Sunday, October 14, 2012

Those small little things in life…

I remember a lecture on luxury in my PG course and the teacher asking us ‘what would be a luxury for Bill Gates?’ My answer was ‘6 hours of uninterrupted sleep’. The answer made sense to me then. But I did not know the gravity of it till now, when I felt myself sleep-deprived due to lot of work and stress.
Having been in the work grind for last so many months, including weekends, sleep was just one of the many things I missed. And now when I sit and think about it all, I realize that it were not too big or flashy things that I missed. Rather it were those small little things in life which we often take for granted and just when you have gotten busy in life’s rigmarole, they are the ones that you start missing, valuing and treating them as luxury.
Here were my precious littles that I missed dearly and after some grueling days, they are my luxuries to indulge in:
  • Random chit-chatting with the whole family. I won’t be wrong if I say that I mostly saw my sister on weekends only due to my erratic work hours lately
  • Weekend breakfast with family, whatever be the menu. But a cold coffee is a must.
  • Leisurely reading of Sunday newspaper
  • Dozing off on Saturday afternoon after a hefty lunch
  • Mandatory Sunday lunch of Rajma-chawal (with Raita, sometimes.)
  • Watching back-to-back episodes of sitcoms on Star World
  • Reading a nice book
  • Cold coffee in the evening also, with Britannia cakes (Butter flavor)
  • Staying up late on Saturday night with laptop on, reading some blogs and writing my stuff
  • Our family day outs, which would include lunch at mote papa’s favorite Bikanervala, shopping at Big Bazaar with all four of us. Oh, how much I missed it!!
 So, ya nothing big but isn’t that small little things make up the memories and life??  Generally in the muddle, we tend to overlook just how much these small things are a part of our lives and when we don’t have them anymore, we realize their otherwise invisible presence.
Leaving you and myself with this beautiful thought: 
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rain, waffles, cappuccino and turning a year older!

Birthday 2012 had some high points that no birthday of mine so far could match. So here goes:
  • Have never been alone ringing in the birthday, but I was on the way back home in office cab. Calls and texts gave me company all through!
  • Stopped the cab to treat myself to an ice-cream sundae at 12:15 in the night in CP!
  • It rained all day today!! Yes, I was carrying the umbrella all the time and it felt like Mumbai monsoon. Beautiful
  • Met up with a very dear friend who is like a soul mate at the diner and when we were coming out, felt like we stepped out of a New York café like the girls in Sex and the City! ;)
  • Sipped a Cosmopolitan for the first time. Have always been a LIT and Sex on the beach person
  • Managed to take a leave from office, but dint get a break from the calls. Only sore-point of the day
  • The day started with a hearty Punjabi Dilli-wala type breakfast- Puri chhole…and ended with Dal Makhni and Dum Aloo. Food is one of the biggest motivations in my life, I tell you!
  • Birthday wishes coming in from some really unexpected quarters…friends, ex-colleagues, family…all good
  • A beautiful evening it was, all complete with rains…and I was in CP. It was beyond words
  • This one is the best of all. Two of my closest friends told me that ‘I give them hope.’ I am humbled

All day I was thinking of myself as a mature 31 years old and when I came back home, cake was waiting to be cut. And I was a kid again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A free and independent India, literally.

We are very lucky to have got independence for which our countrymen had to fight hard with all they had got. 65 years it has been for us as an independent nation. 65 years to be on our own, to form a constitution, set up the judiciary, start reforms, roll out infrastructure projects, bolster the agriculture sector, make way for industries to emerge, open up the economy to the world, get the tech edge and ring in the new millennium with a satisfaction of achieving a lot and hopes to become a developed nation from being a developing one.
Given the size and scale of a country like ours, it is truly a proud moment for us to be where we are currently. We as a nation have really come a long way since then. India is a hot-bed for investors from around the world; we are one of the fastest growing countries and ofcourse, the largest economy in the world.
The task, however, is not done. The freedom that we got from the British in 1947 was the beginning. It never was meant to be the end. Infact, with freedom come responsibilities to start afresh, build an entire nation and give its people the much-needed security. The independence and freedom of 1947 is celebrated in 2012, good. But have we asked ourselves, given the current state of affairs, are we really free?  We forget that this day and age comes with different set of challenges and problems. We forget that even after 65 years, some basics have still not been met. We are moving in those directions, but not at a speed that is expected of a country like ours.
The issues we must do something about are fundamentals and agreed, some are even my wishful thinking, a bit like an egalitarian society. But then, what the heck! Atleast we can all make a start towards these. When education, food and employment reach everyone, there is less or no reason for people to resort to unfair means. I truly believe, the day we become independent and freed ourselves from the shackles of most of these issues, will be the day the efforts of Gandhi and Bhagat Singh will bear true fruits. Also, there are issues where the government needs to take charge and there are issues where we as citizens of India should step in the ring, instead of pass comments sitting on the fence.
  • Education – Yes, it is a right of every child born in this country to get education. Primary, secondary, university and vocational education should be made available to all. Education reforms a person and a sound education ensures livelihood for everyone. We need schools, colleges to reach interiors of the country. Teachers from big cities must make a mandatory visit to the rural units, training must be given to the teachers in villages, education loans must be easily available to the deserving and help from aanganwadis, panchayats etc must be taken to reach every nook and corner of the village so that no child remains without education. At our level, we all can volunteer at the organizations and NGOs which are devoted to such causes. We can always do so over the weekends or may be taking an hour every day. Easy, right?
  • Medical facilities – It really breaks my heart to read news about a woman dying during child-birth or a child passing away due to malnutrition. Even after 65 years, our medical infrastructure is poor. When we cannot save lives caused due to dysentery or a viral infection, we need to do a reality check. Why can’t the government ensure primary health facilities in every village and specialty hospitals at zonal or district level? Why can’t the big corporates in health sphere like Fortis, Apollo and Max set up health care centers and assign their doctors on routine rural visits? Why can’t there be an agreement between corporations and government to divide the work, like one will give the capital and land and other will provide the resources (PPP is there, but is it working?)? Why can’t the corporations divide the areas and zones amongst themselves and cater to their assigned areas, thereby making it is easier to cover a larger part of untapped India?  Huge hospital bills and doctors fees scare everyone. We all must have a right to basic healthcare. Irrespective of caste, creed, color, gender and definitely bank balance.
  • Caste – If we still fight over being Hindu or Muslim; Shia or Sunni; Brahmin or Shudra; general or SC/ST, no power in the world can make us super-power. The shackles of caste are hard to break but once we all start seeing each other as a fellow Indian and not a Sikh or Catholic, we will grow as one nation. Education, jobs, politics, everything is covered with caste system. Only merit must count at every stage. You know why? Coz every religion says you will get what you deserve if you just work hard.
  • Women rights – Enough is already been said about this issue. Female foeticide, physical assault, rape, domestic violence, dowry deaths. Why do the women have to bear all this? Are they not the equal citizen of this country? Do they not have the right to live with dignity? Why is the justice being denied in almost all the cases? The judiciary must set a precedent by bringing the culprits to books. There must be stringent punishment for all the crimes against women, so the person thinks hard of the consequences before doing anything. The country needs to be safe to all.
  • Politics – Agreed we are a democracy. The opposition party has the right to question the government whenever it goes wrong. But, where are the ethics? The politicians have maligned the profession so much that every time someone says he wants to take up politics, people warn him off by saying it is too dirty for aam aadmi.
We may be battling huge fiscal deficit, but the crores and crores that the ministers made from the scams are filling their bank lockers. So, definitely we are not cash-strapped. We just need decent people to manage and run the country. Some of them are there but largely, there is a vacuum. Did they not rob the country and made money in these 65 years? Can they now please think about us, who religiously contribute to the government coffers through taxes every year? Since we also have put in our money in this country’s development, will we have some say as a stakeholder?
Politicians, please stop taking each other’s case on trivial issues like Abhishek Manu Singhvi ‘s CD, Valentine’s Day celebrations in a city club or should the girls wear jeans to college. The country wants you to debate, argue and discuss the dropping investors’ confidence in India, the education policy or for that matter, the Lokpal bill!  
As I said, most of the issues are basics and the last one is wishful thinking! But not all are impractical. We as a country need them all. And the time is now!
So even when we post ‘Happy Independence Day’ message on social networking websites or fly kites on ‘national holiday’, we must know that the day we overcome these basic yet critical issues, India shall be free. Literally!
Do you agree with me? Do share your feedback.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Reasons why I love Connaught Place.

On Friday, when monsoon finally hit Delhi, many friends posted pictures of rain from some part of the city or the other. Then I saw one of CP. It just melted my heart. I wanted to be there that very moment.

And then I dug into some old pictures and found this:

I had clicked this from my office in CP one rainy evening in 2010.

Looking at the picture made me realize how much I love this place. If I ever move to some other city, CP is the only place I am going to miss. Infact, I tend to miss it if I haven’t been there in more than 2 weeks. Hence, you can almost always (which means, every Saturday) find me wandering and exploring the place like I am visiting it for the first time.    

So, here are some of my reasons of loving CP and loving it passionately (in no particular order):

  • The feel of the place. Trust me, there is something really nice, warm and welcoming about CP. It just draws you in. To me, it’s the place I head to when I need a break from everything and everyone around. There are no pretentions, no façade. 
  • Very cosmopolitan yet desi. Where else can you spot a bunch of suave and well-travelled executives enjoying a meal at United Coffee House, a middle-class family stepping out of the Mc Donald’s with balloons and happy meal toys in their hands and a foreigner couple holding a Lonely Planet in their hands and trying to explain their destination to the auto-wallah? 
  • CP is just so unbiased. It treats everyone with the same affection. It doesn’t color you on the basis of how you are dressed or if you own a car. You can just slip into your pyjamas, board the metro, get down at Rajiv Chowk and get merged in the mélange of people. No one cares.* And you don’t have to have a wallet full of cash or cards to have a good time here (more on this in another pointer). Like in an up-market mall, trust me, people with not too much of disposable income can be a little dazed by the sheer number of brands, richness of everything around them. I also feel out of place and out of sync whenever I am inside the Citywalk. I don’t belong there. It just makes me do a lot of reality check and I don’t want to spend my Saturday doing that!
(*This point takes the lechers and eve teasers as given to stare at you, no matter if you are in pj’s or churidar-kurta. They are all over Delhi.)  
  • Accessibility. Take the metro from whichever part of the city you are in and it drops you right in the middle of CP. You don’t have to take any other mode of transport for the last mile like you have to, if you are going to some of the malls. I really feel, metro makes it even more awesome.
  • As I earlier mentioned, you really don’t have to be super loaded with money to enjoy a day in CP. Or for that matter, you don’t have to necessarily have a company to have a decent time. Travel in metro, momos at Janpath, Depaul’s cold coffee, look at the world go by – observe the junta @ Central Park. Very little cash spent and some nice moments to take back home.
  • The old-world charm. Yes, there is one or the other construction/renovation/development digging up going on at any given point, but you will always find its true fans in the lanes, roaming. 
  • Wenger’s, Jain Book Agency, Keventers, Coffee House, Janpath market, Kake da hotel, ice cream carts lined up across the circle, pavements full of people selling books, artificial jewelry, shops selling rajma chawal at Shanker Market…classics.
  • Wenger’s Deli, Blues, CCD Lounge @ Janpath, Dunkin’ Donuts, PVR Plaza, PVR Rivoli, Central Park…newbies and can’t be missed.
  • The landscape. You must stand in the middle of the Central Park and look around. Gopal Das Bhawan, Statesman House, Antriksh Bhawan, LIC building, Regal, The Lalit (a little distant though)…see it to believe me.
  • Go on a Saturday evening and/or New Year’s Eve. It’s full of life.
  • Best of all, walk by and with yourself. For if you don’t take a random round of the circles, inner definitely and outer sometimes, you cannot experience CP. It’s the walk, I tell you! 
You need more reason to believe me? Why don’t you give me one of yours? Would be great to know what makes it your favourite place. Or, if you don’t agree with me, then tell me which place can better that in Delhi.    

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Be good to your women, India.

It is not a good start to the day when you open the newspaper and read one more story of a woman being molested, assaulted or raped in one part of the country or the other. 

We are known to worship the female God, Durga and Kali. We are the land of Sarojini Naidu, Kasturba Gandhi, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Rani Lakshmi Bai, female freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for this country. Ours is a land that Dr. Annie Besant and Mother Teresa, two women who left their native countries, came to call home. We are a country which has woman as its first citizen, as chief minister in 3 states and a woman who heads the largest party in power at Center. Then, one really wonders as to whether all the idol-worshiping, the pride in legacy or power-play at the top, are just a sham or plain hypocrisy.

Since when did we become so cruel, cold to such acts? I feel livid and helpless everytime I read about Aruna Shanbaug’s story. What was her fault? She was a nurse, who was meant to nurture sick back to life. The lady is as alive or dead as a vegetable. The guy who did it is out, living his life, amongst all of us. My anger knows no bounds when I read about teenage boys accused of rape being sent to ‘juvenile homes’. When those guys know what they were doing, what do we need to shield their childhood from? 

And as if the trauma the victim is going through wasn’t enough, we have the self-appointed advocates of morality passing judgment on the character of the victim. One such horrifying sting operation done last week showed the cops in Delhi accusing women for inviting such acts on themselves through provocative dressing, visiting pubs etc. Can these people then justify the incidents that happen in the remotest corner of the country on a month-old baby girl or on an octogenarian in a bustling city? No. There are no prototypes. The cops, the judiciary and the system in general, should stop looking for ways to cover up or washing their hands off these cases.

In the badly structured laws and rules in our country, the accused have almost always been let off. In many cases, they don’t even get arrested as they know someone, who ultimately knows someone. Worst, in a few cases, the accused himself is someone, who never gets booked under any law in this country. And guess what? The victim, if she has survived, is made to retract her statements or marry her rapist (to absolve all the charges ultimately) or given death threats. That is why, no case in this country can ever see light of the day. 

When there is always a debate of abolishing capital punishment, I strongly feel rape cases should be made an exception. I would be very honest when I make this confession. As a woman, I was very satisfied and happy when in 2004, after a prolonged debate, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged for the rape and murder of Hetal Parekh in Kolkata in 1990. That was very delayed but that was justice. Forgiveness and pardon etc are all good words but no religion sides with such shameful deeds and the accused under any circumstances. Atleast in this case, capital punishment is all justified. 

Expediting such cases and delivering justice in the shortest possible time are the way to set a precedent that nobody can get away after such a crime. Hang to death or a life-term, but deliver the hardest possible punishment. The aim is to let that person know, he can’t get away by snatching life from a fellow citizen, who has the equal right on this land. The justice that gives the victim a right and hope to get on with her life again is the real justice. We must have NGOs and other social bodies working on these cases making sure that these cases are solved and justice delivered pronto.

While the system takes its time to over-haul itself, we all can start from our own lives and make that small change. The discrimination shown at home between a girl and a boy, goes deep into the sub-conscious of the kids and growing up they treat women as someone who is weak. When we are worshiping the Durga every morning in our homes, we can’t let our kids think the females are weak. We must teach them to respect women. Starting with the generation that is growing up now is the easiest as they are young and will imbibe what is taught to them.

This is what American president Barack Obama said:

The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women. If it's educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if women are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they're going to fall behind.

So apt.

Friday, January 20, 2012

One torrid affair it was…

Some journeys are meant to be taken. Some relationships are meant to be formed. Some moments have to be experienced. All that, to make you what you are.

My affair with advertising, which started as a hesitant and a shaky first step and took its own sweet time to evolve, is what I am talking about. The journey began on December 20, 2010 with Bates 141. Looking at an advertising agency from the outside was always one of glamour and fun. Fun it sure was. But not without its share of work, toil, tears and madness!

Yes, in this period of 13 months precisely, there never was a dull moment. Either I was busy with work or I was busy pakaofying some friends or shedding tears when a friend was quitting or looking at my PC perplexed wondering what I am doing to my life. Whatever it was, there were many hysterical moments. I got to know what an advertising agency was from the inside. The work, the people, the feel et al.

Sitting in meetings with some idea to crack and doing everything but that, uttering cuss words with an ease, working late-nights, desperately running for the printouts before a crucial meeting and then finding the printer out of order, moments that brought me to tears because of sheer pressure or emotional outburst and being a witness to some smart work. There was no dearth of fireworks! 

I can however very safely say that I lived through this madness with the most amazing set of people I met in this place. Right from the security guy at the gate, to the canteen chaps, really supportive people in the studio, very helpful finance guys, the fun people in the creative, the always in the hurry account management people, the support staff and ofcourse, the bosses. Everyone. Each one of them was there when I needed their help. Or any help. I have made some real good friends here and this place has given me some really good moments to look back and smile. 

As I prepare myself for the new workplace, I shall forever look at Bates as the starting field which taught me whatever I know of in advertising, on handling people and having a little fun while you work. My boss, while saying goodbye, told me, ‘Don’t forget to have fun at work. That is very important.’ Bates gave me friends and relationships that I will cherish for a long time. And yes, the farewell, a cup of steaming hot filter coffee at Udupi. 

And for the first time in my life, when I am taking this turn, I am sure of the direction I am headed to. I have just started the journey and I may not know the destination yet but I am going to learn each day. And live each day.

Ending this with a quote I read somewhere:

The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.