Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Success is when Sachin Tendulkar tweets!
Parenting a Champ!

I cannot even dream about something like this!, says my dear friend, Krishna, the proud mother of Saloni Dalal, who last week made so many headlines that Sachin Tendulkar tweeted about her. (Sachin’s tweet on Saloni Dalal.)  

For those still unaware of Saloni’s claim to fame; Saloni won a bronze medal in the 200mts breaststroke swimming at the National Games2015 (touted to be the Indian Olympics). But that’s not it, she won this in the Open category, i.e. while competing against athletes twice her age, some previous National Champions, record holders and anyone who's a who’s who of Indian women swimming, and became the YOUNGEST medal winner in the National Games only falling short of half a millisecond from the Gold medal.  

If you meet Saloni, you’d find her a normal 12-year old, in fact so puny that her coach got constantly mocked upon for enrolling her into the championship. Not to mention, her Gujarati heritage…which is well-known for lot of things, but not sports!  

So what’s the secret?

Of course, you need to have talent and the drive to make such a mark. But it’s not just that.  In fact, it’s not just about her too. It’s about the winds beneath her wings.  It has a lot to do with her parents, my dear friends, Krishna and Kaushal.


I remember the tale when Saloni emphatically announced, a few weeks prior to the championship, that she’s quitting swimming! 

Imagine the tact required to get her out of that negative thought process!  And imagine what it takes every day to keep a 12-year old motivated to swim for 5 hours!  That too, in a Bangalore public pool that is an hour and half away from her house!

I’ve seen both of them make countless personal (and professional) sacrifices to give Saloni the attention she needs.  But again, making sure that the extra attention doesn’t affect their younger son. They had to find her the right coach, the right counsellor, the right diet…And to keep her fed every half hour, because she’d burn up calories faster than a bird! And while doing all this, never letting their expectations or disappointments impose on her!  But these were not even the big challenges.

Their biggest challenges were to find the fine balance between when to hold back and when to push;  to let her swim in the allergy seasons, knowing very well that her allergies could act up and maybe even cause a serious lifelong ailment for her; to channelize her adolescent crankiness and to maintain normalcy around her while she prepares for something extra-ordinary.

A National Games win is an apt reward for the Dalals! More importantly, the tweet from Sachin Tendulkar, the sportsperson Kaushal has idolized growing up. I feel happy success came to people who are worthy of it (and of course, to people close to me J)! But giving an ode to them would be wrong too…

This is really an ode to all those hundred other parents who toil equally for their children, but never see the medal around their child’s neck. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What it takes to be an urban 40-something Indian woman!

Some passion, a little boldness, and possibly a personal trainer!

A forty-something urban Indian woman isn’t hung up on a career, as long as she has a passion, to pursue! It’s no longer about raking in the moolah.  (Thanks to their husbands for being the lifestyle providers.) And by now, most of them have proved themselves to the world in their mainstream careers anyway.  So it’s about doing something that defines them; chasing a passion that provides meaning in their lives. Passion could be anything from music to baking to a social cause, but it is dealt with the same fervour as their past-life professions.  Just like their multi-vitamins, this daily dose of passion is what keeps them young and energetic.
   
Middle-aged Indian women today are more bold and beautiful (Thanks to the growing fitness and beauty consciousness of the times!) than ever before!  In fact, they are at their boldest best.  It’s not been easy to maintain those looks or curves .  And who knows when the sagging will show up or the greys will turn into whites. So, it’s now or never.  From selfies to parties, they are flaunting their beautiful, manicured selves to the fullest.  

Sonali - Fit Factor winner, a mother of 2 
and close to 40!
Photo credit: Hari Bhagirath
They are getting bolder in their thoughts and actions too. The kitty party conversations are moving from discussing recipes, kids, and domestic help woes to discussing Nandana Sen’s sexuality or Kim Karshashian's derriere. There’s no more hush-hushness around engaging in a little flirty tete-a-tete or enjoying bedroom innuendos. Or in sharing smokes or shots with men. They are running marathons, taking solo trekking trips, winning body-building championships, standing up for their rights (and for others’), and asking the hard questions.  

Up until now, fun did not surface as a serious part of their agenda.  But the rules are being rewritten. With kids (pretty much) sorted, husband handled, finances in place, and an unabashed attitude, why not have some fun? Fun is taking tennis lessons or clubbing till wee hours or matinee shows with friends or even a good-looking personal trainer to keep them motivated.

Nonetheless, the quintessential Indian women they are, they remain great caregivers to their families, the right support system to their friends and in general, attentive to others’ needs. And that does not change dramatically… what has changed is now are they are more well-balanced, confident women as opposed to the dull, over-the-hill ones they would be earlier. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Happy Days (Achhe Din) are here again!

Did Modiji pick a good time to become Prime Minister of India? Or did we pick Modiji at a good time?

The Verbal Bang Bang of Modiji!
From Mangalyaan to Mary Kom to the mouse and the mobile revolution, Indian sentiment is at its exuberant best.  Add to that the big fat festival season combined with Modiji’s Bang Bang speeches!  It’s like playing the lungi dance song, when you are already bottoms-uped!

Well, while some may debate the cause and the effect, there is no refuting the fact that achhe din have come upon us.

As we speak, our children are on their mom’s mobiles, trying to buy toys, gadgets, and clothes from Amazon or Filpkart, depending on who is having a better sale that day. This is generating so much excess that they are all feeling charitable about donating to the lesser-privileged.  Ahh, Joy of Giving and Swachh Abhiyan, all while enjoying the new-age comercialism. What say, Modiji? Achhe Din, yah!

Parents couldn’t be happier though; even though a chunk of their income is being spent on their children. The glorying success of Modiji (or Mary Kom for that matter) is enough to rekindle their aspirations that it could be their child in the newspapers someday. Well, if a chaiwala can become a Prime Minister, anything can happen, right?!    

There’s damn achhe din for the newspaper and broadcast media…Thanks to the e-commerce bigwigs throwing VC money for full-length ads to lure us into buying things we don’t really want but at a cheaper price!  The young and the smart of the country rejoicing at this; they are busy building creative products/services  (aka “Make in India” startups) to ride on this irrational materialism euphoria.  And since they are working hard, they are partying even harder! Achhe din for our hotels, restaurants, pubs, paan-walas,  et. al.!

Friends and Families (who are not partaking in the startup boom) are busy travelling to exotic locations or gambling away at the pre-Diwali tash-parties (with single-malt whiskies). Happy Days are here again…Thumbs Up, hic!

The women of the country have become the biggest cheerleaders of the achhe din. They are enjoying their womanhood with renewed self-confidence; clicking away Facebook selfies with their designer outfits that they are buying online.  And for a change, enjoying the thrill of their favorite outfits chasing them from one online site to the other!  They may not go the mall this season, but are religiously going to the gym in the hope of fitting into the teeny-weeny dress they bought on Myntra. Come to think of it, they are pulling the weight of the fashion industry, the social media industry, the e-commerce industry, and the fitness industry on their delicate shoulders!  Women-power as you say, Modiji!

After a long time, men are invigorated thinking about how to re-build the nation (per Modiji’s mandate) and mint money (in the process) so that they can fuel the economy (and their SUVs). They are also going to the gym regularly to catch the women in action (oops…I meant to say, to build their biceps).  And while women are enjoying Facebook, men are having fun with Whatsapp; laughing away at every joke (if it’s dirty, of course)!  Either of them looking forward to an iphone6 to show up as their Diwali gift!

Aren’t these the achhe din we had all hoped for?!  Thank you all for choosing Modiji as our Prime Minister and thank you Modiji for choosing a good time to become one!


ps. Now that Modiji has Bang Banged us with his speeches..lets see if Hritik Roshan scales upto it!


Friday, August 29, 2014

Back to Bangalore: From the lens of a Gurgaonwali!

I had not anticipated the move from Gurgaon to Bangalore (officially Bengaluru) to be that consequential. But the stark contrast hits you in the face just like the cool breeze of Bangalore after the sweltering heat in Gurgaon.
 
The ride from the Bangalore airport makes you want to turn around and move back to Gurgaon. It feels like a long road trip after a short haul flight.
    
Gopuram Temples: A mark of Bangalore's Traditionalism
The sights of the shiny exterior facades in Gurgaon are replaced by the sights of rustic layouts surrounded by green meadows, (polluted) lakes, and Gopuram temples.  You may have traversed and well-versed in the planned sectors and phases of Gurgaon, but here you better get used to the labyrinth of main streets, cross streets and more importantly, unpaved bystreets. To top it off, you’ll find yourself in an obscurely named halli (each progressively harder to pronounce than the last one) every 10 minutes. (This I believe is, bangaloreans way to shield off their territories from non-local influences.  If you can’t pronounce it, how can you live in it?) 

The taxi driver doesn’t make it any easier for you. He will claim to know Hindi (or English for that matter) but you will not understand his accent and neither will he.  He’ll nod at everything you say, but still take the shortcuts of his choice, instantly creating an element of angst in the mind of an ever-suspecting, direct-from-Delhi female.

The only respite from the cacophony of the Bangalore commute is the close confine of your own gated community. You may think that Gurgaon living is characterized by gated communities. But Bangalore takes community living to another level.  You shop, play, exercise, recreate, socialize, celebrate, and politic within your residential community.  And if that’s not enough, you share every possible resource at your disposal, from your maid, to your kitchen, and even your dinner. This is such a change, coming from a place where neighbours don’t exchange smiles (well, not until they are perceived to be of the same uberness status!)

But then again, Gurgaon seems to be created so that uber Delhiites(especially the foreign returned and the professional types) could distinguish themselves by the virtue of their address. Bangalore, on the other hand, is a melting pot of different cultures, religions, mindsets with the like-mindedness of either their high-tech background or their staunch beliefs thrown in.  Even the successful (setting aside the acres of land they own) will only show-off their simplicity and modesty.

Gurgaon, the Kingdom of Dreams!
Gurgaon, the ostentatious Kingdom of Dreams, symbolizes the notion of “stand out” in every respect.  Whereas Bangalore, with its mellow and communistic attitude, prompts you to “fit in”.   Just like the original art adorning the custom living spaces of Gurgaon, as opposed to the display of the same tanjore paintings in every south indian home.

While Gurgaon is all about modern and new, Bangalore’s broad-mindedness goes beyond skin deep. I find the populace progressive, not in the way they party or dress but in the way they entertain and adopt new-age ideas, whether it be waste segregation, organic-farming, spot-cleaning, or such social innovations.

I personally have a load of learning and unlearning from the move:  I don’t wear make-up every time I step out.  But I travel one hour for a facial. I remove my footwear before entering someone’s house. I do pot-lucks instead of pool parties. I segregate my waste, not just talk about it. I shop at BigBasket instead of BigBazaar. Do Whatsapp more than Facebook. I learn Kannada from my driver.  I trust more. And I breathe more fresh air.

And thus signing off, a Banglored “Preethi”!  (The extra h comes with the territory. It’s like the Karnataka Road Tax on your non-karnataka automobile.)  


Saturday, April 5, 2014

The 40 signs of getting older!

Recently, when everyone else just turned a day older, I turned a BIG milestone older.  Sort of equivalent to Armstrong’s moon-walking feat: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”!  And to top it off, someone had the audacity to ask me the dreaded question, “So how does it feel like?” 



I guess when you are younger, you are curious and stupid. So this is to satisfy her, and the rest of you who are smarter but still curious.  

Here’s what getting older is all about:

1.      You spend your birthday braving Grade 3 and 4 whitewater rapids to prove to yourself that you are still young. (trading in the lavender oil massage for a Bengay one, post facto.) 

2.      You don’t reveal your birthdate on Facebook so as to avoid responding to the “So how old are you today?” question.

3.      You start believing in the “40s is the new 30s” adage.

4.      You are either undergoing a mid-life crisis or starting an alternate career (or both).

5.      You eat healthier but are bigger than you ever were.

6.      You blame your weight gain on hormones or convince yourself that bigger is better.

7.      You get a hangover just by looking at the alcohol and an upset tummy by looking at the French fries (and avoid them under the pretext of detox).

8.      You don’t miss any chance to make intelligent conversation or Facebook comments about economy and politics.

9.      Your profile pictures always get a photoshop makeover. (And you consider apps like makeup.pho.to, and Facetune real innovation!)

10.  You are receiving Botox and Viagra ad mailers in your inbox. 

11.  Your friends are discussing their sex lives and all you do is nod.

12.  It feels like the morning after, but you’ve not done anything the night before.

13.  Your secret luggage pouch most likely just has your daily multi-vitamins.  

14.  You actually sign up for the “Art of Living” course. (Better still, you don’t mind spending your hard-earned vacation on a yoga or a vipassana retreat.)

15.  Yoga becomes a cardio workout for you.

16.  You start taking your laugh lines seriously.

17.  You say things like, “You know that guy who was in that movie we watched that day”.

18.  You struggle to keep up with all the chat acronyms and emoticons (your most popular emoticon is a smilie, cos making sense of other emoticons is like giving an eye exam.)    

19.  You can not bluff in poker because everyone knows what your poker face means and you can’t change it, even if you try. (even withstanding Botox!)

20.  Your friends call you a buddhi (oldie), and you don’t have a good retort back. 

21.  The time it takes to make up your face is more than the time it takes to make up your mind about the dress to wear.

22.  The clothes you had put away until they come back in style, have actually “COME BACK” in style.

23.  Your ideal vacation spot becomes that relaxing beach resort in Florida. (with lots of books to keep you company.)

24.  You miss the ladies night out to tuck in your child into bed. (without feeling sorry for yourself.)

25.  Your optometrist tries to convince you out of the lasik eye surgery. (And her rationale being c’mon, you’ll be needing bi-focals soon.)

26.  The Body Shop salesman insists that Nutriganics is the way to go.

27.  You have started using phrases like “Yeh baal dhoop mei safed nahi hue hai”* cos you actually can.  

28.  Your shades are more for your eye bags than for your eyes.

29.  At a family gathering, you find more people touching your feet**  than hugging you.

30.  You nudge your spouse about things like life insurance and will.  

31.  You don’t start your resume with “x years of experience”.

32.  You fantasize about owning a farmland and actually farming on it.

33.  You actively seek out NGOs to volunteer at (even without the CSR mandate.)

34.  You start making fun of your age. (Cos everyone else is scared to!)

35.  You forgive and FORGET (more easily).

36.  You care less about how you look but care more about how you’ll be looked upon.

37.  You start treasuring the people in your life more than the money in your bank.

39.  You start accepting people the way they are (and more importantly accepting yourself the way you are.)

39.  You worry more about how you’ll make an impact than about how’ll make more money.

40.  And of course, whatever you do, you do end up getting wiser.


If you are not experiencing this, thank your stars and party hard.  The rest, make peace with it. 


Think about it this way: You are just ahead of the game. The others will follow you soon. 


*A popular Hindi quote meaning "Experience is what has made my hair white".

**a Hindu tradition of paying respect to elders.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saga of my Smartphone Screen and Everyday Indianess (aka desigiri)

I had assumed it was as strong as it was smart. Maybe a notion borne out of the fact that its shining armour seemed undettered to my sudden assaults and callous falls. Well, but one fine day, just like that, it gave in; shattering away my foolhardiness along with the touchscreen.

For a moment, my whole world collapsed. (Well, if you can’t imagine why, read about my obsession with the phone!).  But like a sensible desi girl, I quickly got thinking. I asked my go-to facebook group about where to get my smartphone screen fixed. Folks refered me to the authorized service center and some to their trusted repair shops.

You never realize the value of a phone screen until it’s broken! They all quoted me ridiculous amounts to get it replaced. My desi self couldn’t digest this! In fact I asked them why, and the responses ranged from:
You will need to replace the whole display unit. Of course it will cost you 8500Rs.
The service center is going to charge you 8500 Rs., I’m only charging 6500 Rs.
Well, one jaat dude had the audacity to jhaado the famous Radio Mirchi dialogue…”Paise bhi to kamane hai!”

The range of the responses aroused my new-age desigiri: “Don’t Trust, Verify” and “When in trouble, go to God, I mean, the Google God!”  And like with God, if you ask him properly, he will alleviate your troubles. The right keywords and google spit out the youtube link to “replace your smartphone screen at home ” followed with ebay links selling screens from Rs. 500.

Coupled with this Google-backed wisdom and my innately desi convincing powress, I eventually got the screen replaced for Rs.1500. (Of course, I was smart enough not to take the youtube video advice too seriously..it did involve a hair dryer and a blade, after all!)

What I achieved that day was not only the satisfaction of saving some moolah but that of earning those rare-to-come-by moments in a desi’s life when you get to outsmart the oversmarts; something similar to:

When a Haryanvi driver overtakes you aggressively, only to be eye-to-eye with you again at the next traffic light!

Or when some auntyji types slyly scoots ahead of you at the super market checkout line, only to find out that you checked out ahead of them at the newly opened counter!

Or when you haggled the free dhaniya-mirchi out of the sabziwallah, only to find out that he gave you less sabzi for what you paid for!

But what I learnt was:
  • A smartphone screen replacement service is a very lucrative business opportunity (where else would you find such a combination of information arbitrage with a big market size of impulsive buyers)...provided you don't attract smart-ass, nothing-better-to-do, internet-obsessed, desis as your clients.
  • When in doubt, google it out!
  • Finally, you always pay a price! (i.e. if you consider time as your currency)
    • Time taken to do online research = 30 mins
    • Time taken to order the screen from ebay and wait for the delivery = 4 days
    • Time taken to convince the repair guy to replace the screen (and not the whole display unit) = 1 hour 
    • Time taken to write the blog article = 4 hours
    • Money saved = 5000Rs (What was priceless though was the look on the repair guy’s face when I showed him the youtube video!)



  QOTD: You can take an Indian out of India, but you will not be able to take the Indianness out of an Indian.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

A full circle!

“You know, microwave causes cancer?!  I have decided to stop using it.” This got a bemused, almost sneered look on my mom’s face, the first of it’s kind, especially considering she had come to visit me after a year.

Over the course of her trip, I kept showing off all my latest lifestyle changes…organic eating, the boycott of processed foods, the stainless steel additions in the kitchen,  my yoga routine, the all-natural beauty regime, and even the reincarnation of the balti-bath (well, the water campaign by Shekhar Kapur combined with my clogged shower head sealed that deal!).

She didn’t say much, but couldn’t hide the “Havent you come a full circle?” look on her face.  

She left a few days later, leaving me behind with the thought to ponder on.  

The truth is, not very far ago, my arguments with my mom were around these exact things…
“Why would you heat on a stove, when you have a microwave? It’s like living in the dark ages.”
 “Why don’t you give the new Maggie a try? It’s now fortified.”
“Yoga?!  Anything that boring cannot be healthy!” 
“High time to chuck the stainless steel, Mom. Everyone in the US uses non-stick cookware. And trust me, they are more health conscious!”
“A warm shower is the only way to really feel clean.”

Ironic, it may seem!  But the fact of the matter is, aren't we all trying to come to a full circle in some way or other?

  • How come natural healing practices are taking center stage, when we have advanced so much in allopathy?
  • Aren’t we at the onset of an organic farming revolution, after having spent millions in research of chemical fertilizers?
  • Why are we starting to bike/walk to work, when we now own multiple cars?
  • Why are some of us so excited about those new flour mills in the neighborhood selling fresh chakki-ka-atta when we can readily get it in grocery stores?
  • What about that daily dose of sun we now feed our vitaminD-starved bodies, having refrained from it for the fear of skin cancer?
  • What about the resurgence of the eastern-style squatting toilets now being popularized by the Westerners?
  • And isn’t simplicity the ultimate sophistication these days?
  • And isn’t the appeal of being an “Aam Aadmi”, an endorsement of our back-to-basics mindset?

So all this advancement, inventions, systems, and gadgetry! Should we have really bothered? It’s as if everything we created has had an evil side-effect that we are now striving to compensate for.  Have we really progressed then, if we are constantly trying to fight the evils of our own progression?

If better sense prevails, looks like I may wind up where I started off. In a household where there wasn’t a microwave or non-stick cookware or a cupboard full of processed foods; only squatting toilets, balti-baths, fresh chakki-ka-aata, and lots of sunshine.  

And here’s how we may wind up:

How about that for a full circle of evolution?J

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 This post is dedicated to my Mom; the force behind me restarting this blog and the inspiration behind my full circle of evolution.