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Hobbies and Jobbies

In Blogging, Monday, Motivation, Office humor, SlavesInc, Wage Slaves, work life balance on October 27, 2017 at 17:12
Employment is an increasingly thin disguise for lives being spent on auto-pilot. Hours, years, decades spent at desks convincing yourself that this is what you were born to do. Your entire childhood, education and the relative exuberance of your youth add up to this contract of employment at this CTC. Most of your time and faculties are spent not in working but in telling yourself that this…it it. This is all there is to life. This and shopping. Shopping is why you exist. And voting once in a while. In the modern world, we are consumers first, citizens later. Social media; at best, let’s us humour ourselves. At worst, it keeps you in a semi-comatose state throughout the day. Man did not evolve to grow old in cubicles. But via the miracle of the modern economy he can gladly do so simply because everybody else is. The mass tranquilization of conformity.
Stray ideas and interests can be kept as pets and called hobbies. Something you do in your free time, on the side, in the most inconsequential way possible.  ‘Yeah, he still does that…collecting stamps,’ followed by a sympathetic smile. As if we were describing a disease he has to live with, ‘Yeah, he loves getting Asthma, but only in his free time…and on rainy days.’ We never reserve the same disdain for day jobs, ‘Yeah, he is Vice President Marketing now. It only took him twenty years, two angioplasties and one divorce to get there.’ Hobbies are looked down upon as guilty pleasures. Not only can they not earn a livelihood they are not even supposed to. Which is why the most powerful people in the world are the ones who have made making money their hobby. A single-minded pursuit of money is bound to succeed in a world designed to worship it. But simply existing in defiance of it is the bigger success. In times when money is by itself a consumer product, a healthy detachment is essential to maintain sanity. You don’t have to be a hermit though. Struggling artists give artists a bad name. The compulsively struggling down on his luck stereotype is why we can’t imagine a world run by artists instead of politicians and businessmen. There would be no material progress, only a never-ending hippie party. And it’s probably true. If artists ran the world we may not have had nuclear power but then we would not have needed it either.
I still know people who state ‘General Knowledge’ as a hobby. GK. Admittedly, they are all old. But there was a time; not long ago, when it was cute that uncle Shyam could recite the capital of Azerbaijan and all Soviet states in alphabetical order. Now; in the 4G era, it is just sad. But at least Shyam had a personality. He tried to grasp something beyond the mundane. We remember people for their quirks, not their routines. If your entire life’s work amounts to a flat in the suburbs and a few FDs, the world could have probably done without you. ‘He was a nice guy…yeah…’
– Punit Pania

Late Shift Blues

In Artist, freelancing, Office humor, Organisation, SlavesInc, vitamin d deficiency, Wage Slaves, work life balance, work stress on June 8, 2017 at 20:13
‘You again?’ he said. You could have said the exact same thing but you stick to the more traditional, ‘Hi.’
This must be the seventh time you have ran into the man on the last train home. You vaguely remember him in the audience at one of your dos. You don’t recall ever asking his name and it has not hampered your acquaintance for lack of a better word.
Train Kandivali
You fill him in on all that has been happening in your little version of rebellion. He listens with amusement but that is about it. Then you ask him about his…work. Not that there is much excitement he can share about the ERP offshoring project that is gainfully employing him. Then you try silence for a while and it catches on. Till it’s time for you to say goodbye at your destination. The empty rake takes the man home only to repeat the cycle again tomorrow. He didn’t seem sad but he didn’t look hopeful either. A version of you in a parallel universe. It was a rather Fight Club moment, like meeting your spirit animal.
There is something about late night shifts that brings about contemplation even in the most wound up of automatons. May be it is the moonlight, the relative coolness or just the silence. The sweepers on the platform, the rickshaw drivers waiting for a last ride home or just an excuse to call it a day and you on your post-gig high seem to share an unspoken camaraderie, a loose brotherhood of odd-jobers. Going through the motions of their respective mime acts. Like you were in a video for a blues song together.
New York Workers

PhotoShop always was a latent need of the market.

Some days you see your ex-colleagues on the other side of the tracks, on the right side of market sentiment and the wrong side of traffic. Their belts struggling to contain their impending cardiac episodes and the compartment barely containing the class struggle. As you wave at them from your empty compartment going upstream, the success is almost cinematic in contrast. But it’s not the end, it never is. There is always a higher plane to abdicate to. And unfortunately life is a series of sequels no one asked for.
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Man is a creature of habit. All creatures are. Meaning can always be retrofitted. From training troops to telecallers, most mission calls are euphemisms at best. Lies we decide to believe collectively to make life bearable. One should always be weary of replacing one drudgery with another.
Slice of Life Dexter
Small talk about traffic, weather and elections is just static filling the emptiness of your years. You can choose to wake up or sleepwalk through the rest of your life, no one will notice either way. But at least pick the shift that feels most defiant.
– Punit Pania

Bachelor of Commerce

In humor, SlavesInc, work life balance on January 4, 2017 at 17:46
‘I can’t afford one more baby,’ you say instinctively as the collections start for Govind’s second child’s first gift.
Ideally Govind should have been saying it. Perhaps he did but after it was too late, because the script demanded it.
Everyone is running their own story based on their myths, their favourite band’s lyrics and the last movie they saw. So are you. But while the Lone Ranger, the hopeless romantic and unrequited love are celebrated on celluloid, 9 to 5 bets its money on conformity and predictability.
Bachelors are the new Social outcasts and unlike the Wild West, you don’t even have a Sheriff’s badge in your defense let alone a sidearm. And there too many occasions on which you wish you had a gun, from Baby showers to BringYourSpouseToWorkDay.
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Bachelors have fewer rights than Syrian refugees on Thanksgiving Day in Oklahoma. Need to show that expat from Barcelona around? Someone’s got to stay back in office to ensure the file transfer is complete? Someone needs to represent us at the conference on Sunday? Who you gonna call?
– The Bachelor.
What hurts more than not having a life is the general assumption that you don’t have one. And how is ‘You don’t have a family to go to home to’ still a valid argument? It’s 2016, the only lasting family anyone has is their collection of now defunct smartphones.
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Buying into the societal concept of legal marriage seems to be like getting a Presidential level AmEx Platinum Card. The privileges are many and ridiculous. How could you not want this lifetime membership?
Any contract that is permanent gives you the qualms. And the budgets for these baby shower gifts keep inflating every quarter. With more people chipping in and more Chinese kids working in factories around the clock; before you know it you are buying a baby carriage with a jet pack and a drone mode for stealth bombing…all for a kid who has not even taken its first breath of polluted air yet.
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But Bachelors have to play their part, everyone does. Kingdoms are built on division of labour where the King gets to be the biggest asshole the land has ever seen and everyone else gets to clean up after him. At least now you get to pay your taxes to the ruling class and go home and cry in peace.
– Punit Pania

Freelance Warrior

In Big Brother, Blogging, SlavesInc, Technology, Wage Slaves, work life balance on January 2, 2017 at 18:45
It is easy to fall into the ‘Pen is mightier than the sword’ wordplay. But one man’s knight is another man’s mercenary.
In a post-modern WiFi inundated world, knights are often slouched behind desks following up on their pizza home delivery. Nature is inherently violent and only the fittest survive. But what is fit is changing and physical violence is now translated into the language of money and economics.
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Most of us visualize life as this long epic battle for which we are fighting, suffering and sacrificing everyday so that day one day we will reach Graceland. The Big Payoff, the Big Promotion, the Big Offshore posting – which may or may not come and if it does it may or may not seem worth the life force spent in chasing it. One would think it would be hard to sell this world view. But it’s not because the scriptures themselves prescribe daily drudgery in lieu of otherworldly salvation. And we have all bought into Jehovah’s stock-options that will not mature in this space-time continuum.
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The ads selling you fizzy drinks and fitness bands, your employer’s mission and vision statements and the condolences you offer yourself every night before setting the alarm again – all adding to a loosely bound narrative that keeps you in a trance you call a life.
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You do a have choice though, increasingly so. A choice of sitting it out, hitting the eject button on the rat race, watching the circus from the sidelines. Live a little bit of Graceland everyday, happiness in small daily installments. Mutual funds are always subject to market risks but Ponzi schemes are only subject to your ignorance.
Freelancer, rebel, outcast or just social slacker, at least you have the freedom to own your mistakes. That’s better than being an extra in someone else’s Forbes dream.
– Punit Pania

Switch off the damn WiFi

In Big Brother, Blogging, Motivation, SlavesInc, work life balance on December 20, 2016 at 15:46
It’s been an hour since you’ve been staring at your screen, a month since you took a break and a year since you put out a blog post.
But Facebook is the new blogging, Insta is the new Facebook and SnapChat is the new Insta. You don’t even have to wait for the next InstaSwipeClick thingy to take away any residual need left to think or even simply take a deep breath. It just keeps coming, like wave after wave of zombies. You can keep striking them down but drowning is only a matter of time.
Sure you have friends and something akin to an employer and a guiding deity. But they are all increasingly mute. Just acting out their parts in mime unless double clicked to say more. Just one more thing to scroll past on a never-ending conveyor belt to oblivion.
Pearl Jam Virtual Reality.gif
There are happy moments, funny cats and morbid quotes but they are all faint proxies for a real-world cousin who doesn’t even matter anymore. Neither do you nor your blog nor any other form of documentation you force into a habit.
But you do it anyway more as an exercise in free will than in any meaningful defiance. In the flat, hot, post-truth world, creating, holding and relishing an independent thought in your head is by itself revolutionary.
And detox is always just the flick of a switch away. So switch off that damn WiFi and start some real work.
 Merry Christmas!
– Punit Pania

Work and Play

In SlavesInc, Training, work life balance on March 1, 2015 at 19:27

Work and play don’t mix. But that doesn’t stop your overlords from trying. Outbound fun they call it. Predictable logos and free-size t-shirts are made. And very quietly, it is mentioned that participation is not voluntary. Everything else seems to be, voluntary i.e. From the menu to the venue. So you, the cubicle mice, have the freedom to decide. These are like all freedoms that are given away without asking, inconsequential. Carlin Illusion of choice The agenda is classified, sort of. Not many give a hoot. But most are able to fake it. Yet; all the manufactured enthusiasm in the world can’t come up with one original idea. Which is why Head Slave does the only thing left to do. Incentivize. modern_life_work_home_play_sleep ‘Surprise Gifts’ are announced for suggesting innovative lodging, boarding and catering. Between not too much fun and not too much cost, there aren’t many places left. You can’t for the life in you think of a place that is new and can pass off as fun-come-work. One sign that you have been around for too long is when waiters at hotels start recognizing you.

‘The gifts are not working, just come up with a damn place,’ Head Slave tells you in his cabin.

‘What is the gift?’ You ask to make conversation.

‘Just book a new place so people are not switched off before coming,’ he says entrusting you with the inside job.

‘It isn’t coupons again, is it?’ you express your concern.

‘Just get it done, I will personally handpick your gift,’ HS tells you.

You have reached a comfort level with the man, which is scary.

You decide on a new ‘Adventure Sports’ place up in the hills. Their website tries very hard to look casual before getting in to the Corporate Discounts section.

Post three days of zorbing, ‘team building exercises’ and compliance training, everyone is moderately satisfied. It is a mixed feeling, like the one you get at the end of every month. Bart all work and no play True to his word, HS hands over a gift to you. It truly looks like his choice. It is a vase, sort of. It is unnecessarily ornate and has a red pearl at its centre which looks like an evil eye. Actually, there are two evil eyes, one on top of the other. It could easily pass off as Mogambo’s head gear but not a vase. The Vase You don’t take it home, you can’t. But you don’t throw it away either. It stays on your desk to remind you that work and play don’t mix. Forcing them to would be like marrying science and religion, inconsequential.

– J.

Secret Santa

In HR, Office humor, SlavesInc on December 25, 2014 at 05:07

Both secrets and good deeds have been conspicuously absent from your life thus far. So a good deed carried out secretly would be against the run of play indeed. To say that the chances of such a thing happening to you or by you are low would be an understatement.

Secret Santa
Yet here you are at the mall at lunch time looking specifically for trinkets for a lady who until recently was not specified in your life. You underestimated the power of peer pressure once again. And now you have to sift through piles of overpriced diaries and yearly planners instead of chasing killer year-end deadlines.
Even the most painful of ordeals can become that much more bearable with company. Several fellow slaves you avoid eye contact with are exchanging knowing glances at the book store. A flimsy diary that costs 500 bucks for no apparent reason other than fact that it’s close to X’mas speaks to everyone’s inner arsonist.
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There are other other ridiculous gifting options too including a 2-inch plastic fish that apparently swims in water and will set you back by only 565 bucks. The only item fitting your budget is gift wrapping paper. To be honest, your budget is rather low given inflation and the general trend towards consuming like there is no tomorrow. To be even more honest, your budget is set by the gift you received from your secretly assigned corporate Santa. In a world of random reciprocity, it seemed fair to assume that you should pay in kind.
Secret Santa Gift Fish
Holiday Spirit Conan
Yet; with some more effort, you finally settle for a set of curiosities that strike the right balance between novelty and economy.
Secret Santa Trinkets
Holiday Spirit Meme
You even feel good about yourself for a while. But the feeling vanishes before it turns into the rumored ‘holiday spirit.’ You did do better than the gift your own Secret Santa gave you: a pack of sugary biscuits. But true satisfaction can only come from deeds of free will. And that; is no secret.
– J.

We Have a Policy for That

In HR, Office Romance, Policy, SlavesInc on November 8, 2014 at 20:21

If you had a dime for every time you heard that, you would need another policy. With every passing year and revised battery of policies, it becomes harder to discern if you have slipped into more ethically grey waters or you simply have a mild case of amnesia.

As rules come and go and metamorphose, it is hard to tell if you are a criminal waiting to be caught or if you were born that way.

keep-calm-and-call-corporate-policy

‘I still remember the first time we met, right there at the water cooler,’ Rita says as if lost in Sam’s eyes. A random story of how their first meeting was both funny and memorable follows but you have learnt to tune out FYI details a long time ago.

You blank out for almost five minutes. When you come to, Rita is still sharing, ‘And that’s the first time Sam said…’

Sam is also standing by your desk trying hard to hold a smile on his face. ‘I remember seeing you guys together all the time last December when you used to work at the office in phase A,’ you say.

‘No no,’ Rita says suddenly defensive, ‘that must have been this year.’

‘No, I distinctly remember X’mas decorations. I may even have a photo,’ you say taking out your phone. It’s almost like she tipped your patience over.

Rita does the only thing left to do, says she needs to check her mail and bails. Sam stays on biting his nails.

‘Policy?’ you finally ask him.

‘Yea man,’ he says, ‘one month’s salary as bonus for both husband and wife.’

‘That’s enough to sponsor your honeymoon,’ you suggest.

‘Exactly but…’

‘But?’

‘Only if the couple met while in employment here.’

‘Really?’

‘Really.’

‘Policy?’

‘Policy.’

‘Amen,’ you say.

Sam gets up to go. You can’t help but ask how the company makes sure if the parties in question were in employment when cupid struck.

‘I don’t know,’ he says, ‘Rita wants to go on a EuroTrip so I am playing along, please don’t tell anyone.’

Internet Policy

Policies may range from the no-brainers to the ludicrous, the only constant is unquestioned compliance.

As rules come and go and metamorphose, honesty continues to be what you do when no one is looking.

– J.

Town Hall

In Big Brother, Office humor, SlavesInc on August 26, 2013 at 23:52

Life is full of transactions. Many monetary, some legal but most social. Phone calls, IMs, meetings, coffee, interviews. In the unlikely event that you get the time to consider how many of these are desired, you would realise just how much you have abdicated your freedom.

social-butterfly business

These are lofty thoughts for the garden variety employee, especially during working hours. But you are on the semblance of a high right now. You are on an air cushion of defiance. For you have given the town hall meeting a pass. Whilst 100s of your fellow rowers try to look attentive and not miss an occasion to clap, you are sitting idly in the relative peace of your cubicle.

300-rise-of-an-empire-Xereses

Through updates on your intelligent phone, you know the address by ‘Senior Leadership’ is as dull and uninspiring as expected. You are feeling better about yourself by the minute. You may even put some music on to accompany the brisk elation in the air.

Cloud-9

But as it so often happens, when you think you are getting too ahead of yourself, you probably are.

‘What are you doing here?’ It’s Head Slave, seemingly having assumed form from vapour.

‘…What are you doing here?’ is your surprising counter-offensive after a moment’s stratlement.

‘I…came here…for a glass of water, see.’  HS gulps down a glass of water rather uncomfortably. ‘Why aren’t you attending the town hall meeting upstairs?’

‘Its…astonishingly boring.’

‘Well…it’s not appropriate not to attend this meeting.’

Wow. HS actually had no objection to you finding the meeting boring, astonishingly so. You tell yourself that is victory enough for one day and march upstairs to comply.

Dilbert ISO Compliance

It is another one of those undesired transactions and a one-sided one at that. Big Boss is rattling off slide after slide to the collective dismay of his captive audience. But you are happy being on this side of the transaction where compliance is independent of belief.

– J.

Waiting List

In Appraisal, Office humor, SlavesInc, Wage Slaves on May 1, 2013 at 23:28

Waiting…is the easiest thing in the world. It may be boring but it is passive. Waiting for a call, a bus, a discount, a letter. Waiting for a sign, a smile, for inspiration,  for the right time, the right girl and the right opportunity. And if it never comes it ain’t your fault. You were right there. You didn’t make a scene. You were polite. You just waited. And it never came.

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The past few weeks have turned this past time into somewhat of a mild and lasting anxiety attack. It is not so much the ‘what if it never comes,’ it is more of the ‘what after it doesn’t’ bit that has been keeping you up. We are; off course,  still talking of the appraisal letter. And it is imminent,  not by the look of things or via grapevine but by the sheer date on the calendar.

Rumors about the company selling off and half the work force being laid off have stopped amusing people. Latest word out on the street is that this year there won’t be no letters at all. Not in the historical sense of the word anyway. The future has arrived and in the future there are no fits and fights, only bits and bytes. So the condensation of a year’s drudgery, of twelve month’s labour, of four seasons of farming will be a 10 kb pdf file that will quietly pop in to your inbox and set you up for another twelve months of the same.

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They will take away from you the one thing you always thought you would have; cribbing. You know cribbing won’t change what is already in print. You know the maths of it only allows a few lucky slaves to beat inflation every year. You know in the larger scheme of things, everyone is expendable. You know the house always wins. But when all else fails, atleast you had the consolation of crying your heart out to Head Slave. Of verbalizing your dissatisfaction. Call it the human touch, if you will. And with Head Slave you can use the word human only lightly.

When you least expect it, HS calls you into his cabin and asks you to have a seat. You are trying to stifle the remainder of hope still bubbling in your gut. What follows is another round of ‘It’s been a tough year for all of us,’ and ‘I really tried…’

At least they did not sink to the new low of sterile e-mail exchange. Even HS is expecting some outburst from you, bracing himself in fact for the one time in the year when you can let unbridled emotion take over forced etiquette.  But you just don’t’ feel up for the dance.

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You collect your much-awaited letter, say, ‘Whatever. ..’ to HS and walk out. You do look at the letter afterwards.  You sit down with a calculator hoping the numbers will add up to something that justifies your earthly existence. They don’t, not in this economy. Logic is a stranger to hope. But the two have to catch up sometime. Sometime before you are too old to dream and too young to give up. Sometime before you have more yesterdays to look back upon then tomorrows to look forward to.

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And if that time never comes it ain’t your fault. It never is. There is always a market slowdown, office politics or even Karma to blame it on. And if all else fails there is always plain old bad luck. But the loss is only yours.

– J.