Chicken Lollipops

My friend told me a story around a year and a half ago. I knew right then that it would make a good blog post. I never tried writing it until now but luckily I think I still remember most of it in vivid detail. We were two engineering graduates sitting in a cheap bar in Lokhandwala talking about what our lives had become after working for six to eight months. It was past 11pm on either a Wednesday or Thursday night but we had jobs that began in the afternoon and went on till 9-10pm. Spending the whole of five days a week only in an office and at home is hard, especially when you’re used college life where you have everything after 6pm to yourself even if you attend as much as you’re supposed to. This, of course, excludes the two to three months a year when we would finish all the work we had to do for the entire year and study for exams. It was around this time that I came to the conclusion that I should do something fun (fun being a minimum of meeting friends for drinks) every Tuesday or Wednesday night in order to survive corporate life without slipping into depression.

While we were sipping Old Monk and Thums Up, he told me his story which went like this (I may have forgotten some of the details and made up random ones but oh, well, there’s only one person in the world who’ll know.):-

Dude! I have to tell you what happened at work today. First, let me tell you about my team. Okay, so we’re all major foodies. We love food. If you look at them, you won’t find that hard to believe. There’s a trend that’s been observed amongst us, which is that we gain ten kgs in every two years that we work here. And it’s true, I’m getting there myself. So since we all love food so much and since it’s one of the things we all have in common to talk about, it makes up a very large part of our everyday conversation. Everyday before we head to the canteen for dinner, one of us will go scout the food counter and come back to report to the rest of us about the day’s food. If it’s good then we’ll all get excited about it.

Another thing about the canteen food is the chicken lollipops. My canteen always has chicken lolipops. These lollipops are legendary and we only have them on special days when we really feel like we need or deserve them. It’s almost a daily ritual where one of us will go and check out the lollipop tray before dinner and comment how good they look. He’ll say “Aaj khana hai kya?” (Should we eat them today) and another one of us will usually reply saying “Nahi, aaj nahi. Kal khaate hain.” (No, not today. Let’s eat them tomorrow.) As I said, we eat them only on days where we feel we really need or deserve them. If we have them too often then they’ll lose their charm and then it won’t feel as good on the days that we eat them.

There’s more to these lollipops. It’s believed throughout my office that if you eat too many, your stomach is going to be fucked the next day. This belief is so strong that it’s actually an acceptable excuse for missing work to say that you ate too many lollipops the previous day. They’ll just call and say “Sorry yaar. I’m not feeling well. Kal bahut lollipops khaye the.” (I ate too many lollipops yesterday.) I’ve used this excuse twice myself. So today, we go about this same ritual before dinner. My friend goes up to the lollipop tray and I follow him. He says, “Lollipops bahut achhe dikh rahe hain. Aaj khaana hai kya?” I look over his shoulder and agree that the lollipops look delicious. I’m just about to tell him that we should save them for a better day when we see one big cockroach followed by two little cockroaches walk across the tray. That was it. We both made disgusted faces, said “Oh, shit!” and walked away to get our food. That one moment when those cockroaches walked across the tray destroyed the grand illusion that we had built around those lollipops over the months. We can never contemplate getting chicken lollipops with our dinner again.

How I didn’t do any work at work today

I love the internet. I spent an entire day at work today not doing work. (To be completely honest, I haven’t done any significant work since last Tuesday). I write this blog post now, from office. I’ve been sitting at my desk all day (except when I went down to eat, when I went down to play carrom and when I went out to stare at the evening sky, which cumulatively wasn’t more than 2 hours) but I feel like I’ve been all over the place. My mind hasn’t been in this office at all. And the best part of it all is that at the end of it I feel like I’ve put my time to better use that I do at the end of an average working day.

So here’s what I learnt today:-

  • There was an auto rikshaw and taxi strike today. I actually knew about this yesterday because I heard my rikshaw-wallah talking to another rikshaw-wallah about it but I found out today that a lot of people had to change multiple crowded buses and walk for up to half an hour to get to work. This did not affect me at all because I was in Thane all day and there’s no strike here, but I know about it, thanks to the internet, social networking and micro-blogging.
  • IOS4, which is Apple’s new OS for its mobile devices (laptops not included) is out and will work on my 64GB iPod touch. This means I can do cool things like multitasking on it now.
  • Now this one’s interesting. This guy found a girl sitting in front of him on a flight cute and though he made eye contact with her, he couldn’t talk to her because he was with his parents. With some inspiration from his friends, he thought it would be a fun social experiment to try to track her down using twitter after he was off the flight (and it was!). What started on Sunday with people trying to look for this girl based on a description of the clothes she was wearing and her seat number on the flight (which we later found out doesn’t exist) carried on through Monday with a large number of people trying to find this girl and arguing about whether this activity is an invasion of her privacy, and ended today with two newspaper articles ( This one on page 6 of today’s Midday and this one in Headlines India ). This experiment eventually ended because of the amount of attention it was getting and this girl was not found (yet). Following this story kept me entertained for around 2 hours.
  • I found this rather interesting article about ‘The 10 most important things they didn’t teach you in school’. Try to not get distracted by the number of ads on that page. It’s actually a very well written article.
  • I found this interesting blog , which now puts the number of blogs I follow to 18.

Now that I’ve put down most of what I’ve done on the internet today it really doesn’t seem like much. That doesn’t matter much though, because this still feels more productive than an average work day. I could sit and think of more interesting things I found on the internet and list them down, but I should be leaving now because it’s almost 9 and I don’t want to sit in office for any longer than I absolutely have to. So now, I’m gonna find dinner somewhere and then try to finish reading my book (of which I have almost 200 pages left) which I may or may not tell you about depending on how I feel when I finish reading it. I’m going to miss all this idle time in office when I actually have work to do again.

Things to do when I quit my job

1 – Find something to do that’s actually worth my time. (spend at least 2 months before really starting to do it)
2 – Learn to play the piano.
3 – Play the piano. (this is not the same as #2)
4 – Travel around the country, spend a month in the north/northeast. Also visit friends living in other cities nearby.
5 – Write. A couple of short stories, a novella maybe. (can very easily happen while traveling)
6 – Play a sport, regularly.
7 – Watch at least 20 movies. (at home, in the afternoon. I can’t express how much I miss watching movies in the afternoon)
8 – Read at least 10 books. (and stay up at night to finish them)
9 – Watch at least 20 sunsets and 10 sunrises. (I don’t think I’ve done even half of this in 1 year of working)
10 – Find friends who are equally jobless. (This should be way higher on this list than #10)
11 – Send a mail to people still working at my company telling them how they are wasting their lives. (Just for my own amusement)
12 – Go on a road trip. (in addition to the traveling plan)
13 – Buy a bunch of plain coloured T-shirts and paint stuff on them. (if I don’t end up doing this by then [which I hope I do])
14 – Contribute to open source software in some way.
15 – Wear shorts and 3/4ths as much as possible. (not just because they are incredibly comfortable in Bombay* weather, but also because I can)
16 – Smash my employee ID card to bits.
17 – Spend some quality time with my dog.
18 – Add 18 more points to this list.

*I will always call this city Bombay and I suggest you do the same.

Work life

I don’t normally do things I don’t want to. In fact, I try as hard as possible to not do things I don’t want to. I never really studied for exams after the point where I thought I would pass them, I never attended class if I didn’t feel like, I didn’t wear full pants when I didn’t feel like, I woke up when I felt like, and I slept when I wanted to for most of my life. All these people who tell you that you have to work hard to get what you want, and that if you torture yourself now you’ll have it easy in the end, I think they’ve all lost their minds. And I’m more sure about this now than I ever was. I’ve seen 30 year olds with bellies the size of pregnant women who sit at their desks for over 9 hours a day and live what you would all call the ideal life and I know that they haven’t known the pleasure that I would get when I made a song or wrote a short story or probably even a damn blog post for even a day in their lives.

I’m happy being happy. I believe in indulgence. And this is mostly why I know I can’t work a 9 hour a day job. No matter how good the work is, no matter what the benefits are. I can’t work in that environment, I think it’s absolutely inhibitory to any kind of productivity. Why would anyone be driven to work at a place where they care more about how much time you spend doing what you do rather than what you do? I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.  And I, being the person I know myself to be, would not go to work tomorrow. I know that even if I do go to work tomorrow, I won’t accomplish much there. There, where the clocks on the wall watch you work, with the air-conditioning and the artificial lighting and the artificial personalities and stale humour and well, I could go on.

I haven’t seen the sunset in weeks! I would understand why you wouldn’t think this is a big deal, but honestly, try it. Sunsets just have a way of making my mind work. I heard that in early Mayan civilisations they would have a particular time of day when everyone would stop whatever they were doing and watch the sun set. I don’t know how reliable this information is, but it makes sense. We tend to overlook these things living our busy lives in these big cities. I live about a kilometer from the sea and yet I hardly ever go to the beach anymore. Here, I actually found a research that links decreased exposure to sunlight with cognitive impairment among depressed individuals.

But here’s the thing, I probably will go to work tomorrow and I probably will sit there in office all day and do nothing productive. Just accept money for some time of my life. Who was the idiot who said “time is money?” He ought to be locked in solitary confinement and be paid in millions for it. And yes, I can think of buying myself a new guitar or an iTouch or a Wii, or even a fucking PS3 with a hi-def TV. If I wait a bit longer I’ll have enough to buy a car, not that I want a car, I’m just saying. I can go to Blue Frog and not be that bothered by how much they charge for entry or for alcohol inside. But I think I’m lucky enough to know that I don’t want any of that as much as I want the freedom to be able to do what I want and when I want. I wouldn’t mind having a 2GB mp3 player and traveling by buses and trains and living as stingily as I did in college.

I had decided that I would stay here until I figured stuff out and until I had enough money to do whatever else I might want to do after this. But I’ve had enough money for a while now, and I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life but I’m pretty sure that there’s no one thing I could do for the rest of my life. I know what I don’t want to do for the rest of my life and that, I’m sure that I’m sure about by now. (No, I didn’t type that twice by mistake, notice the comma.) So why haven’t I left yet? Well, because when I told them I wanted to leave my generous employers said that I would get to work with them in New York for two to three months in a complicated arrangement that means I have to stay with them till somewhere around November this year. And though this is a very sweet deal there’s a part of me that’s hoping that this won’t work out, hoping that all managers are indeed the rotten bastards I would like to believe they are and that they pull out of this deal at the last minute just so that I can show them the finger and go on and live the rest of my life being me.

But despite all this, I will go to work tomorrow. Do something that I wouldn’t normally do. Do something that’s not me, and watch time pass by as I grow a little more estranged from myself. I will show them the finger someday, before the end of this year, and that I’m sure of. And if you can relate to any of what I said then I suggest that one day you sit alone and watch the sun set and think about it. Because I think that watching the sunset is more important than any of this.