General ravings

My careering career

For some time now, O most cherished Reader, I’ve been contemplating a change in career.

Not that I’m in a hurry, of course.  

Having voyaged round the sun barely 67 times, and remaining singularly single in status and peculiarly plural in pursuits,  I know I have plenty of time to think about and decide on things like what next to study and forget, what to do when I’m grown up, where to explore work opportunities that bring satori and satisfaction, and so forth.  

Still, I think it’s important to start thinking along these lines while I’m still reasonably fit and independent and flexible in terms of time and commitments…don’t you agree? 

To begin with, I’m really not sure what exactly I want to do.

This, of course, is a huge advantage in planning my future career.

You see, not knowing what exactly I want to do is evidence of my unqualified willingness to absorb new ideas and learn new skills—as unqualified as my general lack of any meaningful academic qualifications. It also underlines my unmatched ability to abandon or forget earlier ideas and skills with equal rapidity. These are, I do believe, attributes that constitute the very foundations of a scientific temper.  All in all, I state without false modesty that I have a mind as uncluttered, unfathomable and uniformly vacant as that of any successful member of the Indian National Congress party: and the Congress, as I have scientifically predicted in an earlier post, is destined to thrash the BJP-led NDA and win the Lok Sabha elections in 2024!

This advantage— of not knowing what I want to do— is further strengthened by the fact that I’m not quite sure what I’m doing now, or indeed what I’ve been doing for the past 30 years.

Before that, I dimly recall, I was a banker, with State Bank of Travancore:  for over 12 years, from end-1979 to late-1992. I quit the bank in 1992,  the year during which the late and much-maligned stockbroker Harshad Mehta raised several thousands of crores of public money from complicit Indian banks and the gullible Indian public with far more ease and success, and far less fuss and public complaint, than any of our Finance Ministers since Independence.  

Let me candidly and freely admit that what I did during my years as banker, too, is no longer clear to me. Indeed, I must add that what I did during those years was never very clear to my erstwhile bank management either.

All I remember is that when I quit being a banker, I was enthused from black topi to pinkie toe with one blazing resolve: to write. And thus it was that in late 1992—armed with a portable typewriter, vivid memories and fanatical purpose— I adopted the guise of a freelance writer; a shabby, worn-out, ink-stained shawl that I still wear with pride, fully 30 years later.

Oh, now I recall a brief summary of my banking career that I wrote in 1994; it was carried as a middle by Times of India—you can read it here.

I also have a LinkedIn profile outlining my writing career! It’s something I created about 17 years ago at the suggestion of a young HR-manager friend. “Everyone needs a LinkedIn profile,” she declared firmly.  (It took nine years for me to discover, with chagrin, that she herself didn’t have one…never trust these HR people.)  I’ve been told my LinkedIn profile is quite therapeutic—it relieves the deepest of manic depressions.

But to return to the point from which I was rudely distracted by myself: namely, my contemplating a career shift.  Without further do, I present a brief resume for your information, entertainment and valuable comments and suggestions. I trust it conveys that I possess vast experience and diverse skills in a range of intensely obscure and significantly pointless vocations and fields.

 [Disclaimer: I shall not be held responsible for any injuries including and not restricted to dislocated jaws, involuntary expulsions of false teeth, sprains or breakages to fingers, bones, etc. caused by slapping or punching hard surfaces in paroxysm of mirth, or any other kinds of physical discomfort or distress that the Reader might undergo in the course of reading this document]



Name:  R P Subramanian

Age: Completed 47 years less than 20 years ago.  

Sex: Yes! (Registered readers above 18 years of age may click here for full details)

Marital status.  Singularly plural.

Gender pronoun:  He/Hey Ra/Abbe oye/Saar


  • Graduate in Science from North Eastern Hill University with Major in Vacuum Speculations and Distinction in Absolutely-Zero Physical Phenomena
  • Advanced research and intensive experimentation on the metabolism of a spectrum of psychoactive cyclic biochemicals including a broad spectrum of naturally occurring cannabinoids and extracts from the flowering Papaver somniferum. Also investigated the neuro-biological effects of the dextro and levo-isomers of certain chiral compounds (notably, 1-phenylpropan-2-amine)
  • Blue Card (‘Good’ ranking) in Class 3, St Edmund’s School, Shillong (1964)


  • Over 150 highly disclaimed op-ed articles and 400 eminently forgettable letters in Indian Express, Times of India and other mainstream print media; over 300 articles online gathering e-dust
  • Five books and a number of anthologized short stories for children (some of whom have hopefully survived and grown up, older and wiser)
  • About 18 universally unread books on energy efficiency and clean energy technologies in Indian industry

Skill sets  

  • Can walk eight kilometres briskly without forthwith giving up my last meal or my ghost, or alternatively run two kilometres at 24–26 kmph when chased by angry mosquitoes and/or Congress mobs (have demonstrated I can run significantly faster and further when mobs comprise members of  CPI(M) and/or Shiv Sena )
  • Over 40 years’ proven experience running a reasonably clean, dust-free household in which the PM 10 levels are at least 250% lower than the ambient air quality in Delhi.
  • Cooking for over 45 years (mainly veg, some non-veg) with a track record of not having poisoned anybody (yet). 
  • Comprehensive household management including essential O&M tasks such as hand-washing dishes;  jhadoo-pocha; dusting;  hand-washing clothes; Ironing; and primary-level stitching. 
  • Fluent in English and Hindi; proficient in Tamil, Malayalam and Assamese; working knowledge of Marathi and Bengali. Can banter and give gaali in three more Indian languages.

 I eagerly await your comments, most honoured Reader. In the meanwhile, I shall work on my next post, in which I shall outline some career paths that I would like to pursue before the Dreaded Donkeys of Dudgeon decide to pursue me.  

Caught you!!

I knew you’d come here looking for titillation, you naughty devil, you…!!


General ravings, Musings, Remembering

WTF should I WFE when I can WFH?

A ramble in 23 disconnected parts

One of the major impacts of the Coronavirus Era is that a whole lot of people are now working from home (WFH). 

I realize, with considerable delight, that WFH is what I’ve been doing since 1993.

That was when, after just about 13 years as a lowly and descending-ever-lower State Bank officer, I awoke one day to the realization that, judging by my precipitous career graph and the learned and corrosive opinions of several influential senior management functionaries, I was both unlikely and unfit to become even the part-time trainee-assistant to a certain peon who had been placed under suspension at the bank’s Thalayolaparambu branch for interesting-sounding offences such as  ‘moral turpitude’ (I was informed by usually unreliable sources that the peon later rose to be the chief vigilance manager of the bank).

It was an epiphany of sorts. I suddenly became aware that all that I’d ever wanted to do since the age of six was to work as  engine-driver or coal-shoveller in the Indian Railways—preferably on the wonderful WP/M Class 4-6-2 Canadian steam engines that hauled express and mail trains.

Or, as Plan B, I wanted to be a writer. 

And so, to resounding cries of joy from the senior bank management functionaries and other colleagues, I quit my memorably erratic and obscure career in the world of banking and finance in September 1992 to begin a new and even more erratic and obscure career as a writer—my dreams to join Indian Railways having, alas, been derailed because I had no engineering or coal-shovelling qualifications, and in any case by the early 1990s almost all the coal-fired steam engines had been phased out.

And so, O Patient and Worthy Reader, here I’ve been ever since then—WFH, scribbling and clacking away with pen and keyboard respectively, often disrespectfully, and sometimes retrospectively on almost every subject under the sun and a fair number of objects well beyond the sun too.

The Coronavirus Era is indeed terrible. Yet,  I’m happy that millions of others can at last discover the joys and benefits of WFH, even in these viroid paranoid times when people can’t sit together in persona to waste pleasant and unproductive hours in meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences, but are forced instead to sit in separatum (or alag alag, beleg beleg or taniya taniya) in their own respective abodes and waste even more pleasant and unproductive hours Zooming and MS Teaming and Webexing their angst at not being able to sit together  in persona to waste time. 

I just love WFH. I believe WFH is infinitely better than WFE (working from elsewhere).  

Join me in a few whoops of ‘WTF should I WFE when I can WFH’!   

Of course, I realize that WFH has been quite different for me than it is for most other people today, in two fundamental ways:

1.  I chose to WFH; a virus didn’t make that choice for me.  

2.  I’m doing something totally different while WFH (writing) from what I was doing before WFH (being a banker); whereas a lot of people WFH today are doing the same things that they were doing before WFH.

So, I’m fully aware there’s no comparing my WFH with your WFH. Still, I dare say there are a few wonderful joys of WFH that all we WFH-ers share.  Like:

  • Avoiding the drudgery and tedium of spending hours driving or otherwise commuting scores of kilometres to and from work—in uncomfortably close proximity with thousands of co-commuters of assorted aggressiveness, aromas, and angularities.
  • Doing the same amount of work – or often, much more work – from the comfort of home, where you can take breaks for tea and coffee  and snacks and a stroll and a quick goof-off or even nap as often and for as long as you like.
  • Learning new or long-forgotten skills – like listening to bird-calls, sharing comfortable silence with a friend, chuckling to oneself, reading, reflecting, simply being. 
  • Breathing deeply – even if only through a mask – for scientists claim to have found increasing traces in the air of the rare element oxygen (alas, that blissful state has long since been obscured in Delhi by vehicular and political smog). 

WFH gives me the chance to work flexible hours. I can better manage my time, and so create time in which to do more of what I like to do, as well as explore doing all kinds of new things I always wanted to do but couldn’t or didn’t because of lame reasons like “Got to get up early” or “I’m too tired” or “Where’s the time for that?”

And it’s funny, but even though I’ve been WFH for over two decades, I’ve got more work done since March 2020—during the Coronavirus Era— than I have during the same period in earlier years. 

By ‘work’ here, I mean writing stuff about clean, energy efficient technologies, which I do for a research institute that has – much to my pleasant surprise – retained me as a consultant for over 25 years.

Could my improved productivity be some weird synergistic effect of WFH and Covid-19?  

Many a night these past six months have I tossed and turned sleeplessly while exploring this idea; twice have I fallen right off the bed and into deep sleep. But still I have no answer.

Enough to say that besides posting a dozen blogs since March, I’ve also started to write about seventeen much longer pieces about far more serious things as well. Things like:

  • The rapid spread of Left Liberal ideologies among red ant colonies in the National Capital Region
  • Violent conflicts over power stealing and parking rights among members of Resident Welfare Associations and Cooperative Housing Societies in Delhi, and their striking parallels with violent conflicts among members of Lok Sabha, state assemblies, and media houses over power broking and barking rights
  • An interim report on my ongoing psycho-sociocultural study (tentative title: ‘Growing Influence of News-Reader Squirrels on Main-Scream Indian Media: is Democracy Safe?’ ), which focuses on the behavioural characteristics of squirrels that perch at great heights on trees and buildings and chirrup the day’s news loudly and aggressively with threatening tosses of their heads and tails—mannerisms that have been adopted with great success by leading TV news channel hosts such as Navika Kumar of Times Now and Arnab Goswami of Republic TV.
  • The urgent need for government to seize the opportunity provided by social distancing norms in offices and public places and public transport systems, and implement a National Awareness Mission for EBOLA-PS (Eradicating Body Odour and Like Aromas in Public Spaces)

I’ve also read more books these past eight months than I read during the five year period 2014–2019. These come to mind:

  • The Greatest Show on Earth—the evidence for evolution [Richard Dawkins]
  • Amusing ourselves to death—Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business [Neil Postman]
  • Bridge of Clay [Markus Zusak]
  • Biology of belief [Bruce Lipton]
  • Permanent record [Edward Snowden]
  • Last chance to see [Douglas Adams & Mark Carwardine]

Oh, I’ve also been reading—rather, re-reading with renewed enjoymenta few books that I’d first read in the 1970s and 1980s: like Opus [Isaac Asimov], A History of England [G M Trevelyan], Tribal folktales of Assam [S N Barkataki],  and The Deadly Element [Lennard Bickel].  Oh, and a P G Wodehouse anthology or two, too, in between.

And then, I’ve taken some guitar lessons. From Fender, the US guitar makers, who in April 2020 offered three months’ online lessons for free to people across the world, just to cheer us up during the pandemic!  So I registered at once, and hauled out and dusted off the old guitar, and logged in about 37 lessons.  I’m not sure how much I’ve learned, but I’ve certainly unlearned a whole lot of wrong ways of playing guitar that I’d taught myself 50 years or more ago. And then, while I was still practicing to transit smoothly from G to C, suddenly it was October, and I realized that my three months’ free lessons had long expired and I’d been taking lessons for nearly three months without paying one paisa or cent to Fender.  So I checked with Fender, and learned that they’d quietly and generously extended my free online lessons by four months.

 Just like that. 

That little thing that Fender did meant so much to me.  The memory still brings a warm glow. As do the  countless such little acts of generosity, insaaniyat, kindness and selflessness that millions and millions of people have done and are doing for others, for complete strangers around them and across the world, without fuss and without making a big noise about it and without expecting anything at all in return, least of all publicity.   It restores hope and courage, strengthens faith: that even amidst the roiling clouds of violence and war and hatred and selfishness and cold cynicism that seem to be engulfing the world and filling the minds and hearts of young ones with hopelessness and apathy and numb terror, the essential ‘goodness’ of people will surely endure, shine forth, evaporate the clouds as the warm light of dawn disperses night.  

More on that anon…

In conclusion, O patient Reader, here’s something else that I’ve tried during WFH in the Corona Era: writing a diary.

In junior school, in class 3 or 4, an enthusiastic teacher gifted each of us a diary and asked us to write down something in it daily – thoughts, poems, a paragraph, a line – and read aloud from it after a week or two. Each day’s effort was to be addressed to ‘Dear Diary’. Alas, driven insane by our inane and incoherent ramblings, our teacher soon abandoned the entire project and my diary became a rough book duly filled with doodles and scribbles. But Demented Desire for Dear Diary has blazed on in the heart for over five decades, like a young love remembered.

And so I found a battered old notebook and wrote ‘Diary’ on the cover, and scribbled my first diary post. Here it is, typed verbatim from the original scrawl:

Dear Dairy,

How are you? I am fine.

It’s now just after 23.00. I’ll keep it simple and try to summarize what I did today.

  • Woke at 05:45.  Popped in daily thyroxine goli, dozed off again.
  • Re-woke at 06:20 with rush of energy from thyroxine and smarting elbow from mosquito bite.
  • 06:25–06:50.  Brush-wash routine; brewed pot of tea with ginger shavings, quaffed large mug-full.
  • 07:00–08:00.  Yoga on terrace.
  • 08:00–08:30. Pottered around terrace and balcony, getting some ultraviolet; watered plants on balcony, gave sunbirds a shower, chittered mild colloquial Malayalee insults at squirrel which chittered chaste Gilayree insults back at me in a distinct Haryanvee accent.  
  • 08:30–09:15. Ate a few walnuts and a couple of raisins. Brewed coffee, drank a cup. Shaved. Showered.
  • 09:15–09:40. Made and ate breakfast—a toasted cheese-chilli sandwich, carbonized to nano-scale at the edges, with a fried tomato. Quaffed shot of coffee.  Cooked up lunch (tomato peppery rasam; chaalu sabzi from one small leftover brinjal, one carrot, one potato, segment of lauki; confirmed plenty of rice leftover).   Washed dishes.
  • 09:50–10:15. Settled down at desktop. Read headlines on People’s Daily, The Quint, Indian Express, Times of India. Posted comment on The Quint, knowing full well it might disappear without trace (it did). 
  • 10.15–13:15. Worked at desktop.  In between, took tea and biscuit break, and goofed off to:
  • read blog-post by colleague-writer
  • play one game of chess with computer-jee, which I won in 18 minutes, hitting ‘undo’ only once after making colossal blunder on move 14 (record now: 51% wins and 10% draws at Level 7…haw, preen preen). 

13:15–13:30. Stared at emails, phone messages, small wolf-spider on wall. Processed, replied to and archived/deleted all but the spider, which scuttled off in hot pursuit of energetic ant. (When reports last came in, ant was leading by several spider-stride lengths).

13.40–14.20. Lunch. Aimless one-kilometre stroll around terrace and balcony.

14.25–1715. Back to work at desktop and later at writing desk. 

17.15–18.00. Coffee. Guitar lessons, a bit of practice.

18.00–1840. Walked 4.8 km. The circuit, repeated nine times:  downstairs bedroom – drawing room – kitchen – back to drawing room – up the stairs – { [terrace –  upstairs bedroom – balcony] × 3 } –  down the stairs – drawing room – kitchen – back to drawing room – bedroom.

18.50–19.15. Relaxed on terrace; watched sunset with assorted fauna.  Ate apple.

19.30–20.45. Drummed on clay pots, doumbek, chairs and tables; played kartaals.  Listened to music.  Long chat with brother Bala. Roasted up some murmura with hing-kari patta- peanuts;  ate a kinnam-full.  Sipped mug of chai. Fixed dinner : four geographic chapattis (two shaped like Australia), masur dal.

20.45–21.15. Watched TV: Wion, CNN, Rajya Sabha, Republic TV.  Yelled encouragement at Arnab Goswami as he launched a spirited argument with himself and lost it.

21:15–21:40. Showered. Dined. Washed, dried and put away dishes.

21.45–23.00. Read about 12 pages of book. “Amusing ourselves to death”.  Now scribbling this.

23:00 – Now a little sleepy. Tomorrow I plan to wake early and fnm with rjo3pvm ssokwmd bfs

[Incomprehensible hereafter]  

This diary post is dated Saturday April 11th 2020.

It is my first diary post since 1965.  Alas, it’s also the last.

WFH is wonderful, but in some ways WFH is no different from WFE— a never-ending battle against procrastination.

Jai Hind, Happy WFH-ing, Happy Deepavali.

Ancient writings, Remembering

Call to account

 [Published in the Times of India , 29 January 1994. Now, nearly 30 years later, it’s an appropriate time to re-inflict it upon thee, O hapless and most valued Readers, as I contemplate a career shift while still young…]

Twelve years. For twelve years did I immerse myself in the Sea of Black Ink, but already the memories are fading. Of the thousands of acres of neatly typed audit reports; the yellow and red vouchers; the sing-song tones of head clerks checking the balance books (…two hundred and thirteen fifty, one thousand and four sixty five…); the sweet jingle of token and coin, the rustle of currency notes. Time, then, was measured by the daily day-book, the weekly performance report, the quarterly returns; and the annual  closing was a ceremony in itself, culminating in shrill cries of joy – or sometimes, when the branch office showed a loss of something like 32 lakhs, in the most horrendous moaning, and the only sound to break the silence thereafter would be a sharp rip-and-tear as the manager divested himself of what little hair he had left.

Exciting indeed were those 12 years…

But now, suddenly, here I am.  Adrift upon the oceans,  having cast my anchor overboard and the oars after it.  I’ve quit the bank, and now the memories are slipping away, faster and faster, in a steady stream, soon to become a torrent and then a raging cataract, emptying the mind and leaving a great hollowness to be filled by…what?

My friends have, of course, been of immense support.

“You’re mad,” they said, shaking their heads in disbelief. “No job waiting for you, yet you just up and quit!”

“You’re lucky,” they said excitedly, “Now you can do anything you like! Row a boat across the Brahmaputra, buy an elephant, why, you’re so lucky!”

“You’ve got guts!” they exclaimed. “Just quitting like that…why, wish we could do the same!” Having said which they glanced at their watches and rushed off to their telephones and PCs and deadlines and conferences.

And when they’ve left I look around at my priceless possessions – the accumulated debris of 12 years – and I begin to tremble. Were they right after all? Am I really nuts, or at least a wee bit gaga?

Consider: I have, to my credit, a music system; a mixer; a settee; a guitar; a dhol, clay pot and six flutes; four cushions, twenty potted plants, a few score books and garbled memories.

Where do I go now?

Stop! I cry to myself. Think! Consider and analyse your innermost desires! You can do whatever you set your mind on doing. Focus upon your yearning, give it a direction, and strengthen yourself for the journey with the courage of conviction. Aha! That’s it.

I want to play music. To play the drums and the clay pot before a suitably delirious audience of three million. I want to drive a suburban train. To trek across the Himalayan ranges; to eat from a copper pot cooked over a slow wood fire in a silent pine forest. I want to dream, and to live in my dreams as long as I wish with the option to change channels. I want to write the greatest story ever written…so that they’ll know my name from Managua to Mokokchung.

Dear Ed, do you think I have possibilities?  Please make out your crossed cheque favouring…but there I go again, slipping back into the mindset of yesteryear.

Alas! Like too many I’d come across in those 12 years, this account is overdrawn.