Thursday, November 20, 2008

Morning surprise

Yes you have seen old Desi aunties walking in crumpled salwar-kameez and tennis shoes amidst sharply dressed New Yorkers. Yes you have seen them in frumpy sarees with oily hair tied in a bun, backs bended with countless years of sufferings and sacrifices, proudly pushing their grandkids' strollers in sunny California parks. Yes you have seen them walking on curbs sweating in the dead Texas heat carrying grocery bags, heads covered with their pallus. But have you ever seen them working out, pumping iron, kicking some ass? This was my morning surprise as I entered the gym today (see pics below). This woman, atleast sixty, spent atleast one hour on that machine. Phew!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Janitor Strike

A couple months ago on a sunny California afternoon the Bay Area came to a screeching halt. The jhaadoowaalas and kachrawaalas went on a strike and stopped all work without prior notice. Drains were clogged, trash overflowed, toilets became un-inhabitable and this once-smooth-flowing pipeline was disrupted causing human intestines to get embarassingly backed up. A sea of janitors was protesting outside corporate offices to get their wages raised. Banners and everything. "Hamaari maange poori karo, nahi to tumhari sandhaas poori nahi hogi". It was a riot. Everybody was hit. Intel, Yahoo, Cicso and all behemoths were drowning in a sea of chaos. Engineers refused to work in refuse. It was a day that will be remembered in the history of Scatology as a "black baasi Monday".
The janitors are an unknown lot. They arrive regularly, on time, clean up your junk, throw you a fake smile (because seriously there is nothing to smile about for them) and get out of there. Sometimes they catch you on your way out of the toilet, just after you took an obnoxious crap, and you know that he knows that it was you. You smile at him knowing very well that he is going to have to clean up your mess. He smiles back but in his mind he is crying and cursing your entire family tree.
There is never a "good" time for this kind of disaster to happen, but this strike happened at an especially opportune moment. There was a big conference being hosted by a company that week (name withheld upon request). Big ideas for the next generation mobile technologies were being discussed. Well respected men and women from various fields were presenting their research. Rich investors looking to fund projects were present too. Everybody was looking to make the world faster, better, to move it forward. But they forgot that more importantly their backwards needed to keep moving too. They were hit by the strike and didn't have a clue on how to fix it. They didn't think that the janitors would have anything to protest about.
But the janitors wanted a place in the conference to air their grievances. They started protesting outside. Security was called to calm them down, but calm down they won't. Finally the CEO of that company, alarmed by this situation, came down and talked to the protest leaders. A few enthusiastic protestors had banners like "Don't you like it clean?" or "Wanna use the forest instead?" and apparently that had an effect on the CEO. He allowed a woman janitor to take a place in the conference.
This woman, in her mid forties, slightly overweight, low on confidence, oiled hair tied in a ponytail, took a seat next to some of the richest men in the world. This was a day of unprecedented importance. People who moved the world forward and people who kept it flowing backwards, sitting side by side, under one roof, discussing issues and resolving crises. This was bigger than Obama being the president of USA. But this woman had a hard time expressing her ideas because the elite men and women didn't give her a chance to speak for a long time. People all around were screaming technology jargon like "Decrease processor size", "increase transistor count", "more processor cores", "less cores but faster". Tired of this constant shouting that she couldn't understand the woman gave up and screamed "GAANDU LOG TUMHARA SANDHAAS SAAF MANGTA HAIN KI NAHI ?!?!". The room went silent. People listened to her speak about her issues. Her demands were met and the strike ended. Business resumed, forward and backwards.
(For more information on this historic event please google search or check out this link -