Thursday, November 25, 2010

November Rain

This has been a year of contradictions. With some happy and some sad moments, it has been nothing short of an adventure. While I am glad the year is finally coming to an end, it will forever live in my memory. They say when it rains, it pours. Well, this year the sky fell upon me on Sep 1 when dad passed away. But the seventh heaven beckoned on 12.11.10 when my child was born. In January, I felt sad shifting from my old rental place because Cubby was born there. Little did I know, in less than a year the new place would enjoy the same privilege.

The ped came out of the OT on that cloudy Friday morning and asked "Who's the father of the baby?"; when I went up, he clasped my hands and said "Congratulations, you have a daughter. Both mom and kid are healthy". This time, we were so sure it would be a boy (determining sex of the foetus is illegal in India, so it remains a surprise) that I was once again at a loss to react. Just like we were so sure it would be a girl the first time round. Happily, Bub (short for Babli, which is what I plan to Blogname her after that spunky movie character) completes that fervent dream for me and my family.

The next 3 days were just a pleasant cycle of going home to pack the food, visiting mom & bub during the day, and cleaning poo between snatches of watching "Rakhi ka Insaaf" on TV. Curiously, stormy winds and lashing rains kept the weather cold and wet. Who'd have thunk we'd worry about clothes drying for a November baby?!!

Wife's folks were such a fabulous support and continue to protect our sleep even today, isolating us from Bub's nightly wailings. No one can pamper us like moms can -- it is such a blessing! The hospital, a smallish affair close to home, was also a great caregiver. Pleasant rooms, pleasant nurses and despite the chaos in the outpatient area the inpatient billing was a breeze. The best part is how chilled the doctor was, making our lives that much simpler.

The highlight of this birth was to see how my first-born would react. We were all eager to know, and that wait got extended because he went to school, then went home, then had a bath and followed his routine before arriving around 2PM.

At first he didn't know what to make of this bundle in the cradle. He had always seen his sibling as this extended tummy of his mummy, and now to be asked to believe that this very real baby is that tummy was a bit much. But he is a sweet kid and within a few minutes, Bubli was in his lap. Of course, we sweetened the deal by making sure he enjoyed hospital visits-- Bourbon biscuits, fruit juices, chips, jumping on the bed and running down the stretcher-ramp. By the last day, he was all excited to decorate the house for Babli's welcome home and even helped carry the bags.

Ever since it is a pleasure to watch him copy us in every way-- whether rushing to fetch the wipes, replacing the nappies, singing her to sleep or just random acts of affection. Considering she gives zero response so far, I am impressed that he keeps at it without losing interest. I am told the sibling rivalry truly kicks in only little later. Somehow I have a feeling it is not going to be that bad for us...! In fact, he seems to have grown up little too fast-- and we need to consciously treat him like the child he is. Suddenly, he is all mature, all caring and very understanding. Believe it or not, he even seems taller than he was!

We are also experimenting with an ammaji imported from our native this time. That has been going great and she is a huge support. Such a professional despite her illiteracy, it is a comforting sight to see her massage and bathe the baby. Sadly, she's here only for 3 months and will get us addicted to the good life by then. Like all modern parents, our #1 worry is finding someone to raise the baby we produced ;-)

As we look back upon the last nine months, we have a lot to be grateful for. The best of all was the love and blessings created in the blogosphere, which truly made the experience fun and protected us from evil eyes and Voldemorts. As per the wife's instructions, one of the first few sms's to go out included the blogging moms. I even asked some of them to pray hard, when they wheeled her in for the (brrrr...) operation (ok, ok, i mean, the C-sec). The fabulous baby shower, the elated announcements, the many many congratulation messages, some very sensible advises on managing siblings, the baby-name polls.... thank you, ladies, for making it all SO special.

Sach, is baarish mein aaj doob jaane ko mann karta hai.

Welcome, princess. Wish you a life full of health, zest for life and a sense of humour...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Mask (1994)

A short poem created in 1995, when the world seemed to be collapsing around a confused teenager. I crossed that bridge to become what I am today. A confused dad. This is dedicated to the force that led me here.... and beyond.

Titled: fooling me into living (Dec 21, 1995)

I exclaimed that I just couldn’t sit to study.
“Don’t”, He said.
I finished off the syllabus within two days.

I am lonely because I don’t have any friends.
It is always lonely, He said, at the top.

I gave the performance of a lifetime. It was a flop.
He smiled.
I was “far ahead of my era to be appreciated.”

I have no goodness in me and my life is a mess.
I decided to live, and with the badness, after all.

I discovered that He’d been lying all along, to me.
“Of course
I lied”, He said, “ let you discover the truth.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dad/Daadu: Friend, Philosopher and Guide

Cubby's favorite daadu passed away last week. These rare archives of the great moments they spent with each other are all that remain. It is pure joy to see them bounce off each other. Their bond was even stronger than the one I shared with papa; luckily, the brat is too young to notice the void. I do hope, though, that he remembers the love and fun-times with his daadu all those years ago.... when he is old enough.

RIP, dad. You'll be missed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Good night and take care... (just a bad dream)

Last week, we heard the tragic news of an attack that left my grandaunt fatally wounded and my granduncle fighting for his life. Someone broke into their house in Lucknow and bludgeoned them to death, even as my cousins slept in a room next door. I am still unable to come to grips with the absurdity of this violence. Did someone go this far only to "decamp" with a few thousands worth of cash and gold? What did such a docile, retired and charming couple do to deserve such a ghastly end?

Today my dad called to say that a cabbie for Wipro BPO suddenly accosted him in Pune and accused him of bashing into his cab. As evidence, he pointed to the missing rear-view glass. Oddly enough, there was not a scratch on dad's car and neither did he experience any "contact". The behaviour and circumstances of the accusation pointed to a well-planned extortion attempt. Thankfully, the cabbie was forced to retreat when the security and other people from the apartment complex came around to support dad.

Under the trying circumstances, dad did not think to take the cab's number or driver details. He did, however, note the ID card details of the other person in the cab. He did not look very presentable but carried a Wipro employee ID card. We thought the matter was closed and all's well that ended well.

At 10 in the night, the cabbie landed up at the doorstep of this old couple. What kind of security we pay for, that allows anyone to merely walk up 5 floors late at night, is a separate post. How the cabbie discovered where my dad lived is another scary thought. But there he was. Once again, dad decided not to get intimidated by someone clearly out to play the aggressor. Once again, a bit of yelling and crowd-gathering made the cabbie beat a retreat. Once again, the shaken parents did not get his details or even a cell-phone mug-shot. They just shooed him away and locked themselves in.

It is now past midnight. I am 1000 miles away from those who protected me all their lives. The people I love most in this world are asleep in the next room. The people I love more than most are, probably, tossing in their beds... their hearts skipping a beat at every rustle and noise in the darkness. All I can do is... nothing!

In India, going to the cops is worse than facing the mafia-- so that is not an option. The only security is anonymity. Today, my parents lost their cloak of invisibility. If the person was indeed from Wipro, we are hoping a call to their helpdesk will sort it out in the morning. If he was a ruffian posing as a cabbie, will we live in daily fear of his footsteps? His visit to the house was a clear message.

In the best case, he will take the cash tomorrow and leave us alone. In the best case, he will damage our car and leave us alone.

Until then, a most peace less night awaits us all. This is the land where I pay taxes and cast my vote. Yet, in this land petty goons are free to behave larger-than-life because, let's face it, it is THEIR representatives that we vote to power. As my favorite comic book says: Who will watch the watchmen...?

Even the most nastik of us, at such times, can only say: Please God, make this go away....

Update 24hrs later: We have found the cab number is MH 12 DT 1638. Once we sent that information to Wipro BPO, they confirmed it was one of their fleet. Just knowing that is such a relief! Many thanks to Mr.Mirza, the HR person who went above and beyond to assist us during the entire dreadful episode.

We are now waiting for the cabbie to arrive and take his money, and leave us alone.

While this story seems to have a happy ending, maybe there is still a moral in this. Especially for the brave-hearts managing the runaway population (I won't say 'menace') of call-center cabs on our streets. We spent 2 anxious days because a foul-mouthed person invaded our home. Irrespective of who is at fault, intimidating an elderly couple in their own house at midnight is just not OK. Instead, cabbies should be instructed that in case of minor accidents, the matter be reported to transport coordinator. Let them take it forward with some decency and professionalism. In the absence of regulation and law, it is up to the BPOs to display sense of social responsibility.

Thanks for all your prayers and best wishes. Hopefully tomorrow morning this will just be a bad dream...

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Know What You Did Last Summer (Worked Guest Relations at ITC?)

Just saw an example of lax security implementations and an appalling lack of understanding the nature of Internet among Indian companies.

Check out the CSV files at this link for detailed email addresses, designations and other details of executives at some of India's best companies. We know this was extracted from a jobsite, like or, because of the "job site" specific fields. Each CSV has 20,000 records! is a brilliant website when it comes to matching your skills to great jobs. The nature of their service requires that we share our contact details, work life details and location details with them. For a spammer or scammer, all it takes is an easy tool to scrape through their pages and voila! they can build a valuable database of the Great Indian Middle Class. This working, web-friendly population is also the who's who of most likely e-commerce users.

Unfortunately, and have no incentive to invest in stronger systems and processes that prevent their pages from becoming a watering hole, where spammers can hunt without fear. There is neither loss of revenue nor any penalties being imposed. In most cases, it is impossible to even prove that the data was leaked from them. After every attack, our toothless regulators get busy chasing after phantom "cyber terrorists". In fact, amateur mistakes in the sites/pages being attacked are large part of the problem.

They are not alone. Airtel, BSNL and Rediff are among critical sites that reveal personal data without remorse. Frustratingly, their help desk does not even acknowledge this criminal negligence, so I've rarely succeeded in getting them to take it off. For me, it took little more than a Google search to spot these lapses. A penetration test may reveal more-- especially around how they store our credit card data (in clear text? easily copied to an employee's USB disk? You'll be surprised!). If they have nothing to hide, they must make results of such tests public.

The way things are, the law punishes anyone who exposes criminal security holes in corporate infrastructure (the ethical hackers) while letting the offending corporation go scot-free. To add insult to injury, the Flashwala website is protected by another service called Privacy Protect. That means you cannot identify who is behind this abusive domain using
Once again, the criminals have all the "rights" :-)

Notwithstanding the number of "Do Not Disturb" registries you subscribed to, those pesky calls (and worse, phishing attempts) won't stop till the legitimate keepers of sensitive data are forced to own some responsibility. Ironically, even the so-called "best Internet companies" believe their job ends at slapping together a few pages of HTML code to build a "website". In the absence of any effective regulatory and penal mechanism, they are as careful with our credit card and personal information as a monkey with a Swaroski vase.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Giving them too much latitude, are we?

Received an invite to share location data on Google Latitude from a friend. When I wanted to accept, Google said it is in no way affiliated with the script and I accept at my own risk. Huh? The URL has Google all over it, the page happens to be called Google Accounts and yet Google wishes to wash it's hands off any liability for Latitude. Why?

Like most Google inventions, Latitude overwhelms with its awesomeness. Like most of their inventions, it also petrifies with its power and potential for abuse. Today, most invasions of privacy that we undertake (like Googling the street-view of the boss' fancy condo) border on the benign and the legal. It won't take an Al-Qaeda to figure out more 'profitable' uses of the same. For all you know, it'll be your friendly neighbourhood bank (that epitome of unethical self-righteousness) that starts the trend!

Even the recent Chinese comedy demonstrates Google's cult status. Despite so-called public outrage, they acted against the spirit of the Internet in 2006. For profit. What's the wager they will not someday extend their benevolent gate keeping to other or all users of the Internet? Still, we will use and need to use Google; much like how Holmes needs his opium.

While the Freemasons, Scientologists, OPEC and 'The Temple of the Four Orders' bicker over grandiose plans of world domination, it's fait-accompli for a group of nerds .

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Big Shift

We are starting 2010 with a house hunt. This is not even to buy, so the sleepless nights are absurd. One would think a city like this one would have a gazillion houses for rent. One would think all houses nowadays come standard with stuff you need. One would think the recession would help in getting a good deal (like my tenant sure did when we let out last year!). One would think wrong.

I am anyway paranoid about moving. Having lived in 11 cities and moving every 2 years, I imagined myself to be a seasoned mover. But all those were managed by les parents. Doing it yourself is completely different (and that's the least of things you learn to respect about those oldies, once you become a parent yourself). Apart from the physical movement, there's all the address-proof to be updated, KYCs to be re-known, phone lines to be shifted and blah blah. Then there's the making friends with new neighbours, making deals with a nice or not-so-nice new landlord and of course, praying for a quick and complete refund of the advance from the old one.

Just deciding on a house took us 3 weekends. Starting with a lovely house that had horrendous woodwork, through a small and expensive house with lovely woodwork, we almost settled on a cozy house with no woodwork till suddenly we saw a large house with passable woodwork. Being large it is not as cozy, but it's a corner flat so gets nice light and air from all sides. The colony seems to have kids and space, even though the people there seemed extra sensitive about "non-vegetarians". While we haven't hidden this fact, we hope the good Brahmins won't end up in the shower every time we say "Good morning" to them...

The clincher was that the place has a terrace all its own. That kind of put a stop to any further deliberation, despite the slightly higher tag and slightly inferior fittings. And a nice study table to boot. So I won't break my neck typing out these blogs. Or, er, even the white papers I must write for a living. And did I mention it is right at the corner of the block? :-)

The reason for the shift was simple: Cubby needed the space and security provided by an apartment complex. He also needed the friends that such places usually guarantee. Not that people living in independent houses stay friendless, but maybe this is just the Bambaiyya in me talking. Now that we have identified the right house, it is more than just Cubby. We can't help but dream of having friends over, decorating the walls with new stuff and spending time in the gardens below. Yes, we're kind of stretching the budget. Some say we might as well have paid an EMI. In the end, will it all be worth it?

The present house has been a blessing for us (our landlord claims its the Vaastu). I look at photos of the first time we moved here. The silly grins on our face. The long videos of each empty room. It was our first BIG decision after marriage. It was also the place where Cubby was born.

Will the new one be our "home" as well? I look forward to the memories that A-307 will create... Your prayers and best wishes will make that happen.