Thursday, October 28, 2010

Light my fire

This appeared on today

“Ravana is in high demand” read headlines from a newspaper this morning. Today is Dussehra, a grand festival that marks the grand finale to the nine days of dandiya delight. It’s the day when thousands gather at various spots all over the country to watch Ravana effigies being burnt.

I’ve long held the presumption that every popular Indian face at some point must secretly wish for this deep down inside. Indian gods are very kind when it comes to granting chote-mote wishes. Nothing else can explain that every superstar has had the esteemed privilege of getting his or her effigy burnt.

Big B recently had his share along with Ram Gopal Verma, to see their effigies being burnt in public. This for the liberty RGV took to temper with the national anthem and include it as a song in his film Rann. These two join the list of celebrities who've had this distinct honor before: Madhuri got hers burnt for saying something controversial about Sita in Lajja, Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty got theirs burnt for the infamous peck on the cheek, Dhoni got his burnt when India lost to Bangladesh in the last World Cup, Varun Gandhi got his burnt for pushing his luck too far and making outrageous statements, Danny Boyle got his burnt for the usage of the term 'dog' in his movie title Slumdog Millionaire and Deepa Mehta is a veteran in this field.

Burning of effigies definitely takes the stardom a notch higher. It is nothing short of a movement and our media makes it imperative for the entire country to obsess about it for a short while. It's great free publicity for the popular face and since public memory is so short, there’s actually no harm done. Mutually beneficial innit. It's a whole different story that most protests are completely blown out of proportion but who cares. Burning effigies is like celebrating Dussehra on a random day. How fun! It unites people and gives them something to do: plan, execute and reminisce. Such a stress buster.

There’s something enormously empowering and liberating about watching the Ravana effigies being burnt. It’s probably got something to do with conquering the evil and watching it turn to ashes bit. If people could apply this concept for every boss or ex-boyfriend or landlord they detest, life would carry a lot less emotional baggage. If done the right way with the right company, it can trigger off an avalanche of muck raking and release all the bitterness and negativity. Imagine this: if you’ve harbored a slight resentment towards anyone which you aren’t able to shake, a little effigy and off it goes up in the air and out of your system. Bliss.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fit for the streets

This first appeared on

You know you're getting too predictable when you speed dial the nearby pizza joint at 2 am to place an order and they don't even ask for your address. When your caddy offers you a tissue box and a Red Bull on the 5th hole at that exact second before you start panting. When your building watchman winks at you and inquires if you were expecting a late night visitor that night, night after night. When your boss offers to give you a third extension on a deadline even before you ask. When the receptionist greets you and says, "I like that this tie goes with all of your shirts" and you're unsure if that was a compliment.

While changing most habits may require a detailed project plan, Outlook reminders, a shrink and anonymous chat rooms, there's a quick fix to the receptionist-calling-you-out-daily scenario. And the fix can do more than put the secretary in place. It can not only alter your look but potentially your outlook, add a spring to your step and get the world to take notice. The best part, it's a low investment high return plan. All it takes is a bit of dedicated and focused net surfing and having plenty of light bulb moments as your stare at your wardrobe. Cherry on the cake you ask? It can NEVER get old.

Ready to open the Pandora's box? Shake the traveler in you and think of an international city you'd like to visit next. Go to a search engine and look it up. " street style blog". You'll find street style blogs on Moscow, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, New York, London, San Francisco, Barcelona, Copenhagen (yes you read that right!), Berlin, Melbourne, Munich and several more. As the name suggests, the USP of street style blogs is what people are wearing on the streets, not the runways. These blogs showcase plenty of pictures of people in trendy and interesting outfits walking on the streets. While bloggers tend to capture the slightly wacky ones on camera and put in their two cents, you'll see a ton of fun and funky ones too. Then there are those that quintessentially reflect the flavor of the city.

The absolutely remarkable part is, it wouldn't require you to invest in a brand new wardrobe. All you'll have to do it get creative and mix it up. And voilà, you're on your way to being a New Yorker for a week and before people get too comfy with that image, off you are onto Mission Milan. Role playing can be an exhilarating game and the bonus is, when you do visit those cities, you'll feel right at home. Even if being a ‘fashion icon’ isn’t your thing, getting an additional cool title won’t hurt. Just don't forget to send season's greetings cards or thank you notes to the bloggers when you hear words like ‘swoon’ or ‘drool’ in the same sentence with your name.

Here is a link to the article on

Monday, October 18, 2010

Overdue and outta luck

'Fashionably late' doesn't half define me because it doesn't have the punch of 'hopelessly incorrigible procrastinator'. Most people take punctuality seriously. They also care about expiry dates and late fees. Fortunately or otherwise, I've been untouched by these concepts. Until of course things begin to fall apart and I'm thrown into a stalemate situation. My mailbox, in case you're wondering, is perpetually filled with yellow envelopes that tell me it's my last chance to renew Vogue or some other life saving magazine or pay the library late fees before they send it to a collection agency.

One such day last month, I was reminded of the fact that my passport had expired months back and needed to be renewed pronto if I had to be a part of all the parties I'm throwing and the ones I've got guaranteed invites to in India this December. Several reminders from dad later, I showed up on the Indian consulate website last week and was basically shown the finger. I was assigned an interview date for December! An interview to get something I am entitled to by birth and that too, months later when I'm not even supposed to be around. Ha, I said to the web page and showed up at the embassy instead. I don't believe in GPS systems and I don't own an iPhone or Android so it may not be hard to visualize me driving on the crazy one way san fran streets looking for an address. I think it's virtually impossible to drive in the city and not break at least three rules at any given time. I ran a red light, got into a wrong one way street and drove in the bus lane, all accidentally of course. Luckily I spotted about a 100 fellow desis lurking outside a tiny door and that was my subtle clue.

I stood in the rather long queue as anxious faces waited for what seemed to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. They perhaps waited for the gold studded door of heaven to open with immense shining light brightening everyone's faces as a beautiful angel would emerge and guide them into bliss. But instead of the gold studded door, it was a worn out wood one, instead of shining light, the sound of chaos and instead of a beautiful angel, a rude middle aged Indian officer. One applicant at a time, the officer dealt with incomplete forms, unfollowed instructions and blank faces that posed never ending questions. Some people who appeared to have shown up straight from work with a laptop were lead into a secret area to put away their belongings in a locker but from where I saw it, it looksed like a cleaned up garbage tank with a giant lock. Some who'd shown up with a family got snapped at for crowding the space. A gentleman who'd come with a toddler got it bad. "Why have you brought your kid. Where is your wife?" barked the officer and all the poor guy could mutter while lowering his eyes is "at work".

While I people watched and derived sadistic pleasure out of witnessing all the drama, I got what I deserved as well. "Madam, what does it say under the passport picture?" I shuddered at being suddenly caught and began looking under the picture. I wasn't too happy with the way the picture has turned out but that’s what you get for getting pictures at Costco. For lack of being responded to, Mr. rudeness personified lost his cool and yelled at what I guessed was at least a 100 decibels "Paste is paste in every language. Now go to the facility room at once, take the clip off and paste your picture." I turned around and started walking in the direction of the finger on his raised hand that reminded me of the Dr. Ambedkar statue in Mumbai and came across an ugly depressing room with a boring couch, a table and a stick of glue. Did he just say 'facility room'? "They treat people here like they do back in India. Like cats and dogs. I'm going to complain to the consulate general" came a hurt and angry voice from the boring couch. "Umm yea it's odd". "You just see I will complain. I'm serious". "Yes yes you must. And while you're at it, could you please ask them to not call this the facility room. It’s just misleading" I encouraged him as I pictured me pasting my picture on that form in a lovely powder room.

Soon I got done and walked out, and as I glanced at those waiting in the supremely long lines with restlessness, I couldn't help but feel a little relieved about the ordeal I had just got done with and a little smug about the one that awaited them. Phew.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The better beast

This appeared on last week

Lately, every photo shoot I've done, I've been feeling the equivalent of what a street play director might feel in presence of Woody Allen, what a brand new musician kid on the block might feel bumping unexpectedly into A R Rehman or what someone from Jersey Shore might feel in presence of Johnny Depp. Somewhat insecure, a tad intimidated and very infuriated at why that person needed to be there at that point in time.

It's not particularly a series of events that occur after bumping into 'someone who's potentially better at my job than I am' that upset me. In fact for the most part, the events are restricted to harmless casual interactions and a brief exchange of information on the subject. Nothing even remotely threatening. Nothing that would send my confidence speeding down to my heels. The devil is in the conspicuous gadgets that uproot me as I begin to question the merits of my 'weekend photographer' label. There's invariably someone with a newer version of SLR, someone with a fancy lens that I've never held before, someone going non-stop about ISOs and shutter speed and image stabilization. Don't get me wrong. I'm no fraud. I know enough to get by. Under ordinary circumstances, I love to indulge in those discussions but when on job, it ends up being a deal breaker.

If you extrapolate, it’s the classic age old crisis. Whether you chose to indulge in the rat race or stay miles away and just be a spectator, it’s infamous for sparing no one. More pages than a book on the resume, more digits than a telephone number as net worth, more foreign trips than a commercial pilot, more girlfriends than Gerard Butler, bigger mansion than Michael Jackson’s, better wit than Shahrukh Khan, more charisma than Rahul Gandhi; those guys are all around us. Fate arranges for a tête-à-tête with one such person every once in a while. It keeps the ego in check and sometimes gives way to self-effacing humor, my favorite variety.

Remember ‘In Good Company’? Dennis Quaid couldn’t escape his fate as his life was taken over a younger, cooler version of him a.k.a. Topher Grace. But it doesn’t have to be our fate.

After mulling over it for a while, I’ve come up a life saver: game changing rules The next time you run into someone you want to be, here’s what will help you sail through the encounter breezily.
Take a deep breath and act cool. Yoga hasn’t been around forever for nothing. It works.
Share experiences. He might have more skills and better luck but not your perception
and experiences.
Offer to collaborate at some point. There’s no harm in trying. Your luck is constantly
Whatever you do, don’t overdo it. It’ll show through and fizzle out like air from a latex

The ball’s in your court. Here’s a virtual hi-fi. Go kill it.