Thursday, November 18, 2010

Up in the air

My post on today.

If you're anything like me, the looming fear of being stuck on the window seat with a startlingly private, exceptionally cold or utterly uninteresting “flight mate” becomes prominent as flights that span over multiple days come closer. With my India trip itinerary flashing on my calendar, the speculation of landing up with a non-fabulous flight mate is causing me more anxiety than real issues like catching connecting flights in time or dealing with disgusting lavatories.

I wouldn't consider me lucky in the matter of air company. Time and again, I've ended up with the exact opposite profile of mine in the next seat. Sure I carry a book and flip through magazines and catch a couple of already seen movies and marvel at the artistic patterns that clouds form at 30,000 feet above ground and carry a fully charged laptop but after a bit, tête-à-tête beckons.

So here’s a shout out to airline companies. Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could use a little creativity when assigning seats to your customers? It’s no secret that at the click of a button, we all become a bunch of demographics at least here in the US – female, under 30, single, loves sushi, goth movies and rock music, orders home gym shopping catalogue... you get the point. Companies like club similar profiles all the time. On flights, it'd translate into seating similar profiles of people together without their knowledge to create a brilliant travel experience.

Much to my stern disapproval, the term ‘NRI season’ has become interchangeable with ‘winter’ in India. With a million of us getting on board to get home just in time to attend all the exciting New Year soirees or find love or detox at spas in Kerala or shop, a great expedition can get us a head start and put us in top gear.

Imagine: no dull moments, no noticing the lull of air pressure, young entrepreneurs exchanging notes on cash flow situations, hip fashionistas discussing the impending demise of harem pants, retired defense folks comparing details on golf shoes, mommies letting all the toddlers cry in unison without worrying about getting dirty looks and teens hitting on each other as the flight crew gently continues to dispense delicious nibblers and drinks.

Is it me or that’s a spotless illustration of a perfect world up in the air?

Here is the link to the article on

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Advantage fair sex

My last trip to my regular pizza joint was anything but regular. The skinny nerdy boy who'd been taking my order since months decided to break the ice finally and strike up a conversation. Except it wasn't much of a conversation. At least not a pleasant one.

"Where do you work?" he demanded out of the blue.
"Umm at this fun company. Why?"
"I'm looking for an internship in IT. Know of any openings?" Direct and to the point like most men I know.
"Well I..." don't really know how to respond when get asked that question by semi-strangers. Granted he knew
my taste in pizza toppings and I knew he was quick with orders and never forgot to include extra crushed pepper in my take out bag but that hardly qualified as grounds for professional recommendations.
"We all have to work hard for our first jobs don't we?"
"Yeaa" Smart kid I thought. He knew the whole deal right off the bat.
"Well not you I'm sure. Not girls. Pretty girls don't have to struggle for anything. Things just fall in their laps." Wait. What. He's got some nerve being snide with me.
"Excuse me? You don't even... "
"It's true. You can argue all you want but I am convinced." I couldn't let the arrogant prick get away with it. I had to dispense with the niceties.
"You know I'm sick of hearing that. That's just bull. I've heard it since I was 12. And it's far from truth. So may be you should reconsider your sample size before you go about broadcasting your conclusions for your own benefit."

I took my take out bag and stormed out wishing I'd forgotten to pay which would make him run behind me like a moron in the corridor. It’d ensure I had another opportunity to give him a piece of my mind. But it wasn’t just him I wanted to yell at. I wanted to yell at every guy who’d alluded to it. That guy who’s told me not to worry about learning apparatus in the physics lab since I could just get away with fluttering my eyelids. That guy who’d told me I’d easily get hired in IT for diversity. Many more of them. All of them.

Except I wasn’t sure if it was true or not anymore. Was it? Or have guys been happily living with the assumption that the unfair advantage does exist for the fair sex.

Not that I’ve been oblivious to stories like the Boston Marathon this year that allowed women runners 30 extra minutes for the qualifying round than men. Of course there was no evidence that women really needed that much extra time. But then those are few and far in between. I’d like to think that thus far in life, everything I and most girls I know have achieved is based on merit. Guys, do you have a different story?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Effective conversation enders

My post on today.

Pick-up lines, introductions and ice-breakers have long received a sizeable amount of limelight. There are numerous books, articles and speeches by professionals documented on the subject. It's been discussed to death really. They're hyped and overrated if you ask me. But have you ever noticed that the world around you is filled with 'effective conversation enders'?

Ever heard of that guy who brought up his ex's handcuffs within seconds of meeting a new girl. Or the guy who confided in his boss that all his friends were also going to be in Goa during the pricey conference he was attending. The guy who told an acquaintance at an outdoor event that he'd rolled deodorant on his face to beat the humid weather. The guy who requested a cop to spare him when caught speeding because he was woozy from happy hour. The guy who joked with his new investors that all his girlfriends believed he had commitment issues. Yup, the air around them was all that was left soon as those words made their way out of their mouths.

May be those incidents are a tad exaggerated. But surely we've all come across milder versions of conversation killers in day to day life. The dude in the seat next to you on a long flight who insists on showing you his kid's videos on his phone. The aggressive non-aunt lady who wouldn't spare your bachelorhood at the wedding as she begins to scout girls. Your girlfriend bringing up gory details about her girls night out.

The devil doesn't necessarily lie in the stories. I’m tempted to say that every anecdote has the potential of being interesting, just as long as it bumps into the right audience. There's always someone who'll appreciate it. Relate to it. Feel it. But with the wrong company, it can go awry faster than you can say awry – the Sarah Palin effect as I fondly refer to it. The hardest part is to do the match-ups between the story category and the audience category. A little common sense, a little sense of timing and a little empathy should save one from becoming a little story himself.

On the other hand, creative souls can use it to get themselves out of all kinds of less than ideal situations: a lousy blind date (“this new rash I’ve developed is really bothering me”), a boring social dinner (“I was just teaching your kid how to spell schmuck”), a dreary Lacrosse game with new vendors (“after the 3rd drink even I’m scared of me”) or a co-workers practice power point presentation (“a few offensive jokes about the boss equals a hit ppt”).

Whatever the situation, use some effective conversation killers and drop the bombs to your advantage to get out of it scot-free. Keep the guilt at bay (it’s just an harmless little lie) and always, always remember what you bluffed about.

Here is a link to the article on

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Obama live

Mumbai virtually shutting down despite the biggest festival, hundreds of snipers deployed on roof top of Taj and other spots on the itinerary, a convoy of cars carrying 3000 secret service agents, government agents and journalists following him, 34 warships patrolling the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast and an ordinary expense of $200 million a day to support all this... it isn't everyday the President of United States visits the nation. $200 mill a day... and I worry when I go slightly over my $25 dinner limit on my expense statements. Oh the disparities! In a naive almost silly kind of way, it makes me feel insecure about being on the US soil in the meantime. If he's taking away all the powerful men-in-black look alikes, who's protecting us? The Hulk?

Besides briefing the President on the economic deals in the works with India, I suspect the council of economic advisors had gotten Mr. and Mrs. Obama to learn about the Indian stereotypes from the hyped series 'Outsourced'. What else can explain Michelle dancing effortlessly on a punju song on day one and a marathi one on day two and the president going straight from celebrating diwali with kids to shaking a leg on the kholi number to tackling his toughest questions yet... those from the students of Xaviers college. The questions were neither innocuous nor subtle but the President answered them with poise. Each response seemed well structured, honest and sincere. If Bush had to sit through it along with the students, he would have been snoring by answer #2. If Bush has to answer those questions, he would have cracked one liners, made monkey faces and choked on a gum. But this isn't about Bush so I'll leave him alone to chase a moose wearing a santa cap or whatever he's doing in the Texan countryside.

Whether he's giving a speech for a premature Nobel or on the grim morning after the state election results, the president has never failed to deliver an earnest one. He wowed India Inc. with precisely that as he announced a $10 billion economic deal that'd create 50k jobs here. His message was clear; if you take our jobs, I'll fly out here, make you all work on a Diwali weekend and get the jobs back. I see those hurt... err the patriots gloating already "now they need our help... after rejecting my visa twice and not extending my brother's h1, now they need our help". No surprises that the two countries are likely to sign agreements in every field from trade and commerce to agriculture to monsoon studies to US universities to energy.

Later he vowed the student community as he made them aware of their future responsibilities. One minute the kids had plans to bunk classes and hog on paneer kathi kababs at the canteen and the other minute, they were thinking about how they could contribute in maintaining economic relations with the US. Nice touch! I anticipate an inflow of thousands of entries in the blogosphere titled 'My (insert activity here) with Obama' in the next few hours. Needless to say, the 'activity' will range from an eye-to-eye to a handshake to a hug to a dinner to as much as a life altering experience (for those trying to get more hits). Good thing Karan Johar released 'My name is khan' last year. SRK's motive in the movie would have lost its fizz after this.

As Mr. President makes his way to Delhi to meet with the PM and several other ministers and dignitaries (AR Rehman and Aamir Khan included) more talks will happen and more deals will get signed. All I can hope for is, amidst his packed schedule, he doesn't forget to bring us back a requisite turban picture a la Clinton style. I also can’t wait for Obama to declare Diwali a national holiday in US next year out of guilt if nothing else.