Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wishes for the Elderly

Circa 1995. Came across the beautiful  walled  world of the Little Sisters  of the Poor & Home for the Aged in Hyderabad.
Walked in. More curious than anything else. Had time  on my side.

I was welcomed by a world of experienced wrinkes and toothless smiles. Where  every face  still had hope and every eye had the twinkle of life. Where the Sisters worked selflessly to clean, care and  help the aged folk live life like they would have led back home.

Curiousity turned into an urge to be a part of it. I  volunteered to help them for the two weeks I was there.
Every morning saw me walk into the flowered lawns and the shaded verandahs. The men and the women lived in separate wings but had common dining areas and lounges. I would spend my time  talking to the ladies and the gentlemen . About themselves, their lives.
Some were too old to  walk around, so I sat next to them  and talked . Actually listened while they spoke. They wanted someone who would listen. Who had time.

Most of them showed me their prized possessions. Pictures. Usually a sepia toned album or framed ones. Of the times gone by. Happy sons  overseas with wives and families, grandchildren, and beloved ones who are no more.

Lunchtimes were fun. The Sisters would serve  hot steaming rice, curry, dal and the people there would hand around their own pickles, jam, preserves etc which their families would have left behind for them or sent them occasionally. We all said a prayer of thanks together before digging in. The Sisters would insist that I eat with them, so I did. Those were the best meals I had ever had.

Finally it was  time to bid adieu.
Some took it well. Some had tears. Some gave me small gifts- a knitted bootie, a  book, a pen... all out of their belongings. Some held my hands - as if asking me to wait for another day....

As I stood in the Secunderabad station waiting to board for Kolkatta, My mind went back to the Little Sisters Home. And then I felt a hand on my shoulder. Looked back- there was a small group of men. My friends from the Home.My eyes swelled with tears.

They handed me a newspaper wrapped parcel, saying it's a little something for my journey.

Once the train chugged its way out of the city, I opened the parcel. It was a packet of hot samosas, with a small note. "Thank you Babita. For your time with us."

With another year passing by , I think of such homes and such lives.And realise that even if we have no family, we just need to reach out . There is enough love and warmth out there for everyone.

Little Sisters of the Poor & Home for the Aged
6-1-33, Beside Gandhi Hospital, Opposite Patel Timber Depot, New Bhoiguda, Musheerabad, Secunderabad - 500048
Contact Information
Telephone: 2750-6194, 2761-6194, 2780-2139

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Forward or Backward

Came across these terms in one of the wonderful TED videos.
It was mentioned   in the context of media consumption.
Lean Forward media is the digital media which is active consumption.
Lean Backward media is television, print etc etc which is passive  consumption.
Both are effective in their own ways .

But this struck a chord about life as well.

There are times when we Lean Forward- we are driven, we want to make things happen, we may even be stressed... maybe positively stressed. We are more engaged in what we do.

Then there are times when we Lean Backward- sometimes to take a break, sometimes to revel in recognition, sometimes to enjoy the sweetness of success.

I have been the Lean Forward types for most of my life till now.
Always wanting to take that extra step, that bigger leap, that one more business, that one last assignment. 

But I have realised today that Lean Forward works best only if we can dot it with Lean Backward moments.
1.  Taking  that small "mini holiday" as Robin Sharma puts it- take 10 minutes off from work, visualise     about a dream holiday spot and see yourself there- that's all it takes.
2.  Going on a real holiday.
3.  Reading a book, going for a walk, watching a movie or a soap or a reality
4.  Reorganising that joblist to strike off things that can be done tomorrow
5.  Injecting some genuine FUN at work and at home
6.  Sending that hand written note of thanks or best wishes to people who made a difference
7.  A few minutes of silent prayer
8.  Jotting down the 3 or 4 most important to- dos rather than a long list  of yet-to-be-done
9.  Listen to music
10.Laugh- with others, at ourselves at times

Finally, it's all about a balance of stress and smiles.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Marriage Status

What does it mean when one's status in life says "Married"?

It means
a commitment
mutual love and respect
saying no  when it's for his/her well being
making small compromises that keep both happy
staying up when he/she is unwell in the dead of the night
sharing passions and interests, even if they are new and novel
giving each other room to breathe and have some time for themselves

It means
celebrating every moment each day
sharing pain
freedom to express... love, anger, joy, sorrow...
never having to cry into the pillow at night

It means
saying a goodnight prayer together
planning for tomorrow but living for today
more smiles than tears
no suspicion

And having a good laugh at everything, including ourselves

That's what marriage is all about
It's a state of mind that's all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Life's come full circle this Christmas.
As I look back upon a year filled with ups and downs, hope and despair, smiles and tears.

It's time to count my blessings and thank my Secret Santa up there.
For my wonderful family who stood by me.
For my colleagues at work who  made sure I was never stressed out.
For my clients who believed in me
For  my neighbours who opened their doors

For my new home
New colleagues
New friends

Blessings can't be counted.
We just need to realise that they are always there around us.
And need to be appreciated and recognised as blessings.

Wishing everyone a merry christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

There's something special about a Secret Santa

There's nothing secret about Santa.
The child in me still jumps with eager anticipation when I see the bearded round jolly Santa in malls and clubs and even movies.
Still love hanging stockings on Christmas eve- so what if they are just decorations now.

Courtsey- the
But there is even more magic in Secret Santa at work.

Where we all pick out names of our colleagues  at work from folded chits from a fishbowl or an empty CD box.
Rush out to buy a little gift within a very small prefixed amount.

The nicest part about this is- we do not know whose name we draw.
Could be someone we had  our last fight with.
Could be the ignored person in a corner.
Could be someone who has just joined and hardly knows me.

What can be better than taking the effort to go out and buy a gift for such people?
It is a magical way of building bridges, mending some, and just sharing some love and joy.

And yes- the receiver does not know who has given the gift.
But feels so happy when the  names are called out,  and the paper is carefully unwrapped to reveal the small token.

I have been lucky to be a part of this almost every year.
I have always kept the little gifts - even the cards on the pack.

Shows us how gifts are not just amongst people we know and care for.
They can create magic wherever and whenever.

Merry Christmas to everyone.....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When fashionable meant wearing a saree

1970s. 1980s. Growing up years. The oil township we grew up in had the privilege of a Club which was the socio cultural meeting point of the Oil Officers. From the weekly Sunday movies and the tombola games to the Mid Rains Ball, the Husband's Dinner, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and of course the Grand Club Meet.

Each of these occasions meant dressing up.  And in those days, dressing up was either in sarees or in our traditional "mekhela chadars" at times, which is quite similar to a saree.

My mother's  almirah had sarees handing from steel and wooden hangers- crepes, silks, pure silks, benarasis, gorgettes, chiffons amd the daily wear cottons.  When the saree itself was universal, the differentiation and variety came from the fabric and the prints. Plain, printed, painted, embroidered, with "paris" and jaris.

I was unfortunately too young to go to the ball dances at night ( we were allowed only for the jam sessions during the day). But I would stare mesmeraised at my mother as she dressed up for the night. Beautifully made up, bright lipstick, elegant jewellery, yards of silk draped around her, finished off with a fur or woollen stole thrown over one shoulder. She looked so beautiful. Sometimes she would put on an LP record with "english music" and drag my father across the carpet, swaying to the music. Soon they would be synchronising their steps to the notes and looking into each other's eyes.... lost in their own world till my sister or I would jump in between and clamour for a dance with daddy as well:-)

Coming back to sarees, everyone wore one. To a Club which  had sprung out of and continued to be all things western and "british". Swaying to bands that played pop hits, dancing the night away.

Just shows how well our own traditional wear had blended into the environment.

Tosay, a red carpet do means gowns, cocktail dresses or elegant churidars. For most of us.
Some of us  have now relegated these beautiful sarees and "mekhelas" to the wedding season, religious occasions or at least in Assam, to wear at funeral condolences.

My mother left my sister and me a legacy. At least 300 sarees, carefully stored and wore over time. We hardly considered it a legacy. Gave some away. Dumped some in a store room. Packed some in the storage under the bed.

It's time I dusted the cobwebs and took them out.
More than anything else, the memories of the occasions which these sarees have seen will certainly drive some humility into me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Warmth of a Brand

They say that campfires first made cavemen social. Made them bond. Brought them together after a hard day's work to talk about their hunt, their lives under the stars, in the warmth of the fire.

Winter always reminds me of  warm foods- soups, steaming rice and curries, hot tea and coffees. It rings back memories of my sister and me cuddling together with my mother under thick blankets, listening to her bedtime tales. It means holding hands, being together, celebrating.

Maybe it's not too wrong to say that there is something about Warmth.
A warm person is always likeable. A warm home always makes us feel welcome.
Warm food makes us hearty. And makes conversation flow.Warm clothes comfort us.

Coming to brands ( around which my life revolves:-))
A warm tonality can touch millions
Being warm means understanding consumers as people with emotions
Someone told me recently- a technology brand cannot be warm.
That's because we ourselves have confined the definition of "warm" to being very mumsy, comfort, and maybe old fashioned.
Can cool, hip people and brands not be warm as well? Why do we have to be cold intentionally to become aspirational?When it comes to people and the  most successful professionals, a warmth quotient can make a difference between someone who the world loves and someone who the world knows about.

Warmth can have different dimensions. It could be tonality ( brand voice), it could be the benefit ( bringing people together), it could be innovations ( products that make people bond and not isolate).

To me, Brand Warmth is an important parameter in determining the brand appeal for a lot of brands around us.

We don't need winter and snow to bring us closer.
We can  do without fires.
Warmth is not about nice words, soft emotions and being uncool .
White can also be warm.
Warmth is about brightness in lives.
Warmth can be humorous.
And yes, we don't lose edginess by being warm.

All it takes for a brand to be warm is to make a consumer feel like she belongs, she is part of a community that shares her passions, her interests, she can converse with people who exude emotions. And she can bond like never before.

Monday, December 6, 2010

An Ode to Pleasure Givers

Being a professional woman and playing the balancing act of home, hearth and work, I often wonder about professions outside of advertising and how women like us manage the multiplicity of roles that life demands.

Strangely, of all things around me,  my mind wavered to Paulo Coelho's Eleven Minutes, and the story of a  "professional escort" who worked around the fact that all it took for her  to make her clients reach the peak of pleasure was eleven minutes. The average time.

But it was also the story of how she herself  yearned for some pleasure as a woman, but remained unsatiated till oneday she met someone who showed her what true pleasure was. A beautiful book written by Coelho in his inimitable style.

Soon I was lost in my thoughts.
What do women like her, who are in the business of pleasure giving, go through , when they are at work?
How easy or difficult is it to make "the act" just a profession and shave off all emotions associated with it?
Does she sometimes look at a client in his eyes and feel a sense of "what if?"... or a sense of belonging?
In those eleven minutes, or maybe an hour ( given the rates and the play) does she live a role of a girlfriend, a partner or even  a wife?

In fact , why just such professionals?
What about so many housewives who often act as pleasure givers just so that she has the security of the home and the kitchen fires? Who have never known nor dare ask for what makes her happy? Who has only given... just given...

I have no answers to this.
Whether one can go through the "motions"  like an expert  and  yet be completely detached from any emotion
Whether it can just a professional job done many times over in a day, for running a home or a life or just making ends meet
When a person is forced to trade maybe her own desires. her sense of shame and dignity  and bear the mark of a loose moralled woman

Isn't it all about the overwhelming emotions of love or is it just a text book theory that crashes headlong with the harsh truth of reality... that it is just an act  that gives pleasure to the receiver.....

Yet so many women  go through these motions everyday
Without complaining....

It's time we took a few seconds off to salute the world's oldest profession and treat  such women with the same dignity and respect we have for everyone around us including ourselves.
After all, it is not easy to be pleasure givers forever.

My new blog:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fourteen years later...

December 2, 1996. A cold winter morning in Calcutta.
I walked into the corridors of the beautiful 30 Bondel HTA office, with a heart  full of dreams and a head full of ambition.
A warm smile from Lizzie, at the desk made me  feel a little less nervous.
But the butterflies still fluttered and how.
Was shown my desk- tucked away my stationery proudly in my drawer, gave my name for my first visiting card.

A sweet girl, who went on to become a close friend, Abhiruchi, took me around the office.
I gazed in wonder at the sheer number of people,  nervously smiled at Monideepa from creative, managed to peek into Srirupda's room, shook hands warmly with Rupenda, Samirda, Ashimda, Indranidi, Sabby,Kishoreda, Shyamolda, Tonmoyda, Toponda, Shibuda, Uttio, Chire, Suman, Rahul, Sugato, Dola, AD, Anjani, Abhijitda, Nasreen, Shubro, Kaushik, Mrinalda...
Sat  on the edge of the sofa in Anita's room, as she welcomed me to HTA.
Smiled at Mita. Checked out the beautiful terrace, the conference rooms, Avikda and the av room.

Walked into Rohit's room , was inspired as well as worried- what if I don't live up to expectations....

Saw the dark room with the TPs and bromides under the able charge of Sumonda.
Ventured into the huge studio and all the huge workboards, paintbrushes, bromides, logo prints, manual artworks....
Said hi to Nirupda...

Had my first canteen lunch of fish curry and rice.
Was alone when Suman walked up and  asked me to come to her room.
Carried my lunch into her room.....

Was walked through my first brief on Bata.
Went through the guard book on Modi Telstra
Helped identify some competition for a Boroplus presentation.

Evening. A Bengali girl called  Kusmi came with some churidars for sale.
Given my  dire necessity to replenish my wardrobe, I quickly bought one.

Had pakoras and chai from the canteen.
Strolled into the media department and chatted with Indranidi .

The day was over.
As I sat in the autorickshaw on my first ride home from HTA, I looked back at  my first day.
I was happy.
Felt I belonged.

Fourteen years later, as I write this today, the feelings have not changed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Battling with Fear

When I was young, many many years ago, I would run to my mother whenever I was scared.
She would hold my hand and say- Why fear when I am there?
And I would run away happily. With the knowledge that someone was there to fight all my battles.

Things change when you grow up.
Why is it that the more we have what we want, our fear of losing increases?
Why do these demons gnaw at our minds in the dead of the night, when we know that everything is just fine?

Fear is truly our worst enemy.
For some of us who have had losses earlier on in life, fear also proves a reason to exist.
And makes us think- what if this happens again? What if we lose people who matter to us, yet again?

I have read  and I have been told that fear disappears when we control our minds and do not let our minds take over.
I  know that the best way to get rid of these fears is to stop thinking. get a breath of fresh air, divert the mind ... there are solutions galore on the Net.

However, Life has taught me the hard lesson.
That the best way to fight the battle of fear is not to divert, not to ignore, but to face it.
Head on.

To have the courage to actually talk back to Fear instead of being scared and say- Yes, what if I lose all I have today?
It still brings those silly tears to your eyes.
It still makes the heart go cold.

But alongwith that, we will also get the answer.

That Life goes on. And that with time, everything heals. And we all move on.
Discovering new strengths that we never knew existed, uncovering new potential that lay dormant all the time....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Lady and the Wok

Was in Shillong over the weekend.  Gorged on the hakka noodles and the stir fries of the quaint little Nat's restaurant. Polished off the Chinese sausages and the bamboo shoot at Wong's. Slurped the souffles at Pinewood. Stared mesmerised at the lovely rosy cheeked lady behind a huge wok by the winding lanes, frying her wares with gusto .

There is something about local food.
Is it the herbs?
Is it the unbeatable aroma of the freshly picked tomatoes and mushrooms and greens?
Is it the secret recipe of the Khasi  lady at the wok, who makes the dishes with the same remarkably delicious consistency that would beat the best food standards in the world?

As we pile our shopping carts with ready to cooks and ready to eats and line our shelves with spices and mixes , we sometimes don't realise that the currents of commercialisation sweep away the shoots of local flavours, aromas and authenticity ruthlessly and tickle our palates with the taste of what we call contemporary foods.

Of course all of us can't be great cooks.
And surely all of us cannot be expected to have the time to delve into the pool of genuine local cooking when we dish up what is truly local.
And what is also true that we have been palatised to love these new tastes- the art of research and development  in food brands who have identified  the lowest common denominator to massify and even trademark flavours and dishes.

Yet, as I write this, I wish there was a way of recognising and preserving the magic of the local touch across the world. I wish someone would spend a day with the lady and the wok to understand what goes into the food she makes day in and day out  with the same success rate. And whether such great foods can be introduced to the rest of the foodie world.

Or else, I fear that , like all other things of yesteryears, the lady  behind the wok and her amazing food would also be a distant flicker of memory as time goes by.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When lines get blurred

If someone asked me even three years back about what I do, my prompt reply would be - advertising professional. Today, I like to elaborate or let's say, build on this by saying- I also do this and that.

We've come a long way from strait jacketed professions of engineers, doctors, CAs and so forth.
Where the wall between a passion, if it existed,  and work was as strong as  one of the cement ads we see on air. Usually, like an unwatered plant, passions died a natural wilted death.Coming up to haunt us once in a while when something or someone triggered off a memory of what really drove us to joy.

Life today is different. We like multi-indulging. Indulging in work as well as in our passions or interest. So a suited booted CEO can also play the lead guitar in a band at night in the most popular pub in town. Or  a thriving banker also doubles up as a   blogger  at night.   Some of us write, others indulge in fashion designing, some others in travel and trekking ventures, some others  spend time with NGOs.... could be anything that the heart beckons.

This second life or indulgence is one which is followed for sheer passion. Money may come with it and sometimes the money is big enough for people to even give up their mainstream work and take this up full time.

Then there are the ones who of course  have made their passion a profession. That's the ideal world. All of us can't do that. Which is where this second life  or lives come in. Making our days and lives more balanced.

Even brands have come to acknowledge this.  Most  brands are moving from being  a business ally to a fun buddy.  It's no longer either or. For most brands. And for most of us.

These blurred lines are a blessing.
It shows we have confidence in ourselves to do what we always wanted to.
Even if it means pushing ourselves. Or those extra hours every other day.

This is indeed achievement of a different kind.
One to reckon with.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Mouthful of Jargon

Sometimes I am surprised at myself.

I work in an industry meant to  communicate in the simplest way to consumers.
Yet, when it comes to communication internally, my words are all but simple.

Some of my daily jargons and what I mean

Eyeball Traction                  More people are watching me
Deployed resources            Got my team to work
Targetted Profile                 What my consumer is like
Demographics                     How old is my consumer, what  is his economic status, where does he live etc
Psychographics                   What is my consumer mindset
Incentivize the TG                Reward my consumer
Imperatives                         Critical to- dos
Standardize guidelines          Follow the rules
Strategic Collaboration        Plan together
Preferred Choice                 Preferred means choice right?
Primary response                 What did she say? How did she react?
Secondary TG                     Who else takes the calls?
Youthful tonality                   Be young
Consumer's hat                    Think like her

No wonder I sound like a walking talking addipidea.

Maybe if , for starters, I started talking like my consumers, I would  be more like them, rather than wearing their "shoes" or "hats" or "feeling their pulse"

It's time for a change.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Wealth of Waste

This struck me in the shower this morning. I looked at the remnants of the once glorious cake of Dove, now sitting shrunk, out of shape, devoid of fragrance and everything else in the soap case. Quickly unwrapped a fresh new one and was about to bin this. When a flash of memory hit me.

In the days when the "commode"  was definitely a luxury but water was still used for the task of washing hands after the "task", my mother would keep the leftover soap cakes as "soap for washing hands". She, like most women of her times, wouldn't dream of throwing a half used soap. Or anything else for that matter.

Like the Dalda ghee which caked and recaked and caked again in the cooking pot.Till the black dregs clouded over the white and it couldn't be used anymore.
Or the newspapers which were used for lining shelves in kitchens, cupboards, spreading on the bed when we had an occasional snack on the bed and even used to wipe hands in picnics.
Or  the school skirts which we outgrew faster than the new leaves of spring, which would be carefully unhemmed to make them longer. We would go about class with a darker blue or grey ( winetr uniform) hem than the rest of the washed skirt without an ounce of embarassment. Everyone wore skirts like that.

Not to mention the sweaters which would be unwound and reknitted. Small kids would proudly wear multi coloured woollen caps and cardigans made of remnants of sweaters.

Leftover recipes were published proudly by housewives in the Femina and Illustrated Weekly. The proud housewife would even send her grim passport picture accompanying the recipe. And would get a Sumeet mixie as first prize.

Sarees were bartered for stainless steel utensils, old bottles sold to the kabariwallah.

Weddings meant old jewellery being recycled, redesigned by the family jeweller.

Was it the smart homemaking? Was it forced thrift?

When the word "recycling" meant nothing to nobody, most families lived by this philosophy.
Nothing went waste. Everything was innovatively used and reused till it could be used no more and was juiced out. ( in fact I remember a delicious vegetable made of vegetable skins)

There was a wealth in waste out there. Am sure there still is.

Just that, we don't seem to need it anymore.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Special Gift

 I simply love getting gifts. Used to call them "presents"- a legacy of birthday parties in my childhood days. Anything wrapped in coloured paper is enough to get me smiling silly. But over the years, I realise that there are some gifts  that really make us feel very special. It is not the gift itself. It is the thought behind the gift.

Fresh from the Diwali shower of dry fruits , chocolates, wines and barfis, sometimes I feel we have massified the art of gifting to the point where it has become a tick on the checklist. I did that too.

And then this morning, I got a gift . A simple book. City of Djinns. With a small note in gilt ink that said- Welcome to your new city and your new life.

What was it about this that made me feel so special?
a) The person realised that the change to a new city and life  has not been easy for me. And through the gift, expressed a small welcome to this change.
b)  I am a bookworm and there can't be a more apt gift than a book
c) This book is very relevant to Delhi life and its nuances
f) Most importantly, the person took the trouble to get a nice pen and spent 2 minutes scrolling down a sweet note.

This is the art of "personalization". Suddenly the "massification" of gifting I was talking about pales against a touch of "personalization".  Personalization is not about money. The only thing we need to invest is some thought. Thought into what the person likes, what will make him or her feel good, how we can  add a small touch to make something off the shelf personal.

I think of all the "freebies" we conjure up with our clients on our brands. Sometimes the decision actually boils down to what the most cost effective vendor can turn around in the timelines. Then we create an ad or a jingle to talk about the special offer.
How often do we, myself included, spend sometime thinking what would be relevant when we give a gift or a "freebie"? How can we make it a little special? How can the brand get an emotional hug of thank you from the delighted consumer? Food for Thought this festive season.

And yes. All it takes is some thinking. And a little more work.  To turn a "freebie" into a "present".

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time for a Break

After being a 24x7 workoholic, putting work above family, friends and even my own self for over 14 years, I am now older and hopefully, wiser.

Work is obviously important. But it should not creep into things that keep us going.

Like our passions. Or interests. Or maybe even a stint back as a student.

This is where workplace effectiveness terms like "productivity" come into play.
How do we ensure that we are always "productive" at work? How do we ensure that we have teams that are "productive"?

By encouraging our teams and ourselves to indulge in passions and interests outside of work.
By saying "yes" to a much deserved break
By not glancing at the watch everytime someone in the team calls it a day
By having informal unplugged sessions once in a while where all of us talk about things that keep us going, besides work
By  having people in the organisation or outside, who have balanced work and interests effectively, to share their experiences
By having a collection of books at an arm's length at the workplace- from inspirations, to recipes to fiction to bike repairing...anything that provides for a good break
I am sure there are lots more.

I can speak for myself when I say that when passions are encouraged, people go out of their way to make sure that work goes on uninterrupted. That's what positive encouragement is all about.
( If it doesn't, then ...well... the person needs a one to one chat. That's what bosses are for!)

Pursuing our interests makes us happy
It rids us of our guilt- of neglecting ourselves
It makes us want to do more
It opens up our minds- we learn more, share more.

And consciously or unconsciously, it all adds back to our work.
We have people thinking out of the box. We have wider perspectives.

But most importantly, we have more smiles than frowns.
Work becomes a part of  life and not a compulsion.

And workplace becomes much much more "productive".
After all, everything in life is full circle.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's time to say "thank you"

What started off as a traditional outfit for a Diwali lunch spiralled into a beautiful mesh of compliments, discussion about the gorgeous "mekhela chador" of Assam,  leaving me bloated and beautiful.

Amazing what a set of compliments can do.
Makes one feel special
Makes one belong
Makes one feel blessed
And loved
And wanted
And just so good

It takes so little to shower a little praise
A few good words
A sign of appreciation
A mail saying Well Done

Yet sometimes we forget
And miss what may have been a small chance to make someone feel good

On the eve of my birthday, as I turn one more year older and wiser, I thank everyone out there who has made me what I am today
For making me believe that in spite of the tide turning, there is always someone or something good round the corner. We just need to take that turn.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Ode to the Talcum Powder

It owned a place of pride on dressing tables of yesteryears. Where the long mirror adorned with used bindis reflected its twin  image in all its glory.
I am talking about the talcum powder.The old familiar tin or packs that adorned our homes and our selves in our growing years.

It would top the list every month. The  all important shopping list. No matter what, this one name would never be struck off.
Come summer, and it would be emptied faster than the ice in the refrigerator. Sprinked liberally after a bath,  before work, after work, before going to bed.

It was the fairness enhancer for young women and  the not so young. Patted carefully over a foundation by fluffly puffs , it would light up a face many notches with just a touch.
New born babies, little girls going to school, family dressed up to go to a wedding or even a temple visit- nothing could happen without the touch of white.

In freezing winters, a liberal dose of talc would cover up the lack of a bath or a wash, making one feel as fresh.
Barbers and salons would use it ( still do)  to dust away the telltale strands of hair after a hair cut.
Not to mention how handy it was to cure some uncomfortable itches in incomfortable places.

And one of the most endearing moments in most homes would be little kids playing with the packs, sprinkling the white dust liberally on themselves while the elders laughed lovingly .

In fact, people liked leaving the traces of fragrant white on their faces and bodies.
It showed freshness
It cued that the person was wellgroomed
It also reflected a sense of beauty

And then the onslaught happened. The plugging of holes. Deos, whiteners, lotions, anti perspirants, face toners, fairness enhancers, matt finished cremes, itchguards.... and many more.

Relegating  the classic talc to the bottom shelf and bottom of the list.
Yes there are many who still use it. There will be market figures and charts to prove this.
The truth is, it is a fading category, struggling to hold on to its pride of yesteryears before the final plunge.

But come what may, the talcum powder will always occupy a  special place.
For being a part of our homes and hearts.
And for being a big confidence booster and beauty ally in our growing up years.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The City of Power

"Mother Pious Lady" has a paragraph on Gurgaon. Lapped it up eagerly this morning, being one of the freshest inhabitants of this city. The book says that Gurgaon is the city of power, not wealth. Therefore it does not have the baggage of wealth that its closest metro neighbour, Delhi has.

How true. Having heard of the "old rich" and the palatial bungalows and the wealth that Delhi is, I was very nervous when I came here four months ago. Gurgaon assured me of  neighbours who I could socialize with without feeling like a country cousin, a professional life where I  have fit in like a glove, a place where I feel charged up being amongst professionals who are from all across the country, with dreams bigger than most of the bank balances.

Set me thinking. How is Power different from Wealth.Power is influence. Power is recognition. Power comes to those who has aspired and achieved. Power is about success. Power is about talent. It is about professions, entreprenership, politics, creativity, fine arts.... anything that can  create a sphere of influence. Power is not necesssarily a legacy.It comes to the hungry. And the dreamers.

Wealth may follow closely on the heels of power. But it is the effect and not the cause. And most importantly, power can exist without wealth.

In my short stint so far in Gurgaon, I have seen the play of Power. It gives me the confidence. And the comfort that I can hopefully achieve what I want without the padding of wealth, which I definitely lack at the moment.( I mean monetary wealth).Relatively speaking.

So  here I am,  keying down these thoughts on Power before the day begins.
And raising a silent toast to the city that has given me what very few people have.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There's something about a "happy birthday"

"Happy Birthday to you"
Out of all the birthday wishes, I remember our help Kamala's wishes to me early morning when I was still in junior school, in my skirts and ribboned hair. Kamala did not speak or understand a word of English.

There is something about a birthday. And a birthday wish.
Have realised this  even more after Facebook .
Last year ( am just two years old on FB) I lapped up all the wishes greedily and was quite smug about the long columns of wishes from friends and friends of friends who we have not met for years.

Why do  we feel so special on our birthday?
Noone really goes philosophical about remembering the day we were born and contemplating on whether we have spent worthwhile years and what we shall do with the remaining.

Birthdays are fun because of the celebrations associated with it.

It's a day when we  get lots and lots of  smiles and gifts and hugs. Even the biggest pranks ( as kids) and mistakes ( as grown up kids) get a benign smile and a nod of "It's ok". We can get away with just about anything.

A day when  we are definitely  in the spotlight. From the time we wear our "birthday dress" and share a packet of Morton's in class to today where we walk into work  with something special.

A day when  official flowers and a card make workplace feel extra nice.

The gifts. The excitement of getting the big parcels with  teddy bears and flowers printed on the wrapping  when we were young to the more demure wrapping now. The thrill of opening a gift  makes one feel like a child.

And the cake. How can a birthday be complete without the cake. With the icing. The cursive "Happy Birthday". The candles. The knife sitting consciously on the side. Standing behind a cake makes one more conscious and more happy than any podium  in the world.

None of this would have made a birthday special if we were alone.
Birthdays are what they are because of people around us.
It's a day when everyone forgives and forgets and heads pop in and out with genuine smiles and wishes.
A day when a simple birthday song is sung with more harmony than the best practised choirs.
When we leave cast off our grown up cloaks and get to smashing the cake on the  hapless victim  with a gusto no team work workshop can ever get.

No matter how old we are, birthdays never fail to bring out the child in each of us. It is a day when we  truly feel blessed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Papa. My father.( a short fictitious story)

He reached out for the alarm clock on the bedside and turned it off. Still one hour to go .
Sleep evaded him.
He turned back to look at the small form curled up under the blankets, heaving softly in the rhythmic breath which only peaceful sleep can bring.

Almost on cue,  her little head emerged from the cave of blankets to give him a Good morning smile.
His heart felt that ache again. She looked so much like Her . Like her mother. It was almost like fate had given him this gift as a keepsake copy while snatching away the original so ruthlessly.

It was an usual day. The toothbrush song he had taught her as  her little brush sweaked in the frothy toothpaste. The warm mug of Bournvita . The bread smothered with her favourite plum jam  and peanut butter, cut into little pieces she could fork up easily. His hands deftly buttoning up her little denims. The long brush strokes as she sat on his lap, that made her hair glisten like a raven's jet black wings.

She skipped  along side to the car and stopped at the sight of the red suitcase, sitting imposingly on the front step.
"Where are we going, Papa?"
He paused, not wanting  to hear his voice mouthing the reality that was about to strike in a while.

Her young mind did not grasp the pause as she dragged the suitcase with him to the car.
" I like helping you," she said, looking up at him lovingly.
His mind went back to another day, another time when the same eyes had looked up at him. The same love. The same words. The same emotion.

They drove into the courtyard.
She look surprised at the sea of men and women in black and white, walking about with folders and papers.
"They are dressed like penguins, Papa," she said.

" Baby, go with this nice lady for a while and play with her. Papa has some  work to finish. Then we will go for a good  burger and fries meal. "
" Pwomise?"

 He sat on the bench. Waiting for the Proceedings.

His face was expressionless when the Man walked in, his arrogance  already showing his confidence of a win. He liked calling him the Man. That took away the relationship  the Man had with Her. Took away the bitterness he felt that all he had of Her were just two beautiful years. While the Man had thirteen. Making the Man nameless took away some of the humanness and made him look at the Man like an emotionless machine. She had always called  the Man that. A Robot. A selfish robot.

The final Battle began.
Rights of a "father". By birth? By support?
Can a man who has no relation at all even claim to be a "father"?

Serious faces in black and white cite Articles and Sections and make Points and Counterpoints.
The Man sits back, even more confident.
The little girl waits in the adjoining room, playing with her puzzle, waiting for Papa .

He is oblivious to all this. All he can see  and hear is Her. Smiling at him confidently. Asking him to Think Positive. To Believe.  He nodded silently. That's what she  had been about. Always positive. Always believing in life and love.

The Verdict.  He stands respectfully like the rest, still in oblivion. The wild enraged cry from the Man brings him back to the present.

He hears the congratulations.  Accepts the pats on the back. Thanks the right people. Ignores the flash bulbs of hungry media waiting to break the story of justice.

All he could see was Her face, smiling gratefully. With a relief her living years had robbed of her.

The little girl was tired of waiting. She walked to the door and peered out.
Her worried face broke into a smile as she saw him walking towards her.

She looked at the lady who was with her, and said,
" There's my Papa. My father. We are going home."

What is it about small towns

Started writing about brand management- hangover from the weekend.
Couldn't. This blog is about what I feel and not what I should write.

So am  sharing a beautiful experience of the cobbled alleys of a small town that gave me so much joy and brought back a flood of memories.

There is something about smaller places. Some magic that the concretisation, wired up generation , wider roads, mobile operator signages  and the ever expanding boundary line have not been able to erode.

Maybe it is the smile on the face of the "locals"  when strangers roll down the car windows and ask for directions.

The small stalls lining the roadside  peddling sumptious food - steaming omelettes, chinese noodles and manchurian, sandwiches and the ubiqitous rolls. Where noone even dreams of wondering whether it is hygienic. It is. We have been having them for ages.

Where the grocery is still from the neighbourhood grocer store. Laden with toys and spices and biscuits and toiletries and everything that a household could possibly want.

The tired taxi driver who turns the wheel readily and agrees to drop us  in the dead of the night, even though his family waits for him to get back home. And asking us to pay "whatever we want" as it was not on meter.

The  service in the hotels and guesthouses where the waiters are friends and takes the babies and children out to play  while the guests can relax. Never asking or waiting for a tip.

Where neighbours are family. And the walls are just a physical separation of properties.

Where  passerbys still stand aside and make way for the elderly. And  give up a seat in the bus readily. So what if it means an hour of standing on tired feet.

Where every festival is a community celebration. Everyone gets a plate of puja  prasad   or a slice of cake and a handful of marzipan on Christmas day.

Where  there  is no mad race to get ahead, whether it is on the roads or in queues or in life.

Where people still have time to walk in the morning or stroll with the kids  at dusk.

Small towns have their share of woes. Disgruntlement  does set in, like the load shedding that brings in darkness and flies. City returned  children shuffle and rant about lack of connectivity, handful of channels and no happening joints at night. Young men  get restless wanting to earn more bucks in the promised lands. The skyscrapers and blinking night lights in cities that never sleep attract the inhabitants and the youth like bees to honey.

People like me. Like us.
We earn, we burn, we achieve, we revel, we acquire, we lose, we race, we celebrate, we enjoy. We do.

That's what life is all about.
Yet the magic of the small towns and the simple lives haunt me whenever I go back .For a brief respite.