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.