Monday, 27 January 2014

A Woman

The blood washed her face as she plunged her knife once more into his heart. She had no idea why she was doing it. She did not know him. It was just the thought - the thought that the sight of homeless man on the road begging her for money everyday annoyed her beyond her tolerance limit - that made her do it.

She had always dreamt of doing it. The belief among her relatives that she needed a man to protect her whenever she went outside her home amused her. She was strong, and she knew it. But she alone knew it.

I may say that I killed him to prove that I was not weak, she thought. But she knew that she never needed to prove anything. She had been living alone in various cities, most of them dangerous, for the past five years. She had never even bothered to get even a pepper spray.

Of course, she was not attractive. Rather heavily built, she always knew that nobody would be attracted to her. And she always had a facial expression that seemed like a warning against getting friendly. Rarely did she smile. Instead, her face radiated power. She was always aware of it - a power that was inside her. The power was neither good nor bad. It was just what she chose to make of it.

As the man tried to breathe for the last time, she felt strangely at peace. Of course, the beggar was of no use to any one. Nobody would even notice that he had disappeared. She later disposed of the body near a railway track. Nobody noticed her as she dumped the bag near a shrub. She knew it would be days before anyone noticed it. And she had been careful enough to leave no traces. Living in a secluded area gave her enough time and scope to plan and execute her crime to perfection.

The phone rang as soon as she reached her home. "Manu, where were you? I have been trying to get you for an hour now. Your brother has met with an accident. Have you changed your cell number again?"

She listened calmly as her aunt told her the news, sobbing. So her brother had met with an accident. Nobody bothered to take him to the hospital, as he lay bleeding after a truck had run him over.

"I will reach there tomorrow." She kept the receiver back and sat down to watch the tv. While watching another one of those dysfunctional shows that garner TRPs, she booked her tickets back home. She had four hours to start. She quickly typed in a message to her boss informing him of her brother's accident and then booked a cab to take her to the airport.

She wondered if it wasn't too much of a coincidence that her brother met with an accident on the same day that she had killed a man. Some sort of divine justice, maybe. But then, she had never loved her brother much. For all the show of love and affection, she knew that it was all fake. He was the one whom her parents wanted. She was a girl, a burden, to be married off one day, with a hefty dowry. She wouldn't say that her parents did not love her. But they loved him more. Though they all knew that she was better - in all respects. But he was the one who would take care of them.

She often felt that her parents and her brother was aware of the intense feelings of hatred and jealousy she tried to hide. It was a struggle to keep the emotions under check as she saw herself being sidelined, in very subtle ways, by her parents. She knew that they were not always conscious of what they were doing. It was just that they could not think of doing it any other way. She smiled to herself as she knew she was no longer a prisoner of the society and its mores and norms.

While in the cab, she wondered if God would punish her for killing the man. She imagined herself to be Him and evaluated the quantum of punishment for her crimes -would she be punished more for killing a person or for feeling totally apathetic, maybe even happy on the possible death of her brother? The question had always confused her - whether God would judge people by what they felt or what they did? People often committed sins unintentionally. Why should they be punished? On the other hand, thoughts could not be controlled too, and she was well aware of it. She sometimes wished to be a dumb, normal girl who would be blind to the shortcomings of her family. But never, never did the understanding of her situation leave her.

By the time she reached the hospital, she was told that her brother had miraculously come out of danger. Her parents were smiling. She was not sure if her presence there had not contributed to it.

Her brother tried to reach for her arm while smiling through the pain when she met him finally. She faked a smile. She had long learnt to mask her feelings.

She had been afraid of herself long ago. The fear of punishment for feeling all the emotions that would lead her to hell. Now, she didn't care.

Maybe, God realized that He could not punish me this way, she told herself. She wondered if God would ever punish her. For, she loved no one - not even herself.

"Am I one of the weeds?", she asked herself after reading the parable of weeds. "Would it matter to the weed that it was condemned to fire? Am I a human being without a soul?"

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Storm in the Teacup

We are currently witnessing a media frenzy surrounding the arrest of an Indian diplomat in US on charges of visa fraud. While Indian media and politicians are vociferous in the defence of the lady, the Americans are actually unable to figure out why there is so much outrage over the incident. There are many factors that has led to the current situation. Let us go through them.

Let us face it. Indian diplomats are not paid well enough to afford maids in countries like the US. She should not have taken the maid, ideally. However, being used to the culture of the subcontinent where the maids come cheap and are a huge help in dealing with domestic chores, she would have thought it worth the risk. The maid too might have initially thought it to be a good deal - a wage of 30000 rupees per month for a maid is the highest an Indian maid can aspire to. And boarding and lodging came free. It is quite unlikely that the maid was not an active participant in the fraud. She changed her mind in the US as using her rights as a person there offered her a better deal.

I would not blame her for doing so.Maids or domestic helps are considered to be less than equal by a person belonging to the middle class in India. Having a maid is a status symbol. Hiring and firing of domestic helps has the characteristics of an unregulated free market. Maids have separate utensils for having their food. The amount of distrust shown to maids is rationalized as trying to be safe. Maids usually belong to the lower class of the society. Their wages are miniscule and probably that factor, along with the mistrust shown to them makes them steal or become partners in other crimes. The things which an average maid takes for granted in the US are given only to privileged maids in India - maids who have earned the trust of their employers. That is the reason why 'treated as family' is considered to be enough reason for paying low wages. We have not lost our feudal mindset. So the middle class takes it, sub-consciously at least, as a condemnation of the lifestyle we follow.

The educated Indian looks down upon manual labour. It is always transferred to someone lower than him or her. Men pass it on to women, upper classes to lower classes. Earlier it used to be from upper caste to lower caste. You are an oddity if you earn enough and do not employ a maid. The status of a government official is often judged by how many people he or she has at home. Employing people in the office to do domestic chores is the norm in an average office in India. It exists in its worst form in the defence forces but the Indian bureaucracy is no less.

That being said, Indians have the tradition of bending over backwards to please their guests. And we expect it to be reciprocated though we may not directly insist on it. And strip searching is akin to sexual assault in India - the body of a woman is to be naked under no circumstances. It is considered to be one of the worse humiliations a woman may face.  That may be a reason for the increase in rape cases - men trying to re-assert theit power over women who are getting empowered. Quite honestly, most of the Indians protesting now would have simply kept quiet if the lady was not strip-searched. We understand that she has been accused of committing a crime and that she will have to face the consequences if she is convicted. And diplomats do have a special place in the country. As per the  custom in the subcontinent,  a diplomat or an envoy is a guest who is not to be harmed, no matter what he or she does, whether in personal capacity or not. The guest is akin to God. So you can understand the anger an average Indian would feel if the custom that he or she has been ingrained with is not followed in the case of a fellow citizen in a foreign country. A fellow citizen, and that too a diplomat strip-searched!? That too over a crime that logically no rational requirement for the accused to be strip-searched? Welcome back, Cold War years!

If there is any equation not involved in the whole thing, it is one of caste. The diplomat belongs to one of the most deprived castes of the country. It is more of a class thing, a bureaucrat thing. The rich and the powerful are accorded special privileges in the country. At least half the civil service aspirants are more inspired by the red beacons of the official cars rather than the idea of public service. And finally the Supreme Court had to cut down the list of people entitled to have red beacons.

The sense of privileges Indian judges have is a totally different and laughable matter.

Yup. It is a complex situation. And general elections next year only makes the issue worse.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


I am feeling like Marvin in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Depressed personality prototype. Just wishing this blog entry would make the entire bad feeling go away.
So my staff decide whom to post where behind my back and everything else before putting it up before me. I have decided to take the guru's advice and am planning to become the nasty boss starting today. I have already started. I am having a terrible mood too. And that has helped a lot in putting on the nasty face.
I am not a nasty person but I really don't want to get the feeling that I am being taken advantage of because I am good.
Today is the end of the softie-me. Planning to be the tough boss.
Cheers to that.
Have to be my own cheerleader in this quest.

Monday, 11 November 2013

No clue

I have always wondered what the titles I give have to do with the stuff I write on my blog. Both are totally random and honestly must be showing zero correlation with each other.
Honestly, I am a very lazy bird who just happens to do some work by sheer force or habit or due to the jarring voice of conscience which does not let me sleep if I do not do the right thing. Blogging comes in a third category and I honestly have never understood why I do it. There is of course pleasure to be derived from eating, reading, travelling, sleeping and daydreaming. I work well to avoid the pricks of conscience and insomnia. But blogging gives me no pleasure. No one appreciates the thing. I write because I just feel like writing.
There are many things I would have loved to write but refrain from, owing to being part of the executive now.
As an official of the audit department, I get paid now to criticize the government and so I should not be complaining. But honestly, there are far better things I think of doing rather than reading through the pointless files. On an average, an audit report comes up for discussion in the legislature at least two or three years after the irregularity has been commited. It is basically post mortem and is done so that the mistake will not be repeated in future.
People think it is easy for us to catch the wrongdoers. They do not understand the functioning of the government. The paperwork is usually perfect. Only a moron would allow any lapse in the paperwork if he or she intends to commit a fraud or to indulge in corruption.
And of course, there is always the usual comment that audit makes it difficult for the executive to work and that it hampers decision-making. Well, auditors are not the ones who made the acts, rules or regulations. They were framed by the politicians with inputs from the rest of the executive and not necessarily from the auditors. We only judge performances against the benchmarks some people have set for themselves or conformity to a legal framework designed by the people for themselves - how do we manage to get the blame for that? Beats me.
Yet here we are. Taking it all in our stride and wishing for sense to prevail.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Lazy me!

Have been lazy for some time now. I have this problem of alternating between extremes of activity in each area of my life. Luckily two extremes usually do not coincide. Otherwise, I would have gone bonkers.

When I was the President of the Mess at Yarrows, I believed that I would be a really tough boss to please. One of my Directors even told me so. After reaching here I am finding that I am becoming a mildly tolerable one, not the fire-spitting dragon I was to become as per my nightmares.

Probably it is a conscious effort by my sub-conscious mind to stay calm. Or more probably, it is the effect my boss is having on me. She is calm like a still pond always. It seems nothing can be a bee in her bonnet.

There are quite a few officers whom I have met till now who have acquired this nothing-can-wreck-my-peace kind of attitude. It is a pleasure to work with them. You know what would be better? If they could give me feedback about my work.

I have got a pretty thick skin (thanks to Shimla!). And I can take the severest of well-placed criticism without having an emotional turbulence rising in my bloodstream. I just wish somebody would tell me to my face how I am performing.

Friday, 25 October 2013


I have two PAs. I haven't got a clue why I need even one. Not being a busy person, with pretty much no appointnents to handle or work to get done (damn it, I've jinxed myself again!)and two smartphones which do even remind me to get up and brush my teeth in the morning, why do I even need one?

And the new PA is far too dignified to be my PA. He reminds me of Jeeves. Only that he is a vegetarian. If he could bail me out of all the awkward situations I would get into in future, it would be great. I have always wanted to live like Bertie Wooster, with a person like Jeeves as my butler.

An Aunt Agatha too.

My other PA is a very silent person who likes the calm and quiet of my secretariat. I usually call up people myself as I don't find the point in wasting another five minutes in the PA-PA route.

Probably I will need a PA when I start going on official trips. And of course, they are a great help while submitting travel bills for reimbursement. I remember one of the staff in Kerala applying for two days' CL to prepare his reimbursement claim. Luckily, I don't have to do that, thanks to my PA.

And my old PA is going on a pilgrimage. So I probably will get to know my 'dignified' PA better. Probably he won't be as intimidating as he seems. But this is the first time he is working for someone so down the line.

Let us wait and watch.

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