Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eye for an eye tooth for a tooth….

Remember the ancient situation, you are of marriageable age but unmarried, it seems like the whole world has only one question to ask. ‘When are you getting married?’. In my situation though, the questions are much worse than you can imagine. ‘Do you want to get married?’’What? other than your career is there anything else on your mind, how about marriage?’’Are! enough now get married’. The most hilarious one was ’Hope you like guys?’.Fed up with these questions, I decided to go on an ignore mode sometimes or simply smile and walk away.
There is one such incident though that has edged in my mind since I realized that I could really speak some sizzling hot words such it would seem that the other person is struck by lightening. One day when I was returning back from work I met this lady who I know. She was chatting with some other ladies and happened to see me from the corner of her eye. I thought it would be best to evade these gossip mongers. But and a big BUT…this lady intercepted me and asked the wretched question. What? You don’t want to get married or what? you don’t want to get married or what? Age doesn’t wait for anyone, don’t keep too many reservations or else ‘gaadi nikal jayegi’. Now this lady whose daughter was in a live-in relationship, got knocked up and then got married had the obesity to ask me this question. With lightening speed, I replied, ‘What to do aunty? I don’t have the guts like some girls have to get into a live-in and deliver a 8 pound healthy baby six months after my marriage. Gosh you should have seen her face. It was like lightning struck her. Never again did she ever ask me that question. I know that my reaction was a topsy-turvy version of my upbringing, but when someone gives you a wound and rubs salt-n-pepper on it, the reaction is natural.
This was by-far the fieriest answer I have given anyone!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Board Exams Jitters!

Being in the tenth or twelfth standard was considered to be the pinnacle in one’s student life. Everyone one in the rat race to become an engineer, doctor or any other profession requiring high ‘percentage’ for enrollment would work their butt off . When I look back at those days, I wonder if it was worth it.
Do you guys remember how you were told over a million times this is your board exam…study, Study, Study, STUdy, STUDY! Gosh I used to hate the word study for that entire year. Even if you want to take a break in life i.e. read a book, watch TV or go out for a walk/stroll people wouldn’t leave you alone. If you are at home/school reading a story book (Nancy Drew which I used often love reading at that time) the so called scholar students would come to me and say ‘Don’t you have any shame the prelims are on the horizon and you are shamelessly reading a story book. I was this close to tell them ‘Agh!! I know what to do miss studious, go get a life! But being good friends, I preferred to go on the IGNORE mode and get back to my reading…today when I think of it, I tell myself that despite not going through that grind, I did pretty well for myself!
I know of brilliant girls and guys who have spent sleepless nights learning trigonometry, wondering how the hell can I get a correct reading if there was a zero error, what could be the possible chemical reaction if I add H2So4 (sulphuric acid for those who don’t know) in an chemical equation probably helping their parents in their apparel business, bankers, artists…to name some. Time and again I have this lingering thought that was that a perpetual waste of time? At an age when children need to identify their interests and nurture them, you are making them go through the grind of studying some outdated/not required mumbo jumbo which they may never ever use in their lives. I mean think about it, in your adult life how many times have you used sine theta? How many times have you called water H2O? Does it matter to know how many layers of skin does the frog have (leave the poor child alone for god’s sake!)
But I must day that as the board exams would come closer, there would be a terrible eerie feeling. I would feel horrible in my tummy. Every Algebra & geometry problem would look like an alien to me. Whenever I would look at it, it seemed like I am seeing it for the first time in my life. Despite having learnt the chemical equation, Sodium would seem like Sa and not Na, gosh those funny jitters! I would tell myself gosh what if I fail? It would be such a shame. What if I get low marks? Will I get an admission in my desired college? In my case though I think my Dad was my source of energy. He would always say, ‘Give it your best shot’ ‘Don’t give up without a fight’ What would be the worst case scenario, you could fail….but remember after every March, there is an October and believe me when you know there is a second chance, you would never want to take one….maybe that’s what despite all my leisurely activities like playing basket ball, reading all the Nancy Drew’s, Hardy Boys & Linda Craig’s, I managed to score a distinction.
One thing I would specially like to mention is the feeling of black out! Guess when? When you have received the exam paper, everyone around you seems to know what to do, some of them jump at the question paper, start drawing the so called margins already & the moment they have the question papers, start writing the answers, you seriously feel that something is wrong with you. Also not the forget the regions symbols like ‘shree’ ‘om shree ganesha’ ‘lord be with you’’help me Jesus’. ‘ya ali maddat’……hahaha…..seems so childish today. It’s like you are hoping that god will come to your rescue and change the answers to the right ones.
Then the aftermath, the results,…aghh! More than you or your family it’s the entire world who wants to know how much you scored in your boards. Funny are those parents who are on seventh heaven when their child scored one percent more than their neighbor’s child. Today when I look back, all those who were in the rat race head down have done well in their lives if not reached great heights, but those who have lived life on their terms & have focused on their skills & not percentages have really excelled. That is why I keep asking myself again and again…is going through the board exam grind or making your kids go through it is worth it?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tis the season to by joyful…talalalalal…Happy Christmas everyone

The season of joy, happiness is on the onset. It’s lovely to see shops selling Christmas decorations, and sweetmeats at every nook and corner of Bandra. Every year I make it a point to buy my nieces Christmas gifts, the joy of doing this is something I can never fathom. This year I have seen a lot more accessories to add up to my Christmas presents especially the antler hair bands…they are so cute!
Christmas has always been close to my heart. My immediate neighbors being goans, Christmas was always a festival we celebrated with equal pomp and job just like Diwali. We would help our neighbors in cleaning their houses; prepare sweets such as kalkals, newaris, toffees, cakes, marzipans etc. Moreover, making the crib and decorating the Christmas tree were few wonderful tasks we loved. We would have Christmas parties organized usually held on the terraces of our buildings where one uncle or aunty would dress as Santa and distributes gifts and goodies. We would also sing Christmas carols some of which I remember even today. Jingle Bell Jingle Bell Jingle all the way……Tis the season to be joyful….. Silent night….Oh! I so cherish those memories so very much.
Even after so many years, the enthusiasm has not died down. I love it when kids believe in Santa. They actually write down their wish-list in the letters, put up their stockings and hope that they are forgive for all their misdoings & get their gifts. Best the sight to see is when they open their gifts…it is heartwarming. I try to re-create this aura of enthusiasm everyday and re-live my childhood. Would love if I get my gifts too though!
Another reason why I love this season so much is the transformation of certain places in Mumbai during this season. It’s a sight to see on Hill road Bandra during Christmas. Perpetually every outlet showcases party outfits (for new year), puts up lovely decorations & promotional offers in addition small stalls selling Christmas decorations ranging from shiny Christmas balls, Christmas trees, candy sticks oh! Is such a pleasure.
Really wish that that we have many more such joyful moments……

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Give me a reason to smile…

There are some days in life when you decide to look back and realize the mistakes you have made, the people whom you have lost, relationships you could have had and wondered what they would have been like today…and many more such instances. If you realize that the losses weigh more than what you have gained today then suddenly the world looks like a dark hole to you. Suddenly you are happy no more, you are not happy in others happiness, you shun yourself for taking that one wrong decision…during such lows you just lookout for one reason to smile.
Finding is hard? You bet! This could completely takeover you even if you are stepping into a party in the next few moments after the ‘happy realisation’ occurs. The feeling is awful, you heart feels heavy. You feel terrible, you want to cut-off; you would want to run away or simply go on an eating spree. So many adverse things that could cause lifelong damage to you. At such a moment, you need to look out for that one reason to smile that will rule over your ‘low life’ feelings and take you to another level. Again, everything boils down to whom or what can give me a reason to smile?
When you come across such a situation when you find every other person in the world living a blessed life and you are empty handed despite having thought well for others, despite having lived to every expectation of the loved ones, despite having being good, just and honorable..Then what do you think of which will give you a reason to smile. I know that being around kids is like being on a different universe altogether...but what if you don’t have yours? What if you don’t have that one person in your life who loves you for what you are? What if you see people who have led disgusting dubious lives, people who have been unjust, cruel and surpassed all limits of humanity living in pomp and joy, do you feel cheated? Do you feel like becoming one of them? Do you question whether god is THERE? What do you do to tell yourself then? Do you question your morality? We all know that if we get an assurance that we have led a fulfilling life we will get a reason to smile. However, what if we don’t? Could someone please give me a reason to smile?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don’t Know, Unsure, No Idea

What do you do whenever you are faced with uncertainty? Do you live at the mercy of destiny, do you blame god? Do you blame yourself for the situation you are in? Alternatively, do you console yourself that things will get better? It is very strange but people have given me mixed reactions when they are faced with this situation in their lives.
It is easy to react when you battling tough times. The pessimists usually begin getting used to the situation and hope for the worst without really doing anything about it. However, day-in and day-out they do not miss a wink to curse god or their destiny. The optimists keep striving and wading through the tough times hoping for things to turn better by the day. However, what do you do when you have no clue about where you will be or what you will be doing? It is understood that the future is unknown however, take a hypothetical situation where you are working in a particular organization, which has a good progress plan in place, and you know that you will be employed with the organization doing a particular work. Now imagine yourself working at a place where everything was going fine and suddenly thanks to the various changes or changing economy, some decisions are taken where your future seems uncertain. Although ambitious plans are put in place, your role or your position is not defined or clear. What do you do?
I am sure people go through these situations in their personal lives as well. Recently, I saw a serial where the husband of a very close-knit family was actually found to be a serial killer. The family had no clue about his dark side and thought of him to be the most loved husband and father. Suddenly, one day their future, which seemed so secure and great was engulfed with uncertainty. The most respected family in the neighborhood is shunned for life. There was so much of uncertainty and I shudder to think if something like this happened to someone in reality. The thought to ponder on was the lives of the family belonging to the security officials who live is uncertainty forever during emergencies. At a local level families of people travelling by local trains in Mumbai where the probability to being thrown out of the train is 2 on five or that of being blown to bits in a bomb is once in two years have learned to live at the edge.
I often think are we prepared for this. Again, for myself I am not sure. Are you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Global Khane ka Tadka

Being a south Indian the standard veggies cooked by my mom when I was a kid were bhindi, red pumpkin, cauliflower, red-eyed beans, dal, suran, tendli and brinjal. Thankfully, we are non-vegetarians so chicken; mutton & seafood were also occasionally cooked (especially on Sundays). Even the spices were standard nothing innovative. Gradually as mom started expanding her friend circle, some cross cuisines were cooked at home but again very very safe dishes i.e. food to suit the taste buds of our typical south Indian family. My parents never encouraged us to eat out as a result of which street food was alien to us. I remember the first time I tasted paneer was at a reception party of one of our family friends. We were awed by the texture and taste of this new food.
As time passed by thanks to the advent of new channels, my mother started experimenting with new dishes & slowly we had new dishes on the menu. Paneer became a part & parcel of lives. North Indian savories like gajar ka halwa, mapluri, sevai kheer were applauded at my place. These were followed with chats like sev puri, pani puri, bhel & food from various states. Non-veg dishes like Biryani, fish tikka, chicken tikka and Kheema kept getting better by the day at my home. Believe me life was never better and I thought to myself, India is really blessed we have so many varieties of food here. Little did I know that I was in for a big surprise! My introduction to international food was Chinese which was soon becoming a rage.
However, the real experimentation with food began when I started working. I got an opportunity to taste global cuisine ranging from Italian, continental, Mexican, Lebanese & others among few. The first one I had was the classic roast chicken. Believe me it was heaven. Then I tasted chicken quiche, stuffed chicken, fish-n-chips, fried squids, pastas, ravioli’s, shwarma, satays, roasted duck etc. The best experience that I hate to love is when I had sushi. The very thought of having raw fish deterred me from venturing close to any sushi counter. Nevertheless, I told myself what the heck! I need to try this. When I put it in my mouth, and started chewing, I could feel the slimy fish meat melt in my mouth, but at the end of it, the flavors and texture of the entire combination was awesome! I must say I hated the thought of having raw meat…but loved the experience.
For all those who are deterred to try new cuisines, taste it this once if and only if you have mentally prepared yourself. Honestly, you need to enjoy the food and if you have apprehensions, the beauty of the experience is lost. Take that leap and don’t hesitate to visit places that offer global cuisine. Enjoy the world of food.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall……

Whenever you see people fall, what do you do? Sympathize with them; give them a lending hand or atleast call for help. Do you know what I do, I LAUGH hysterically. I often feel ashamed at my reaction, but simply cannot help it since my entire biology reacts naturally in that way. Does that make me a sadist? Does this make me a low-lying life? Does this mean that I have not humanity left? These questions keep hounding me. Therefore, I decided to unravel the truth behind my instant reaction to this and guess what the truth was astounding.
When I discussed this with one of my professor, he suggested that there could be various theories. Some could be related to an incident in my past, which triggered funny memories because of which I laugh. The other theory could be probably since I have a photographic memory, where I am able to visualize or relate the incident to a very funny episode, my natural instinct or reaction is to laugh. Therefore, I began addressing the problem by first understanding ‘what do I do when I see someone fall’. It is really funny but imagine you having a call out in your head just like Laxman’s cartoon where you see humpty dumpty (as a cartoon figure) falling exactly the same way the person has fallen and developing a big ‘lump’ on his head. This is what happens to me whenever I see someone fall and guess what the laughter follows instantly. Therefore, I know the truth now and I can safely say I am HARMLESS and very much HUMAN.
Thought of sharing some instances where I have laughed my guts out.
During college, few of my friends were walking down the stairs at the railway station when one of my friend slipped and fell few steps. The funny part was she did not tumble but fell on her bottom and slipped four steps. I couldn’t help but laugh my life out. It’s a different thing that my friend gave me one tight whack after that. We are still good friends though.
I used to share a workspace with another college at my earlier organization. This was when he was a new joiner and I used to seldom speak to him. He used to occasionally ask me for help, IT related, and I used to help him out too. He had this nasty habit of leaning back on his chair when he used to read intensely, and I mean lean dangerously. Therefore, one day I was busy with my work and I heard a thud! When I turn to him, guess what I see, two feet in the air. I mean imagine the sight, an five feet ten inches tall, 85 Kg man lying on the floor with his feet up in the air. Gosh! that was the sight to see. Being the person that I am, I started laughing so much that I found it difficult to extend a helping hand to him. Somehow, I did and after he got himself together, and got a chair to sit on, I ran to the rest room. I was stuffing my dupatta into my mouth to prevent myself from laughing. I confess that I felt like a pathetic sadist that day. However, I really really felt sorry for that person.
I often think, Does anyone in the world behave like this? Is this normal? My professor says it’s absolutely normal, you are a good person. It’s just that some funny memory that triggers your reaction, ‘So don’t worry’. Just try moving away from the scene since the possibility of you being beaten-up is higher if you laugh.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Soul Mates…..

My mum always says that dad is her ‘soul mate’. Never really understood what she meant by that though when I was younger. Probably because we always associate a husband, lover, boy friend in short people of the opposite sex or for that matter, your parents or siblings for whom you are ready to die for as your ‘soul mate’. However, over a period, I have realized that a ‘soul mate’ is nowhere related to blood relations, love or intimacy….surprised? Well thought of sharing a good examples maybe then you could identify who your true ‘soul mate’ is.
In Mangalore, a city in Karnataka, a simple girls Sharadha went for an interview. There were a slew of people waiting to be interviewed. Since this was her first interview, she was a bit nervous, her anticipation grew as she seen the disgusted look on the faces of the people coming out of the interview room. Just as she was about to get up and leave, a young chap came running into the lobby and sat right beside her. He was gasping for air, she offered him water. Muttering something to himself, he took a sip of water and then thanked her. They sat next to each other for 15 minutes without giving each other even a glance. Finally Suraj, the guy, broke the ice and told Sharadha that he had just come from his third interview . Stunned Sharadha asked him ‘Third? Gosh how did you manage, aren’t you like tired or something?’ to which he replied, ‘I am in need now therefore have to always be in high spirits & expect the best . We are at the beginning of our careers its just about getting the foot in, rest will follow’. Sharadha was quite impressed. She told herself what the heck, I will give the interview. Later, both were interviewed and rejected as well. Both shared their numbers and then went their separate ways. Now whenever, Sharadha was down or depressed, she would speak to Suraj. He was one person she would turn to if she needed advice or boost up her morale. Whenever Suraj wanted to share something or discuss work, it was always Sharadha. The relationship bloosmed so well that they developed some sort of a telepathy for each other. They were always there for each other. Surprisingly, they did not meet even once after that interview. Even today, both are happily married to their respective spouses, but whenever they need any help or assistance, they are there for each other. They both admit that they never loved each other but knew that in the whole wide world if there was someone who would come to their rescue, it was either of them……is this what you call being a ‘Soul Mate’?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ande mein kheema an absolute feast for a foodie!

I remember being invited to my friends house for dinner where I kept looking at this snack which looked so yummy that I wanted to dig into it the moment I laid my eyes on it. This was what she called 'Ande mein kheema'i.e. boiled egg stuffed with kheema. I prepared the dish myself at home with a little bit of variation and re-named it 'Shyam Savera'.It was a very simply dish but am sure it will regin over anyone's tastebuds for life.
I make kheema the regular way but ensured that it was super dry. Then I took some hard boiled eggs scooped out the yolks & mashed them together with the kheema. Now I took some boild potatoes & added some green chutney into it along with some salt & dry roasted jeera powder, mashed it well & kept it aside. Now i took the egg whites of the boiled eggs, stuffed it with the kheema, then made a thick coating of the potato mixture and made it look like an egg. Then i dipped it in well beaten eggs, rolled it in bread crumbs & deep fried it till golden. Served it with mint chutney...and walah! Shyam Savera is ready to serve....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Two hours a day? Enough to Educate the world in a Better Way

Conserving your energy & time and utilizing them in the most effective manner is the biggest challenge we face in our day-to-day life. One among the challenges we face is the freshness of our clothes. Accept it or not perfumes and deodorants are not good if you have to travel through pollution, or crowded modes of transport. You can take care of your skin & hair but wearing a bandana or scarf. You could even protect your feet by wearing socks or protect your leather shoes by coating it with a layer of petroleum jelly. However, what can you do to protect your clothes is a question we have preferred not to answer. So the maximum time is taken up by laundry since I have to soak the clothes, then wash them in the machine, after they are rinsed I have to rinse them again in bucket of perfumed liquid to look and smell good….two hours of my day are down the drain. Phew! I have often thought that if I had these two hours, I could definitely contributed to make the world a better place to live.
Thanks to the cutthroat competition, children have stopped understanding the concepts and prefer mugging it up. Their reasoning power has gone from bad to worst. If had those two hours, I would create short videos of simple ways to help students understand concepts. Parents could use this as well who regularly teach their kids. For example in mathematics if you understand what is given, what needs to be found and apply the formula (which is usually related to what needs to be found) life could be so much easier for students. Alternatively, help the student understand how to understand and remember the complex formulas of chemicals in chemistry. This will be a website or blog site will be purely for students and will be free of cost.
Imagine the difference I could make in the life of students who cannot afford to enroll for expensive tutoring classes but have the capability to make it big. Imagine the places across a country like India you could reach through this initiative. Moreover, parents who want to spend quality time with their children but do not have time to go through the books, could use this as a ready reckoner by them thereby saving a lot of their time. The interesting result is the bonding between them, which seldom happens these days. If as a parent you can make the life of your child easy, they will obviously reciprocate.
If I create one video per day, I could have 365 videos per year. Every student could login and educate himself at the click of a button. I am literally enthralled with the thought that being a part of this initiative will help me create a generation of efficient & intelligent educated youth rather than simply educated ‘degree holders’.
But ..sigh! only if I get some time off from my household chores.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chance pe Dance!

All the hue-cry over jacked up meters by rickshawalas sure made them realize their folly. For a change, I realized that my travel from Andheri to Bandra which would usually cost me about 140 rupees cost me about 120 now! Long distance travel suddenly seemed affordable.
I remember a conversation with my friend when we were traveling by a rickshaw during the meter ‘scam’ issue was at its epitome. My friend said ‘Its high time the government regulates this. This gundaisim must end. How much more should we suffer yaar’. I was surprised when the rickshaw driver barged into our conversation and said,’ Kya madam. Garib ke pet (stomach) par kyo lath mar rahe ho?. Aapko pata hai ek richshaw ka license ke liye 35000 rupees hai upar se mahengai kitni bad gayi hai. To uska wasooli ke liye apun logo ko magajmari to karna padega.’ Donno what triggerd, but my friend, who otherwise is quite cool headed, lambasted that guy. Her answer was mind blowing. She said, ‘mahengai sirf tum logo ke liye hai kya? Humara salary bada rahta hai kya? Agar hum company ko bole bhai mahengai bad gayi hai humari pagar bada do ya fir hum office ka saman bech kart ode paise jama kar lenge to chalega kya? Kayde se kam karne mein sabki bhalai hai aise chance pe dance nahi marneka.’ I was so impressed. It’s very difficult to argue with them since they are literally like hoodlums. But my friend nailed it.
My happiness however was short-lived. Now that the government has got its share ‘am very sure some union or neta must have had an under the table agreement’ everything has gone to square one. Today when I traveled by rick, I had to shell out 142 rupees. Clearly knowing that I have paid approximately 15-20 bucks more, I couldn’t do anything. The feeling of helplessness is extremely demoralizing for anyone. That is precisely what I felt. Am sure after reading this, you will agree with me that – some things never change!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Looking beautiful today – Is it love or dove!

I loved this punch line. Being using dove soap fan since I was little, my loyalties are with this brand. My uncle used to get us Camay soaps from Dubai every year. We had no option but to use a ‘super scented’ soap since he used to get cartons of them. Things changed when this one time he brought us a carton of dove soaps. This was when the product was not even launched in India. It was love at ‘first use’ for me since it made me glow, glowing & radiant as my inner self.
The natural moisturizer that this little wonder soap is, it leaves that lingering softness of your skin makes you feel like a princess. So when dove was launched in India, the obvious choice was to opt for it. Again, completely satisfied with the skin care products, I decided to use most of the dove products. My experience so far has been great. Whenever someone looks good, I tell them looking beautiful today – is it love or dove. This usually brings a bright smile on their face. For me this question works well since I always have an answer. Its always been Dove!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

An Award winning letter from a Pedestrian Mumbaikar

I am Mumbai; I offer you wide roads, expressways, footpaths, road over bridges, and subways. When I give you all the means to make your travel a pleasant experience then why do you Mumbaikar’s always crib. You are free to share your complains by writing to me:

Me a resident of Mumbai grabbed this opportunity and wrote to Mumbai:

Dear Mumbai,

I am a Mumbaikar, an Indian who gives 33% of my annual income for the development of India. It is true that Mumbai has changed in leaps and bounds as far as the infrastructure is concerned. Thank you for the over bridges on the highway which give me a fantastic ‘esselworld’ experience every day when I travel to work. Not to forget the ‘water splash’ experience during the rainy season. The portholes get amazingly bigger by the day and have contributed significantly to the doctor’s income thanks to the increasing number of back pain and slip disc patients. Hats off to your dedicated support!

I also appreciate your consistent effort to create footpaths which are home for small vendors and road urchins. You contribution to increase the population of India, by giving home to destitute families with a minimum of six children each is commendable. The much more pleasant sight to see on the inter city roads. On a 40 feet wide road, 10 feet is utilised for the footpaths on both sides and another 10 feet for all the vehicles parked illegally on the road on both sides. Again you have made this a thriving business for people who pay and park. Since all the options to walk on the road are literally unavailable or limited I earnestly use the other infrastructure that is the over bridges & the subways. You have all species of humans living here, lepers, drug addicts, rapists, destitute woman and families’ disabled people and other homeless people. The environment here will definitely earn you a place on one of the international channel which finds immense pleasure in portraying India as an extremely poor country where the citizens find it difficult to make two ends meet or even wear clothes for that matter. You have been successful in making an average pedestrian’s life a living hell. Bravo! Mission accomplished.

I request you to please stop being so courteous and accommodating. Your humble nature will someday cost us our lives. If someday, a pedestrian will lose his cool, you will have to probably pay a heavy price to repay which my 33% will be too little.
Request you to please consider my honest request.

Humbly yours.

A Pedestrian Mumbaikar

P.S. Thought for the day - Walking is good for health. We must have heard it a zillion times. But the question is where?

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Power of Social Media

There was a time when orkut, facebook, you-tube & linked-in were used solely for catching up with distant friends & family i.e. for online social activities only. Over a period, companies have used this effective tool to market their products and services, understand the consumer preferences spread their company goodwill and many other initiatives. I was not aware of the potential till I started working on initiatives related to digital media. The revelation of the potential of social media was astounding!

I was going to fall-off my chair when I read that Indian firms spend c.Rs.1200 crore on social media. It’s obvious if you get a tool which has higher penetration and wider reach and not to forget economical for a business, then logically a business would opt for social media initiatives. Many companies in India are focusing on keeping aside approximately 30-40 percent of their marketing budget for digital media. Historically, companies have spent huge amounts on conducting market research surveys to understand consumer behavior as well as product vulnerability & sustainability in the markets. If you look closely at the life cycle of market research, by the time the analysis is complete, the markets could have completely changed. So what you as a customer gets is redundant information. With the advent of social media however, we get an eagles eye view of the market scenario as well as customer preferences if not literally but close to real time basis. This is precisely what twitter has been doing. You get movie reviews, product reviews in a jiffy. Who would want to read the paper the next day for the reviews now? What I think is key is that social media offers a ‘podium’ for customers to be heard. I remember when I had an issue with ‘Fashion & You’, I was fed-up interacting with the help desk guys since they kept me running in circles. Then I wrote on their facebook page about the horrific experience I was having. To my surprise, there was one lady who called me, listened to my problem and solved it within a day. This was the first time I experienced the power of social media!

Please don’t be under the impression that social media can be leveraged by companies only. You can use this as a tool for your personal branding as well. I am quite surprised that although people are aware of the existence of social media. They are unaware of its POWER and have made little or no efforts to unearth its POTENTIAL. Very few mid or small size companies think it’s a waste of time to market themselves or their companies on social media. For all your guys who fall under this category, I would like to share some statistics. The Nielsen Company conducted in collaboration with AbsolutData a report on social media in India.

The findings of the report are as follows:
•30 million Indians who are online consumers are members of social networking sites
•20 million of these spend time on social networking sites daily
•Indians spend more time on social media than they do checking personal email
•Over the next six months 45,000 online Indians intend to join social networking sites each day
•1/4th of online Indians were able to recall brands using social media
•Having a social media presence connotes ‘innovation’ ‘customer friendliness’ and a sense of ‘cool’
•Nearly 40 million Indians are using online reviews to inform purchase decisions
•67 percent of Indians who are on the web use online reviews to help them make purchases
•60 percent Indians who are social media users are open to being approached by brands
•Social Media in India is growing at 100 percent and is likely to touch 45 million users by 2012
Maybe now you will be able to identify the power of social media.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My First International Trip – En-route to the Guest House in London

In my previous blog - My First International Trip – The Flight, I shared my experience on the flight. I will take you to scene two now.

They say sometimes that perceptions of the mind when faced with reality are often a shocker. I expected to see tall buildings, plush localities & wonderful high-tech infrastructure while landing in London. However, to my surprise, a pleasant one, I saw lot’s of green pastures and beautiful bricked row houses.

After getting clearances from the immigration at the airport, I headed towards the lobby expecting my name on a plank-board held by an Addison Lee cab driver. To my dismay, I didn’t see anyone. Since I landed on a Saturday, I knew no one would be at the office and it would be rude to call someone at home. Worst I did not have a calling card. Therefore, I first freshened up at the restroom and then came back to the lobby. Then I thought to myself ‘You need to get a calling card first, then call the driver and sort things’. I walked up to a counter and asked the gentleman for directions. He asked me to buy an O2 calling card from one of the vending machines. You know the kinds where you put a coin and get a can of coke! Well I interested two 5 pound coins and got my O2 calling card. I inserted the Sim card in the spare UK phone I had, first send an ‘arrived’ text to my boss and then called the driver. Now Mr. driver responded saying that he was waiting for me at the airport for over an hour. I told him that I did not see him with my plank card. I asked him to meet me at the Sainsbury outlet at the airport which he did. When he showed me the plank card, I was aghast! To my horror the name written on it was ‘Mr.A.Nachaira’. Ok, now how in the freaking world would I even remotely relate myself to this plank card. I thought it was unfair to comment or for that matter argue with him. Therefore decided to simply drive to my guest house. It was a beautiful drive from Heathrow to Hammersmith. My Pakistani driver –Ali-(don’t raise your eyebrows guys) was extremely humble and modest. He carried my bag to the car and opened the door for me. It was approximately 14 degrees in London. I buttoned up my denim jacket and thanked my lucky starts for wearing denims. Now 20 minutes into the drive and I could feel my stomach churning. I requested my driver to stop the car since I could puke any moment. He stopped at a bridge. I didn’t puke but felt much better after alighting from the car. To divert my attention I decided to strike a conversation with my driver. He shared some information about his family and within no time, we reached ‘Hammersmith’. I first went to the office where the person in charge had left a key, the address and a message for me. After few minutes of searching, I managed to locate my guesthouse. Ali was kind enough to carry my heavy bag right to the doorstep. I shook hands and we bid adieu. Nice Chap!

House number 164 was a beautiful row house with a Royal Blue color door! There was a maple tree right in front of the house and since it was Autumn, there was a pile of lush orange colour leaves on the pavement. Hmmmm….the weather, environment was simply lovely. I opened the door with the key and could see a long hallway as I entered which was pitch dark. My colleague who had been there earlier told me that there was a button, which switched on the lights in the hallway. The catch was, you had to reach the steps with few seconds following which the lights would be automatically switched off (this was some new technique to save electricity). Now I had to reach the stairway, climb approximately 15 steps carrying a heavy bag. So you can imagine my plight! Finally, after running to and fro 3 times I managed to reach floor one. Thankfully there was no hallway there and I ended up trying to open the wrong door. Little did I know that my company owned the last two floors? So by the time I reached the second floor, I was completely exhausted. However, when I entered the guest house, I was very pleased. My boss was considered enough to ensure that the guys had installed latches in my room. For those who don’t know there are not locks or latches for doors in London. It is understood that you will knock and enter the room. But hello! What if I am a burglar, I don’t like knocking doors you know. Anyway, coming back to the point. This three-bedroom guest house was quite warm and welcoming. I got the rearmost biggest room, which was well kept with clean bed covers & pillows with a decent wardrobe and a TV (which I did not know how to operate). On the floor above there was an open kitchen with sitting area, television and an old-fashioned dining table from where I could see the sun setting. I was quite surprised to see the sun setting quite late in the evening but it was a sight to see! The entire set-up, the wooden flooring, the beige carpets the clean kitchen, long chandeliers in the hallway all made me feel nice, safe and warm. It was as though the silence was telling me welcome home honey. This is London. You will be staying here alone for 10 days and you have to get accustomed to being responsible for yourself!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My First International Trip – The Flight

Coming from a close-knit and traditional family, I have never really had the experience of travelling alone. I used to often wonder; what it would be like to travel alone. Various elements of fear that usually lone travelers especially girls experience like staying alone in a hotel at an unknown place, the jitters, the uneasiness and most importantly being responsible, was alien to me. Thanks to my travel sickness, I used to refrain from travelling therefore going to far-off places alone was out of question.

Therefore, one day I guess God decided to put me through this nerve wrecking experience. One day, my boss suddenly exclaims ‘Naina, there is one project for which I would like you to travel to London’. Totally stumped and rooted to the ground, I said ‘Yes, thank you for the opportunity’. Little did he know that at precisely that very moment my head had started spinning, I felt like puking, the rug under my feet was been dragged and I experienced the feeling of falling in space. It took me two days to sink this message in. Finally, had all the formalities completed and was off to fly to London on 5th September 2009. I was flying Kingfisher, 1.30 p.m. flight and had to report at 10.30 a.m. at the airport. On 5th in the morning, I made sure that I recorded few vides on my cell phone, first the good mornings from my family then the good nights. I wanted to have my family with me every single day during my stay. Then we drove to the airport, after all the byes and hugs when it was time to enter the airport, I could hear my heart pounding…real hard. I told myself its show-time gurl.

I had lotsa time on hand therefore decided to eat something and have some coffee. When it was time to board the plane, I restored my confidence and told myself that I could do it. Hoping that I get a good companion, atleast a good-looking guy, sitting next me, I eagerly got my window seat and made myself comfortable. To my dismay, there is this dirty looking, pan eating Gujju bhai from Amdavad (Ahmedabad) sitting next to me. I decided to ignore him and began watching movies and listening to music. Had my stomach jitters when the aircraft took-off but the rest was ok. Now my friendly neighbor also turned out to be a copy cat. After every request I make to the hostess, this guy would say ‘Same’ which means please offer me the same. I was in splits when I ordered for non-vegetarian food and he said ‘Same’. When I told him that he would be served non-veg, he said I know and told me to tell her that he wanted ‘veg’. Jerk!. Believe me it was so irritating at first but then I realized that this was his first time as well, worst he must have never travelled by air till then. However, the ordeal continued for the next 10 hours or so. He also bored me with his stories and I kept giving him courtesy smiles not to sound rude. My travel expectations were high. I thought of enjoying the view of the landscape during the day, but to my dismay my seat was just above the left wing, so could only part-see the landscape. The most frightful experience was when we experienced turbulence while flying over Brussels. I prayed, ‘God please save me, I don’t want my family to get me in a paper bag, please o please’. Thankfully nothing drastic happened and we were safe. When we were approaching London, we were asked to fill some forms and then my friendly neighbor asked me to fill up his form and told me to help him at the immigration counter (Yeah right).

After watching 4 movies, 3 sitcoms back to back for 15 hours in an A/C environment, my body was stiff and sore. I dreaded to walk since my feet were numb. Managed to get on to my feet though and walked toward the exit. Thankfully, the landing was smooth at Heathrow. As I was moving toward the immigration counter, I realized that my Amdavadi friend is following me throughout (till then I did not know what it meant like to be stalked). It was frightening. I simply wanted to run away but I managed to evade him and reached the immigration counter safe and sound. The British gentleman at the counter was sweet and on seeing my papers he smiled at me, gave a pleasant gesture, stamped my passport and said, ‘Have a pleasant stay Madam’. Wow it felt so good. I was finally in London.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Diary of a Teenager

God knows what is with these elders. Dear God could you please pound some brains into their heads. I mean, WTF they have these stupid unacceptable reason for everything. What is the harm in going out for a party with friends or calling them over. Is it a sin to booze a little, listen or groove to some music, fag and simply chillax with them? I mean OMG! Why does this become such a big issue and topic for family discussions. Seriously I think they need to grow up.

Dad/Mom – Iv grown up. I can take care of myself. You need to understand that I need my space FGS (for gods sake) I have my life yaar. Please O please stop giving me lectures. Don’t you get it. You don’t want to do things because its good or bad. Sometimes you want to do things simply ‘because you want to’ isn’t that a good enough reason for you. You have a problem with my clothes, my shoes, my hair and even my friends. I mean face it man, its today’s FAD it obviously won’t suit your age LOL! I have still to figure out why you gave me that long lecture on my cool torn jeans and the funky shirt that I purchased the other day. Do you have any clue which brand it is? I mean you guys don’t keep yourself updated. My friends tell me that I look cool actually, I am a trendsetter in my group. You can check my FB, twitter, BB…every single person will agree with me. O yeah whom am I speaking to.. that’s another issue that you have with me that we don’t speak. How do you think I can make time for you when I need constantly be on chat with my 500+ friends. I am too busy in the evenings since I have to catch-up with my friends for coffee. They need my time. You should understand na. Still don’t know what is so important about having family dinners..same old sorry saga. For gods sake, dal, rice, roti is not food. Our lives need not intersect everytime. They are different. It is OK if we don’t speak for weeks despite being in the same house, it’s OK to spend 500 bucks on a coffee and sandwich, I must posses the latest gadget that comes into the market. You don’t get it do you? You want me to grow but don’t provide me with the equipments that how the hell am I supposed to achieve things in life. You have to provide me with things, I mean that is your duty isn’t it?

Lets face it Mom/Dad. There is life after college. Life is not all about making a career or simply studying. You need to understand that life is more about becoming an engineer or a doctor. Horizons have expanded please o please don’t stereotype me. I WANT TO BE ME!

I hope you understand me, my wants, my needs coz you simply dont understand my problems and have not time for me.

Parent - What do I do with you? Phew!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it……

Many marketers have put this message quoted by Adolf Hitler into practice. Actually, it has become the marketing mantra of many service and product manufacturers. It will sure amaze you but it is not only third parties who use this, our parents, children, siblings and relatives use this mantra some time or the other in their life.

Do you remember yourself as a kid wanting to evade school for some test and saying to your mother ‘Mumma my stomach is paining, I cannot go to school’ Subconsciously you realized that your mom could not really know whether your stomach is paining since she did not posses x-ray vision therefore this was the safest bet. Best part, you kept saying it repeatedly and also must have added some dramatics till your mission was accomplished. The result, Mom decided to let you stay at home! Seldom have we also found parents doing the same. I remember my mom saying that you will become ‘fair’ if you drink milk. They kept saying it and we did drink milk, didn’t we? Now when you think about these small incidents, you find it archived as a very sweet childhood memory.

Now that I look back, growing-up actually seemed like fun. Many of us will remember threatening our siblings usually, younger ones with ghosts being in cabinets that we do not wish to show them. We would go to the extent of adding some form of audio/visual to make it seem real. Eventually, your siblings would be so petrified that they would believe it and even spread the word around. Thus your secret actually remained a ‘SECRET’.
Now that we are parents, we adopt the same thing. I really have fun applying this rule on my little niece. The little princess that she is I keep telling her that if she is a good girl and listens to her mommy, her hair will grow like Princess Rupensil. If she disobeys then, her hair will grow shorter. Now the beauty of this lie is that she TOTALLY believes it. In fact, after being good, I often find her checking the length of her hair. Believe me it is a sight to see.

When I read this quote, all I could first sense is so much of negatively. These relative incidents, which we consider as good memories often, establish the fact that a lie that does GOOD to someone is not considered a lie at all!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My T-20

Inspired by one of my good friend’s blogs, I decided to list the T-20’s practiced in my life. Some of you could relate, some could disagree but
thought behind this is to simply list things that you practise your life that has made you what you are. You could 'maybe' change someone's life!
1. Pray & thank god at least once a day
2. Valuing your parents & telling them that you love them is…nice
3. Acknowledge good deeds and thanking everyone who has done something good for you is a nice gesture
4. Giving respect to everyone irrespective of cast, creed, colour or strata makes you human. Be humble
5. Motivate yourself everyday. Evolve and learn from everything around you and every event in your life will keep you 'alive'.
6. Accept feedback with a positive attitude..that is what learning is all about
7. Keep doing your work without any expectation…..people are always watching...your deeds will be notices and the rest will follow
8. Have some ‘my time’ in your diary
9. If others make a perception about you..don’t justify..continue being yourself…Truth will always prevail
10. No one pays your bills so don’t be obliged to others
11. Not being in a place where there is no respect for you is always better
12. Showcasing your life as an open book to everyone is suicidal!
13. Confiding in your parents is BLISS!
14. Being FAT is not a sin so go ahead and wear trendy clothes. The attitude to carry it will follow!
15. You can fall in love even at 100! so look your best and wear a smile everytime!
16. Pampering yourself once in a while mostly keeps you in high spirits
17. Exercising releases your happy hormones
18. Control your tastebuds. The size of your love handles depend on them
19. Never indulge in character assassination..some day you could be the topic in discussions
20. What comes goes around, do good..helping others without any expectations is always rewarded

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Art of Camouflaging!

I have often wondered why is it that, the reactions of some people is so predictive? Why is it that some people are so popular & loved while people with much more charisma and talent are not? Well the most obvious conclusion is that they are nice people. But come-on guys they are humans, the do get angry, they too get irritated then how do they still manage to be in the good books of everyone? Don’t worry I did not go on a quest to discover the truth. It simply fell on my lap.
My personal & professional circle is quite big, thankfully! Having discussed this with a bunch successful individuals; thought sharing their thoughts would help many people change their personalities to earn the much deserved appreciation and love of others. These esteemed bunch of successful people call it ‘the art of camouflaging your expressions/thoughts’. People do that all the time; the difference is we never observe. Remember your teenage days you went to your mom or dad and confessed of doing something unethical. You expected a tight slap or some beating. But to your surprise they coolly ask you to explain why you did it and shared their thoughts on why what you did was so wrong. What they actually did was camouflaged their anger and took stalk of the situation. Maybe that’s the reason why we can never hate our parents! We continue loving them and hope to become half as good as them. The question is can you apply this ‘Funda’ elsewhere? I think pretty much YES.
Now remember merely controlling your facial expressions does not work, you will also need some sort of voice modulation since obviously you need to ‘MEAN BUSINESS’ here. Also, you will need to react in a different way with people belonging to different strata or the kind of relationships you have with them. With your juniors/laborers or for that matter even your children it makes sense to give them respect first (because that is what they thrive for) and speak to them in a tone where you make them realize that ‘this is a two way relationship – no one is doing a favor on either’. Eye contact is important, NO fist clenching, staring, teeth grinding or any other signs of range when you speak to them. Preferably take them to a casual surrounding listen to them first and then share your thoughts. The idea is to make them ‘REALISE’ that what was done is ‘WRONG’ and now you need to ‘RECTIFY’ this and ‘NEVER REPEAT’ it again.
While dealing with elders, you need to adopt the reverse psychology though. Here, first you need to listen to them. Understand ‘WHAT THEY WANT AND WHY?’. Again look at them into the eye don’t stare. NEVER pound your foot or CRIB to get your way. NO TEARS please that is a very old trick, which is redundant now. ‘REASON OUT’ Give them five reasons why you need this and how it will help you as well as them. Your tone must be firm but not harsh. A big ‘No’ to hand gestures as well. The result will be unimaginable, if not an immediate yes, you will always be given a chance to prove yourself.
If you receive criticism from them, don’t let your expression speak volumes with frown lines on your forehead or a sign of disgust on your face or a look that personifies your denial. Simply say ‘Thanks for your feedback. Appreciated! I will keep that in mind’ You will be amazed at how this will work. Your subordinates will look up to you as a ‘HUMBLE AND AN APPROACHABLE’ person. Your peers will look at you as a person with a POSITIVE ATTITUE. Words like ‘THANK YOU’, ‘EXCUSE ME PLEASE’, ‘SORRY’ ‘HOW ARE YOU?’ ‘DO YOU NEED SOME HELP’ ‘HOW CAN I HELP YOU’ are very handy.

Somehow we all have these in-build qualities in us. However, this fast paced life and cut throat competition has forced us to become ‘MONSTERS’ as bosses or ‘GOLD DIGGERS’ as subordinates. Remember that you CAN be friends with your subordinates/children/family and yet be at the TOP. ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS LEARN TO CAMOUFLAG!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Have we learned to live like cattle?

You know what I have just put a smile on every the face of person who had travelled by trains in Mumbai. Reason? This is what they experience day-in and day-out when they travel. I have actually expressed their feelings in one sentence!
Let me explain in detail. No matter how well dressed you are, this is what you see when the train arrives at the platform. First you tie-your hair up, hold you belongings close to your body, focus on positioning yourself in the most strategic location such that you can jump into the train when it has just started slowing down. If you are lucky, you could be the first one to get into the train and secure a ‘WINDOW SEAT’. But what if you are not a dare devil and want to climb in later? Well then the moment the train stops! You are herded into the train. Much to your amazement this process is automated. The eagles eye view looks like an invisible shepherd herded you into a pen. This is a standard site to see irrespective of the time in the day or night. It is an unsaid rule that if you want to enter the train with the intention to secure a seat for yourself or a stand near the door to enjoy the breeze, you must become an animal all set to attack.

You can see a similar sight at all the BEST bus stops as well. Interestingly, people do make queues before the bus arrives. However, when the bus reaches the stop, lo and behold, the queue is no where in sight. You will see people all set to tread over others to enter the bus. Objective is the same – secure seats in the bus or atlease get a comfortable place to stand.

I often ask myself do I need to put myself through this torture every single day of my working life? Mostly the answer is yes since spending 2+ hours on travelling to work by road simply seems more stressful. The train gives me the advantage to spend 40 minutes to reach my destination but forces me to be a part of the herd. In my blog I have just touched the surface. Will write more about the attributes of the herd, their classes and many more interesting facts. Till then cheers!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy with my Single Status!

One thing that has always bothered me is why people are so interested in others personal life? Most probable questions you encounter with ; if you are single, when are you getting married?, if you are married – Oh! When are you giving us some good news?, if you have one child, when are you planning for the second?, if you have two girls, when are you giving a brother to your kids? If you are divorced, how are you planning to spend the rest of your life without a spouse? By the most hilarious questions asked to me is ‘Why such a beautiful girl is unmarried? You like guys right or is there a problem? Believe me in my mind I was virtually rolling on the floor laughing.
I am sure most of the unmarried girls my age face the same trauma day in and out with neighbors & relatives hovering around their lives. It often crosses my mind that why it so difficult for people to fathom the fact that a girl can lead a self sufficient & financially independent life without a boyfriend, husband, brother or father. She can really be happy! I agree that you need some emotional support but that is why you have families and friends. Why is getting married considered the only and ultimate goal for a woman to be happy and ‘SECURED’. Although I believe in the constitution of marriage, it is difficult to digest that you end-up spending the rest of your life with a person simply because your biological clock is ticking. It makes more sense to wait, fall in love and mentally accept a relationship. You will be amazed how everything falls in place like a jigsaw puzzle.
You know there are a many advantages of staying single. Simple things like reading a book and sipping coffee at a cafĂ© by yourself, walking in the rain without your shoes on, going for a long drive or treks, shopping, hanging out with your friends could bring you an immense sense of happiness. How many times do you get to spend time for yourself when you are in relationship? I mean think about it. You don’t have to be answerable for your whereabouts, the clothes you wear or mood swings. You don’t have to constantly bother about looking beautiful. Just imagine your life without any social obligations. Is’nt it absolute BLISS! This is what my life is at present and am professing that I am truly happy with my single status.
I often tell my friends that your status on facebook should always be ‘Single and ready to mingle’. Cheers!