Statutory Warning: The story you are now going to read is only 69% true. Any resemblance to any person living, dead, or wishing they were better dead instead of having read this, is not at all coincidental. I do not believe in coincidences. Period!
Surviving in an IT industry is never easy, but if you are fine with drinking some coffee, it might just get a little less difficult. With this very thought floating in my mind, I, an IT Consultant of irrefutable repute, walked into a breezy outlet of Café Coffee Day.
In my left hand was a pen where an inconspicuous video camera was gasping away for breath. Hidden under a fold of my silk scarf was a voice recorder of the kind that would have put even James Bond to shame. I was ready you see, to tempt the object of my affection for the day - a superfluous Subject Matter Expert (SME).
He had given me an hour of his time to clear any doubts I might have about anything. I of course was hoping to use this opportunity to try and understand the confusing content he had emailed me last night at 3:00 AM. It’s another thing though that my mail file had immediately crashed and I was left fuming. It had taken me another hour and a half to get it fixed through a 24/7 Call Centre operating from some alley in Noida.
But all my mental rambling was abruptly cut off the moment the door of the café swung open. Standing there was a tall, dark, and no longer handsome bespectacled man with a smile upon his lips. He looked every inch the geek I had expected him to be. In his left hand were a few copies of international bestsellers like ‘How to Turn a Geek into an SME’ and ‘Explaining Stuff to Dummies’. On his right hand was an alarmingly bright watch into which he glared for a second and a half before announcing in a boring baritone ‘Your time starts now!’
Hold it right there readers! What you just read is a very fictional account of what I had once hoped my life would be. But you see it isn’t.
That January of 2008 was meant to have been very different. I had just been promoted as a Team Lead and was a day away from a short vacation, post which, I would have stood outside the airport, and waved all prospective mothers and fathers in law a guilt-free goodbye.
Yes, I was about to leave for Australia to transition a brand new project. Instead, I got the shock of my life. Well no, it was not one of my girlfriends trying to blackmail me with the results of a pregnancy test, but rather, my one and only, and definitely anything but friendly, manager Mr Sambamurthy who had the results of my immigration test!
It seemed I was not fit to travel to Australia. Instead Australia was to come to me in the form of all vacations being cancelled and a certain Transition Manager – David Khay Tan who would train us for a week!
‘Damn!’ I said, as all dams broke loose and I burst into tears. I should have been more careful, as my roommate Mr. Raghu Reddy was absolutely ready with a high end mobile phone and uploaded that video on YouTube. I have never since had to worry about a pregnancy test. But what I had to worry about instead was this new person in my life!
Mr. Tan was the perfect example of Shakespeare’s famous quote ‘what’s in a name?’ You see the only part of his body that was tanned, were his shoes! The color of his skin was that of butter, before leaving the udder of a cow, and his accent, of a kind that made me wonder – Australian? How?
On the 5th week of the torturous transition training, I was sitting in a class along with a bunch of worshippers of Mr Tan wondering, for the nth time, whether my watch had died or not. The others were of course busy watching and listening to everything he did or said. They had already fallen for the charms of our 250 pounds and 6 feet three inches tall foreign import.
Not me! The Bengali in me smelt something fishy every time he began speaking! To be honest, it sounded something like ‘Schezwan Noodles and Kung Pao Chicken!
I come from the Land of Mel Gibson and Steve Waugh’ and everyone would just go ‘Wah Wah! Wah Wah!’
Had they never seen an India Australia cricket match? Well, I was not sure about the other Bengalis in my batch, but Saraswati Puja, come what may, I had to catch. So fearing for the worst, I finally walked up to him with a photo and said ‘Sir I want to meet Ma…’ But before I could say ‘Ma Saraswati' he jumped with a shock ‘4 Arms?’ and I replied, ‘Sir, just like all Indian mothers – multitasking you see!’
That somehow broke the ice, and began to thaw all signs of vice. ‘Tell me more about Saraswati Puja’, he said, and I willingly began describing about the Goddess of Learning and Knowledge. In the process, I was able to convince him of my dedication as a student. In response he invited me and my colleagues to his service apartment. What ensued was a lavish Chinese spread which he had himself prepared.
Honestly, I felt sorry for my South Indian friends, who actually believed me when I let out a supposed secret - that the ‘Vegetable Manchurian’ was actually garnished from some Cockroaches Mr Tan had himself found in his apartment. While they promptly rushed towards the wash basins to let it all out, I continued enjoying the delicious food he had cooked.
Life went on for a few more years. It was sometimes naughty, and sometimes nice, till I finally got bored of it. Like literally! You see, in spite of managing to find a few dates, I was still a beguiled bachelor and that sucked, and in a completely non erotic way. What didn’t help was that I was finally going to relocate to my hometown Calcutta as an utter failure as far as my love life was concerned.
To be fair, life wasn’t always this unfair. During my college days in Bangalore, I used to be hot and happening. In fact I was so hot, my mere presence caused students to take their clothes off and throw them at me even as they said ‘Hey Pal - Do as your name says. Iron them. Okay?’
That’s how I changed from ‘Ayon’ to ‘Ayan’ – the wrinkle remover, and as a consequence my love life got absolutely crushed! If it wasn’t for tuitions, I might have never even met Julie! In fact, I still remember our first date, especially the order. A double cheese burger with extra cheese, extra chicken, and extra mayonnaise. And then, one Diet Coke. You see she was very health conscious!
In hindsight, this is probably why she told me ‘Everything about you is fine. But you must do something about your belly.’ Even though I wish she had also spared a thought about my wallet, I decided to do something about my by then protruding belly by her next birthday.
In another 6 months I was ready with my personalized birthday gift for her. It was a song and a special dance set to the tune of ‘Maiyaan Maiyaan’ from the movie Guru. The lyrics went something like this: 'No one is watching me. No one is touching me. I feel so empty, please come and feel me. Bhaiya Bhaiya… Please don’t call me by that name no more. Saiyaan Saiyaa – when will you come and do my chore?'
Before I could stop my exotic belly dancing, she had started for the door. Even before the clock could say ‘cuckoo’ I heard the news of her running away with my dance instructor. Confused and dejected, I spent the next three years watching stupid Bollywood Movies like Haathi Mere Saathi and generally trying to lend myself a helping hand.
Sorry – that didn’t come out right! Damn it… neither did that! Let me retry... After cooking and consuming probably a million packets of Maggi, my bachelor problem had taken on elephantine proportions. I needed to end the woe of being single all my life. What I needed was a smart, intelligent, and beautiful wife!
Since time was running out, I ran to my mother for help. And in no time at all, we were at this amazingly hot girl’s place. Initially of course I was totally distracted by her assets. Don’t get me wrong! I am speaking of her gold jewelry. The kind that would make even the bountiful Bappi Lahiri jealous! It obviously made me think about all the other assets she might possess and begin to daydream of a future as a happy house husband.
After some idle chit chatter, we were finally left alone. While I was busy admiring the immense collection of riches her house was filled with, she suddenly asked me ‘Would you like to taste a virgin?’
I for a moment felt as happy as Alok Nath might have, had he been chosen as ‘Sanskaari’ of the millennium. I am a huge fan of Mahatma Gandhi and totally against bloodshed….But the prospect of going where no man has gone before made me say, with uncontrolled body language and full facial expressions, ‘Now that would be bloody awesome!’
I don’t know what came first. Was it the look of utter disgust, or the glass of Virgin Mojito that she had been referring to? I would probably have that replace the classic ‘which came first - chicken or egg’ debate. But what I had absolutely no doubt about was the outcome of the conversation - it was wet and wild! She became wild, (with rage) and I wet (with Mojito).
Having learnt my lesson the “hard” way, I went to my childhood school friend for comfort. ‘Tell me about it bro!’ he exclaimed, ‘I have an unmarried sister to take care of before I can get married!’
For the first time in my life I was proud to have him for a friend! In fact if movies like ‘Dostana’ hadn’t corrupted society, I would have probably even kissed him, right there and then! That very weekend I went over to his place and indulged in some idle chatter. Come to think of it, we talked about religion quite a lot!
But I did not stop there and continued with my visits till his entire family, including his sister, thought of me as a great family friend. One ‘Hi’ led to another and finally I was on an ultimate hi! A Valentine’s Date!
Now before I tell you anything about her, let me tell you something about her brother, my friend! He looked like Fawad Khan, spoke like Virat Kohli, and danced like Tiger Shroff. And when compared to his sister – was downright ugly! She was THAT Hot!
That day, as usual, she was looking like a billion Deepika Padukones, and I couldn’t help but thank the gods by humming some lines from the film ‘Om Shanti Om’. That’s when she suddenly uttered a line I won’t forget in a while.
‘I want to confess something today’ she said, even as I stared at her gorgeous eyes. ‘You know, I have a problem…’ she began. ‘Don’t worry darling’ I cut her short, ‘our love will conquer all’. And saying so I smiled like a thorough romantic. That’s when she suddenly screamed ‘I hate you!’
But before I could reply she suddenly went ‘I love you!’ Even as I watched shocked, trying to understand what was happening, she began to oscillate between ‘I Love You’ and ‘I Hate You’ like an out of control Yo Yo. What didn’t help was the fact that she also began to sing a Honey Singh song. But before I could go ‘Vodka’, she immediately switched to a bhajan by Altaf Raja!
To cut a long and terrifying tiring Antakshari short, she had a split personality disorder. Thus, but naturally, we split up.
Feeling absolutely hopeless, I then decided to move on to the pursuit of fame. I am a member of Toastmasters International, an organization dedicated to enhancing communication and leaderships of its millions of members worldwide. A recent contest, I realized was the perfect opportunity for me to get what I wanted in life!
If you haven’t yet guessed it from my introductory paragraph, I have always been drawn to drama as much as Arnab Goswami is to the lines ‘India wants to know!’ Now Toastmasters had just announced a short film contest on the theme “Why should you join Toastmasters?”
Smelling an opportunity, I convinced members of my home Club – City of Joy Toastmasters - of spoiling a Sunday with an attempt to make a world class documentary film on Toastmasters starring the members themselves.
Well, to be honest, they still think of their torture to be for a noble cause. And to not be dishonest with you, I thought so too! I still don’t understand why the Nobel Peace prize committee hasn’t yet responded to my snail mail (being personally delivered by a stolen courier pigeon), about whether our endeavor deserves a special place in their record books.
Anyway, to get back to the point, it was meant to be a ‘piece de caliber’, a documentary film on Toastmasters and the changing face of the City of Joy - Calcutta, directed by yours truly. Having already failed multiple times in the past, I did not wish anything to come in my way of becoming a great director. Hence I decided to follow a great dictator to the last swastika.
I had of course done my homework. For starters, I had devoured acclaimed movies like ‘Monsoon Bedding’, ‘A Haunted Blouse’, ‘Top Bum’, and ‘Forrest Hump’. As is obvious, the actors and actresses were chosen after a laborious process with the criteria of their selection ranging from how many speeches they had delivered this year, how many ‘Ah’s’ they had uttered in any speech, how many times they had said ‘Hail Ayan’ and so on.
Unlike Hollywood or Bollywood, however these “natural actors” weren’t being paid even a penny. Honestly, where can you get a penny in India? The last I checked, all pennies that had been confiscated by the customs officials, were booked for my thoughts reserved for William and Kate’s marriage in England.
Anyways, to cut a long and thoughtless story short, the shoot was more like a reality show that was meant to test the patience, perseverance, and poise of the actors till they finally lost their cool and screamed ‘I’m a Toastmaster – Get me out of here!’
You see, I had given them innumerable options to scream, and was supremely surprised at the tenacity of the contestants. I started calling up the crew at around 5:00 AM in the morning to follow up on the calls I had made to them at 2:00 AM the previous night to check if their alarm bells were working fine.
I had also called up the lead actors – a brother and sister - around 11 times between 5:00 AM and 5:30 AM enquiring about whether they had woken up, emptied their bowels, brushed their teeth, and scraped their tongue, for example. These Toastmasters, you see, had secured plum roles in the project owning to their possession of a car to drive around the crew across locations and a driver’s license that the director (yours truly, in case you weren’t paying attention), never bothered to apply for in the first place.
The next in line was a diligent banker, who also doubled as the Treasurer of the Club, who was supposed to offer me a pillion ride on his motorbike. He, as always was ready by the 13th call, unlike the special appearance superstar, a rich scion who ran his family business. He had fainted in the Jacuzzi of his attached bedroom.
As per the doctors treating him for coma since then, he had just been briefed about his lines and dance steps for his ‘role’ which let me tell you was meant to be hotter than Katrina singing ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ on a pole. The ones who had not fainted were three students handpicked for supporting roles.
Thankfully all of them had managed to carry for the shoot a suitcase each filled with clothes of various sizes and shapes. Sizes for the girl, and shapes for the guys – you see, we have to also cater to the audience tastes! On a side note, hypnotism works! Yippee!
Or so I thought, till we failed majestically. You see, this voyeuristic video was supposed to be shown at the Regional Level Conference. But the sensor board chief (yes – it seems every organization has one!) Mrs Not So Sharmelee Tagore - gave it an incredible AAA rating. She also promised to immediately fire the Italian chef and instead start cooking for her husband herself if the film was ever released. The fact that her husband also happened to be the producer of our film, and that she happened to only know how to cook stories for juicy gossip, ensured that the film was never ever screened.
And thus ended my dream to be a director. Tired and dejected, I decided to drown my sorrows by going on a vacation to the world’s third largest country – Facebook. While managing to stay afloat in a sea of messages and status updates, I suddenly found out about a story contest aimed at making people laugh and decided to hold onto it for dear life. Looking back at the fact that life has almost always found a way to laugh back at me, I immediately knew what my future profession is going to be, and that dear readers is why you were lucky enough to read this story!
So in hindsight, I would like to ask you: Do you think my life so far can be classified as life’s labor lost? Or should I instead thank my lucky stars for the innumerable times I got a chance to get ‘lust’ and found? That, dear readers, is a decision only you can make.