Friday, December 23, 2011

Confessions of a shopaholic (in-making)

Ahh..the welcoming warmth of the mall! The eye-candy of fresh stock flaunting from the window panes! The first taste of the fury winter collection. And the shop attendants all wearing their showiest smiles and calling me by name. I hear a familiar, sweet voice, "Ma'am, I have your tea ready, one spoon sugar with a dash of milk, just the way you like it." I'm in the mood of something else though.  As I trod further, another voice beckons me, "Today's special just for you: You only have to buy 10,000 Rs. worth of goods to be eligible for another shopping extravaganza." And then, yet another voice<slightly anguished>, "But I have a section in my shop that just has clothes you've tried." But quickly realizing that distress wont do it,  "And guess what, there's a 10% discount waiting for you, as soon as you reach your 100th item purchase." Enough I say to myself, this dream is getting out of hand. Make it stop. So I pinch myself, but the 'ouch' from my mouth reveals otherwise.




And then it dawns on me..maybe I'm turning into a shopaholic. Is this about the x-chromosomes taking over me or something? Maybe a deep psychological disorder manifesting?! Or, or, or, maybe its the holiday season. Yes..that seems right and simple enough. Must be the holiday season.

This year, the holiday season has had an early start, esp. for the Indians. From Navratri to New Years, its been one celebration after other. And celebrations translates to parties which translates to new clothes which translates to shopping. You have to be perennially shopping for new clothes if you live in the NCR region and dare to have a social existence, where an outfit has to be donated if you are seen in it once (or been profiled with it on Facebook.). And then there are the traps of the neo-Indo womanism that further complicates dressing decisions. (It used to be so simple for our moms..the only choice they had was to wear sarees; but now we have to stock up on those as well as the entire range of options, including western wear, fusion wear, office wear, casual wear, party wear, lounge wear, summer wear, winter wear...) And if that's not enough, the Vogues and the ELLEs introduced us to accessories. I've seen women at work skip lunches just so they can keep up with the shopping. I don't blame them. What option do we have? 

But back to square one. Celebrations in modern India also translates to gift-giving. While some gift-giving is memorable, most of it is an exchange of  excessively unneeded stuff  where the only party that benefits is the retailer. How else would he be able to sell Swarovski crystal statues or Bath and Body Works fragrance oils?! About half the times, these gifts get rotated within parallel social circles. But if you apply the rule of six-degrees of separation, you should have about 1/6th chances of getting back your original gift. <So no harm in being generous, folks!> Hmm..I wonder whether a gift-exchange clearing house would make more sense!  Well, until such a program comes to fruition, we all need to shop for gifts. For there's no better way to express our love for each other than to give gifts. As for me, I like to start with myself, as a token of self-appreciation.

Btw, one thing I'm thankful of, in the Indian context, is that the shopkeepers here don't believe in return policies. Had they followed the Western retailers in this aspect,  you could never be certain how many times your newly purchased off the rack dress would have been "on-and-off the rack". Hey, if you dare to have a return policy in India, it could only translate to: Once you buy it, its yours until you return it. So why would you return it unless you've worn it once, maybe to a party, where it could have been fitted onto sweating underarms, eaten upon, smeared with..just use your imagination>. So let the western world gloat on the liberal return policies. Let us use bargaining to offset that advantage. Like true blue Indians, we reserve our right to bargain. And about 90% of the times it works. And the remaining 10% of times you are hoi polloied for having asked esp, if you happen to be at the branded shops of the SouthEx markets. But let me tell you, the embarrassment of the 10% cases has not deterred me from asking for discounts at spas, restaurants, and what the heck, even with cabs. The baniya blood in me turns a shade more red, having sealed a good bargain.

Which actually brings me to my final saga in shopping. How can I write about shopping and forget about the sales? Sales are like bargain on a platter. Like having your cake and eating it too. Sales are in themselves a celebration of sorts. Tell me, has anyone complained of depression or suicidal tendencies on a 'Black Friday'? Why die when you can buy..sort of a thing. <While all sales are God's answer to women's unspoken prayers, there's one I discourage in particular. The Gucci-Prada type designer handbags sales: Firstly, they shouldn't be making those kind of killer bags! They make women die for it. And then these merciless blokes put them on sale, leaving no choice but to kill for it.> Ok, enough morosity. Let me tell you about the funny things that happen during sales. Like I dont understand why a sales tagline "The more you buy, the more you get" is such a crowd-puller? Generally, if you buy more stuff, you'll get more stuff, sale or otherwise. My hypothesis is that the bold and red fonts make the crowds go ga-ga. I'm pretty sure if a shop has "Reduced Inventory" and "50% Less Merchandise" in red and bold cutouts, the innocuous crowd would still flock to it. Just like every year, my gullible-self gets hypnotized by the "70% Discount" hoardings. The asterisked small fonts "on select items only" dawns on me only at the checkout counter, when I've been in line for 45 minutes.

Anyway I can keep going on and on, but whats the point?  With the holiday season over soon, will the dream of turning into a full-fledged shopaholic fade away into obscurity? Or will the mind find another excuse to revive the obsession? Or will the credit card company play culprit?

Only time will tell. Until then, Happy Holiday (Season).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The buzz begins: from iPhone5 to Ra.one!

The proof is not in the pudding anymore..its in the marketing of the pudding.
That's the reason, the most anticipated releases of all-time; iPhone5 is making half the globe sleepless and Ra.one is making the other half daydream.

So, what the secret? Are they as revolutionary as sliced bread ?!
Well, I'll reserve my judgement on that, but what I can tell you is that both of them are products of the most well-planned, clever, psychographic marketing campaigns ever, with a bit of law of economics applied in as well. Apple with its supply control (whether it be of its products or press releases) and Shah Rukh Khan with its demand generation tactics. 

You'd have to agree that the hoopla around iPhone5 is its most sought-after feature. Just look at the success of the "lost in the bar" gimmick that Apple has managed to recreate. And its secretive feature set and release date giving the needed fodder for the gossipmongers that it doesn't even need to spend any more dollars on press events. Agreed its a smartphone that works and even wows occasionally, but the hype quotient is what drives its global domination.

 Actually, thanks to Apple's marketing genius, not just their products, certain alphabets and numbers are enjoying an alter-ego. For example, you can put an "i" in front of anything these days and it will instantly sell. My son's school is called iBambini and their books are iBooks. Needless to say, both are a great success.  And his best friend remembers her numbers as "2 for ipad, 4 for iphone".

On the other side of the equation is Shah Rukh Khan (SRK as they call him). They say Hollywood used to be about hype, until SRK started producing movies. Now imagine Ra.one (the most expensive project of SRK productions) that too conceptualized by his children. Now, now, A man got to do that much for his kids! So SRK starts marketing the movie even before its shot, nine months ago to be precise.  Much like talking about baby names before you are pregnant. (Works for some though.)

Every media known to mankind got to play its role in marketing the Ra.one phenomenon. The Ra.one music release became a TV show. Its website featured a graphic novel to commerate the origins of Ra.one. Its exclusive Youtube channel has SRK with roger rabbit effects.  Its song got sung by a Hollywood singer. And its promotions endorsed by Hollywood celebrities. And of course, as a tribute to the Ra.one fanmanship, you get the opportunity of availing Ra.one action figures, video games, Mac Happy Meals, Facebook pages, you name it.

They say it will be hard to remember Ravan with 10 heads..since the one with black and blue suit will be invading your memory (or should I say RAM) soon. I agree. After all, how long can mythology survive the onslaught of marketing dollars! And they say if you're praying to God these days, it should be "God, pls. dont let me die before Oct 26th (the official release date of Ra.one)."

You can see that Apple and Shah Rukh Khan are not leaving a lot to luck. But God, if their upcoming products do end up living up to all the hype, I do wish them some. Because if they draw their hype graphs on the standard trajectory, they would realize that the next generation of iphone can only be marketed as a communication device that would eliminate the need for communication whereas the next Ra.one avataar has to go beyond the final frontier, where no man has ever gone before.

And for the rest of us mortals, just a humble request, "Can we rise above the predictability of our psychographism?"


Note: Written by a Blackberry user and an Aamir Khan fan. ;-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vision of Life




As part of a school's nursery admission process, I was required to imagine a vision for my child's life. How beautiful an exercise, I thought.

And from the crevices of my soul, came this poetry. 

           
May experiences be your teacher and learning be your tool;
May faith make you grow and love make you bloom.

May fun be your friend and happiness your goal;
May inspiration be your guide and truth your heart's shoal.

May confidence bring you balance and courage only peace;
May action be your strength and result only a tease.

May wisdom be your might and knowledge be your glory;
May vision be your sight and success be your story.
 

 May you succumb to the causes dear and pick the right fights.
And may your dreams be a lullaby while you sleep sound at nights.





I wish this for my son and for every little child out there.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I am Salman Khan - My version of the "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom"


The sight of my 3 year-old son sing and dance to the tunes of the "Debanng" song hit me like an epiphany. It was as if the actor in him is tearing his shirt and dying to come out. And the deal got sealed when I started noticing his eye rolls, spreading of his hands (a la SRK style), and the projection of his voice. (Have you seen him scream?! How handy could that be when he's looking out for his heroine in the woods!).

From that day on, I set on a mission. He will be the next Salman Khan.



Like a typical Indian mom, food is the first thing that was put into consideration. His daily diet plan which now includes (carbs, proteins, calcium, vitamin A to Z, and the right kinds of muscle-building fats) went into strict enforcement. The Bournvita jar got thrown in the bin, my munna (Note to myself: I better start calling him "muns"; Munna could just land him into "Bhojpuri" movies.) deserves Pediasure. (C'mon, the premium price must not be for nothing. Maybe they put better quality DHA in it.). Also contemplating whether I should go organic for him. After all, more the investment, better the ROI.

I'm also looking for a baby cream that will retain his fair complexion. Gone are the days of tall, dark and handsome. All the macho actors are gaining confidence through their fairness creams these days. And outdoor playtime will have to be squeezed to fit in power yoga (coz Kareena and Saif swear by it). Oh, so many things to worry about. But glad that posing for the camera will not be one of them. Thanks to those digital cameras, he's so used to extended photo sessions that he can pose in his sleep now. Well, but the best thing is that part of the weekend will now have to be spared for frequenting the designer label malls. We'll need that regular dosage of latest fashion and style into our lives.

And rest is all contacts. But not to worry, I'm already on the lookout for those filmi-types circles I can hangout with. If push comes to shove, we'll need move to Mumbai..eesh Bombay.
(And If all else fails, there will be some reality show where he can beg, borrow or bribe his way into. And even if he's not good at dancing, singing or whatever it is that he's supposed to do, I'll make sure he cries beautifully and looks good while doing so. I'm pretty sure that one of the movie celebrity judges will open her arms for him. Shh..but that's a trade secret!)

But lately I've started noticing that my husband is unduly disciplined about playing cricket with him every night. Could it be that my husband is harboring a secret dream of making him a cricketer?!
Oh Lord, that could be THE CONFLICT of interest, I worry. After a lot of turmoiled thinking, I reconcile. Luckily for me, I do know a few cricketers who came to their senses and entered Bollywood eventually. Plus dont all cricketers end up acting anyway (for their advertising contracts)?! And btw, we'll also need to keep that MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad as a 2nd backup career option for him. (His grandparents would be heart-broken otherwise.) Well, he can study for his CAT between the shoots/practice sessions if it comes to that.

So I'm scouting for his school admissions these days. Its frustrating that you have so many options,  but none for parents like me i.e. a school that would focus on overall personality development, along with equal emphasis on academics, sports, performing arts, social skills, and of course where he can make the right contacts for future. The only respite may be the after-school trainings and classes that he'll be attending, as soon as he turns 4. Didn't I see just a picture of Sachin Tendulkar with a cricket bat at the age of 3? He may already be late.

But I don't understand why he keeps obsessing about airplanes and animals. What has that got to do with acting or cricket?

And for a fleeting second, a thought crosses my mind. 'Am I living my dream through my son's life?' 

'Well, maybe!..' I say to myself, 'but that's what star moms do, right?!" 

 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tales of two cities: Bangalore vs. Gurgaon

On a recent visit back to Bangalore that happened after one and half years of living in Gurgaon, most of my friends wanted to find out, "How is it living in Gurgaon?, How is it different from Bangalore?". Now this may seem like an odd question to some, esp. non-Indians living with a perception of a stereotypical India as a single entity. But within India, its a perfectly reasonable question. Because every city here has its own story that is created by its history, cultured by its people and shaped by its governments. So here's my analysis of the two cities, if nothing else, for the benefit of my expat brethren, who want to flock to them like bees to honey, as well as for the fact that there's much to talk about, by the way of compare and contrast.


Full meal: Because life is more than a box of chocolates in Bengalooru
A disclaimer before describing Bangalore (aka Bengalooru) is that it was almost a retirement colony until the world discovered its prowess as an IT mecca. Therefore, today Bangalore is the confluence of the extremes...young and old, modern and traditional, pubs and temples, yet surprisingly its intermingling has not resulted in a confused state of affairs, except for certain cases where city-politics and localism is involved. The city even has its own slogan: "Namma Bengalooru" (i.e. Our Bangalore) to inject harmony amongst its contrasting populace. Yet the hypocrisy somewhere creeps in when it is cited as Bangalore to the outside world, while being referred to as Bengalooru, in front of localities. The city is used by money-minting, pub-going, eternally young IT professionals while ruled by vermilion-dotted, kannad-speaking, old conservatives; each group sticking to its designated roles to avoid conflict. The old-school men and women here focus on real-estate and gold jewellery respectively and swear by their "full meal": a conglomeration of South Indian delicacies which when coalesced and devoured sequentially with rice provides for a complete gastronomic experience, while the neo-Bangaloreans talk about start-ups and organic-living as a means of asserting their identity. And on a special mention for the local autowallahs (rickshaw drivers) and cabbies, it would be surprising if they don't take you for a ride if you are fair-skinned and only speak in Hindi. Old prejudices die hard. But whatever little Bangalore loses on these grounds, it gains in terms of its weather. Have you ever experienced "weather paradise" in this world? Well, its either here or Hawaii. Only of course, the good weather when combined with pollutants create an allergen abode..but then what good is "Allegra" for?




Gurgaon, on the other hand, is a haven for the new and the hip. From the metro to the malls, its as if its residents want to escape anything that is old and past. Unlike Bangalore, which is intertwined with its old roots, Gurgaon has barricaded its old city into oblivion. People here have no qualms about shedding inhibitions and traditions. Mother-in-laws shed their sarees to don designer salwar-kameez, and daughter-in-laws shed their designer salwar-kameez for branded jeans and shorts. (Needless to say, the word "designer" has a new meaning and place in your life here. For if you don't oblige to "designer devta", you'll be an outcast.). Just like their lifestyle is designer, their food is "tandoori", everything from rotis to chicken. You can even get "tandoori tadka" on Chinese, if required and much to the chef's delight.  People do work hard here, but they "play" harder. Golf clubs and imported cars cater to men's fancies while salons and solitaires offer respite to women's existentialism. And while Bangaloreans can think like Americans, Gurgaonites can talk like them; no wonder Bangalore got IT, whereas Gurgaon picked up the call center business during the outsourcing boom. Compared to Bangalore though, you get the perception that the systems (and their workarounds such as 100% power backup) are more efficient here, infrastructure more sufficient, and education more accessible. But weather wise, if Bangalore weather is to die for, Gurgaon weather would make you die (well, at least cry). And you might run into trouble with the autowallahs/cabbies over here as well, if you are fair-skinned (of a  fairer sex variety) but cannot speak in Hindi. Not for any racial bias this time, but for your own safety.

Topographically as well, both the cities have interesting facets of their own. Gurgaon is on a mission to mark its territory vertically, while Bangalore wants to expand its reach horizontally. If one were to spatially relate the cities, Gurgaon could be extrapolated as "Dubai in a village", while Bangalore would be "a Mumbai done sunny-side up".  Which brings me to the only common denominator across the two cities: Traffic (here again, while the effect is the same, the cause quite different)..one jams due to narrow roads and the other because of high-rises. 

So whats my take? Well, if you want the best of both worlds(err..cities in this case), then move to Ahmedabad.

ps. If its not apparent to some, the unwarranted bias could be a result of the writer being originally from Ahmedabad.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Philosophy of Life by an Indian Carpenter

Remember that illiterate carpenter I had introduced in my earlier blogpost on Maid in India (Part 2)...Over the course of my book rack, I got to know him a lot better. Our conversation never ended without him giving an anecdotal story about his life, his experiences and his journey so far. The book rack is complete and I may not get to talk to him ever so often, maybe never. But his words will surely stay with me forever. The anecdotes, unfortunately have blurred in my memory but the quotes are stuck. Here are some of his words (almost verbatim) on topics as varied as his personality.

On Business
  • Charge less to the poor. Charge more to the wealthy.
  • Create wealth not to sustain yourself but to sustain the households of your employees.

On Roles of life
  • Respect everyone's role in life.  If the cook doesn't cook, you'll die of hunger. If the cleaners wont clean, you'll die of pungent smell.
  • You yourself have multiple roles to play. Play each one according to the need of others. Be a child with a child. Be a husband to a wife. But be a friend to a foe.

On Friendship
  • Friendship is not about showing off your worldly possessions; friendship is about showing off your true self.

On Challenge
  • Why fight with others? The only fight should be with yourself.

On Truth
  • Half truths will always haunt you. Truth is what will make you fearless.

On Meaning of Life

  • Pray for everyone. If everyone does the same, the good wishes will come back to you.
  • Everyone lives to die; those who live after death are the real men.
  • The true path of life is always difficult to walk on, but far more satisfying. And satisfaction (of a good life, of a good deed) is the currency of the soul.

I tell him I'm surprised at his philosophical expertise, esp. since he cannot read or write. He says, "I'm because I experience. I cant read words, but I do read people every day and process them through my heart." 

I ask whether I can blog (to him..write) about his words of wisdom. He says,  "Pls. do spread my word around. The world doesn't need everyone to be good. Only a few good men will do."

Nothing less than a certain "Jewish" carpenter..right?!



Friday, July 8, 2011

Delhi Belly with a conscience

I have been resisting the urge to do a piece on "Delhi Belly", but its been steering up a storm in my pysche as well as in this side of the globe. (The only contender thats giving "Google+" FB updates a stiff competition). So I let myself loose...In fact, thats the moral of the story, as I get it

The story is about 3 of the India's 20+ generation  that live on their own terms, make their own rules and of course have no hang-ups about sex and shit(ty) talk. (Btw, I'm hoping someone is patenting the "3 guys Bollywood formula". Nothing has succeeded like a "3 friends in a movie" in the recent past. I'm sure "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" will only prove this point further.)
Nitin is the stereotypical fat friend, whose love for sensory pleasures is intact, but the means are always questionable. (i.e If you can't have girls, pin-up photos would do. If you can't have chicken tikka in a restaurant, germ-ful hawker-handed ones would do.). Whereas Arup is your quintessential "loser" guy. He's talented but in a dead-end job. He's lovable but heart-broken. (Comes in handy when the filmmakers need to make a parody.) But both Arup and Nitin's characters are there to accentuate Tashi's
(the clear hero amongst the three...with a gorgeous, well-bred, girlfriend, non-chalant attitude and a head that can think on its feet.). Their love for mess and desire to hang-on tight to their hostel lives is what keeps them together. Crude language and cuss words come to them as naturally as their daily ablutions that are so gloriously elaborated in the movie.

But scratching the surface beyond the crassness and the unabashed language, what is the story telling us? Its giving us a peek into the lifestyle of a certain young Indian generation, albeit with jarring nakedness.
Interwoven throughout the movie are subtle(like the conclusion to Tashi's love triangle) and not-so subtle (like the disdain for the gifted Red Santro) endorsements of the fact that they have no qualms about prioritizing independence and individualism over money. While in the same vein, priortizing a comfortable life over love (as in Arup's girlfriend case.).

True to their cool attitude, they subscribe to the school of thought where two-timing is ok, lesbanism is empowering, and even blackmailing is fine if the blackmailee is cheating on his wife. But this is contrasted with their sub-conscious yet firmer beliefs such as "Friendship is forever", "Money is never more important than people in your life", and "Follow your passion (whether its about the girl or the job)".

So for all those who think that the movie has no messages...here's one that I found hidden in the layers of laughter and cuss language. Its that independence, passion and friendships should not be compromised, whatever the cost. Thats only apt, considering the rut of rat race we get subjected to, after college. Thanks to Aamir Khan for showing it in a way the rest of the 20+ generation would relate to or enjoy.

And for the rest of us...its ok to let yourself loose once in a while. (i.e. not be embarrassed to laugh at the toilet humor).

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The inside of a women's locker room

Thanks to my love for swimming, I have been frequenting the women's locker room at the exclusive country club (an integral part of the hip and happening lives of the neo-age Gurgaonites these days). The chlorinated smell mixed with the aromatic fumes from the shower rooms brings back memories of yester years as well as thoughts about how things are different.

Nakedness is pretty demystified in Western locker rooms. But wonder just how do Indian women deal with a public place for private affairs! Are they shedding their inhibitions as they shed their clothes? Isn't the locker room the only place you can do that without giving two hoots about what the world thinks? After all, its for the women, by the women, and so forth, right?!

Well, Apparently not. Just as easy it is to attract a man's attention..its just that hard to hide from a woman's gaze. At first glance, all you see is lot of skin, waxed legs, designer swimsuits and loads of sunscreen getting applied(yeah..baby), but there's also sets of critical eyes that are checking you out. Surely there's a democracy of women, but where vanity reigns supreme. One's influence is calibrated through one's physical attractiveness. Just track the server girls(yes..Gurgaon clubs have server girls in the locker rooms to hand you the towels from the racks and fill your cuppa water before and after your swim.) and you'd understand.

So you're left with only one choice...Flaunting off your fairer skin and most toned curves while tucking in the inches and hiding away fat in whatever little lycra is at your disposal to bring out the most possible near-perfect appearance outside the changing room. Alas, your hair cannot come to your rescue since that has to be tucked in the cheap fakes of Reebok swim caps (Why don't they make designer swim caps..surely an untapped market opportunity!) Rest assured, everyone else is doing the same. That's a pity..considering Indian woman that has just begun to set free from her traditional avatar, is now getting trapped in the confines of her external appearance. Some even take it to the extreme...by applying lipstick (well, ok lip gloss) and practising their smile before taking the customary dip. (Too much FashionTV I say!).

But at the same token, if her toned body and facial-ed skin is giving her the ability to face the world confidently, so be it. (In fact, my patronage to the health clubs and beauty industry in India). The shyness that she harboured because of her conservative cultural universe is slowly giving way to the shyness that's now coming from her cellulite marks. Luckily cellulite marks are not as permanent as age-old social blocks imprinted on her mind.

By the by, while we are still in the locker room...why is it that we don't give ourselves the luxury of upgrading our inner wearings, while everything external from swimsuits to bathtowels have to be designer? Most of us still hide our lingerie as if its a loot from the hood. Is it because its not for the consumption of the external world and therefore not consequential?! Why do we try so hard to please the world while ignoring our inner-self?

But I see hope when teenage girls in their tees come zooming in and zoom past, completely oblivious to this locker room charade. Their nonchalance makes me believe that they will be comfortable in their own skin, designer-wear or not. And I sigh relief.


Btw, for the menfolk, here's a video that be more appropriate:
Peeping into a Women's Locker Room

Thursday, June 16, 2011

LIA to R2I : Decoded

So when a friend checked up on how I find returning to India after so many years of living in America, she became the 29th person in the last 3 years who posed this question to me. I believe its a classic topic for Indians LIA (Living in America), only second to the stagnant house prices in the US.

Three categories of NRIs reside in the US these days: one that want to R2I (Return to India), one that think that the ones that want to R2I are out of their minds, and the rest who stay in Fremont or Sunnyvale (or such equivalent "mini-India" suburbs). Regardless of the category, they are always interested to find out how it is to return back to India, or how is it different or how does it feel.

Blame the IT crowd and their access to tools, many a probabilistic models are available on the net to help you determine the success rate of your R2I decision. But these models however mathematically sound they may sound, offer more mental turmoil than respite. Plus, today's India has changed. Brain-drain to culture shock..its all reversed. So here are some fresh insights for those still in the dilemma. I assure you these are missed in the weighted ratio of "sense of belongingness" vs. "kids upbringing".

The chaos rules

While US thrives on rules, in India chaos rules. In India, anything that can possibly break down, will break down and when you least expect it to.(Murphy would have surely visited India before he created the law.) From your washing machine to your water pipe, from land lines to power lines, from anyone breaking the traffic light to the monsoon gods breaking the roads..No doubt, your appetite to deal with such chaos is going to be inversely proportional to your frustration quotient, esp. if you are used to machine-dried clothes, working from home and driving on the freeways. But if you rise beyond your frustration, you'll realize the true value of it. Chaos exists to make you more tolerant, more adaptable and never taking things for granted. Take India as the breeding ground for the new age "social Darwinists".

Cricket, media and more

Cricket lovers don't need much convincing. The fever, the final pages of the dailies and the BCCI (that ensures that you never face cricket-free nights again) are reasons enough to lure you to India. Not to mention, the ability to watch cricket in prime-time and in box seats and not at the wee hours on internet or via expensive TV packages. If you are not into cricket per say, apply this analogy to Bollywood.

The rest of the thrill for the day is provided by the news media. Back in the US, you could be shuffling the newspaper only to read headlines such as "Percentage-point drop in student-teacher ratio and its impact on the divorce rate" or "Ban on the legalization of gay marriages". The Indian newspapers have no space for such mundanity. Indians rob and rape, kill and kidnap, bribe and strike all in a days worth of time. Each ending up competing for headlines the next morning, albeit for your reading pleasure. The broadcast media does not falter either. They'll use every tactic at their disposal (such as highlighting, flashing and breaking the same news 8 times an hour in different fonts) in order to arouse you. There is never a dull day. Entertainment is in the air!

Irrational exuberance

As fresh-off-the-boat R2Iers, you'll be expected to lead the way in leading an "American lifestyle". This is similar to how the US investors exhibited "irrational exuberance" back in the 2000s. You'll be expected to (or inclined to) splurge more money, ignore the inflation, and buy expensive cars (instead of expensive stocks). (SUVs for men, and automatics for women pls.) So what, if you drove a second-hand 1999 model Toyota Corolla and saved every penny for rainy day when you were in the US. And forget about budgets. Its passe to even roughly estimate how much your lifestyle costs. Credit card statements are no longer a yardstick here because 75% of your expenditure is done in cash. Something is wrong if you're not visiting the ATM every day. I suggest that future ATMs be housed in temples so as to add to the daily ritual of worship...and withdraw. Falling prey to the predictably irrational human psyche, women like myself get prone to develop a currency conversion bias over time. as in "That 100$ dress never looked so accessible in the US, as does the 5000Rs. one here in India.'
Btw, the best kept secret to-date (for women) is that you can get more beautiful in India. The sight of slim, trim, make-overed women around you is inspiration enough. Add to it, the beauty services available at your doorsteps at the fraction of the cost. Experiencing exuberance yet?!

The Human Touch

As much as the US is infatuated with automation and human-less systems, India relies on its 'human touch". In fact, that's the USP it can boast of. After all, there are a billion hands at hand. You will have a maid that will not only wash your utensils, but will wipe them dry and put them in their proper place..as opposed to the dishwasher that only does the former. And she'll not differentiate between the oil-smeared kadhais and the fine chinaware..she'll wash them all in one cycle. The Indian waiters will serve you food in your plates as opposed to on your table. In India, the elevator has an operator, the vending machine a server, and the "xerox" machine a copy guy to provide that extra human touch to these lifeless pieces of automated machinery. But even the human touch can get to you...if its frisking you at every mall, theater and airport.
Or worse yet, harass the crap out of you if it is of the horny hands amidst the metro mobs or the hands of street peddlers forcing their goods on you.

R2I=Return to Infinite Opportunities

India is the only place investment bankers come to, when they get bitten by the "writing" bug. But then again, IIM-A graduates can become anything they can dream of, in India. Baba can become Mahatma by the power of his followers.
If you are an aging actor, you could try your luck in the Parliament or join any of the 19 budding NGOs that suit your style. And if you are not, then the idiot box is your oyster. You could be doing talk shows, talent shows, cookery shows, or even dating 12 eligible candidates at the same time.
And If you are in IT and have lived in the US for more than 5 years, you could consider yourself demi-gods in the paradise of job opportunities. You'll have 3 MNC job offers each willing to outdo the other in terms of your "price" err..compensation. If compensation does not tickle your bones, they will throw in a "management" job profile. The LIA tag should suffice for any lack of real management experience. But its not just about the corporate opportunities that you can avail. The freedom to explore unchartered territory is most enticing. Almost behind every really successful R2I story is someone's attempt to grab an opportunity to do something that has provided a new meaning to their being. Friends who've become enterpreneurs from employees, bloggers from full-time moms, celebrity cooks from corporate junkies. India has an insatiable appetite for one and all. It does have a fat belly.

But I digress from the satirical nature of this piece. Here are some "mastercard ad-priceless" abilities that you can acquire, only if you R2I.

  • The ability to get ready-made (better yet, custom-made) furniture without ever having to exercise your carpenter-skills for assembling the IKEA pieces.
  • The ability to talk to a doctor when your child is suffering a minor cold (even if its more for your mental peace than his runny nose) or to get instant access to Dadi's nuskas.
  • The ability to drive on the right and the wrong side of the road instead of just the right-hand side.
  • The ability to do facebook without worrying about your house-chores as opposed to the ability to do it while doing your house chores.
  • The ability to wear colors without being bound to the color of the season.

Btw, if you are still confused as to which way to oscillate on your R2I decision pendulum, here's a friend's quote that sums it all up "40% of things are better in US than in India, another 40% are better in India, and the remaining 20% are the same. You have to decide which 60% work for you."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Maid in India: The "bai" wisdom (Part 2)

They all have a story..and unfortunately one that underlines issues that plague India from a socio-economic perspective..illiteracy, domestic violence, urbanization, poverty, etc.

No one ever wants to become a "bai" ..Its not a career of their choice. The only career progression they aspire is to retire one day. But they still keep at it, either in pursuit of some life goal or as a way to escape their reality. Some toil because they certainly dont want their children to follow the same path. Some want to go back to their village and live in peace. Some just want to be "happily" married or "respectfully" single.

They get feisty because that's the only way they've known to deal with life. If it were not for their fighting spirit they'd have succumbed to depression, abuse, illegal paths. Their belief system, right or wrong, becomes their guiding force...and their source of finding solace in little things life throws at them. Tucked in their tales below, are some "pearls of wisdom" for us as well.

When we moved from Bangalore to Gurgaon, our maid, an elderly 50+ traditional South Indian lady living alone with her abusive husband, was the only one who cried inconsolably..I was immensely touched, and frankly a little surprised. Its not that I was paying her anything out of the ordinary or that she didn't have dearth of work. 'I'll find other homes', she said. 'But who will call me "Ammaji" now?' (Ammaji is a respectful salutation for a mother.)

[Little respect does go a long way.]

Btw, hard to resist while we are on the topic of respect, an earnest request for menfolk who feel the right to show their manhood on maids: Isn't it good enough that they are there for your dirty laundry?

Mistreated by her mother-in-law, eventually divorced, and physically abused by her own drunkard brother, when she came to us, she was a wreck. I felt pity and kept her even though I had another nanny at the time. I couldn't do much..but I would listen to her as she poured her heart out about her past. She stayed with me for a year and a half, caring for my kid in a way he didn't miss me while I was busy with work. While her "fighting spirit" (of the literal sense) eventually got the better of me, it was the only thing that led to her own life transformation.
She went back. (But still calls up to inquire about her "mannu" and my son still misses her. In fact, she's the only reason he wants to visit Bangalore.) Just the other day, she called me to say..'I've found myself a husband...He doesn't drink and doesn't live with his parents'.
A life-long bond has been formed just because I had given my ears to her tears.

[Show Empathy. It never goes out of style.]


And now I think about it, I used to teach her how to conduct life on a day-to-day basis, but she's shown me how to live it. With hope and on your own terms.

But I found my "mother of pearl wisdom" from lo and behold..a 30-year old, illiterate, slum-raised carpenter! While haggling for the last 5K which my baniya mind had calculated to be over the top and thus not ready to let go, I got a response that I had never expected.
'This may look like a premium for my services..ma'am. But let me tell you, this exact money will go towards teaching 10 slum kids the skills of the trade. I run a free workshop for such kids on Sundays. When they become carpenters and a source of income for their families..they will thank me directly, but will also thank you indirectly.'

This 30-year old illiterate carpenter has figured out how to leave his legacy...Have we?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Maid in India : The "bai" wisdom (Part 1)

If you are a nuclear family living in the expat suburbs of India, just succumb to the fact that the bais are taking over. They are surely ruling your minds..practically ruling your homes..and I'm thinking if they put their mind to it, they could be ruling the nation (esp. in lieu of the gaping holes created by our current political parties).

And by bais here, I mean the domestic help available in the form of maids, nannies, drivers, cooks, dog-walkers, car-washers and helpers for any other chores that the upper-middle/rich in India can afford to offload. There's a secret why we are the Outsource Capital of the world. We, in turn, are outsourcing our mundane jobs to the "bais".

Todays bais have understood their role in the life of an Indian household and in this cycle of wealth-creation. Sometimes they manipulate, sometimes they use this knowledge as a shield for their own basic rights. Just a side-note for those double-incomed, quality-time starved couples, forget talking about finances or buying that fancy car while car-pooling to work..cos there's a driver in the front seat, thats adding up all these figures and calculating how much share of that can be safely assumed as a salary raise in the next cycle.
Actually bais have an uncognitive dissonance for money, which makes them all the more unique. While they are always eager for the next higher-paying opportunity, they can also leave a job bcos the boss doesnt salute back, or asks too many questions or talks too little. My 3+ year tenure in India as a homemaker is filled with such "bai" experiences that I feel well-equiped to write a book on "Maid Management". I believe the sueder MBA programs would surely embrace it. But thought of starting with a blog first.

'You have it easy, dont you?'..says my coming-of-age 17-year old full-time nanny/maid one day. Rationalizing around how hard it has been through one undergrad degree, two post-grad degrees, three job changes, and just surviving in the rat-race wont help. To her, materialistic comforts are the only yardstick of easiness of life. So you can either abandon the worldy goods or make her a shareholder in the materialistic pleasures. After a minute of introspection and juggling with options, I say 'Maybe..but dont worry you have it easy too'.

The part-timer on the other hand (Pls. dont get envious folks...you dont get a full-timer in the elite condos of Gurgaon without selling her on the fact that there's a part-timer doing the "ground" work), refuses to eat anything that has been in the fridge for more than few hours...You could lay fancy desserts or other culinary delites, but the answer remains, 'Hamare yahan to taaza hi khate hai!' 'I only eat fresh food!' You're better off puttng some extra pounds on you, rather than convincing her out of her perceived notion of edibility (which is likely governed by the fridgeless world she comes from.).

And between the two of them, there's always a relative that is sick or will become sick in a week's time. Perfect excuse for a day off. I now understand why the smarter homemakers always have their speed-dials filled with back-up bais numbers.

And of course, where there are maids, there are maid issues.
If your bais are too friendly, you are worried. If they are not, you are doomed. Everyday you get to partake in the "give-and-take" of verbal innuendos and political tactics that would put politicians to shame. Lo and behold if you decide to take sides, dont just use fairness as a criteria for conflict resolution, cos there's hierarchy that needs to be respected. A full-timer obviously commands more respect and listening power than a part-timer. And if you cant handle it all, seriously consider hiring a "head-maid" to manage the maids. Delegate the dirty work, as they say!

All said and done.."bai" is an essential commodity..And since you've put your MBA trained mind in doing the cost-benefit analysis of retaining vs. hiring new ones, you are constantly trying to figure out ways to survive and sustain a "bai" beyond a few months..

My husband's advice of doing "A one-minute manager" on them rarely works. They get inflated with praises..but get defensive with the criticism, however short and sweet it is.

Giving them ownership and sense of responsibility only partially helps. Believe me, I have tried that too..with mixed results.
While the living room gets dustfree everyday without my nudging, it has been rearranged according to my maids taste. While the fridge is never empty, its invariably filled with goodies that her taste buds appeal to. And while the wardrobe is neatly arranged, my fashion sense is scorned off at many such cleaning sessions.

The single effective way I seem to have sustained mine is through a barter of services. Her obsession with the English language (Thank You Western World) has fortunately come to rescue. Speaking English signifies freedom to her..and I've become the key to her path of success. But when she learns English..what then? Computer skills as a selling tactic maybe?!. :-/

ps. Let me leave you with a classic bai QOTD 'tension lene ka nai, tension dene ka!' 'I dont take tension/stress, I give tension!'

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Viva la Goa

I've been to Goa before..but it has been for work conferences that invariably happen in the posh resorts of South Goa. So our impromptu plans to go to North Goa for the Good Friday weekend created much excitement. And true to my belief, both North and South Goa offer a very different experience. While South Goa is swanky and secluded, North Goa has character.

Of course, for a Gurgaonite, the weather is the first thing that puts you at ease (or shall we say, the holiday mood). There is surely something in the air. And couple that with the lush green foliage and the Arabian sea playing hide-and-seek with your sight, you already starting to have pleasant thoughts of the days to follow.


I couldnt fail but to notice the portugese influence during our long ride to the hotel. (Btw, they really need to figure out a better location for the airport, it really is in the middle of nowhere, at least from a tourist's point of view)...Portuguese style churches and houses sprawled across ghettos of palm trees and pasturelands. But what portuguese..it appears that the russians are trying to conquer Goa these days. Every other road sign we saw had a Russian translated footnote.

One hour later we reach the destination. After oogling over our resort and a customary dip in the pool, we headed to the world-famous "Tito's lane" in Calungate. Just for the dance-challenged and similar nerdy clan, Titos is not just a nightclub..its a cult in its own right, with followers across the globe. But with a child in arm and no dancing shoes on our feet, we decided to settle for an equally uber-cool joint across the street called "Fiesta"..(based on a reliable recommendation). With an ambience so romantic, and food that transpose you to the hole-in-the-wall eateries in Rome, needless to say, we had a great evening.

The second day was spent in kid-friendly beachy stuff: sunbathing at Candolim beach, Dolphin-watching cruising at Sinquerim beach, sight-seeing at Fort Aguada, alongwith tasting local cuisine at The Plaintain Leaf, drinks at the Fort Aguada Taj followed by another lovely italian dinner at Mamma Mias. (What to do? My kid has an insatiable appetite for pasta!). Btw, one thing I have to give it to the Goans, they know how to do their food and drinks right. All the meals were a pleasure-trip for our taste buds so far.

The next day was reserved for water-sports. So Baga Beach it was! Where else can you get a combo deal (includes para-sailing, banana-boat ride, sea-tubing) under Rs. 1000? Btw, dont think you were ripped off if you've paid twice the amount for similar stuff before. This is the Gujju group negotiation skills put into use..i.e. we could only pull it off bcos we were in the company of another Gujju family..Pls. dont attempt such bargaining unless you're a group of Gujjus or can fake looking like one!

But I digress. Anywho, for the thrill-seekers, I recommend the banana-boat ride. This is where you are seated on a banana-shaped inflated log that is being tied to a motorboat. Once you are in the middle of the sea getting zoomed at ~80km/hr, they decide to invert the log, toppling you into the sea. Sheer Adrenalin-rush!

By now, if you've started wondering, 'But isnt that what most beach destinations offer?', you're probably justified in your thinking. But let me tell you whats so strikingly different about Goa. Its the commingling of cultures at every level. Luxurious five star hotels co-exist harmoniously with roadside shacks. There are equal number of temples to visit as there are churches. Konkani lyrics jam melodiously with Western beats to create mesmerizing Goan music. And Goan people that have portuguese surnames, speak Konkani, follow Hindu traditions but are stark Catholics.


And finally, want to leave you with some "Only in Goa" sights/experiences:
Bitches on the beach (this is quite literally..pls refer to my FB potos for evidence.),
Bouncers on Blackberrys,
Waiters in the water,
The most stylish beach wear hanging on cheap roadside manacins,
Prisoners living in a fort (that too with a sea-facing view),
Petrol getting sold in Bisleri bottles (Recycling, the Goan way),
And last but not the least, the Goan airport security check...its really is a "lifetime" experience...Let me just leave it at that!


So Viva la Goa! Its guaranteed to show you something you've never seen before.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Grippin' Zippin' Tale

'Good luck! You'll need it' said George, the bulky British instructor, trying to get an expression out of me. 'Yeah, yeah...I've done many such adventures before. This is nothing thats not up my ally.' I thought. And so began my Sunday "Flying Fox" adventure, at the Neemrana Fort, Rajasthan.

We had heard about Neemrana from friends before...but ever since I found out that it operates a "zipping tour", my adventurist soul had been aching to go there.

5 ziplines (with one of them the longest in Southeast Asia), a two-hour aerial journey, a bunch of college kids for company (as opposed to my 3-yr old, who my loving husband decided to babysit for while I zip), should keep it all very exciting - I figured. Conveniently they forget to mention the hike to the starting point. Well, no big deal! Its just a kilometer and a half to the top of the mountain from where we start zipping. But hang on..its 1.5 km where the first km is all vertical, that too under the gruelling Rajasthani summer sun. And on a path that would give the Registan desert a run for its money. So after the first ten minutes, I'm gulping water like a camel. The flying fox folks - the British company that operates the zipline tours had given each of us a bottle of water, anticipating the need of the hour. After the next 10, thoughts are racing. 'Why am I doing this? What do I have to prove? I'm sure I'm never doing this again. Why cant they operate a trolley like the ones they have on the ski slopes?'

Uh oh..what is this?! Is this water leaking from my bottle? S##T, I only have 1/4th bottle left now. How did that happen? Water is important. And leaking water is not good..followed by flashes of James Franco drinking puddle water in "127 Hours" running through my brain. I definately dont want to be drinking water from an Indian puddle! Calm down, calm down! I said to myself. I fastened the lid of the bottle and that took care of the leak. After that point, I decide to concentrate only on the entertaining banter of the college kids..that encompassed everything from hair straighteners to their sex lives.

And so we reach the top...the cool breeze already starting to soothe my nerves and my dehydrated-self. We rush through the instructions and practice to get to the first zipline. The sight of the first zipline, about 350ms horizontally and vertically, from the highest point on the mountain makes me skip a beat. My nerves have started getting the better of me..and I ask George - 'What if we stop midway?' George is in full form now , 'Then there's only 2 options you see..you can either cut the chord and jump, or you can take the opportunity to build some muscles by manually crawling the cables'.
I remember and miss my son and husband, not knowing what the next hour will entail. I decide I'll go last..at least I'll learn from watching others. They all zip through, some willingly and some unwillingly. Finally its my turn. I'm more mentally prepared now. I can do it. And there I go...the jitters vanishing as I flying through the cable, like a dove in the sky. Its actually enjoyable. I start seeing the other end now..Oh cool! And suddenly I remember..George had asked me to brake. So I put my other arm on the cable and start braking. But George is shouting..'WHY ARE YOU BRAKING?' I dont understand. But I'm completely stopped now with still 50 meters to go. I quickly understand and realize that the braking was not supposed to happen until his signal.
Well, I do use the opportunity to build some muscles after all!

Lesson #1: If you can conquer your fears, you can make it. If you cant, you dont.

The next one is more tricky he says. Its the longest and the steepest and with the current wind direction, almost a 90% chance that we wont make it all the way to the end just by gravity. I'm determined that I dont want to build any more muscles. I wont look good with bulging biceps I figure. I decide to use my first trick and let a couple folks do it first. Both of them dont make it. I ask why. George says, 'they are not keeping their bodies inclined enough so as to use their body weight as a counter balance to the wind direction'. Oh okay, I keep that in mind. Its my turn now. This time my motto is to follow the rules, even if its from the smart alec George. And viola, I do use my body weight effectively this time to finish exactly at the finish line. (Finally, all those extra kilos on my body found some use!)


Lesson #2: Follow the instructions and keep faith.

The next zips were just pure fun. Felt like a monkey jumping from one end to another.

Thanks to my BB, I could capture pictures of the fort from above..the never seen footage is for your viewing pleasure! :)




And more thanks to my stark supporters, my son and my husband. Without their cheering, shouting and clicking pictures for 2 hours, it wont have been so much fun.



Lesson #3: Enjoy the ride. Thats most important.

Btw, for all the eager souls: If I did it, you can too..Its lot of fun if you can endure dust, sun, and cowdung smell, hike a mountain without complaining, and just let it go when George asks you to. And would I do it again? Only if they start running a trolley for the hike up the mountain. :-)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Of traditions and values!

My mother calls me today. 'Did you know it was "Gudi Padwa" yesterday?', 'Well, yes..I saw some updates on FB!" 'Then what did you do about it?' 'Well, err..nothing'. The lecture starts...'You are supposed to do this and this..How will you teach your son about traditions when you dont follow them yourself?'.
So unlike her passion for sports, where I've somewhat managed to redeem myself by my cricket-watching this season...I dont "meet expectations" on her scale of the religious barometer. On the contrary, I'm a disappointment.

Well, my take is...teaching kids traditions(esp. the religious ones) is like teaching them the tools..and not the art. Why do we have traditions? Traditions are to affirm values. And religion is just one of those values. To me, values such as truthfulness, honesty, discipline, hard work, ethics are equally important, if not more. Esp. when we are aspiring our kids to become the next generation Sachin and Sainas. We need to create traditions/rituals that inculcate these values.

Btw, I'm not against religious traditions nor am I preaching against it..Just one humble suggestion though: If you have a religious tradition/ritual that you follow in the house, good to also ensure that the kids understand why these are followed..There has to be a value associated with each of these. In fact, I found this interesting link Indian Traditions: Why do we on Indian traditions and the values it depicts.

As far as I'm concerned, the family tradition he's learning right now is yoga. Its spiritual to do yoga together as a family every other morning. Also, something that will make him healthier one day. For the rest of the traditions, I'll leave that to grandma.

And for all those who're wondering how my conversation with mom ended...Here goes: 'Guess what mom, I started tennis lessons yesterday.' 'Oh..thats nice. Keep it up.'

Allz well that endz well.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What does "cricket" mean to you?

Resonating with the mood of the hour..tons of thoughts battling to find space in my mind. While 90% of Indians are now catching up on sleep after the victory dancing last nite, I've decided to streamline these thoughts before they vanish through the crevices of my mind.

Cricket culminated in a "larger-than-life" story yesterday..Over the last few weeks, I saw it being associated with politics, religion, corporate practices, upbringing, value systems, entertainment and lo and behold, even sex and porn. (Ms. Pandey as a case in reference.) It truly became the one all and be all for us Indians..more like the "Bhagwad Gita"!

Personally also, it has been an enlightening journey...
A story of a true convert. For all those who know me well, they know I was never a cricket fan. On the contrary, I used to hate it. My parents never missed a game..and I never watched one "ball-by-ball" in my life before. How can people subject themselves to 8 hours of mindless TV watching? What can one possibly get from it? But now I know...You can actually get wiser if you so wish..and not just by drinking Bud(weiser) through the match! I'm proud not only bcos India won yesterday..I'm proud that I, for the first time, understood what it means. Cricket and this win has been a manifestation of patriotism for me and likewise for all Indians(-at-heart). How could these billon+ Indians proudly show their love for India, had it not been for cricket? Way to go, cricket!

Equally enlightening has been the "bonding" experience with family, friends, acquaintances, and even random strangers. My parents now think of me as a "worthy" daughter. :)Yesterday, a total stranger (that too a seemingly snooty-looking Delhiite) wanted to take a photo with us..just bcos we had a flag and he didnt. Btw, cannot ignore the significance of "social media" in that regard. Would the feeling of watching and winning be so euphoric, had I not been able to share it with my loved ones and friends across the globe?! I dont think so. Thank you, FB!

So my advice to myself and others who care to follow: Allow yourself to indulge in new experiences. And keep your mind open. You never know what you'll learn from it.

And at a societal level, it has showed us that:
Even though the confluence of good and bad is ever so pervasive in our psyche, the good news is that we are still in the practise of celebrating the "good" and abandoning the "bad". Some feel if the 1 Cr award money is justified for the players. My take is at least its sending the message that you can make crores by doing "right" things in India, not just through corrupt means. India needed this victory to show to themselves and to the world that...We can also do it, the "right" way!


So to all my fellow "cricket-fans", spare a thought! What does "cricket" really mean to you?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A gift to myself

Birthdays bring new possibilities...A second chance or in other words..yet another chance. With hubby away and therefore a traditional celebration out of the way, I decided to take it upon myself to plan my birthday.

If I were to reborn today, what would I do differently? I thought hard.

Every year I've received gifts from others..I decided to start a tradition where I'd gift others. Would gift folks who dont normally receive gifts. I started the day with gifting my house help. I gifted my maids, the cook and the driver. The look on their face amusing..One of them even thinking if this is an indication that I'm expecting a birthday gift in return. I had to ask them to just smile and make my day. Of-course the smarter ones started showering me with their well-wishes.

The next installment of gift-giving was stalled bcos of the Cricket World Cup extravaganza that has now made my birthday somewhat of a historic date. So, armed with sweets and clothes(some new, some designer-wear stuff that my kid has outgrown), I went to the lesser-priviledged neighbourhood today...(cant take credit for the originality of this idea though..Its been somewhat of a family tradition I finally felt like following.)

As soon as I got out of the car and signalled the kids with bags of clothes and sweets, there was an uproar. Kids flocking onto me, pleading, begging, crying. And towards the end, grabbing and snatching out of my hand..felt like a deer in the middle of hungry tigers (well, in this case tiger-cubs). To my chagrin, a "survival-of-the-fittest" battle had even started on the side. Stronger kids snatching away clothes from the weaker ones. My act of benevolance was turning into a road-rage..Well..call it a "street-rage" since no motorists were involved obviously.

All and all, though the rowdiness was un-called for, the heart did tickle. Just knowing that I'd been a source of their momentary joy and excitement. And amongst the crowd, there was a little kid whose eyes twinkled and lips slowly parted when I sneaked a "BabyGap" jeans into his hands.

Just a glimpse of that smile was a gift to myself. A birthday well-received and well-spent.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I want to start writing again..this time around it'll be everyday gyaan..albeit in small dosage..As Seth puts it..Small is the new big! Wish luck to me! And hoping to cross paths with you in my journey.