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.