Saturday, May 30, 2009

No street address? No problem.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on the front page today about a Mr. Charles Pitt who is 37, an aspiring poet and lives in San Francisco. Mr. Pitt is quite tech savvy and has accounts on Twitter, Facebook an Myspace. He runs an internet forum on Yahoo, reads news online and keeps in touch with friends via email. There's nothing wrong with this picture except that Mr. Pitt lives under a highway bridge and is basically homeless. The article talks about how there are many more of the same.

I am just so proud of Mr. Pitt without even remotely knowing him. You land up in certain situations some times that you have no control over. But to not let the situation hold you back or bog you down and just go about life as best as you can is quite commendable.

It also goes to show what a significant role technology plays in modern life and that it may not be as hard to avail of the resources to live a high tech life. I fret at the idea of going camping for a weekend since I'm such a slave to amenities and cannot bear the separation from my laptop for that long. But if homeless peeps can live in an old rusted van and still be connected to the world, I bet they can share a few tips on how to improve the battery life at the very minimum.

Meanwhile, next time the discussion of enjoying New Zealand scenery and culture in comfort and style comes up; I'm going to at least consider the option of a campervan. It's a different story that they're fully equipped and nicely painted but heck it's still a van and that's a big step in itself.

p.s. If you bump into a homeless fella somewhere, be nice else he might make a joke about ya on Twitter.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A few chuckles

These cracked me up so had to share them. Enjoy :)

Graph credit:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The way my brain wired

I stumbled upon a graph today that aptly described the way my brain is wired and beyond. The 'beyond' component is slightly daunting though and not something I would do literally (heist, getting caught, prison, etc.) but figuratively, been there and done that.

I talk faster than I act and I think faster than I talk, but it's only for entirely useless things. For the most part, when I'm not working, my mind is brimming with completely waste ideas. One idea enters the queue pushing the first one out. It's like baggage on a conveyor belt. As one gets picked up, one more hits the belt. At the end of it, nothing constructive comes out of it.

Being super fickle minded, I'm always on the search for something new and exciting. Impulsive risk behavior and a constant demand for intellectual stimuli drive most of my actions. A new career, a new business idea, yet another business idea, relocating to another continent, a new hobby... it's really endless. Of course when an idea hits me, I think of it as the best idea ever. I go with a few and discard a few, not putting much thought into it. The sheer excitement of it is enough to pull me through. No feasibility studies are ever considered or conducted.

I'm not educated in brain chemistry or neuroscience but always thought this wasn't entirely normal. But a graph on a popular website gave me hope that it isn't just me. If you’re the same, let’s talk and raise a toast to fickleness :p

p.s. I hope I am lucky enough to somehow make it to the 'selling rights to your story years later' stage someday.

Graph credit:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Loving the Lakers

What a day today! Barca won with such style over Man U. And Lakers beat the crap outta Nuggets to break the 2-2 tie. Phew.

It's impossible for me to work after 4 pm on the days when Lakers are playing a home game at Staples during play-offs. For one, the Holiday Inn next door plays some insanely loud music under the pretext that it's a Lakers party. A huge 4x10 hoarding lures you to "come party with the Lakers". It's so not. ESPN now broadcasts live from across the street so lots of camera peeps and spot boys rule the area. All the major news channels show up with their mini vans and major equipment. The sponsors from Toyota to Vitamin Water to what not line up their stuff in mini-booths right outside. A few radio stations do the same. And of course, Barry's Tickets (official scalpers!!!) bring the biggest possible buses. If that doesn't create a ruckus, what will.

By 4-4:30, all the restaurants and bars start filling up with fans in yellow jerseys. One glance and all you see is number 24 painted over the back of most of the jerseys. Some try to pass off regular yellow tees as a Lakers jersey. Not working pal. Who are these people and how do they get off work so early to rush through traffic and make it here at 4 for a 7 pm game? And why do I never get off work at 4. It's annoying. By 5ish, the limos begin to arrive - regular, white, stretch and line up right outside the venue. The crowd is so diverse. You'll see everything from teenage gals in minis to school boys hanging with dads to cougars in one-sleeve tight dresses to handsome men with grey hair to wierdos.

Today was the 5th game in the series (Lakers have to go to seven games. It's like no heartburn, no fun with them) and I just went for a few minutes to peek in. It was exhilarating to say the least. The energy inside was so contagious. I saw Kobe almost do a slam dunk and left. Love ya Kobe. Mwaaaah. If I were single and had no one to go home to, I would perhaps rarely go home.

Amidst the crowd (I was almost dodging the crowd while walking, occasionally pushing people) to reach my car. A lone sardar in jersey number 18 (who wears that? must have found it on sale) almost crushed me with his car in the parking lot. Jerk. It took me another hour to get through the traffic.

As I was driving back, I realized that no matter what people say, LA is a one team city. Not the Dodgers, not the Angels (they don't even count as LA anymore), not the Clippers, not the Galaxy, not the Kings, no one else. I won't even mention the arena football team. It's Lakers all the way. People might enjoy other teams now and again but when the Lakers are in full swing, no one else stands a chance.

Love em or hate em, but we just can't live without them.

Photo credit:

Cheating with a Bentley

NPR was boring me to death this morning during my commute so I began flipping and landed up on some FM station. Thanked my stars later that it was gossip hour on the station. What better way to fully wake up then to listen to other people's issues I reminded myself. The woman in question, married with 2 kids, was calling about the fact that hubby, a finance professional, had been acting strange ever since he bought a Bentley. Bentley starts at $175k so apparently this dude was the only one doing great in finance in such turbulent times. When the radio station offered him free flowers under a false pretext, he sent it to his secretary for working hard day and night. Of course he denied cheating, but he sure was going that route if he hadn't already.

Imagine this. You're driving a Volvo and slogging 16 hours a day. Then one fine day you get rewarded at work and upgrade to a Bentley. Yes you want to share the joy with family but you might also want to share with, just a little bit maybe, your friends or colleagues or your hottie secretary this coveted possession that you'd been dreaming of for years. It's human nature. After all, it's put you in a different league now. You have to do something different to be seen in a different light... like take her for a spin in the new thing. And there goes the wife, with buckets of tears defaming you or consulting psychiatrists who give six-step emotional infidelity action plans.

I think cheating is overrated. Everyone... ok almost everyone flirts a little here and there whether they admit it or are in denial. It's harmless. It's rejuvenation therapy. And it may not necessarily imply disrespect to your relationship. It's perhaps just a way to infuse a spark in routine dull lives. You'll see it in all ages if you look around. Whether it is little boys chasing little girls in hallmark commercials or desi uncles bindaas flirting with other aunties and their own wives proudly smirking by saying "what jovial nature he has!". I'm not talking about crossing the line or hurting your significant other. Your priorities need to be set straight.

Unless you're famous, then it comes with a heavy price tag. I still remember poor Kobe Bryant during a press conference post his cheating coming to light, holding his wife's hands, crying, as he said some heavy duty emotional words that just turned into ridicule. Or Hrithik Roshan begging to the media and his wife for weeks explaining in vain that his co-star was just that, a co-star. And now it's Brad Pitt.

So bottom line, if you ever think you've become a forgivable-cheating victim, the solution might be as simple as benefit of the doubt and explaining that it’s the behavior not the motive. Suspicion, jealousy and possessiveness are such boring concepts. Zzzzzz. It might just go away on its own, unless of course you like being a drama queen.

p.s. This isn't about me so no judgements please ;)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hustle, bustle and tussle in the city

Ten days of planning, ten hours of packing, ten pieces of luggage, ten hours of total travel time and tens of thoughts later, I reached New York at an ungodly hour sometime last week. NY always fascinates me. The vastness of it all, the effervescence and the sea of people. It's a city that Trump seems to own just as much as Derek Jeter or the ruthless women in the five inch heels or the investment bankers in Armani or the brash taxiwallahs aiming for a road kill. It's a Mecca for everyone from the art seeking soul to the rare cerebral types to the little girl with big Broadway dreams. And how they fit such a huge park in the middle of the city, I will never understand.

At the end of it all, NYC is the epitome of diversity. And amidst the hustle and bustle (and tussle - interesting story there, but for another time), it provides ample opportunities to just be lost or be found.

I was there for a very special occasion and I preferred to be lost in it. The stunning set up, the dazzling costumes, the lovely bride, the cheerful groom, lip smacking food food and more food, intoxicating dancing, the warmth of family and endless chat sessions that wouldn't end even when the night did. It's something I could perhaps do every week if I had a choice. It left me with such a heart-warming feeling and wanting for more. This is why marriages in India are all about the weddings. Mine was too and I'm lucky it worked out ;) Time flies at the speed of light when you're having a blast.

Succumbing to reality, quite reluctantly, I am back to the world of non-stop emails, drawn out commutes and fat-free food but my payal is refusing to come off.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sleepless in San Francisco

This weekend was unlike most others in the city. For one, the mercury was touching 90, when usually it shies away even from the 70s, this time of the year. But the other major reason was Bay To Breakers, the annual footrace that has set a legacy for 97 years.

I reached Saturday morning and just breathed the city in. SFO has the power to enchant any soul and the creativity dimension of that city always intrigues me. Later that night, I somehow got pulled into hitting a night club with my kiddo cousin. It was a fantastic nightclub at the first look, until it hit us that it was 'techno night'. Music where you can just do a robot or break dance or mime or something. I tried every move I knew but it just didn't fit. A zillion clubs in the city and I end up with little girls in an Asian night club with techno music. Just my luck! But the city was so alive even into the wee hours of the morning. Just another venue and I almost forgot about the fiasco. Too many lessons learnt.

8 am was the official start time of the race. I was categorized as a 'walker' since I had a stroller and couldn't join the 'runners'. Almost completely sleep deprived, I put on my costume with double the enthusiasm that goes with relishing a chocolate cake after a severe detox diet. First came the runners who were a few hundreds packed with strength and determination. Then came the walkers and I joined the 60,000 odd peeps with costumes and smiles. Saw everything from the typicals to funs to elaborates to eccentrics. Hot guy in a cheer leader skirt, gang of boys dressed as bacon, a large group dressed in 'catch me if u can' theme, hula skirts on men and women, a woman with a sign that said 'i just got my pink slip', a man nurse with dozens of plastic babies hanging on his waist, greek gods, all major and minor movie characters, rock bands dressed as rabbis, nude girls with body paint that looked so real, Elvis impersonators and lots of naked people running with a yellow balloon and the widest grin on their faces. It was way too much nudity if you ask me for 8 am but it's perhaps typical of a liberal city. I'd heard they were going to crack down on all the peeps who ran the race with alcohol in their hands but it wasn't quite the case. It ended at the Footstock festival with the winning ceremonies.

I loved the race for it's diversity, ingenuity and the insanity factor. It had started in 1912 as a way to lift the city's spirits and decades later, it continues with the same theme.

As for me, I lived my share of the wild 70s in my hippie costume.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Yes, Prime Minister"

We've seen the parades, the campaigns, the stained middle fingers, exit polls, markets soaring on hopes of a stable government, series of never-ending allegations, over-confident self predictions and tug of wars with Jay Lalitha in the middle... and now the wait is O V E R. Almost. By the time I return from dinner, India will have decided between the 500 something parties (it doesn't seem like just one general election anymore) and picked someone 'fresh' for the PM ki kursi.

Whichever major national party wins will have the mammoth task of picking amongst several alliances. This is no longer politics but a complex algebra problem. The confusion is higher than ever. Will it be BJP-led NDA or Congress-led UPA? What about the Third Front? And the Fourth Front? Oh and did I forget the Left party? I need an external hard drive for my brain because I'm having memory capacity issues trying to hold onto so much information. And I just know the abbreviations so far.

Each alliance will come with it's own baggage and a truck load of issues they want to focus on. Thankfully no one's paying attention to US-India nuke deal, terrorism, quota policy, communal relations and of course the global financial crisis. They've been conveniently left out of the election campaigns.

I wish we had brackets for picking parties and leaders the way we do in March Madness here in the US. It'd be so fun and all of us could get involved and heck even make some money. The best part is, pretty blonde girls with absolutely no knowledge of bball often end up winning the pool in these brackets. Indian politics seems to be no different. It's really anybody's guess.

So let's see who's going to wear the coveted tiara. Will it be LK Advani (senior-most BJP leader) or Rahul Gandhi (current heart throb) or Sonia Gandhi (desh ki bahu) or Prakash Karat (who, what?) or Jaylalitha (queen bee forever) or Mayawati (first dalit PM?) or Sharad Pawar(yay for IPL) or Nitish Kumar (the new secular hope) or Dr. Manmohan Singh (architect of India's economic reforms)? Or someone else? Too many options. I'm not even going to bring up the question of who's PM material. I'd never go that far ;)

I'm a die-hard BJP gal and my fingers are crossed. Will the lotus bloom?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cans and Can'ts at Cannes

It's been 8 years since my trip to Cannes but I still have distinct memories of it. I had bought my first (and thankfully only) pleather jacket (which I dearly loved for the longest time) from there and for that reason only, it'll always remain special.

But of course, the world has many other reasons to celebrate this place. Like the 62nd festival that opened yesterday which is known for great new movie premiers, gala events and a little bit of the red carpet thingie. Since I have no visibility into the first two, I have to go with the third. :) Now now me no 'fashion police' so differ all you want.

Lets start with the 'What on earth' category which is a subtle way of saying that it's a complete miss. First up is actress Elizabeth Banks in a one-shoulder arrest-me red, which isn't bad. But then this ginormous ribbon thingie is hanging out on the side like a gift wrap. What is that? In fact it blends with the red carpet. Next is Daphnee Roulier in a white suit that she perhaps borrowed from Michael Jackson. I don't even know what to say to this one. The third award in this category is for actress Tilda Swinton. She perhaps got forced into wearing layers after losing a bet to her teenage daughter at GAP. It shows on her face too :p

Second category is 'Super thanda' which is another way of saying, we've seen this so many times before. How about something refreshing please? It's spring after all. Model Jovanka Sopalovic wears just another red gown with a matching half sleeve! Actress Hafsia Herzi trusted this very unflattering polyster look alike fabric with mermaid like cut outfit and lost. Elizabeth Banks wore something better on day 2 than her day 1 disaster. Doesn't that outfit remind you of a nagin?

I saved best for the last. My 'I'd kill to get it' category has the first winner as Model Eugenia Silva for her very arty black dress. Love the fabric, the cut and the details. Ms. Rai looked stunning in a strapless Roberto Cavalli ballgown in ruffled fabric. Divine! Frederique Bel also pulled off a very classy black outfit that was a good deviation from the regular black gowns at red carpets.

But my heart is set on that 'eye' tatoo that Jury member Asia Argento was sporting. I want it!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hogwash journalism 101

If you are a brand new kid on the block in the world of journalism and have been assigned a task of creating a cluster of sensational stories around one absurd piece of news story, how would you go about it? I'm no journalist (or even in a related field) but I had an epiphany recently just by keeping my eyes and ears open. Some insights below.

I would pick one non-story that can be easily take the form of sensational news... something like Abhi-Ash moving out of Jalsa (their current residence) to their new place in Carter Road. Don't fret if the title is all you have and nothing beyond. It doesn't matter if the story is true or false. Try to get as many celebs on their way out from J.W. (this will be hard since you're a new kid), college students, dhabawalas, house wives at a temple, random guy on the bus-stand picking his nose, whoever you can get to comment on it. Just the title along with these quotes will get you the building block of your story. Go ahead and get it published along with some pictures, even over-used pictures. Be sure to bend the quotes to add some spice.

Try to get some reactions from peeps in their inner circle, like Amitabh in this case. But he won't respond to your SMSs or emails or VMs. I'd try following his blog non-stop for 24 hours and being the first one to comment (this is challenging since he gets about 300 comments per blog) about why Abhi-Ash are moving out. If he responds to your comment, great. Take it out of context all your want and you've got a killer story. If he doesn't, it should be recorded as "a response too sad for words". Yes you have to sell your soul in journalism. :p

Next, hunt for some controversial stories even if it is remotely related to this one. Like Salman Khan is moving to Carter road. Why would he move to the same city as Abhi-Ash? He's still not hitched so there's a chance he still has a thing for Ash. Cook something up there combining images of the two looking in different directions and you’ve successfully added drama!

Think out of the box and look for characters that can somehow be linked to the story. Like Anil Kapoor. He recently got invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the LA Dodger’s game. First Indian to do it ever so this is definitely news worthy. While interviewing him (he will do any interview, even yours, if you mention Oscars), ask him what he thinks of the fact that Sonam replaced Ash in the L’Oreal campaign purely because Ash is over the hill (that would just be your opinion btw). Anil will obviously be diplomatic but provoke him slightly and he might tell you with child-like enthusiasm that not everyone's fortunate to be old and popular like him. Bingo, you focus on the word 'old' and get creative with it. She’s 36 for god’s sake ;)

Next, intertwine the story with relevant events. Cannes film festival is coming up and Ash is a regular. Word has it that she's going to be an activist for social and humanitarian causes there. Which basically means, she'll attend one press conf. on the subject amidst gala dinners and red carpets with full cleavage on display. But pick on the social and humanitarian part. Record responses from the press conf. and link it back to the original story somehow.

I would stay away from any stories that have no masala like Abhishek in this context. He's lost his gut but gotten himself a Tex-Mex haircut. Uggggh. So it evens out. Maybe Amar Singh is a better bet. You get the point.

So there, you have your one outrageous non-story spread across 30 days until Ash decides to stay in or move out. Then you move onto the next. Besides penning it, if you can talk the same crap above with conviction backed by good diction, you'll soon be on your way to Barkha Dutta's camp.

Sadly this is what Indian media has come to, lately. And although I haven't cooked up any of the above stories (I swear they've all been in the news lately and don't ask me why coz you got me. You can ask me why I read them and I have no answer :p) I still put it together for your benefit and demand a compensation.

Your total will be $50 and cash only please :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saree comes of age, yet again

ABC news told me last night that my blackberry has staphylococcus, micrococcus and bacillus. Soon after, my laptop (machine version of my life) got attacked by a virus and died an abrupt and untimely death. They gave it some CPR this morning and got it up just enough to recover my data. Also, this morning a rather sweet pediatrician diagnosed my baby with some spring virus. Why on earth is my life suddenly brimming with bacteria and viruses? I'd instead like my world to be filled with fragrant spring flowers, delectable mango salsa and occasional soothing rain droplets to counter the heat. Is anyone listening?

I'm so behind on a multitude of things this year. Finally got around to checking out Sabyasachi Mukherjee's collection from Lakme Indian Fashion Week. One of the reasons I wanna visit Kolkota is to see Sabya's showroom and soak it all in with my own eyes. Of course the other is to compare notes from 'A city of Joy' and I'd really like to see Durga Puja in all it's splendor someday. Back to Sabya... if you follow Indian fashion, it is hard to miss this accomplished designer who's won many coveted awards since graduating from NIFT. He describes his own collections as 'an International styling with an Indian soul’ and his apparel speaks volumes about that. From India Fashion Week to Milan Fashion Week, Sabya is the undisputed king of Indian couture and does modern with an Indian flair with such elegance and ease.

I saw the same fabulous dreams that he had weaved with his magic wand in the past and a few new ones with a wild streak from his runway collection for '09.

Which reminds me, I've often noticed the not-so-fashion forward Indians argue vehemently about the absurdity of runway collections and it's 'unwearability' factor. Barkha Dutta once made it a topic of her popular 'we the people' series and I witnessed a hundred loud voices screaming in unison about how they'd never give an over-the-top runway outfit for 15 grand even a second look. What escapes most people's grasp is that a large percentage of these runway outfits are never sold as-is. It's purely meant to display a designer's deepest inspiration. If what you see in Pantaloons is what you saw on the runway, it'd just be another regular spot and not the coveted Fashion Week.

Sabya's collection was quite remarkable and out of the ordinary. He brought to life the concept of short sarees (remember mein-maike-chali-jaoongi-tum-dekhte-rahiyo?), turbans for women (perhaps after the success of 'Singh Is King'?), dhotis (I still remember cheap looking dhotis in china silk from 15 years ago hanging on the streets of Linking Road), transparent lehngas (this one is really new!), dupatta-covered heads (perhaps to prevent sun-burn) and strapless khadi tops (but of course).

Another designer, Anamika Khanna, also went with the same theme, and paired up short sarees with tiny shoulder-padded cholis and leggings!!! Now that's something for those of us who really wanna stand out in a crowd.

And how can I not mention Pussycat Dolls who have been bitten with the saree bug? Nicole (the lead singer) wears it in her 'Jai Ho' video and many other international celebrities have been spotted wearing it.

So our good old saree seems to have travelled far, undergoing major transformations from 'cover-up saree' to 'elegant saree' to 'hide-a-little-reveal-a-litte saree' to 'work-of-art saree' to 'out-and-out-sensous saree' and is now comfortably resting as 'make-a-statement' saree.

Any takers?

Photo credit:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bechara dulha!!!

I was browsing an Indian news site with my afternoon dose of caffeine when a very sidey news story jumped out at me 'student to appear for finals hours before his wedding'. Apparently, a 28-year old guy in Mumbai was "heart-broken" when his finals that kept getting postponed due to the Lok Sabha elections finally ended up being scheduled on his wedding day. He reported how sad he was that he had not been able to help out his family to prep for his upcoming wedding while the exams were being rescheduled, but was hoping to make up for his towards the end and now that possibility did not exist either.

Puuuhlease spare us the drama Mr. dulha. I am willing to bet good money that this dude is beyond thrilled deep down inside, ecstatic about the fact that he will get to skip all the labor that goes into Indian weddings and just show up as a chief guest to cut the ribbon and take away the prize (bride). That is just how Indian men in India function. I have not come across one guy who takes the process seriously, while the poor bride and her family slogs for a year at the minimum, more if they live in a metro. Guys are quick to recommend eloping instead if they get hit up to do too many things.

In sharp contrast, the diligence and the sincerity of three of my non-Indian guy colleagues who have gotten married over the past few years has been commendable. Organizing weddings in US is just as much work and requires one to go through a semi-grueling process of picking everything from a invitation card, church, a reception venue, hors devours, dinner menu, alcohol, cake, DJ, songs that can be a played, songs that should never be played, photographer, dresses, decor, seating charts, gifts for the registry and so much more and doing test runs with them all. The process concludes with writing and mailing thank-you notes and smiling at the end of it all. The perhaps faked excitement had been constant and I haven't seen either of the three dodging a single opportunity to get involved. Heck they even lost weight to look the part.

I know my sample size is small, but a 100% success rate (3/3) can lead to a good theory :)

There is no way their desi counterparts would do even half of the above at gun-point and not throw x-large tantrums. It's just not in our dna to put up with what we don't want to deal with. Plus India, being a generally male-dominated society, has no concept of 'it's the bride's way or the highway'. Forget getting in-laws on your side if your man isn't up for it "sara din office mein kaam aur raat ko bhi ghar se computer pe kaam karta hain humara beta... aur kya jaan lenge uski?" is what you might hear ;) So gals, if you are excited about tying that knot, be mentally prepared to do ALL THE WEDDING PREPS without the maa-ka-laadla. That is how it'll turn out in any case and it'll save you the heartburn. And you will have an entire life time (possibly seven) to get even.

Btw if you are that lone desi stud who really did go through it out of his own wish, please do not send me a hate mail. I'm just generalizing here for the benefit of potentially disillusioned bride-to-bes :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What goes around...

I am a major procrastinator when it comes to unimportant tasks and I take the liberty of varying the definition of unimportant from time to time to suit my convenience. Half way through the week last evening, I felt compelled to pick up the mail on my way up. My little one always finds it amusing to see me back home with a giant laptop (I swear it weighs more than a corpse) on one shoulder, a heavy purse that carries my "ingredients for life" on another shoulder, a lunch bag in one hand, usually a snack or cup of chai that I picked up on the way in another hand, keys in my mouth and occasionally a bunch of mail as I try to balance it all, tripping or frequently dropping items.

It takes another day or so to look through the mail. But the destructive approach that the little thing has taken to at the tender age of one, she wasted no time in tossing all the mails in different directions. As I was gathering it all, one flier caught my eye. It was bright red and postcard sized in glossy finish with a Mc Donald's symbol and a picture of an inviting cup of one of the luxury coffee drinks they have introduced in the recent past. I turned it around for no reason whatsoever and was a taken a little aback by what it said in bold "Taste Ki Baat Hain". A marketing message in Hindi for someone living in the US, just because I am an Indian! I knew right away, what goes around comes around.

Without getting into any proprietary details, I will share what I have shared at many a conferences. I work in Analytics and one aspect of my job, in two words, is to profile customers. Any time a new customer buys something from us, we go buy demographics on this person. Everything imaginable from age, gender, income, property value, marital status, presence/number/gender of children and so many more attributes. I carry out detailed analysis with complicated algorithms using modeling tools on this person and flag him as a ripe target for x out of the y upcoming events. Sure enough, when those x events arrive, our new guy gets bombarded with everything that is apparently relevant to his life and interests.

Thousands of companies do this everyday. I always wondered if people wondered how we knew so much about them. Somewhere a desi husband with a furious face and aggravated tone must have demanded to know from his wife what all information she had foolishly shared when he let her buy that ticket for 'dancing with the stars'. An innocent "kuch nahi jee" must not have sounded convincing as he was getting calls to buy tickets for Dora for his 5 year old Munni and for Soccer for his 9 year old Munna.

It is spooky to an extent the public information that is easily available for free for most of us. A quick search on SwitchBoard will get you all past and current addresses with phone numbers and even ‘related to’s of anyone in the US. Then for a mere sum of $19.95 you get prompted to buy a complete background report for that person. Talk about unnecessary information overload.

Great going Mc Donald’s. I've profiled millions of people and today is my turn to feel vulnerable. Thanks for subtly introducing the empathy factor in your marketing.

Photo credit:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A new career every Monday

"So what do you want to be when you grow up darling?" "I want to be a painter, no wait an air-hostess, also an engineer just like daddy, actually I want to be an architect, but only if I can't be a fashion designer". It sounded cute when I was a little girl twirling while announcing my 'dreams' in my floral dress and red shoes. Now I get a scornful look even if I so much as whisper it to someone. So I've stopped sharing it with people. But that hasn't stopped me from feeling that way.

I've been liberally showered with labels by peeps around me all my life. 'Fickle-minded' is what all the terms gradually gravitate towards. And I couldn't agree more ;) My life cycle of a side activity starts with it being a hobby, then it grows into an obsession, peaks out and before I know it, it's out of my life. No matter what I do, I just can't seem to stick it out. Yes I've worked at the same place for over 3 and a half years now (!!!) but my hobbies have gone through major contractions.

There's pros and cons both to this attitude and behavior, or weakness as my mom calls it ;) The pros are that it allows me to break free from the stereotype, allows me to experiment with a range of things, always gives me a fresh perspective on life and brings the excitement that goes with anything new. The cons are that no matter how good or bad, it's always fleeting.

India, until a decade ago, had no concept more than a single career. In fact my parents generation started their careers and ended with the same company (how supremely boring), let alone switching careers. And then there were always these handful people who were a jack of all who were good at a multitude of things and I always wanted to be one of them. In the west thankfully, life is a little more flexible. They say an average career lasts about a decade here. That gives you a chance to experiment with four different ones, give or take. But there are a huge set of issues if you wanna try out a newly acquired hobby as a career: not a strong foundation, not enough experience, not enough technique and so on... it's unreal.

Only if I lived in a world where freelancers were the order of the day, I'd be stoked :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Yoga with an accent

I reached my gym at the usual time for my kick-box class and noticed the hip-hop class with deafening music was just wrapping up. A long line of people were waiting outside for the dancers to vacate the giant room. One look at the pink yoga mat from Target that most seemed to carry and it hit me I'd come for a wrong class. I decided to take it anyways.

A blondie instructor in regular gym attire (I bet he bought it from the 'yoga wear' section) walked in and dimmed the lights. Next came the soothing sitar-heavy background score. Then he folded hands and said "namaste" with a heavy accent and what followed was nothing short of a mix of slight ridicule and real yoga for me.

Blondie effortlessly took the class through a series of 'asanas': Half moon pose, Downward facing dog pose, Spine twisting pose, Awkward pose, Triangle pose and so many more. Everyone seemed so into the meditative mood and the 'complete mind-body workout' but I was far from peace of mind. The American names and descriptions of the asanas were a tad too funny for me to take it so seriously.

Am image flashed in my head of one of my yoga teachers from my past life in India. He was a senior citizen with a strong lean body, long white hair and a big tilak splashed across his forehead. His class would be held in his large tree-lined serene backyard. The classes were only held early in the morning when the air was fresh and the birds chirping. He only spoke when necessary in the local language but his speech had the power to transpire you into a whole different universe. He would go over the purpose of yoga, the types of yoga and how it was intertwined with spirituality. Everything he said and did had such a profound effect! It was a whole lot more than just exercising. One could not help but be in a trans with him around.

Blondie with his spiked hair, branded shoes and American accent teaching a class at 8 pm was no where close to my image of a yoga teacher. Sure he must have studied the course material and taken the exams and made hundreds feel better but could he even remotely understand the essence of yoga?

I was thinking how a Spanish chika might feel about learning salsa dancing from a desi dude in Mumbai. Now only if I tried harder instead of just getting amused, I could perhaps accept him in that role.

I'm so picky :P

Saturday, May 2, 2009

All roads lead to Rome

If you are on pacific coast highway just past palisades in Malibu, all roads really lead to Rome! I spent most of the day at Rome created by J Paul Getty. My summer vaca in Europe has been put on a hold coz of the 'save my job' silent campaign that i'm running in this dwindling economy so this was a nice dry run.

Mr. Getty has recreated ancient European history at two spots in LA - Getty museum and Getty villa. I've been a couple of times to the Getty museum before and done the usual: take the tour, look/read/absorb a little, a few pics, a little fun in the sun and back. But today was my first trip to the Getty (Romanesque) Villa and was I surprised! 'Villa' was such an understatement. It's a cool 120 acres of beautifully landscaped area that was face lifted for only $275 mill, right across from Pacific ocean. The views were breathtaking. And the experience was unique as well since it was my first time with hubby, who's a huge history buff. I cannot recall how many period films and tv series (Rome being one of them) have I been mercilessly subjected to in the years gone by. If boredom could kill, I would have died a thousand deaths. I knew instantly today was going to be educational Saturday. I had to go with a 'bring it on' attitude. :P

As I moved across the villa, I couldn't help marveling at how much were they able to accomplish in good old times. The Colosseum in Rome, I learnt, has a mere capacity of 250,000 and here I see Staples Center with a capacity of 20,000 every day and go wow. The villa offered a whole lot, from silver treasures, vessels, deities, temple of Hercules, stories of the Trojan war with endless galleries and exhibits. A broken and restored Hercules statue with lion skin in one hand and club in another was so larger than life, made me feel like a midget.

I got the point. There's nothing they couldn't do, in the double digit A.D. era, that we can do now. They strategized and fought wars without the disasters of the likes of Afghanistan, created marvelous monuments with structures that no earthquakes could shake, had artisans with more refined skills than most today, had extra marital affairs without the courts and the dramas, relished Asparagus as a delicacy and produced the likes of Spartacus who managed and led an army of 90,000. I can't even manage my own kid.

Did they live happier and more enriched lives? Guess I'll have to ditch my plan of 'just spend a day in Rome and run away on a pilgrimage to Milan' to find out. :P

Photo credit: moi

Friday, May 1, 2009

Think you saw me? Think again

Layoffs in the company (that hurts so bad), re-structuring, visualizing old faces with new hats, penning down goals for Q3, a quick few biz calls and a completely lackluster bhelpuri for lunch... is the Friday over yet?

The bhelpuri dude tried to make conversation by asking if I lived in the building next door. A "no" didn't seem to be settling enough since apparently my face resembled the girl in the building next door's face a great deal. Comparisons are something I grew up hearing. I was always referred to as the exact replica of my dad. Then for a brief period when a certain Tollywood actress Madhu of 'Roja' fame surfaced, I was deemed a duplicate. It was annoying to say the least just because I couldn't care less about her. A few nice peeps compared me to Amisha Patel but they were just being nice. And now I look like my nephew.... err I mean the other way around.

Whatever happened to god throwing away the mould after He made you? That would be such a tall order though. Indians are a billion in population. How many different dravdian-aryan-persian-east asian permutation-combinations could there possibly be? Look at the constraints: limited height range (dwarf, short, short-tall and medium-tall) , limited body types (pyramid, matchstick, cylindrical and inflated protruding belly), limited looks (cerebral, serious, dull and unfortunate), limited stages of evolution (homo sapiens, slightly evolved, slightly more evolved and evolved enough for the modern world), limited skin tones (pitch dark, dark, less dark and wheatish) and limited hair types (oily, dusty, henna'ed' and aromatic). So He picked one attribute out of each category above and made me! And so many others just like me!! Geee thanks.

Being unique would have been nice though. I'm sure a lot disagree. People have made their entire careers and lives based on the fact that they resembled someone. Hi Harman :P

But but but, in addition to the physical attributes, He also gave me something else. Something precious. He gave me the power to write my own destiny. Ok so my dad wrote my partial destiny but I still have a long way to go. It's another thing that I did not recognize or exercise this power for the most part, just going with the flow, which was fun. Not anymore though. I know what I want and I will spare no efforts in getting it!

For now, I just want a tall chai latte, non-fat, x-hot, no water, with easy foam. Told ya I know what I want ;)