December 31, 2015

The Recap

This year started with a promise to be more regular with my blog and apart from the bursts of a creative itch once in a while, the promise remained just that; a promise; shamefully unfulfilled. But this year was strange in the way it shaped up. Imagine an inverted bell curve and January and December being its end. Starting on a high, falling down the slope and then as the end of the year approached, pulling oneself up to feel nice about the world around.

This year has been a year of learning humility. It was also the year of farewells. Invincibility took a beating; friends said goodbye. And somewhere in the middle of the year; life became mechanical. Imagine yourself as a firefighter and noticing the hidden flames all around you. Will you have time to go and water the seeds you had planted in your garden? 2015 taught me not to lose the woods for the trees, to let go off battles not worth fighting for and not allow one’s own self to get hurt by actions of others.

2015 was not the easiest of years but suddenly somewhere inspiration came up. You realize that when you are looking at the bottom of the barrel; it’s up to only you to pull yourself up. Strangely help came from unknown quarters. A little bird made her nest in our balcony and she refused to give in to the daily efforts of 2 adult humans who kept guarding their turf and before we knew there was a birth. She never moved.

It taught me to overcome my fears and focus on the task at hand. And somehow, things started moving at a more interesting pace. Once you cease being afraid, a lot of changes start happening to your life. And suddenly you feel free.

2015 was also the year when I took the bull by the horns and started driving. Inspired by memories of NFS in Budh Front, I decided it was time to go for an automatic vehicle. However, Kherani Road taught me that NFS is not exactly replicable in real life and dents on your car costs actual money to repair. Sadly no one seems to be paying me for a drift well-made or a sharp turn on 2 wheels! And more importantly the one who always rides shot gun if she is not at the wheels refuses to allow even the least transgression while driving.

Most importantly I managed to read. I realized that the number of books I read in a year was going down in sync with the number of blog posts I upload. 2015 changed that. 30 books along with numerous articles and treatises on marketing and strategy is not a bad way to sum up the year.

2016 will be tough as well. And that’s how Life will be for us in our thirty somethings. The occasional memories of the future that could have been will tug at heart strings but the war will rage on.

“Going in one more round when you don’t think you can – that’s what makes all the difference in your life.” – Rocky Balboa

December 24, 2015

Silent Night

It’s a few hours till Christmas; arguably the second on my all-time favourite festival list. And yet, this Christmas feels strange. For the first time in years, Mumbai has cooled down to take me back to my growing years in Calcutta. Bru Café has launched the Christmas Plum cake. And a lot of bakeries are trying hard to make me forget the taste and nostalgia of Nahoum. But I still am not jolly. And on Christmas, without fail, you need to be jolly.

I probably will miss going to a midnight mass this year. I probably will miss listening to Christmas carols. There are a list of ads I need to see before the day is out and I shut down my laptop. It’s almost six and I should be shutting it down and watch the sun set over Mumbai. Long long ago, it is believed that a star was seen in the sky. I should be searching for that star tonight.

As I sit, I can hear the singing in the mosque nearby celebrating the birth of another prophet. The world always celebrates life; never death. It celebrates in birth; mourns in death and yet between the cycle of life and death we play our small games; day in and day out. Sometimes the futility of it all is striking. A friend recently said, “gain experiences.” Noble thoughts but what are experiences but a display of showmanship when advertised on social media?

The sun is a brilliant hue of orange, the birds are returning home. Somewhere a bard may still be strumming his guitar for a new song. It’s Christmas and I want to pause. And reflect and yes have my plum cake. But those seem futile when your mind keeps humming discordant notes. Is there light somewhere, anywhere?

The Saviour and King, they tell me, was born in a manger.

September 18, 2015

10 Years of IIMB

Somehow, unknown to me, a life event passed by, silently, without much fanfare I associate with such dates. Sometime back it was the 10th anniversary of a fresh graduate stepping into the strange world of management education. The call was to study for two more years. The call was also to postpone the inevitable employment for two more years. But what IIMB did to me was more than just that.

Don Bosco and Calcutta had given me my moral fibre and the very foundation of who I am - with my idiosyncrasies, my mannerisms, my accent and maybe even my ideologies. BITS Pilani took all of that, took me as a person and threw me into a cultural cauldron, something I had never witnessed before. I embraced it and before I knew it, it made me ready for the world outside.

But IIMB? IIMB was different. IIMB made me find my love. And like all true love, it did not come easy. I spent a year searching for what made me happy, till one day, while attending a lecture I knew I had found it. I really believe in the “Conspiracy of Universe” Theory and therefore what happened in the second year at IIMB would not be any less exciting than a fairy tale. While Year 1 was about surviving with the help of phone calls from Pilani and Bangalore, year 2 was all about taking the devil by its horns and facing it.

And the only thing I took away from college? Never stop learning. It sounds grandiose but it’s true. The biggest bane of anyone in the marketing industry is the curse of the “know-it-all”. I call it at times the “been there done that” syndrome. It essentially attacks as you grow older, when you believe that you have seen it all! The tragedy is that situations repeat and yet they are never the same. It’s critical therefore to ensure that you know your basics and never forget them.

If I have been invited to a college to speak, I cringe when I hear wrong definitions of basic marketing terms. I feign ignorance when asked to decide between two decidedly wrong theories. I apparently fainted when evaluating case studies recently submitted in a competition. But then they are still better than the consultant friend who calls whenever he has a client with a marketing challenge. “Dude. Still selling soap? Ha Ha Ha. Listen have a marketing query. I am recommending XYZ. Should I call it a line extension or a brand extension? You marketing guys. Love to make things complicated. Ha ha ha”

Whenever caught in any of these situations, the only things that keep running in my mind is either “Schiffman Kanuk, Schiffman Kanuk”, or “Kumar Kumar Kumar”. It’s like performing an exorcism on myself to defend against the demons of incomplete knowledge. And then I go home and read a bit.

You may call me weird but I have often found a hard bound copy of Aaker to be more therapeutic than banging my head against my desk.

Anyway, you might have got the gist. I love my job. I love creating stories. I get angry when someone makes better stories than me. And then I applaud and get down to work even harder. That’s what IIMB gave me. I think often people in my situation get the creation bug. And they become entrepreneurs. In the last 8 years or so, I have created three stories. While the credit for that is not just IIMB but my organization (SNDU in case you have forgotten – Sabun, Nakhun and Datun Unlimited) too, the genesis has to be IIMB.

2017 would be my 10th employment anniversary and also the 10th anniversary of the Class of 2007. It would be a good time to pause and reflect. Today I can just be thankful for the opportunity.

“Schiffman, Kanuk, Kumar. Om Shantih Shantih Shantih”

September 05, 2015

Despise the Bully

When I was in school, I had been taught “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” Years of studying the Bible taught me never to throw stones at others, as none of us could claim to have not sinned. When you grow up reading religious texts, mythologies and a spattering philosophical discourses, you realize the world is grey and not a simple tapestry of black and white.

But since the day I had stepped into school, I knew one thing instinctively in my heart, when you see a bully, “TAKE NO PRISONERS.” Two things helped. First, relative size was an automatic deterrent. Second, being the teacher’s pet, class monitor and the first boy ensured that I had a voice. And when you have a voice, you exercise it. It’s a duty.

The problem with duty is that other factors come into play making the choices really really difficult. Morality, friendship all get entangled into a mishmash of right and wrong. And you start making the choices. I have been incredibly lucky to have teachers who accepted my choices and taught me to live with them and face their consequences. It also helped that mom knew everything. But more about that, some other day.

In school handling bullies became easier as I grew up. It took guts to stand up to the boys in the Senior School but once you do that, there’s no stopping back. Once you take a stand, it’s final and maybe lose a few friends in the process. But the fact, that you have the gumption to take a stand slowly steels you to your very core.

When I went to college, bullying had reached new levels. For the first time I saw class distinctions being used to bully. Supposed Intellectual superiority (based on things as flimsy as knowing the name of a particular author) was used to bully. Regional Majority came through as group bullying. That’s the reason why I have always been sceptical of ragging. Ragging forces discipline through hierarchy, ragging forces social bonding through conformity and therefore ragging is no better than bullying. And it pained when later I heard juniors who had been saved from bullies, turn into the very same monsters.

Bullies are cowards, bullies are weak, bullies suffer from an inferiority complex. And the funniest part? Bullies NEVER have the gall to punch above their weight. I have never seen a self-assured individual ever resort to bullying those under him or her. It has always been someone who feels that a point has to be made, someone who knows his/her inferiority in relation to others.

All through my life, whenever I have faced bullies, I have taken a stance against them, all but one. And every time I remember the incident, I know how that moment of indecision had failed to stop further instances. I was scared. I had been bullied. And then I had made a commitment – never again.

The reason I feel compelled to write this is because I see so many profiles of proud parents with their kids on my social media page. My nephews and nieces are growing up and have faced bullies as early as in kindergarten.

All I want to say is that we have choices – not to be bullied and neither become one.

Hate is a strong emotion. I know I am not capable of something as strong. But if you can, every single time you meet one, despise the bully.

September 03, 2015

The Train

I love travelling in the train. Cars make me sleepy and worried about the driver sleeping off. Planes make me feel squishy and uncomfortable and pray for a boom in the deodorant industry. Trains, on the other hand, are cool. Well yes, the bathrooms could have been better, the seats could have been more comfortable and most importantly the co passengers a little quieter but trains give me something which no other mode of transport can provide at the cost – a time to think, reflect and eat. As I write this, I am crossing a station called Gondal. I do not think Life will ever bring me again to Gondal, but the fact is today I am here, at this moment at Gondal. Maybe the last time when Gondal was mentioned so many times in an article was when the kids at the school in Gondal were asked to write an essay on Gondal. (Btw Google told me later that Gondal was once a princely state)

Now enough of Gondal. I checked already, the food at the station was nothing great to bring to the wife sleeping on the bunk above.

Our fascination with trains started in Europe, where strangely we got flight tickets at a much cheaper cost than train tickets and suddenly had a new found respect for trains. A failed attempt to board the Palace on Wheels made our resolve even stronger. And then we fell off the social ladder and from being NRIs became your average Indian, two amongst our 1.2 bn. And we Indians, we love our trains, so much so that we paint the sides of every single coach red, with our Beatle leaf stains.

After 2 years of jet setting around Europe and South East Asia, we realized that we needed slower holidays. Ones where you could stop at a countryside in Punjab and do the DDLJ pose (still pending) without worrying about missing the bus or an amused shaking of the head of a French taxi driver. Another thing cropped up during a debate on our next destination. We figured that while we have admired the Thai Buddhist monuments, neither of us have ever seen Bodhgaya. That started the “See India” movement in the family.

Thanks to the distances between Mumbai and the really off the road places that we pick to visit, one of the world’s largest rail network is often the only way to reach. Even otherwise, trains might take longer but at our stage in life, the journey is as much a part of travel as the destination itself.

Trains show me the Indian countryside. The flamboyance of greenery, the ruggedness of the dry, arid mountains, the squalor of the small towns, the prosperity of the villages, the children heading to school on their cycles, the farmer tilling his lands, everything makes me connect to an India that I want to know and yet feel far away from. And once you know where to look, you get to see the differences in the greenery, you get to read the body language of the people waiting at an unmanned crossing, you see the hope for the future of your nation, you also see the pitfalls. And you learn.

Neither of us are picky. We travel light and therefore we jump on any compartment we get our hands on, rather IRCTC allows us on. So we have sat elbowing our way in a sleeper to get a cup of tea to the first class coupe where a banquet was spread out for us. And that allows us to meet people. No research reports make you understand SECs better than travelling in a train. In my honest opinion, a 12 hour train journey can be as rewarding as an in depth qualitative research. The train journeys help me understand India better than sitting at my desk. It shows me what Indians (if such a generalized term exists) are thinking, how they are speaking, what they are eating (always) or reading (rarely these days as they are always playing a version of temple run on their phones)

We have met exciting characters. Drunk Jats who want to discuss politics, angry Tamilians abusing every specimen of North Indian food, Gujjus who have bought enough food to feed the whole train and the occasional bong who will come and speak to you as soon as he hears a syllable of his mother tongue. Honestly, this is where you can grab the pulse of the nation – something the Indian tweeteratti will never know; at least not yet.

There’s another reason I love travelling on a train. It is the food I find at the stations. The best vadapav for example is found in stations just before you enter Goa and not in Mumbai as you would imagine. The chole kulche of Kanpur and Bareilly Stations still linger on in my mouth and the veg patties at the small halt en route to Shimla in the quaintest of stations can give any bakery in a metro a run for their money. The only places where I have felt cheated are at Burdhwan in Bengal where the famous Sitabhog and Mihidana found at the station is almost always sub-par and. But then Bengali sweets are the most delicate food items after sushi. The second is Ahmedabad. I just don’t understand why Ahmedabad can’t have good food.

Anyway, I wait for Rajkot as I write. The dhoklas at the station can be quite amazing.

July 26, 2015


Over the years, I have worked extensively with kids both as a professional requirement when I was developing products that would be right for the kids and as a volunteer when we went about teaching basic tenets of hygiene to kids.

Every single time I had walked into a consumer group, or in a classroom, one thing always amazed me. The girls outshone the boys. Every single time. When I visit the crèche at our office during the evenings; often to get away from the incessant emails and relive my childhood; I find the girls totally taking control. And it looks amazing.

However, as they grow up something happens. Often in countries like India, it is economical. The ‘future bread winner’, the ‘son’ continues his education while the daughter is asked to stay at home. And the bright sparks slowly die out. That is easily corrected and I am sure will be corrected.

But as I worked in other markets outside India, I saw this trend too. At times, I thought that bullies were to blame. And because of genetics, bullies usually would be boys. (Remember Calvin? For all intents and purposes, in my mind, Calvin was a bully). But that idea did not bear fruit. Young girls figure out the bully in the gang and often ensure they are taught a lesson. So it could not be that genetically stronger boys bully girls in school which make girls change their behaviour.

There had to be something else.

So I started reading up on psychology. Some patterns emerged. Societal stereotypes often make kids choose their calling. The colours pink and blue are a classic example. There are no pink shorts for boys and only the rare blue frock for girls when you go shopping. The balloons in the birthday party are always gender coloured. As a result, we start conditioning kids at an early age. Some of it also is genetic. One of them is the natural caregiver, the other is ‘supposed to be’ the gatherer. Therefore there are careers where one would be suited perfectly based on gender. But then, that’s a generalization. And more importantly, generations of conditioning allows the caregiver to be the provider but rarely vice-versa.

Yesterday I found perhaps one of the most plausible explanations for this change. Puberty. And it fits my own observations for the past 8 years. Stereotypes come into play even more than they ever did and slowly kids who never thought that they were any different than boys, begin to act differently.

Watch the video, it’s really interesting.

And remember to tell your daughters, nieces, any kid you might know that’s it’s awesome to be #LikeaGirl

June 13, 2015

The Supremacy Debate

Over the years, the debate has been on. Which is the best mango around the world. India loves her mangoes. We produce the world’s highest number of mangoes and export as little as we can since we just eat up most of our produce. I love such passion.

No one can be more passionate about mangoes than Bengalis. And Bengal knows her mangoes. Any true Bengali will tell you that only 2 districts in this world produce the world’s best mangoes. Malda and Murshidabad. Everyone else is just a hopeful imposter.

Ever since I was a child, I have been well trained to identify mangoes and their unique tastes. Even though we fall in the category of the “Mango People” or the commoners, in terms of mango we developed rich and cultivated tastes. Every year we would start in early May, getting irritated with every bite of the first batch of mangoes that would come to Calcutta. Suddenly, people would remember long lost relatives in Murshidabad and Malda. In fact legend has it that I was given away in marriage after strong evidence of Ze Wife’s Grandma’s outstanding culinary skills in making mango pickle. Though this theory is strongly refuted by all.

And that’s not surprising. I remember the day when I was sent off to far away Muzaffarpur, both my grandmas called me up to say that I was going to the land of litchis!!! No farewell, No “take care of yourself”, not even, “Don’t get married without letting us know!”. Plain and simple I was told of litchis. Only later while I had worked on Foods for a long period of time, I realized the importance of provenance.

So I grew up in the summer months of Calcutta eating everything possible that can be made of mangoes in various stages of ripeness. Apart from the whole mangoes, there were pickles, chutneys, sherbets, sweets, puddings, custards and even lentils!!! It was perhaps the only time a self-respecting Bong Household would serve something other than Rosogolla and Fish Fry when people came unannounced.

And as a child, every single year I waited for the Himsagar to arrive!

Last year was the first year of my life when I did not have Himsagar. Maybe it was work, maybe it was an effort to like Alphonsos and treat Badami with some respect that made me wait for Himsagar till I found the entire West of India has not even heard of them. In fact, Langras are also a rarity. Then one day, I found this one vendor from Bihar who said, “Sir, aap jaisa aam ke samajhdaar kahan milte hain aajkal? Yahan log sirf yahan ke aam hi khate hain” He did sell me litchis at a fleecing price of 10 USD per KG but then if you are called a connoisseur, you end up paying!!!

Ze Wife has the bloodline to understand mangoes. So with her for the last few years we have gone ahead and tasted mangoes from outside India. And we feel today like the protagonist of The Alchemist! The Thai mangoes are good only with the sticky Jasmine rice. The ones from Cebu (in the Philippines) are passable at best, and the lesser said about the Chinese varieties, the better. Today my sister started crying on FB saying my niece has to satisfy her love for mangoes with Mexican mangoes which are pretty sour. Can you beat that? Mexican? I am still in shock. So after travelling around the world, and eating almost everything of note except the Spanish mangoes, I have decided it is Himasagar that my heart desires.

Even after this realization, this year, we took it upon ourselves to try every variety of mangoes available in Mumbai but nothing seems to satisfy. Lalbag, Totapuri, Alphonsos, Badami, Kesar, Dasheri, nothing!

Today we finally found some decent langras. And as we were biting into the softness and the sweetness, the evil plan was hatched. Do you know which is the only district that can come close to Malda when it comes to Himasagar? The answer my friend is Rajshahi. And I shall say no more.

May 25, 2015

The Beginning

It is said that every beginning starts with an inspiration – sometimes human, sometimes divine. And probably this beginning required a divine one. Somewhere in the hills of Himachal, I suddenly realized that it was perhaps time to write more about travel. Himachal, the abode of the Gods, made me realize how travelling makes one a better human being, how travelling together makes you love one another even more. Sometimes, travelling is all the succour a parched soul needs.

Himachal is breathtakingly beautiful. The walks through the villages, the silence of the apple orchards, the cakes from the bakeries that call themselves ‘German’ all add to the quaint beauty of Himachal. From the touristy mall road of Shimla to the quiet of Mashobra, from the snowy caps of Solang Valley, to the roaring waters of the Beas. Himachal beckons you with all the glory of nature.

However, nature can also be devastatingly beautiful. For us, Manali would be always be remembered for the fury of nature at her full glory. As we rafted down the rapids of the Beas, the clouds broke and Beas reciprocated in full. She was angry and her anger grew as she tossed and turned the puny humans trying to keep their raft afloat on her current. When we finally got to the shore, nature had taught us a lesson we would never forget.

Himachal is at the cusp of a change. Civilization is slowly catching up and the green of the valleys slowly are giving way to more and more real estates. The appetite of Delhi for a second home is slowly beginning to spread to both Himachal and Uttarakhand and as the number of tourists increase, so does the trampling of nature by those who for generations had kept it safe. The Palace of the Kullu kings showcase how you can be one with nature and yet build something substantial. But no longer. The palace is now a hotel, while the administrative capital has shifted to Shimla.

New roads, new dams, electricity, schools all spring up as they should. So does new hotels, guest houses and summer residences. And often without a second thought about nature herself.

It does feel at times that more than anything else, Himachal is about Gods. Hindu mythology comes alive in every pebble and every stream that flows through the mountains. The sages of Hindu scriptures have all left their marks across the springs and often you wonder if the seven immortals of Hinduism will suddenly come forth from behind the ageless trees.

The hills and villages have their own travelling Gods and they move from village to village ensuring that no harm comes to the villages. The Mega Gods of Hinduism are revered as well but what sets Himachal apart are these unique Gods. The Village Gods sit in council as well and take a decision based on what’s best for the villages. And then they travel back. At times, there are no roads to these villages and the Gods sit on their own unique ropeways and travel upwards to their destination while their bearers trudge the tricky mountainous terrains.

Shimla herself has the Bengali Kali Bari and the Shimla Church. Ages ago, two communities had made Himachal their home. The Bengalis worshipped the Mother Goddess and the British worshipped Mother Mary in their summer residences. And when you walk in to their hallowed halls you can hear history whispering into your ears. And then far away from Bengal if you miss your food of home, just walk down the steps of the Kali Bari where even today a Bengali can find his heart’s desire of home cooked food.

Close to the Himalayas, you are never away from the divine.

April 27, 2015

The Beginning of Sin

I have been always fascinated by the story of the apple and man’s first sin. At the outset, it is a straightforward demonstration of human nature. We love the forbidden. We love to reach beyond our limits, to touch what’s beyond us. Exploration of the unknown is our inherent nature. Deep within, the explorer calls out to every single one of us. And therefore over the ages, men have sinned – gone beyond the acceptable limits.

However, on deeper analysis, sin is a lot more complicated. And nothing demonstrates its veracious stages better than gluttony, the only sin I succumb to again and again. It starts with temptation – the subtle hints that come to you from the aroma, from the sounds in the kitchen, the clink of glasses, the sizzle of a molten lava cake, the sudden appearance of a red velvet dream. The next is resistance. We turn around, we refuse and yet the hunger rises within and it’s a hunger like no other. It’s not for physical satiety, rather it’s for the soul, the tainted soul. For the pure soul can resist any temptation. We try to retain the purity. But unlike the Son of God, we finally succumb.

What follows next is the actual act of sinning. We vacillate between snobbery at it best and Gluttony at its worst. In the former, we assume the shroud of pretence, assume who we are not and then slowly we slide in to our sin. In the other, the distinction between man, created in the image of God, and an animal slowly vanishes and in some strange semblance to the apocalyptic world of Animal Farm, men forget their nature.

What results however, is only temporary satiety. The soul is tainted a bit more but the now darkened soul is not satisfied. It wants more and more.

Post this, comes repent. A shameful look at self and the promise of making every bad deed good comes. And if the repent is strong maybe temptation is kept at bay. For temptation, it is certain to come and the cycle repeats itself.

The question is – can it be broken?

March 13, 2015

For Clothes Maketh a Man!

In a land far far away, there lived a boy. He was born in a library (Don’t ask me how!) and since birth all he had seen were books. Very often when his mother came to sing a lullaby, she would find him already away in a land of dragons and heroes with a book under his pillow. He loved books and often dreamt of working in a bookstore. When I asked him if he would rather work in a library, he often seemed lost as if faced with Hobson’s choice. For how could he leave one for another? Then when I would force him, he would slowly pick his bookstore. To the young kid, if he owned a bookstore, it would mean never ever having to share his books and having them all to himself, just for himself.

He was lucky as he grew up. His teachers patronized him. His friends loved to share their books with him for he would complete an entire Hardy Boys Mystery overnight, starting at 14:00 hours as soon as the school broke. The librarian was his friend and while others would descend on the Games Room at recess, he would slowly pack his bag and walk towards the library.

As he grew older, his friends started to have interest in other aspects of life. The first razor and the excitement of the first shave; the induction into manhood, the first Axe Deo and believe it or not the first Cherry Blossom Wax Shoe Polish! These had become part of their boyhood and yet he persisted with his books. Being able to quote from Paradise Lost seemed to be a far higher calling than having the ‘Axe Effect.’

And so the years went by and like most other dreamers, the young boy was awakened into a world where he was told, it’s not enough to own a bookstore, but perhaps it’s more important to earn enough to have all the books he would ever want. From the Far East he had travelled West. He had learnt of money and what money could buy. Every month he would go and buy books by the dozens and when money would run out he would search for books in the alleyways of the city, always believing that he had made a bargain.

The day he left the country, he had a suitcase of clothes and two book cases full of books. The day he came back, he still had the same suitcase full of the same clothes and a whole new set of books.

And that’s when he realized the world had changed. Books no longer were in vogue. What mattered was what you wore. It was like school all over again with shiny new toys being the talk of the day and not the dusty old books from the library. He passed every Strand Sale reminding himself to “wear the old coat but buy the new book!” But it became harder. For now, in the changed world, clothes had begun to make the man!

February 13, 2015


Sometimes I feel we have forgotten to be angry. We have forgotten what it is to seethe in uncontrollable rage. We accept and move on. We let it be, for we fear retribution. The only time we allow our anger to come out is when we are in a crowd. The anonymity gives us courage. Our true animal instinct from our hunter gatherer days comes to the fore and we often engage in mindless violence as the anger bubbling beneath our calm visage comes forth.

I for one have never shied away from smiling even when I wanted to shout the heavens down. Anger never solved problems, I kept telling myself. Yet there are days when I want to be angry. I want to feel the burst of adrenalin that rushes forth as anger is released. But all I feel is cold fury; somewhere deep deep down.

That’s when I wonder if others have felt this rage. And I find my answer in art. I find it in Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, in Marln Brando when he walks ‘On the Waterfront’, in the Bengali literature of the tumultuous seventies. I find it in my peace loving elder colleague’s quiet admiration of Amitabh Bachhan of the early Eighties. I find it in Caravaggio’s angry strokes. Every time a society is angry, art creates an outlet for its rage.

I turned to Bollywood late into the night, angry with nothing in particular and I found my old DVD of Ghatak. Rage has never been so well depicted in Hindi Cinema. The movie is the depiction of a society bursting at its seams, frothing in its mouth and waiting for the change it desperately wants.

Since then, India prospered, moved forward and our movies changed, some say evolved. And raw anger was no longer what you wanted to see in your movies.

And slowly, as I said, I realized that we have forgotten to be angry anymore.

February 01, 2015

The Acts of Kindness

Every day as we go about in our daily lives, often wondering about the choices that we make, nothing cheers us up more than the sudden acts of kindness that strangers show our way. Over the last few weeks I have suddenly become aware of them and remain eternally thankful.

A lady slowing down her car so that I may cross the road, the unknown colleague holding the door open for me as I balance my laptop, my coffee mug, my phone and my notepad, someone offering to take my box of trash while I wonder where have all the dustbins gone, the auto driver sympathizing with me over my long hours at work.

Somehow we miss acknowledging these gestures, often taking them as nonchalantly as we would accept a rightful heirloom. In our rush to meet deadlines, the faces that held the door opened for us flashes past in a blur. People who do not matter seem and feel invisible and slowly our lives start becoming a lot more inhuman.

The other night I was in an auto somewhere in Andheri. Suddenly at a signal, a guy came running, “Can you drop me ahead?” There was no sense of request, the word please did not seem to be known to him and there was no waiting for an acknowledgment from my side. To be honest it was a bit scary, but then I still trust Bombay.

As the kid spoke, his story seemed interesting; he had planned to get off from a BEST bus without paying for the ride, was caught and was fined. He got off again, without a word of thanks but I guess that’s fine. In a world where an abuse and expletive laden show takes the internet by storm and defended under the garb of free speech, courtesy is often the easy prey.

But it showed me one thing. Not just we are forgetting to be kind, we often are afraid to be so. And that does not bode well for a world torn with strife.

January 05, 2015

To Hug or Not to Hug!!!

Being a global citizen, at least considering oneself to be a global citizen can be tricky. The nuances of how you interact with people around the world change every time you meet someone.

Having grown up at a boy’s school – we knew only four ways to express ourselves. A succinct nod, a firm handshake, a pat on the back and then if the occasion really demanded it – a manly hug. (e.g. a lovely drubbing given in a college fest to Calcutta Boys, Xavier’s, La Marts et al)

Now the hug is a great gesture. It shows warmth, personal camaraderie and bonhomie. Maybe at times, it’s a complete invasion of private space but then a hug is a hug and we boys did hug, but as I said only when occasion demanded it. The hugs I received when the infamous IIT results of 2001 came out were more than any words of consolation that my crestfallen teachers could offer me.

When I went to college, suddenly there were the better half of our species all around and the seniors loved to hug. While I did try to protest saying it was unwarranted physical contact; often that would be followed by squeals of laughter and a second hug. After sometime I realized resistance was futile.

I slowly realized that hugs can be wonderful. When you are in the receiving end, it comforts you and allows you to collect yourself together. Hugs and I became friends and friends got hugs. Now the hugs were of course not for everyone. You had to be in the circle of trust! The hugs would never be allowed to wander about. That would be profligate! Bangalore had a mixed crowd – those who hugged and those who didn’t. We were still a small batch trying to learn ‘Business’ so you knew very soon who to hug and who not to hug.

When I started working, of course hugs took a back seat. In India, hugging someone might send a signal that you are about to get married and I was no longer in the wonderful wonderland of Pilani with no one to frown upon such things.

To hug or not to hug became an important question and the answer soon became a firm no! In India you never hug anyone. Period. The firm handshake and the nod came back. Hugs took a backseat. Friends started getting married. So it was of course the right thing to not go around hugging them!

But then I started working with a lot of professionals from across the world. And the hug came back. And what a return it was! And I walked in with trepidation into the new found world. And the hugs changed. The Filipino hug accompanied by the laughter, the big warm Latin American one, the cautious European ones (is it one cheek, two or three?), the surprisingly warm Russian and Turkish ones, the non-existent British ones and so many others.

And then the confusion was of a more pleasing nature – not whether hugs would be frowned upon as a workplace gesture but whether it was acceptable to hug as long as the two in question agreed to it. As they say, the hugs were back!

Most important thing however in the question of hugging is your spouse. If you are with someone who is a strong crusader of personal space and a big naysayer to hugs, then you must step carefully my friend!

Then all you are allowed is an approved Hugs list!