December 22, 2011

Of Cats and Dogs but Mostly Cats

The question has been troubling me for a long long time. Am I a cat or a dog person? Well, for no apparent reason but for the fact that more often than not this is a question which was asked in almost all random tests in Quizilla. I wonder if the site even exists anymore! Also, genetically I was confused. My dad will shudder to have animals prowling around and my mom is the self professed saviour of cats, dogs, crows, sparrows, almost every living creature near our house.

Somewhere last year, I figured out my answer – thanks to Sheila and Munni. Of course, their slave prefers to address them in more anglicized names of Tiu and Whiskey. Now when Sheila came to stay in our house, we had all thought it was temporary. She had been abandoned, would have died if left behind and my friend, who perhaps will not bother to come to Cal to meet me, suddenly had this epiphany and got Sheila home.

And I loved him for it. Behind the hard, tough exterior was always the man I knew he was and it took a kitten to bring it out. The conversation had gone as follows:

He: “Dude I am bringing home a kitten.”
Me: “Niceeeeeeeeeee.... you want me to leave the house?”
“nahhhhh. Why should you?”
“Dudeeeeeeeeeeeeee... Won’t you need some privacy?”
“ and your kitten”
“yeah. Just found her”
“Dude!!! Are you serious? How long you’ve known her? It’s not safe you know.”
“I know. Have to figure out the vaccination bit.”
“Hang on!!! What??? You mean kitten as in some babe you are seeing right?”

Well I should have known better.

And then after few days Munni followed as he studied and figured out, a cat needs a friend beyond him.

So while I shared my house with Sheila and Munni, I realized I was not a cat person even though they are fascinating creatures. They like their own private space. If you are the one who is feeding them, you should feel grateful that she is allowing you to. Cats are royalty. And it shows. Animals who move in packs, like wolves and dogs, can’t claim to be so. The way a cat arches her back and gets ready to spring is ergonomically beautiful and if you press their paws open, you see the claws come out. It’s scary. The feline species are amongst the most gorgeous in the animal kingdom and not without reason.

They don’t love you. They tolerate you. They own every minute of your existence. You must be at their beck and call, not like a dog who you can train to fetch. You can never be the master of a cat. Their cleanliness is legendary. I still remember, V had to show Sheila where to poop just once on the night he got her home and a kitten barely a few days old never once missed. Way smarter than human babies!

Sheila slowly dominated the household. She was the undisputed queen of our lives. Munni was reduced to being a chambermaid for her Royal Highness. And Sheila realized very early that I am scared of her. So while my room was out of bounds, Sheila like the Queen she is, never once tried to get in while I was at home. But Munni, the little lost chambermaid would always try to snoop in. She epitomized the story of the curious cat.

I love Sheila and Munni. They stayed with us only for a little while before they went to stay with V’s parents. But while they were here, they made our lives a little more humane in Mumbai than just going to office and coming back. Swati Didi loved them too and did not ever once complain. And that’s a big thing.

But because I myself fall amongst the proletariat, handling royalty becomes a challenge for me.

So I guess, it’s Bow Wow for me. Get Pluto home next to figure out!

December 17, 2011

One Less than the Dreaded

Apparently turning 30 is a big thing. I guess I will figure it out as and when I turn 30. But the year before has been no less awesome either. The day I turned 29, was pretty big, at least for me. I was not just in a new city, it was the first time I was out of the country for my birthday and it felt like some long forgotten dream of a school boy in Calcutta was coming true.

When I was growing up I was hooked on to the idea of wanderlust – but like so many of us growing up in the eighties and the nineties, I could only travel to the Pyramids in my mind and that’s why I read. I read to feel what it would be like to stand on the shores of a different ocean, what the world beyond my window looked like. This year was the one when I actually became what I had dreamt of becoming, well not in its entirety but to a great extent. And it feels nice. The best part is however not visiting new countries but about meeting new people, understand how they are living their lives, how the world is so different, yet so alike. To be honest, if I ever visit Egypt, which I really want to, I would perhaps choose meeting an Egyptian mother talking about her vision for her kids rather than stand beneath the pyramids.

I guess priorities change as we grow up.

To be frank, birthdays don’t mean much to me. If I believe in the Advaita philosophy of life, it’s just one more illusion. I really like what was said of Osho (Osho and Advaita are as different perhaps as Megan Fox and me) when he passed away. It went something like, “he was neither born, nor did he die; he just came to travel between these dates.”

I do believe I am on a journey here. I meet people on the way, have a great time and then we continue on our own respective journeys. Some people we spend more time with than others but ultimately it’s all about being alone.

This is why I probably don’t remember anyone else’s birthday either. But I really respect people who make it an effort to remember birthdays and ensure that their friends are not alone on this day.

While I was in college, my birthday marked the beginning of the exams. And it took away peace and tranquillity from my life as everyone came together to spend their pent up frustration on my posterior in true BITSian tradition. When I started working, it was typically working till late on the night before, trying to finish stuff before the holiday season. This year the good part was that a very close friend took the time out to make sure the date it not forgotten and somewhere you do begin to feel good about the fact that you were born even though you know it’s all an illusion at the end of the day.

I was woken up around 5:30 in the morning being addressed as the female species of the canine family. When Mallus go to Nigeria, they typically acquire a new sense of humour. Anyway, apparently I had committed a grave crime by not putting up my birthday on Facebook. So while on the phone, before the sun was up on World Aids Day, I was updating my FB profile. Now you actually can’t think clearly that early in the morning.

This year has been kind to me. I have seen the best and the worst a professional life can show you. I have made friends beyond my usual circle. I have started my journey to understand numerous cultures beyond my own, I have sung karaoke, I have done kick boxing! I have finally figured out the order of my cols preferences with Pepsi Max winning the top honours.

On the flip side – my grandmother still can’t figure out what I do for a living.

November 28, 2011

The Football; The Bong

Last week after ages I played the game and kicked a ball so hard that my shoe threatened to fly off. And while kicking I started calculating the angle at which my side of my foot needs to touch the ball. And in one of those moments, in the turf laid down at the East Coast Park, I realized I actually miss football.

Every bong is born unto this world with the conviction that he knows football. So every 4 years, he or she trades the Indian nationality to support Brazil, Argentina or at times (surprise surprise) Germany. And when the world is normal, he supports Mohun Bagan, East Bengal or Md. Sporting. The reasons why Bongs love Football are many, but I believe it’s mostly economic. Cricket you see was a game that required significant investment even at the very basic level. For Football, it’s nothing. In fact, if you get a chance, do watch a movie called Africa United. It’s fascinating to see how a football can be made with a condom, a plastic bag and strings. Across Bengal, poverty has been a reality and that’s the reason why we chose to play football over cricket.

Of course there are these new breed of bongs, me included, who act as if they were born at Wembley and played Gulli Cricket with Alex. These guys support typically these teams – those born in the eighties support Liverpool as they had seen the Nineties, the next generation support ManU, the next Arsenal, the new breed without any respect for pedigree support Chelsea and there are whispers that some have begun to support the other ‘chesters this season. Few of the bongs seem to support Napoli and if you wonder why, please stop reading and never ever claim to have a Bong as a friend.

Now my football journey lasted every day since 1989 (till around 2001) for 5 days a week with balls ranging from an innocuous tennis ball on the basketball court, to half the playground as the junior classes, and finally with an actual football, to being the Class 12ers who could play along the entire field, whether they could manage it or not.

The best part about those days was the fact that at any given point in time there would be about 400 students running after 25 balls on a fairly large field with 6 goalposts and 50 goalies who preferred to call themselves “Flying Goalies”

The 2 guys the entire class of 2011 of the greatest school in Calcutta looked up to were Asif Pasha and Niloy Mitra. Of course there were other players, even better players than these 2 but somehow since the beginning till the end of our school life these 2 guys typically were our captains who chose the teams. Somehow I always ended up in Asif’s team and I am yet to figure out if it was because Asif chose me or Niloy did not :)

Anyway, as I said I have had a long and fruitful journey as a footballer. I started as a striker, given the fact in the penalty shoot outs I could shoot really hard and in the 30 minutes rarely did any match have any outcome :) Then as usual with other things in my life, duty called. And I figured out that my services were needed in the mid field. About the time when the world cup was happening I realized that my football idol, Kaizer had made Lothar a Libero. I still don’t exactly know what a libero does, but it sounded a pretty cool thing to say to people. (Or was it not Kaizer who invented it but was in the edition after Italia 90?) Being a libero was of course tiring and I decided to be a back and then a full back, which I defined as never having to go beyond the midfield. That’s when I made my most famous football quote, “the ball might pass, no one else would.”

But as we grew older, the effect was telling. I mean how many footballers have a 12 year long illustrious career? So that’s when I became the “Flying Goalie” though to be absolutely honest I never did much flying.

So I stood under the goalpost and the years flashed before my eyes. Was it this reason for which I had been trained? Was it for this reason that I had become a goalie? To salvage lost pride for the Foods team? I almost could hear Hollywood Sports movies go on around my head (and a little bit of Chak De India) – you know the inspirational dialogue bit.

And yeah these days the goalie does seem to get the captaincy, the cup and the babe! So fate had got me here for a reason.

All such notions were soon laid to rest. We conceded 14 goals in 4 matches. 10 of those were through my “safe” hands. To be fair to myself, I did save quite a few and apparently we fared much better than last year for which we promptly treated ourselves to a scrumptious lunch at Scumpy Murphys but still...

Fate got me here to have a nice laugh on a Saturday morning! Even she needs her funny moments!

Damn I should have remained a striker :)

November 23, 2011

Will You?

Will you let me look at you
Without a care in the world?
Will you smile again and hold
My hands as if we never left?

Will you let me have your worries
That bind you to the ground?
Will you laugh at the sun and sand
As we build our castle in the air?

Will you let me feel your pain
That makes me cry at night?
Will you believe in us once more
Even while we remain apart?

Will you sit with me, silently,
Tired as the day goes by?
Will you hold my daughter
Telling her a story about us?

Will you smile again with me
And believe I ask for nothing else?
Will you let the years between us
Seem like moments?

And as the sun goes down
Will you speak to me of yesterday?

November 16, 2011


The door opened by itself and I walked in to the soulful music of Dire Straits. As I slid my hands under the tap in the restroom of my favourite restaurant in Singapore, I realized this is also number 2 in my list of favourite restrooms across the world.

Working for SNDU has scarred me in ways more than one :) Fascination with restroom is just one of them. Very rarely does a job require you to look intently at a squat style Indian toilet with deep reverence in Andheri West and ask the lady of the house, “aap acid kyun use karte hain? Achha... saath mein detergent bhi?” and then on the next day admire pictures of squat toilets in South East Asia and understand similarities and differences! (True Story)

That was the moment in end 2007 when the tryst with restrooms started. And that’s why I get really irritated at times. What’s with the restrooms around the world? I mean has no one ever noticed how confusing signs can be? Given that selecting the wrong door can lead to some of the most embarrassing moments in a person’s life, I would have hoped that someone would have done something about it. You know, at least have some kind of standardization?

Let’s take one of the ad agencies I worked with. You had to stand in front of their doors to figure out whether the image was of a man’s or woman’s. Fantastic creativity! In fact, the first time I guessed it, I went WOW! But then when you are rushing, you can’t actually appreciate creativity, Can you?

In one of the now defunct pubs in South Mumbai, I was sitting with 3 people who had by that time drunk enough to visit the restroom multiple times. But what I wasn’t prepared for was scared shouts from grown up men as they ran out of the male restroom as my friend walked in straight into the last male bastion and later claimed famously, “it showed a figure wearing pants. I was wearing pants.” She later, when sober and in office, refused to accept that she had made this statement and the world lost one of the greatest feminist icons of all times!

One day, I was sitting peacefully in a restroom wondering about the world around me and then suddenly I heard voices. Now that’s not strange in a world with 7 billion people. I am sure very few people have personal restrooms in this world. In fact, that’s when I figured out one of the reasons I love travelling alone on work – I am the master of my own bogs!

The airports across the world can be rated according to the cleanliness of their toilets. Chennai and Calcutta would be amongst the worst while Dubai, Delhi T3 and Singapore can claim to be amongst the best. Sometimes in Changi I feel at few given points in time, there are more restrooms than travellers in the airport.

I still remember the awesomeness I felt at a Dubai restroom. It was my first international trip and I could feel the difference. In India, except perhaps at T3 in Delhi, you would shudder to use a public restroom. Women in India have it the hardest and more often than not, if you are observant, you will realize how women in India have learnt to cope. It’s a rare moment when I feel anger but I still remember I felt extremely extremely angry and helpless at that moment in Dubai. And that’s why I love Sulabhs in India. Maybe not the best amongst the world but for an average Indian, they often are lifesavers.

I blame it on our use of water without going into too much graphic details about it. Being both a water conservationist and a paper conservationist, you might choose to save paper, but do remember that water spreads. What does your culture ask you to use? With that disturbing thought I stop! :)

Enough about restrooms so here’s the last bit. My favourite restroom is the one beside Wimpy’s near the D gates in Jo’Berg Airport. I have been there about 4 times now and that’s the only restroom I actively seek out. It’s a place where the gentleman in charge of the restroom welcomes every passenger with a glittering South African smile and a statement – “Welcome to my Office”. I really tried to recommend him for his fantastic attitude towards his work but I could not find a feedback kiosk in Jo’berg.

It feels nice to be in a restroom beside your own where you know it is cared for.

November 06, 2011

The Queen of The Zulus

Seldom do we find people who do not revel in their country’s history and its glorious past. Countries which have been split apart in the twentieth century also speak of a nation from the past. The Greek Orthodox Christians in the Middle East remember fondly the Byzantine Empire in all its glory, the Latin Americans remember the grandeur of Chichen Itza, Indians can’t stop talking about the glorious heritage, the heritage varying depending on who you ask.

But there are Nations and People whose history has been lost in the sands of time. The fiercely independent American Indians remember their past only since the pale faces came in; the aboriginals of Australia seem to have lost the memories of their forefathers. Only legends live on in folk tales and traditions and art. Africa, the birthplace of humanity, too lost her history and also her pride along with it. The Zulus were once a martial race that defeated the British Army with just spears in the memorable Opening Battle of The Anglo Zulu Wars in Isandlwana.

I realized after some thought that strangely history is saved by our monuments. If a certain kingdom reigning in the Western parts of India had not decided to pay their respects to their Gods, an Island off the coast of Mumbai would not have the Trinity looking over the city from their hidden caves.

It might have been faith as was the case with many temples in India, it might have been a boost for the ego for most of the rulers once faith had deserted them, it might have been the aliens at the Stonehenge, it might have been technology in case of the Incas or the residents of Mohen-Jo-Daro or even at attempt at afterlife by the rulers of Egypt.

But wherever history has stayed it’s because of the monuments of the Generation. The only other way to safeguard your history is through the stories passed on from father to son, from teacher to pupil, from bard to bard, till someone decided to note them down as in the case of King Arthur or the Epics of the Greeks or the Indian epics.

Most of Africa’s history lives on through her proverbs and little else. It’s tragic to imagine that few would know how the Bubu originated in Nigeria or why the Zulus were able to establish a great kingdom even before King Shaka. This is one continent where I still feel the primal call of the wild in my blood even though I may be sitting in one of the most modern hotels with perhaps one of the best views in Umhlanga in Durban. The drum beats which I never heard seems to echo from the sea, beats that resemble who we are deep inside.

At night, the winds howl and whisper in my ears, the story of a Nation that lost her pride – of a Queen of the Zulus who will come one again to ensure that Pride Rock gets back her former glory.

Perhaps it’s this connection with nature that made Africans from the central and southern parts stay away from the grandeur loving nature of the Egyptian Rulers. Africa strangely has little architecture that has survived the onslaught of time (except perhaps Great Zimbabwe). Somehow it also leads me to hypothesize that the land was so bountiful that beyond saving their tribes from the blood thirsty nature of the early African rulers, there was little that one needed to do in order to survive. They lived as one with nature, not against her and thus while the Masai tribes went for hunting; they never killed to decorate their houses with lion heads.

I love the South African greeting – they are always “Proudly South African”. The bringing back of their pride is what the continent is waiting for; to unlock the chains of corruption that is binding them. The ills here are numerous – AIDS, teenage pregnancy, dependency on grants, huge credit pressures and the list goes on. Hope flickers, dim and rare to find.

But that’s the beauty of hope. Maybe my story is true. One day, perhaps, once again, The Queen of The Zulus will rise to take her rightful throne and lead the Nation to glory. Till then the drum rumbles as the world slowly begins to realize the potential of Africa beyond just her diamonds.

October 31, 2011

How Movies Are Made

Having had some rare free time on my hands, I used it last weekend to catch up on the Hindi Movies I had missed. And as I was about to write about them I realized that there was a classic masterpiece that I had forgotten to tell you about. I had watched it in Manila and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of human imagination!

This is how the story started – 2 teams were called into the office of the Big Boss (BB) of a movie studio around Jan this year

BB – Guys, I have seen your proposals for the rest of the year. Great news! We love them both and we will make them both. Just ensure that you don’t experiment too much.

And so our two teams went and made the most awesome film they could think of copying at will from the best in the genres they had chosen. They both felt that they had the blockbuster of the year. They had the right mix of tragedy, drama, action, suspense and a sprinkling of romance.

It was July and they came again to BB’s room to show him the storyboards, shaking hands with each other, being very courteous, a bit anxious and hoping that BB loves their script a bit more than the other. The sort of corporate ego battles you typically would expect.

But BB seemed to be preoccupied. And whatever you do, never walk into your boss’ room when he or she is preoccupied.

BB – Guys before we start, I need to tell you that I have just discovered that Banjo has moved to Singapore.

Team 1 and Team 2 – (Groans) – Come on. You must be joking!

BB (nodding his head sadly) – Yeah! We are really worried. Our South Asia movie ticket sales will take a huge hit form August onwards. So we have decided to make some budget cuts. We will make just one movie.

Team 1 and Team 2 – Oh No! We worked so hard. Can’t we just ask his boss to keep him back in India?

BB – I know how you guys feel. But don’t feel bad. Let’s do something. Let’s combine both your scripts!

Team 1 – Are you crazy? Ours is a western. Market research shows that after True Grit, people want to watch westerns again. We have guns, babes getting captured and rescued and we will sell lots of cowboy hats!

Team 2 – Are you insane? We have made the foolproof alien invasion movie. Lots of gadgets, babes getting captured and rescued and we will surpass transformers. We have copied the Ben 10 watch and added a laser pointer to it!

BB – Guys, Guys... Let’s not panic. I know Banjo leaving Mumbai is a shock to us all. My friend in Imax Wadala just called and said they are planning to shut down, but trust me we will survive.

Team 1 and Team 2 (in unison) – HOW!!!

BB – Let’s look for common themes. Oh wow. Look! You both have babes getting captured and rescued. Here is the idea....

Let the aliens capture the babe and let the cowboy rescue her! We will manage the rest of the story as we go forward.

And Cowboys and Aliens were born. And I decided to watch it.

True Story!

October 26, 2011

Defeating Ra.One

Diwali or Deepavali in India is associated with the return of Lord Ram after 14 years and celebrates the homecoming post the defeat of Evil. Every time across the World the question has not been whether good can triumph over evil, it has always been ‘when’? Ra.One turns the question on its head where Sekhar Subramanium develops a computer game where the villain at all levels is more powerful than the hero as his son believes villains are “Kick Ass”

Ra.One when written in Hindi pronounces Raavan – the first of the great Indian mythical anti heroes, supremely powerful, who is destroyed every Dushhera in India to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. But Ra.One asks the question – if he could be killed, why would we need to destroy him over and over again?

If there is an anti hero, there must be a hero and for us, it’s G.One, again pronounced in Hindi as Jeevan meaning Life. And he is not super powerful, he just has a 0.01% chance of winning against Ra.One and yet he fights, to ensure the shadow of evil does not fall on us.

I feel very tempted to tell you the story, but that would be unfair as this is one of the most original stories I have seen coming out of Hindi Cinema in recent years. It is worth a watch and definitely worth your money, many times over. And here’s why –

  1. The dialogues –witty, funny, sometimes forced but so very Bollywood. You are tensed in your seats watching SRK enter the screen as a super hero and he says – mere saamne Bruce Li ke teen behne – iski Li, Uski Li aur Sabki Li. “Size does not matter, Ask the person who spent one night with a mosquito” They are not thought provoking deep ones i.e. not like Swades perhaps, but has their own rustic charm.
  2. The Special Effects – the best in Indian cinema so far, even beating the likes of Spiderman and Batman Returns. The scene where CST in Mumbai is destroyed should go in as the top 100 scenes in Indian cinema. Ganpati Bappa Moriya
  3. The storyline – gripping and yet so Bollywood. Imagine an intense situation as the Joker has a knife held at Rachel’s throat and suddenly Bruce Wayne goes into flashback and a song starts about their childhood! Has fantastic twists and turns that keeps you guessing and makes you laugh just after an intense fight sequence.
  4. It does not preach – it’s an entertainer, it remains so. Easily it could have fallen into the trap about giving gyan (it does on quitting smoking. Apparently SRK has promised to quit smoking after Ra.One) but it remains what it is – a Diwali Potbolier
  5. It’s classic SRK all the way – he shows us again that he can act better than most, but at the end of the day – he’s King Khan. He’s who both the class and the masses love. After Raj Kapoor, here’s our showman.
  6. Kareena Kapoor looks more beautiful than ever before – All Shiela, Munni, Jalebi Bais can take a break when Chammak Chaalloo is on stage.
  7. SRK and Rajnikanth share the space as G.One and Chitti and the adoration we have for Rajnikanth is documented and accepted and all of us bow before Chitti – Our Superhero Number 1.
  8. It could have been a fantastic Sci Fi story with mind control and form change. But it remains simple so that everyone who watches the movie in any of the 5000 screens worldwide understands what’s happening.
  9. It’s SRK after a year. Last time I heard so much cheering in an SRK movie was in Om Shanti Om.
  10. We all need to know that even if there’s a 0.01% chance of good winning over Evil, it still will. Always. Every Time
Happy Diwali.

October 23, 2011


When I was in school, I had read somewhere, “if there was no pain to hollow out our hearts, where would be the room for joy.” And like so many things you read back then, it made for good brownie points when you put in the essays and debates. Somehow, you never understand few things to their entirety; you just used them and sounded smart.

Last week, I just realized something different. We all react to grief very uniquely. Not one person in this world can possibly handle grief like his next door neighbour. We react differently at different forms of grief as it strikes us most unexpectedly.

Some of us need noise. We shout, we want to the world to know we are sad. It helps us cope when we know that someone else other than us knows what we are going through. Some of us turn religious and accept the fatality of it all. We blame God, we blame ourselves and we find an outlet. Some use humour, using it like a shield behind which we can hide our pain. Some refuse to admit it, trying to continue life as it is, as if not acknowledging it will make it unreal – almost as if it never happened.

Some of us become silent. We internalize it. A short sniff on a phone call to a friend and then the pain is contained deep within. Life goes on as always. We move on.  I had never understood the concept of Rudaali from Rajasthan – a group of women paid to cry at the death of the rich. Today somehow I understand their role. Sometimes, you need other people to show external signs of grief when you yourself can’t show it.

Grief changes us. It might or might not make us stronger, but it does take something away from us, something that can never be restored.

Sometimes one of the four little rats remind you what you forget -

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.”

"Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget that until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words, ‘Wait and hope.'--Your friend, Edmond Dantes, Count of Monte Cristo."

Sometimes you need to face your grief and understand who you are...inside.

And then we wait and hope.

October 20, 2011

Theories That You Pick Up

There are theories you pick up as you work. And a few days back someone asked me, after spending 4 years with India’s foremost marketing company what are the new theories that I had picked up. As I looked back at the time spent in SNDU, I realized that the theories closest to my heart had nothing to do with marketing – they were more about how to live one’s life. And like most life theories these are my interpretations of the same.

The first was Chipkali Syndrome. Told to me by the Mother of The All Knowing Little Girl, Chipkali (Lizard) syndrome is all about giving oneself more importance than is necessary. Sensing me working one Sunday, she lost it and on Monday blasted me away. Her point was that the Lizard hanging on to the roof feels that it is holding on to the roof and if it moves away the entire roof might fall on the room below.

We often tend to be chipkalis, imagining that we are so important to the business that the work will stop without us. If one is a junior, she doesn’t know how to let go and allow the decision to flow down. If it’s a senior, she never knows how to trust her subordinates to take the call and move on.

Tagore of course knew it, having never worked in an organization though – “You don’t hold the fate of the world in your hands. There’s a boatman manning the stern, who will see you through” 

The second was about Pal Money – told to me by a Mallu Salesman in Mumbai sitting on the Carter Road promenade. Wherever you work, you will always be unsatisfied with what salary you get as there will be someone who will be earning more than you. This remains to this day, the major cause of dissatisfaction in a human life. Often we do not take into account that probably to earn this extra money, the other person has probably a tougher life than us and works thrice as hard as us. Pal Money Theory accepts the fact that one will always continue to make this comparison.

But what it says that because of the money you earn less, you gain moments in life or Pal. And a Pal spent well is worth every bit of the money you don’t make. For example, on a Sunday evening, without bothering about the next presentation, I am actually blogging about Pal Money. The worth of this moment to me is almost 100 SGD. (The theory insists that you put a monetary value to it) And I am happy that I have this moment for myself, speaking to through this blog to you.

The last theory is about The Man. Almost everyone thought in college that they were going to cure cancer, save the world, eradicate poverty – in effect do something worthwhile with their lives. Everyone wanted to change the system and make the world a better place. Most of us are not doing anything half as noble. And yet in the late nights when the world seems to have made old men and women out of us, we really want to shout our hearts out. It’s like this silent monster that gnaws at you and you know you can’t let your cries be heard.

At that moment you need an object to direct your frustration and Give it to THE MAN. You know really make him pay for all that’s not right with your life, for it’s never you that is at fault! It’s always the system! So once you have found The Man, you boss or your doodhwala, you just give it to him but then once it’s out of your system you need to sit down and take stock of your life as you see it. And then probably you’ll realize that you are not a chipkali, you can always manage some time and you have the right to earn some Pal Money.

What’s more, next weekend you might find yourself teaching a few kids for free at the nearby school and really feeling good about it. At the end of the day, it’s about being happy without causing hurt to others.

Life’s really that simple.

October 17, 2011

Choosing your Brand

Whenever I have debated what makes one choose one’s brand, I have often wondered at the different answers I myself have given at different forums. The one reason which makes my job interesting, day in and day out, is the fact that there is no definitive answer and the answer might contradict each other across categories. In fact, the answer might contradict even what I was thinking a few years back.

This weekend I tried to put myself under the scanner and tried to figure out what sort of a Brand choice I was making. I deliberately left aside any category where KSS is present so that there is no conflict of interest.

Let’s start with the laptop. My first laptop was a Think Pad and till today I swear by my Old Faithful. A fantastic product experience has not taken the shine away from the fact that IBM has since sold the business. I probably will look at ThinkPad as my first choice when I pick up my next laptop.

I will be posting this through Mozilla Firefox. Ever since Mozilla came to me in 2005, I have never let it go away. IE was for oldies. Chrome is for yuppies. The supporters for Open Source still swear by Mozilla and its extensions and add ons. That’s strange since Mozilla probably today is slower than Chrome. But every time I switch on Chrome on my screen, it seems to tell me that Google knows everything about me and I can’t let it rule my life. And again a fanatical love for Open source comes to the forefront.

This however is contradicted by my phone choice. Since 2004 Dec and my first phone, I have never strayed away from Nokia. Just a moment before, I was in the Ovi store trying to find a few apps. And I know for certain that an android phone would have been the smarter choice today or even an Apple but the strong loyalty I feel to Nokia just makes me pick one up every single time. When I hold a Nokia I know it won’t let me down. And it’s a brick and mortar Brand and probably has nothing to do with Open Source.

I could never figure out why I never pick up an Apple. I remember I was one of the first guys to own an mp3 player – those were the days when you needed a battery to power the music. Times flew, and ipods were everywhere but somehow I still love my Philips GoGear which was a very late entrant but the Brand was something that was familiar, being one of those MNCs which did not move out of India during the License Raj .

Same was the case with Airtel. Once they had me with their advertisement campaign, I have never moved away from them even though I was faced with horrible customer service. But I think when I move back to India, I probably will give it a long hard thought. Sometimes, you push the consumer’s patience just a bit too much.

Coming to more tangible product category, I had to move on to Branded Clothing once I started working. It was the first selling out of my life but I realized that since now I am being paid by someone else, somehow, it does put a curb on freedom of choice. Anyway, just to understand my wardrobe, I went back and saw a strong preference towards Louis Philippe and I have no idea why. Somehow the Brand seems familiar and close to me and it’s one of those indescribable feelings. Of course it does matter that somehow they have remained traditional in their choice of colours and designs and while choosing Office Wear, I still am a conservative.

It feels funny that my job is to make people prefer the Brand I work for and yet this exercise just made me realize that any normal human being might in essence be a combination of many faces, each choosing a life that it would like to live, along with a Brand that goes with the choice.

My work becomes even more interesting!