Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ladies Who Lunch

I have taken the liberty of expanding the net of "ladies" here to net in almost all ladies I have come across in my career, as colleagues, as research respondents , as friends and as Indian women in general.

And no, this isn't about ladies.
It is about the Lunches.

So there are the mothers who wake up at 5.30 in the morning, pack "tiffins" for the kids, make chapati, sabzi for breakfast and pack "boxes" for husband and is a whirlwind of  cooking, chopping, running to drop kid in busstop, back to cooking, packing till the clock strikes ten. Lunch for such mothers are usually alone, or a women only affair in joint families. Which means shortcuts. So a quick serving of chapatis, chawal and sabzi , dahi ( or its eastern or southern equivalent) had while listening to the favourite FM dj belting out songs or the favourite reruns on TV. In fact one of the leading FM stations even had a promo where lucky mums could win a Subway lunch for herself.

Cut to the Working Women. Lunch means picking up the packed lunch or office thali  or dabba and plonking down at the usual ring round the table with other friends at work. Nibbling off each other's food. Food complementing the lively chatter and gossip that makes the lunch hour so relaxing. Appreciating the thepla, the choclate cake slice handed generously around, the rice and bhindi ki sabzi cooked in the morning. Lunch  is a mix of food that's pot pourri, iced with laughter and fun.

Occasionally, these lunches happen out of work in a favourite joint. Food different, same liveliness and masti.

Of course, we have the Kitty Party lunches. Lucky ladies with lucky kitties. In a favourite cool joint. Where four tables have been joined together and a "Reserved" placard sits proudly amidst cut glass vases with single stemmed roses. Mexican, Chinese, Pan Asian, Indian rules the roost.   Or the best in the Fine Dining Menu.

Then we have those other Lunches where the ladies usually meet for a late lunch and discuss serious community welfare issues- maybe the next travel book they are helping edit and co-author, the Teach India sessions in Pahaganj, the blankets to be collected for the Home for the Aged. Food here fuels productive social welfare initiatives.

On certain days of the week, we have the Fast Lunches. Sabudana khichri, fruits, sweets, banana chips. Nothing else. Women who follow this  stick to this religiously. Its great tasting food as well.

And to  end on a high, we have the Great Indian Sunday Lunches. Where the wives and mothers make special dishes and the family waits with eager anticipation. Sanjeev Kapoor,  Sananda and Grihasobha recipes  dominate the table. So does the new Ready To Cook range dishes innovatively dished out- matar paneer, pindi chana, hyderabadi biryani, chicken chettinad, kashmiri rajma and more.
 The Eastern ( also rest of India but writing more from experience) sweat out the ritualistic Sunday Mutton Curry.

Lunches are indeed special- for both Homemakers and Working Women. It is a time to relax, to talk, to connect and reconnect. A time when the woman truly plays herself and not necessarily a wife or a mom.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Car Trinkets Talk!

I have observed something quite interesting.
The trinkets that people use for decorating their car dashboards, rear view mirrors speak a lot about the kind of person or family.

For instance, we have The Believers.
Images of deities.
Sometimes fresh marigold garlands.
Agarbatti smoke trailing out of the windows every morning.

Then there are the Lucky Charmers.
Latest trend is the Greek Eye chain in blue and white dangling  from the mirror.
Feng Shui reigns supreme.
So does an occasional Ganesha ( not a deity but a decoration eg Ganesha playing a guitar)

Followed by the Fragrance Lovers
Poppy Perfume bottles with their lids off are taped to the dashboard
Ivy leaf shaped fragrance sachets swing from the mirror.
AmbiPur is edged somewhere in between.

Not to miss the Flaunters.
Small teddy wearing a I Love NY T-shirt
Car sticker proudly stating  University of Stockholm
Ornate tissue boxes
Cushions of all shapes and sizes and colours
Rows of nodding puppies ( stuffed)
And more...

Finally, I noticed some Innovators.
The first to buy the latest gizmo or trinket at the traffic lights and slap the double sided tape on the dashboard.
Solar powered flowers.
Yellow chickens that nod and hop.

And yes, we all show our patriotism on Republic and Independence day with the tricolour miniatures.

Really, cars are an extension of our personalities.
( Value equation notwithstanding)
So next time some of us are out on "research", it may be a good idea to peek into the car dashboard.

Who knows what picture it may paint......

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Crisis at work? Look at Life for answers

We talk about Work Life  Balance.
We talk about strict lines between office and home.
We erect invisible and inpermeable walls in our thinking as well.

Life however is beyond Compartmentalisation.

It doles out lessons to us everyday.
So that we each have our own archive of case studies.

The best place to look for answers- whether it is a marketing roadblock, a brand insight or a team management crisis- is at ourselves.
And at Life.

So, for instance, why refer to consumers as "they" in our thinking ( and ppts)?
It's us. Even if we do not necessarily actively use a product, we have a perception of the brand.

Why struggle to manage dynamics at work?
Be as natural when it comes to actions and reactions as we are when we are at home or with friends.

Why stare at marketing jargons like "Tyranny of Choice" in today's world?
Imagine ourselves at the fish market every Sunday, doing a mental math of our wallets and a visual postcard of the delectable fish menus for the week vis a vis the budgeted outlay and how much the two can be scaled down ( or up)

You name it. Give me any big roadblock and I can guarantee that there will be an answer hidden in our archives of Life.

After all, work is a part of Life, isn't it?

We just need to be spontaneous, bring down the walls we have erected.
The answers lie within ourselves.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Small Tribute to Vishal

It seems like just yesterday when Pranav, my creative colleague told me that his friend, Vishal, had just joined our office, from Mumbai.
Actually, it was a month ago.

Maybe I was caught up with work and life.
Maybe I just push some things back.
Basically, I did not really spend any significant time welcoming a new creative colleague.

Vishal Shah. 36 years. Young, bright, extremely talented, cheerful, lived life to the full.
I regret not knowing him better.
I wish I had gone to that last client meeting where he had presented his first piece of work on the business.
And that I had added him on as a Facebook friend.
Maybe just walked across to where he  sat and shared a laugh. Or a coffee.

This is life.
We never know what surprise lies around the corner.
We are just so busy with ourselves and our own lives that we forget to take that pause.
That break where we can look around.
And share- a smile, a word... anything...

I will miss you Vishal.
And will always wish that I had known you better.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

A castle called Eldora

Once upon a time, in a castle called Eldora, there lived a beautiful princess...

This is what flashed in my mind as I walked into Eldora a year and a half back.
My new home. The drive up the winding little hillock in Hiranandani Gardens led me up to the majestic lobby and the massive wooden door.

Every room in Eldora seemed out of a dream for me. Every piece of furniture, tasteful but inexpensive, was like a gift I was eagerly waiting for. Every room was a bonus- coming from a self owned two bedroom flat, Eldora was a luxury.

But Eldora was special to me because I felt it was mine.
For the first time, inspite of being a tenant, I felt I owned every little corner, the view from the round balcony overlooking the lake, the pantry and the kitchen... just everything.

Eldora signalled for me an achievement of sorts and  as I walked in every night, I felt proud. Of myself.

And then it was time to move on. Life signalled the change I always wanted. The change I had always worked towards.

Eldora was one of hardest to leave behind.

Yet suddenly,  I did not feel any remorse. Any negativity. I almost heard Eldora whisper to me at nights- saying- Go on Princess, fly to your new world.

As I sip my coffee , I realise that positive change is a great propeller.
It makes us embrace the new and wave out the old, willingly and smilingly.
It makes us wonder how everything is momentous and what is enduring are relationships we believe in.

And how giving up things just means we are making way for the new.

 Thank you Eldora- for giving me the wings to fly.

Monday, July 4, 2011

One Year Later

It's always great to celebrate an anniversary.

Specially when it signals one of the big changes in life.

But change is not as easy as it seems.

Change for me meant more than just a goodbye email  at work.

It meant  bidding goodbye to my colleagues of ten years.
Who made Mumbai a home for me.
The office lunches, the Koolar breakfasts, the Gajalee thalis, Banyan Tree pastries.
The workstation that I made into a second home, replete with my favourite cushion and framed pictures.
The Christmas carols, the Hard Rock evenings, the occasional Blue Frog do's.
The heated debates, the midnight oils, the floods, the samosas...

Change meant looking back at the office one last time that last evening
Hoping that I would be missed
My team  taken care of....

On the eve of one year in a new office, I also remember the office I left behind
The people I said goodbye to
The office that made me who I am today


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Children Dwell in the House of Tomorrow

I write this as I watch my little girl snuggle next to me watching a movie.
Telling me I am the "bestest mother" in the world.

Remembering my  father and mother.
When my mother would come back from a Club meeting and open her handbag and dole out some tidbits she managed to stuff into her kerchief. Not that we couldn't afford a samosa and a fruit cake. But the fact that she wouldn't dream of having a samosa when she knew my sister and I loved them.

Or when my father would always declare he loved having a not so great piece of chicken.
So that my sister and I had the choicest pieces.

Or when my mother went without new sarees and shoes, so that I could buy the most expensive Economics and Management books.

Or the times when she would  spend that last fifty rupee in her wallet for my sister clamouring for a new pencil box.

I recollect times when I was unwell at night and she would wait up all night for me.
The exam days when she would sit up, half sleepy, making me tea and omelettes, so that I could study.

And then oneday we are all grown up.
Have a mind of our own.
Take pleasure in doing things we want.
Take even greater pleasure in saying things that we know will hurt them most.

As I look at Zoya, I realise that as a parent, it is just about loving.
While being firm when required.
Teaching them what we have learnt in life.
Being a guide and showing them the right direction.
Wishing them well.
And then letting go.
Mostly of expectations.

For, as Kahlil Gibran says, "You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow...."