Thursday, October 22, 2015

Happy Dassehra! Why is it the Internet of a Festival?

If you’ve been with me the past few days as I went round the blog floor in nine nights of dancing and corresponding colours, thanks for making it to the final culminating day.
The nine nights end with Dassehra – the final 10th day – again celebrated differently in different parts of India.
In a nutshell however the day represents triumph of good over evil, the victorious and the vanquished.

But for me the past nine days and the nine colours have given rise to more questions than answers and would love all of you to try and answer as many as you can down below in the comments section of the blog.

Question 1.
My friend RP happily suggested that these colours always existed and there is also a specific logic behind the symbolism of the colours for each day. I buy that logic 100%. The symbolism of colour in the Indian social and religious scenario is huge. But what beats me is something else – why are the colours different for different years?
Here are the examples:

Who did this? The Internet? The Gods? The Goddesses?

Question 2
While the Goddess worshipped on each day wears a colour that represents what She stands for, why do devotees wear another colour on that day?

Question 3 (and this one is simple!)

Did you follow the colours all 9 days? If yes, post your pics with the day and colour and we'll make a festival of it!

Question 4
I know this festival has always been celebrated with aplomb. But why do I feel this celebration has gone up several notches now? Is the net making it bigger than what it is? Are the colours a new phenomenon? 
Let's keep this conversation going. It's about 20 days to Diwali now! Stay blessed.

Have you been following the Navratri posts? Here they all are...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Internet of a Festival - The sky is the limit

It’s the ninth day of the fabulous Navratris, Nine nights of dancing. 
Nine nights of worshipping the Goddesses that represent power, wealth and wisdom. 
Really if you have these three, the world is at your feet and what you can do with it is up to you.

The sky is your limit now and significantly today the colour is sky blue.

In India, in Hindi, the word would be Aasmani – literally translated – that of the sky.
I know sky blue is a particular light blue but empowered with Shakti (Power), and the wealth of wisdom, today on the ninth day I wish to think more of the sky than just the blue.

Today you are empowered with not only calming effect of blue. But also the metaphor of the sky. Truly where you are concerned the sky is the limit as to what you can do.

Look at the sky, sometimes it’s clear, sometimes cloudy, sometimes blue, sometimes grey. Always changing. Always a pleasure to look at. Always creating that sense of space and calm, that sense that one can just reach out and touch it and yet it remains an aspirational goal one wants to strive towards. 

Today is your day to stretch, stretch your limits for the rest of the year… stretch them till you can touch the sky.

You’re blessed. Go do it.

Have you been following the Navratri posts? Here they all are...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Internet of a Festival. Go pink. Because you rule!

Remember the day you wore a pink dress and felt wonderful? 
Felt supremely confident yet compassionate? 
And felt like you could...well.. rule the world? 
Wasn't it the loveliest of pinks?
Weren't you quite the royalty?

Get this right, all you wonderful people. This is India. When we say pink we do not by any chance or quirk of fate mean baby pink or salmon pink. We mean Rani Pink.

Let me explain. The word Rani means Queen in Hindi and Rani Pink is the bright fuchsia pink that was a part of the wardrobe of the Queens of yore. 

And what better a colour to adorn yourself with, than that gorgeous richness of a jewel tone that encompasses the softness of a rose with the fire of a ruby.

This is Rani Pink, the queen of all pinks. The pink of the abundant bougainvillea, the pink of the cherry blossoms, the pink of the bridal outfit.

It’s the colour of hope and healing, a colour that tones down the fire of red but still imbues you with the assertiveness and maturity of a more responsible and nurturing love.
And most importantly, it’s the colour adorning the most beautiful of queens.

So get into the pink of things today.
Because you definitely rule.
Today is the eighth day.

Tomorrow, the colour is sky blue.
Stay blessed.

Missed earlier posts on this festival? Get them here - 

The Purity of White

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Internet of a Festival - The Purity of White

I love wearing whites and have a whole lot of whites in my wardrobe. But it’s important to know that while white is used for finer occasions, in India white has a somewhat serious meaning.

First, white technically is the absence of colour. And it takes on sombre tones in the Indian context.

In older more traditional times it was the only colour widows were allowed to wear. The reasoning behind that was that it helped her disconnect from the pleasures and luxuries of active and normal participation in society and life around her. Today it is the acceptable color at funerals and ceremonies that mark death in the family. 

But white also stands for peace and purity. Like the pristine lotus that grows beautifully in the murkiest of waters. In principle; white, as a color, repels all light and colors. And it repels evil. And today is the day when the Goddess protects her devotees from all evil. 

So today dress up in your whitest whites. And stay blessed.

Missed earlier posts on this festival? Get them here - 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Internet of a Festival - The Flames of Orange

The colour saga continues. It’s Day 6 of the Nine Nights of Dancing, Navratri.

Today’s colour is orange. And if you’ve not read the earlier posts on The Colours of Navratri, the links are below.

While orange is everything bright and beautiful that India and Indians stand for what’s really worth talking about is the symbolism of orange.

Most people know that orange has immense religious significance because most of the monks wear orange but most also don’t know why they wear orange.

Orange or Saffron, actually represents the colour of Agni or fire. And fire is sacred because it burns away all the impurities, dispels darkness and gets rid of ignorance. There couldn't be a better representation of purity than with the colour orange. Orange flags, sometimes triangular, sometime forked, atop the perch of Hindu temples, are representative of this. The flames of orange.

In all its representations, the colour orange comes out as the shining symbol of the search for light, the light itself, the quest for knowledge and wisdom.

Besides it’s the colour of the setting sun, ripe tangerines, autumn leaves, the evening sky, and of the ubiquitous flower of worship in India – the thickset marigold. Get all of this in one colour – orange.

So brighten up today. What better colour to wear, no matter what it means to you. It’s bound to bring with it joy and vibrance and the shining light of knowledge.

And remember, Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge is watching. Stay blessed.

Missed earlier posts on this festival? Get them here - 

The Internet of a Festival - A Grey Day?

In continuation with my earlier post, (here's the link The Internet of a Festival) today’s colour is grey. I, religiously (pun intended, and how) wore a grey T-shirt today. 

Personally I don’t like grey as a colour. It doesn't do much for me (and I don’t mean on my hair!) It makes me feel low and dull. It’s fine where it belongs as a neutral shade to let other colours stand out. Else, it is exactly where it stands in the world of literature where grey days and grey evenings, grey landscapes and grey areas are nothing short of energy-sapping.

But today’s colour was grey so grey I wore. 

I thought ( a bit rudely perhaps) whether women around will be in Fifty Shades of Grey but my Inner Goddess quickly rapped me on my knuckles and I came back to focusing on other things.

The plan for today (being a Saturday) was to have a little excursion with two friends to a fashion designer’s studio. Yes. It’s a name that has caused many a ripple in sartorial circles. Salim Asgarally is doing fashion divas and the remaining goddesses on this side of the planet a favour – with a silver sale commemorating 25 years of his contribution to the sparkling world of high fashion.

So I went to his studio with two friends DO and SG. DO had been invited to his studio and since it was in the area where I live we had decided to go together.

For those who know Salim Asgarally, I don’t need to say the work was great. What I did love and appreciate about this work was the kind of style and elegance that I could resonate with and the classic wearability of the stuff. Many a times I have walked into a fashion studio and walked out empty-handed and with an empty feeling like I don’t belong to this world.

But this was different. And as we ooh-ed and aah-ed over the beautiful whites, the lace and cutwork pieces and the surprising yet elegant combinations of colour, style and form, I chanced upon something I liked.

A simple, elegant grey saree blouse. Just what I needed for a saree I had. I picked it up put it aside and went on to pick up many other stuff. Much trials (and tribulations) later… trying on various stuff of (sometimes) smaller sizes, I tried the grey blouse. Salim had graciously said he’d alter stuff in case it needed to be done… but this? It fitted like a T! (Not sure how a T will fit me… but oh well… English does have its expressions!) I had to have it.

And so that was it… this elegant, silvery grey thing was mine, mine, mine.

And then I realized in any case the colour of the day was grey! I mentioned it to Salim and he said, yes, that’s because the dress chooses you!

Lovely thought, isn’t it?
And below is the link to the film he made on this where he talks about the fact that there is energy in the inanimate. It’s not a very long film but if you’re pressed for time, watch it from 3:00 minute onwards and you’ll get it. 

Meanwhile, I will continue with my worship of the Grey Goddess of the Day.

Stay blessed all of you!
And don't miss this link - Salim Asgarally - The Dress

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Internet of a Festival

The festival season is upon us here in India. It’s non-stop celebration from now on. 
It began a while ago with the Ganesh celebrations some time ago and sashayed smoothly into what are called the Navratris.
For the uninitiated, Navratris literally translated mean 9 nights and these nine nights are celebrated differently across the country. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Today I want to talk about the internet of a festival.
It’s strange how the internet has transformed the way we celebrate our festivals. For instance, I always knew that in Gujarat and for most Gujaratis the Navratris are celebrated with 9 nights of dancing. When this is done well (and I don’t know how to do it well, but some women excel at it) it looks beautiful. In the dark of the night, women in their colourful finery dance in a circle with the clapping of hands or with sticks with their male partners. It’s amazing to watch as the circle moves to unison with the clapping sounds, swaying of the bodies and the swishing of the lovely skirts the women wear.
Now comes the internet.
And what I realize is that each day has an assigned colour. I’d love to know in which age this was decided. Was it in the Neolithic Age, the Paleolithic Age or maybe it’s the Fashion Age. Or the Internet age? (I have a few questions … like who decides on the colours but I will leave those for now.) 

Nine nights of the Fashion Goddess
Here for instance are the ‘prescribed’ colours this year.
Day 1     Red
Day 2     Royal Blue          
Day 3     Yellow
Day 4     Green                  
Day 5     Grey
Day 6     Orange
Day 7     White   
Day 8   Pink                        
Day 9     Sky Blue.

Now this is what you are supposed to do. On each of the days wear something of the specified colour. Simple? Right? I think so too.

Not only simple, I thought it was fun. Now I am not the religious kind but a little bit of a smile from the Goddess (and there are three here – Power, Wealth and Knowledge) would always help jog me along further in my life. And if it meant digging into some dark depths of my cupboard to look for (even) sky blue stuff, why ever not.
As someone who always has ‘nothing to wear’ I took this as a bit of a challenge. One - to convince myself that I do own the possible nine ‘divine’ colours that the Goddess would approve of. And two - to add some colour into my daily mundane work life.
So I have embarked on this ‘colourful’ journey.
Red for the first day was easy.
Royal blue was also right up there. And I was quite victorious at that.
If my closet is a bit awry, it’s because the yellow things was right at the bottom and some things did get upended on the second day.
But today was the fourth day and today green was a bit of, let’s put it this way, a challenge. So I used my resourcefulness and wore something cream with black and added a green jacket. I did wear green earrings. And just to appease the green goddess I also wore a tinge of green eye shadow. Ha! Triumph!
The way I look at it is this. If the Goddess of Green is looking around she is going to be assaulted by yards and yards of green with the women in sarees, long flowy kurtas and similar. When she sees that speck of green in my earrings, the dot that goes for the eye shadow and the thready lace jacket… isn’t she going to be impressed with my creativity? Don’t Goddesses also need a challenge? Don’t they also want some brain teasers looking for the green in the ones who chose to follow the colour circuit.
Well, here I am. I am feeling blessed. And the grass is definitely greener on this side.

(Four more days to go… I will update you in a later post as to how the nine days went! Am sure the Goddesses are waiting!)


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How do I write, when and... why!

I've been asked how I get the time to blog fairly regularly.
And I have an answer that does not make sense (at least initially).

And by traffic I don't mean the social media traffic of readers that beat their way to my blog. I mean genuine horrendous crawly mind-numbing traffic! Okay, may not be mind-numbing but definitely the clutch-brake-move-an-inch-forward kind.

Now you'll wonder if I write while I drive. No, I don't. I write on my desk in the office though it's mostly at home. But I think more than I write. Often a post arranges itself in my head before it forms itself into characters on the screen. 

Which is why the 'traffic' instead of a hindrance becomes a help. In my head, words are fighting to get into their places pretty much like kindergarten children running amok in a play school. It's only when I sit down in front of my keyboard that they sullenly fall into line, hands on the shoulders of the toddler in front of them taking tiny little steps to go back inside. 

Once that is done, it's a few revisions, few arrangements of the line, sending one errant child to the back of the queue, bringing another one forward, gently asking a third one to stand aside and await his turn for the next time.

Once all that is done, I read re-read, correct the typos... then it's off. 

Of course, I blog on varied subjects and platforms - random thoughts, Customer Experience and I also post short stories on another blog sometimes. So often it depends on what I am writing on and then of course it may take longer than usual - a short story invariably takes longer because I write so much more than necessary - then I ruthlessly edit.

That still does not the key question - why I write. I write because it's easier to express on paper (figuratively speaking now) than to speak. Years ago, when I actually wrote on paper it was putting that pen on paper that actually got the thoughts flowing with the ink. And as the words formed whorls and shapes on paper my thoughts took form and what was just a thought or just an amorphous mass of words getting sculpted into shape with the nib of my pen into something meaningful. 
Something that's more permanent than my thoughts in the traffic!

And here are the links to my three platforms.

Random Thoughts on Life

Insights into Customer Experience

Short Stories

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

5 ways to bring your holiday back to work

It’s wearing off! 
The 3-day, really really short vacation I took last week. 
But before it is relegated to just LIKES on my Instagram uploads, I’ve decided I will continue to bring back my holiday at work. And no, that does not mean I will not work…I’ve found FIVE simple ways to do it.

1. Holiday is work. Make work a holiday
We all know that planning and organizing a holiday is hard work. If anyone knows how difficult it is to plan a holiday, I do. I thought it was tough when the children were small. It gets tougher when they are older. Managing dates, schedules, even flight timings - especially if it’s not to one of the big metros in India - become a challenge. But you juggle everyone’s calendars, find dates and time and plan how to get there. That’s a lot of hard work done with oodles of enthusiasm. And now, when you are back to work, there’s an upcoming project deadline – why not apply the same formula? Juggle dates and times, sync calendars and match ETAs and ETDs with a smile on your face. Enthusiasm does make a dull day brighter. And work akin to a holiday

2. Get your schedule really right
The right schedule is a tight schedule. On a holiday? Well don’t we move to a schedule even on a holiday? Starting from something as small as putting your Out-of-Office message, packing, to making it to the airport on schedule, our life on a holiday still revolves round a clock. Go to the finest property there is and you find there are breakfast timings and lunch timings, dinner timings, pool timings, gym timings… and also time for room service. And yes… what about the ‘free relaxing 45-minute massage’ at the Spa that was included in your package? First you pre-book the appointment for that, then you make all effort to land up at the Spa at the stipulated time. Really, moving pretty much to the clock. Do it with that same smile at work and things instantly seem better. The clock remains the same, remember?

3. Make the most of it
Now this is strange. You are at work all day and you end the day having done not much or sometimes too much. Your day stretches into weeks and months in much the same manner. Flowing with the tide. But on a holiday you are on limited time. And you try to squeeze in as much as possible in the day. Sightseeing? You start early and end late. Food? You want to try all the local delicacies – even delve deeper and want to learn the recipes. You plan in advance. You stick to your plan. You stretch your day. You stretch your night. You work hard at this. This being your holiday. Did you see that? How the lines are blurring? Work-Holiday-Holiday-Work. Now backpack into work in the morning and approach it that way… and see what happens!

4. Break the routine. With another routine.
I am always planning to begin getting on to an exercise regime and somehow that fails. Predictably so. It’s usually blamed on the alarm clock, the long hours, the cats and (although quite rarely) on me! But come a holiday and I am up with the lark (literally at times) I am off to the hotel gym then energized enough to go for a swim and a bit of yoga is thrown in on the side – not to mention long walks and haughtily saying no to the golf cart transport that the hotel offers. It’s great. And that’s where the holiday comes in handy. Here’s an unmatched routine that I can bring back in my suitcase with me. The zest to work out – and finding the time to do so. If I push myself even a little I know this can be my new routine and I can be a new me! Woohoo Holiday!

5. Think fresh
So I do have an iPhone 6 and pretty much like the ad says, I take pics that scream 'Taken on an iPhone 6'. Isn’t that what a holiday is about. The brilliance of the sights and the colors that surround you? I think it’s also something to do with the perspective that lowered defenses bring to a holiday. You are no longer in the sparring stance that you are regularly in at the office. And suddenly everything is so beautiful. Look around and you still see those bright-coloured opportunities at work. Which reminds me of a time recently  when the entire floor in my office gravitated towards the windows because lo and behold… there was a rainbow in the sky! Holidays help you think fresh, look at things with a new perspective and see the world with renewed vision. Make this last. Bring it back and keep the rose-tinted glasses of your holidays on. And soon work could (at least most of the time) seem like a vacation – okay a stay-cation!
Happy Holidays at Work!

Friday, August 14, 2015

A song with a story

18th Century. 

Off the coast of Ireland.

A stormy night at sea.

Waves chopping, rising several feet high.

And an ancient sailboat being tossed around in what is a devastating storm.

As the storm rages on with no hope of abating, one sailor gets down on his knees and prays.

Prays with all his heart and begs forgiveness for his sins. 

Prays fervently and promises to mend his ways. Prays for redemption.

The seas calm down and over days the ship sails back safely into the harbor and a repentant sailor comes home - a changed man.

That man was John Newton, a slave trader, a man of many misdeeds and (while not immediately) he slowly turned from an atheist to a believer (I once  was lost, but now I am found) and in his most pious moments he composed a hymn – one that has over centuries been a hymn sung in troubled moments – a requiem that graces churches during some of the most poignant funeral masses.

Here are the words of the autobiographical hymn. Most people know the song but not the story.

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, 
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, 
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come, 
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures; 
He will my shield and portion be, 
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, 
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil, 
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun, 
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun

There have been so many versions that it’s difficult to choose one so here are three of the ones I’ve heard and liked. I am sure you have your own favourite.

Accompanied by bagpipers, this group of Irish singers called Celtic Woman brings an ethereal charm to the hymn.

And here’s an a capella version by Hayley Westerna.  Appreciate the  simplicity of the melody and the depth of the words coming right through.

And set against the backdrop of the ruins in Rome, Il Divo give their version of the hymn. The interlude with the bagpipes and the variations in their voice add a unique quality to this rendition. Have a listen.

And if the words keep ringing in your head… well… it’s amazing grace, grace that will lead us home. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A circle of friends

Have you ever wondered why it's called a circle of friends or a Friend Circle? It's no coincidence. It IS a circle. A circle that envelopes you as tightly or as loosely as you want it. A circle that protects you from all those 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' (Thanks Shakespeare - you couldn't have expressed it better!). A circle that allows you to touch each and everyone at one time or all times, a circle you can widen and narrow through life as life demands. And a circle that responds. The way you want it. Growing looser and tighter around you.

And there's more to the circle. It means things go round. What goes round comes round. And you pass on that wonderful feeling of friendship that one friend gave you to another friend. You pass it on. You pass it forward. And you get it back from someone else. One good turn after another.

And since it's a circle it can turn and it can spin. So you have those heady spinning moments with friends that you can never forget, pretty much all your life. And you have those turning points where friends meet and part - and then meet again. And because it can turn, it can go clockwise .Or counter clockwise. 

Today is Friendship Day...once again. Not that any other day is not for friends. Most of us, at some time or the other, are thanking a friend for being there in our times of need. But today of all days maybe it's time to turn around and see what you can do for your friends. Turn around, spin the circle counter-clockwise, pull it close, and thank all those who have ever been your friends. 

(From me, a big Thank you to my friends -today and every day!)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Think...don't blink!

I was caught in an intensely heavy shower this morning. The one where you cannot see the car in front of you and all you can is a blur of hazy red lights. The one where traffic slows down to a crawl - a blurry sea of red blobs moving slowly and carefully forward. But with these red blobs I now see the blinking yellows!

Last year, I thought the blinking yellow lights were the right thing to do. So I tweeted to fellow drivers to keep them on. Several vigilant tweeters/drivers responded. It was not correct to have the hazard lights on during the rain.

My research since then has confirmed this. 

From what I understand using your hazard lights while driving in the rain is actually more hazardous than using just your indicator lights.

In hindsight I agree.

For instance, how do you signal left or right turning? 

Or if the traffic is crawling how do you signal that you have stopped?

In many countries and states in the US, this could actually be fined by law. I am not sure what the Indian laws say but if I think a bit, this logic is right. So I do put on my brights or just my headlights but not my blinkers during a rainy drive.

What about you? I'd love to know your views. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

#InsideOut (Or-who’s-at-your-console-right-now?)

Tell me you’re not governed by your emotions and I’ll tell you two things
1. I’m a direct descendent of Cleopatra the Queen
2.I live in Alaska. (So.. ha!)

I managed to catch this movie over the weekend. It’s one of those clever Pixar productions that let you enjoy the film when you are watching it but set you thinking on your way home and don’t allow you to stop pondering on it for a long time.

Let’s get one thing straight though. It is a 3D Animation film, but the child-rating ends there.  This is for adults too. It’s about how we behave (as adults) all the time – no matter how old we are. (In fact it’s how even dogs and cats behave! What a brilliant touch that… at the end! But I’m jumping the gun here)

So the little girl is Riley and all’s well in her world – or so we think. Because her world is fine but the world inside her head is just about to go absolutely haywire. Bring in just five emotions at the console in her head – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust and a change of place -from Minnesota to San Francisco- and there ensues mayhem.

I won’t go into details of what happens, but how things happen is a fascinating journey of the emotions in the mind and the mind of the emotions.

The film gives you a deeper insight into memories – core memories, long-term, short-term and how in an intricate labyrinth inside the head the functioning of the various islands is managed brilliantly by the different emotions. Joy takes centre-stage here. With her buoyant personality, her brilliantly cropped blue hair and her bare feet, she’s always positive about turning things around. This is, of course, versus Sadness whose blueness (literally and otherwise) can dampen or sadden even a happy memory.  And not very surprisingly that blueness does not change back to its original golden yellow. Well… we’ve heard of song sung blue, everybody knows one!

I do know there are several posts doing the rounds of how correct or incorrect the references to memory and emotions are. But I’d park that aside. Isn’t it brilliant how the five emotions sit at the console and fight their way through the day and get busier at night when Riley goes to sleep? What’s even more amazing is the way long-term memory is looked into and those two characters that, while in charge of long-term memory, suddenly revive one and send it back into the consciousness. Very much like the stupid songs in your head that you remember suddenly and they refuse to leave!

I don’t know about you but the film sparked my imagination and I now am certain I have a larger, more complicated console. There’s of course Sarcasm in a brilliant orange definitely sporting a Lancome Rouge in Love (170N –just in case you’re in Duty-free!) and there’s Envy in a greener green than Disgust, getting more lurid every time I see a fabulous pair of shoes. Then I have Despair, who is Midnight Blue and gives my Sadness a run for her blue money. Despair’s Midnight Blue strikes especially hard when I meet some moronic characters who I think have no hope. Fortunately Sarcasm steps in with her flaming hair to save the day. I do have (oh my) Goodness but she lurks in a dull grey in a corner and is not allowed to come much to the fore thanks to Sarcasm and Anger. Now Anger is another one coming on to the console in full glory. When I drive, Anger is at the console, and believe me, it helps.

What’s not really right in the #InsideOut business inside my head is the Memory Dump. My tiny two characters who are in charge are a tad bit inefficient and seem to send the wrong bits to the dump – things that don’t go to short-term or long-term memory – but land up in that endless black hole – the dump. Fortunately, for me, I don’t give it much thought  (largely because I cannot remember) and also because my Joy is a nice sunshine yellow – and steps in at the least provocation (not barefeet – but wearing new shoes) and makes everything nice and yellow and happy.

But coming back to Riley and the film, it’s really touching that in the end you do need a bit of Sadness and that light blue tinge to make everything right! You really have to watch this film – the animation is spectacular. And the imagination - really commendable. Mind blowing, would be a better word I guess.

It’s a brilliant lesson in Psychology and especially if you want to figure what’s happening at your console, you need to see it. I am going again – so that this does not go into my Memory Dump. (Oh! I can already see Joy doing a little jig there!)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - a Review

Once in a while you read a book that scrapes a raw nerve right in the centre of  your heart and leaves it exposed and bleeding… for all times to come.The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne is one such book. Filed under ‘a-book-for-keeps’ category, it’s a book that is dramatic in its simplicity, mature in its innocence and heartrending in its factual tone and manner.

There are enough books, reports, films and recordings of the gruesomeness of war but not many take the unique perspective that this one takes. Set in the time of the second world war, it’s a look at Germany from the viewpoint of innocence – through the eyes of a nine-year old boy Bruno.

As the family moves to another location, the import of which import Bruno does not understand right till the very end, Bruno struggles with the curiosity and loneliness of a boy his age and over a period of time makes friends with a boy ‘across the fence’ who shares the same birthday as his. How much different could they be, he wonders, and yet his new friend is on the other side of the fence and they cannot really play together.

What the book brings out in its stark innocence is the horrors of the war, the unsaid atrocities of the Holocaust and the simple truth that sometimes the ones who get caught in the crossfire of an adult issue are children.

For a nine-year-old boy who lives in the midst of a warring nation – being shielded from the gruesome aspects of war is the very reason why he himself becomes the victim of it. The end is almost anti-climactic in its simplicity. The naivete of the two boys as they promise to remain ‘friends for life’ pulls violently at the heartstrings as darkness descends.

The book in its sheer simplicity ends with these telling words, “Of course all this happened a long time ago. And nothing like this can ever happen again. Not in this day and age.”

Yes may be. Not on this scale but if you come down to warring adults and innocent children, it does continue.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a must-read for every adult. It’s a must-reflect-on, must-think-about, must-not-ever-forget kind of a book. Like I said in the beginning, it exposes a raw nerve and leaves it like that. But I am glad I own a copy. Thanks NB.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I like the rain

I like the rain.

The June-July-August rain. When it has set into the season in its full glory. The monsoons. The monsoon. Rainy season. Whatever you call it. Unlike a lot of people I know, I like the rain in Mumbai.

It took me two hours to get to work today. But I like the rain. And just about everything associated with it.

It pounded on the roof of my car, splashed at me from oncoming traffic, got swept away by my efficient wipers and relentlessly blocked my vision, I smiled and thought to myself – I like the rain.

I like the rain as it washes away the dirt and grime of this city. I like the muddied water as it runs down in thick rivulets across and by the side of the roads. It’s almost like the rain is frantically trying to clean up the mess that city has made in the past 8 months and has been given a short span of 3-4 months (with dry spells thrown in) to make it all better. And as hopeless as it seems I like that the rain is doing its utmost to bring the city back to its clean self again.

But I know in a city like Mumbai, the rain shields so much, covers so much, blinds so much. And if anything understands this city it’s the rain. The rain sees through the dark side of the city, empathizes with the painful side, equalizes the inequality with one heavy shower and pounds on rich or poor alike.

Overcast, cloudy, grey, black, dull and dreary, the rain is witness to all the city’s dark, dingy misdoings. It creeps its way through dimly lit alleyways and runs through the murky menagerie of human existence. It settles in patches of the underworld, treating the dons and underdogs alike, all covered with the same muddy splashes, all stepping into the same morass of morality, or immorality. I like the rain in all its darkness.

On the outside, someone is crying. But the rain sends a wet protective cover and cries along - with the woman who has lost her house, the man who has lost his job and the brutalized young girl who has lost her faith in humanity. I like the rain as it cries with us.
In the relentless pounding , you don’t hear the cries of the wronged woman or the abused child. It’s all part of the dinning sound that helps this city move on heartlessly to its next destination, next job, next day.

And here comes the rain again. It still tries to do good. Brings new leaf, new colour, to the dust-covered smoke-filled, smog-inhaling trees, unveiling the clear tropical green in the few patches that they still survive. Against a mundane grey backdrop of rain-soaked high rises the glisten of the green gives me new hope. I like the hope of rain.

And then the skies darken again. There’s a deafening peal of thunder and it starts pounding relentlessly on my roof, making silent the music that’s playing in my car, almost insisting I listen to its own drum roll instead. The car fogs up again shielding me from what the rain is shielding from the city – and I watch as the dirt and the grime and the dark, dingy underworld, gets yet another washing.

I do like the rain.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The culture wall. Time to break it!

When you are entrenched in a global marketplace you can’t but help meet, interact and work closely with people of different countries. But does working across boundaries mean a global mindset?

But what we look at as geographical boundaries are actually huge cultural walls. Breaking through these walls with the right awareness, understanding and communication skills is the trick to a truly global mindset.

I am increasingly getting steeped in culture, cultural differences, challenges and the issues culture brings to the workplace. It’s the elephant in the room – looming large as the world becomes a smaller place. And now the elephant has begun to raise its trunk and people are sitting up and taking notice. However taking notice does not tell anyone what to do about it.

The bricks of miscommunication
It’s important at the outset to even acknowledge that there are going to be cultural differences. The second important thing to note is that while it’s called a cultural difference the manifestation is not an outward gesture, it occurs largely in communication – or rather miscommunication. And that’s what builds a wall. It’s built with bricks of misinterpretation, miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Indeed, India is at a huge disadvantage here. Look at the young English-speaking, pizza-eating, mobile-toting crowd and you’ll find that they can be largely compared to the youth of the west. And yet our cultural traits are such that we are at a huge variance from the rest of the world, creating a hotbed of communication conflict. All, unfortunately in the same language.

You speak English?
Let’s look only at English as a language here. English is a second language for most Indians. We have done our entire education in English. For a large number of urban Indians, English is more a native language than our respective mother tongues. For instance, how many of us can read or write our Indian mother tongue and the accompanying script? How many of us speak our mother tongue more than we speak English? And finally, how many of us even think in our own language? We speak, read, write, think and even dream in English. But how close are we to, forget the rest of the Europeans, even the English? Probably as far apart as we are geographically.

Because we speak English our culture is mistaken to be like the English culture. But our DNA does not change because of a deeply entrenched foreign language. Nor does the 5000-year old cultural nuance. Our social norms remain the same. Our mindset unchanged. In that respect the Asian and European nations that speak a different language are at an advantage here. People ‘expect’ them to behave differently.  And also ‘accept’ the difference. Indians who speak English however are mostly misunderstood. We speak pure English, then go on to behave in a purely Indian manner. And this is the stuff that makes the wall bigger, taller, wider.

Breaking the wall
It’s time to take it down. But it’s not enough to want to. What is an absolute must is first to accept that there exists one, second to know that we are on two opposite sides of the wall and the third is the willingness to create a doorway through the wall – a passage so to speak – for the two cultures to come halfway to accepting and acknowledging differences and ready to work with them. That will be the essential first step to the crumbling of the wall. And the first glimpse of what is truly a global mindset.

(And you’ll hear more of this from me.)

Friday, May 8, 2015

7 sins that dwarf your social impact

I can’t seem to let my fairy tales go. And Snow-white seemed to be peeping out of her cottage when I last browsed through LinkedIn and saw some glaring gaffes that people were making in their social media communications.Seriously this can dwarf your social media impact and make you go from Happy to Dopey and Grumpy. Check whether you're making any of these 7 common mistakes.
1. The wrong message for the medium Is what you're sharing not right for the people who are reading it? Your audiences on Facebook and LinkedIn are different. And their reasons for being there are different too. This may sound odd but pictures of your niece's 5th birthday or cute kitten videos are meant for Facebook not LinkedIn. You making faces? Instagram it. Sharing your insights on the marketing summit you attended? LinkedIn is where the people will listen to you. Then again, unless your name is Socrates or Plato, avoid putting up philosophical statements and pithy proverbs on LinkedIn. (Yes, a Steve Jobs statement is fine). By the same logic, your profile pic on LinkedIn should ideally not be the one you shared on Instagram last week from the beach! Sounds basic or patronizing? Scroll up and down your pages and you’ll see how many people get that wrong.
2. Your links don’t work I’ve done this myself. In my excitement to publish my latest blogpost, I just copied the link on my tweet and pasted it, leaving out a vital character. Fortunately moments after I shared it I decided to check the link. And it was not working. Nothing sets you back in social-media-savvy status as a link that does not work. And when it does finally work, it’s unlikely that your audience is coming back to check it out again. A lost audience is lost forever.
 3. Typos and grammatical errors Here’s the thing, and disagree if you like, if you have chosen to write in English, it needs to be correct English. Typos just showcase you as being lazy and careless. And grammatically wrong English can once again set you back in your social media reputation. Also, needless to say incorrect punctuation could lead to misinterpretation. Check, recheck your writing. Proof read, if not once, at least two times. It’s a must and you owe it to your readers.
 4. No point of view It’s a sharing economy now. And when you write posts or share on social media you are not a reporter really. You’re sharing a point of view. Unless it’s a piece of news that you are sharing, you need to state where you stand. If your post or statement does not have a point of view, it’s not really worth sharing. On the flip side, it’s not engaging your readers either.
 5. No clarity Time and again you come across a verbose post that rambles on and on and does not make a clear statement. You may have a point of view, but if you have no clarity or are not expressing it clearly, it’s lost in the woods. It’s really like not having a point of view. In this case, start again, re-read Point 4.
6. Wrong Tone of Voice This is subtle but important. What are you writing about? Coaching? Are you a coach? Then your tone can be authoritative. Coaching again? But you are being coached. Your tone needs to be that of an eager learner. Are you talking about your learnings in the last marketing campaign you spearheaded? Here’s sharing from an experienced person. These are the right tones of voice to take. Get patronizing and preachy and you lose that connect. Get flippant and you lose credibility. Get the right tone. Get read. And get the necessary impact.
7. Too long And it’s fortunate this comes at the end, because today’s currency is time. And if your post is too long, it’s less likely to get read. Too long-winded, it’s less likely to get read. Too verbose, it’s less likely to get read. So ideally, keep it short. Add subheads. Get to the point. Quickly. If you do have a lot to say, break it up in a couple of posts. Link back to the previous one. Chances are all will be read, and even if not, you’ve made a point in each one.
And so let’s aim for a fairy tale ending to your social media impact and may your impact be gigantic!