Thursday, April 19, 2018

Q : Questions that are silly #AtoZchallenge

Let us start with few questions which people ask just to make small talk and how should we really answer them:

Qusetion: Where are you travelling to? (In a flight from Mumbai to Chandigarh)
Answer you give: Chandigarh
Answer you should really give: I am travelling to nowhere. I was forced by a suspicious looking man to board the plane and follow you. 
The guy who questioned would squirm in his seat.

Question: What are you doing here? (In a cinema hall when you come across an acquaintance)
Answer you give: I have come to watch the film.
Answer you should really give: I am here to protest the ideology of the film. I will barge into the projection room and set the film on fire.
The acquaintance would report you to the authorities.

Question: Where are you? (When someone calls you on your office landline number)
Answer you give: I am in my office
Answer you should really give: I am everywhere. I have invented a chip and planted it in your phone. Whatever number you dial today, you will connect with me.
That caller would request you to plant the same chip in his girl friend's phone.

Of course, just like the questions asked, the answers I proposed are silly. It is fine, if people ask such silly questions to make small talk. But what happens when silly questions are asked in situations that are life altering.

Silly Questions asked during Job Interviews

The idea of a job interview is to understand the candidate and his/her credentials. It is to assess his / her potential for the job. I am not sure how following questions help in that. 

  • Are you an honest person? 
  • No, I am not today. Today I am a blue person. (Actual Answer: Yes, I have always depicted qualities that make me a dependable and trust worthy resource)
  • What would your current boss say about you?
  • That you deserve a better organisation. (Actual Answer : She would say that I am a committed and hard working person and bring value to the table)
  • Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
  • Definitely not in this place. (Actual Answer : I see myself in a role that challenges me and that serves your esteemed organisation in a relevant manner)
There are many such questions which interviewers ask. Most job seekers are prepared for such questions. They are not necessarily lying. But I believe that even if a person answers these questions well, it tells us nothing about the candidate, his / her fitment and relevance.

Silly Questions asked during Arranged Marriage Meetings

Arranged marriages are very common in India. After parents on both sides (boy and girl) meet each other and they see potential in an alliance, there is a customary meeting between the boy and the girl. This is the window in which both of them have to decide whether to really take the plunge. I am sure, some really smart questions need to be asked in this meeting to take a decision. But let us see what gets asked, in the first meeting itself.

  • Girl to the boy: What is your height?
  • Run away. She has a poor eye sight (Not sure how exact length of his torso is going to impact the decision)
  • Boy to the girl: Can you cook and do the laundry?
  • Ask him to download UrbanClap app or introduce him to your coy maid Sarita (Yes, food is the way to a man's heart, but why would that be an important question to understand whether your life partner is really right for you.)
  • Boy to the girl: Would you work after marriage? (expecting a No)
  • Definitely no. I did my MBA for a lark. I want you to work till your death and would you give me a credit card please? (Why would a boy meet a girl whose qualifications are higher than his and still expect her not to be serious about her career)
  • Girl to the boy: Oh!You stay in Mumbai. Would you take me to the disco every weekend?
  • Yeah. I stay in Mumbai. I will take you on the Mumbai Local every weekday as well. ("Sure", I said when I was faced with this particular query and never ever met her again)
The idea of the first meeting between a boy and girl should be to understand each other as a person. Whether you will be compatible or not? Do you really have a similar world-view? I don't think silly questions like the ones above take you anywhere near to that goal.

Silly Questions asked when you are drunk?

  • Are you drunk? Hic Hic
  • How many drinks you had? Hic Hic
  • Why do you drink so much? Hic Hic
  • Would you like to have one more? Definitely. Cheers.

My last year's challenge post from letter Q was about few anecdotes that happened in Queues. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

P : Pots in Restaurant Toilets #AtoZchallenge

How do you decide whether to visit a restaurant again or not? Going by Zomato reviews, some of the common factors (in no particular order) that will make you do that are:
  • Quality & Taste of Food
  • Ambience of the Place
  • Courteous Staff
  • Range of Dishes
  • Experimentation / Fusion / New Dishes
  • Overall Cleanliness
  • Beverages / Presence or Absence of a Bar
  • Seating Comfort
  • Kids Area / Play Area / Choice of Music 
  • Cuisine
  • Cost
  • Type of Customers
All these factors are important, no doubt. But I have one more criterion - the cleanliness, upkeep and hygiene of restaurant toilets. I have often given lower ratings to restaurants, in my Zomato reviews,  because of their stinky toilets or lack of amenities in them. The people who drink beer spend quite sometime in these toilets. They make multiple trips over the course of the evening. The quality of restaurant toilets is a strong indicator of overall hygiene in a a restaurant.

After a thorough research in this subject, I have reached a conclusion that in India there are four kinds of restaurant toilets. Here are quick results for your perusal. (It is not a laughing matter)

Type 1 - The Posh Pot

Hygiene Level - 5/5
Nose Contortion Status - No Contortion
Time Spent Inside - More than required

Description: This toilet is as clean as the restaurant. There are large wall to wall mirrors in which you can admire yourself. Or you can look down on the floor which will be as shiny and reflective as the mirror. There is normally an attendant, who is cleaning everything - basins, urinal stalls and Western Pots (closets) - all the time. There are soap dispensers, dry towels, wet tissues, trash-bins, hand dryers, hand sanitizers, a chair to sit on so that you can finish your drink, a coke vending machine and a bed... Sorry I just got carried away. Ignore the items in italics. And yes, there is symmetry in these toilets - all stalls of urinals, stalls of Western-style pots (closets) and wash basins are at right angles. And the throne - the pot - is squeaky clean. You can touch everything in this Posh Pot toilet, without worrying about any disease.

Normally fine dining restaurants, like Yauatcha, will have these kind of Posh Pot toilets.

Type 2 - #Metoo Pot

Hygiene Level - 4/5
Nose Contortion Status - Slight twitch when you are normal. If you are 5 beers down - no contortion
Time Spent Inside - Depends on amount of piss, time spent on washing hands and looking at yourself in the mirror

Description: This is the step-brother of the Posh Pot toilet. There is one urinal, one western-style pot, and one wash basin somehow put together in a 4 by 4 feet cubicle. You will constantly worry about the toilet plume here. The urinal is self cleaning and the pot has a working flush. In some cases urinal is missing and the #Metoo Pot has to serve both purposes. There is a soap dispenser and tissues available here. But you don't want to take a risk so you use tissue paper to touch everything. If tissue paper is not there, never press the flush button. Let the next patron do that. I know it is kind of embarrassing if someone sees you coming out. But life before dignity is the mantra here.

Normally, mid-level restaurants like Pop Tates, will have these kind of #Metoo Pot toilets.

Type 3 - Leaky Flush Valve Pot (LFV Pot)

Hygiene Level - 3/5
Nose Contortion Status - Visibly there
Time Spent Inside - Go inside. Piss. Rush out.

Description: These ones are mostly like #Metoo Pot toilets with some differences. A separate urinal is definitely missing. There is only one western-style pot and a wash basin. Tissues may or may not be there. Soap is essentially missing. If you are lucky, there will be water in the wash basin faucet. But there is one major improvement over #Metoo Pot toilets. They deliberately keep the flush valve leaky, so that water constantly keeps dripping into the pot and carries the liquid waste away. So you don't need to flush and touch many things. The disadvantages are that LFV Pot toilets are normally wet and slippery and you can't really take a crap there.

Normally, Cafe Coffee Day outlets in Mumbai will have these kind of LFV Pot toilets.

Type 4 - #Standout Pot

Hygiene Level - 1/5
Nose Contortion Status - You tie a handkerchief over your nose
Time Spent Inside - You stand outside the door and aim at the pot

Description: Difficult to describe as I have never been inside any of them. You can find the way to these toilets even with closed eyes. Just follow the stink. Everything would be overflowing and stained in this toilet. You should only use these if there is no other way out. In case of emergencies, just stand outside it and do your job. Don't bother touching anything. There is no need to flush. It is not there. There is a bucket and a mug. I am sure mold grows inside it. 

Normally, this happens when you decide to drink beer at a run-down bar so that so you can save some money.

I hope now you are better equipped for your next beer run. You can thank me in the comments section. 🤣

My last year's challenge post from letter P was about an incident that highlighted the importance of a  Perfect Response. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O : Once Upon A Time #AtoZchallenge

This picture below intrigued me. It is amazing how things change beyond recognition with time. The changes are not necessarily material in nature - like modern constructions, technology advancements etc. Some changes are non material - like family structures, social set-ups etc. This picture is juxtaposition of both kind of changes.

May be that is why when a story starts with 'Once upon a time...', we get hooked right away. Because it holds intrigue just like this picture. It makes it clear at the start, that things have changed since the story took place. We are interested to know what change took place, why it took place and how it took place. And that makes a good story.

So here are three short stories, that start with 'Once upon a time...'

Each story draws from my own experiences and observations but are fictionalized to hide identities.

Story 1
Connecting People 

Once upon a time, lived a young man, who had a telephone. The black one. The one with a rotary dial.  The magical thing that can connect you to your loved ones by just dialing a set of numbers in a particular sequence.

Ajay was not only young, but he was also lucky. Shruti, his beautiful neighbor, used to come to his place every Friday evening, to talk to her mother, who was working in a far flung town. Ajay was the only one in her colony who had a telephone at his home. That fateful Friday when she dialed her mother's number 34789765, Ajay noticed her long slender fingers, going inside the holes of the finger wheel, rotating it exactly 8 times. He wished with a sigh, that the number was 16 digits long. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Ajay ogling at her; his face was red with some emotion she couldn't fully understand. She smiled. His face was now on fire. Red hot fire. She realized the power of her smile that day.

For next few weeks, this ritual repeated every Friday evening. One day, Ajay asked her to marry him. She agreed.

They have been together for twenty five years now. They have two grown up kids who spend most of the time outside home. Her mother died long ago. The black telephone went out of fashion ten years back. Today, they both have their own mobile phones.

Every Friday evening, like every evening, they now lie besides each other on their bed and keep tapping on their mobile phones for hours, without looking at each other. They are happy. They will live happily ever after.

Story 2
Living Dead

Once upon a time, lived an athletic man, with a royal name. Mohan Pratap Singh was the best footballer in his college. Every time he used to dribble the ball towards the goal, his leg muscles were fully stretched and his sweaty torso pushed against the fabric of his shirt. This sight -sweat and sinew - made the girls in the crowd go weak in the knees. But he had eyes only for Kavya. They were madly in love with each other. Every weekend, they used to go to their favorite ice-cream parlor, and had their favorite chocolate ice-cream from the same cone.

Garima was in love with Mohan and jealous of Kavya. She hatched a plan and waited for the right moment.

One day, Kavya was sitting in the college park with Gopal. They were fooling around. Gopal was pulling her hair and she was laughing. Somehow Garima called Mohan in the park at the same time. Mohan saw this sight and without understanding Garima's machinations, he went off in a huff. That was the first hit. Garima was not done yet. Next day, she tried to comfort Mohan and hugged him tightly. It was not a coincidence, that Kavya was passing by. Garima's cousin Gopal had played his cards well. A series of misunderstandings followed, cleverly orchestrated by Garima and Gopal. Mohan and Kavya stopped talking to each other. Mohan went into a depression and drank poison after a week. Kavya jumped from her roof, when she came to know about his death.

Garima and Gopal, lived in fear and guilt throughout their lives.

But the story doesn't end here. Mohan and Kavya took rebirth as Mohnish and Kavita. Incidentally, they joined the same college when they grew up. They met and fell in love with each other. Few days later, Mohnish was checking out Tinder. And he swiped right. Kavita has also downloaded the same app.

Story 3

Once upon a time, Akash used to be a happy person. He was at the top of his game. People sought advice from him on almost everything under the sun. He was CEO's favorite employee. After all, he was good with numbers. His data skills were unmatched. He could find solutions to several accounting problems in double quick time. As he climbed the corporate ladder, he made several enemies. But he never bothered about them. He was unaware that his biggest enemy was not going to be a human being.

CEO's daughter Vineeta, had just completed her MBA and had come back to India. She brought a computer along with her. This changed the dynamics at Akash's company very soon. Vineeta clearly told Akash, that he is not needed anymore. Akash was put on a notice.

Twenty Years Later

Vineeta and Akash are happily married and they have set up a successful consultancy,  that deals with Big Data and Analytics.

Akash never gave up. He learned about computers during the notice period and developed an accounting and taxation application. His tenacity impressed Vineeta. She knew Akash was for keeps. Akash is the happiest person in the world today.

My last year's challenge post from letter O was about my brother and his adventurous childhood. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.