Monday, May 20, 2013


Being a manager is a thankless job. No, I mean, really. I am one of those people who simply hate responsibilities, but the more I run away from them, the more intricately involved I get. I like my work, but I am not obsessive about it. I come to office, do my thing, surf around a bit, listen to some Punjabi music, bitch about people and go home early enough to have a social life if I choose to. It’s altogether another matter that I don’t really have a social life. And for the last couple of years, it had worked wonderfully well. Until a few months back, when I was made the team lead and asked to take responsibility of two guys, who, frankly speaking, behave like kids, providing me with a taste of premature motherhood, sans the joy or the baby-sitting money. And now that we are again in the middle of some mindless restructuring, with looming uncertainty and volatility, the restlessness has just magnified manifold, leaving me completely clueless about pacifying them.

Even my hectic weekend, splashed with alcohol did not help much in calming me down. While Friday night, we drowned our impending unemployment fears in cheap alcohol, Saturday night was spent in celebrating D1’s birthday with more alcohol and cheesecake. It was our first get-together since the December wedding: all eight of us, huddled together abusing each other over a really long game of Pictionary. As always, I was my competitive screaming best, and as always, I finished on the losing side, but that’s not important. What is important is I am good at it. Sunday, we decided to get out of Powai and get some fresh air. In Nehru Science Centre. At times like this, I really wish I had paid more attention in school and got into some IIPM equivalent of an engineering college, just for the heck of it. As we stood in front of the different exhibits, reliving the nightmare of 10th standard Physics, the Amazing Caves Space Odyssey show appealed even to a completely science atheist like me. After my painfully educational afternoon, I thankfully retired to the familiarity of jarring loud music, expensive showrooms, seafood lunch, fat-free icecream, yet more alcohol and IPL on big screen. This was followed by a much-needed stand-up comedy show which had me holding on to my stomach for two hours. Life would be so meaningless without the frivolity of urban life. And Palladium.

But most importantly, I have decided to do deal with the crisis like any self-respecting, escapist corporate manager would do, i.e. go on block leave for two weeks (the employee is forbidden to access work-related emails/phone calls) and distance myself from the situation. Well, not really. But my Eastern European holiday begins tomorrow and since we had already made all the reservations, I did not have the heart to cancel it. It’s not the best time for a vacation, but it also gives me the much-required distance from the chaos.

So, next couple of weeks as I discover a different world, I would be oblivious about my rapidly crumbling reality

Monday, May 13, 2013

Anything for a Hat Trick

Being an Indian MBA, I have this inherent knack to fix what’s not even broken, pretty much like our government. So even though the major aspects of my life are in a mess, I decided to focus on trivial things which frankly don’t really need any attention.

Like my hair, for instance. Ok, may be I do not have perfect hair, but it certainly did not deserve to be treated as unkindly as it was over the weekend.

When I started working four years back, and did not know what to do with money, I had decided on a whim to straighten it, which turned out to be a disaster. Not only did it cost me a bomb, I suffered from major hairfall and the flat, poker straight look did not even suit me. So when the effect finally wore out after a year of struggling with expensive shampoos and spa treatments, I was too happy to embrace my curly natural look back.

Ever since then, I haven’t really experimented much, settling for shoulder-length layers, happy with periodic trims, occasionally indulging a blow-dried look or the schoolgirl-with-a-hairband look which apparently did not look nice. Anyway, the point is that I have been too scared to mess with my hair and even in Manila, while SH forced me to get it shortened, the style remained the same.

Until this weekend, when I committed hara-kiri. Yes, it’s extremely hot in Bombay, yes, I am bored with my life in general and my hair in specific and yes, I need some excitement. But I could have just got an AC, or visited Colaba Causeway or simply turned on the TV for some IPL action. That would have solved my inherent need for comfort and enjoyment.

But no, I HAD to chop off my hair, and pay through my nose to let some fancy hair-lady take out all her frustrations on MY hair. Usually, whenever I visit a salon, I ALWAYS go for the cheapest option, i.e. some junior stylist who runs his scissors over my hair and tries to sell me a range of expensive hair products. But this time, since the junior stylists were ALL busy for the entire week, I had to go with a senior one, i.e. someone who simply HAS to overhaul my entire look and turn me into this alien from Avatar.

And the timing of this tragedy could not have been worse since tomorrow I have a video shoot for my company, even though it’s comforting to know that nobody will really watch it. What’s more depressing is that since my vacation is barely a week away, ALL my photos would be ruined, thanks to this stupid impulsive decision.

Time to bring out the hat; if only it was magical enough to produce a rabbit to turn back time

Thursday, May 9, 2013

If You are Out There

So Alex Ferguson retired. After 26 years, after becoming a legend, after creating history. It’s not often that you come across a personality who makes a name from the sidelines, without actually being on the field. At least I can’t think of anyone so larger than life in modern sports.

So what is it that makes him wield so much power even without playing the game? Charisma? Leadership? Passion for the game? Being a shrewd strategist?
And that makes me wonder about the qualities of being a great leader, the age-old debate about whether leaders are born or made.

Yes, leaders have to good at what they do and lead from the front? But the reverse is not necessarily true, i.e. even if you are the best in your field, you may not be a good leader. Case in point: Sachin Tendulkar.

Leaders also need to have a keen mind, listen well and be receptive to ideas, stay calm, be humble and not take themselves too seriously. Which is why I admired Mark Taylor as a captain even when he was struggling for form.

Leaders need to be inspiring, articulate and fearless enough to believe in their dreams against all odds. But you may be all of those things and yet not be a sustainable leader despite the initial wave of success. Who better than Adolf Hitler to exemplify that.

Most of all, leaders need to respect the people, win their trust, stand up for them and put their interests ahead of his/her own. But you can only do that when you are completely secure as a person and secure about your acceptance. History is replete with examples of insecurity and mistrust playing havoc with the psychology of an otherwise good leader.

Thus the question remains: are people like Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela rare gifts to humankind or can you actually groom leaders?

Can the B schools over the world, with all their fancy jargon and smart shoes, actually impart leadership skills to students or do they simply churn out ‘managers’ instead of leaders?

And can Manchester United really replace Sir Alex Fergusson, not just as a coach but as an eccentric yet inspiring personality with an uncanny ability to bring out the best in people?

With great power comes great responsibility, but can you be responsible even without resorting to power? And can you command respect without demanding it?

Monday, May 6, 2013

When Bombay Talkies Makes You Listen

You know one of those hot summer weekends, when all you want to do is stay home with a big bowl of ice cream (ok, a family pack), lie around and watch movies NON-STOP, because you are too lazy to even change the channel!

So this was one of THOSE weekends. What started with Men in Black III in the morning, continued till late night, as I just kept watching and watching and watching. Now, MIB I has been one of my all-time favourite movies, not because I am secretly in love with Will Smith (especially in a black suit), but because of the awesome chemistry between J and K (Tommy Lee Jones) and of course the humour is one of its kind. While MIB II was a big let-down, I quite liked the third part, though it’s nowhere close to the first. This was followed by Madagascar and Madagascar: Escape to Africa. Well, you can just never get enough of “I like to move it, move it”, though move was the last thing I did! Then came Jerry Mcguire. Yes, I am slow. I need to watch some movies fifteen times (ok, seventeen) to appreciate them properly, and this one is one of THOSE movies. You.just.can’!

And when Dorothy tells Jerry, “Shut up! You had me at Hello”, you just want to rewind the scene and watch it all over again.

But the highlight of the weekend has to be Bombay Talkies. Four directors, four independent stories, strung together by the common theme of Mumbai, Bollywood and the common man. Take a bow, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar. Especially Karan Johar. For someone who has made a name for wasting crores on mind-numblingly stupid movies, this was just a glimpse into his creative genius, who can weave stories even out of a dirty railway platform in Mumbai and not necessarily snow-clad mountains of Switzerland, who can tap into the complex relationship of an urban couple as opposed to half-baked college romances and who can bring out the talent in a small street urchin with dirt streaking across her face instead of dressing up star kids in designer clothes.

Add to it Rani Mukherjee’s portrayal of the hapless woman trapped in a marriage, blaming herself for everything that is wrong with it; the little girl with a voice of an angel, not shy of peddling her talent; Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s brilliant one-act show without dialogues; the cross-dressing dancing queen king performance of the little boy and of course the single-minded obsession of the UP youth from Allahabad with his signature statement, “Aap Kanpur se hain na. You won’t understand!”

Bombay Talkies lives up to its name: for a change, here is a Hindi movie that does make Bombay talk, while the audience listens, enraptured…

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Resurgence of the Pigtailed Girl

Ever since I had moved to my new place a year and a half back, I had strictly used it as a convenient house to crash after a long day at work or a long night out, but never really as a home to stay in, relax and enjoy. While I did have friends coming over for a drink or outstation people staying over, I had never felt a strong connection or sense of belonging to it. Quite contrary to the place I shared with S right after we passed out, which was the quintessential bachelor pad, which we looked after as our own, decorated and took pride in while entertaining guests. From simple pizza parties and birthday parties to bachelor parties and new year parties, it was our escape zone from everything. While S was the more domestic one, setting up the kitchen, making it more colourful and cosy, I enjoyed all the benefits it had to offer.

But my current place is the diametric opposite to it. I could barely live in it, but continued since it was so close to work and the main Hiranandani area, saving me a lot of time and headache of commuting. Even when friends came, they got the alcohol along, while we ordered pizza. On the rare occasions when we cooked, it would mostly be JB1/soulgoat who would do all the hard work, while I simply criticized and ate.

However, with soulgate finally getting married this weekend (I can heave a sigh of relief after being subjected to extreme emotional torture over the last five years) and me having a holiday yesterday, I decided to do the unimaginable. I INVITED a friend over for dinner, and by definition, an invitation means complete ownership of cooking, serving and in general, being polite and host-like, i.e. things that you would normally not associate with me.

Armed with a brand new cylinder refill, not only did I buy chicken and vegetables, cooked a flawless chicken curry AND daal, I also made sure there was soft drinks, snacks and desserts and Maggie as back-up just in case everything else got screwed up. But things were perfect as I could have imagined! I got up early in the morning, spring-cleaned my apartment, bought new plates and bowls, while doing up my hall with bright cushions and rugs, just to make it a little more cheerful. Then I cooked for FOUR long hours: a personal best for someone who lives on bread/milk/fruits/kurkure.

I don’t know why I was suddenly so motivated: may be the long-hidden woman in me is finally coming to terms with age; may be it was the rare moment of being pleasant or may be it was about discovering my passion for cooking!

On second thoughts, may be it was the resurgence of the little girl in me who used to love playing house raising her pigtailed head