Monday, July 27, 2009

Everything is negotiable

I was one of those who believed that not everything is negotiable. The longer I stay in India I would say that perception is changing. Wait long enough and things change too. The fluidity of the Indian system allows room for negotiation. School admission can be negotiated, real estate can be negotiated, job interviews can be negotiated, fruits and vegetables can be negotiated, price of drugs at the local pharmacy can be negotiated, domestic help can be negotiated, people can be persuaded, and sometimes I have been told even the weather can be negotiated. I have a friend who keeps fast if she doesn't want it to rain that day and it has always worked. Go figure!!!

All you need is that right contact or that right group and viola your job is done. Or as I have been subconsciously applying (I swear) use emotional logic to connect with people at the level they understand your point of view. Sounds manipulative, perhaps, but its as white as a white lie.

Its interesting how this phenomenon works. Sort of reminds of the book Tipping Point. Of course I am not just applying this to the Indian system, it works elsewhere too. You just need to have that Indian emotional logic in you, stay here long enough and its yours!!

I remember when I applied to a University in US for a post grad course and they refused to take in my application because I had a similar degree from India. They told me something about how it wouldn't be fair to others who never had that degree before. At the time I had arrived in the US, newly married and with a H4 visa that does not allow me to work there. I used my Indian emotional spiel about how does the US government expect a stay-at-home H4 visa wife to do anything constructive with her life? You don't let us work, you don't let us study, then what do you want us to do here, I ranted..I did get the admission after a series of tests and interviews and I am sure the emotional attyachaar sorry logic (torture) played its part.

I also remember an interview I had with a very large (trust me a very large one) company where a situation was posed in front of me. What would you do if before you are about to launch a product, a bug comes up and creates problems for the launch? In my youthful naivety I looked at the guy interviewing me and said I would be honest and give my customers full heads up because I believe that honesty hones long lasting relationships. The interviewer of course shifted uncomfortably in his chair and said - at our company, we would release another sensational news to diversify the attention from the bug. Seeing my horrified expression he recommended me to another group and I was hired. Emotional Logic? Will never find out..but I believe it played a part.

And recently of course our real estate deal. It took us 3 long years and many visits to a community we had been eyeing to get what we wanted. The first year I remember the question the marketing executive asked us. What company do you work for and what is your position there? Having recently arrived from the I don't care who you are and what you do country of U..S...A, my husband and I stared at him visibly upset at this sizing up. You see he explained we only encourage CEOs and executives to apply as this is a very premium property. It took three years and the downfall of the US and world economy to qualify us for this same community. We are looking for people just like you sir raved the marketing executive, his tone milder and his interest in us deepened. Seedhi ungli se ghee nahi nikalta hai (you can't remove Ghee easily with a straight finger, you gotto make it crooked to get anything) an old saying in India is so apporpriate for such situations. In this case recession played the logical part of an emotional purchase, our very first home in India. I call it emotional logic, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Perceptions – My dad’s Angioplasty in Feb 2009, a record of that journey Part 1.

I had written part of this blog during the month of Feb which I did not manage to complete but I did do part 1 so here it is :-)

While I sit here marveling at the last two days in the hospital room of Bangalore Hospital I wonder about how many experiences I went through these past couple days. My father has been what we call popularly in India a heart patient. Don’t get me wrong he is not the chest clinching, emotive sort of guy. He is just a guy who smoked incessantly and vehemently in his younger days while coping with what life offered him as stress. Result- cholesterol build up, high blood pressure and blockage in his arteries that some how debilitated his lifestyle.

My dad is an interesting person with an even more interesting perspective of life. He finds going to doctors an inconvenience and a complete waste of time not forgetting a waste of perfectly nice lumps of money. His perception of doctors goes to the next level where he thinks of them as smart asses in white coats, conspiring to take away our money using fear tactics to get their way. He remained in this state of mind for about 16 years knowing very well that he does have blockages that could be potentially dangerous and risky.

And here I was thinking all the senior citizens of India loved to describe their illnesses and their subsequent medications with such vigor as if they won an award for the good deeds they did over the years. People in India exchange hernia operation stories and arthritis pain while gulping down hot chat and fried puris. They relish in their own illnesses which was a result of poor diet and no exercise.

We are ashamed of many things in India – women wearing ‘western’ clothes, boys who grew up and didn’t get that dream steady job or a girl who at 26 is still unmarried, lovers who dared to fall in love much against the wishes of their parents. But we are not ashamed of the cholesterol that we accumulated over that piping hot samosas or the high sugar levels we absorbed over our sumptuous mithais (sweets) or the weak muscles we pampered as we gave exercise a chalta hai (will do) attitude. No we are selective about our morals, our standards and our values and our health concerns according to our convenience. But that’s the core of our country; selective opinions, selective attitudes, selective emotions, selective discretions and selective perceptions.

So my dad is also selective about the people he likes or dislikes. After incessant nagging on the part of his children and spouse my dad graciously agreed to meet a cardiologist in Bombay. This doctor is part of the dream medical team of the Prime Minister of India so he was well recommended and well qualified. He looked at dad’s reports and immediately recommended an angiogram to determine how many blockages my dad was sporting and the damage he had amassed. Dad concluded that this was not the doctor for him – reason? I don’t like his attitude says dad. My mom who was also part of the scheduled appointment and has her own selective opinions felt the good doctor did no wrong and he was a very nice man- after all he was part of the PM’s dream medical team.

Of course we were left with making the decision now as to how to solve this problem. The dilemma continued and the fear that the blockages could erupt into a potential heart attack continued to haunt me. After coming back to apna desh (my country) almost 3 years ago I felt confident enough to use my selective discretions in solving this manipulatively. After all that’s what we are experts in aren’t we? I believe Indians are the most persuasive, sharp, intuitive and expert negotiators. We have experience in this in our every day lives. We park in a no parking zone and manage to expertly wriggle out of this situation if at all we get caught. After all what is a 20 rupee bill that goes in the pocket of an underpaid cop. We arrive late at almost every party and don’t serve food until the atmosphere has stomach rumblings as surround sound. We take loans from friends and tell them your money is my money and my money is yours (which incidentally is also yours but technically is mine). We pay bills, school fees exactly on the due date and fill petrol right when the red light starts beeping. We tell everyone, why don’t you come over sometime but never formally invite them? We are experts at wriggling out of sticky situations. That’s what makes us desis.

So I gathered my 3 years of desi experience into place and laid out a Bollywood style story filled with emotion, drama and fervent appeal to convince my dad to get a test done here in Bangalore. Ma ka kya hoga? (What will happen to my mom) if some thing happened to you? Didn’t work! I realized emotions don’t work with my dad. Your grand kids are dying to see you, but he said didn’t I see them 8 months ago?

But I persisted using every tactic in the book until finally my father graciously agreed. Later I found out he was tired of my nagging and agreed just to get me off his back. So much for my strong persuasive skills! Dad arrives in Bangalore complaining about how far the airport is, how bad the traffic is and no one follows traffic rules these days. I reminded him that he lives in Mumbai and things are as straight as sugar dripping jalebi (sweet savory that is looks like concentric circles).

I wasted no time in taking him to the doctor the very next day lest he changed his mind again. Cornered, my dad continued to stress in the car on our way to the doctor’s office. His BP verified that 2 hours later. The doctor took one look at him and his stress test result and said very dramatically – this Mr. Desai is like evading tax. You can get away with it but if you get caught that’s the end of the line. So in short you need angiogram. You have 90% blocks in 3 areas. Your Mumbai doctor (PM dream team cardio expert) was right, you may most likely need an angioplasty. So let’s schedule an appointment immediately. He rambled on about his availability etc and I sat there smugly patting my self in the back thinking, all this negotiation was worth it.

We went to the Bangalore hospital and I wrinkled my NRI nose and wondered why we had to do it there of all places but we had no choice as the good doctor only went to that hospital. My dad in the mean time fretted about going for an ordinary room versus a deluxe room. We are not checking into a 5 star hotel my dad argued, why waste money. I had to shut up because I was not running out of changing his mind at every second on everything.

I realized then that at every stage my parents argued about how much we spend and why do we need fancy things and how we should save etc..While we always looked for quality which on the surface meant clean hospitals, professional staff and wonderful rooms, my parents looked at how to cut corners and do with less. Less is more is their mantra. With this ongoing recession that is a valid argument. So I did the next best thing- shut up!

It so turns out I was wrong about this place – Even though Bangalore Hospital looked run down and old, I dealt with the most efficient staff that worked hard and served their patients well. We had no issues with the insurance as the hospital PRO staff dealt with it with utmost professionalism. The doctor and his staff responded patiently to all our questions and gave us A-class treatment. The surgery went well, the stents were put in place and dad – he actually liked the doctor unlike Dr. Dream Team!!

IN part 2 of my blog which I hope I can write before the summer ends, I will talk more about what happened next. Have you ever been to an ICU during visiting hours? Cell phones ringing, people talking loudly, relatives queuing in to see their dear one, security guard shouting at everyone to stop pushing and go only one at a time, all this in the waiting area outside a grim ICU ring a bell? That and a lot more coming up:-)

Adios and gnite!!!

Friday, February 6, 2009

How late am I?

In a world where expression is a matter of political discussion, blogs and posts are quantified as social media, women are defined and predefined by social conditioning, children are becoming more and more self reliant, cinema is moving in un-chartered zones where directors are turning into actors and terror has eclipsed the world, I have decided to set my self on a journey of discovery.

I turned 40 recently and I don't know whether it just struck me that I am now 40 and time is ticking, that a sense of restless has begun. I sit in a seemingly fun social environment wondering why I am even there, I look at the direction of my life and wonder if I took the wrong turn? A lot of things have changed since I hit the big four O. Technology being one of them.

My challenges with technology go way back, but apparently I am quite well versed with it as compared to others says my technical better half. I joined Facebook recently more out of pressure from my husband who felt I needed to use the technology of today and labeled me as a laggard demographically speaking, when it came to trying it out. Facebook, a seemingly mindless form of social networking where we meet our current friends, long lost friends and relatives and categorize them into add as a friend and ignore this friend categories. Then we look curiously and critically into their lives, wondering what they look like now and rank them according to the coolness of their posts.

If that doesn't make me judgmental enough, I then proceed to make political statements, publishing my views, review movies and talk of my current mental state. After weeks of interesting posts and expressions I now sit back and feel vulnerable at the marketing efforts made by the team of Facebook. I run like an ant chased by a vacuum cleaner, shying away from being sucked by this modern pathos of social expressions that have now become everybody's business. It is cool to be on Facebook, Orkut or whatever it is out there. It pays to talk if you make any sense at all. If you always wondered that when you speak is someone out there listening, hey this is your chance. At 40 I am joining this band of mindless expression. I am anyways defined by my dear friends as chatty so hey how about channelizing those thoughts. Soneone in that cyber space may be reading hi.

Day 1 at blogging, How late am I?