Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I will be watching you...

Are you one of those people who indulge in online window shopping, who order everything from books to clothes to shoes to accessories from any of the online channels mushrooming in India and who simply can’t resist sending gifts directly home delivered to some friend/relative, who is left hapless wondering how that ugly pair of heels landed at her doorstep?

In other words, are you one of those new-age yuppies who live the virtual life: from social networking to ordering food to shopping to reading?

Now, I am strictly old-fashioned when it comes to using technology to make my life easier. No thanks, I like to WORK HARD to derive some pleasure from my daily existence. While my social network presence is minimal (except this blog, the only place where I am relatively active), I am also not too fond of online shopping, partly because I am scared that I shall become addicted and mostly because I simply CANNOT buy stuff without touching it or feeling it on my body. Yes, the dress may look awesome on the model on screen, but most likely, I would end up looking like Kamal Hassan in Chachi 420 in the same outfit. So, very judiciously, I had limited my online purchases to books while continuing to bask in my aura of happiness in five-hour shopping stints during the Sale season, jostling through crowded malls, wasting precious hours waiting outside Trial Rooms and spending obscene amounts of money on transport, eating out and impulsive shopping, all of which complement the actual planned shopping expedition!

Until this week, when I decided to buy a new watch. I religiously visited all the familiar retail chains to find that perfect watch, but somehow nothing caught my watchful eye. So I reluctantly decided to check out the collection on Flipkart, and much to my surprise, I was greeted with unlimited options, across brands/colours/shapes, well within my specified budget. As I gleefully explored the options, I finally zeroed in on this watch. Now I would have never imagined in my wildest of materialistic dreams that I would get a Tommy Hilfiger watch for 3000 bucks! As expected I got totally carried away with the deal, and continued to shop online, splurging on the most unnecessary items, which included a dumbbell and a smartphone for my dad.

So as I gradually embrace the joys of virtual shopping, as I become more attuned to the vices of technology and as I give in to popular social mores, I still remember my first watch which my parents bought me when I was in the sixth standard, stepping into the ‘prestigious’ High School building.

It was a Titan watch for about 500 bucks which kept me company for all the important exams in my life

Friday, July 26, 2013


Having spent a few years in the corporate world in fairly reputed organizations, I have noticed a certain pattern in the way employees behave. To begin with, there is a spate of hiring, usually campus recruits who think the world of themselves, bubbling with excitement and views on everything from Rakhi Sawant’s cosmetic surgery to Obama’s lineage. Having started my career as one of those snobbish, know-all management trainees, I have been through the honeymoon phase myself, also known as the denial phase, when you look at your company with rose-tinted glasses, when you are gullible enough to swallow all the sugarcoated management jargon with blind faith and when you are still excited about the spoils of being part of the corporate world.

The next few years are more of a reality check, when you come to terms with the ground realities, discover the ugly faces behind the masks, have your share of office politics and if you happen to be the headstrong, rebellious, non-conforming kinds, you also brush against the unstated corporate protocols. All the more so, if you increasingly find yourself a misfit, if you have a passion and if you are nurturing a dream of your own. And with each passing day, you feel even more trapped, even more claustrophobic and even more suffocated. Yet, you carry on, as the company makes more efforts to retain you by creating exit barriers, as you are held back by people or social mores or simply by materialistic ambitions.

Until the day comes when you see people around you throwing in the towel: either to follow their dreams or to go to another organization for the promise of more money, new responsibilities or sometimes, just the promise of a new environment. It’s like an orgy where some people are reaching the heights of pleasure as they put in their papers, while the rest are just watching in anticipation, waiting for their turn, wondering what’s taking them so long.

And finally when the time does come, it’s too short, too fleeting and never as satisfying as you expected it to be…

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pastures of Plenty

It was one of those unusual weekends: when I met people! Now that SH is back from Philippines, she has self-appointed herself to revive my precariously fledgling social life. The good old days when she was in a different country in a different time zone, leaving me to peacefully play freecell and scrabble, watch TV and clean the house are now over, as I am flooded with phone calls/texts/whatsapp messages from her, minutely planning out get togethers/lunches/dinners. Time does fly, especially the good times.

So while Friday night was more about sitting at home, gossiping and planning trips with Dee, the assault started on Saturday morning, with me barely out of the bed, when SH woke me up, demanding to meet for lunch. And since she was coming close to Powai, there was no way I could get out of it. But it was good to see her back in India again, in familiar circumstances, though we met a few months back during our trip to Cambodia and Manila. S was also there, and it was like old times: sharing the sweet corn chicken soup like we did in college! And all I remember about Saturday night are the heavy rains and the bottle of Glenfiddich whisky which got depleted far too quickly in the haze of conversation, memories and new beginnings. And of course, Sunday was spent nursing a hangover, which just, well, hung over my head through the day.

But the weekend also meant quite a bit of self-reflection, leading to the thickened miasma of smoke around me.

May be it’s ok to be confused…
May be it’s ok to not know…
May be it’s ok to take things as they come…
May be it’s ok to not put too much pressure on myself…
May be it’s ok to go with the flow…

But may be it’s NOT ok to have the nagging conscience tug at you constantly

Friday, July 19, 2013


Yesterday I watched a candid interview by David Rubenstein, the founder of the private equity firm Carlyle. Now, let me state at the onset that I am NOT the kind of person who watches a candid interview by David Rubenstein, the founder of the private equity firm Carlyle. Or any famous personality on Wall Street or the overall alien world of finance. People have pleaded with me to watch Warren Buffet’s interviews, but I had held my ground: movie stars, yes, politicians may be, sportsmen, obviously, writers, definitely.

But investors/bankers/economists/analysts? No.way. That’s work, and I have a very clear demarcation between work and passion, but as per Mr. Rubenstein, that’s a mistake. For someone who started his career as a lawyer, then having royally failed, moved on to a life of a public servant, and finally after a not-so-successful stint in White House (as he admitted bluntly, it was very hard to push up inflation to around 19% in the U.S., but he managed to do that), when he had exhausted all other options, he started his private equity business at the ripe old age of 37! For someone who was as successful as he was, he came across as a remarkably humble, down-to-earth and unpretentious person, with a quirky, self-deprecatory sense of humour that kept me hooked through the 45-minute interview.

Yes, I agreed with him when he said, to be really successful, you have got to love what you do.

Yes, I agreed with him when he said that successful people didn’t begin with the objective of making money. Money will come, as long as you are passionate about your work, you work hard and you build relationships.

Yes, I agreed with him when he said that the best time to find your calling is between 28-37, when you have seen enough of the world and yourself to know what you want, but still young enough to take the plunge and make a new beginning.

And yes, I was inspired: does that mean from tomorrow I would start loving banking and religiously tracking the markets? Of course not! Does that mean from tomorrow, I would give up my job, and fulfill my parents’ dream of borrowing money from rich people, promising unrealistic returns on their investment? Not really! Does that mean that from tomorrow, I would begin watching motivational interviews by famous people? Hell, why not!

But the point is while it may not change my life drastically or immediately, while I may not suddenly develop a passion for finance and while I may continue to rot in my present meaningless existence, what it does mean is that the continuing itch in the back of my mind would only become stronger, that each day I would be closer to giving it up and putting all my savings into a six-month trip to Latin America/Africa and that every moment I spend writing a research report, I would be nearer to writing my first book.

And that’s reason enough to go on, reason enough to slog for that month-end pay-cheque and reason enough to smile in anticipation.

And oh, the link to the interview was sent by my boss: I wonder if there was a thinly-veiled message in that

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Flying Colours

Remember some of the greatest sports movies that you have seen? Remember the rush of adrenaline each time you watch them? Remember the number of times you became inspired by the heroes and made unrealistic promises to yourself?

Hollywood has churned out enough of them and some of my favourites include Any Given Sunday, Remember the Titans, The Color of Money, Bend it Like Beckham, Ali, Million Dollar Baby and of course, Jerry Macguire.

Bollywood, on the other hand, though mostly focused on family dramas and candy floss romance, did have its share of sports movies, and good ones at that. Think Lagaan, think Paan Singh Tomar, think Iqbal or even Chak De and the first of the lot which still manages to make me root for Aamir Khan: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar.

So this weekend when I watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, I braced myself for an emotional upheaval. This was not only a sports movie, but a true story at that. Milkha Singh might have been well before my time, I may not have known much about him growing up, but when you combine history with sports and give Farhaan Akhtar the reins to it, the result has to be quite out of this world. At almost three and half hours, it may be a tad too long, but that doesn’t take away from the sheer cinematic treat that it is. It’s a journey through time, and instead of just watching it, you feel a part of it, as you are taken on a rollercoaster ride into the life of an athlete, who, as gifted as he is, is essentially a human being, with his share of trials and tribulations, vulnerabilities, mistakes and distractions. It also provides a fair portrayal of the political turmoil of the era: something most of us haven’t experienced. Most importantly, it reminds us that there is more to a sportsman’s life than glamour, fame, money, women and endorsements. It’s very easy to get caught up in the frivolities and temptations, but dig a little deeper, and you see the hard work, discipline and willpower that goes into the making of a great athlete. Which brings me to Farhaan Akhtar and the effort that he put in for over a year, to get under the skin of the character. Literally. When you talk about the conventionally ‘hunky’ Bollywood hero, you would say Salman Khan or John Abraham or Hrithik Roshan. But not Farhaan Akhtar, who plays a nerd in a movie like Karthik Calling Karthik! If Aamir Khan surprised you in Ghajini, Akhtar simply blows your mind away in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.

May be it’s not one of those movies that I can watch multiple times (like Jerry Macguire), but if I ever had a chance to make a movie myself or act in one, this would surely be on top of the list (right up there with Boys Don’t Cry or Philadelphia). Not too many works of art challenge you to this extent, both emotionally and physically, but the fact that Bollywood has matured enough to treat a true story with sensitivity while retaining the ethos of it, speaks volumes about our industry today. And yes, it’s entertaining too.

At the same time, it has enough sense to limit Sonam Kapoor’s screen presence to bare minimum.

The Flying Sikh does fly high with flying colours, and carries Bollywood with it

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Bong Collector

So I have been really sick lately: sick enough to take a sick leave which is actually for BEING.SICK! Yes, usually my sick leaves are carefully planned to avail discretionary holidays when I want to go shopping, read a book or simply avoid a meeting.

But for better part of this week, I was reduced to this coughing, pill-popping person who could well be a poster girl for the falling rupee. At a time like this you would expect supportive friends/colleagues to stand by you, bring you medicine and water and agree to whatever you say, including “you remind me of an ugly Katrina Kaif”. But no, as luck would have it, they found this an excellent opportunity to make fun of me AND my strong Bengali roots which are apparently responsible for making me fall sick at the drop of a hat.

Over the years, I have been subjected to enough stereotypical Bong ‘jokes’, and I would like to address these once and for all:

Not ALL of us love fish nor do we have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fish is not synonymous to a Bengali staple diet. We do have a lot of variety in our food, and by variety I DO NOT mean different kinds of fish! Believe it or not, there IS more to a Bengali man than his unhealthy attachment to fish. For instance, there is the Bengali man and his unhealthy attachment to sweets. Or Sourav Ganguly.

Which brings me to the next stereotype. Not ALL of us are crazy about him. Yes, he is a popular figure in Bengal, but we do not worship him with the rest of our idols. Nor do we declare a state holiday every time he comes out to bat. There are plenty of OTHER reasons why Bengal has as many holidays as it does. Blame it on the Communist culture.

But no, not ALL of us are communists, who go about holding strikes left right and centre, who avoid working and sit around discussing politics/sports/literature at Coffee House, while our kids are being brainwashed by SFI camps at prominent colleges like Presidency/JU. Our kids have better things to do: like smoke the brains out of himself. With tea. I am told it gives the best high. EVER.

However, not ALL Bongs smoke or drink tea or both. We don’t need to. We get enough high just by switching on a local news channel. The sight of Mamata Banerjee has a more potent effect especially when combined with her speech.

And finally, not ALL Bongs have terrible accents with strong local overtones. We may mix up our genders, but we do not speak Hindi like we just spat out Deepika Padukone in Chennai Express.

Now that I have set the record straight, if you will excuse me, I shall go finish my mishti doi, read my Tagore and take my afternoon siesta.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tequila Sunrise

Most of my friends/batchmates are at the threshold of 30 or already past 30. Seems like yesterday since we all passed out and entered the corporate world with rose-tinted glasses. Four years and some reality checks later, we are now a bunch of cynical, “been there, done that and have the wedding pic to prove it” sort of people. However, what has changed though is the subtle differences among us. Fresh out of campus, we were all in the same stage in life: most of us were languishing in some company where we were not happy, earning almost the same amount of money, drinking the same beer and chasing the same illusion of being with the dream guy/girl.

But over the last few years, things have changed and how. Now there are three distinct categories of people:

a)The Parenthood lot: These are the ones who mostly got married within the first year after graduation and have now embraced motherhood/fatherhood as easily and as naturally as they used to down Old Monk in college.

b)The Two for the Road lot: These are the ones who are making the most of the double income and the full-time companion. They are usually missing from the social scene and you would mostly find out about them through Facebook, when they post the most obnoxious pictures of themselves in random countries. Or in Café Coffee Day, wearing shorts and two dozen bangles. (check my Facebook notifications for proof)

c)The Bridget Jones lot: These are the ones like me, who are still lurking around, leading a bohemian life, without any clue about their personal or professional lives. So we meet others of the same species, get drunk or go on trips together and assure each other that all is well, that age is JUST a number and that it’s okay to follow your dreams even though you are not quite sure what those dreams are. But the lack of responsibilities also give us that extra flexibility, which make us a little more rebellious, a little more headstrong and a little more non-conformist. Some of us are not scared to throw it all way and jump into the ocean even they don’t know how to swim. Life for us is just another morning after hangover, where the previous night is a blur and the way forward is inconsequential!

Ten years back if you had asked me, if I had envisioned this life for myself, I would have innocently puckered my lips and said, “But I am going to be an engineer, work with TCS, get married at 24 and have two kids before 30!”

The truth, though, is something very different

Monday, July 1, 2013


I have always strictly maintained that I am NOT a trekking person and I have plenty of friends/batchmates who would vouch for it as they have witnessed enough instances of me falling, me tripping or me embarrassing myself, all of which are now collectively known as “pulling a Nefertiti”.

So when we planned an office offsite at Karjat which involved trekking and waterfall rappelling, I was pretty sure that I would be one of the laggards, dragging myself and slowing down the group. But much to my surprise, I was among the first ones to complete the trek, and that too, without too much of huffing and puffing. This also allowed our group, a.k.a Team A (notice how my loser quotient (LQ) has leapfrogged through my journey in the corporate world) to indulge ourselves in the fresh waterfalls, as we got drenched, played with the water and altogether, had a whale of a time. Never thought I would use the term “whale of a time” with an office outing, but there you go, after two years of being with the same people, your judgment tends to get blurred. Or may be it’s just nature that enables you to overlook the petty stuff for a few hours and enjoy the moment. Every trek begins with me being careful with my clothes, shoes and most importantly, hair, gingerly avoiding mud puddles or getting my feet wet. However, after a couple of falls/bruises, I let go, ending up with soiled clothes, spongy shoes and muddy hair.

While we in Team A were too cocky after our trek, turning up our noses at the people who were not quite as fast as we were, it was a different ballgame altogether when it came to the rappelling. I realized that impending disaster is a great leveler: you forget your battles, your grudges and your hierarchies for something as simple and basic as life! While you stand at the edge of the rock, looking at the 90-feet free fall that awaits you, suddenly your entire life flashes in front of you! It no longer matters how much you hate your boss or how annoying that colleague is: all you care about is to not die, so that you can retire in the safety of your cubicle on Monday morning and hang out with the same boring people again.

For someone like me who has never done any sort of adventure sports, let alone jumping down the waterfall, it was quite an experience. I have always been scared of heights; I can’t even take the overbridge without panicking; but this time I was determined. I simply HAD to conquer my fears, I simply HAD to know what the big deal was, I simply HAD to jump. And I DID jump; in the process I bruised myself against the rough edges of the rocks, I had a lump in my throat as I looked down and I threw my arms up in the air in delight when I could feel the ground beneath my feet. And through those 90 seconds when I was dangling in the air, I could vaguely spot my colleagues waving their arms from down, shouting something which I couldn’t hear, but I knew all the same that there was a reason to hold on for, people to go back to and a life to look forward to.

Don't go chasing waterfalls.
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to.
I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all,
But I think you're moving too fast.

But may be sometimes you do need to chase waterfalls to appreciate the rivers and the lakes