Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Break a leg!

So I broke my leg. For the first time in my life. Normally, I would have been thrilled at the opportunity to sit on my backside with a remote in hand and have a steady stream of munchies delivered, but it also coincided with me taking on a new role in a new organisation. So after a few days of vegitative bliss, I had to get something called a walking plaster, a walking stick and get a move on.

Initially, walking with a limp and a cane a la Dr House was cool but that didn't last a long. I had to get used to walking slower and slower, that too, in a strange way that caused aches and pains all over while wearing a big oddly shaped special footwear that covers the plaster cast. I'm not Beau Brummell and mismatched shoes will never be kosher. In just a day or so most positivity I had about the scene vanished. I started noticing the states I got  at my odd walk, by folks who were trying to guess what was wrong with me. The regular questions that anyone and everyone who knew me had about the accident started grinding my brain.  The worst was the absolute callousness of people who would push or jostle you on the road or the escalator or an elevator. Most stairways became huge challenges. There have been days which tired me to no end that Ive ended up at home or a hotel room morose with tears of frustration just around the corner. The only thing that has kept me going is that, one day very soon, I would be rid of the damn thing and I can get back to being a normal person.

Astute reader you are, you may have guessed my drift of my post, I did too after a while. Now if the human race was a herd of cattle, disabled folks or the poor who cannot access the social support systems,  would be the stragglers, the easy prey, their fate defined by terms like natural selection or the survival of the fittest or trickle down economics.

As I was up last night thinking of this I realised that the one of the main things that differentiates humans from other species is not love, which is found in many species but our ability to care for strangers and to be inclusive. The more we move away from these, the more animal we are. Thinking beyond our needs and that of our own, makes us different, makes us special. Now wonder you feel happy or ecstatic when you perform a random act of kindness.

Like I said, I'm going to have this damn cast off in a few days, in a way I'm blessed to be able to walk in someone's shoes for a few days of my life, I hope that this makes me more empathetic, considerate and giving.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chess this!

As I was playing my 10th or 11th game (of the day) of Chess on my phone, I realised two things 1) I was getting really good at it, having picked up a passion for the game just 6 months ago 2) Playing chess at my age meant that the games I lost, which were still still considerable, were more often due to a silly mistake rather than being pummelled into submission by some whiz kid.  It made me wonder how it would have been if I had been introduced to the game as a teen, maybe with a faster and younger brain, I would have been less error prone.

That's when it hit me. As a teen, there was no way I could have played chess. Not because I had a troubled teenage years, well by most standards, mine was quite sedate, no sex, drugs and rock & roll, it was more like books, long summer holidays and Abba on a loop (hey, blame my parents for that!) The problem though was that from time I was 5 till the time I finished my engineering, I considered myself to be dumb, well, my ego wants me to correct that to 'unitelligent', this was because I was consistently at the bottom of my class. In the early years I progressed from one class to the next primarily because the school had a 'no fail' policy till 10 standard though it also meant I got a whack or few from the Headmaster's  stick when the final exam results were announced.  I was lazy, yes, but I also did not conform to the structure of the school system around me, I could not deal with abstract stuff.  After a point, I had assumed that I was not good at this studying thing and I pretty much gave it up, just going with the flow.

The only thing that I was good at was reading. I read anything and everything I could lay my hands on. It's amazing how much a kid can travel in his mind when he has a book in his hand. I read and read and read. When there was nothing to read, I even read my Mother's Mills and Boons. What knowledge that I have is probably from those books, not the Mills and Boons, though for a 13 year old they were the wickedest things to read.

I've digressed, so as I was saying, I failed in exams and so I knew I was unintelligent, I played Tennis and Cricket and a bit of basketball but that was it, there was no way I could have even dreamt of peering over a chess board, though I was introduced to it by my studious cousins.

After engineering, I got through an MBA entrance exam, and it was during my MBA that I began to realise that I may actually be quite intelligent, none of the questions in the exams required mugging and reproducing, they all sought the examinee's view on a particular issue or theory. Opinions I had, boy, I had them by the bucket loads. I wrote and wrote, some papers I topped the class easily! And in the end I finished quite close to the top of the class. Then I realised that my thing was to understand something and then formulate an opinion/strategy and use it. Thankfully, that realisation propelled my career and while I may not be a CEO or an entrepreneur, I'm far higher than from where I thought I'd be when I was a teen. Though I have to say, success in a career also has a huge element of being at the right place at the right time.

So Is our education system failing our kids, like it nearly failed me? It's a hot button topic but more and more we parents are forcing our kids to go through a far tougher systems that we had faced and are holding them to a standard that we could have never measured up to, all in the name of 'it's a more competitive world today'. Forget about jobs and job prospects, what are we doing to their minds? Their self image? How many kids are living their lives based on some artificial labels, not really realising who they really are? Does it matter at all? 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

I've Vuittoned, have you?

(Wrote this 4-5 years ago and don't know why I didn't ever publish)

Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread. - Alexander Pope

When passing a Louis Vuitton showroom the average Joe might stop, shrug and move on. I, my dear reader, ain't no average Joe. So towards the entrance I walked with a sense of purpose.

Not that I had any intention of buying anything at that moment. It was, how shall I say this, the same reason some people climb mountains because it was a sort of a challenge, a test if I can call it that. Something a man measures himself against, in my case I just wanted to know if I could actually afford something in there.

Vain you think? Guilty as charged.  If there wasn't any vanity in this world, everyone would be driving dinky little Japanese electric cars and wearing Chinese watches.

So there I was, wearing my banker's best, a blue shirt and the company tie. (A Banker's attire thankfully doesn't involve a jacket here in India. Eets Mucho Hawt, see?), walking towards the Louis Vuitton. As I got close I saw this tall dapper gentleman, with the demeanour of royalty standing near the door of the store. When I reached the door, much to my chagrin the dapper gentleman quickly snapped to attention and opened the door for me. Apparently, he was the doorman.

It was at that moment that I knew I was way out of my depth.

The store was very brightly lit, and the lights were more than a little disorienting, I had never been to a large store that had so little items on display. A well dressed young store assistant walked over to me, smiling pleasantly yet giving me the once-over. I smiled back I think, I swear could feel, what had been hitherto a tiny, coffee stain on my tie beat heavily against my chest. It felt like some neon lights had magically surrounding it.

I blathered something which was intended to convey that I was just looking around.  

"Very Well Sir" he said with in an accent-less English. More to get some oxygen into the bloodstream rather than to just look around I walked around slowly, with my hands clasped behind me, he was never more than a couple of feet away. After a few minutes it became a little embarrassing, I had to engage him in a dialogue over some product or the other. The silence was thick. As my eyes searched for something to talk about it fell on the wallet counter. I breathed a sigh of relief. I could talk about wallets. What the heck, how expensive could they be!

I made my way over to the wallet counter and peered inside the glass counter with interest. As if judging my interest, the assistant walked around the counter and pulled a few wallets out. They were nothing special, just regular wallets with the Louis Vuitton symbol all over them as I riffled through them I couldn't find a price tag I wasn't perturbed because I knew that I wasn't going to buy one in anycase, I told him that those wallets weren't quite my style (they were hard..I preferred softer leather, I didn't realise till that moment!).

He looked inside his counter and was very apologetic, there wasn't a soft leather wallet inside. I nodded in the usual way a shopper nods conveying to the assistant that if there was a soft leather wallet then there was scope for some business.

As I was turning an odd thought struck me, I needed to know what these wallets were priced at. So, nonchalantly as I could, I asked him "Oh by the way, how much are these wallets?", to which he queried which one I was asking. I picked a rather cheap plasticky looking thing which I wouldn't be caught dead with and gave it to him. He then looked through his catelog and told me. Rs. 25,000!

My head reeled. A wallet that costs 25 grand? Thoughts ran helter-skelter in my head. What would happen if I had this wallet and I got mugged? Would I beg the mugger to leave the wallet and take all the money? Coz I don't think I'd ever carry as much money as the price of the wallet inside it.

I needed to get out of there, the air around me suddenly seemed to have lost all oxygen in it and I tried not to gasp. I weaved my way across to the counter opposite. There were a few gold trinkets. I picked one and said, nice earrings. "Er...Sir, they are cellphone handles" he said. Clearly I was at my wits end, I needed air..badly.

I nodded weakly and started walking towards the door, it seemed atleast 2 kilometers away.

With great difficulty, I reached the door and it slid open, the ever present doorman at work. As I walked past him, I swear I felt his moustache quiver.

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Letter to Shifrah and Annika

It's midnight and the both of you have been asleep for a few hours now. The reason I write this is not to tell you how much I love you both, I'm sure you know that by now but to share with you some of my thoughts as a father, a young father, well a young-ish father anyway.  When I get older and 'wiser' I'm afraid I may lose a some of the idealism and the restlessness that I now have and it is very important for me to write this down now so that you may be able to understand these thoughts when you grow up.

You are two fine young children and I can see the makings of two fine young ladies and there isn't a day that I am not immensely proud of the both of you. But I can already see that the weight of this world and our society impose itself on the both of you and that worries me.  Obviously this is more so with Shifrah due to your school, your homework and also because you are an elder sister who is expected to grow up just a little quicker than you would have liked.

Before you know it, you would be caught into what we fondly call the 'rat race', despite our words to the contrary you will feel that the world at large (and even us your parents) measure you by the marks that you score or the rank that you get in class.  You will be taught that success in life depends on those very numbers or worse yet, as young ladies, the men you marry.  You will be encouraged to do creative things as long as they are socially acceptable like painting or singing or playing a musical instrument but those too will subject you to a rigorous regime.

With my experience of the both of you, you will rebel at most of these things and then accept, some if not all of these social do's and don'ts, eventually.  We all do.  I honestly do not know if these rules are right or wrong.  I do not know if a strict school or college brings out the best in people or stifles creative minds neither do I know if our social rules, especially the ones concerning young women, protect them or enslave them. What I do know is this, that there is but one life to live and I urge you my darlings to live it to it's fullest.

When I say that it does not mean that you break all the rules and live a life that you generally see in the movies but to live it like you have extracted the best of each day.  Most people I see around me are consumed by some quest or some need, it may be for work, money, fine things, popularity, a fitter body etc.  This quest is ever consuming yet unattainable. I have yet to meet a business man who says I have all the money he needs or movie star who says he/she has reached his/her pinnacle and is done with all the fame.  We move around like zombies, with only this quest in our minds, yet we don't realize the gifts of the world that surround us!

I read somewhere that if life was like a glass jar and the most important things in life family, friends, good deeds were pebbles and the less important things like work, money, fame etc were sand, you need to fill your life with the most important things first, i.e. the pebbles before you find space for the less important things i.e. sand.  If you fill the jar with the sand, there will be no space for the pebbles.

Even at the most important times, things like marks or ranks are teeny tiny grains of sand.  Yet many of us make that mistake of filling our lives with them.  The highest of marks, the best of colleges and the most sought after jobs (or husbands for that matter!) do not guarantee happiness.  Happiness is not something that you get from anything outside yourself, it is within.  There are a few exceptions to this though and mine are when Annika calls me 'Appa' or when Shifrah tells me 'I love you', I can barely contain the tears of joy.

If you have to be consumed by something, let it be that realization that you are given the gift of life, a gift that can only be realized by the sharing of it with others.  Being a part of a society does not just mean following it's rules but also being an active contributor to it and lending a hand to those who need help through thoughts, words and deeds.

Ever since Pattimma's passing away last year due to cancer, I have begun to realise one thing that all that we have in life, our possessions, our talent even our family have been given to us for a reason.  We are not owners of anything but are trustees.  It is for us to maintain them well and to use them in which ever way God intended us to use them. Hence hoarding or being foolish with them only goes against what we should be doing.

Another thing that will happen as you grow is that there will be a lot of guilt thrown at you because none of us can do things the way all of us think we should be doing.  In this, if there was one voice that you should hear and hear clearly, is that of your own conscience.  Realize this that all of us (even the ones that have forgotten their childhood)  some point in time have gone through the same issues and felt the same way too.  I used to think that my parents were very studious in their formative years and they have never had the issues that I faced in school and college. Only later did I realize that Thatha had almost done all the same things that I had done and gotten into trouble in the same ways too.  By the way, one of your great grand mothers had been known to jump the odd college wall to bunk classes by the way.   One of you parents has done this too.  I'm not advising you to follow their footsteps but in case you do, you sadly will not be the first in the family.   When you are both done with college, let us do swap stories of all the things that we have done, till then this is all you get!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


It is said that everyday you learn something new, I don't know if it's true but what I learnt today blew my mind away! Invisible Nail Polish! Yes, you read that right, there is such a thing! It makes your unpolished nails look like, well, unpolished nails.

This is extra special! I mean the male equivalent of this would be drinking tap water and calling it an extra mild beer! I know talking about something like this could end up sounding very sexist but trust me ladies I never written a word about the electrodes during a facial or logic of stilettos, hell I have even bravely ignored waxing and phenomenal underarm products but this, is SPECIAL!

Nail polish isn't a big deal really, some form of cellulose and a solvent is all it takes but the kicker is the colour, that elevates the very basic (and dirt cheap ingredients) into something women pay a lot of money for.  If you take that element of colour away from the whole thing then it's basically worthless, UNLESS you can put it in an extra small bottle and price it something obscene then apparently people will buy it.  A M A Z I N G!

I've truly wondered if there ever was a 'widget' (in it's true meaning) sold and boy now I know it's been right in my medicine cabinet! I'm hoping to start a line of invisible mascara...wait... don't tell me there is such a thing too!