was a fluke occurence, which will only be remembered as a one-off spike on the historical graph.
The average bombay chap now doesn't know what to think. He's seeen the worst weather and knows what can go wrong, there is no visibility from the authorities on our level of preparedness. He's seen a few roads blocked because of the first rains already, and it is completely reasonable if he gets anxious. After all he and his city have been through in the last few monsoons, the doomsday predictions suddenly don't seem all that trivial.
I for one know that the city is not ready for a repeat of the previous monsoon's fury. If it were to happen again, the city will pay for its laziness with human lives. Some enterprising mumbaikar would probably see this as an opportunity to earn some moolah by stocking body-bags to transport the victims corpses. The civic authorities will shift the blame to lack of funds, bureaucratic red-tape, mismanaged projects and anything else you can think of.
I hope I am wrong, and I hope that we will not pay as heavily as we did the last time around, but hoping does not translate into real preventive measures. Even if our disaster-management division is confident about its ability, I'd prefer if it never got the chance to actually prove itself. Mumbaikar, trust no one for your safety this monsoon, not the authorities, not your fellow man, just carry a spare set of clothes and get insurance coverage.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Quarter-Life veteran

So I'm on the way home to my office, riding through heavy traffic, 66% probability of rain, and 70% humidity, in the blazing sunlight. I get here, switch on the two computers that I have to work with, and the Issue trackers on each of them are overflowing with things that I have to do, or get done. Its 10 am (ok 10:45..I woke up late, so sue me), on another Monday morning and the weekend that passed has only served to aggravate me. Monday, bloody Monday! Server's are dying, mails aren't being sent, logs are filled with errors, I forgot to recharge my cellphone, the bike's making a weird clunk every time I shift gears, and I realize that I'm another victim of the Quarter-Life crisis.

Some people whine continuously about how easy life was back when they were young, and I'm assuming they meant their mid twenties. I seriously doubt whether that will apply to our generation. The mid twenties for me seem like a horrible race to get to some unclear finish line, which I am not really sure exists, and if it does exist, I don't really know whether I want to get to it. Adding to this the fact that there are numerous obstacles along the way, and my fellow competitors seem more than able to decapitate me anytime they wish to.

Engineering college never prepared me for any of this. I kept my head down, reading those books, passing those exams, and after years of hard (last minute) work, got the darned degree. Coming out of college with that degree felt like I was a gladiator armed with many weapons, ready to face whatever was out there. I guess I was misinformed. Getting employment was difficult in itself, but once I did get a job, I kept finding myself overqualified for it, while the juicy stuff was passed on to guys with a few more years of work under their belts. Now that I happen to be one of these guys, I can understand the compulsion to pass on seemingly critical work functions to those who have demonstrated prior ability under similar circumstances. I find that I have to force myself to think without a safety net, and just let people make mistakes. The fact that I must correct those mistakes to get things done on time does irritate me, but reminding myself of the big picture, and punching the wall a few times helps me get over it.

None of this however helps me understand where I am, what I am doing, why I am doing it, or where its taking me. Sleep deprivation, continuous pressure, horrible financial condition, family forgetting my name, friends becoming distant, social life fading into oblivion...ah, the heady perks of being a quarter-life veteran.