I like pants which have big pockets, because otherwise my pants would look like a girl's and thanks to them my hands have a storage space when they're not doing anything or it's too cold outside unlike the girls' pockets, which are too small or too tight and are generally impractical which doesn't really matter because they generally have a workaround to store the things they want, they're called men. I on the other hand have to stuff my own wallet in my own pocket and that makes sitting not a very graceful act.
So i put my wallet in the office draw and lock it up every morning so that it doesn't find its way into anyone else's hands. I tried to do the same this morning and the wallet was already in it. I felt proud that i didn't bother about looking for it for an entire day and a bit frightened thinking if it were the christmas vacations, i would have had to eat coffee and flour for all three meals for a week!
Time and again history has showed how while trying to pursue esoteric ideals and goals have led behind them a wake of false impressions, inspirations and perhaps ultimately disappointment. Since history is always written by the winners, it is quite difficult to shake it off and see things for what they probably really were until someone at least suggests there could be another side. This is because the beneficiaries of the actions of the person in question "play up" the person and his actions without a hint of reconsideration if everything is done the way it is supposed to. Once it falls, they want the person in jail and want their money back.
Sir Winston Churchill was undoubtedly one of the greatest figures of the last century. It was under his single-minded focus and determination that the second world war came to and the mass civilian extermination was finally stopped. However, he suffered from depression and to some degree alcoholism. The only reason he was given a single handed control over the troops of the british empire was because he brought results to the beneficiaries who gave him that power.
John Nash's case was somewhat in the same lines, a brilliant man whose mental condition wasn't of much importance, until he went cuckoo beyond repair, because he was of use to someone.
It's like when i said I will go to Melukote with a broken clutch wire and once i come back i will just replace the clutch if it burns out half way, because it was of use to me at the time; an expendable clutch was beneficial to the purpose of successfully completing the trip. If my dad asked me to go to a shop on a broken clutch wire, i'd argue it'd damage the clutch. Well, it's not the best comparison, but you'll get it if you read it a few times.
Why i am mentioning all these is because, lately there has been another sort of milking of the human talent for beneficial reasons. Sports. Which was originally intended to be the celebration of the best a human being can be at physical activity (or mental, if chess) and hence being rewarded for the commitment and performance through rigorous training; it has now become a struggle to keep rewards coming their way by any and all means. The tables have turned. It has become a struggle to win by being better than the others, not because you are, but because you have a team with you that can make you be so.
The reason i am disappointed is because, i was a great admirer of cycling, I followed the tour de France for some years along with a friend of mine and see in amazement how cyclists were almost superhuman in their feats of covering distances along mountains flats, timed stages in rain, sun and wind. We always went with more vigour to our weekly cycling tours on sunday mornings to Chamundi hills during the weeks of the race and a few weeks before and after as the fever slowly crept in and faded out. We always calculated how your maximum heart rates is 250 minus your age and wondered whatever made Lance Armstrong's beat at 220 effortlessly for almost the whole race while i being 20 or 21 at that time couldn't get past 170 even if i saw a ghost. I always knew that people doped at that time, but i always thought it was done by people who are trying and that only men with a pristine conscience and the utmost respect of the sport could win and have the face to accept a medal for it. In retrospect, it was one of the most foolish beliefs i had held. Having said that, i do give it credit for helping me take up cycling seriously as a means of staying fit. I thank Mr. Armstrong for that. But, i feel, as a human being (and not a sporting machine), if you are faced with a choice to go to a high altitude and training in a thin atmosphere which forces the body to produce more red-blood cells, tapping the blood into a bottle and injecting it into yourself during competition OR doing all that but donating the blood to hospitals for people in need. I say that because the true sportsman, having reaped the long term benefits of high-altitude training in terms of lung function and endurance, should consider what he can do more than just winning in a race which is now being termed as the "moving pharmacy".
I do know that he has done a lot of things for his cancer foundation and i really understand the impact of that and appreciate it. But there are two things which can summarise this what i am trying to say here.
1. He was played up since it was beneficial to a lot of companies to have their names on his shorts when he crossed the line first. If you and i did drugs, we'd be fired, lose our families and be put in rehab. Now that he confessed, he has been stripped of his medals and the companies want their money back.
2. That doping and in extension drinking is a perceptive term.
It depends on how people, or you and i perceive it. If a tramp is seen drunk out of his senses, he is said to have an addiction. The booze baron of India and some celebrities across the world are seen drunk all the time and indeed in the most general sense, no big event involving rich people ever happens with only orange juice and mineral water and such events happen all the time but nobody every say they might have an addiction problem. They're seen as "high society""having a good time" and even admired for the comprehensiveness of the bars they host in their very home and as a consequence of that, our judgement of alcohol or drug abuse depends on who's holding the glass or the syringe. That makes our judgement fundamentally skewed.
Will any winner of a sporting event be seen without suspicion ever again?
In my general opinion, if someone takes the trouble of doing something at all, then it has to be done well, worth the effort and of some use to humanity. It seems to be so difficult to achieve that, that if someone does make the effort of analysing a problem a bit longer than what the corporate gurus and men wearing well-pressed suits deem necessary, then that person is labelled to have a case OCD while in reality, those who seemingly do their job well and yet not display OCD do, in an annoying number of cases, what my grandfather would have called, in his times, a half-arsed job.
Granted, there were less mouths to feed and less clothes to iron back then. There weren't many people back then and those who were, didn't have money to afford clothes or other such luxuries, in fact, they were passed on from father to son like inherited property. Some others wore a factory uniform, went to work and demonstrated in front of the factory gates burning effigies of popular political leaders of the time. So, on the outlook, the time between the war, establishment of republic India and the advent of colour television in India has seen troubled times, even then, everything made in that era seems to last forever. Most people from the seventies, seem to hold on to their things saying they're better than what you can buy today. For example, my grandfather was alive till i was 12 and i have never seen him buy shirts and never saw him or his shirts change in those years. When i look at the photos of him from my childhood, he looked the same in the same shirt in photo just after my birth and ten years hence. We threw out most things only in the 90's, kerosene stoves, pots, boiler, charcoal iron boxes and the whole deal. I still have a watch, which was someone's wedding gift from 1932 and all you have to do it wind it. A film camera gifted to my parents still works today and it has never needed any batteries. Clockwork, was the answer back then, everything, including bombs of the time, had clockwork mechanisms. These made them supremely mechanical, robust, effective and immortal.
It is not to advocate the use of clockwork mechanisms in modern times (the automotive gearbox can be thought of as a clockwork mechanism with the engine perpetually winding it with the energy stored in the flywheel for the return and so on, that's for another time.). But, it is only to draw attention to the fact that when people took an effort to do something back then, it was well thought, well executed and usually was an engineering marvel, if not, at least an embodiment of the attempt to attain near perfection unlike today where most things break down right after their warranty expires or worse, just out of the box. At this point if you're wondering if this is in the iron box series, yes it is. I went through three iron boxes in the last year, one in India and two here. Now i have a fourth one and surprisingly it is not made in any republic of the people although it comes roughly from the same direction of here, east; much closer, in the same continent, Europe. But it did mean that i had to buy it from ze Germans, they are probably the last few people, a country full of grumpy old men who want their money's worth regardless of what they buy. It does mean that it costs much more than the other irons, so now, rather than paying for it for being a brilliant piece of manufacturing, i, rather we all buy from an expensive brand in the hope that it keeps them from breaking down, unless we really can't afford it. That being said, i am happy with the iron from Braun and i can report it isn't broken after the first use and while working, it works indeed well. It's a thing of beauty.
Coming back to the bigger point. I would like if one among you, whoever knows about this, could tell me why is it that in the present composite age, with all technological breakthroughs, automated production lines and a lot of the big companies boasting six sigma and CMMI level 5 badges make things which aren't better than what was done in what can roughly be called a Victorian Workhouse in the 70's with manual assembly lines, in a time when certain quality certifications probably didn't even exist to have been awarded. In short, i went through three iron boxes in the last year, if that company has a six sigma certification then does it mean that three defective pieces out of eighteen million statistically good ones came only to me? how improbably unlucky must i have been?
After an explanation, i will really consider not writing about iron boxes and the problems associated with them.
As easy as it might sound to strike up an argument against the creationist lobby, sometimes it does feel like somebody put you in the wrong end at the grand scheme of things and further, just for amusement, did all that in one day so you can notice.
Now, whoever brought about the concept of ironing to the civilisation should have been alive today. That way, I could find him and thank him for the generous donation of this social concept, shortly after which, i will skin him alive and wear his fur like i was in 10000 B.C. for the rest of my life. It simply is the most annoying, back-breaking, mind-numbing, power-wasting, repetitive, mundane and useless activity which has been brought upon mankind by a bunch of misinformed idiots hundreds of years ago. Even skin has wrinkles after you cross 18 before which your face would've looked like the surface of the moon, so, not sure where and how that idea caught on. Many brilliant ideas flashed in people's heads while on the toilet, in the bath, under an apple tree, in dreams while sleeping, while high on drugs, while filing papers in a patent office in Switzerland, but not a single useful thing came to a person's head while ironing his clothes.
This world, should be devoid of ironing, it is something which should have ended on December the 21st and somebody managed to slip that through their fingers. Contrary to belief, dress code should not be abolished, it should be imposed and imposed strictly at work. Before that, there should be someone who does the noble job of inventing completely iron-free clothes. For a race that has invented completely waterproof clothes, bubble wrap, the space shuttle and concord, it shouldn't be all that difficult to get their heads around this problem. There should be one pair of work clothes and it should hang in a locker at work, you go there in your pyjamas, change into it, work, change back to your pyjamas and get home. End of story. I know it's possible, i visited a nuclear reactor once and there are about 300 lockers full of such clothes, with names on them, which are only used once every 4 years when the reactors are serviced. Added to that, there are clothes for guests, visitors, regular employees, emergency people, the list goes on. But, in the rare combination that you're 21 and male, the tour guide is female and the decontaminated jumpsuit isn't completely opaque would make you miss big parts of the tour a case some kids in my tour group were fortunate to experience couple of years ago. No matter, the fact remains that ironing is a social evil, unnecessary peer pressure and the biggest waste of a person's time (unless you don't earn your livelihood by ironing).
I loathe about ironing today especially because my iron box packed up, quite spectacularly with sparks in the steam tank filled with water. If it was back at my home, i would've opened it, dried it out and used it again. I don't do that for two reasons, firstly, back home i have enough tools to do all possible things except open-heart surgery and here there isn't much i can do with a chair and a Swiss-army knife. Two, back at home, the houses are built with bricks and reinforced cement concrete neither of which can be burnt to a crisp where as here, i have no clue what goes on here, and five days ago, my former institute was indeed burnt to a crisp for no apparent reason (a transformer decided to ignite itself and combust spontaneously on Christmas day and torched the whole place) so I'm not brave enough to try anything and possibly risk being chained to Germany for decades repaying the costs of a burnt house. But, i do need to vent out my anger and disgust, firstly at the imbecile who brought about the notion of ironed clothes and secondly to cheap irons boxes made in.... God knows where, which pack up prematurely. Social norm now dictates, that i get a new one.
It's like some divine force knows it's the end of the month and it's time to break some things down to even out the economy because, as I was enraged and put on my glasses to write this post, i was so much in anger that i didn't know how to start. So I scratched my head and voila! the right-eye lens from my spectacles fell out so I had to fix that in anger first. I hope this week is going to be cold, because I'm wearing a sweater till my new iron arrives. I've had it with ironing.
In two days, I would've survived one month of my job, which means I haven't been fired or broken down in meetings and quit, it also means the house hasn't frozen me to death through the winter and the 14 day return right for most of the things I bought are now gone and I have to live with them for the rest of my life. In the last few week I have recollected my experiences of being here and have now realised something has slipped my mind.
There is an unsettling number of things made from wood here, like Greenpeace's nightmare. If you look closely and weren't asleep at school, you can pick and follow one tree ring throughout the length of most of the furniture, which means the carpenter was pedantic enough to shave each piece of wood down to one tree ring throughout it's length before slotting and fitting it to other pieces. Looks good, feels rich, great. Just before my first work day, I was quite excited and ironed all my shirts in preparation for the next week on the big table top of the shelf which was quite ergonomic and avoided unfolding the ironing board (not a big fan of flimsy collapsible metal things). After enjoying myself in the humidity of the steam iron and the knowledge that my blankets are oven-hot and pressed, which would make my night an enjoyable one, I pulled them off the table and threw them on the bed to discover to my shock that the big shelf, shaved, built and finished by my owner's father had a more than just conspicuous white patch on it which wouldn't come off with simple abrasion, worse, I'd then risk scratching the furniture permanently. I looked at it for fifteen minutes not knowing what to do while my mind went a circle round the things I could do. quit job and change cities overnight, cover it with mess and act like the wood did that to itself by the I cleared it, own up and pay to have it repaired, standard responses.
Then I went on the intertube, thinking that I might not be the most intelligent person on the planet, rightfully as some people claim, but I am also not the first stupid person to walk on two feet and as a consequence of the latter I should not be the only one to have done such a blunder. After some research it occurred to me that the blunder was this, it was the equivalent of putting a rug on a polished oak floor and then stepping on it carelessly. I had put my rug on the furniture and ironed on it. Having slept through the furniture, paint and lacquer class in my childhood, I hadn't instantly realised what that had done to the wood, the heat from the iron had discoloured the varnish finishing and turned it cloudy. I was lucky not to have someone breathing down my neck like those husbands who'd put the remedy up on the Internet to help other people whose wives had ironed on their furniture, or me. The remedy was to use the same iron and use the steam to take off the damaged layers of varnish to give the wood back its finish. Can clearly see why this gave me a second round of sweating. As if not enough of being stupid once, I had to do it another time in the hope that this will reverse the effect. To my amazement, it actually did and to my disgust, they told me at work the next day that I can wear any old tee shirt, which made the tedious ironing on all my dress shirts a requirement only for special occasions. That's learning carpentry, the hard way.
As it happens every evening, I come out of work with a lot of ideas to write about. Nothing groundbreaking but just recording my thoughts if I may call that. As enthusiastic as I come out, it is immediately quenched; the cold winter wind or the occasional sleet winning over the ever present tiredness, the mild confusion caused by the green-tea high mind in a caffeine dehydrated body intensified by the awareness that I have timed the walk to the bus so closely that if I stop to tie my shoes, I might miss it. If and when I manage to get into the bus and defrost my hands frozen as a consequence of not bothering to wear gloves in my hurry to the bus, i do manage to type what's on my mind. Not very unlike what I'm doing now.
Some people hypothecate that the world will end tomorrow quoting the age old long-count calendar of the mayans. A friend aptly put it as "it's the mayans' Y2K". Which in my opinion is the best way to look at it. There are two ways to look at the matter at hand, the good way and the bad way, there are goods and bads for everyone involved. Let's say the world ends tomorrow, then it is good for the mayans, imagine them looking down upon us from the heavens only for six billion people to go "ha ha!", wouldn't make a good entry on their CV. They'll be spared from that embarrassment. If it does go the other way and this all turns out to be a misinterpretation of their calendar or just that they didn't bother to make a further one for the next 5000 years from tomorrow, then the world survives, and that's good for us. In my opinion, the mayans aren't quite clever as they're given credit for, if you were hired at a mayan university to design an algorithm for a long count calendar and then build it, in all the godforsaken meetings and discussions with the scientists of that time, wouldn't the question "what happens when it runs out?" pop up? It probably did in other civilisations, our own for example, we didn't bother hiring people to design stuff with an expiry date, we got rid of it all together by making time cyclical, it's the perfect calendar to keep time. Why bother with bank accounts at that time if they sold gold on the streets. If someone asks "why does it go round and round?", the answer "imagine building a new clock every 12 hours to count the next 12 hours, well, i did this instead of that and you're welcome, i'm going home early today". It's as simple as that. So now, the western civilisation proudly proclaimed, as we are rightfully taught at school, that the wheel is the most important invention/discovery in the entire history of civilisation because it avoided hiring a hundred slaves to pull your chariot and another hundred to build new ones because they keep rubbing the old one into the ground every two days. So, they proclaimed the wheel, something cyclical, to be the best invention, then went on to prove that time is linear claiming the laws of physics and then dismissed the concept of cyclical time as…. well, nonsense, found a linear calendar and are now scared that it ends!
What it means for the common man, is this; there is a lot of hype given on the radio stations by enthusiastic and yet seemingly sad RJs, sad that the world is ending, asking people how they are going to spend it and urging them in ernst to party. What that means is that some young men, the sort who wear green pants halfway down their buttocks, yellow shoes with the laces always undone and a cap backwards are going to get really lucky with the sort of girls who wear a differently coloured stocking up each leg and corsets with the laces very tightly done, thinking the world is going to end. while in reality, will lead only to guilt and/or remorse and/or regret when they find themselves alive in the morning or, to children who grow up looking at their parents wear technicolor clothes. With enough of those, the world will end anyway regardless of the calendar.
On the other hand, if it does end, i'd like say see you all on the other side, and a big hug to the missus, who has been for years, the only person with whom i never have to be the least bit technical and an engineer about anything i discuss with her and hence always fun and relaxing to be with, wish to be with you on the other side. Happy winter solstice!
A friend of mine quite long ago made the decision of quitting a software firm and joining the huge army people serving the Indian government. At that moment, given how things were, i was of the opinion that he had just digested a bad lunch which led him to the decision. Five years hence is this year and I find myself in a similar position only for another government. It was indeed a bad meal five years ago which was partly the reason. As hated as governments are as policy makers, they are quite popular, as boring as the prospect sounds, as employers and not just in our vast sub continent. Right about now, one would imagine it to be a tedious job involving pushing files into big file cabinets, meetings with coffee and biscuits and turning up with a polythene bag full of coriander and green chillies won in a bargain during a lunch break. To lay it down straight, it is, but luckily for me, a bit more than that. The prospect was good enough for me to move from the university city of Gottleib Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach to the university city of Karl Benz and Emil Skoda (who wasn't the founder of Skoda Auto but whose company later acquired the Laurin-Klement company from where stems the Laurin-Klement version Skoda Octavia, which was launched as a limited-edition sedan in the years 2004-2005), one of the homes of the 49th north latitude (they're quite serious about this, they even have a monument to mark it.), Karlsruhe, minutes east of the french border and about half an hour south of Hockenheim, where from 2007 the German round of the F1 championship has been held every alternate year. I am no longer associated with the university, at least not at the moment. what i do at my new work is not interesting to anybody and i myself don't haven't got my head to bear down on what has to be done exactly to explain further, not that anyone would want to know. I did however had sort of a strange two weeks.
I arrived at the first of december to my new place, a freeze-frame from the 70's, kind of like the house in the movie goodbye lenin with strange wallpapers, a vinyl player, novelty switches which you flick up to turn on and roof and furniture made of enough wood to send greenpeace into panic mode. Plus points, the house is cold so i don't have to worry if i forget to keep the cheese back in the fridge, which was helpful since the fridge broke the day i moved in, i have front and back yards, a supermarket i can see from the window and mostly retired people for neighbours. The first day at work was a bit strange, I arrived on time with frozen feet from the cold and my attempt to dress up a little formally leaving the winter shoes behind. Many people to greet and remember especially when being introduced personally to two floors of people having to explain to everyone where i studied, what and how well i can speak german. The next couple of days went smooth, got a new fridge and then one fine morning the main door decided it wouldn't close behind me, since it's an old construction, not only does it weigh a ton, it sits in a kind of rifle-bolt kind of journal bearing which goes up an down a helical axis facilitated by a rod sitting in two socket joints, one on the door and the other on the frame, like the human hip, but at both ends. With the lack of hands and tools, had to call the SOS service and cough up money for them to just lift it up and put it back in its place.
From then on, it has been meetings, introductions invitations to office coffee right after saying i am supposed to take only 45 minutes for a pause and spending hours on learning how to write down what i spent my hours doing. I immediately saw an infinite loop coming. At this point, i wouldn't go as far as thinking it might mean anything boring. just that these people don't wear watches, but they have calendars. And i and breaking into my new shoes, or rather they are breaking into the bones of my toes trying to get to work fast enough so that i can get to my desk and slow things down as early in my day as possible. That, brought to the second problem, food. The alarm is at 6 in the morning and breakfast with caffeine is immediate to switch the internal heating on. considering the short range of my stomach and the cold, i am hungry almost as soon as i get to work, so i introduced another routine into my day while everyone is away for the morning coffee, or may be a little later, elevenses. ok, it is actually around eleven. They have their way of working, they aren't used to the constant job hopping and coming and going of employees that bigger companies are used to, so it takes a while before i get a clear idea what they want from me as much as the other way round. this is already the last week and that means while they are more worried about who will water the plants while everybody is on vacation, options of getting studded tires for the snow, for their bicycle and what to cook for the next coffee break, i am left fed and watered reading literature to get myself oriented to the bigger goals of the department; plus disinfect the kitchen, counter, shelves, washing machine, window glasses, buy six different cleaners and be a proper housewife about being at home. The new year then, considering the mexicans let us live, will be the proper start of work or so it seems.
A few times in a person's lifetime does he meet another which makes him thinks why certain people exist in the first place. Today was one such day for me, also a day which made me think whether working for the government does indeed make you lose all logic and reasoning. I had travelled, in the freezing cold, form Stuttgart all the way to Karlsruhe to document myself and satisfy the german bureaucratic monster which lives by filing name and address of people written on some officially looking, but quite useless until you murder someone, piece of paper.
The job at hand was fairly simple, for me and for the government slave. Go there, flash some ID, write name and address on a piece of paper, sign, get out. Simple? I wish. I went in there, usual greetings exchanged and flashed the ID and stated my purpose. Change of address. Here's what happened.
me: "i need to change my address from Stuttgart to Karlsruhe"
slave: "so you come from Stuttgart
Slave: "and you don't live in Turkey anymore?"
me: "i am from india"
Slave: "but you said you lived in Turkey"
me: "Sorry, but see my passport, i am from india"
Slave: "yes, i can see that, but you said Turkey"
After a small silence, the rest of the process went smooth. That early 30's scoliotic fingered, deaf waste of hair and makeup called a civil servant was probably sniffing thinner from her nail polish remover before coming to work today. The problems numbed people have include, among others, missing the big front cover of the passport failing to ignore the bright golden emblem with three lions and the fourth sitting across her table, clearly having not a clue of what accents across the world are like. There is a punishment for such people, firstly, 7 million bedbugs should appear in her sheets one morning and then she should be shot by a marksman in the head for being a racist and then in the genitals for being an idiot by getting the races mixed up.