IT, then BPO, now Farming

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
First, India exported her software engineers around the world to let them implement software systems in different countries. Then we started the whole offshoring thing to bring those jobs back home.

Then, we did BPO. Of course, this time the basic intention was the bring jobs home.

Now, it's farming. Wonder if they expect them to bring the farms back home...

(Ok, ok, this is a silly post. But I guess I'm feeling quite silly right now. It's 2:30 am)

I can't believe I'm doing this

Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Remember how I'm always saying that it ticks me off when people put my story up on the net without giving me any credit for it?
Well, I found out about yet another one of these. But there's a twist. And maybe because "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" (I'm assuming they liked it, but then assumption is the mother of all f- ... you know), they decided to make a not-so-mega-serial out of it.

My constitution is a little too weak to read the whole thing, but that's probably just me.

So if anyone can go through the whole thing, could you let me know if it's a happy ending? Just that. I'd rather not know the details. Maybe someday. But not right now. Ok?

Updated 15 Nov 2004: Removed link to the mega-serial, based on a request by the author(s). I would like to point out that this is not because I'm backing down from my stand on the unauthorized use of my work. I'm only giving in to a request by the author(s) to allow their work to remain private - even if "private" means being able to find the site using MSN Search using the first few words from my story...

Updated 13 Dec 2004: ... or via links the authors left behind on the comments to this post.

HP Customer Service Rocks!

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
10/20 - Wednesday evening: I call HP, and complain about my Laptop power adapter which has a lose connection with the connector at the back of my laptop, so it doesn't charge 80% of the time. Have to wedge something between the adapter plug and the table surface to keep it stuck in place, and even then it's a struggle to get it to work. The customer service representative at 1-800-HP-Invent takes down my problem details, my address, and offers to have FedEx pick up the laptop "tomorrow". I ask if I need to back up my data and he says "Yes, they will re-image your hdd, so do take a backup of all your data." Before I have a chance to protest that I've got 6 months worth of installations and data and customizations on the system, he says "Well, actually since this is a power problem, you can just remove your hdd before sending it." And then he tells me exactly how to do that. And it's really quite a breeze to do it. I arrange a pickup for Friday since it's my responsibility to pack it up properly in "3-inches of industry standard packaging material like Bubble-wrap" and a box. Plus, he offers to have it collected from office. Which is good for me. And I'm not being charged anything yet. The guy reads out the terms and conditions which say that though I'm under warranty, if the fault is found to be because of damage done by me, then they would confirm my method of payment before carrying out repairs, which is reasonable.

10/22 - Friday afternoon: FedEx picks up my laptop. I'm thinking that since HP will only get the laptop on Monday morning (next business day on overnight shipping), and the CSR said the laptop would be returned to me in 5-7 business days, I wouldn't have the laptop for two weekends.

10/25 - Monday evening: I check the email address I gave them, and I have acknowledgement of the laptop being received. Also, they say it's coming back Thursday. I'm overjoyed, since I didn't expect it back that fast. No FedEx tracking info yet, since the status says it's not shipped yet.

10/26 - Tuesday morning: I get a call from my office reception saying my Laptop is back!

Boy am I overjoyed! They fixed my problem, my laptop works flawlessly, and all in a matter or 2 business days! HP Rocks!


on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
I was watching Baby's Day Out today. Has anyone out there realised that the baby's nanny in the movie is played by Cynthia Nixon, who also plays Miranda Hobbes in Sex and the City?

Now that caught me by surprise.

I mean, yes, Miranda is probably the most likeable of the four (Charlotte is cute, but dumb), but I still can not picture her as a Nanny!


In the movie, the nanny is closer to the baby than the mother. Which is probably natural if taking care of the baby is the nanny's job. I mean if all that the mother does is say Hello to the kid at meal times, or kiss it good night, then of course the kid is going to be attached to the Nanny, with the mother simply being known as the person called "Mom".

I don't think I would be okay with the idea of giving the charge of my children to a nanny. Raising a child is what makes parents, parents. You can't outsource that.

Yes, I know. Wait till it's my turn, and my wife wants to go back to work after having the baby. Then I'll know.
But then maybe I'll quit my job and stay home to take care of my children (of course, if I'm the one who has to stay home, I'll probably stop at one kid). I've been thinking about making writing my profession. Then I could stay home, right? Going by the hit rate this blog invites, I'd probably be able to afford to buy a bottle of milk every month on my earnings. And that's if I'm optimistic. Still, being among the top ten on Sulekha's "Best Authors" list must count for something, no?

I've also been learning to cook over the past few days, so I think I might be gearing myself to be a good housewife... Made good Dal under supervision on Friday, and edible, though a little high on the red chilli Potato-Cabbage curry (don't ask me what that means. I was out of vegetables) today.
And I can make rice too. So I think I can survive.

Oh, who am I kidding? If I cooked regularly, the whole family would end up with food-poisoning.

Withdrawal symptoms

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
My personal laptop was giving problems (would not charge even when plugged in, unless I was holding the power adapter's connector in place) and so I had to send it off to California today. Luckily, I'm still covered under the first year warranty. They said they'd return it in 5-7 business days. Which means I don't get to see it for a couple of weekends.

Luckily, I still have my office laptop and so my new broadband connection won't be wasted all that much.

Still, I miss the darn thing. It's got the huge 15.4 inch wide screen giving me a lot more screen space, specially when I've got the sidebar turned on in Firefox (which means, always).
And the larger keyboard is kinder to my poor fingers. I've got to type with practically two fingers on this IBM Thinkpad T21.

I guess what I really want is a desktop...

The Making of "Just Another Love Story"

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Warning: This blog might not interest you unless you've read and like my story Just Another Love Story.

Going by the attention that my story Just Another Love Story has generated, and the number of people who have thought that it's my "own love story", I thought I should write about the birth of the story and what it was before it ended up in its current state.
And, hey, it's another reason to blog :)

It was early October 2003, and I was in New York. (Yes, already in New York, not in Chennai). Since I was living in Secaucus and working in Manhattan, commutation to and from work everyday involved taking a 10 minute walk to the bus stop, catching a bus to Port Authority Bus Terminal (Times Square - 40th or 41st street), catching the number 7 subway train to Grand Central and finally the number 4 or 6 trains to 32nd street which dropped me a block from my office building on Park Avenue. Same thing on the way back. (Except in reverse, of course)

One day as I was returning home, I was not sitting with my roommate (probably because both of us wanted a window seat that day), and the seat next to mine was occupied by a nice looking girl in a suit and carrying a blackberry. I was tempted to start a conversation, to find out what the blackberry was (I'd never seen one before) if for nothing else. But, I didn't. I preferred to sleep instead. Travelling to and from Manhattan does tire one out.

The ride lasts around 30-40 minutes in the evening before the first stop, and if I remember correctly the bus driver dims the lights in the bus to allow people to take a short nap. People who intend to read can turn on their personal lights.

A few minutes into the ride, when I was awake and was looking out the window, she asked me if I could put my light on. Her light wasn't enough to see her blackberry with. Or it was something like that. Can't remember the exact reason she spoke to me, but it was about the light above my head. Anyway.
So we got talking about what the little PDA-like thingy was, and other stuff. A comfortable conversation, that lasted till I got off the bus.

That was the end of that story.

A couple of weeks later, (I assume it was later, though it could have been earlier, in which case the last few paragraphs would be unconnected to the rest of this post - though I don't really think that's true), I had got a hold of the song "As I Lay Me Down" by Sophie B Hawkins. I'd never heard this one before, though I'd heard one other song of hers.
I fell in love with the song instantly. It was sweet, simple, and so positive, that I must have heard it 8-10 times the next morning on my way to the office (on my MP3 player). I believe while I was in the bus to Port Autority, I came up with the idea of JALS, though I'd pictured it a little differently. (But the important thing is that it was while listening to the song umpteen times that I came up with the initial idea for the story. It's the one that inspired the story! Do listen to the song if you like slow but foot-tapping sweet music. Of course, my brother loves Heavy Metal, and even he loves the song, so try it either way.)
As soon as I reached office, I started writing. Considering that I do have to work while I'm in the office, it took me the whole day to pen the first two thousand words. And it had an ending that I scratched out as soon as I had finished it. It was that bad.
And, the story had started out quite differently too. The first sentence itself was pointed in a different direction. The earliest version of the story that I can locate, began with "It all started on a lovely December morning in the hottest city in the world" as opposed to "It was a lovely December morning in the hottest city in the world". Because when I started penning the story, I'd intended to meet Preeti Mehra for the first time in the bus itself. And I'd originally written something like "On this particular day, a new girl got on the bus" and not "a girl got on the bus". Of course, the second I'd finished that sentence I scratched out the "new" and decided that I must already know her, or she just wouldn't come up and say "Hello". Things like that don't happen to me. Of course, I was also feeling too lazy to dream up a reason for starting a conversation. (No, I couldn't use the real life example. The story was based in Chennai. We don't use Blackberrys in Chennai.)

In fact, in the earliest version that I currently can locate (dated November 13th 2003), Preeti actually used to try to get me introduced to other girls.
If there were a girl I was interested in, she’d do her best to make sure I got an introduction. In spite of her best efforts, though, I was still single. I think she tried too hard. Girls never get romantically interested in a "Nice Guy".

The point I'm trying to make is that as I get farther down the story, a lot of stuff I've already written, becomes inconsistent with the stuff I'm writing. I have a basic idea about the plot, but haven't really decided where the characters are going to end up. I think it's because at some level they begin to have a life of their own, and I just have to let them live it out!

Anyway, so at that point I was also reminiscing about my first published article "Rants Of A Single Guy! " which had been published on Sulekha less than three months previously.

The first ending, was all teary eyed, and "I love you", "Oh I love you too!" "boo hoo hoo", and so on. I hated it before I'd finished it, and as soon as I was done, I selected the last paragraph, and sort of seperated it from the rest of the document (I use MS Word), putting the comment "Pathetic Alternative ending" or something like that. I wish I had a copy of that document. (Even in its current version, the anguish levels keep increasing from the point where he finds out he loves her, to the point where he says "I don't want to go.")
Anyway. So I started again at the point where they are sitting at the airport and he's about to blurt it out. This time, I went more or less like the current version of the story, except that I stopped with "And that moment, my dear friends, was magic."

It stayed that way for a day or two, I think. It wasn't feeling complete. Too many things were unresolved. I hadn't even started the second draft yet, to iron out the kinks. But that wasn't what was bothering me. What was bothering me was that it seemed too cruel to have them spend only a couple of hours with each other before being separated for two whole years. (Even if it was only an exaggeration of something that happened with a friend of mine - 4 days and then 8 months).
So then I added the bit where she's the one who's been scheming, and is coming to New York after him. Once I'd done that, the story did seem complete.

So I left it that way for a few weeks. These early versions with small changes made every few days, were seen by a few of my friends - in all their inconsistency. She introduces him to other girls while she's pining away for him. How selfless! She's very tomboyish but gets quite droopy in between.
So the initial "Tomboyish" became "Slightly Tomboyish". She didn't introduce him to other girls, she took him to the opera.

The feedback until then had been positive, but I knew as a reader, that the story wasn't that good, so I was looking for some real critics. I showed it to a couple of more friends. One who always praises anything I write (she's one of the reasons I actually wrote Rants, and submitted it to Sulekha), and one who tends to be a little more frank about her opinion. (You've got to have balance. Only criticism would have killed my intentions of showing the story to anyone, for sure.)
The first one, of course, came back saying "I was glued to my monitor for the entire 3000+ words!" and the second one came back saying "It's nice, but I liked your first article better". So I probed and she verbalized my exact feelings about the story in its current state. That it left too many open issues. There were a number of things that could be interpreted in more than one way, and have the reader say "But if he did that two paragraphs ago, why is he doing this now?". Or general stuff about characterization.
The argument against these kinds of questions, is that people are inconsistent by nature. That people actually do things that you can't explain. And, of course, sometimes it's a bad idea to tell the reader everything. Doesn't leave much to the imagination.
Which is why I'd not bothered to tie up all the lose ends. But hearing the same concerns outside of my own head, made me realise that they might be important enough to tie up. Still, I didn't touch the story for another couple of weeks, till around 17th December 2003. And even then, I only updated it because...

Wait. Gotta have a bit of a flashback.

On November 13, 2003, I decided that I wanted to preserve a version of the story somewhere online, so that even if I lost my harddisk, or anything like that, I'd be able to get my hands on the last version. So I uploaded it as a Private contribution on Sulekha. Which meant no one but I could see it. (I hadn't got into the blogging scene at that time)
The problem, was that Private contributions on Sulekha weren't working very well. So, though I could upload the story, I couldn't see it, or download it.
I wrote to Sulekha with my problem and the editor responded with an email (they used to be very prompt at that time) asking me to send the Word document to her and that she'd upload it for me. I complied, stating very clearly that the version I was sending her was only a draft (might have used the caps lock here), and that it was only supposed to go as a Private contribution. I didn't want it put up for public view when I knew it wasn't really complete. I'm normally quite nervous about anything I write that is supposed to be a serious piece of literature before it becomes public to the whole bloody world. The next mail from her was one telling me they'd work on the Private contributions issue, but that until then I could post it as a Private Weblog. I more or less ignored this mail, making a mental note to myself to try that some day. That was November 17th.

Now, coming back to the 17th of December. Swapna (then editor of Sulekha) wrote me a mail saying
Hey Rajesh,

Nice story there.
I want to publish it on Sulekha next week.
If the final draft is ready, please send it across to me at the earliest.

Swapna Vijay

PS: Sounds very autobiographical. If I am right, I suppose Preeti must be busy baking cakes for you..:)

So. She'd read my story. She liked it so much that she didn't even wait for me submit it! You can imagine that my ego was bloated. By quite a bit. Until then I'd decided to submit it for the Love Story contest I knew they'd be having around Valentine's day. (It's really difficult to come up with a story on demand, even if they give you a whole month. I'm not Asimov, you know).
But I was so delighted that someone who was an editor of a popular online magazine had actually asked me if she could use my story - for someone like me, that's like an offer to publish my book - that I changed my mind, and decided that I would send the latest copy to her so that she could publish it the next week. And of course, she thought it sounded realistic, which meant that the holes in the story couldn't really be that big.

So, I picked up the story again, and for the next day, went through it again and again, ironing out more kinks, removing paragraphs which made the story inconsistent, and then putting other paragraphs back while maintaining the continuity of the story, adding lines in between which explained a couple of more as yet unexplained things, and so on.
The next day, I sent the story to two more friends asking for an immediate review. One who I think had seen an earlier version, and one hadn't. Both different kinds of people. Both of whom I didn't think would be that hugely impressed by any story that fell into the category of a "love story". The guy loved it. Which was surprising. Did not expect that kind of response from him. The girl - she'd read the earlier version - asked me to change one or two words which sounded wrong (I'd had them in mind, but wanted to know if anyone else noticed them, since I couldn't think of what to replace them with). Changed one. The other is still in there. Any guesses? ;)
She also told me what parts of the story she especially liked - like the conversation in the beginning where he wants to sleep and she wants to talk - and so my confidence in the story increased. I'd been biting my nails (metaphorically, of course) until then.
So, finally, with fingers on both hands crossed, (and typing with your hands in that state is not easy) I sent the story to Sulekha with the title "Yet Another Love Story". Simply because I couldn't think of a better title that did not give the ending away.
Swapna complained that there was already a story with that name on the site. So I had to think of another one. (I'd complained about their changing the title of my first article from "Rants from a nice guy" to "Rants of a single guy" without asking me, so I guess she decided let me do it this time.) She said she would think of something too.

While I came up with:
Yet Another 'Yet Another Love Story' (which I thought was funny)
Yet Another Love Tale (Ew)
Tale of Love (I hated this even while I suggested it)
Not Another Love Story! (which is what I'd thought of the first time I started writing the story, except that I thought many people might not understand the significance of the "Another" in italics. And that that might give them the wrong idea.)
Oh No! Not Another Love Story! (which was a remedy to the problems with the previous title, but had too many exclamations.)
One More Love Story (which I might have used if a brainwave hadn't given me the next idea)
Just Another Love Story (which I really liked)

She came up with:
Way to a man's heart (which I hated, of course)

So on the 20th of December, we decided on Just Another Love Story.

And that's how the story came to be! :)

Good Bye Dave Barry, Hello Dave Glardon!

Posted by Rajesh J Advani
A friend introduced me to Dave Glardon today. I'm guessing he's not remotely as popular as Dave Barry, but he's definitely quite funny.
Ok, so his webpage creation skills need a lot of refinement. But who cares, really?

Try him out. I'm sure you'll like his columns.


on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Four months less two days from the day I submitted my story to Sulekha, and I finally get published. And I'm left wondering if it was even worth the wait...

Will You Marry Me?

Settling down

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
I finished moving into my new apartment on Saturday morning, but was travelling on the weekend and so only slept there the first time on Sunday night.
No phone, no internet access, and no movie channels for another week.

I tried latching on to someone's wireless network but the signal was very low, and only connected from one spot in the house.
So, just playing video games on the laptop for now.

This blog will be back. Very soon.


on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
And this is really D-uh!

I'd wondered for a long time what the name of the Times of India cartoon Dubyaman, was supposed to refer to. I'd suspected for quite a long time that Dubya is George Bush, but I had no idea why.

Today, as the result of a brainwave, I decided to ask Google. (Tubelight? I would tend to agree).

Searching Google for "define:dubya" tells you that Dubya is George W. Bush, a.k.a W, a.k.a dubyuh (pronounce W with an American accent), a.k.a Dubya. Simple, eh? Downright ass-brained...


Posted by Rajesh J Advani
I've had one false start, so don't want to celebrate too soon, but Sulekha told me yesterday (and this is the second time for this particular submission) that they'd love to publish my story. Hopefully they'll give me a date soon. Let's see.

I got an apartment!

Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Finally, after spending one full month month and one day in this Godforsaken place, I leased an apartment today! Finally, I can relax. Yes, the apartment complex doesn't have a gym or a swimming pool, and I'm paying the moon for it, but the place is nice, and cozy, and big enough to share with two to three other people. So at this time, I'm rejoicing. :)

Once I get broadband, hopefully, this blog will pick up on content again...

Will you...?

on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Remember that story I keep saying I submitted to Sulekha years ago? (Ok, so it's been only 15 weeks). Well I've been following up on it, and they've asked me to re-submit it at least three times now. And I've still had no confirmation for the last two weeks.

Maybe it's the title of the story - "Will You Marry Me?".

The editor is female, and sometimes I just wish she'd say 'No' and get it over with...


on Posted by Rajesh J Advani
Labels: ,
This was initially supposed to be a comment to this post. But then it got too long (once-you-start-just-can't-stop-syndrome).

The first time someone called me "Uncle" was when I was 17. I didn't shave much then. Once in two weeks was a big thing I guess. (I was probably of the opinion that God gave me facial hair for a reason).

I was at my aunt's place, which is a ground floor apartment, and the colony kids playing outside would sometimes come over to her place and ask for a glass of water. This particular day, I opened the door. The kid - not more than seven years old - took one look at me and said "Uncle, pani chahiye." (Uncle I want water).

Now even at 5'10" and the moustache and some semblance of an unshaved beard, I hardly looked like an "Uncle".
With him was a kid who must have been about four. I looked straight into the older kid's eyes and kept staring for what must have seemed to him like an eternity.
Slowly, I said, "Kya bola?" (What did you say?)
He was obviously scared, but had no idea what he was supposed to be scared about.
There was a pause of about ten seconds, and he started backing away. "Kuchh nahin" (Nothing), he said, and started going back to look for other oases.
If he ran away, he'd never know what he had done wrong. So, I stopped him. "Wait," I said.
He stopped, and looked at me trying to avoid my eyes.
"You want water?" I asked.
The kid nodded.
All this time, the little one had no idea what was going on, and I was avoiding him completely. He was too short anyway, and I would have to crane my neck too much to look at him.
So I went to the kitchen and got two glasses of water.
As I handed the glasses to both of them, I turned my attention to the older one again.
"What did you call me?" I asked.
Slowly, as if he wasn't sure it was the right answer, he replied, "Uncle?"
I was seventeen! These kids called my cousins, who were three and five years older than me, "Bhaiyya"! (Literally meaning "Older brother" but used to refer to any male who's much older and so definitely not a "friend", but not old enough to be an "Uncle")
"Main Uncle lagta hoon?" (Do I look like an Uncle?)
He started nodding yes, but then mid-nod he probably realized that that might be the wrong answer, and so he stopped. And kept looking at me - as if trying to make up his mind.
"Main Uncle lagta hoon?" I asked again.
The glass of water in his hands was untouched. But the little one had drained his and was trying to give the empty glass back to me. He was pointing into the glass in such a way to indicate that he wanted more. Not much of a speaker, that one. Wonder what he'd have called me.
I went back into the kitchen and got some more water. When I returned, the older kid had drained his glass too.
"Aur chahiye?" (Want more?) I asked him.
This time his answer was a definite "No" nod.
"Ok", I said, "lekin yeh batao, kya main Uncle lagta hoon?" (but tell me, do I look like an Uncle?)
I could almost see his face say "Damn!"
The part of him that believed in the "survival of the ones with best judgement" theory, tried to nod "No". But the other part of him that believed in scientific and objective analysis of available data before reaching a conclusion, tried not to nod at all. Which finally ended in a slight shake of the head that was an answer without any specific meaning.
"Uncle lagta hoon kya?" (Do I look like an Uncle?) I repeated.
The little one was trying to reach up and return the glass to me. Having achieved his objective, he started walking away, completely unaware of the gravity of the situation.
The older one tried to follow him too, but I wasn't having any of that.
"Thehro," (Wait) I said.
The kid looked at me again, trying to come to terms with the fact that getting out of this didn't seem easy.
"Main Uncle nahin hoon," (I'm not an Uncle) I said simply.
The kid apparently didn't know what to make of that statement. The look on his face was similar to what the expression on a mathematician's face might be if someone said "Two and two is not four."

"Main Uncle nahin hoon," I repeated.
This still failed to evoke any response.

"Call me Bhaiyya," I said.

At this, the kid's eyes opened wide, as he realized what the point of the entire conversation (or monologue) had been. He lips widened just a bit to show the beginnings of a smile and then, knowing that I was only a Bhaiyya, he just ran away.

I stood there for a few seconds looking at the empty spot where the kid had been, and began turning away to close the door when the smaller one turned up once more. "Thank you, uncle" he said, and disappeared again.

And at twenty-three, women used to tell me that I was too young. Is there any justice in this world?