Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Tale of 3 Cities

December 1995. As I strolled down Park Street after a kathi roll dinner, marvelling at the rows of restaurants- Flurys, Petercat, Mocambo, the hairdresser A.N John, the frames store, the pavement hawkers, the imposing Park Hotel, little did I realise that this city would be home for the next four years. Fresh out of management schoolin far flung Assam, I was hoping that this city would give me the break I so desperately wanted.

The break happened. Followed quickly by marriage. Colleages became friends, 30 Bondel Road became my second home, Ruby General Hospital my landmark for the tiny flat we lived in.

This was Kolkata- the City of Joy. The city I loved and still yearn for. Kolkata gave me my first taste of advertising, my first New Year Parties in Clubs after I had left Digboi in 1984, my first tram ride, my first kosha mangsho recipe, my first jhaal muri snack in office , my first clients- Bata, Modi Telstra, Emami, Itc. It is here I made my first friends, some of whom are my mentors, some still friends, some family.

Kolkata taught me what it is to make someone feel like being at home away from home, It was here I learnt my first skills of servicing, my first confident presentation, my first project- The legendary Wills YearBook.

Summer of 2000. Move to Mumbai. The city of dreams . It was like the clock turning back in some ways. Like having to settle for train rides to work instead of car- it was unaffordable given the distances.I remember my first train ride- I couldn't step out at Vile Parle and was jostled in till Borivali!!!! The walk from Churchgate to Fort Lakshmi Building, Bombay Store, Sailor restaurant, Sali Botis, the Lever, non Lever seating arrangement at work, my new boss who is now my dear friend, new relationships at work, new teammates. For the first time, I was senior enough to have someone report to me. Mumbai groomed me as a senior professional, taught me how to deal with multinational giants and million dollar brands, brought me close to clients who now head some of the biggest organisations in the country. From them I learnt the lessons of management, of leadership. Mumbai brought me close to the stars of Bollywood, whether it was a quick glimpse in a mall, a walk in Juhu or a shoot in Mehboob Studios.

Mumbai made me grow at a frenetic pace that is so characteristic of the city. Whether it was our first own apartment or car or the work front, Mumbai was like a lever that kept leveraging me.

Mumbai made me a mother, Mumbai made me mature in life. The floods where I was stuck for 8 hours, the blasts at night when we were returning from the Effies- the never say die spirit of Mumbaikars instilled in me the strength to raise my voice and fight my own personal battles.

July 2010. Gurgaon. My tryst with destiny. Gurgaon happened at a time when I had lost hope. Gurgaon rekindled in me the will to say- get on with life. Showed me how much the place I work for cares for me and values me. Gurgaon is where I am rediscovering myself. All over again. Whether it is the morning drive to work, the chapati, lemon rice lunches, the Galleria jaunts, biryani at Karim's. shopping at Ambience, our friends.... Gurgaon is a part of my life now.

This is my journey of the 3 cities I have lived and love. I owe each city for helping me grow up to be what I am. I owe each place for my friends, for all the bonds and relationships, the rich experiences I have filed away forever.

Life may take me places once more. But these three cities will always be there with me, no matter where I go.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

There is Something about Rituals

Just back from a Shradhh ceremony ( Funeral). It was the first annual Shradhh of my maternal uncle and a good time to visit home for a weekend.

As I was sitting in the white pandal and looking at my uncle's portrait garlanded with white lotus buds, I started wondering about the ritual I was attending. On one hand, it did seem strange. A person is dead and gone, yet we continue to hold ceremonies, have kirtans, followed by a feast for a few hundred guests.

There are so many rituals I have grown up with. But the ones I remember the most are the ceremonies- the annual Satyanarayana Puja with the "ghol" prasad, the Annaprasanna ( first food offered to babies) ceremony, the elaborate three days weddings with all the accompanied rituals, the Jamai Shosthi ( son- in- laws invited for a feast) in Bengal, Saraswati and Lakshmi puja at home, Vishwakarma puja where Daddy would get us sweet packets and sometimes a tiffin carrier of khichdi and mixed sabzi, the much awaited Durga Puja, the Bihus in Assam, even the first passage into womanhood is celebrated with rituals... the list is endless.

Must admit. There is something about the rituals in our lives. While there is both logic and magic in the origination as well as the process, I tried to think of a few good reasons why I had flown all the way for 1000 miles to attend this.

1.Rituals connect. It is a time where friends and family meet. A time when a meal is shared together, people catch up on old times and new, kids play in the front yard with cousins they haven't met for years. Try organising a family party to get all of this and see how many would attend.

2. Rituals create a bond. With the occasion- in this case my uncle who passed away. For that day, he was in our minds, we spoke about his life, shared favourite stories with my aunt and cousins and ended the day on a very happy note.

3. Rituals are about interactions. The processes itself are so meticulously followed that they make people interact. Everyone was working yesterday- my aunts and I were serving prasad together, some cousins were ushering guests in, few others were organising the kirtan , lamps were lit , flowers were strewn, tea and sweets served by the sisters-in-law .The harmony with which this happens with noone pulling the strings of control is amazing. No rehearsal, no dry runs.

Just realised how relevant rituals are in the life of a brand as well. Whether it is the Corona beer and the lemon wedge. Or the Harley Club (HOG) where every action is a ritual and garners a camaraderie and a bond that few can break. Or the James Bond induced ritual for Martini- Shaken Not Stirred.And even having the morning coffee at Starbucks on the way to work.

Most marketers shy away from rituals. The oft used reason- it takes years to build a ritual. Righto- it does take years. But then, why do we all like to think that our brands will last only as long as we are in the business. Brands will always outlive us, our careers and even our lifetimes. Which brings us to the second most oft used reason. Who will see this through for years? Obviously the brand custodians, whoever they are. The ritual baton can be handed down from one to the other person, from one to the next generation.

And once the ritual is firmly associated with the brand, it is part of the brand gene. Needs no marketing spends and media plans.Because it is consumers who control rituals.

These were some of the thoughts that crossed my mind as I looked around me at the pandal full of guests, who had gathered together from across the map to share their grief together on my uncle's demise a year ago.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Salvaging my Saree Dreams

My favourite game when I was young was to play Teacher Teacher. The ruler in my hand and the chalk with which I wrote happily on the living room walls did not charm me as much as the saree I wrapped clumsily around myself. It was the high point of my make believe world of teaching.

There was something about the saree when we were young. Everyone wore them. Chiffons for the daytime, crepes and silks for social evenings, Kanjeevarams and Kotkis for parties. And lovely printed cottons for everyday.

My ma studiously wore her sarees after the latest Bollywood fashion, showcased in our regular movie shows in Janata or Jasoda Talkies in Digboi. The tight wrapped around Sadhana and Babita style without pleats, the Mumtaz chiffons, the Jaya Bhaduri demure cottons.

Durga Pujas in Shantipara where we had khichri and labra bhaji was a fashion show of beautiful taats, kanthas, Igatpuris as the aunties, specially the Bengali aunties looked so gorgeous in crisp and crackling new sarees. The Assamese and non Bengali aunties also wore equally beautiful sarees, though not always new, making the entire puja pandal a bevy of colours, almost breaking into a riot.

I loved wearing a saree, so what if I was just eight or nine. I felt grown up. I felt matured and I felt beautiful. I would run my hands across Ma's saree collection in her cupboard and dream of owning those oneday. Once in a while, I would wear a saree for an hour or so on a Sunday and my dad would have tears in his eyes. He thought his little girl was "growing up".

Today I have all of Ma's sarees- a legacy she left for me. I have all the means to buy the best of sarees. Yet I don't end up wearing them as often as I would have liked to. In fact, I hardly wear them. "I can't manage", "I work long hours" " I will look odd in a party"" what's the occasion?" "I will wear it for someone's wedding or diwali"- these are the demons in my mind. They shock me at times.

I realise that somewhere with our growing up, we have also let go of a lot of our simple desires, simple beauty codes. We have moved on to bigger and more fashionable wear and why not? It is about being comfortable in what we wear and what we like wearing.

But somewhere, when I look at Ma's cupboard and the sarees that lie unworn and folded, I wistfully remember my "teacher teacher" days. And hope that I can drop off all my inhibitions and drape the gorgeous folds around me again.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Life is Wonderful

It was lunchtime the day before and I was checking Gmail when I saw an offer for blogs to be advertised for a couple of hours on the Net. Thought it would be a good opportunity for a fledgling blogger like me. I saw a small rectangular box where I could design my "ad". Fourteen years of experience and the seniority that comes with it immediately baited me to pull ranks and ask "studio" to make something good. Maybe a copywriter friend could also help. And an art director just needed to spend a couple of minutes.

Then I thought that something was not right. Here I am, writing away merrily about life everyday, without any "agency help". So why ask now?

All I needed was a headline. How could I describe my writings? After a few sips of Pepsi Max and mouthfuls of canteen chole and chawal, I keyed in " Life Is Wonderful". Because whatever I write, I humbly attempt to capture some of life's wonderful moments or learnings. The subheadline was "An honest and real life blog".

This is what was in my email inbox this morning. Hope you like it as much as I do. because without your support, this and the 900+ clicks could have never happened.

Our Feedjit Rush launch yesterday was incredibly exciting. We've had everyone from major universities to gaming companies sign up and send a surge of visitors to their sites. We've also learned some surprising things about what kinds of ads generate high click-through rates. Rather than focus on PR today, I want to share one of the surprising things we learned.

We had a number of great ads appear today on Rush. Many of them were clearly written by experienced copywriters. We saw a lot of variations in font size, font family, italics and so on. But early in the day someone posted an ad that generated a surprisingly high click-through rate.

The ad used simple Arial size 14 text with a bold headline that simply said: "Life is Wonderful".

The positive message in this ad reminds me of a story Robert Cialdini tells in the book Influence about a car salesman. Every month Joe Girard sends over 13,000 cards to previous customers with a simple message: "I like you". It may sound corny, but Joe Girard holds the Guinness world record for being the most successful car salesman in history.

It goes to show that people still love a positive message.


Mark Maunder

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brands Back Home

Was reading Santosh Desai's Mother Pious Lady- fantastic read that transported me back to the days of pickles, postcards and inland letters hung from wires, my Army classmates from Lekhapani. And in that journey, I also remembered some of the other brands that made life what it was when we were young. Back home in the 70s and the 80s.

1. Dalda - Ma called it Vanaspati. The yellow plastic with the green cap stood in its place of prominence on the kitchen shelf. The karais always had a white residue which Ma carefully covered up after the morning puris on Sunday were fried. The next time she had something to sizzle again, out came the karai and we would watch fascinated as the white orb melted into a golden bubbling oil, ready to brown whatever came into its boiling mass.

2. Dettol- Till I turned fifteen, I always thought Dettol was white. That's because my father, as I learnt years later, would carefully dilute the Dettol in an old Dettol bottle and kept it ready to swab his nicks and cuts during his morning shave. Graze on knee, nick with the kitchen knife, the water used for swabbing the wooden floors- everything had the white liquid with its nice hospital like smell.

3. Bata- The Bata managers were always friends with father and mother. I used to wonder how every new manager spoke with the same familiarity and knew our names, our classes and when school would open after holidays. School days meant black shoes with buckles during the week, white canvas shoes for the games classes and PT. Ma wore Sandak in the rains and later on, even bought an "expensive" Marie Claire. Father always had his black leather shoes- he wore them to work, for shopping, to the Club, to social visits- everywhere. And then of course, were our Hawai chappals- four pairs- one each for father, ma, my sister and me. If the straps gave way, we simply replaced them and wore them till our toe left dark blue imprints that bore deep into the off white rubber.

It was only when I joined advertising and proudly walked into Bata- my first account, that I realised that Bata was an MNC and not a homegrown Indian brand.

4. Lux- Ma always always used Lux soap.She was very particular about her soap, would keep it in a separate case and we were forbidden to ever use it. We had our Pears but I always wanted to use ma's Lux - I thought her beautiful complexion was because of Lux and was very petulant whenever she sensed that I may used it and warned me. Later on she told me that she wanted our skin to be innocent like Pears. I would have preferred beauty anyday.

5. Fryums- Fryums tatums... remember the jingle clearly. Ever since Fryums were invented, the papads found their way into our palate and we demanded Fryums every evening after play.

6. Iodex- reminds me of ma rubbing the dark gel on father's back whenever he had a backache. And of father rubbing ma's shoulders with it once in a while when she was tired. Of me rubbing Iodex on ma's back years later when we were alone and more than a backache, she longed for some comfort. Iodex was all I could manage and was a faithful ally for years to come.

7.Horlicks- how can someone from the east not grow up on Horlicks. Was a must every morning, was there when we were ill, was made for my grandmother when she was too old to eat solids, was there when my sister and I generally felt like having a spoonful. Still love it.

8.Brown and Polson Custard Powder- Ma's dessert. Served up without fail after every dinner invite, when the guests were full of mutton curry, dal, baigan fries and chutneys. Ma would make the thick yellow custard in a glass bowl which was an old British legacy and part of our Digboi Bungalow. That bowl was used only for custard. Ma would then chop red cherries and biscuit crumbs and put it away carefully in the freezer, warning us not to scoop in our fingers. Later on ma experimented with the pink strawberry and the offwhite vanilla, but the classic yellow was my favourite.

9.Mustard Oil- sorry this is not a brand but I can't not write about it. Used for cooking,for dressing in mashed potatoes with green chillies, as conditioner for dry skin in winter, as a nose rub when we had colds. Ma would heat up some mustard oil, with chopped garlic, rub the warm oil on us, and cover us up with a blanket and a kiss on our forehead. Nowadays I use it only for the evening prayer diya and to fry fish at times. Miss its pungent smell and the love that came with it.

10.Ambassador- the old faithful. Father had an old white one- second hand- AS 9321. The car was always having a puncture or a heated engine on our drives to Jorhat and Dibrugarh. But was always with us for 8 years, till father passed away and ma had to sell it off. It was like an old family member being ruthlessly sold off and we all had tears in our eyes.

With time, we are now spoilt for choice. We have the best brands we can ask for , and we have forged new relationships. I have also moved on. To newer bonds. But whenever I slip back into time, these old faithfuls haunt me pleasantly with memories that can never be replaced.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A bowlful of love

Was watching the movie Julie and Julia ( hope I got the name right) last evening and the foodie in me was stirred up and how. Racked my brains on what to write when it comes to food, given that I love consuming more than cooking! But more I thought about it, there was one thing that crept in again and again, grew slowly and assumed a gigantic memory pixel size in my mind, till I could avoid it no more and started punching the keyboard.

The first time Maggi came into my life was in 1984. Yes I remember the year for reasons more than one. Pimpim Aunty , mother's friend, gave my mother two packs of Maggi saying that this is a new "chow chow" which needs just 2 minutes of boiling that's all. The first Maggi making was almost a ritual- all of us crowded around mother as she put the saucepan to boil, broke the Maggi into four chunks like they showed on the back of pack, put them into the bubbling water. We watched mesmerised as the hard curls softened into appetizing swirls. Then mother slit open the tastemaker and the aroma that would be part of my life for years to come, wafted into our eager noses.

My next encounter happened a year later in Guwahati. We would be hungry in the evening, and call out to Bappi, our help, to make Maggi. She would make one packet and divide it between my sister and me. For my mother, fresh into her job, Maggi was not very cheap for a snack and we always shared a packet. And sometimes when she would be tired after work, we would all have a Maggi dinner in bed watching Aa bel mujhe maar and the other Doordarshan soaps.

Cotton College happened and my friend Stuti and I would pour over Economic notes over a steaming bowl of Maggi made by her charming mother. Aunty would also chop in carrots and peas just like they showed in the tv ad. Mother never did that.

University , Business Management and Maggi was still my faithful companion. Come home after classes and make a bowlful. By now,I did not have to share a packet but had my own.

First job in Kolkata- we would come home and have a Maggi dinner on the couch. I never felt that it was a shortcut. For me, it was a delicious meal I was never tired of.

Mumbai- 2000, new office, new friends, same old Maggi in the Fort office canteen. Made in a soupy style with scrambled eggs and yes, cheese and green chillies. Loved it and made it part of my regular lunch.

Problems in life, cooking became a chore, Maggi became my solace. Would chop in just about everything for a mood upswing into a bowl of Maggi, including Bikaner bhujjia toppings.

First evening in Bradford on my scholarship, strange kitchen, no idea how to light the gas stove- out comes the Maggi Instant Cup with hot water from the electric kettle. Each forkful brought back memories of home besides calming my raging stomach.

My baby born, three months of hibernation, Maggi lunches were all that I could manage with my baby wailing the minute I got up to make something for myself. I would savour the noodles, watching her cooing in peace next to me on the bed.

Relationships took new turns, more mood swings- downs overtaking ups rapidly and Maggi was my rebel partner. Helped me retreat to my quiet corner with my book and my thoughts.

And then it happened. Another food brand and the reveal. The secret to Maggi is that it is fried. At least the tasty variants. Could have been a malicious rumour. Didn't matter. For I choked . So this was the reason why I was bloated and ugly. I felt let down by a friend for years. On one hand was the strong bonding, and on the other, the fear of those extra kilos that never seemed to go away. The vision of a slim me won.Finally. I looked wistfully at the Atta Maggi which was not fried but airdried ( so I was told) but it was not the same as the Masala.

I started avoiding Maggi like a jilted partner in a relationship. I would race my trolley down the aisle across the yellow and green packs reaching out to me, reminding me of old times, I would skip any ad or jingle remotely connecting me to it. Soon, like all things in life, Maggi became a memory, and I moved on. To new foods, new relationships. Wheat, multigrain, skimmed were magic words that drew me like a magnet.

I see these magic words on my beloved brand as well. I see new brands popping up with more magic words- health, proteins, calcium till I almost expect a pack full of vitamins instead of a bowlful of warmth.

For that was what Maggi was to me. It was love, it was comfort, it was fun and yes it was unbelievable delicious and plain and simple, tasty!

And that's where the strength of every brand lies. Where it transcends beyond rational benefits to becoming a part of our lives. A friend, a playmate, a comfort. A partner in happy and not so happy times.
And creates a bond that is very very hard to break.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

10 things I miss about Assam

It's been fifteen long years since I have left home.
Yet I am homesick. I try and dive into memory pools but in today's time poor life, barely manage to do that as much as I would have liked to.

Here are 10 things I miss about Assam. ( I always put 10 because it is a number that sets a limit to what I write)

1. The green paddy fields and the undulating tea gardens

2. The masor tenga and the Sunday mangsor jhul with aloo.

3. The weddings where we wore mekhela chadors and had sumptious buffets.( preferred the earlier banana leaf servings though)

4. The doba and bell of the neighbourhood Namghar in the evening

5. The social visits ( abeli phura) to friends and relatives, where we were served tea, mithai and sometimes luchi bhaji.

6. The bihu sanmilans and the husoris , where we would do xewa with tamul paan and gamosa

7. The japi, the xorai, the bota, the baan bati and kahor thaal

8. The sweet language- ahisu dei, tumar bhal ne, deuta podulir mukhot rokhi ase....

9. The xatriya nritya and doxavatar nrityas

10. Paan tamul, saunf, bhoot jolokia, dighol nemu, joha rice, gheela pitha....

The list is endless but these are top of mind.

And as much as I try, it's very hard to replicate home outside home- for how can one capture the smell of rain on the grass, the sight of orchids on trees, the sweet sound of naams in bhado maah in namghars, the frenzied shopping spree during Bihu , Bhupenda performing live in Latasil, family chatter in a familiar tongue...really very hard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Action speaks louder

First niggle that crosses most of our minds when we hear of someone winning an accolade or a recognition. "How did she get this?", " How did he manage?". It is almost as if by asking that question, we justify us not being in that place. It also immediately casts an undeserving cloak on the concerned person in the spotlight.

And without having any feminist biases, I have found such questions voiced even more prominently when it comes to women achievers. Surprisingly, by both men as well as our own sisterhood.

Why do we assume that people with potential have to shout from the rooftops about how good they are or what they have done? Why do we expect to know and judge for ourselves whether someone is deserving or not?

While some of us like to talk about our day to day progress, there are others who believe that action speaks louder than words. These are the silent workers who have toiled while others have slept. They have looked for avenues where they can shine, have gone that extra mile to burn the midnight oil. And have ensured that they have spoken to the right people who would understand and appreciate their potential or work. The rest does not matter.

Identifying who we are focussing on for attention and recognition is one of the keys to racing up the ladder. There is a plan for everything in life. Need not be a plan on paper- could be just some checklists in the mind. Checklists on what we want to do, how we want to do, and who we want to talk to. Clarity on these simple questions will drive us into action.

And most importantly, instead of spending energies discussing why and how someone managed to get that award, it is worthwhile coming up close to the person and understanding what he or she is about. There is bound to be a face that we have missed out or never seen.

For no recognition in this world is ever undeserved.

10 Fears

Ok this is it. After all my talk about facing fears and moving on in life, it's only apt that I come to terms with some of my darkest fears. And what's better than sharing them with the world? That's the best way to bring those demons out in the open.

So, deep breath... and here goes.... in no particular order

1. Becoming so poor that I won't have money for Zoya's food and clothes

2. My sister never getting married

3. Losing my hair

4. Snake bite

5. Dog bite

6. Having to give up my job

7. Never completing my book

8. Being alone

9. Losing Zoya

And the last, but definitely the most terrible fear, is losing the person I love the most.

So that's that. Can now breathe easier. And hopefully face these demons with renewed vigour.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Challenges beget happiness

Does happiness bring complacence? Do we procastinate more when life is rosy? Does unhappiness goad us into action? Does it mean that, for us to keep moving on the trajectory of success, we need to keep being unhappy?

Zillions of such questions cross my mind. Do I push myself more when someone throws a negative dart at me? Do I become oblivious to signs on the wall when I get showered with praises?

This sounds awful even as I write it but sometimes negative energy does seem to push us in a direction that makes us happier or drives us to achieve more. So does this justify negative criticism, or barbs or even tragedy? Do we need such forces to bring us back to our progress path.

To me, negative energy can be best managed by positive energy. When we say- I will fight back. Not to take vengeance, though we do feel like that at times, for but our own happiness or passion. Then we are actually using positive energy as a driving force and not the negative energy. Negativity brings out the positivity in us.

Maybe instead of calling it "negative energy", we can positivise it by calling it "challenges". Sounds better , especially when I write that we do need challenges to exist in our life. Without challenges, we lose drive, we lose pace. Challenges bring out our potential. And brings us closer to what we define as happiness.

So next time life throws a hurdle our way, let's treat it as a challenge, instead of drowning ourselves with negativity and bring out the best in us. After all, that's what challenges are for.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Even Brands Can Dream

Digboi is a quaint little oil town in North East India. Geographically, in terms of size, lucky to be a dot in some detailed maps. But has made history by being the oldest oil refinery in Asia.

Digboi is my home and I guess I share the same spirit like most people there. That small towns can also stoke and fuel big dreams. Someone very dear to me was mentioning the other day that dreams die first. Before we give up on life. How true.

I have always dared to dream. And dream big. For most of my colleagues from the big bustling metros, I am just another cog in the wheel. But for me,I am proud of every hurdle I have jumped, every race I have sprinted, every mountain I have climbed. I celebrate every small victory, every small achievement.

Dreams are what makes life happen. And uncanny though it may sound, I find this applies to brands as well. I have asked myself- what will this brand dream? And the answer I have may seem ridiculously ambitious at first glance. But then we bring out the plans and the charts and the innovation funnels and years down the line, voila- the dream that the brand dared dream has come true.

It's good to have a Brand Dream exercise once in a while. Draw out the dream, maybe paint it . Or just script it out vividly. Then draw out a roadmap of how the dream can become a reality. May not have a timeline, should not actually. Share it with stakeholders. And be ready for cynicism, arguments. After all, how often are we ourselves encouraged to dream?

Why is dreaming important when we have brand visions and plans? Because dreaming brings in imagination. And keeps the shackles of realities at bay.Dreams free our minds from all constraints. That's when we truly push ourselves to achieve our full potential.

May be a good idea to have a Brand Dream up on the wall. It will inspire us and show us the route. When we are at crossroads.The more vivid it is, the better.
It will also push us for more, when we feel it's time to relax and sit back.

So let's not let dreams die. Whether it is our own, or the brands we work for.
For, as G.B Shaw said, "You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'"

Have a great weekend, everyone. And keep those dreams alive.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Piece of Paper

Something that binds two people together. Long after the bonds are broken.
Something that registers a relationship between a father and child.
Something that proves that I am my mother's daughter.

A piece of paper.

It had come to rule my life in a way I never imagined.
It's the paper that dictates that I am bound to someone in marriage. Even if that marriage had dissolved before it had even begun .
It's the paper that I need to combat with everytime my daughter is involved.
It's this paper I have to run around for to prove that my mother did indeed give birth to me 39 years ago, to get out some of her small savings from a bank.

How can a paper dictate what we want out of life?
How can a paper constrain our freedom and clip our wings?
How can a paper stare at my face everytime I decide to move ahead in life?

A paper can be shredded to bits in a split second.
That's what it is worth.
But we have ourselves decided to give it the high ground it commands.
By setting our rules, our laws, our moral standards.

So what if it is at times more misused than used?

The paper proves that we have no trust left in each other.
That others run our lives, not us.
That all problems have the same cause and need the same solution.
That we have to spend all our energies trying to fight something that we don't believe in.

And that, whatever we do, this piece of paper will impact us long after it is shredded and gone.