Wednesday, April 19, 2006

just horses here, but you can take a hike

its been quite a while since the last post. once the strike got called off i took off to matheran for a two day break. its a quaint little hill-station near bombay. the most interesting aspect of this place is the lack of motorised transport. surprisingly, here was a municipal corporation that was wise enough to see the benefit of selling the idea of a pollution free environment to bombayites poisoned by traffic fumes and smog seeking a weekend getaway.

and its not like theres loads of horse-shit lying around the place either. the municipality has people employed to clean up after the cavalry, quite literally. the horses i saw there were not the typical ones that are seen pressed into public ferry services in bombay. these were healthy and looked well-fed. the owners apparently understood the importance of keeping the horse well groomed.

if you dont fancy a ride on horseback, then you get to trek extensively. unless you want to exercise the option of getting into a carriage pulled/pushed along by some locals. we were obviously trying really hard to play the role of poor college kids on a budget trip and hence walked all over the place. the exertion caused by this resulted in me having a sound sleep for the next two nights.

unfortunately, the narrow gauge train connecting the hill station to the plains wasn't functional since the tracks were swept away in last years floods. its popularly referred to as the toy train and is one of the prime attractions of matheran and i was looking forward to a ride in it. we had to take a cab to the outskirts and then undertook a 4 km uphill walk to the town centre.

while checking out hotels to stay in i chanced upon my company's guest house. luckily enough they had room for us and we had to pay a grand total of 1 buck per person per day for the luxury of the accomodation. yet another moment of being a proud sbi employee. we ran up a bill of thrice that value just drinking tea while we stayed there.

of course, all the money i saved in the accomodation budget was promptly spent by the wife on her now increased shoe shopping budget. all i bought was a measly hat to prevent myself from passing out in the sun outside one of the various shoe stores. now even that one souvenir of my trip has been appropriated by the wife.

quite a good trip nonetheless, good company, good food (lots of it), a little vodka, some bad beer, too much walking, a couple of good views, clean air and a cold night in the middle of summer (we actually needed blankets while bombay was sweltering).

Monday, April 10, 2006

back to pushing files once again

hallelujah! the strike has ended. the public sector monolith has its employees back. and they're happy. the problem is they aren't used to feeling happy at work. add this happiness to all the backlog and it will be a few weeks before things get back to normal. at least, from an operational point of view.

one can't help feel that there is a certain pattern to all of this. these guys went on strike just after a few holidays and they come back to work for a day before the next bunch of holidays. maybe this was just a ploy to get an extended vacation for everyone here, the pension granted might just be the bonus.

here's the contest question for the week: what are the odds that the dependably rude employees will now be a little polite to customers?

Monday, April 03, 2006

indefinite strike - day one

nothing interesting happened. no shouting, no sloganeering, no manhandling of employees who were attending. now i'm even feeling like an idiot for having parked my motorcycle quite a distance away from the corporate office, rather than in the building compound as i usually do.

considering the belligerence with which these guys were protesting i was sure that they'd burn vehicles on the days of the strike. no such luck. that would definitely get them some air time on the news channels.

the negotiations between the unions and the management/ministry of finance are still on. three rounds of talks have produced no result so far. looks like there's going to be a day two to this strike. which is really fine with me, theres peace and quiet in the office, and much less pressure but it does have its downsides. a lack of availability of coffee is one of them.

i never thought it would come to this but i'm experiencing caffeine withdrawal pangs. if this strike goes on for a few more days i might just get over the need for coffee, and thats not necessarily a good thing.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

happy financial new year

and if you happen to be a client of the biggest behemoth in the indian banking industry then you better be marking this momentous occasion by drawing up an action plan to survive the next few days in the absence of essential banking services.

yes, i know its the 21st century and also that the soviet union has collapsed. and how can i ignore red china creating its own brand of state sponsored capitalism. but try telling that to the 200,000 banking comrades angling for a little more pension.

little matter if you retire as the chairman or the clerk, you still receive the same pension post-retirement. how much more egalitarian can a capitalist institution (a bank is most certainly one) become? marx and lenin couldn't find fault with this either, but yet again, don't tell the comrades for they will not listen.

an initial cost-benefit analysis clearly shows that, at a loss of 120 billion for each day that the banking industry stays shut, the government must incur the 6 billion expense to meet the demands of the protesting employees. but that would be tantamount to succumbing to blackmail.

as strikes in the public sector banking industry go, this one is bound to be different. for starters its indefinite, which usually means nothing so we won't put too much emphasis on that. but more importantly, the top brass are going to be supporting the strike too. logically, they have more of an incentive since they are the ones facing imminent retirement.

the impending strike has created a lot of brouhaha in the workplace. everyone's too busy to be doing any work. but to those of you on the outside, that would seem to be the normal scheme of things here, no?