Tuesday, April 15

Vote for a Better India (and other gupshup)

Hi everyone, 

As the biggest democracy goes to the polls, it's a crazy mesh out there of different political parties proclaiming their greatness and exposing the crap out of others. 

While I am not too politically inclined, I sure do plan to exercise my right to vote... and so should you. The Congress has done enough damage in 10 years and later, there is no point in blaming politicians if you could not take this tiny step yourself to make the nation a better place. The right people are doing the right thing by going as far as to declare a holiday so that employed citizens can cast their vote so as to not miss a day at work. Is it not our obligation then to stand by our country and do our bit?  

Pune has elections on the 17th - I urge you, please vote. I know of some folks who find traveling more important on this day, or cite excuses as silly as routine logistics to avoid taking the effort. It's not becoming, I implore you. Please do vote. Don't think it's only a matter of ONE vote. Every vote makes a difference. I know Arun Bhatia, who I thought a very deserving candidate, did not win majority votes and hence could not bring about change in the city. Take a cue - all our individual votes put together could bring your favorite political party to the forefront (not that either of them is blemish-free and faultless), but let's choose the lesser evil. Let's make that choice by casting out ballot. 

Modi or AAP, now that remains the question. Only if the "single largest party" in the country does not miraculously emerge victorious yet again. Rahul Gandhi is not someone who can handle this vast nation, so the choice is between Kejriwal and NaMo. Frankly, they have their pasts, their errs and their supporters. May the best man win. 

Having made my appeal, let me move on to the other topics at hand. First of all, apologies for the long absence - personal and professional commitments have kept me very occupied. I had my Udyapan / Ujawna for Gangaur and Suraj-rota (you'd have heard of it if you know about Rajasthani culture), and we're now planning a trip with the family to Jabalpur, my maternal native place. This shall be the first time my husband travels with the entire Rathi clan out of station, so I am looking forward to it as well as to the childhood memories of Bhedaghat and Sadar Bazaar, coolers and gardens. With our new home almost ready, housewarming is also round the corner and it seems like busy times are only going to continue in the recent future. Fret not, for I shall keep dropping a line as and when I can. 

Secondly, thanks a ton to all the new readers who have reached my blog and have made my day by sending me appreciation notes. I really am touched, thank you so much. Knowing that I'm touching your lives even without seeing you face to face means a lot to me. Do keep coming back and let me know what you feel about my writing. 

I'm now trying to make time for reading, and I've got One Amazing Thing on my bookshelf, Bhagavad Gita on my laptop and Ramayana on my cell phone - all English versions, obviously. The Sanskrit ones were very tiring and did not make sense to me. Better to understand what I am reading than merely to put a tick mark on these holy books. I am sure you know that the Mahabharata is my all-time favorite book, but I am reading the others on insistence of my dear mum. They're quite interesting too, thankfully, the websites that I am referring to. And then, conversations with my Ammi, Abba, husband and mum all turn out to be enlightening in their own unique ways. We thrash ideas around and discuss experiences that match or contradict what is passed down over the ages. Helps us bond, and helps us better comprehend these mighty tales. 

I recently watched Captain America - pretty good movie, but very stretched I think. English films ought not to be longer than 2 hours. Bhootnath Returns seems to have good reviews, but I don't have the patience for that right now. I gave Ragini MMS2 a miss, owing to the gross trailers and Sunny Leone's presence. I'd much rather watch a porn movie at home followed by the original Ragini MMS (neither of which I am in the mood to endorse).

Mango season is here, and it's fairly hot most afternoons. Best not to get out of the house between 12 and 4 pm, and get out those sunscreens and sunblocks. Naah, not me - I can't be bothered with all of that. I've got my hands full anyway with my loads of aches and cravings. I just don't seem to be getting enough sleep these days, though my darling spouse has opted for a (comparatively) earlier shift. Weekends also rush by, so I'm wondering how I will be able to cope with it all. That I get to watch Koffee with Karan and Roadies XI is itself a miracle, coz I am sure the clock plays pranks on me and shrinks 24 hours to 2. I wish I could have 30 hours in a day for starters, and sleep for 15. Hehe. Mulla kii daud masjid tak. 

On that note, let me say goodbye, time to sleep!

Don't forget to vote. 


Tuesday, March 25

The Pain of Gifting

Whoever called it the “JOY” of gifting skipped a step.

Prior to the joy (if at all), comes pain, immense discomfort and a lot of inconvenience, effort and thought. The next step could range from ecstasy and gratefulness to annoyance and indifference.

Which is why most people give the act of gifting a miss and either request no gifts on the receiving end or give cash rather than an object as a guest. Saves all the people concerned from a lot of heartache and embarrassment.

I understand, I entirely do. It is a much better option than running around from pillar to post and finally presenting or ending up with some trashy items being shifted around from hand to hand over the ages.

I am writing about this for a cause.

The cause of loving people who have done everything possible under the sun for their loved ones and who do not know what else to do for the sake of affection and originality. 
So basically, people like me. Lovers of revelries for reasons small or major, and adorers of their moms and spouses and uncles and aunts.

Let me brief you first on some important aspects.

One, my mother and my husband are, fortunately or weirdly, pretty alike. I mean of course they’re both pretty but it does not end there. They care for me beyond themselves and I love them both to bits. Their mannerisms and habits are also similar in more than a few ways. Plus, both of them don’t like presents in general and are very balanced (read predictable) when it comes to celebrations and gifts. 

Which means that I’ve been dealing with this agony for over two decades now, though I have been only married two years.  

My husband celebrates two birthdays in a year (as if one was not enough) and one of them, the fake one, falls close to the day of love – Valentine’s. Now imagine my plight, I need to think thrice about the things that he has and does not have, should have or wants or needs. Not counting, obviously, the monthly and yearly anniversaries of our wedding and courtship.   

A Herculean task, indeed!

A cake and flowers no longer count as something sensational; it’s too formal and extremely unimaginative. My husband has no patience or aptitude for cards, poetry and the like (contrary to my mom, she used to dig that stuff). This rules out one of my unique and greatest gifting ideas.

Clothes, electronics, wallets and travel – we have done all of that as well. I was so confused last year about what to give him on our wedding anniversary that I went around polling people and got some fairly random ideas like Bluetooth headset and biker helmet. I finally bought him the second, but it does not feel like a gift really, if you know what I mean. More like a security accessory, a must rather than a casual feel-good present. But since my husband is not the romantic, rose-tinted types, I guess it worked fine in his case. Had it been someone rosy-hearted and hare-brained, this would be a concern.

Worse still, if you ask these folks what they would like as a gift, they either say “anything” or “nothing”. Both these answers are annoying. Why wouldn’t you simply say what is it that you are lacking at the moment and ease matters for the poor enquiring soul? Not to mention, it should suit his/her budget. I  know of certain leeches, who when asked about their choices, state incredibly ridiculous demands that make you want to slap them and ask them to get lost. Why, why, why do I have to deal with such horribly unreasonable people?!!

Seeking help from online sources is useless as well, coz there is absolutely no logic in the list of items displayed on the web, and their preposterous prices may as well convince you to forget the entire idea of a celebration.

And, before I conclude, let me also place on record the awe I feel about some of the gifts given to me, ranging from the utterly silly to the amazingly generous. Give me a decent book, a holiday voucher, good clothes or accessories and I would be pleased as punch. Give me ugly, used or non-usable stuff and I shall refuse pleasantly. 

So, there stands my agony, confessed and out in the open. If you find a solution, do let me know.

If not, carry on with whatever it is that works for you! Some pains just never end, though you want the good times to carry on forever…


Monday, March 10

Women's Day 2014


Belated wishes to  all the naari's out there :-)

Feels good to be pampered (obviously), but as I said on FB, I have no special hang-ups with men. In fact, I have had more and better guy friends than girl friends. I think women tend to get insecure about a multitude of issues and that leads to their downfall. But since I have already spoken about a woman’s troubles in my recent post, I shall not dwell on this topic too much. Instead, I am going to tell you about the marvelous day we had at Hitachi Consulting on March 7th, in preparation for International Women’s Day on March 8 (Saturday). 

That's Nivedita Nair from the facilities team welcoming me to work on Friday with red roses - such a sweet gesture on the occasion of Women's Day!

So, the theme was orange and I walked in to the office to be welcomed with a smile... and a rose! What a beautiful way to start the day! We were photographed and cordially wished by all... This is how lovely mornings are made.

Scarcely had I unpacked my laptop and started work, than it was announced that there were free beauty services available for all the ladies at work. Foot spa, hand spa, face clean up, make up - take your pick and get gorgeous! I opted for the face clean with Jafra products, and while it was not an "Aaha" experience, the thought and experience sure was special. 

A few emails and lunch later, we had a cookery contest - Magic without Fire. There were 5 teams and they had prepared delicacies without using the burner. The best part about these chef competitions is the tasting, and I was right up front along with the other lasses! Veg Mayo Roll with a creamy dip (that won the first place), Date and Coconut Laddoos, Indian Triangles, Fruit Salad with Cream, Pofru (poha and fruit) Payasam, and a variety of Veg Sandwiches - it was a delectable spread! Hats and tastebuds off to you, women!!

Next on the list was a session on "Inspire Others" by Prameela Kalive from Zensar - quite an illustrious woman, I must say. She has worked at DRDO with the likes of Kalam and her experience and profile is highly impressive. She drew upon some observations from Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" and discussed parallels in her life. The bits that most resounded with me were:

1. Put your hand up - Don't expect people to know your talents, interests, strengths and also advocate you for new opportunities. Nominate yourself for things that you wish to do. Even if others resent you for this. And when everything keeps falling on your willing shoulders, speak up and refuse chances as well for things that you do not wish to do. 
2. Make your partner your real partner - Don't get annoyed when your spouse does a lousy job in the kitchen or with the kids. Let him learn, he'll get it right someday. 
3. When you are asked to fly in a rocket, don't ask which seat - (Most) women are not comfortable with ambiguity; we need complete details before we commit to anything. Sometimes, when there is an ambitious plan in the making, participate even if you are not completely informed or aware. You will learn loads and pave the way for success!
4. Don't try to be superwoman - You cannot juggle ten things and all of them brilliantly. Learn to outsource what you find tough, seek help from family and hire a maid! Know what to put on the backburner and what to focus on. If you do multi-tasking, something will be better and something below average - accept it. 
5. Don't forget to pamper the little girl within - This, I never forget to do, and my husband co-operates whole-heartedly. My hero!

... and then it was time for some lip-smacking Pav Bhaji and Rasmalai! Yumm yummm... Boys, I feel so bad for you as I feast on these snacks, but then that feeling slowly fades... Hee hee!! And it is replaced with further excitement and respect for Hitachi when they pull out spa vouchers and gifts for all of us women.  

Marvelous day, indeed! So thankful to Hitachi Consulting for organizing this great day, never before have I been regaled thus in my entire career spanning close to 10 years. 

Hope you had a cool day as well enjoying or serenading the women in your life :-)

P.S - Men's day is there, too... and no, it's not on April 1, it is (supposedly) celebrated worldwide on November 19. There you go! I bet you won't remember... hahaha.


Wednesday, February 26

Book review: The Hunt for Kohinoor

Hi readers,

Forget about stories that introduce a background and give you enough time and consideration to adapt to the plot. This one dives right in and maintains a crisp pace - one that needs complete attentiveness to grasp and enjoy. Not your light coffee-time read, this.

I was approached by Westland Books to read and review this book that was published in Dec 2013.

To be honest with you, I am not a regular patron of historic, terrorism and political stories so I found myself drifting off on a few occasions. But each time the authoress succeeds in sowing some excitement into the situation to bring the flighty reader back.

First and foremost, I was intrigued by the name of the protagonist – Mehrunisa. A quick search on the web divulged that Noor Jahan, the twentieth and favourite wife of the Emperor Jahangir, was born as Mehr-un-Nissa in 1577. She is called one of the most powerful and influential women of the 17th century Mughal Empire since she was a strong, charismatic and well-educated woman. Not unlike the Mehr in Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s trilogy.

Trilogy season has kicked in big time post Meluha, I guess. “The Hunt for Kohinoor” is a sequel to "Taj Conspiracy", and I was a little hesitant to read the second book as I did not have the grounding and knowledge of the first one. Being the organized and structure-loving person that I am, I was secretly hoping that Westland would pamper me with both the books (!) However, I was assured and set at ease, and thus began my reading journey that took me on an expedition across Kashmir, the Hindukush mountains and Peshawar.

This was my first tryst with Sodhi- Someshwar, an IIM-C alumnus and author of "The Long Walk Home". “The Hunt for Kohinoor” is an interesting tale, albeit not a completely original idea. It reminded me of some Bollywood flicks and also very vaguely the Da Vinci Code. Just like Princess Sophie sets out on a mission set upon her owing to her grandfather, Mehr is cast into a dangerous conspiracy by virtue of being the daughter of a secret agent.  

I liked the metaphor “Snow Leopard” used throughout the book, and its relevance to the storyline. The description of the varied characters is also engaging. Their dreams come alive in their eyes and their realities hit you in the face as Mehrunisa Khosa’s journey is tracked over a span of 96 hours to save herself and her lost-and-found father.

The writing is fluid and boasts of a multitude of converging plots. More impressive for me, though, as an avid bookworm and language trainer, was the glorious vocabulary used throughout the story: opprobrium, fulminating, extant... Breathtaking! I don’t know who to applaud for this – the author, editor, some thesaurus or other individual. Whoever has implanted these in the paperback – fantastic job!

I do, however, wish that the book was smaller than 425 pages. I found myself skipping a few paragraphs and pages, not something I would do with a Jeff Arch or Chitra Divakaruni. Now that could be attributed to my lack of interest in geography and war history, but that is precisely the backdrop so I can't complain, so I flick a few pages and scan through the next chapter. The protagonist travels alongwith another agent and then a lover to unravel the secret of the “Kohinoor” and foil a gruesome plot of the Jihadis.

While reviews are still being published across blogs and mags, the writer suggests (as does Anubhav Sinha) that Priyanka Chopra would be ideal to play the role of Mehrunisa, should a movie be made. I wonder why that is a pre-requisite these days. Would be so much better if writers focused on writing a great book than making a good movie. 

My view: 5 stars on 10. And a special one star for the lexis. 

Have an awesome day, ya'all!


Monday, February 10

Sharing Anubhav's (ahem Experience, duh!)

Hola you!

I know some of you must be wondering how my nomination at the top bloggers award by Blogadda fared. While I was touched and excited by all your display of affection and support, “Life…” did not make it to the top 5. No regrets, albeit I can’t deny feeling a little blue.

I mean I started off as a teenager using text language and venting off dreams and emotions on my blogspot page akin a dear diary. The blog (and I) sure have come a long way. Thanks to all your feedback and appreciation. My first victory (which still continues) is when I see my followers list growing and people walking up to me telling me they love what I write; feels absolutely fantastic! A few bloggers and acquaintances were kind and knowledgeable enough to recommend a few changes to my blog and I took it with grace. I also did a lot of research, checked other blogs (to learn what I was doing right or wrong) and amended my blog. Thankfully I had the time then to pursue my passion with fervor. Now, with family and work commitments abounding, I have very little time to write, let alone check other blogs and aim for improvement. Apologies to you, and my hobby, for this miss. Earning bread and butter (and jam and mayo) takes precedence over pastimes, you sure would agree.      

Anyhow, I do plan to continue on my blogging journey and get better, every passing day. Someday, I hope, I stand a chance to win accolades in this area of life too. Thanks to all of you…

Well, having given you that update, let me tell you about something new I experienced at work in the past few days. There is a concept called “Friday Matinee” at Hitachi Consulting (GDC) where we screen a movie for all employees and review it together gleaning lessons. The first such program I attended a last week was highly interesting and enlightening. We watched a 1952 film called ’12 Angry Men’ starring and produced by Henry Fonda (Jane Fonda’s pop). This black and white production lasting an hour and half is a delightful watch, one that I suggest you take the time to check out. There is a Hindi remake as well, but as you all know, the original is always better than the copies or sequels.

The story revolves around 12 jurors who have to unanimously decide whether a young boy accused of killing his father is guilty or not. While 11 of the jury start off with a “guilty” vote, the last one succeeds in pulling all of them over to the other side by using his reason and logic. The unique behaviors of all the men, their stories and transformations are truly marvelous. And the number of lessons to learn, outstanding! It talks about teamwork and courage, confidence and empathy, trust and humility. But shan’t let the cat out of the bag, you must go and watch it yourself. Get some popcorn while you’re at it.

Another experience at work - I tamed the bull, a raging maniac who always communicated rudely. I was a little flustered initially, but I managed to assertively put him in his place. It was a proud achievement, and the outcome is very pleasant (and I hope lasting). Just like the movie above, this goes to show that you need not always bow down to pressure and stress. You need to stand your ground, and clearly let the others know your needs and perspectives.

Hassee to Phassee has released this week, and I have heard pretty decent reviews. Since I am on leave all of next week, I might just catch it in my free time. Also need to catch up on my reading – I have been asked to review “The Hunt for Kohinoor” by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar on request from Westland Books. Not going to spill any beans now, but plenty to say in the 50-odd pages I’ve read so far. You gotta wait for the book review that shall be published here shortly. Professional obligation, you see :-)

The Sale season is on, have you set hands on anything in the million malls yet? I got 2 jeans – they were a steal at 600 each (2 for the price of 1) at Megamart. Go go go!!  

My nephew celebrates his 4th birthday in Mumbai today so I’m off to wish him and shower him with love. Brother and sis-in-law also complete 8 years of marriage, so it is one huge celebration with the family. We were planning to hit Imagica, what with it being my husband's fake birthday and the Valentine's day worldwide. But the recent accident there (also with some Rathi’s from Kolkata) has made us change our minds. Apparently, the amusement park is still on despite that one ride being stalled. This is India, my dears! Had it been abroad, the victims would have been compensated generously and the entire place would have shut down for repairs and maintenance. India oh India… You have a moronic Rahul Gandhi trying to become who he isn't (missed the catastrophic interview with Arnab "ArGo" Goswami - click here to laugh and.or pull your hair like a madman) and a “stupid” janta who have to immigrate in order to be valued for their work and intelligence (Go Satya Nadella!)   

I always have these arguments on Facebook with people on my friends list about our views on India. They think they need to support everything Indian merely to show their patriotism. I disagree. I am patriotic too, but I am not afraid to acknowledge the errors and shortcomings of the greatest (pseudo) democracy in the world.

And before we start off on that again, adieu!