The Men with Disabilities

The Kumbhakarnas: In one short sentence, Kumbhakarna was a demon who slept for six months in a year. So, men can sleep anywhere, at any given time. Nothing can ever stop them. Be it an earthquake, a bulldozer rampaging into their house, a woman’s hue and cry, a siren, or loss of basic amenities; sleep wins, come what may! I’m sure the childhood fairy tale that I was very fond of- The Sleeping Beauty, is one huge piece of bull shit. This story talks of a beautiful princess who is cursed to sleep for a very very long time and is awakened by a kiss from a handsome prince. I would like to imagine that it was not the princess who was in slumber for a century, it was the Prince. Only a man can sleep for a century and beyond and not wake up even if his princess kissed him. He can sleep on a chair, on the ground, on a pile of dirt or in his own vomit. Even a Himesh Reshammiya song cannot wake him up.

It just baffles me. Are they designed to ‘switch off’ their nervous system when they sleep? Do men go deaf when they fall asleep? Can they seriously not hear their phone ring? How can they sleep for 15 hours straight?

The Ghajinis: Although this name has always revolved around the man who never accepted defeat until he conquered the Indian sub-continent, thanks to A.R Murugadoss’ effort in various languages, the name now signifies a man with amnesia. Men forget all the time. It makes me wonder how they even managed to pull along through high school. How did they devour 5 kgs of Social Studies text books by heart when they cannot remember the name of your favorite novel? I would like to think that this is no selective amnesia. Oh! believe me, they do not remember anything. Is it uncommon that a guy  walks up to you when you are busy flipping the pages of your notebook 30 minutes before an exam and asks with a ‘cool dude’ attitude, “What are you studying? Do we have an exam today?” See, I told you its not selective amnesia. They forget everything. Birthdays, anniversaries, reservations, keys, exams, deadlines, submissions, itineraries, credit card payments, debts, groceries, what you talk, and you.

What! Did God give them a peanut sized brain that probably has 1 GB memory? Do they use the entire 1 GB space to remember their full name and nothing else?

The Mantharas: Manthara was a maid of Kaikeyi who was very sly. She apparently poisoned Kaikeyi’s mind to banish Lord Rama to the forest. I am constantly reminded of Manthara when I see men who gossip. Everyone on earth who has a functioning tongue gossips. That is obvious. But who ever said men don’t gossip? Women are interested in and enjoy gossip but so do men. To my understanding, women generally bitch about people whom they despise. For men, this rule does not apply. They have all the time on this planet to gossip about anything, it just has to have the ability to move. Be it about your best friend’s secret boyfriend, someone’s third cousin’s husband’s lawsuit, or their favorite action hero’s dirty mistress. They need to hear it all and they listen to all of it with the same enthusiasm. They possibly can channelize their energy only in two directions; one is to sleep and the other is to gossip.

Why do we still fool ourselves that men don’t gossip?

The Slugs: Nothing disgusts me more than watching a slug after a rainy day. They are everywhere and don’t get out of you way. Oh wait! They were created to walk very slowly, not their fault for being lazy.

But what about lazy men? They are too lazy to shower, too lazy to cook, too lazy to brush, too lazy to get out of bed, too lazy to pick the damn phone and return your call, too lazy to text you back, too lazy to finish their assignments on time, too lazy to help with cleaning. This group of men is more of a mixture of The Kumbhakarnas and The Ghajinis in varying proportions. Are lazy men active enough to clean up after ‘nature calls them’?

The MCPs: Much has already been said and written about Male Chauvinistic Pigs and there is nothing new I can add to it. The is the category of men who are buffaloes and have very sharp horns. They take immense pleasure in charging with their over grown male egoistic horns, at independent women who they assume are secretly feeble.

The Guttermouths: The entire sewage system in India empties itself into their already foul mouths. To this group belong those men who eve-tease and torture you both on and outside college grounds. I personally know five such men. I mean, bad luck humped my back for about a year and I had to deal with them. I sincerely hope they go to hell!

Well Within Warranty

I have, for a very long time, been a victim of the Hewlett-Packard Company. I turned a deaf ear to many people who advised me to purchase a Dell laptop. I chose to pay heed to one very opinionated person and fate threw into my lap, a HP laptop and sent me swirling down a whirlpool for 3 long, very long years.

It took me a week in Sept 2008, to realize that I had made the wrong move. I do not clearly remember the exact make of the laptop mostly because I chose to call it ‘the steel dabba’. This laptop had a silver-steel finish to it and it heated up like a furnace. The steel touch pad would get so hot that it almost became impossible to ‘touch’ the touch pad at times. I would stare at it in disgust. Many a time I was tempted to break an egg and watch it warm into an omelette. The lab that I worked in did not have a microwave then. So I was also eager to explore if placing a cup of instant noodles with cold water would actually bring my lunch to boil. No kidding, but one of my friends hugged her HP laptop as she slept during winters because her room-mate was a polar bear from the Arctic and would not let her turn on the thermostat. Apparently it kept my human friend warm. 😀

“Buy a HP laptop along with a carton box full of Burnol ointment tubes” was a common joke. The frustration of an over-heated laptop shutting down right in the middle of  a mystery movie, or when you are sincerely writing up the last bit of your thesis, or when you have 10 more minutes to turn in your online assignment to Mr. Dracula, the alien stares your classmates throw at you cause your laptop makes a weird noise that sounds like you just started a motor engine right in the middle of the lecture, always having to carry your laptop charger (like a patient on IV fluids) cause your laptop won’t run for a single second without it; trust me, I have faced it all.

I may not have kept in mind my best friend’s birthday but I have definitely and distinctively marked on my calender, the day my laptop needed a warranty renewal. After complaining of an issue with the ‘heat sink exchange or whatever’, and having my laptop sent for servicing six times in two years, one kind man decided to replace my laptop for a new one. So I did get a new one. No heating issues. Just when I thought everything was going amazingly fine, one hinge of the laptop started to come apart. No, it did not succumb to a suicidal fall whatsoever.  Remember the friend who hugged her laptop in her sleep, the hinge of her new laptop came apart too. HP had tricked me and I realized that I had failed miserably to see through this trick. My warranty did not cover accidental damage, it was a limited hardware warranty.

When this news hit my head, I think I was more happy than sad. It gave me a stronger reason and the guts to push myself aboard, spend a 1000 bucks and coax myself into purchasing a Dell laptop for a tension free gadget survival. There! The decision had been made.

I was told that there was an offer. It sure was a good deal. A Dell XPS 14z, i7 processor, 8 GB RAM and 750 GB hard drive (in lay man terms). It saved me about 500 bucks. So I swooped in and grabbed onto the offer. My new laptop arrived with a big fat green label that said “REFURBISHED”. I was angry, very angry. Now I am not sure if I was angry because my laptop had two small scratches on it or because it was covered within a limited warranty, yet again. I decided to return it even without switching it on. I am generally an angry woman. A green label that mentioned that the use of refurbished products is ‘environmentally healthy’ pissed me off even more. I went through the ordeal of having to speak very patiently with a guy from Dell. He said that he was sorry for the miscommunication but I am very sure that he was not. He must have put me on hold and chuckled away to glory. Why else would he offer to take $ 35 off my purchase if I agreed to hold on to that gadget with limited warranty? “Are you kidding me, moron?”, I wanted to yell. The bloody state tax cost me $ 42. I held my breath and said, “Send me a (‘fucking’ in my mind) return label, already.”

Eventually I did purchase a new Dell laptop. I could only afford an XPS with the i 5 processor but the good news is that it covers accidental, theft, and hardware warranty for a whole year. It arrives today. As I sit here and track the status of my package every 30 minutes, excited and relieved, and typing into my HP that can barely sit straight or hold its screen and keyboard together but can make the sound of a running engine, I realize that today is the day my HP will rest in peace. I also realize how much our lives revolve around warranty/safety/protection in today’s world.

Why was I so fussy about having a solid warranty plan? Am I pessimistic? Was I looking for an optimistic exit in a pessimistic situation? Am I gearing up for a planned and easy future? Am I afraid of risks? Do I not know that often circumstances are never under my control?

Everything comes with a risk-free option nowadays that includes a small or big plan right into the near or far future. Gadget warranties, health and motor vehicle insurances, dinner dates, condoms, seat-belts, helmets, preparing for events way ahead of their deadlines, the fear of submission errors, procuring an employee’s emergency contact information the minute the employer offers him/her a job, planning a birthday party two months ahead, promising a friend to be there at her wedding, eagerly waiting for Sunday to catch up on the latest episode of Desperate Housewives, and the list could go on.

The question is: how sure are we about seeing the next day when we know that our life comes with no warranty?

Much ado about nothing!

As the clock struck 5:52 PM, I packed my bag and dashed to the bus that was bound homeward. It was too hot to be the first day of the spring quarter and the bus was empty. I flashed my bus pass at the driver who nodded with approval. I had a question for him and decided to ask him before he started driving. Here’s how the conversation went.

Me: Has bus no. 19 been re-scheduled? I happened to look it up on google maps and was unable to locate it.

Driver: No, it hasn’t. The new schedule will be out only in summer. I will keep you updated. I’ve seen you take this bus for two months now. Where do you work?

Me: Oh! Thanks. (Pointing to the building right opposite to where the bus had stopped) I work in that building.

Driver: What do you do ma’am?

Me: (Smiling) I am a Research Engineer.

Driver: Oh! That’s great to hear. You must be making a lot of money.

Me: Well, not really. You see, I just started working and am probably the most inexperienced on my team.

Driver: Okay, not now. But you will make lots of money in the future. Right?

I changed the subject to the sultry weather and walked to the seat by the window. Just as he turned the engine on and started driving, my mind went afloat.

Although becoming an Engineer was never an option that I had considered, I realized there wasn’t much of a choice if you had your roots in Andhra Pradesh. You either are an Engineer or a Doctor. I went to a school that taught me to be passionate about what I choose to do and to stick by it, the only sad part being you have no clue as to what you are passionate about when you are 15. It did not take me much to understand that ‘a doctor’ wasn’t something that was cut out for me. And if you studied pure sciences when you were in high school, you were given the benefit of choosing from a restricted group of various upcoming specializations in India like Biotechnology, Pharmacy, Microbiology etc.

So when I was ready to go to college, I had hundreds of people hovering over my decision. Sadly, these people were neither Engineers nor were they Doctors. Some of them were worried elders. The others were, however, a bunch of jobless people who chewed paan and gave free advice while flashing their orange teeth. When you choose something that sounds as fancy as Biomedical Engineering, you have to remember that you may turn out to be someone who is hanging in the air at all times. Besides, 80% of the people you talk to, your friends included, don’t even know what exactly you studied or you do. They think it is super cool to say BIO-%#*@^* and get away with it thinking you wouldn’t care. Well, how would you feel if I think Java, Oops, Pearl and Oyster are all same thing?

My memory remains crystal clear. The year was 2002. It had people telling me, “There is a huge SCOPE for this field. It is thriving in the U.S and the U.K.” Then they would dramatically turn to my mom and add, “My sister’s husbands’ brother’s wife’s brother-in-law’s  paternal uncle’s daughter’s donkey has a degree in this field. The donkey is a Biomedical Engineer. They make all these huge fancy machines that people use in hospitals. You remember the time when Uma’s husband had his stomach scanned by a machine that is 10 times bigger than the X-ray? That donkey designed it.” Precisely, those were the days when Apollo Hospitals had purchased its first PET-CT.

I felt the first adrenaline rush when I fixed a BP apparatus during my internship. I later inclined to research and faced the ordeal of working with and breaking bones. I found definite passion in this and decided to stick to it. Why else would I help with sawing bones at 10 in the night in a building that was rumored to be haunted.

Life moves quickly and soon I found myself with a Master’s degree. It was only when I was out on a seriously tiresome job hunt that the word ‘scope’ caught my sincere attention. I wanted to ask all the advising scholars who bragged about the ‘scope’ of this field to stand in a line so that I could whack their asses hard. As hard as the job hunt was kicking mine. What scope? There is no scope. I know that there are thousands of sick people dying every day and that a few hundreds of diseases stand invincible. And yet there is no scope for young researchers. God alone knows why companies are either too less in number or too huge in infrastructure. With companies expecting you to walk out of graduate school with over 5 years of industry experience, the immigration services leaching on you to show employment proof within 90 days of graduation, the novel taxes on the healthcare system, very few jobs, and extremely high competition, I wonder, “Does scope really exist?” It probably will, only if you are a shark in this rat race.

Now everything said and done, you will eventually fulfill those dreams. But what the bloody hell is it with “lots of money” when you are an Engineer. That’s like saying “All pastas taste the same irrespective of their sauces, be it alfredo, marinara, or pesto with basil.” No, not all Engineers make mountain loads of money. To my knowledge, it is the people who work with computers that do. That could be the only reason the film Chintakayala Ravi had its tag line as Software Engineer. If the other Engineers did too, the film would have been called Chintakayala Ravi-Chemical Engineer. If there was money with every Engineer, our Indian Engineering college Deans would happily call Johnson & Johnson to recruit students. They wouldn’t promise 100% placement merely by throwing Biology students into Infosys or Accenture.

Being a researcher basically means you belong to a typical Indian lower middle class family. Your pay check sustains you. You cannot decide for yourself or promise your friend, a trip to a beach in Florida during a long weekend in summer when it is only spring. You feel the urge to work on Saturdays.You do not fancy a 500 dollar iPad. You might prefer a 99 dollar e-reader and contemplate on it’s purchase for one whole week before you actually make it. A broken laptop is close to a broken heart and buying a new laptop seems like an extra month of house rent. You know the difference between necessity and luxury and you abide by it. You make sure you get your weekly dosage of protein without fail by drinking soy milk even though you are aware that it is expensive. Shopping malls don’t catch your attention even if you are a girl. A take out from your favorite Chinese restaurant is something remotely close to a festival.  If you decide to try a new brand of shampoo and it sucks, you do not throw it away even if it makes your hair look like crap. You use it until it is done. You are this espresso junkie who cares very little about crappy hair or papers strewn all over your desk. You keep your monthly expenses updated on an excel file.

Being a researcher also means you work like a donkey and like a donkey you enjoy doing it (Probably this is similar to the donkey my mom’s friend was talking about eight years ago).  So who actually cares about being called a nerd or having less money when you have no idea what your friend is talking about when she mentions that she has Monday Blues? Undoubtedly, I love what I do. And nerds have proved that nerds have high life satisfaction scores.

Phew! I had to get off the bus now. I looked at the driver as I darted forward to pull the chain and thought to myself, “Mr. Driver, if I really had the time and the money like a regular Engineer, I would use them to take driving lessons and buy myself a car. You wouldn’t see me riding a bus.” I looked at him again, smiled and said “Thank you” and got off.

As I slowly walked towards home enjoying the weather with Adele singing in my ears, I saw my landlady outside the house. She asked me if she could have a minute. I took my headphones off and she informed me that she had decided to increase the rent by a 100 bucks starting next month. I stared for a second and nodded my head in dismay when she added, “I’m sure you will not find it to be a problem. You are an Engineer. You make lots of money, right?”

Adele resumed singing in my ears.