Friday, December 19, 2008

Fan Fiction : Five Point Someone

The story nears an end. Alok and Hari find jobs while Ryan is still an unemployed Indian citizen. They flock at Sasi’s. Retrospection is the mood of the wind.

“Ryan, we got screwed man. What did we do these four years?” Alok said in despair. A drop of sweat was tripping off his fore head onto the table. It was balancing itself on an end of the curvature of his eyebrow which was raised by a centi meter generating ridges over his fore head that looked like lines in a notebook in which I learnt to write cursive. The reds and blues were not there. They would have looked ugly on his face. “There was so much that lay before us a couple of years ago. Why did we choose this way? Why did we end up something like this?”

“Screw it! The argument takes us no where.” I said. I said it out of a discomfort his questions caused to me. Some hurting conscious that told me things could have been different if not better, had I thought a little differently about them. I was tempted into guessing the end points of all those alternate paths, evaluating them by their returns and ranking the path I have selected. “Let us get to the parathas. The butter melts fast in summers creating a pool on them quickly.” I said, as though it was the only thing on my mind.

“No Hari. Fatso is right. It is time to retrospect. What he asks is sense dude. Let us look into it this way.” Ryan got started. My intervention dint rescue the conversation from tipping of the edge of a mountain on which it carefully sustained into a valley of unending enigma which gets worse every time we invest into such conversations. The parathas seemed to be the only rescue to me now. The silent spectator in me took over.

“We rewind the play to fatso’s tenth class” Ryan says noticing my inattention. This guy wants every one with him. “Fatso mugs physics, mathematics and chemistry”

“We also had Biology in our tenth” Now this has to be from Alok!

“Yeah fatso. Okay. Physics, Chemistry, Biology and mathematics. But the point is that fatso doesn’t really enjoy doing all that he is doing. But his friends and parents tell him it is a crucial year and results of the boards determine his future. So, he looks at it like a problem which has to be cracked.”

“Yeah Ryan. But what the hell are you getting to?”

“Listen on. Then fatso gets great marks in his boards…”

“Yeah a ninety four” Alok announces proudly. He looks around with a brief smile.

“Okay a ninety four, and he thinks his problem is solved. But then the twelfth class boards. And the story repeats. That just means the solution fatso thought he had attained was a mirage and the problem still existed. Right?”

“Yeah. So?” The statements Ryan needed for continuing his saga were getting briefer from me. The parathas engaged my jaws better and deserved higher priority.

“So, fatso was deceived. But he pulled himself into it again and did the same slogging again, believing that after the IIT – JEE, the miracle would actually happen. This time the solution he applied to the problem would actually solve it once and for all.”

There was silence now. It was a brief pause in which Ryan waited for an acknowledgement, but chose to go ahead when he got none.

“But the problem was not solved this time either. This increased his frustration. He was deceived every time he tried to solve it. So instead, in his engineering he chose not to solve it. He chose to leave it as a problem. And fatso ends up here being a five point someone.”

“We all know that Ryan. There was no need for a rewind replay action here.” I knew Ryan had more to say, and displays of my frustration pushed him towards the end faster. My indifference was a veiled form of my curiosity.

“But nothing really went wrong with what fatso did in his engineering. It was just a consequence of what fatso thought and did earlier. It was a result of his ignorance of the fact that the problem was in an ever appearing infinity loop.” Ryan had this excellent way of exemplifying things and fatso was the victim.

“ It all started when fatso thought in his tenth class that a problem appeared and it had to be solved.”

“Ofcourse Ryan! Now you don’t tell us that problems need not be solved.” That was me!

“Yeah! Here you get it from me now Hari! I don’t say problems need not be solved. They should. Rather, they must. But they must be solved such that the solution used works every time the problem arises, and infact gets better every time it is run on a problem.”

“What?” I say. I indefinitely pause on my chewing while I say it. The conversation sucks me into it.

“You get it right. Solutions we seek should be of the nature that can be run over problems that keep coming up in the future and should more importantly get better every time they are run” The repetition was for our understanding. We needed it. “Fatso looked for a solution which solved his problem for the tenth class boards. He slogged despite the fact that he hated it. The solution did work, but it worked only once. He tried the same solution again, but it dint get better this time, however it also did a fair work for his twelfth class. But the third time, in engineering, the evolutionary process eliminated the poor. His solution failed to evolve, so it died out.” Ryan said. So, here was Darwin resurrected in Ryan. “So, now you get it? Solutions have to be good and should evolve with the problems they solve. They cannot be the kind of static rigid patterns we seek. ”

Now that was Ryan. Anything from him had to be good. But I had to give a fight to the argument.

“Hold hold. So what do you think is a form of this evolving solution shit you are giving us?”

“Simple! Fatso should have understood that he could not hate studying. He had to find ways in which he could like it. If he did that back in his tenth class, he would have got better at doing it in his twelfth and finally, he would have got to be an expert at it now. He would have known what he likes and how he should like things he does. This solution evolves. This sustains the evolutionary requirements of the system, hence saves itself from elimination. Fatso could have been a nine pointer without the dissatisfaction that muggu Kumar holds.” Ryan finally concluded.

Fatso sacrificed on the parathas feast and listened. He was delighted at the possibility of having been a nine pointer. And Ryan, as usual, sounded fancy. Screw the nine point GPA attainability that Ryan displays but the insight was a valuable one. Plucked off its feathers, it looked to be like the first sensible one from Ryan. Infact, it was one which changed the entire viewpoint from which I looked at problems. Afterall solving problems is life and to find better ways to solve them means better living. Better living may mean being a happy Five Point Someone!
The alarm rings in darkness. My watch is no longer working, it is now disturbing. It is not yet dawn, so why get out of bed? Why raise to work? Relax, there is more time, lots more of time and lots more. The hectic day out there would encounter a dashing scenario with my boss. Unending controversies. It has become more hectic after being transferred to the product marketing section in a company which has no sound product. The hilarious moments at work place no longer exist. Every smile is retaliated with a frosty noser. My patience in learning the art of admiring every trivial and unmarketable strategy of my Marketing Director is nearing a logical end. Always sitting under his nose and being viewed in the range of a narrow gap of his risen eyebrows and dropped spectacles has taken me another step towards my dream resignation. Every day begins with flipping the pages of an employment news paper, visiting web sites and hopefully checking the mail box with unending optimism to expect a thousand dollar offer from a leading multinational. Disappointment takes me off for a cup of coffee at the cafeteria.

However nothing happened today. It is quite calm. Not much that would have to take place has taken place. Some feeling of uniqueness and strangeness, but, still seemed normal. The feeling of having more time to rest was comforting. But the guilt in me forced me to rise and check the clock hung in the main room. Making way through the books, the hand bag on the floor which resembled a boozed cat in darkness, the desk which once used to rest books but now was more burdened with the so called cosmetics, I finally reached the clock. I was wondering how the corporate world has changed my life and killed my passions. Career has taken my life through many a pin curves and maneuvers. Suddenly the thoughts went blank. This clock also showed a time well past the time I had to be in my car driving to the place I call hell for myself.

Amidst all the confusion I was into, there was some peculiar noise. It took me a second to recollect that my colleague changed the ringing tone of my cell to one of the favorite rock numbers of his. Damn, it took me further ages to find my cell buried systematically under my pillow, bed sheet, bed?! Oops, it had probably slipped down through the narrow gap I leave between my bed and the wall to reassure that no crawling insects invade my bed, thanks to the unending fear and dislike I have towards lizards. Finally, I managed the cell into my hand and attended the call from Mano, my friend. I dint find a reason why he had to call this early in the morning.

Mano is now one of the most relevant living examples I would love to choose for my case study in office for understanding the market of westernized Indians residing in America. His outsourced job in India has evolved him into what I call half an American. He has changed not only in the outlook of his but also in the ‘inlook’ of his. I mean, he is no more the person he was by heart. After years of working on outsourced jobs in India, the best thing according to him that had happened to him is the transfer to his head office, here in Chicago. I suspect he has grown to be fascinated by the female voices that are heard across the phones and their images that flash on his computer screen. He tells me the miles of optical fibers are what he finally eliminated. I’m sure that was what made him forget Ammu, the girl whom he loved for her smile, hair, heart and not to forget the most beautiful eyes. This fair, tall, girl was admired for her long platted hair well below her hips which made her look awesome. Always dressed in cotton outfits, her innocence was probably the first thing any one would notice about her. Mano has totally forgotten his days of college when they spent time across the banks the a lake which are a part of the vast residential campus we had. He has totally forgotten her and more deeply the reasons he loved her for. He had forgotten the bare footed walk he loved to have with her on the dew filled grass. No surprise, he no longer pays attention to even respond to her mails on his mail box these days, leave alone the occasional phone calls once made. I remain as a silent spectator, sympathetic to Ammu. She still can’t forget him. She runs a Montessori school now. The last time I spoke to her was on the New Year eve, of course to wish her. My relations with my friends have been degrading in the past few years. Although I immediately blame the corporate world and work pressure for this, I feel guilty of being lazy enough to not even pick up the phone and dial a few numbers or message some friends on mail.

It dint take minutes for my mind to wander deep enough into the past when Mano spoke up briskly. I alerted myself to listen. There was a feeling of caution radiantly visible in his tone. I had to listen. There was something serious he wanted to convey.

“..Good Morning Hema, well I don’t know if I should call this morning for us. Here I have a piece of information for you. Please listen cautiously, but don’t panic. There is the most unusual and unexpected thing in the world that has happened today. The sunlight has not reached America this morning. This day does not have a sun rise for us. Scientists are trying to find out the reason behind this. They expect the occurrence of a space dust explosion which has released enough dust to envelope some parts of the earth making our atmosphere opaque. However the satellite images are still clear. There are several other theories which news channels are flashing across their tabs. So, everyone is advised not to go outdoors at any urgency either.”

He almost reported like an automated response system. It dint take much time for me to understand he was informing this to quite a few people. I was still half asleep. The effect of the late night working in office is leaving me with passive mornings. I was a bit more agile than normal, but not enough to face the most astonishing phenomenon of the world. After all this talking of Mano, finally I responded. I said- “What... Mano...”

Mano was really quick. I guess he was trying to find a rescuer in himself. He spoke even more briskly than he did all along. He quickly interrupted me.

“Sorry Hema. I am not in a situation to answer anything either. Please wait along and try to update yourself with the help of the buzzing news channels. Yeah, try to inform other friends of yours. Thank you and have a nice day mam.. oops Hema”

My mind went blank. What was happening? How could the world topsy-turvy in just a couple of hours I spent in deep sleep? This would have been the last thing any American would have expected this morning. Today was not April first either. Also, there were further more reasons why I had to convince myself that this was true. How could all this happen so instantaneously? My mind was clogged with thoughts for a while. I was still worrying about how my boss would react to the fact if I was cheated on such a improbable event even by chance. I just hoped I wouldn’t become a laughing stalk for any reason. For once the intellect in me advised me to get to my lap top and cheek something different from the standard client mails today. However the television remote, I least expected to find, was very much lying just below my feet. I found the electromagnetic signals easier to communicate with. That was probably the only part of electronics I still remember after doing my masters in business administration and working as a marketing executive of a leading consultancy, or a ‘cult comp’ as we called in the days at B School. I switched the television on. Sentimental Hindi serials were being telecasted. The television at home is most used by Vasanta, the only Indian maid servant of the entire Indian Community here in Lavelly Avenue Arcade, Chicago. Skimming through the channels, I heard a lot of familiar words of the language I had learnt to speak first but did not speak for long, my mother tongue, Hindi. I was to find a news channel. Finally I immigrated into one. I listened cautiously to the well dressed American lady exactly like the one in the vegetable stores I visit once a week, the one at the tube rail enquiry counter, the one in the adjacent cabin at office, in fact everywhere in America. I wondered a million times if all American women were clones. I further wondered why Indian youth was so obsessed by these well presented lasses. I always found a feeling of artificiality in their presence, not just because I was a dark female and envied the lighter shades of their complexion. My male friends well argue that a woman never finds anything good in another woman. They tell me that jealousy is the first characteristic property of a female. I’m sure there would be many comments they would like to add in here, however, I had taken the initiative to write, so I am the only one who has a right to pen down my views here, at this point. I have a couple of American ladies as friends of mine who are few of the best people I have ever met. Further I have all due respect to America as a country. It is only the fact that Indians tend to worship their culture that hurts me.

The clock showed 11 A.M and the lights were on by necessity. On any other day I would have given my servant a good management lecture on management of power consumption, cost management, financial optimization and what not? I realize I have been talking and thinking a lot more than that I used to, after doing my course in management. Often I decide to isolate the strategies, planning, and all in all, management, from my personal life. However, they seem to have got injected into my genes after the course. Management has become everything in life for me. At that hour I was more deeply wondering how I got so much of time to think after ages of running, rushing, hurrying and what is called managing the organization. Every thing in my mind went back to those days when I studied in college. The story continued. All I knew from the tone of the news reporter was the fact that everything unusual that was happening in America at this instant was true. My mind no longer could keep tune with the flashing tabs, rolling trailers, and aggressive reporters on the screen. Thoughts rolled back into the
College days. It appeared that these thoughts inside me were kept under millions of kilo Newtons of force, hence were just submerged under the stressful, routine and exhaustive corporate life of mine. The darkness in America by now did raise a lot of havoc in the country. The television telecasted almost everything that was happening in my virtual absence from this world. I continued to live past the laws of time in my under graduation campus.