Sunday, December 14, 2014

Swimming in a Fish Bowl

This morning, Albert Wallace of the bent back but aristocratic nose woke up disheveled, shortly before a subdued autumn sunrise in a dimly-lit, painstakingly unadorned apartment, and after only a few moments of lying there in a trance, slipped his feet into his fading crimson rubber slippers, and promised himself he is so not gonna take shit from anyone no more. He straightened himself up and took brisk steps to the mirror, because of course the best way to avoid his fears was to confront them, and splashed freezing cold water into his face, furiously, fifteen times. 

“I’m gonna go out today, and I’m gonna talk to people!” he told his mirror image with an unsure enthusiasm, but with such loudness that one might as well imagine he was planning on conquering the Everest in his boxers. Once a popular creature with enviable looks, a reputation for expertise in all things from Probability to Literary Theory, and, even, a guilty taste for the rowdy humor of large groups, he had somehow found it difficult to get back on his feet after his former girlfriend, Anita, had suddenly left him for her long-time best-friend Patrick Boehner, who even Albert had grown a social fondness for, over time. But that was two years ago, and for what it’s worth, Patrick Boehner had by now married another fine woman, and Mr. and Mrs. Boehner are expecting a daughter next month, as some harmless facebook stalking has revealed.

For some months now he had felt no pleasure in most things people seemed to love, and often wondered how he, himself, had shown such keenness for the same activities in the years before. Every time he would discover himself tagged in a facebook photo by one of his acquaintances, the accompanying taglines that were usually on the lines of “Awesomeness”, “Amazing fun” or “Best day ever” left him nonplussed. If they hadn’t mentioned it I would never have known, he would muse. 

In the earlier days, he used to occasionally do stand-up at a local comedy club, and although he still appreciated the mechanics of humor and continued to be able to construct, methodically, laughter on other people's faces, he had found it increasingly difficult to elicit his own laughter, and felt uninspired, even, by the virtue in giving other people a good time. 

He had gradually become unmotivated to excel in his career as an Accountant, and the final straw came two months ago with his rather public firing, since which time, he hasn't applied for another job. It was the day after the firing that he first attended our yoga class. 

But today was different. He looked palpably determined in his freshly ironed, crisp white shirt and linen trousers getting ready for the Interstellar show at AMC New Brunswick. Unusually chirpy all morning, he played his favorite music from The Beatles to The Doors at full volume while he vacuum cleaned the whole place. But it was really when he began humming along and grooving rhythmically to the high points of these happy songs that I really knew today’s different. Very uncharacteristically, he also nudged me to wear my dark azure top, telling me how it enhances my breasts in a “menacing way". I was, like, woah!

I’ve been living with him for the last two weeks, but contrary to what others in the class think, we are not sleeping together; the only reason I’m living here is that we were both scared of living alone. Scared of ourselves, perhaps. We keep each other sane. And useful.  

“Let’s get going now” I cried at 5 minutes to noon, “we will have people from the class, all waiting. We’re also grabbing lunch before, alright!” 
“Just a moment, honey. I am shaving.”
“C’mon now. It’s not a party! And what’s with ‘honey’? I am not your girlfriend, okay?” I said, and put on Breaking Bad on Netflix. I was in the middle of season 5, and it’s getting crazier every episode. It’s so addictive, oh my god. It wasn’t until the episode was over that I realized Albert is still inside. What a bride-to-be, this guy.

“Albert! Dude. I’m gonna go by myself.”

No voice responded.


The doctors just told me there is scope for revival, but added that it was “in everyone’s best interest to be prepared for all eventualities.”

I don’t know whether we were lovers or just close friends or just two random depressed people who, as a matter of mere convenience, were each other’s support group. Whatever we were we weren’t anymore.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sid Shoulda Said - Update

Just thought I'd post an update regarding the fictional series "Sid Shoulda Said". I've started posting newer installments of it on another blog, while this one continues to be more or less as 'twas before, that is, more personal and more lethargic.

Should you be interested, I'd be glad to have you follow "Sid Shoulda Said" at I think following it and commenting on its posts might require a quora account, but rss feeds and bookmarking etc should work just like any other blog and be relatively undemanding.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sid Shoulda Said - Part 2 - Kruger Ganley, Then and Now

I’m feeling positive about an impending promotion. Last Friday, my boss asked me out to lunch. Well, to go together and pick up lunch from Sarvana Bhawan, to be precise, but that’s almost as good, definitely a signal. Then he got an important call so I had to go pick it up for us both. But why must I worry about a free lunch gone expensive, since what mattered was the signal, and that, as you’d agree, remains intact. I know that because he also complimented me yesterday on my work migrating the trading books to the new platform. “That was helpful”, he’d said. I’m actually a statistician working with market and macro data, so this was not, in the strict sense, a part of my responsibilities, falling clearly as you can tell in the domain of IT professionals, but it wasn’t terribly difficult and the whole exercise gained swiftness by orders of magnitude if I collaborated with the IT guys, so I figured why not. I can’t see how this isn’t exceeding expectations, unless the expectation is that I set up technology, do accounting, trade billions and serve chai and butter-toast to everyone while they play Oprah in the comments sections of Humans of New York.

So, yeah, it’s all looking good. Bonus and promotion announcements are still a month away, and my match dot com profile is already half-ready. In fact, what’s pending is just putting up my pictures, but, of course, that is the all important part. I do have a couple of nice pictures of mine from 2009 and 2010, and with just a little retouching, I should be all set. Uncle Baburam’s daughter Madhuri was very gracious about offering to “do amazing things with these pictures” at no cost, and although I’m quite tempted to take her up on the offer, I think I’ll hire a digital makeover expert from U2RHot for eight hundred bucks. What can I say, I’m not fooling around this time. And Madhuri should be focussing on her studies, Kindergarten is a crucial class.

You wouldn’t guess it from looking at me now, but my first six months at Kruger Ganley were a dream. I started at this job on the 23rd of June 2009, about two weeks after the graduation ceremony, and exactly four months from the day I’d started dating Swati. It was a phenomenal year, 2009. Everything about that year was perfect. If I left a problem in an exam because I’d have no clue how to solve it, I would later discover that the problem itself had being scrapped for some trivial linguistic ambiguity in the way it was written. This ball I hit out towards the hostel windows on the second floor, while playing cricket on the narrow alley next to the building this one time, went straight to the singular window without a pane, thus saving me the huge fine I was going red with dread about as the ball made its way up the projectile. Nothing could go wrong. Nothing could go wrong in the crazy unbelievable way that I now regret why I never dabbled in gambling or sports betting while it lasted. If I were ninety years at the time and left for a morning walk in a fit of rebelliousness and trembled on a rock, cursing everyone I ever knew in my head in the microsecond I imagined I had left with me on this planet before I hit the ground, a hot, top-naked girl would have come running from the woods, stopped me from falling, and kissed me passionately for no discernible reason. God was that kind of kind. 

The day I got the job, I got myself five Park Avenue shirts, one for each weekday. I would show up at work early, and smiled at everyone as they came in, just as uncle Baburam had advised. People seemed to like me, I stayed late and got everything done faster, taking workload off other people on my team who had been here a little longer, and have since all bought yachts and mansions and left the firm. My boss was supportive and treated us often, but I have to say under a different boss I might have learned a wee bit more. Most of his mentoring revolved around giving me such illuminating pearls of wisdom as “It is what it is”, “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do”, and “That’s what it should do, you’re right, but the reality is it does whatever it is it does”. He could spend an awful lot of words explaining things which were explained just as well in zero. During meetings was always on display his unique ability to talk for an hour about nothing except what he’ll be talking about for the rest of the hour, until the hour was over, and we exchanged pleasantries and left. Was this the secret to multiple Brooks Brother suits while paying for your kids’ piano classes at the same time, I always used to wonder. I only stopped when he was fired a couple of years ago. The new boss, let's call him Aurangzeb, has proved to be very hard to impress. In the last two years, he has only taken me out for lunch once. That was two months ago, at Suburban Tadka. At the restaurant, when the waiter turned towards me after taking his order and I was putting on my greedy smile, about to blurt out the most expensive dish on the menu, he butted in and ordered something for me entirely on his own discretion. “Just what I’d wanted”, I remarked heartily. The waiter gave me a look I will not go ahead and describe, before turning back to him, clearly aware of his only customer that mattered, “So how spicy would you like it, high, medium, low? Medium, I suppose?”
“Yes, medium.” said Aurangzeb.
“Ok, sir”, said the waiter and began to leave, when he was stopped again.
“Wait, wait, wait. Actually, do very medium. Infact, very, very medium.”

That is not the sign of a man who doles out promotions easily.

Friday, November 14, 2014


For the fourteenth time in as many weeks, Vasudev Bakhshi was faced with the question of what to do during the two and a half day long weekend, when the office admin girl, Alisha Bhatia of the blunt nose and domed forehead, began giving out candies at every desk with a cheerful, if shrill, cry of "Happy Friday", stopping at every desk, and before he knew talk of what everybody was going to do on the weekend filled the colossal yellow-lit hall lined with fifty thousand desks, or so they seemed to Vasu, who, obese as he was, had been running the tip of his index finger along the periphery of the opening created between two ridiculously stretched buttons of his grey linen shirt, and wondering what it was that he used to do with his weekends during the summer four months ago when Sonia, his wife and a professor of Geography at the University of Bundelkhand, was home for the vacation and, to his surprise, he couldn't remember anything of import, neither any elated partying like when they were both collegiate and hungry for each other's touch all the fucking time, nor, thankfully, any crazy, viscious fights characteristic of the year before when she was still working in the city, although he did recall a certain Aarohi's phone number scribbled on the last page of one of her books, a number that he had committed to memory with a suspicious, foreboding fear, a fear that it wasn't Aarohi, but whoever Sonia took her increasingly numerous cigarette breaks out on the backyard to probably converse with, always in what he imagined a voice so low her own shadow couldn't overhear, but why o why o why couldn't she have talked about it, what is the worst that could have happened? Little Ridhi wouldn't be screaming in her bed every night, and I would at least have been able to eat this candy.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sid Shoulda Said - Part 1 - The Short Term Goals of Sid Chat

We broke up three years ago, Swati and I, but I have to confess I have been thinking about her a lot lately. Being a man of indubitable character that I am, however, I won't call her. I strongly believe that it is very cheap to constantly call and text your ex-girlfriends, especially when, as in this case, they categorically cut your calls upon feeling the faintest shadow of your number upon their phone screens the fifteenth time they see it in a day.

My ex-girlfriend, the one who, some would say, I obsess excessively about, was the proverbial woman of substance, intelligent and driven, and I the typical man of substance abuse. She was also conventionally good-looking, had curls, big eyes, exquisitely shaped, soft lips, and a slim, affable personality. I knew other guys wanted her. I have no idea why she ever decided to date me with my flowing nose and fluffy arms, even though I admit my hair were the stuff of many a man's envy when shampooed. But that was rare, and besides, my teeth are a shade of color between yellow and green for which there is no name yet, as no other specimen of said color has ever been found in recorded history. She, on the other hand, brushed and flossed twice a day, and visited the dentist often. Her nose was pointed yet smooth, very much like a carefully sculpted nose made by a meritorious master's degree student of nose sculptures. In contrast, my own was made by an underpaid fast-food worker, who, when given this unexpected, unseemly task of making a nose, said what the fuck and made another samosa.

So I can only guess that she misconstrued my ugliness for my nerdiness, and gave in to her sapiosexual tendencies. I forget what the modern expression is, way out of my league, I suppose? But it wasn't the fact that she was physically attractive that drew me to her initially. It was that she was a girl, who would talk to me. That really was all. To really understand my obsession these hundreds of years later, you have to consider what had been happening with me in the years before.

I was precocious. As a toddler, I was already challenging the stereotype the whole world had been cooking up for ages about how all kids were cute. I do not remember a great deal of those days, but I do remember being constantly passed from one eager pair of arms to another reluctant one, before the latter would begin a frenetic search for the next victim. I am often told by my parents that I was the miracle kid who never peed his pants. Little do they know it was because I was so embarrassed already, I couldn't afford it. When I grew a little bit and reached the age when children start thinking they know shit, I realized that I was, after all, at least, a real funny dude. That was a big respite, I have to say. Every morning when I walked into the class, my classmates burst into instant laughter. I never quite understood, though, why they would hide my tiffin-box and leave chewing gum and pins on my chair and fail to tell me. To tell you a little secret, I never enjoyed that part as much as they thought.

But enough about me. I have to do something about this obsession with Swati if I am to have any hope of getting promoted. I have been slaving away for 4 years as a Junior Analyst at this bank, and each passing year that I find out I did not make Senior Analyst, the guilt of being a total failure gnaws at my chest hair. Before uncle Baburam, who was then a Senior VP also at Kruger Ganley, set me up for this job interview with an effusive recommendation, I had been looking for a year already. For a long time before that I had struggled with the question of what to do with my life. Everything I tried always felt either too easy or too difficult. Nothing was just the right level of challenging, except probably getting naked, but I've got to admit I could never have monetized that. Anyhow, as soon as I started working here, I knew it was for me. Plus I was over the roof that I had money to spend on my dates with Swati. Here I go again! No more talking of Swati, that bloodsucking bitch.

I have to get promoted this year. I promised myself I will only send out matrimonial ads when I can mention I’m a Senior Analyst. My brother thinks I’m a moron for wanting to mention Senior Analyst, which, he says, is an oxymoron of a title. Yes, he says things like that ever since he interned at this literary magazine, Intellectuelle, that sells exactly as many copies as it has employees, because there are only as many people in the world as pretentious. “What are you trying to tell girls, that you are the senior-most junior-most person in the bank?” he goes. What does he know about online matrimonial MO with his average build and his face that is not remotely annoying, and who the hell awarded him the pedestal to consider himself qualified to pontificate his literary hogwash over me. Besides, isn’t Junior Analyst a pleonasm, smartass?

By the way, I’m Chaturvedi, Siddharth Chaturvedi. Get used to the name, you will be hearing a lot of me. If there is one thing about me everybody strongly agrees with, it's that once I start coming, I keep coming.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Spiral of D

and think
how there's noone
to stop your crying,
but if there is, think
why're they not pained
when you cry like this,
but if they are, think
why are they not
pained enough
when you are,
and cry. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Jagjit Singh

Some of you who have stuck with this blog for a long time, assuming there are some of you, would know that not too long ago (well at least until 4 years ago, anyway) I considered literature my foremost calling, but more importantly, my biggest purpose. All that had started after a particularly mind-blowing experience of reading Camus' 'The Fall' on a particularly hot evening in 2006, a day before my Fluid Mechanics finals. Ever since, I have maintained that that reading, and the ones that followed, had a great role to play in me coming into being as an individual, the kind of person I grew into.

And, and Jagjit Singh with his renditions that emphasized poetry before musical pyrotechnics unlike his compatriots even in the relatively thoughtful rarified world of ghazals, was to me divinity itself.

Kafka and Camus are no longer personal heroes, but just a couple of NoSQL technologies I try to get fluent with.
JS now refers not to a personal hero, but the almost as admirable JavaScript.

Ah, life's changes.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

A room of one's own

In this very week, 17 years ago, I moved to a new place. It was a huge change. I moved from New Delhi to, well, New Delhi, but in my own little life it was a development of colossal proportions. The new place was, well, a mile from the old one, but it was still quite honestly a huge change. I don't live at the said new place anymore. Haven't for a very long time in fact, but it was quite something, the giddy euphoria I used to feel back in those days at the prospect of having my own private place, a den, as it were, a room of my own. I was eleven years old, and wasn't doing any of the things that people most require a room of their own for. But, anyway, those were the days.

Also, these. These are also THE days. But let's come to that later.

Since I believe the blog should betray continuity of some sort, let me fill the large absences on my blog with a quick recap of my whereabouts since I seem to have shifted base frequently in the last couple of years. After completing my education in Pittsburgh at the end of last year, I spent more than two months at my brother's place in Cleveland, traveled to Florida for a bit and have since been working and living in Princeton. Now that the ambiguity regarding my whereabouts has been resolved, the point of the post is that my parents flew in here from New Delhi a few days ago! I just can't remember the last time I had felt this happy. When I graduated? I have to say that was the culmination of 17 months of the hardest I ever worked, but, no. When I found a job? That was a massive relief, because it immediately freed me from worrying about paying off a gargantuan debt, but, hell no. What are some other candidates? When I first fell in love, that was close, but no, not really quite there.

Until a few days ago, I used to doze off on most weekdays at around 9. It was a major departure from my grad school days when I was wide awake at school at 3 AM everyday but for some reason, it felt as if after an eleven hour workday starting at 7 AM, and watching a nominal amount of TV, it was the a natural and even necessary thing. It doesn't help that I know, in a non-professional way, a sum total of zero people in the city I live in. Besides, you've got to get up on time, right? Wrong, apparently. The thirst for sleep vanished as if by magic, and cheesy as it sounds, I feel so effusively happy reliving my teenage days of watching news on TV every night with dad that it is even somewhat embarrassing to admit. So effusively happy, secretly. Also, again, as if by magic, I who could not bear to stay awake until last week can't possibly go to sleep now, and feel like I have all the energy in the world to cook my parents dishes I've learned to cook over the last 2 years, drive them everywhere and be the the world's best bad tour guide.

I must have been foolish when I was 11. Or I must be foolish now, that the thing I least want, almost dread, is a place of my own, even though I can no longer say that I amn't doing any of the things that people most require a place of their own for. Yes, yes, I admit I had begun watching Bigg Boss. But they're off season anyway.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lost on the sofa

I watched this travel series today, Stephen Fry in America, all episodes in one day. It was an amazing experience. The sheer geographical and cultural diversity of USA blows your mind, as does Stephen Fry's unmistakable charm. I have been watching a lot of travel shows lately, one other that I liked greatly was Happy People, a comparatively slow moving chronicle of the trials and tribulations, and most of all, unfading happiness, of the people that inhabit the Serbian lands in north Russia: the Serbians and the Russians. I could write long rambling posts on my experience of watching each of these two programs, but continuing being the lazy ass that I've been lately, I'd just briefly state how bloody significant I increasingly find it is to travel. And to end by the silvery consolation that watching travel shows, since not everyone can hope to travel so much while keeping up with their myriad, uncanny responsibilities, watching good travel shows can sometimes indeed be a great option.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Empathy as skill

Today, on linkedin, I saw an article headlined "Why empathy is your most important skill." I thought it was wrong on so many levels, I wonder where to begin. Also, I have no motivation to write long posts. So I'll just record that while I have nothing against skill-building, in fact it's a most noble activity, but the moment you start thinking of empathy as a skill, you miss the whole point of it, and basically guarantee that you probably won't be acquiring any, and stand to lose some of what you were born with.