Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A Time to Sleep

That's all I dream of these days. Of course, I don't mean that literally. It's been a while since I dreamt of something. Possibly because it's been a while since I slept long enough to dream of something.

Managing a product launch has its own euphoria. You're driven by a sense of adrenaline (which is a good thing, because there's sure as hell no food or sleep that's driving you), carried on a wave of certainty that this is the product that's going to change the world.

Until you meet Sales, that is. Prospective interviewees never answer this question right at interviews... The true difference between marketing and sales is this: Marketing's objective is to say, "this is a great product that we're launching. I mean, naturally - we created it. It's worth millions. People will be knocking our doors down to get at it."

And all the while, Sales, standing right behind, is telling the world at large (and management in particular) that this product will never make it in the market, that nobody wants it, nobody understands it, even they don't understand it, for pete's sake, and that there will be negative sales of this one, so don't expect much volumes. Instead, make marketing work harder to come up with better products.

Ask anybody in marketing anywhere, and you'll see that this is true. (And by the way, if you use this in an interview somewhere, I want royalties. 10% of the CTC you're offered should do.)
So here's the thing: this launch is driving me insane, and at the same time, I'm thriving on those crazy schedules again. Therefore, no intelligent posts should be expected from me until I have finally staggered home after the launch on Thursday night, and slept for a straight 12 hours.

More marketing funda at that point. And yes, royalties apply to those too.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Burning the Midnight Oil (and how!)

It's been a while since I stayed at work till 2:00 in the a.m. A long long while. Having stayed today, I realise that of all the things I used to miss about work when I was doing my MBA, this was not one of them.

One by one over the course of the evening, my team-mates slunk out the door and out into the heady Friday night. (This is why "Stealth 101" should be a compulsory course at B School. More advanced courses could then be called "Sneaking Around 102" and finally, "Smooth Operator 102".)

Funny, actually. On the AIESEC in India MC, we used to spend nights on end in the office. 3 days in office without a break, and then 10 days at a conference - surviving on intravenous coffee and alcohol, and an hour of sleep a day, and gathering energy from the 20 odd cigarettes we'd smoke each day (there was never time to eat a decent meal - not to mention the fact that for the longest time, we starved from sheer bankruptcy!).

But here's the thing I miss most about the AIESEC MC office - we used to keep a sleeping bag, a sheet and a pillow in the office. Anytime we stayed late, or stayed over, or even felt sleepy post lunch, we would drag the ratty old things out, spread them out in the exact centre of the office (so that others working would have to keep jumping over us awkwardly) and drift off to dream land. THAT's what I truly miss.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Another One Bites the Dust

Just a few days ago, another old friend Tied The Knot. Took The Plunge. Did The Deed. Lost His Virginity. (Or, well, so we assume.) So many euphemsims for a single idea: he deserted those of us who are still single. In the undying words of Bridget, another one has become part of the Smug Married brigade.

Of course, I couldn't attend the wedding. That's what corporate life is about. You plan something, and plan something, and at the last minute, all your planning comes to nought, and you just wing it. (Of course, when you're reading this in reference to flying to someone's wedding, winging it can have very different connotations - "Look, Ma, I'm flying, I'm flying, I'm... THUD".)

Still, I saw the pics that another friend took and posted on the web. All those familiar faces together, the dearly beloved, gathered there... Takes me back years and years, to when they were pimply adolescents (I may or may not have been an adolescent but I deny ever having been pimply!) and we used to hang out outside school, trying to get to know the opposite sex without being seen to be trying!

Of course, that was the beginning. (WARNING WARNING WARNING Authoress about to get maudlin.) Much water has passed under the bridge since those days. We've spent 12 years seeing each other through tough times, from heart-break to moral support in the face of family when we've wanted to marry unsuitable people. 12 years of laughing together about no reason that any outsider (even the unsuitable people we've wanted to marry) would understand. (Sometimes, even we don't understood why we're laughing.)

So here's the thing. It's been years, and we've reached a stage where even when we want each other there through birthdays, weddings, and umm... afterwards ("Psst. I'm calling while she's in the loo. Quick, tell me, what goes where? And HOW?"), it's still OK if we can't make it - the people whose birthdays and weddings we miss understand the reasons, and forgive us for not being there.

Right, Sundeep? Sundeep? Now where did he go?

Friday, June 18, 2004

Words, all words

Here's a great quote I just came across:

One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter. - James Earl Jones, actor (1931- )

It's strange to see quotes of this nature from actors like James Earl Jones. My earliest memory of him is his role in Coming to America, where he played Eddie Murphy's father, the King of Burundi (or some such). As I recall, he was begging his son not to go off the straight and narrow to America, and offering to shower him (if shower is the word I'm looking for) with slinky women in the absolute. Just goes to show that you can never judge an actor by the roles he plays (yes, yes, schwarznaeggar is the exception).

More as the good times roll.

A Home at the End of the World

That's the name of a really freaky book I picked up from Crossword the first time I came to Bombay. I was 18, fresh out of school, applying to colleges in Pune. Bombay was this vast ocean, waiting to be explored. I was thrilled when I found my way back from VT to Pedder Road all on my own, even without being able to read Hindi numbers (on buses) to save my life. I thought I'd conquered the world. I wanted to exult, scream, dance in the streets.

And last night, for some reason, I felt the same way. Perhaps its because I paid my token deposit on the house? :)

I've been house hunting for the past couple of weeks, and by the end of it all, houses were beginning to blur in my mind. (Much like 4th term at IIMK, when I took 10 optional courses, and had to read up 5 cases per day, on average. I used to transpose facts and figures freely from case to case, much to my professors' total mystification!)
And finally, then, I came across this place. The perfect place - it spoke to me! A large room on the third floor, overlooking greenery, with a fully functional kitchen and loo. Lots of light and air coming in. Just off the main road, so close enough for convenience, and far enough not to be disturbed by traffic. Comes with some stuff (fridge and gas, sofa-come-bed (like a big mattress), etc. And a big chair, in which you can lean back peacefully and read. My only worry now is a place to hang wet clothes to dry, and how I'll be able to get a piano up those stairs into the room!

So. Paid the deposit. Drank some tea with the landlady-to-be. Came home prancing in the rain. Settled into my brand new bean bag. I was just so kicked with the idea that I'll have my own place again that I couldn't stop smiling!

This will be my home at the end of the world.

Meanwhile, if you can get a copy of "A home at the end of the world", by Michael Cunningham, please read it. :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Manic Mondays

Someone should ban Mondays. And by that, I mean that someone should ban Mondays. If you know what I mean.

Of course I don't mean ban the day itself, just the concept of coming back to work after a wonderful lazy weekend. And if you're thinking, "does that mean that we ban weekends?", I have to say, "you cretin - of course NOT."

It's the working week that needs to be erased from the surface of the planet, not the non-working weekend. It's a well known fact that stress kills, and Monday morning stress is the worst possible kind of stress (other kinds include Tuesday morning stress, Wednesday morning stress, Thursday morning stress, Friday morning stress, Sunday afternoon stress, Sunday evening stress, SUNDAY NIGHT MEGASTRESS).

In the words of Martin Luther King, I want a holiday. Oops, sorry, that wasn't Mr. King, that was someone else. But at times when Martin wasn't on the world stage talking about freedom, I'm sure that's what he was thinking. Even God wanted a holiday. And if god, el supremo, omniscient, omnipotent jehovah, wanted one day out of seven, surely us mortals need more than that - like, about six out of seven (no, not seven out of seven - no point in being greedy).

I misquote the Bible with gay abandon - see the lilies of the field - they something not, nor do they something. You get the picture. And, to almost paraphrase the Gita, you must do what you must do, and (BAD WORD THAT RHYMES WITH BREW) the consequences. Well, I must do what I must do, and I must take a sabbatical. I must go hunting around the Andes for old Inca remains, and I must trek to Machu Pichu. I must travel around Greece and Italy, and safari in the savannah. I must NOT, on the other hand, sit in a stupid office and make stupid plans like a stupid ass - my doctor strictly forbids it on account of it being an anti-stress-buster and severely injurious to my health. (The surgeon-general is expected to shortly issue a warning about work causing cancer, which all offices will mandatorily have to display on a LARGE sign board just above their entrance so that people may make informed choices about whether to fool around with their lives hanging in the balance.)

So, before my lungs collapse from all this atmosphere, and my brain goes into automatic pilot planner mode, it's time to make a quick run for it. And, to those of you who have made the other choice, you might be contagious, so I'm afraid we'll have to communicate only over the phone, henceforth.

That is, if the network follows me to Machu Pichu.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Mornings after

Can't tell you how it feels the morning after a drinking session like that. I'm feeling bleary and haggard.

Takes me back automatically to first year on the old campus at IIMK, where we would get smashed 2-3 times a week, out of sheer terror ("there's a MANAC quiz tomorrow, but nothing I can do will help me now, I'm doomed anyway, so I may as well drink" or out of despair ("There was a MANAC quiz today, in which my marks will go all the way down to the absolute zero, but there's no point in thinking about it now, so I may as well drink").

On each of these occasions, the drinking would happen at the main hostel (called, for some strange reason, the International Hostel), in Amit and Akalp's room. At some point in the wee hours of the morning, those of us who lived in other hostels would somehow wind our way out, carefully negotiating the steps and quadrangle we had to pass by hanging on to the wall for dear life (yes, this meant that we would go into rooms through doors that we passed, go all the way around the room, and come back out again, hanging on to the walls right through, but we took those as part of the obstacle course). Eventually, we would find our way out of IH, locate our bike keys somewhere in the recesses of our pockets, and (yes, I kid you not) clamber on to our respective bikes.

Then, a benevolent fate would intervene and ensure that we made it back to our own hostels in one piece, without killing each other or other people / animals on the road (not that there were many of these at those hours of the morning). The key thing to remember here is that the old campus was built just off a state highway, and a narrow road but with insanely fast traffic used to connect the various hostels - this is the road we would ride down in a sozzled state, without helmets and often without headlights. (I even remember getting a ride with someone whose headlights didn't work, and whose key kept falling out of the ignition, forcing us to go round and roung on a narrow road, looking for it.) Without brains is a given, I needn't even mention it.

Sometimes, just for fun, we would ride all the way to the CC (a good 3 KM), instead of going back to hostel. The only reason could have been fun, because we were certainly in no position to check our mail (I doubt we would have remembered our passwords, and if we did, we would have told them to each other, just for kicks).

Anyways, after a night like this, if god had been kind and the next day was a Sunday (no classes), there was of course no question of making it to breakfast. Typically, I would collapse in my room at 4 or 5 in the a.m., drunk beyond belief, and neither man nor beast could have woken me up before about 2:00 p.m., when I would wake up STARVING, and run to the mess before lunch finished... then back to sleep for the entire afternoon, and up, fit and fine, at 4.30 for 2 hours of sweaty, rigorous badminton, tea and conversations!

The point of this rambling post being that the morning after, I got up and came to work at normal time, and I wish I wish I wish I'd been back on campus, teleported back in time and space to those days when nothing really mattered (except that crazy OR case that had driven me to drink in the first place) and life was simple and easy.

Perhaps it's time to start thinking of doing an FPM, or some esoteric course from some random University in the US.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Weekday Debauchery

This is a story about why one should not drink on week days, and especially not with ex-AIESECers. We tend to overdo things. We con ourselves into believing that "at work we are animals, at parties we are beasts" still applies to us.

Our original plan last evening was to meet at Starters, have a drink, go have dinner somewhere. I mean, come on, we're all getting old-ish, we're all working, we all have important meetings early morning. So what if Malli and Nandu are quitting their jobs and going off to B schools in the US - they still
have to get to work in the mornings, right?

Anyway, as I said, that was the original plan. (Remember that little saying about noble intentions?)

So. We drank like fish. Each of us began (it being the last few minutes of happy hours) with 2 drinks. Then, since Malli is on extremely good terms with the management, we drank two more (with Happy Hours being extended just for us). Then 2 more. And then yet another 2. And so on... By 12, when we thought we should perhaps leave, Malli decided that we needed to "skoll" shots. So, regardless of what each of us had been drinking, he ordered some
highly suspect fluid which he insisted that we pour down our gullets.

Even though we could barely stand by then, we did the damn
shots. And then Malli ordered more. And more. And more. Turns out the bartenders are on Malli's personal payroll. (They worship his idol with incense, and appease him with offerings of the-drink-of-the-day and batter-fried peanuts.)

And then there was the karaoke. We discovered a new law: for every 2 songs we sing, 4 people leave the room. Empirical evidence was collected, random numbers generated and simulations run to check the law, and it turned out to be spot on! But it's tremendous how karaoke can bring people together.

To begin with, you have to be almost lip to lip to be able to get your voice on the mike at all. Then, all the people karaokeing are desparately trying to drown out the karaoke organiser, the one guy who can actually hold a tune so that you can hear your own voices - so there's some amount of empathy and team-feeling that grows there. (And, needless to say, only groups who have karaoke-ers cheer and clap after you karaoke, because they know that when they go maul some number, you're the only ones who'll cheer for them.)

[HR teams should learn from this. I am willing to elaborate on my theory of how embarassing activities that you would never perform in your right mind can create intense team spirit, and on how to harness this in organisational behaviour. At a fee, naturally, which we can discuss when you HR people call me.]

To cut an already very long story short, I managed to roll home at 2:00 a.m. Have somehow managed to make it into work on time today, but have 50,000 hammers beating every part of the inside of my head. Couldn't even sleep in the train cos the train noises kept time with the hammers and formed a full-percussion orchestra playing "50 ways..."

And Malli, the man who started it all? He didn't even make into work this morning!