Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cutlets in the alley

End of a hectic and eventful fortnight !!

(right Jaya's School Girls' Hostel)

First came Jaya's ICSE results at the dot of 3 pm on May 17th - which, of course, had all of us overjoyed. But, even before we could think of any celebrations - we rushed back to Mumbai to pack her bags for the new school ( The Valley - KFI) in Bangalore. In a way - it was for us like also saying a 'virtual' farewell to Mumbai - though we are yet to wind up our establishment at Phoenix Towers. All of us were a bit sad at that and before leaving Jaya asked - can't you get a transfer back to Mumbai? More than anything else - she'd miss the Phoenix Mall next door (High Street Phoenix)- which we had come to call "pasher bari" (the house next door - in Bengali).

We dropped her at school on Monday - the 23rd but went back there again the next day for a parents' orientation, when we got to spend some more time with her. And, after a lovely Khow-Suey and Single Malt evening at the C's - got back to Calcutta on Wednesday morning - to plunge head-long into work.

When the markets are down - you spend more time writing explanations than doing your job - which is, presumably, chasing sales numbers. But, it is a fine balance most professionals learn to strike over time.

But, what still amuses yours truly are the most ingenous stories people come up for low demand. After nearly 3 decades of working life - one has heard how poor grape crops in Hyderabad were affecting cattle-feed sales in other parts of the country or cold currents in the Atlantic were raising the price of fish in Bengal. Nowadays, of course, one has the 'one size fits all' theory of global warming that can be used any-which-way to suit an argument.

However, there may be a germ of truth in one of the factors being attributed to the slow-down of construction activities across the country. It is the scarcity of construction labour. Many believe that - poverty alleviation schemes like NREGA and cheap (Rs 2) rice are acting as dis-incentives for workers to leave their villages in search of work in the cities. It seems, many working in the cities have also got themsleves registered under MNREGA back home in their villages and have to keep returning there frequently to their names alive in the roster. The few who would still prefer to venture out - head for Mumbai and Delhi - where the earning and savings potential are higher. Not sure if this is merely anecdotal - but if it is borne out by some emperical studies - then we could be seeing a major sociological and demographic shift in the years to come.

One thing I do enjoy in my current job is, it takes me to places that I have never been before even within the city I grew up in. For example, today - I visited one of the largest cement whole-sale market in the country situated at the heart of Calcutta's most famous red-light district (Sonagachi). Savoured some divine "kacha-golla" sandesh - but was too full to have the Prawn Cutlet from Allen which caters especially to the elite clientele of the area.

And, something I hate on such trips - is the lack of toilet facilities at most of the establishments ( a basic necessity for a chronic patient of IBS - irritable bowel syndrome for the uninitiated). It makes me empathise so deeply with ladies who have to work in the markets. Even places in Bihar and Jharkahnd have better sanitation facilities. That, brings me to my favourite crib about the Bengali's poor sense of hygiene. But, will keep that for another day's post.

What's been given a convenient miss - with all the travel and long work schedule - over the last few months - is exercise. In an attempt at gentle pursuasion - the wife took me for a swim the other day to The Calcutta Club. ( click here for my bog on the clubs of India: Raj Redux) But, even before I had taken a dip, she came out in a huff from the Ladies Changing Room - saying it was stinking as someone had crapped in the shower.

I asked a friend's brother - a doc - who was there in the pool with us, whether it was a good idea to take a typhoid shot. He said - it's not going to be of much use. Micturition is a common problem in all swimming pools for which a Hepatitis Vaccine may work better. For the rest - just try not to swallow the water and hope that the chlorine would have done its job. But, the wife was firm in her ruling - no more swimming at the Cal Club from now on. Holy shit !!