The Trigger

Alright, can we have a show of hands please? How many of us think happiness is transient?  Or should we roger Abraham Lincoln’s words, like many others’, that ‘most folks are happy as they make their minds to be’? Let’s  ask Ribbin Joseph.

Ribbin, the accountant, is a very unassuming chap.  He cracked an interview with Intellect, a respectable technology firm in Bengaluru around six months ago, and accepted the job offer in a trice.  Not that Ribbin was any the less gainful in employment, but it was the need for change that raised its alluring head, which incidentally is biennial on an average.  His folks cheered him and wished him the very best. They said they should celebrate his getting the new job in style and took Ribbin to a fancy restaurant. He wasn’t sure if this really called for a celebration. His friends demanded a treat, to which he responded by laughing it off and asking them to raise their standards. What’s great about changing a job, he would argue. I got a higher role, yeah, so what? I haven’t won a Nobel, have I? he would continue saying.

One has to give it to Ribbin’s sense of humour, though a bit on the drier side. When a colleague of his asked him to lend to her the Michael Crichton novel he was raving about, he replied pithily that it was booked! Pity that the lady didn’t get it, but he was mighty pleased with himself. If you had been around and spied on him at that time, you would have caught him chuckling to himself. With half a self-congratulatory nod, he went back to his desk and started clearing those invoices with a little extra vigour.

Soon, life at Intellect for Ribbin hit the treadmill, and weekdays started appearing indistinguishable from one another. Gym, breakfast, commute, traffic, login, cigarette, bills, meeting, blah, lunch, cigarette, bills, blah, logout, traffic, home, TV, dinner, reading, sleep. In this cycle of daily activities, not much could possibly change. And then the weekends were a heady mix of sleep, TV, reading and eating out.  In due course, Ribbin had subscribed to the apparent monotony of work, which showed in a couple of instances. He walked in late on a windy Monday, oblivious to the storm that was brewing in the boss’s cabin. He was summoned in no time, and it suffices to say the meeting had done its job of hitting Ribbin’s self-confidence. He smoked an extra cigarette, contemplated on resigning first and then looking for a job, as he  felt he didn’t belong here. What a gloomy day it was!

Sometime in the late afternoon the same day, as he was walking across the aisle, Ribbin averted a head-on collision with a lady he had been throwing admiring glances at. Now Shubha the lady had not met his eye once in these six months, leading our man to believe that he probably couldn’t carry himself off well. Cut to the present. Shubha stopped in her tracks, caught his eye and grinned at him before moving on.  Ribbin was quick to quick in flashing back that benign smile at her and stood aside to let her pass. He could barely hold his excitement. She too had perhaps been secretly admiring. Probably she hadn’t mustered the courage to come up and speak with him. Never mind, as long as he knew that people had approving thoughts about him. Wasn’t the world beautiful? But of course bosses will have a go at you. It’s part of their profile. And who doesn’t make mistakes? With these thoughts, Ribbin spent the rest of the afternoon, and closed his day a half hour early, feeling he deserved that time off for himself. Such a lovely evening that it was!

In less than a week from the date of that sweet accident, Shubha left the organization. Ribbin decided that one shouldn’t have been so easily excitable and made a solemn vow to himself. In fact, he hadn’t made any great friends over the time and guessed that it might remain this way for him. Lonely, undervalued, and strictly business like. That his bosses and some of the old hands at the company had a coterie of sorts didn’t help matters either. Ribbin’s manager, Piyush, was a gentleman of varied interests and was known to lead a very ‘happening’ life outside work. But for some inexplicable reason, Piyush seemed to restrict all conversation with Ribbin to business. So, when he walked up to Ribbin’s  desk and chatted to him about books, Crichton included, our man was pleasantly surprised. Ribbin grabbed the opportunity to talk about movies, travel, sports, music, all in the window of 5 minutes. The boss seemed to be in a chatty mood that day, and responded well to observations on the aforesaid topics. Boy, wasn’t that wonderful? Ribbin’s reasoning as he drove back home was that Piyush wasn’t such a tart after all.  One only needed to make time for small talk, and bob’s your uncle!

What does one say about Ribbin Joseph? He appears to be of the kind who don’t have much to complain about in life, but aren’t the most enthusiastic either. Not of the kind who will likely have ‘happiness’ added to the ‘things to do’ list for the day, but more like the ones who need a trigger for happiness. Yes, a trigger.

Should happiness really need a trigger? Ribbn says he doesn’t know if that is how you term it, but just that those fleeting moments of joy give him an instant high, and is sure that there are plenty more to come by.

Advertisements

City its people maketh

Where in India do you think you would do well and feel good about it?

One of this year’s urban thrillers, Powerplay by Parinda Joshi has its key protagonist, a high flying investment banker mulling over his ill luck in getting a companion for himself, having been on the lookout in all the cities he’s travelled to. However he deals with cognitive dissonance by attributing his failure to a variety of reasons.  His usual grouse against women from Bengaluru is that they are pretentious. Now, one would want to say it’s just a figment of our man’s imagination. I’d say, wish to.

Pop quiz. Quickly list out the three most famous epithets earned by Bengaluru.  Garden city, pub-city, hi-tech city? The latter two seem to be quite an inviting proposition for the uninitiated.  But then, who really is? The city has indeed witnessed a gold rush of sorts, with IT and BPO jobs opening up by the day. And so you have millions of ‘tech’ jobs, with millions of takers and a few more millions at the brink of landing that job. Bengaluru is no California, though the techies would have us believe that the comparison can’t be more appropriate. More on this in a bit. Revisiting the epithets, what’s the idea that you conjure up? A city with countless watering holes, which lets you party hard (but not so hard either), without a care in the world? And going by similar logic, a city that offers a varied choice of dope and women? The October arrest of the gang of six that included internationals , indicates a steady market for stuff. While flesh trade is not institutionalized unlike some other metros, that women are baited and more shockingly, harassed and assaulted is for everyone to feel. Yes, this is the Bengaluru that much of humanity is making a beeline for.

The reaction of the average Bangalore woman to accusations of pretentiousness would surely be militant and defensive.  ‘What the f*c* does he know about Bangalore?’ ‘We make the silicon valley of the east’ ‘We are the most cosmopolitan’  ‘Dude, get a life’ and so on. Mind you, the aforesaid reactions would most likely be in English and not in the vernacular. She’s a fraud analyst for a Canadian outfit, and has seen all of the country but on a map. She’s a mind counsellor who’s at wits end for having to contend with three other counsellors down the same lane she lives in. She’s a fashion designer and crafts clothing for the slim and sickly while praying for some magic cure to her obesity.  She’s a wedding planner, and insists that sangeet and mehndi are the way forward, even for the most conservative South Indian families.  Single and confident, she struts out of her flat that would be happier with some natural light, flags a rickshaw and lands up at the nearest mall. Levi’s jeans, tops from Marks and Spencers, Sketchers sneakers, you get the idea. She talks English, a very beautiful Indian one customized for the woman on the move. ‘He’s so cool and you know he’s a bike freak?’ ‘There’s this guy who comes up and says “you seem to be lost, can i drop you somewhere?” He’s sooo faake you know!’ Quiz them  on news and books, and pat comes ‘ooo, you’re the stud types haan?’

The men are those of substance. Yes, they do consume a lot of it. For the less adventurous, pub hopping with double bellies of suppressed barley water as in a cannon,  wading their fancy motorcycles through the sea of traffic, taking off on ‘long rides’ to Nandi hills, and screaming all over the social network may be the extent of living up the urban life. I used to think of it as a factor of age, but there appears to be this sense of vanity and supposedly urban character across generations.

Image

One may wonder if all this is indeed peculiar to Bengaluru or a matter of urban Indian preferences today. Yes and no. As the city has progressed from the sleepy old town of yore to a bustling metropolis, there definitely has remained a residue of the classic past. Bangalore has been trying  valiantly to stand its own against the bigger metros like Delhi, Bombay and Chennai with its distinct scientific temperament, and a culture of moderation. Other than the Indian Institute of Science, you have the National Centre for Biological Sciences, the University of Agricultural Sciences and the very popular IIM and IIIT-B. With a truly cosmopolitan DNA, the city is a perennial favourite for international pop and rock acts, and has a vibrant literary circuit. So much of coolth associated with Bengaluru is a derivative of just these things, complemented by a pleasant weather. But a diehard Bangalorean would see that, this is in many ways the very undoing of a beautiful city. IT and ITeS opened the floodgates of employment to scores of hopefuls from across the country. For many of the millions who have now made the city their home, this breeziness attracted them from far. Once in, they mostly found it difficult to blend in with the suave and global outlook and started a subconscious movement of asserting their cultural identity. Here’s how you can see that the average Bangalorean of today wants to be associated with the western urban identity of the city but refuses to acknowledge the real ethos which Bengaluru stood for. And here’s how you  have people who appear more knowledgeable than they are, people who have heard about more music than they have heard to, and who speak English neither for love of the language nor life, but as an adhesive that holds their facilities from coming apart.

As the city has thus metamorphosed, there is little now that sets the city apart from its counterparts across the country. Trade and employment takes people to the farthest reaches of the world. Urban life is now pretty much indistinguishable from city to another. What was said of Bangalore may well be the case with Bombay or Delhi or Pune. It’s an India thing then. This is a veritable indicator of lifestyle priorities of the generation Y. As lifestyle takes precedence over living, there will be a lot more clamour to land a job that pays, be it brain-dead or morally compromising. Shallowness will prevail in the guise of depth, love will continue to go on sale, and many such seemingly unwelcome developments will take centre stage. Funnily enough, my neighbour will probably be ruing the state of the nation, as would his neighbour be too. But then, it is self above nation today. One can only spare time for a thought.