In India, every day is spontaneous day v1: From gung-ho to jai-ho

The day looks great. I’m ready to leave for the office earlier than usual, which means that traffic today will be a lot less than normal. I step out feeling ready and gung-ho.

I don’t have a car yet so I have to take public transport to the office. Taxis normally refuse to ply between my home in Bandra and my office in Goregaon West(or is it Malad West; one can never say with the shifting Durand lines of Bombay). I’m therefore compelled to take an auto for an hour’s worth of stomach churning, but occasionally I do get lucky with a taxi. Today seems to be one such lucky day. I find a taxi just around the corner from my apt.

It’s a Fiat, sometimes called the Premier Padmini by no one I’ve ever met. Bit of a bummer, getting a Fiat, because the Fiats are better suited for short nostalgic rides in South Bombay. I say Bombay, and not Mumbai, because that’s when Fiats really belonged. As a rule, new black and yellow taxis are mostly Hyundai Santros and Marutis.

Well, beggars can’t be choosers, so I saunter over to the Fiat taxi driver and ask if he is willing to go to Goregaon West. He says yes, stops inspecting the car engine, shuts the car bonnet, and we get in the car. While I’m speaking with the taxi driver, my mobile phone rings. It’s an unknown number. I ignore it with the intention of calling back later.

We get in the taxi. Since the driver was inspecting the car, I ask if the Fiat will make it to Goregaon in time for my meeting in 1 hour’s time. He says that we need to get some CNG gas, but it can be done after he drops me. We head off for the highway, and all’s well. I’m going to make it to my meetings well in time.

10 minutes into the highway, he says that we actually need to fill gas immediately. The closest CNG station that he knows of is in Andheri. He turns off the highway, under the flyover, and headlong into Sakinaka junction, the worst possible junction on a working day morning. We take about 20 minutes to cross 600 metres and then, just as I thought he would turn left and skirt the traffic, he turns right. Right into the worst possible road to take on a working day morning.

I am now reaching the hairline delay mark for my office meeting.

I jump out of the cab after some joyless banter about how much he thinks I should pay him versus how much his meter shows versus how much I think I should pay him given that I am now racing against time to make my meeting. I pay him somewhere in between the multiple choice answers, and then I start searching for an auto since there are no taxis around. There’s huge noise and commotion all around, and autos refuse to go by the meter. After 10 minutes of hailing and bargaining by the side of the blaring dusty highway, I finally find a stomach churner, and my stomach and I set out on a warp and weft to Goregaon.

If James Bond ever used an auto in the suburbs of Mumbai in any of his films, he would never have to specify that his Martini be shaken, not stirred.

I make it to my meeting 15 minutes late. The meeting, however, got cancelled at the last minute, so all of my shake, rattle and roll was in vain. I sit at my desk to catch my breath, and my stomach.

I catch up on my emails, and notice an email from http://www.moneycontrol.com, a popular portfolio management site in India. It says something like “Thanks for opening an account with MoneyControl.com. Please validate your email address by clicking on this link “. My late mother used to store her portfolio details on Moneycontrol, and I’m wondering as to what’s going on, since I never opened an account in the morning. So I validate the email to see if I can figure out who is using my email id.

When I log into Moneycontrol with my email id, I find that various personal details such as birth date, pan number have all been entered correctly. Now I’m really intrigued. I check my portfolio, and I find that it’s being populated in front of my eyes by some other user. All the stocks are being copied into my portfolio from my mother’s portfolio.

I’m stunned. I call Moneycontrol’s help desk, who send me on a merry go-round until they find the correct IT nerd who can understand my IT nerdish questions about security, hacking, and the account opening process. We are all at a loss. After an hour of my frantically checking various accounts in other web sites for possible widespread hacking, and during which time my portfolio is growing by itself into a replica of my late mother’s portfolio, we decide to launch a complaint and a security investigation.

Just about then, I get a call. It’s the relationship manager from my bank, and he’s asking if I’ve received any emails from moneycontrol.com.

Relationship manager story, “Sir, you had mentioned to me last month that you want to start an account with Moneycontrol, and move your deceased mother’s portfolio to yours for tracking. I thought of doing it for you. I tried to call you in the morning, but you were not picking up the phone. So I decided to go ahead and start the portfolio, and let you know once it is done”.

My shocked response, “But I had to validate the account with my email id, so how were you expecting to have started the portfolio unless I had known and responded???”

His calm response, “No sir, it is all done now. Please go ahead and validate”. Indians have a masterful knack of providing an answer completely unrelated to the question.

My trying-to-be-calm response “Moneycontrol.com is launching a security investigation into the whole affair. I had no idea what was going so I asked them to investigate…”

His shocked response “No sir, I will lose my job. Please stop the investigation.”

I call Moneycontrol. All investigations are halted.

It is now 12:30. Not one bit of work has been done yet. But my day feels like it’s over. Jai-ho.

What a year can do

It’s been nearly a year since my last post. It’s for a reason. Actually, it’s for many reasons. The primary reason is: adjusting to life in India after 21 years. I doff my hat (although I never wear one) to Indians who blog regularly.

In a country such as this, every day is Spontaneity Day. It can also become a WTF Day, HowThe… Day, PleaseGodHaveMercy Day, DidThatReallyJustHappen Day, WhereAmINow Day, and WasThatAllInOneDay Day. Many a day has ended with my goals for the day and my activities of the day as far apart as the desert is from the rainclouds. To those who can then find the time to maintain a daily blog, kudos with judos.

To retain any sanity, one has no choice but to fall back to the old adage that it’s all about the journey. Sure. Think of it as a regular thrashing to keep one spiritual; that’s the journey. I will post an example of one such Spontaneity day in another blog entry.

Now, back to the reasons.

Some years ago, I saw a play in London called “The Compleat Works of Shakespeare – abridged”. It was by a few Americans, and in a tribute to American efficiency, they demonstrated Hamlet in 15 minutes, then in 5 minutes, then in 1 minute, and then in 1 minute backwards. As I think about how to share the many reasons for my hiatus from the overcrowded blogosphere, I am inclined to take a page or two from the efficient Americans.

December 2010 was my last post. Since then, I have successfully stopped my top floor occupier from building a new illegal floor on my house, gotten a new job with Morgan Stanley, relocated to Mumbai – which includes finding a flat, a car, maid, learning to drive in the Mumbai suburbs -, taken business trips totaling near 2 months worth of travel, made week long trips to Kolkata to keep my house running and in order, sorting out my deceased mother’s assets and holdings, fighting various cases in the Kolkata civil courts, and, last but not least of all, getting married.

Was that 30 seconds?

I will post about these experiences in more detail. I’ve come to understand, to some extent, what it really means to relocate to India and live in India. I want to share what I’ve learnt and surmised so far in the hope that other lambs may experience an Irish meadow rather than a slaughter house.

To be fair, my case is a bit unique since I also had to tackle property issues in another city on an ongoing basis, navigate the famous bureaucracy of Kolkata as I sorted through my mother’s various holdings, manage a long distance relationship with my fiance, and pretty much coordinate or arrange all the preparations from my side for the wedding, honeymoon and reception. It will be different for someone who relocates to India purely on a work basis, but there are still small lessons to glean and learn.

In the meanwhile, does this get your goat?

Top 10 Thinking traps

Took a little break there from blogging as I discovered old haunts and, more preciously, bumped into old friends and connected with family in London.

Here’s an article recommended to me by Stumble Upon. Not sure why the recommendation server decided I needed a tonk in the noggin’ and polish up my thinking hat, but it’s a worthy read nonetheless.

The preamble

Our minds set up many traps for us. Unless we’re aware of them, these traps can seriously hinder our ability to think rationally, leading us to bad reasoning and making stupid decisions. Features of our minds that are meant to help us may, eventually, get us into trouble.

Here are the first 5 of the most harmful of these traps and how to avoid each one of them.

They’ve obviously decided to follow the rich tradition of Wes Craven and leave the second 5 for a part 2. So I give you
Top Ten Thinking Traps Part 1