Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Ballad Of Half-Ass

As a small child, Half-Ass didn't like colouring books. There were too many rules and too many lines for him to stay within. He hated that numbers told him which colours to use. So, he took out his crayons and went wild, with utter disdain for boundaries and recommended colour spaces. In fact, many times, he even left his picture incomplete, with nothing more than a few scratches of orange or green to suggest that he had given his artistic attention to the picture. Half-Ass went through a lot of colouring books, and his parents encouraged him, dreaming that they were nurturing the next Half-Asso.

Through his growing years, Half-Ass brought with him truckloads of energy and a fleeting attention span. Sports was an ideal playground for him to expend that energy. He started with cricket because, well, everyone did. But the long periods of inactivity between his short batting sessions bored him and his cricket kit was pushed to a corner, gathering dust. He picked up badminton but lost interest while waiting to grow taller than the net. He entered the tennis court but it turned out to be too small for his sixer-like shots. He played table tennis for a little longer but after a day when every shot failed to touch the table, he flung his racquet into a corner where it lay waiting to be discovered in a future archaeological dig.

Half-Ass was lucky with women, but not in love. He managed the courtship well enough, with flowers and gifts and poetry, but the hard work required to sustain and develop a relationship eluded his understanding. Bright, eloquent sparks might grab her attention and a little more, but finally it is the candle that provides illumination for the longest period of time. Half-Ass was more the sparkly cracker that makes people turn and say, "Wow!" and then, spent, is pushed into a pile to be dumped.

However, Half-Ass really hit pay-dirt at work. In his very first project, even though he was a lowly intern, there was a magical quality about him that endeared people to him. He quickly rose the ranks from bringing tea to sitting in on meetings to heading them. It was an indescribable quality, but it made his colleagues feel warm and confident and stress-free. With Half-Ass on the team, there was nothing that they could not find the answer to; with him leading the team, it was rock 'n roll all night and party everyday. He was like a sedative and an invigorant, an actioner and a planner, attack and defense, alcohol and Red Bull. And his charm worked. Clients loved him; he made them feel like everything was under control and his team had answers to everything.

Half-Ass's success didn't go unnoticed. Entire books were dedicated to dissecting his management approach; some criticised it saying it would lead to the downfall and corruption of industry, while others welcomed it as a breath of fresh air in the otherwise staid manner of functioning. His style even got its own name: 'The Half-Assed Approach'. The name and practice spread like wildfire across popular culture.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Obama Dream

The house sits in the location where I know my uncle's house is in Chennai. It's a large corner plot, situated at a T-junction of a smaller street and a slightly larger one. However, the house itself is slightly different from what I remember. It is set to the back, allowing for large open spaces between the gate and the front door. The absence of a thriving garden gives it a feel of a minimalistic, contemporary house, something that might be in vogue in Sweden or a magazine.

Inside, the feeling of airiness continues and I feel constantly connected to the outside. Even though this is Chennai, the outside doesn't feel quite as bad. There isn't any traffic or pollution or noise, and the weather is cool and pleasant, like Bangalore. While the clear-cut feel of the house extends into its living and dining spaces, with its stark whiteness and ramrod straight lines, this kitchen is peculiarly old-school and homely. It reminds me of kitchens I have seen in houses that were probably built pre-Independence, but that still function perfectly. The spotted floor is yellowed from decades of feet, the black granite counter-tops are round-edged and sporadically splotched with little holes, and there isn't a cupboard in sight. Instead, there is ample storage space under the counter-tops, where all the large vessels are kept, and three or four short lines of shelves on a wall for cups and small plates. The air seems to hang still in the kitchen, but entering it doesn't feel like entering a dingy, musty room, but rather like accessing a childhood memory that is wrapped up in layers of village visits to your grandmother in the summer holidays.

Obama is staying with us. That's right, US President, Mr. Barack Obama, Mr. President, is a house-guest.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Victory Of Light

There once was a man who hated the night.
He bumped into things and stubbed his toe
against things he could not see.
So, he decided to travel with the sun
and forever banish the dark.

At first dawn, he jumped onto his horse
and rode towards the brightening horizon.
He rode towards the sun,
that giver of life and light,
yelling, “I am coming, my friend.”

He rode all morning,
and as the sun grew higher,
he believed he was getting closer,
till it hung over his head
like a guillotine at noon.

Suddenly he was riding away from it;
it was going down behind his back.
So, he spun his horse around
and rode furiously to the descending sun
shouting, “I am coming, my friend; hold on.”