Friday, January 06, 2006

What is your Salary? - Redux

Note: If you came looking for the Michael Jackson post its here.

Long long ago, I completed Engineering, stepped in to this independent life thing and into the big bad world of graduate-students-in-the-USA. Having been spoon fed by mom and grand ma' for a big part of my life, I was incorporating unnecessary and unwanted knowledge of Rasam Podi, Samabar mix, etc into my life. In about 2 months, I learned to differentiate between different varieties of oil and began to appreciate the "making of the food that appears in your plate while you were in India". While it was good for the boy-grows-into-the-man philosophy, I didn't care. I didn't wanna grow up (because it didnt seem to help me acheive anything in particular) and I certainly did not want to be responsible for anything. So anyway the anecdote I was trying to narrate is -- one fine day, as we grad students called it - it was my cooking turn. This cooking-turn is the round robin system created by room mates. This system decided who will cook when. In our little heaven, we were 5 students, each from completely different backgrounds. Four were garden variety engineers, one extremely rich and influential in India, one who worked like a horse and even slept in school, one extremely geeky and serious, and finally one extremely lazy and irresponsible (that would be me). The fifth guy was an architect and he was the only non-science-based-engineer in our team. He was the only guy in our house who thought algorithms and logrithms were the same, thought programming languages also had swear words and gaped in surprised whenever printf's spit out a simple "hello world" ( He even said "wow" the first time he saw such a thing happen).

So I had come back from my school early, at around 4:00 PM to start my cooking. Since nobody else made potatoes that week and boy! did I like potatoes, I sat with a knife, a cutting board and a bag of potatoes by my side. I switched on the TV and started the hour long peeling and cutting process. In came the geeky dude with a handful of letters. It was that day's postal mail, something which I had never picked up from the mail box all my life. He said to me "bharath don't you ever get the letters from the post box". I was thinking " wow! we have a letter box and we get mail too..what else dont I know about this place". So geek boy begins to triage the mail and separates the mail due to each person. He hands me over a letter from my university and says "here are your Autumn grades in post". I again went "wow! they send grades via post too" ( I already got em via email). So I went back to my potatoe peeling. Now the fun begins, the geek-boy wonders if he should rip open the envelope containing grade information due to the architect and see his grades. Among us four engineers the rich-guy, geek-boy and myself were in the same batch, and so one way or the other we sort of knew each other's grades. The workaholic stopped taking courses eons ago and so we didn't really care about him. The architect guy was a surprise packet. So when geek-boy asked me if he should rip open the envelope, I knew instinctively that there was something wrong about doing it it. I couldn't articulate what was wrong about doing so. I had to cut potatoes, which was proving to be very difficult. I wanted to make them small and tiny'ly cut - just the way my mom did. I didn't know how many horizontal Vs vertical cuts I should do to get there and didn't have a clue whether peeling was good or not for this kind of an ambition. So I said to him, " I am not really interested..I am kinda busy now. You do it if you feel like.. its upto you". He paced for about 10 minutes up and down the hall in a Gollum like fashion saying, "should I.. should I not", while I watched him from the potatoe peeler point of view. While I listened to his rhetorical debate, I was trying hard to keep the cut potatoes from dropping out of the cutting board and into the dirty carpet. Shheeesh! how could women do this in the kitchen for a lifetime, amazes me. In the end, he finally succumbed to temptation, ripped open the envelope, and saw that guy's grade. Of course I made him tell me what the grade was :-). But then again I wasn't really that interested in the grade as opposed to what was going to happen, when this act became known to the architect guy. The Geek-guy probably realized the same thing and left the house immediately.

At about 5:00 clock, the architect guy came home. I had changed TV channel to HBO and they were showing some movie that had nude scenes. So we were both staring at the TV for sometime and thought "wow! porn during the day.. what else should I know about this country?". After the scene got over and we had finished paying respects to what we had just seen, archi-dude began to sift through his mail and saw that his grade-envelope had been torn and opened. He asked me intimidatingly " who the fuck opened my mail?". I became scared. My brain was already clouded. Porn does funny things to me. I was just cutting potatoes. All I wanted was a hearty meal. I managed to live a dreamy existence for so long and the only serious debate I had until then was regarding Aishwarya rai's hip size and Sushmita's silicon implants. The last thing I wanted was to get involved in a serious ethical debate that really didn't concern me. I was in a new territory called seriousness. But still, I managed to spit out 3 things quickly -- "geek dude bought the mail. nobody else came home after the mail was bought into the house. i did not open your mail". As archi-dude's face began to compute what I just said, his face went red. I was even willing offer my envelope to him and ask him to tear it to his heart's content if that would appease him in anyway. Right at that moment geek-dude walked back into the house. Archi-dude turned towards him and growled " did you open my mail" and geek-dude sort of bent his head down in shame and said "yes! I did". And then the real fun started. Mr.Architect sent out some swear words that would make some sailors feel shy. I was surprised by his rather extensive vocabulary. He must have interacted with rickshaw people a lot. After dissecting and critiquing geek-dude's family lineage from various perspectives, archi-dude said something I will never forget all my life -- he said -- " Why do you have to judge me based on how some one else has judged me on a completely different field".

Today when I think about it, I can't help but realize how true it is? So how is this anecdote related to the blog's topic? Talk to anybody who has lived for a reasonable time outside India and returned back to India. Ask them how their return-to-India experience has been? Whether they may appreciate or critisize India on any other topic, you will certainly hear them say 1 BIG HUGE critisism about India. "Why does everybody whom I talk to want to know my salary". This will 100% be part of anybody's return-to-India experiences. Then comes "What is the price of your car, How much rent do you pay? What is the cost of your house?". These are parameters that a person asks so that he/she can calculate your worth as a person. Based on my experiences and those of people whom I have talked to -- this bad habit is an undeniable tradition of India. No matter how much patriotism you have for India, even if you drape yourself in the tri-color and go to bed everynight this is something that will never go away. While salary is calculated based on your skills, your marketibility and your usefulness to the company, you often wonder how this factor should influence the people who are unrelated to all of this. Is the psycological basis of asking for salary information connected to what my room mate had so profoundly said years before? Why do they judge you based on a factor that is decided by completely unrelated parameters? The answer... same Bat channel..same Bat time... well.. er... More on this in the sequel blog :-)

12 comments:

tifoc said...

when I read this post earlier, I felt that this was one of ur all time best posts....looks like you believe the same as well...;-) 'potato peeler point of view' is priceless....:)

Anonymous said...

Potatoes are a man's best friends.

Anonymous said...

Was the "go eat the remote" quote associated with this incident too?

Have you learnt to cut potatoes atleas t now?

tilotamma said...

I can't believe your roomies did that -look at someone else's transcript.

Nilu said...

worse, I once knew a guy who was working as a Graduate Assistant at the bursar's office - doing some statistical analysis on all grades ever given in Clemson. so, when the cute desi gal in a party told him he was boring, he used his access to find her grades and 'leaked' it among the desi community.

i tell you, some people!

Anonymous said...

After the tumultuous blog you wrote that generated all the attention and traffic to your site, is this what you have to post, that too a redux???

I think the writing is mostly mediocre, with a heavy attempt to be funny with nicks like GeekGuy yada yada.. it drones on for too long with not too much point to make..

just kidding dude. I wanted my comment to get some attention, and isnt this the way to go these days?? ;)

rohit said...

for a while i wondered why you had to re-post this in particular. then i read the line - " " Why do you have to judge me based on how some one else has judged me on a completely different field""

hmmmmmmm, the whole GMAT thing in the earlier post is what led to this?

by the way, it should be "in a completely different field"

Akshay K said...

rohit,

we are getting too desparate to somehow come up with some critisism. are we?

have an open mind man. just because you came through gaurav's link, you dont need to carry the bias. show integrity to your intellect and evaluate everything with an open mind.

snax said...

Liked what you had to say...and I completely agree with the arch-dude :)

You are fortunate, you cook in turns. When I was there, it was me every other day who did cooking!

Ram said...

snax,

I hate cooking.. and for me it was almost automatic.. I cooked something dreadful on the first turn.. it became my last ;-) My roomies were far more pickier on good food than turns! So I got away...

Ram said...

bharath,

I think the real strength of your blog lies on posts like these. As a regular reader, I wish you would stick to the working formula and improvise on it. The blogosphere is a great diversity of nuts and gems... no point trying to clean up the nuts and reduce the glitter on precious gems... Just my feedback to someone I care about.

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Absolutely delightful post, Hawkeye! Paying tributes :)) And an important lesson in the end, too!