Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Knowledge and education

I made a presentation to some students of a top-25-Indian B-school last weekend. The whole experience was rather interesting for me. It was also an achievement, from many angles.

I, a non-MBA graduate, stood confidently on a podium and spoke to a group of people, many of whom were older than me. I would NEVER have imagined it a few years ago (Then again, I would never have imagined a few years ago that I’d be doing a lot of things that I am now!!), but it happened.

I was swamped with work the week prior to it and somehow managed to put together a pretty comprehensive presentation. These days, my mind doesn’t stop working even in then nights. So the night before the presentation I went to sleep thinking about the presentation and in the morning it sort of felt like I’d been working through the night and therefore had everything ready. It was quite a surreal experience. I wasn’t even tired, strangely (considering I am usually happiest when I snuggle into bed and seriously need my 8-hour allotment of sleep).

What lesson did I learn? Most importantly – don’t under-estimate yourself. There is no limit to the things you can do if you really apply your mind to it. And lesson number two: qualifications and degrees are not a measure of your ability. They might be a measure of the extent of your education but that’s it (which, by the way, is not to be confused with the extent of your knowledge). So don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I made that mistake a few years ago, but now I know – life let me into the secret!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Time flies when you're having...fun?

Time flies when you’re having fun. Even if that fun is work, and ‘fun’ is not fun in the typical sense of the term, but more fun in the sense of you know you’re learning new things and can actually sense the change in your thinking because of it.

Work has been crazy hectic but – fun. Apparently one of my career development needs is to heighten my self-awareness and sometimes I feel like a spy keeping a watch on myself, but it really is good to go through it. Always scope for improvement, you know. No one is perfect and the rest of that jazz. (Speaking of which, my mind wanders to Aamir Khan’s slick ‘It’s difficult to improve perfection’ line in Dil Chahta Hai but I’m not so – erm – modest!).

My cousin got engaged in the middle of my long work days and weekend (and weekday) travels out of town and I had to take a day off for it. My boss asked me whether it was going to be a ‘shotgun’ wedding. For the ignorant, like I was when I first heard the term, go take a look here. It’s a Japanese site, but there are a lot of weirdly interesting slang phrases in there. And for the record, no, it’s not going to be a shotgun wedding – the very idea!!!!! Orthodox Keralite families living in India will balk at the mere mention of it!

OK- I’m off to watch Nach Baliye on Star One now. It’s a very absorbing show – a dance contest between married TV-star couples. One attraction for me, of course, is the dance aspect, and the second is watching all these known faces sweat it out for prize money of Rs. 50 lakhs. Some of the choreographers, (the winning couple’s choreographer stands to win Rs. 20 lakhs by the way) come up with outstanding stuff. (And I say this having had the experience of choreographing a dance for some college girls a few years ago). I must say that the top few couples are a joy to watch.

Later, then.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

And at the stroke of midnight.....

It is my housemate’s birthday today and my 2 other housemates and I celebrated it at the stroke of midnight by giving her a strawberry cheesecake, a chocolate tart and loads of gifts. Her face was a sight to see when she emerged from her bedroom into the darkened kitchen which had candles all around. At the end if it all, she said she ‘really did feel blessed’.

Penny Lane wrote a wonderful post laying out all her gifts and everything some time ago (lucky Penny!) and all I could think yesterday was how loved a person must feel when they suddenly have all these calls and gifts and people coming round to see them. People whom you haven’t been in touch with for years, gifts you’ve wanted for ages but never did buy because your budget didn’t allow you to. That really is what a birthday should be about – feeling loved and blessed, no matter how old you are. I’m not saying that a birthday should be about the material things only – but no one can deny that when you play a part in making someone’s day so much brighter, then you feel so much happier yourself.

And the effort that went in yesterday for some of her cards and gifts was amazing. Handwritten notes attached to every little thing in coloured gel pens, little artifacts with multiple wrappers (leading to the build-up of excitement, of course – what’s a birthday without some curiosity?!), ‘happy’ flowers (they really do look happy, even at 12 midnight), and the yummiest desserts ever (who needs a man when you have these heavenly goodies?!!). It struck me as I watched her unwrapping her gifts that there aren’t too many people nowadays who actually have the patience or time to wrap and wrap and wrap, and write meaningful things in hand-made cards. And no matter what you do, nothing can replace the magic that comes with gifts that have a personal touch. I mean, I’d love an iPod or MP3 player or whatever (of course I would!), but 10 years later when the things have outlived their usefulness, it’s those cards that will warm my heart. It’s those little gifts that will make me feel loved and blessed. And that’s more important really.

That’s what should be important for everyone, don’t you think?

Monday, November 07, 2005

The end of a love affair

Yesterday my love affair with a city ended. I was ready to leave, sitting at the airport, but felt no particular sense of loss.

The rain was pouring down in sheets from a chalk-grey sky…I’ve always loved the monsoon in India. There is something mind-numbingly beautiful about it, especially when there is some greenery around. An urban monsoon is so different from a rural one, but they both touch a chord in me. Riding in that most useful of Indian vehicles, an auto-rickshaw, I silently watched the city speed by noisily on my way to the airport, even as the water on the roads threatened to touch my feet.

But enough digressing. The love that I have for that city has been passive always. How can love be passive, you ask? Well, it can. It can, because I used to love the city not for itself or even the people I met because of it, but because of a few memories I always associated with it. Those memories, I realized, are not particularly precious to me anymore. The memories weren’t always even happy. It only struck me as I sat quietly in that auto.

I wasn’t sad I was leaving anymore. Usually when I leave any city, there is a touch of nostalgia, or sadness. That’s normal, isn’t it, especially if you’ve spent years of your life there? But yesterday I didn’t feel any. The loss I felt was the momentary loss of those memories – but I chose to let them go. Because I figured that if a city’s memories don’t make you happy, if you are never quite comfortable there, as if waiting constantly at the door for someone to pick you up, then you must do the only sensible thing. Let go.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Making friends in the blogosphere

I’d like to debate the ifs and buts of knowing people through their blogs. There are quite a few people who blog that I’ve been able to figure out the identity of. Some of them are actually friends I’ve known at some point in my past, others acquaintances that I’ve known briefly, and many others friends of friends (of friends – and so on). Of course the bulk, given that there are one billion people in India, about ten percent of whom blog, are people I don’t know. (And I don’t really know that many people – is that a good thing or a bad thing?!) So what are the odds of meeting interesting, like-minded people through the blogosphere?

Pretty high. For one, I am able to know people that I otherwise would not have time to know, given people’s work schedules and my own. I am not restricted by any one else’s opinions, nor anyone else’s recommendations. I choose whose blogs to read based on my interest. I am not even restricted by geography. And that means that the people I get to know, I will 95% of the time hit it off with.

My boyfriend was rather worried the other day when I met a fellow blogger - protective soul that he is (which, by the way, I love him for, among other things). But I am happy to say that I genuinely enjoyed the meeting – there were a lot of common topics to discuss – and we even discovered that we knew a couple of people in common! This has reinforced my opinion that bloggers, at least those whom I seem to connect with, given that the average blogger spends quite a few minutes of his or her precious time writing about their experiences or beliefs or views, can potentially be some of the best people I have ever known.

And I hope I am never given cause to think otherwise!

Barista vs. Coffee Day

I was at Café Coffee Day the other day, and it was absolutely full. I was talking to a friend, having a rather interesting conversation about Indian corporates and business politics. My friend had a cup of coffee, as I sat listening to him. In fifteen minutes, his coffee cup was empty. Two minutes later, a person who appeared to be the manager of the establishment came and requested us to leave as there were ‘other customers waiting’. I won’t use the word ‘politely’ because the action itself was rude, arising purely out of the desire for profit. We walked out, not seeing the point in creating a fuss.

Such an incident has never happened to me at Barista, which is their direct competition here in India. In Starbucks, when I was in Europe, people would sit and read for hours, or just sit around and chat for hours. (Remember Central Perk in ‘Friends’? I don’t think the gang always had something to eat or drink when they visited their favourite hangout). In short, the whole IDEA of a café, in my opinion, is to create an atmosphere of comfort. It’s supposed to be a place where people can just go to be themselves, with or without company. And by asking us to leave, the Coffee Day people not only made me decide I would never patronize them again, it reinforced the thought I’ve always had in my head that the measure of success of an institution depends on how you treat your customers, not on how much money you make. Because money will come and go, but if the customers who give you your business don’t like what you have to offer or the way you offer it to them, they can pack their bags and go elsewhere.

And Coffee Day should realise that.

Happy Birthday to the Best Sister In the World!

So I am at work on a day which falls in the middle of a week that celebrates both Diwali and Id (Eid??) and therefore has three out of five working days as holidays. Which, in effect, means that there are not very many people at work and I can afford to sit and type this without feeling guilty (HA!).

A couple of weeks ago was my one and only sister’s birthday (yeah I know, a couple of weeks is late but better late than never, I say) and I want to wish her a very happy, if belated, birthday. I have tons of very strange names for her that I’m sure she thinks are really silly, but she answers to them anyway. Its quite funny, isn’t it – sometimes you really hate a particular moniker but after listening to it time and again by all and sundry, you actually answer to it whether you like it or not!

I remember when we were younger, we used to fight like cats and dogs. Usually, I used to wind up bawling even though I was the older one (Yes, ok, it really is true!). As we grew older, I remember chasing her around tables and chairs to give her a whack whenever we fought. Which, by the time I caught her, I never gave because I didn’t feel I could. Then as we progressed to being teenagers, I resorted to glaring at her when I was pissed with her. By then, she’d figured me out and used to grin and run away. Today, on the rare occasions that I do lose my temper, I just look very hurt. THAT, by the way, does the trick because 8 times out of 10 she feels remorse!

But S is the best sister one could have. She has grown into a very responsible, very sensitive child – she always will be a child to me, even though I suppose, technically she is a young woman now. The age gap between us is just about two years, and these days when I meet her, I feel like I am the younger one. She’s become more sedate, more serious. Still fun-loving though – and she always has tons of friends around! I know that I can tell her anything and she would understand.

I’ve told this to tons of my friends – and when I speak of my little sister, its one of the things that strikes me most. I don’t want her to grow up too soon. I don’t want her to lose her innocence – I don’t want any child to lose theirs but with her I am extra-protective.

But I can’t stop time. Everyone grows up. Everyone realizes that it wasn’t really Father Christmas who kept those gifts under the Christmas tree, nor was it the Tooth Fairy who slipped that shiny coin under their pillow.

As she grows one year older, I want to say Thank You for being the bestest sister in the world. We should spend more time together and I hope, even as the years go by, we always do. Happy Birthday Pipsqueak!