Double Trouble

This piece is based on a prompt. Thought it might be fun to share it here. Here goes…

Craig: “Linda, one of our babies is missing.”

Linda: “Which one?”

Craig: “The one on the left.”

Linda: “The left of what?”

Craig: “The left of the one that’s left.”

Linda: “Huh? Which one is that?”

Awkward silence ensues.

Linda: “I can’t believe this. Is it Ada?”

Craig: “I’m not sure.”

Linda: “How can you not be?”

Craig: “Is that really important right now?”

Linda: “What does her bracelet say?”

Craig: “It’s Ava.”

Linda: “So, Ava’s here?”

Craig: “No, she’s the one missing.”

Welcome to the tangled web – the life of parents of twin babies. Think of it like quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink. Sure, the little ones are bundles of joy. Well, most of the time. But, remember the days when you’ve put them both to bed. And just when you’re about to drift off to sleep, you hear a familiar cry – the sound of countless sleepless nights. Before you’ve had the chance to pacify the first one, the other starts wailing. You only have so many hands, and one of them is aching to tear your hair out. But I digress.

Identical or not, you’ll be surprised at how similar twins can look when they’re a few months old. Especially if they are both boys or girls. Talk about seeing double! This means keeping track of who is who. God forbid if Ada ends up as Ava or the other way around. If you can’t keep your story straight, how can you expect them to? You wouldn’t want them to have an identity crisis now, would you? 

This means following a process to ensure that they don’t get mixed up. One way to achieve this could be color-coding. And you thought that was only for people who studied Electrical Engineering! Surprise, surprise! The things we do for our children! So, each baby gets a designated color. They have no say in the matter, of course. This means you’ll be buying identical pairs of clothes with precisely those colors, at least till you can tell the two apart. Which is, hopefully, soon. Don’t worry, they’ll be fighting over clothes in no time. Happy shopping!

Sounds cumbersome? Try painting their nails or using jewelry instead. Good luck hoping they don’t tug it off or chew on it. You know they love to.

Let’s address the second matter now. Or did you forget? What about the curious case of the missing Ada? Or was it Ava? What’s worse than not being able to distinguish between your own twin babies? Losing one. Before you get your claws out and start getting all judgmental about Craig and Linda being irresponsible parents, remember the last time you misplaced your keys. How can babies be compared to keys, you ask? They can’t. Keys don’t have legs. You’d be surprised at how quick your little ones can be when they start to crawl. Look away for a second. And, poof, they’re gone. Even skilled magicians couldn’t pull off this trick!

If you think caring for one baby is a nightmare, try two. Put yourself in the parents’ shoes. A little empathy wouldn’t go amiss.

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Back to Square One

Hey Everyone! I’m back. I’m sure most of you have forgotten me. Some of you might be wondering how this message ended up on their feed. Yes, it’s been a while since my last post – more than a year to be precise. But, unfortunately for you, you haven’t heard the last of me.

There were a lot of reasons for my absence. I was, suddenly and unexpectedly, thrown into the middle of a very strenuous exercise that left me depleted and lacklustre. Personal priorities, abrupt transitions and laziness account for the rest.

During this time, I admit that I logged onto WordPress a few times but couldn’t bring myself to write. Part of me felt like I’d lost my way in the world of blogging stats and figures. And, blogging had become a source of stress rather than enjoyment. I have, since, realised that while writing is most fulfilling when people read what’s written, the purpose is to tell your story and put a piece of yourself out there for others to see. Ultimately, how many do, doesn’t matter.

The one thing I missed most was exchanging thoughts and ideas with the assortment of people who have become part of my blogging world: like-minded and otherwise. And, maybe, the state of the world around us made me realise that life is too short and I still have a lot to say before I die. Even if it kills me or others die of boredom from reading my posts. Death by writing, somehow, seems a lot more agreeable than death by a killer virus. And like they say, once the writing bug bites, it is an itch you need to scratch.

I’ve had three stints in my blogging past – the first one lasted for two posts, the second barely one and the last one stretched for a span of a few months. This attempt will be my fourth. The plan is to write at my own pace this time, rediscover the joys of writing and not worry about the rest. While it feels like I’m starting all over again, here’s hoping this one lasts for a long time to come.

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A Comedy of Errors

I apologise for borrowing the name of Shakespeare’s play for this post. But while it may not be the most original of titles, I found it to be the most appropriate. I hope, in this one instance, imitation will be considered as the sincerest form of flattery.

Life isn’t all smiles and roses. And, all moments in life are not worthy of being captured on camera. At least, I hope no one is waiting to “immortalise” the moments when I don’t land on my feet, both literally and figuratively. Embarrassments are an inescapable fact of life. We don’t want them but, try as we may, we can not avoid them. And, alongside the happy moments and the miserable ones, these incidents are forever etched in our memory, much to our dismay. So, I thought, why not laugh at them instead. Here are some “bloopers” from my life.

At my first job, I’d start for office at the same time every morning and catch the first bus to the railway station. Because of the routine, most days, I ended up catching the same bus. On one such day, I was late by a couple of minutes and was rushing so that I wouldn’t miss a bus. On exiting the building gate, I glanced back and noticed that a bus to the station was arriving. The stop was some distance from the gate and there was no way that I would’ve caught the bus. So, I resigned myself to my fate and prepared for the uncertain wait for the next bus. But the bus came up and rolled to a halt beside me. I had not tried to hail the bus but the driver recognised me as a regular and stopped. And, I was extremely grateful. And, as any grateful individual would, I thanked him as I got off at the station. From then on, every time I boarded the same bus, I would smile in acknowledgement at the driver as I alighted. When winter came, the bus driver started wearing a balaclava. One day, as I was getting off the bus, the driver was looking the other way. As he turned around, I smiled at him only to realise, to my extreme horror, that it was someone else. I was not in the habit of smiling at strangers and was embarrassed, to say the least. I expected the same driver because he was wearing an identical cap. My expression changed from, smile to shock to frown in a matter of seconds. Looking at my face, the driver must have wondered what he had done to deserve that scowl. But, this incident put me off smiling instinctively for quite a while.

Well if you enjoyed the first one, here is one more to tickle your funny bone. When I had started my first job, leaving at 8:00 PM was the norm. Bag checking was a regular security procedure when leaving for the day. One day, on reaching this checkpoint, as I opened my bag for the check, the security guard said, “Good Night”. Without thinking twice, I replied, “Good Night”. And then I heard him say “Sir”. That’s when I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw one of the training faculty members behind me and I realised who he had been greeting. If the place had been well-lit, he would’ve seen my face turn red but it wasn’t. I tried my best to appear composed and pretend as if nothing had happened as I left the exit behind. But, my attempt at damage control had been a big failure. From then on, whenever I left the building, that security guard would wish me Good Night with a big grin on his face. What’s worse, it’s likely that the guard had narrated the story to his colleagues. As a result, all the other security guards started greeting me. So, whatever the time, whoever the guard, I was always wished Good Night on the way home. Looking back, I guess, it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. In fact, it always brought a smile to my face as I left for home after a long day’s work.

Then, came another incident. It had been raining for days together. I was nursing a sore throat and the weather was not helping matters. I’d been drenched on my way to work that morning and then, again, on the way to the canteen for breakfast. My condition had exacerbated to a level that if, and when, the words came out of my mouth, it sounded as if a frog was croaking instead. I, then, realised that I would have to step out again for some other work. If that was not enough, the rain showed no signs of abating. So, armed with an umbrella, I proceeded to the elevator and braced myself for another battle with the rain. The elevator I got into stopped on another floor. A client I didn’t know got in, smiled and greeted me. Now, after the previous two incidents, I’m sure you can understand my hesitation. After recovering from the initial surprise and looking around to ensure that he was not addressing someone else, I made an attempt to reply, as common courtesy would warrant. But, as I reciprocated, my voice stayed trapped in my throat. I felt like a person who was lip-syncing with the audio input missing. Any polite greeting requires an immediate response. Any more attempts would’ve seemed like an afterthought. At that moment, I wanted to dig a hole right there and bury myself in it. But considering that I was in an elevator, that wasn’t such a smart idea. I wonder what he must’ve thought about my manners. He might’ve stopped being courteous to people altogether and the person to blame would be me.

The following experience proves that lack of awareness can lead you to make a fool of yourself. A while ago, I was having breakfast in the office canteen with a couple of friends. One of them casually remarked, “I heard Osama’s getting married.” The other replied, “Me too.” On hearing this, I said, “But, doesn’t he already have three wives and several children?” I was not prepared for what came next. They stared at me for a few seconds and, then, burst out laughing. And, for the life of me, I had no idea why. Then the explanation came. They weren’t talking about Osama bin Laden. They were talking about a batchmate from our training days who had been nicknamed Osama. Now, how in the world was I supposed to know that? But, I should’ve because everyone else did.

These are a few of the many “goof-ups” that have been an indelible part of my life. Some have managed to overshadow the others over time. I guess it’s never too bad to have a laugh, even if comes at your own expense.

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How I landed my first job

I’m sure all of us have had unique experiences when searching for a job. For me, the road to my first job was paved with surprises.

It was just after my sixth-semester exams at college. Vacations were on but there was little time to lose. The final year was looming ahead and efforts were on to finalize projects. Then, a few days into the break, a notice was put up for a campus recruitment drive to be held three days later at another college.

Shouldn’t you remember the day you landed your first job? Strangely, I don’t. Guess I didn’t go in with a lot of expectations. I had good reasons. I already had one failed attempt behind me. A company had come just before the exams and I had not even managed to crack the aptitude test. My résumé was what one would call a “work in progress”, made in a hurry for the first shot and, thankfully, not required. Truth is, even if I had cleared the test, the interviewer would have been shocked at my mess of a résumé.

My first task was to get my résumé in order and, after a few hours, that was accomplished. I inquired with others about what to expect for the aptitude test and was told that the general practice was questions based on mathematical ability and data interpretation. So, I armed myself with a book on Quantitative Aptitude. But thanks to the project, I couldn’t do much to prepare. The college was a good hour away by bus. I decided to utilize the time to look at some long forgotten mathematical formulae so that I wasn’t completely unprepared.

The process was to begin at 9:00 AM and I reached a few minutes early. On entering the auditorium, I met a few classmates and we settled down into some seats as the company presentation began. The presentation lasted for about half an hour with an overview of the company, the work environment, what the company was looking for and what it had to offer. As the presentation was drawing to a close, the presenter informed us that as part of the recruitment process, the aptitude test would be conducted first followed by an extempore, then a technical interview and finally an HR interview. He then mentioned that the test comprised Visual Based Matrices and asked whether everyone was aware of what that was. I had absolutely no idea. I am sure I had a blank look on my face. I thought, albeit mistakenly, that there might be others like me, and turned to look at my classmates only to find everyone around nodding. I felt like a fool for being the only person in a room of two thousand students who had no idea what the test was going to be about and was too embarrassed to ask. Believing that I would make a bigger fool of myself by asking someone, least of all the presenter, I kept my mouth shut.

We were allocated rooms for the test and I proceeded to the room with apprehension and a sense of dread. The papers were distributed and we were instructed not to open them until everyone had a copy. The suspense was killing me. When we could finally start the test, I opened the booklet and realised that what I’d read that morning wasn’t going to help me. It was some sort of jigsaw puzzle. But, thankfully, I was able to put some of the pieces together.

After the exams, began the long wait for the results. And, then, came the doubts. The test had been easy. And if a person who’d never given a competitive test in her life thought that, it must have been a cakewalk for the others. At lunchtime, I saw my classmates studying programming languages. I had no software background. I wouldn’t blame anyone who wondered what I was doing in a recruitment drive for a software programmer. Seeing them study made me aware of my lack of preparation. But I knew that studying a new programming language at the eleventh hour was a lost cause and decided not to try. Besides, I had to clear the aptitude test and get through the extempore before the technical interview. As I entered the auditorium after lunch, I saw some students scribbling away. I didn’t know it at the time but they were preparing for the extempore.

The test results were announced and surprise, surprise, I was shortlisted. We were divided into groups of twenty and asked to proceed to different rooms for the extempore. The assessor told us to select any topic of our choice and speak about it for about a minute. Here, I was caught off-guard for a second time. I expected them to provide the topics. But I was wrong. Picking a topic was going to be hard enough. In addition, I had to speak for a minute. A minute might seem like a short time but it’s surprising how much can be said in that duration. What’s more, we had only five minutes to come up with both. I knew I was in trouble. Five minutes were up and I hadn’t even decided on the subject. Thankfully, when others were taking their turn, I managed to come up with something.

When my name was called, I stood up and proceeded towards the platform. I have a serious case of stage fright. The thought of standing in front of a group of people with everyone staring at you and hanging on to your every word scares the living daylights out of me. What if I couldn’t remember anything? Somehow, I pulled through the minute that seemed to go on forever. I was shaking but the gestures that accompanied the speech masked the trembling of my hands. After everyone had their turn, the results were announced. I had made it through again.

We were asked to make our way to where the technical interviews were being conducted. When it was my turn, I was ushered into a room. After a few questions, the interviewer realised that my software fundamentals were nonexistent. Then began the awkward part; the part where she was trying to figure out what questions to ask. She was a software programmer and, I, clearly, was not. However, she made an effort to find some common ground based on my past projects and internships. Twice, during the interview, she expressed concerns about my ability to work in software. I replied with more confidence than I really felt. After the interview, I was asked to wait outside.

Before my interview, I’d seen a coordinator enter the room after each interview to get the interviewer’s feedback. He would then inform the interviewee about the decision. But, after my interview, the coordinator was nowhere to be found. It was evening now. I was tired and the wait was agonizing. I just wanted someone to tell me the outcome and put me out of misery. As the minutes ticked by, I began to worry. I didn’t realise how stressed I looked till the person who was serving tea to the interviewers arrived outside the room. He looked at me and asked, “Are you next?” I said, “No, I am done. Just waiting for the result.” He smiled and said, “Then, relax.” I couldn’t help but smile. The coordinator appeared shortly and asked me to proceed for the HR interview.

We were asked to fill out an employment application form after the aptitude test. This form had a lot of questions but had to be filled in a hurry. One of the questions was, “Why do you want to work for this company?” I hadn’t done any research about the company which, though I was not aware, was a big mistake. At that moment, the only thing I could remember was the presenter talking about how the company encouraged the all-round development of its employees. So, that’s the reason I put down. Unfortunately, my HR interview was conducted by the same person who gave the company presentation. After the initial round of questions, when he looked at my response to the question, he smiled and said, “Where did you hear this?” I calmly said, “From you.” He was amused by my frankness. After some more questions, the interview concluded. I was told I was done for the day and that they would get back to me.

A few days later, the list of selected candidates was put up on the college notice board. To my surprise, my name was on the list. And, that, is the story of how I landed my first job.

Please share your fun and unusual experiences in the comments section.

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How I ordered my first chequebook online

My disastrous experiences with technology never seem to end. Apparently, technology doesn’t like me very much and I am afraid the feeling is mutual. You might wonder how one person can have so many ill encounters. Truth is, even I can’t claim to know the reasons. So, let me tell you about one such instance and if you can figure it out, please be kind enough to let me know.

We live in a modern world. Internet has seeped into every aspect of our lives – be it business, education or, even, travel. With terms like e-commerce, e-learning and e-medicine dominating our vocabulary today, everything seems to be just a mouse click away. If only things were that easy. Most of you might be familiar with the term e-banking. Banks offer online services to customers for the convenience of those who are too busy to visit a branch. At least, that’s what I thought.

I had exhausted all the leaves in my chequebook and had to get a new one. I had seen my friend B apply for one online. So, instead of submitting a written request for a new chequebook to the bank, I decided to bypass all the hassle and try my hand at this online business. Little did I know what lay in store for me.

Day 1: I haven’t the faintest idea about how to apply for a chequebook online. My forgetful nature means that I have to set a reminder to ask B about it. The reminder goes off and I march to B’s desk and inquire about the procedure. It might seem strange but, at the very moment that I ask her, I realize that I need my customer ID to log in. I don’t have it at that point and, not surprisingly, can’t recollect it. So, the task gets delayed by a day with a new reminder.

Day 2: I reach B’s desk before the reminder goes off. B launches the bank website and I enter the Customer ID to log in. The trouble is I remember logging into the portal once and changing my password but can’t recollect what I had set it to. The first and last time that I had logged in was more than a year and a half ago. I enter what I think is most likely to be the password and cross my fingers. Miracle of miracles, it works! “That wasn’t so bad”, I say to myself. A few mouse clicks later I reach a point where it asks me to confirm my request for a new chequebook. When I do, it prompts me for my internet transaction password. At this point, B tells me that this password is different from the login password. She says that when you log in for the first time, the portal prompts you to change both the login and transaction password. Now, I remember changing the former but not the latter. She says that if I haven’t changed it, it is probably still the one provided by the bank. Unfortunately, that password is at home. And, so, it seems like I’ll have to wait another day.
B then logs into the bank site and applies for a new chequebook for herself and the entire process takes no more than a couple of minutes. I am fascinated and optimistic that, once I have my password, I will have the same experience. After she is done, I decide to try my login password as my transaction password hoping that I had set both the passwords to the same sequence. The truth is, after B made it look so easy, I am tempted to give it another shot. So, once the login screen appears, I key in my login ID and select the checkbox to use the virtual keyboard.
Now, this virtual keyboard is a fantastic feature. It is an application that provides a keyboard on the screen in which the key locations change with each character entered. The user has to enter the password by clicking on the keyboard with a mouse. In this way, the virtual keyboard is designed to reduce the risk of password theft. Seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, after I select the option to use the virtual keyboard, I wait and I wait and then I wait some more. A few letters show up but the rest of the keys show no signs of getting loaded. After a frustrating few minutes, B suggests that I stop waiting for the virtual keyboard to appear and enter the password using the normal keyboard. So much for password security! I manually key in my password and log in.
After waiting for a few more minutes, all I see is, “This page can’t be displayed”. On further investigation, to my dismay, we realize that the internet server is down. What perfect timing! We decide to try later when the server is up. A little later I manage to log in and key in my login password as the transaction password. It doesn’t work. No surprises there. So, the only alternative is to get the default password and try my hand at it the next day.

Day 3: I don’t need a reminder anymore. I log into the website and use the default transaction password hoping against hope that things will finally work. Well, somehow, where I am concerned, that never really happens. Now, I see a new notice which says that your account has been locked and you have exceeded the number of attempts to log in. This means that I have to apply for a new password. When I click on the link to do this from the company’s restricted network, I see a notice which says, “This page can’t be displayed”. B suggests that I call customer care and raise a request to reset the password. So, I dial the number, select the appropriate options and a recorded voice at the other end asks me to enter my ATM/Debit card number and PIN. Caught by surprise, I ask B, “What number?” She, in her trademark style, replies, “You fool, the number on the ATM card and the PIN that you use to withdraw money”. Now, I didn’t know this was a requirement and don’t have the card on me when I call. So, I hang up. I rarely carry my ATM card but, on that day, it happens to be in my bag. Thankfully, I had forgotten to remove it from my bag a couple of days ago. Being forgetful can be a blessing sometimes. Or maybe, God decided to give me a break after so many spells of rotten luck. So, armed with my card, I place a second call only to have the person at the other end tell me to raise an online request for the new password. So, there I am, back to square one.
The only way to do this is to use the lone PC in the department which has unrestricted internet access. So, I log into the site and place a request. The request fails. This is just great! Now, the bank server is busy and unable to service my request. By now, I am at the end of my tether and cursing the bank and the whole concept of e-banking. I log in a second time and place a request again. This time it goes through. But, there is no elation or sense of accomplishment. Only a sigh of relief. I get a service request number for tracking purposes and a confirmation that I will get the new transaction password within 8 days. I try to track the request just to confirm that it has been logged. And guess what? It says that the record does not exist. I am so fed up at this point that I abandon any more attempts. Since, the password will arrive in eight days and I can only request for a new chequebook after that, it is clear that I won’t be seeing my chequebook for, at least, another 15 days. And, here I was, thinking that internet banking made things simpler and faster. That’s one myth shattered! I decide to submit a written application to the bank instead.

Day 4: It’s a Saturday and brings home an unexpected, but pleasant, surprise. A courier has arrived from the bank. I almost snatch the envelope from my brother’s hand and confirm that it is, indeed, the new password. My happiness knows no bounds. In fact, I am smiling so much that my mother and brother probably think I have gone mad.

Day 5: After four tiresome days, I think I deserve some rest and that is exactly what I do.

Day 6: B starts dreading the moment I mention logging into the bank portal. I don’t blame her. I feel the same way. I call her to my desk this time. Knowing my track record, she asks me to log in and call her only if I am fortunate enough to get through. I try logging into the portal twice and, as usual, fail. After waiting a while, the efforts bear fruit and, with B’s help, I finally complete the procedure.

Two days later my chequebook is delivered. And, what’s more, it even arrives before B’s chequebook. So, I guess, all’s well that ends well.

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