Illusion, reality & then some rather cheap labour!

Okay, so a lot did happen over the past 3 days – I just haven’t had the time to tell you all about it. Actually no, nothing really out of the ordinary happened. Except that I am a lot more excited about certain things on the personal-professional front. By this, I don’t mean the job front…it’s a wee bit more complicated that that.

However, this does remind me of my recent pay hike which, I admit, did feel good…for about 30 seconds. After which, I was back to being fired up about aforesaid personal-professional developments.

Anyhow, the moment I walked into my office lobby yesterday, I was completely swamped by nostalgia. Overwhelmed is the word. You know those times when you just can’t move for fear of losing your sudden grasp on a moment long past in time/ life? That’s what happened to me!

I guess it has something to do with my olfactory receptors. The place smelled just like the lobby of my hotel, back in time in Malaysia. Now, it’s been 4 years since I visited the country & I didn’t even know I remembered what fragrance they might have been using in the hotel. But there it was! And to think it was as simple as an office in India using the same/ similar brand of air freshener!

Speaking of such memory, by the way, I recently read about a study conducted on crime-scene witnesses. Turns out, we may distinctly remember something with utter conviction but – wait for it – it’s likely that the said event never occurred! Reminds me of the time my dad insisted that mum had called him on her way home one night. This would have been fine except: neither my mum nor I had any memory of her making the said phone call. And the catch was, I’d been sitting right next to him all that time. But so convinced was he that there had been “a mistake”, that he refused to believe the evidence even when the call did not show up in his or mom’s call logs. Worse, he could remember verbatim all that she had said to him over the phone – something about the menu for dinner, apparently.

At this point, I would have loved to have added that, when she did get home, she brought along the exact same items that he thought she had been talking about – but that’s not what happened. This is a story about faulty memory, not about ESP, remember? 😉

But this kind of thing makes you doubt the whole concept of reality, doesn’t it? What if all that you remember of your childhood is a trick being played by your mind? What if the guy you thought killed the woman right in front of your eyes is not the guy who should have been going to the gallows? What if – since everyone is likely to have a different version of it – there is no ‘real’ past or future & all that’s happening is in the here-and-now? Only that it’s happening in some parallel universe/ time zone perhaps? Weird weird weird!

I should tell you here I am really, really interested in discussions of this sort. I love reading about theories like the one Plato is supposed to have had. I don’t know the exact words, but apparently he believed that ‘reality’ was located behind you, somewhere in the space above your head. And all that you saw in the world around you was but an illusion, a reflection of that ‘actual’ world. Sounds cuckoo to me!

But perhaps it’s time I re-checked what he really meant by that. Just as an aside, even Hindu beliefs hold that reality is not what you see around you. The world is all ‘maya’ or illusion. Interesting how the ancients all believed similar stuff no?

Okay, on to more mundane stuff now. In other news, I am extremely pissed off by you, my fellow Indians. All this time, one used to hear all these stories about India being a ‘cheap labour market’. But when I saw for myself how deep the rot has set, I was stunned, to say the least!

Being a writer, I can give you an example from my domain, but I’m assured that this problem is everywhere, in almost every field. Over the past week alone, I have come across dozens of writers who offer their services for as low as 36 bucks for 500 words! That’s a ridiculously sad, low price I would never have accepted for my work. Not even when I was a college student moonlighting as a struggling freelance writer! What’s more, I was working for Indian publications whereas most of these people’s assignments come from the US! Aren’t they supposed to be raking in the dollars or something?! Apparently it’s more like only a dollar – or less – for a whole article!

So no wonder you come across all these gazillion bidding sites where cash-rich companies post projects expecting their work to be done for just $50 (if not less). But here’s the best (or worst) part. Say there is someone in London offering US $50 for 10 “well-written, web-optimized” articles of 500 words each. In itself, this price is ridiculous, if not downright insulting. However, right below this laughable ‘business offer’, you’ll find a serpentine list of dozens of supposed ‘writers’ offering to do the same 10 articles for as less as $10 – for all of them! Rest assured, next time you see a project posted by the same company, their bidding price will start at just about 20 bucks, if that.

It disgusts me to think that there are people out there who value their work so cheaply. As long as this continues, foreigners will continue to see India as the old ‘cheap labour destination’. And even talented Indians will get to work only on bottom-of-the-heap grunt jobs rather than get a chance to do worthwhile projects that can add to their skills & knowledge. Sad indeed! 

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Sunday surprise!

Sunday evenings depress me like even Monday morning can’t. I mean, it’s The End of a Golden Age of Wasteful Lethargy, of indulging in all the Seven Deadly Sins, and then some. (Are there any non-deadly sins, by the way?)

So I met up with D & S last evening. It took quite an effort to convince my lazy, depressed self to Just Go, but the evening turned out to be rather fun! This, despite all the guy-bashing we indulged in before S arrived. Oh, and by ‘we’, I mean D & me (I would say ‘D & I’ but that would just confuse all you people who have to make do with initials in place of Christian names).

But before all that happened, she & I first checked out the action at Globus. Not coz we liked what the shop windows had to offer or anything; it’s just something of a ritual with us. If it’s Eternity Mall, it’s gotta be browsing-Globus first. (I had phrased this sentence differently but ‘browsing-Globus’ has such a nice ‘finding-Nemo’ ring to it, don’t you think?)

This time, the store pleasantly surprised us by offering discounts of “up to 50%” (which, as every shopper knows, means: “Remember that one utterly disgusting extinct-animal-printed scarf you saw here 3 years ago? Well, we’re giving that away at a super bargain price of just 5000 bucks! Is your Sunday made or what?!”)

Anyway, so D picked out this okish red kurti/ top with a black pattern around the neck (sorry, my descriptions for such things remain vague out of necessity…I don’t really know or care what the nice black pattern around the neck was). The piece seemed quite all right until we checked out the price tag. It was soo not worth it! That little bit of cardboard scared us right out of the Ethnics & propelled us straight into Accessories. The rest of the browsing went off without incident, though we eventually did leave with our wallets – and our indignity – intact.

Upstairs at the food court, over a plate of spring roll dosa (yum!), we got into the usual collective-introspection-into-our-life-and-relationships session. This part is something of a fixture, also known as: ‘Would-we make-the-guy-happier-by-just-dumping-him?’ session.

By the time we were done with the dosa & had downed one large cold coffee each (Barista, good as always), the mood had turned boisterous with loud giggling, stupid jokes, and hilarious (to us!) one-liners.

And then S joined in, taking the party to a whole new level. With him, there was much CAT, no-work-experience-but-MBA(!) & IIM bashing (for the record, he’s 22, has no work experience but has completed one year of his MBA at IIM Lucknow. And obviously, he got in by scoring rather well in the dreaded, math-oriented CAT). Talk about ammunition to attack! 

Anyway, among the memorable lines I came up with, was one I consider a gem:

D: Hey, order a coffee with ice cream already! You’re obviously lusting after it!

Me (sighing lustfully): Do you even know how many calories are in it?!

D: But you’re thin! You can afford it!

Me: But you don’t understand! I can because I don’t!

[Loud laughter, courtesy me, while the two of them just looked on with sullen faces]

So, to save the situation, I narrated a fantastic Stevie Wonder-in-China joke. It’s my current favorite – remind me to tell you sometime. The best part is, I do a great job of imitating a Chinese accent – no, really, I do – and it’s absolutely essential for this joke! Okay, I bet you really want to hear it right now! So, without further ado…here it is:

Stevie Wonder is playing his 1st gig in China and the place is packed to the rafters. In a bid to break the ice, he asks if anyone has a request.

One chap jumps out of his seat in the 1st row and shouts at the top of his voice: “Play a jazz chord! Play a jazz chord!”

Amazed that this guy knows about the jazz influences in Stevie’s career, the blind impresario starts to play an E Minor scale and then goes into a difficult jazz melody for about 10 minutes. When he finishes, the whole place goes wild.

The chap jumps out of his seat again and shouts: “No, no, play a jazz chord, play a jazz chord…!”

A bit cheesed off by this, Stevie, being the professional he is, dives straight into a jazz improvisation around the B Flat Minor chord and really tears the place apart. The crowd goes ballistic with this impromptu show of his musical expertise. But still the little Chinese man jumps up again and shouts: No, no! Play a jazz chord, play a jazz chord!”

Stevie is really peeved off now that this chap doesn’t seem to appreciate his playing ability and shouts to him from the stage: “OK smart a**, you get up here and do it!”

The little bloke climbs onto the stage, takes hold of the mike, and starts to sing:

“A jazz chord…to say…I ruv you…”

[Loud laughter, courtesy everyone around!]

And a funny koala bear joke as well…but that one can wait.

Anyway, so the evening passed rather unexpectedly well (considering I’d started off being a little apprehensive about D & S getting along). In the end, D even dropped me all the way home! And S came along for the ride. Nice of them, eh? 🙂