A Virginia Tradition – Field Parties

The following little story is a teenager’s confession of guilt. It comes forty-years after the infractions were committed and safely after any statutes of limitations or the possibility of being grounded at home for a month.

If you had the extreme pleasure of growing into adulthood while living in the rural areas of Virginia, the odds are very good that you’re familiar with the term ‘field party’. Some more familiar than others. For any un-knowledgeable urbanites, here’s the definition of field party according to the online Urban Dictionary.

“A party held in the middle of a field or farm crop so to avoid parents and police. Usually held by under age partiers and accompanied by a keg purchased by an older sibling.”

In Shenandoah County during the 1970’s, the total population of the entire county wavered around 25,000 people. That’s approximately 48 people per square mile, a good chunk of whom lived-in or near the half-dozen small towns dotting the middle of the valley. Some of those small communities had a nighttime police force of one or none. The legal drinking age was eighteen-years-old, so a high school senior could buy their own keg of beer. There were miles and miles of open fields and rolling farmlands.

The conditions were ideal for a field party.

The field party checklist:

A field, preferably owned by someone you know.
A source of electricity for music. (Car battery, gas generator, extension cords,etc.)
Bonfire, larger the better.
Bathrooms available naturally near the fence line. No rinse cycle. Drip dry only.
We were invited to a big field party by somebody that had heard about it from someone who knew the directions to somebody’s farm where the big party was held every year. My girlfriend and a few other friends of ours were heading up to the party before me; I’d catch up after I got off work at 9PM.

There was no Interstate highway in those days, so the fifteen mile drive to a field party seemed a bit extreme, but apparently well worth the drive from what we were told. There was no also GPS at the time, but the directions that I was given seemed easy enough for a country boy to follow.

“Go south on Rt. 11 for about 10 or 12 miles. Before you get to Mt. Jackson, right past Hawkinstown, take a right on Hawkins Road. Drive for a little bit, you’ll go over the railroad tracks, then you’ll pass the radio station. Keep going. You should see the bonfire from the road. There’ll be a few cows facing West on one side of the road. The dirt road on the other side will take you right up the hill to the party. Just listen for the band. You’ll find it no problem.”

I had completed the first 4/5ths of the directions when I first saw the glow of the bonfire at the crest of the hilly field. As I got closer, the silhouettes of dozens of party-goers could be seen against the towering flames. It looked like the movie trailer for “Quest for Fire”, but with my girlfriend as Rae Dawn Chong and Led Zeppelin providing the soundtrack. As the reins were pulled on my slowing Ford Pinto, my eyes frantic glances alternated between the road and its ditch-line, searching for that elusive dirt road, or at least the landmark of cows.

Then suddenly the road veered sharply and the Pinto went straight down a muddied ditch. The car wasn’t traveling fast and hit nothing solid, but after it came to a stop, I looked like Neil Armstrong strapped into a capsule simulator, facing downwards after a G-Force training session.

The wheels only spun in the wet mud, the car was going nowhere. So, I did the only reasonable teenaged thing and started walking up the hill to join the party. The car wasn’t going anywhere.

Friends gave me a ride back down the hill after the party. As we neared My Ditch, another car could be seen along the road, several young men inspecting the resting Pinto. We pulled up alongside.

“Hey, what’s happening fellas?”

“Somebody ran their car down this ditch!”

“Yea, I know. It’s mine. Guess I’ll need a tow-truck”

“Nah, hell no. We can push you out! Get in and start her up!”

After Neil Armstrong managed his way back into his Apollo rocket ship, the Good Samaritans pushed the car back onto the dirt road. Along with my heartfelt thank-yous, I handed the guys the luke-warm six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer from the back seat of the car (of which them seemed oddly very appreciative) then followed my friends back into town for a late-night feast of 7-11 chili dogs.

3 Humor Anecdotes to Make You Smile

Humor in our life keeps our energy flowing. We are able to cover a lot of tasks in good mood and spirits. So here in this article I give you three humor anecdotes so that you make your day, feel happy and spirited.

Here they go:

1) My sister had gone to her home country for a vacation with her family leaving her then single sister-in-law and myself in her home during the winter holidays. One evening as I descended downstairs towards the kitchen, I passed the living room where the sister-in-law was talking on phone aloud and boldly, without noticing me, “She is so tan. She is so fat.” I wondered who she was talking about. As I put the empty glass back on to the kitchen sink, she became alert and paused. Then she continued, “She is doing PhD.” By the time I was back upstairs, I fully realized my sister’s sister-in-law was talking about me. My God! I said to myself. Can she be that mean? I laughed to myself and forgot about it. Then again when I went downstairs to have my supper, I found she had disappeared into her room quietly with lights switched off, skipping supper. Points earned, I said to myself.

2) Back in Dallas when I was in my sister’s home for a visit and having my lunch along with her, her family and my little sister (who had also come to visit), we were listening intently to a conversation between my sister and her husband. She was saying,” I will take my car to work. You take your car. But I want to stop by Wall Mart. I have ordered something and it is heavy. You will have to bring it back home.” Her hubby was amused and so were we. He asked curiously, “What is it?” My sister was very cautious not to blurt it out. So she said, “I will tell you on the way.” We all laughed. I don’t know if her hubby guessed it. But I assumed it was a baby cot as my sister was expecting her second child then.

3) When I was in Germany for higher studies, I had opened a bank account in the main branch in the city in let’s say, XYZ bank. I had a hard time back then moving around the city finding and recognizing places by trains. I was looking for the main branch to deposit some money one day but couldn’t locate it. But as the train passed on, I saw an XYZ bank branch somewhere near and got off the train and deposited the money in that branch in my account. It is funny and amusing to recall how I carried out errands in a foreign city all those years back but I made most of my stay there successfully all along.

Summing up, these three funny anecdotes flow to my memory as I am writing them as a draft on paper with ink. I will type it and submit it online. But that’s not the whole point. Each of these three anecdotes holds a deep meaning for me and although these carry humor, there are lessons in them to accept and learn.

Antho Who Doesn’t Want to Work

I was 34 years old when I met Antho first, a tall fair young man who was ten years lesser than me during early 2005. On those days business process outsourcing had just begun that created immense opportunities for the aspiring professionals. That was the time I had just resigned my job from an NGO in the capacity as a managing editor for their quarterly magazine. A semi-skilled person at that time found it difficult to get gainful employment in reputed companies, as a result, I frequented libraries to update my knowledge on writing field.

En route to the public library is the bakery of Mahesh, where I observed this fair young man coming to buy bakery items. He always had an air of confidence which displayed his least cared attitude to the world. It was my former colleague Dinesh Digal who introduced me to this young man who introduced himself as Antho Nicholas whose house situated just opposite to the NGO named IMA where I worked for more than four years.

Once I was returning from the library I met Dinesh hanging out with Antho in the vicinity of the library. Dinesh offered evening snacks from a roadside eatery which I ate voraciously as I was running short of money to have the luxury of eating outside. I remembered Antho too eat ate the savories in a jiffy which was a clear indicator that he too must be in want of job or income to eat outside. Without my knowledge the incident was developing a common binding factor between us as it turned out: both were on job search, lacking income, therefore it makes sense for both to join hands for realizing career goals.

I never lacked pity to those who are in dire need. I empathized with Antho when he narrated how his father’s request was turned down by John Amalraj who was none other than IMA Secretary Operations with this statement, “there is no vacancy here” when Antho wanted to work in IMA my former workplace.

Sooner than later I occupied myself as an intern at Indian Express Business Publications Division through the reference of Oscar Priyanand who was a church member of the church I attended in Sec’bad. As I started going for a job I was earnestly praying that my friend Antho will soon find a gainful employment as he has two dependents: his father and mother.

This does not mean that I started doing something practical for Antho. Mahesh’s brother Giridhar was working on a chicken farm in Dr. AS Rao Nagar locality. I asked Giridhar about any job vacancy for one particular person. One day, Giridhar beckoned me and told about the vacancy of an accountant and he asked ‘for whom’ I am asking for the job. When I answered it was for Antho who is also a neighbour of him, Giridhar immediately replied, “Oh! The job is for Antho, he will not go for the job”. These words were ringing in my ears years for together. I was such a person who gave ears to anything to everything and took the same for granted. Concerning these words I ruminated – it may be his wrong notion, oh no! he will change, taking recourse to my deeply ingrained forgiving nature.

A few months passed after I started working as an intern in Indian Express Business Publications Division, Begumpet. I was busy with my new job and forgot about Antho. When bored, I took pleasure in meeting my old colleague and former roommate Prakash Nayak to share my experiences about my new job. It was the time I came across his brother in law, a young man named Deepak who was also unemployed like me. One day as I was having an informal chat with Deepak, he announced an important news, “Antho got a job in Bank of America, salary 14k.” For a person like me drawing 3-5k stipend, this amount seemed quite big. Antho was back in my mind. I envied his caliber to get a gainful employment in his young age as he was 24 at that time.

As months pass by, I became Antho’s avid admirer and frequented his house to get information on the job market. Clearing several rounds of interviews appeared to me like an uphill task. But I had to admit that learned various things from him especially key insights on interview skills.

After working for six months in Indian Express Business Publications, I feel, I became redundant as I was told to do odd jobs. So I waited for my paycheck. No sooner did I receive the paycheck, I stopped going to Indian Express. Meantime boredom sets in thanks to joblessness. I took recourse to the reading newspaper from Dr. A.S.Rao Nagar Public Library. I was such a person who normally gets totally engrossed in reading once I lay hands on a newspaper. I hardly notice the people around me as I also had the habit of taking notes on what I had read. As I finished reading an English daily, I looked for another daily where I can lay my hands on, I was surprised to see Antho sitting opposite reading Deccan Chronicle. Sensing his concentration I didn’t want to disturb him, yet, I wanted to see what topic he was reading. To my surprise he was looking at the classifieds, to be more his eyes were glued to job posts.

I slowly came out of the reading room and waited outside for Antho. Hardly 10 minutes have passed. I saw Antho emerging out of the door. He saw me and was glad to talk to me. The first question I asked him was, “Didn’t you go to the office?” His curt answer was, “I have left that job.” A well-paid job in a reputed company, how can one leave, I muttered. “So how many months you worked there?,” I asked “Three months, I had to handle 14 applications, emails asking for expenses status, debit/credit status will keep on coming, how can I handle so many applications”, wondered Antho. At that time I had the money which I received from Indian Express. So spending time eating outside was not a luxury for me with Antho. I used this occasion to dig out more on what exactly made Antho leave the job. He blamed on everything – work environment, processes, politicking managers, night shift etc. The words of Giridhar was ringing in my ears, “Antho will not work, he will work for two months, three months in a company and then leave the job.”

Antho was jobless for the following months. During that time I who was also jobless used to spend time sharing our experiences in companies. Curious by nature, I asked him many questions on workplace politics, performance at work, and employable skills. I agreed with him working in corporate is not so easy where one should have good employable skills, sound interpersonal skills as well as high energy to keep agile. It is not just qualification that fits one for a particular job, I doubted. I learned many things from Antho, chiefest among that was his observation skills. He easily identified characteristics of personalities, situations which made me marvel at him. Indeed associations can make one wise. I had to admit candidly that I was immensely benefited by his friendship and learned his understanding ability which I would like to call as a sixth sense. I also made it a point that Antho should dwell at length about his sixth sense during future interviews.

For quite some time I was working for a journalist named PR Subas Chandran who had an extensive network in the city. It was a part-time job that fetched me some allowance to meet my both ends. I was growing professionally. But this too didn’t last as I fell out with Subas Chandran as he cheated me in payment. My jobless stint, on the one hand, enabled me to realize my skill gaps to work out for a better future.

For nearly two years after I hardly had a job. During this period I observed Antho joined some companies and worked for two months or three months. When asked why you are not able to stick to one particular company, he answered, “That particular process is gone.” What is the meaning of ‘gone’? I wondered. “The clients simply stopped giving the project”, clarified Antho.

Is there a grain of truth in his statement? I thought to myself. Can he be true? These questions constantly pricked me.

In July 2007, when I got a job in Y-Axis, a city-based immigration consultancy, Antho remained jobless. I shared my happiness with him and offered biriyanis often. In Y-Axis, people used to quit without giving notice and as a result vacancies were posted often. During this period Antho was suffering for want of money and his parents were lacking good food. This made me consider to do something for Antho. When I observed more vacancies are coming in Y-Axis, I referred Antho’s name. He got selected immediately as he performed in an interview. When asked why he left the last company, he answered to the interviewer Caroline, “I was unable to cope up with the night shift.” This answer fairly convinced Caroline and he was given spot offer. Antho entered Y-Axis.

Forgiving nature was deeply ingrained in my DNA. I forgot his past records as mere illusions. I saw Antho briskly interacting with people and gaining knowledge on immigration processes. One day passed and on the second day, Antho came half an hour late which made Jayalalitha the operations manager to ask for a reason. He answered, “Sam told me, I can come late and go late at my wish”. Jaya rebuked Antho’s impudence before everyone. This harangue made him mutter, “They should not scold people before others. If at all they want to scold they should take that person privately and do it.” On the third day, I observed Antho didn’t turn up. Evening, when I came back from office, I didn’t forget to visit Antho to ask what could be the probable reason for not coming to office. Before I asking the question Antho said, “I cannot work in such companies who don’t know how to treat their employees well.”

“Our parents neither saved money for us nor they purchased a house so that we can live without rents. Because of this, we are suffering.” Antho was sharing his grievance when I interacted with him after his exit from Y-Axis. Antho gave vent his ire on ‘evil people’ like Jayalalitha in the conversation ensued. This is how Jaya talks, Antho imitated how Y-Axis operations manager talks and behave. “So many companies are there, who cares small companies like Y-Axis,” Antho continued his harangue.

There were a few others also have knowledge about Antho’s whimsical nature, how his irresponsible actions make his parents suffer. This was reflected in his mother’s statement when I visited his house later. When I knocked his house one day, he was not available. I observed the sad countenance of his mother who uttered these words, “death better, I am waiting for it. Rent is not paid, provisions are not there. Antho went for an interview”.

Another neighbor Simon Suresh who was also pitying the sad state of Antho’s parents told me, “Antho wants more salary, less work.” I burst into laughter at that statement.

I used to think a lot about Antho’s strange character. I thought that his family will be thrown out from their home for nonpayment of rent. I began to doubt his caliber also. There were times he confessed that he was terminated from the job. Well, I began to write off him as a failure. I decided to stop going to his house fearing that I will have to shell out money to buy provisions for his laziness.

I avoided him for a week. On a Monday morning, I saw him walking well dressed in the evening near the vicinity of his house. He was exulting and called my attention. I was wondering what shall I do. Antho opened the conversation, “I got a job in Satyam, salary 20k. The cab will come at any time for pick up, that is why I am taking a stroll. Just now only the cabbie called me.”

In one sense, I was happy for two reasons. I got my friendship back, secondly, it was a big relief for me that I need not give money for provisions to them.

Next time when I met him, he explained how swanky was the office and how he was given food coupons to eat delicacies from the canteen. “Satyam gives fruit salad to its employees, it is so nice”, tempted Antho.

He was in the lap of luxury thanks to the nice package he got from a reputed company like Satyam. I who was nearing 40 didn’t have the confidence to work in a multinational company like Mahindra Satyam. I wallowed in self-pity as I was working in ‘C’ class, ‘D’ class companies, doubted my abilities, counted Antho as a great persona. That is the power of brands. Working in branded companies enhances one’s reputation. I didn’t have that luxury. These thoughts constantly pricked me and made me down.

Hardly two months passed after this incident. One evening I was busy browsing the newspaper, the tall personality of Antho didn’t escape my attention. Antho, I called out. The librarian stared at me. Both of us exited from the hall for discussions. I opened the conversation, “So today, you didn’t go to the office.” “I left that job”, answered Antho. I asked, “what happened.” “Performance is the issue, I was unable to answer technical questions,” replied Antho. “Aare bhai so many calls are coming. Each call will last for 20 minutes. Why they are asking so many questions,” Antho became indignant. I added a few phrases supporting him with this phrase, “we all should have less work and more salary.” This statement had a soothing effect on him and his facial expressions revealed the same.

“Chill dude chill”, Antho used to utter these words. There were times when one opens up one’s mind and reveal they’re a true state. It happened in Antho’s case also. Once he said: I worked in Kolkata in a hotel. I worked there for one month. Adjusting with Kolkata is not easy. I felt uneasy, I left the hotel. That was not the first hotel I worked. I worked with a hotel in Hyderabad also where I earned a handsome income.

“Why you left hotel job in Hyderabad? I asked. “Due to malpractice, we used to create manual bills and charge the customers less, take the extra amount from them and share the booty among ourselves. Every day we had ice creams, then sumptuous meals often with mutton treats. I remembered the good days.” said Antho.

“Didn’t your parents raise any questions, how so much of money you got etc.” “No questions bhai, they just enjoyed all the benefits, privileges. When my sixth sense indicated there are chances to be trapped, so I left the hotel.” So the parents are the main culprits, who made the son like this, I summed up.

At another time he bragged, “The only company I worked for six months is ICICI Bank. I was working on their credit card section. I got rewards also for best sales.”

After working for one and a half years in Y-Axis, I absconded from the company during the global economic downturn in 2008. There was nearly one year gap during this period where I worked for two advertising companies as a full timer and other times part-timer. I used the time to solidify my career with newly added skills. I fervently hoped, I too will work in branded companies one day like Antho.

The poverty was taking its toll. Antho found it difficult to make both ends meet. Wiser after seeing his pranks, I started avoided him till I faced him on a sunny day. He was coming back from somewhere. He looked jovial and was smiling at me. I thought he might be coming back from the interview. “Joined in HSBC a month ago. Training completed. Now I am on job. The job is difficult only.” His answers were clear indication how long the job will last.

“There are forced parties. We have to give a party to the trainer,” continued Antho with glee. If not what will happen, I interrupted. “Then they won’t give grades for us,” said Antho.

“How can the trainer ask you to give parties unabashedly,” I asked.
The trainer presented in this way, “Guys I have forgotten my wallet. So today, you have to give me a party.” So this is how the exploitation works in big corporates, I wondered.

Hardly after two months, I saw Antho at home during office hours. I didn’t need to ask him whether he was going to the office, his expressions indicated he was out of a job.

In two years time, Antho had worked with big companies like HSBC, GE, Satyam, to name a few. I had a fervent wish that he should continue in the job for at least one year in one company. Whenever I suggested him the same, he would answer, “Yes, next time I will be wiser.”

So working for two months and taking rest for one month is a good proposition, I who was working in a recruiting company during night shift thought likewise. I wish, I too could live like Antho, if one gets a job like Antho, I will at least work for one year in one company. By this time Antho was ousted by his relatives from his A.S.Rao Nagar house. In fact, the house owners were his relatives, his first cousins who gave the house freely as a caretaker initially. Later they changed their mind when they saw him working in branded companies and began to exact Rs 1500 as rent. Antho defaulted the small rental amount multiple times, therefore ousted from that house where he stayed for nearly eight long years.

During that time only Antho became my neighbour in GR Reddy Nagar barely one and a half km from A.S. Rao Nagar. He had some savings from his last company which enabled him to pay advance for the new house. For many weeks he was without a job and I thought that he will be ousted from this house too.

But one day I could not miss his confidence and smile which made me ask whether he got a job. Google, Antho was merrily announcing. Google is my latest company, very good work atmosphere, sumptuous free food. Every day mouthwatering biriyani, panner, soft drinks etc. Life seemed at its best for Antho. To my wonder, Antho worked in Google for five and a half months, which was a departure from his earlier two to three months stint in one company. The highest record is ICICI where he worked for six months. I didn’t forget to ask the reason for the loss of a new job. “That process is gone, my job was provided by third parties as I am not in the regular rolls for Google, but after six months I can reapply for the same job,” Antho was trying his best to defend himself.