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I don’t think that I had been to a Book Fair in the past decade. Well then, it surely was time to make up. So this Saturday saw me piling on Mo, Jo and kids to go to the 2010 Book Fair.

We started late, it being a lazy Saturday, and Aru not being well and the rest of us, well taking our own time. But determined as we were, by afternoon, we got dressed and armed with lots of water-bottles and knapsacks, started for the Book Fair. 

Mo had this entire game plan charted out – which stalls to visit, in which order etc, etc. But knowing me, I don’t think that I was a really good troop following the course. I go mad when I see books. Leave me at a book store and you can find me there hours later, curled with a book (this is why the Elgin Road, Crossword is my top rated book store, Oxford, comes a close second). I feel at home at a library. I have atleast 5 cartons of books at home which I still have to read, not counting the e-books. And I dream of designing a huge room with book-shelves ranging from the floor to the ceiling, as my corner in the house, someday. So basically I am a bookaholic. 

At this stage I will not even pretend that I am into serious arty intellectual stuff. I like books which are easy to read. And these days I am into Percy Jackson – so you get my drift. 

So anyways, here on a bright Saturday morning were the 5 of us, upbeat about the Book Fair. And there were 12 halls, filled with books waiting for us. For the 5 hours that we were there, the only time that we sat down, I think was to have a cup of tea. Aru with her viral, was a sport and braved on with us. Even Ashmit walked as fast as his 4 year old long legs could to keep up with the rest of us. 

Incidentally the first book that I bought at Fair was Karen Anand’s Cooking for the Smart Man for the husband. I really kidded myself into thinking that I could reform the man. I don’t know why. When the husband saw the book and the loving inscription (I had written inside), he promptly pointed out that since he was a smart man, he would certainly tell me what and how to cook! So much for hoping. 

As we ambled around the halls we finally came to the Penguin store, where Sidin Vadukut’s Dork was being released. Sidin was there himself, mingling around and signing copies. That man is funny. I mean he really is witty. And also he is so easy to talk to. We bought Dork, chatted with him for a bit, kidded around, didn’t hug but surely handed the money over and said bye. 

That done I suddenly spotted the Rupa stall (which was originally not in our list of stalls to visit). I was browsing through the books, when all of a sudden Mo tapped my shoulder. On turning around, I could make out this hyper-animated look on his face, like someone had suddenly given him this huge bar of unfinishable chocolate. ‘Ruskin Bond is here,’ he said. 

Suddenly I felt that someone had given ME that chocolate bar too. ‘Really?’ ‘Go look at that enclosed podium.’ 

I ran. And truly enough, Ruskin Bond was there. 

Now as a kid who has grown up in Calcutta in the 80’s and 90’s, I was exposed to this news publication called Telegraph (which is the pulp fiction of newspapers – but more on that in another blogpost). Every Sunday, Telegraph would publish a supplement magazine, which introduced Blondie, Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, Jiggs Kalra, and Ruskin Bond to me. 

Come Sunday, and I would grab the magazine, and sit with it at the breakfast table and not get up till I devoured the Ruskin Bond stories. As I relished the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of Deoli and Kasauli, gulped down the horror stories, swallowed Rusty and digested the hauntingly touching humane spirit in the stories, I started an affair with the author’s books that will last forever.

I would often dream about the day I would meet Ruskin Bond, and all the smart things I would say to him, and how enchanted he would be by me, and perhaps dedicate a book to me too. Naturally, none of this happened and sadly, when I visited Kasauli, I did not even have the guts to go ring his doorbell.

Anyway. So here was Ruskin Bond, in flesh and blood, infront of me, and I felt like a child. I could not think straight. Mo very kindly helped me locate a book of his, that I could buy for Ruskin Bond to inscribe on. I somehow made it to the enclosed podium, and managed to mumble about the Telegraph magazine days.

He was really gracious to try to make small talk to me about where I was from and what I was doing in Delhi. I thanked him for the autograph and said something really silly like ‘I am a huge fan’ or things to the same effect. It was really very sweet of him to smile and thank me. I really regret, not carrying a camera that day.

That done – I felt that it was a really great day where I had achieved something. We all left the Book Fair 2010, with this wonderful feeling that comes with a sense of having a meaningful day. Its 3 days later and I am still upbeat from the meeting.

All I can think of as I write this is – Mr. Bond, they don’t make authors like you anymore.

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Homeward Bound

Well its getting increasingly difficult to keep up to my initial target of 40 posts by March/April. Firstly, I was not well for nearly a month. Then there was nothing I could remotely think of to write about. So between an illness and topic block, I am way behind my schedule.

Now this impending trip to Calcutta, for a slew a weddings, is going to put me further behind my target. But when I get back I should have enough meat to keep this blog alive for another 5 posts. However, more of that for another day.

This imminent visit back home is something I have been looking forward to for quite a while now. There are many reasons attached.

Firstly, there are weddings involved. And these are weddings that require active participation not the boring Khao Piyo Khisko involvement! A couple of them are of really close friends. I will be meeting the school/MBA friends after ages and we all plan to extract maximum juice from the weddings.

Secondly, home is a foodie’s haven. So while on one hand I have my mother’s kebabs to keep me alive these 5 days, I basically also have the wedding biryani’s to look forward to, not to mention the zillion food joints in Calcutta that are like the Mecca to me.

Thirdly, it is Christmas season. So all the Christmas savouries will be available at all my favourite bakeries. And I am going to go mad with plum cake shopping. Not to mention the fudges and marzipan toffees. Slurp!

Fourthly, as the school gang is going to assemble after a hiatus, there are a lot of stories that need to be shared, a lot of updates to be given and taken and finally a lot of ‘Do You Remember The Times’  kind of chats to be had. Basically a lot of girlfriend time together. (Which I didn’t get to do at my wedding)

Finally, going home also means long train rides by the Rajdhani. I love the way the landscape changes as you proceed towards Bengal. I love the first glimpse of the Dhakineshwar. I love the ice-cream offered post dinner, in the train (something I always wait up for, even if its Vadilal). I love the incessant chatter in Bengali all around me. I love the realisation that I am headed home – to a city that flows in my veins even when I am miles away from it. Flights don’t evoke this wave of nostalgia.

Each trip back home is precious. Even if I have nothing to do and all that’s there on my agenda is 5 days of uninterrupted sleep and oodles of dal, bhaat and aloo bhorta.

So for this trip, there are a lot of things on the to-do and to-shop list, and a huge medicine pouch to carry so that I do not, at any cost, relapse and miss all the fun.

So till I am back from the 4 and a half weddings and a funeral (tragically), this blog will go into hibernation. But not for too long!

Next post – The Calcutta Weddings.

Christmas Time

Till I was 12 years old – Christmas for me was Santa and gifts. Then in my teen years it was Rose Cookies. Now it is Plum Cakes.

When I was a kid, every year for Christmas, my aunt would come for her vacation to Calcutta from her teaching job in Simla. So for the whole of December, I would bug her asking her what was Santa getting for me. She used to lead me to believe, that she had this hot-line thing going on with Santa, and he would give her regular updates on whether he was going to visit me or not.

I would promise and swear that I had been an extra good girl all the year around – when in truth my goodness meter only started ticking from 1st December. And I would make proclamations like – ‘I have been a good girl all year round, so Santa can’t not visit me!’  – or things to the same effect.

On Xmas eve, I used to be on tenterhooks, and would try to stay up late to catch a glimpse of Santa. I would puzzle how he would enter the bedroom, there was no Chimney, And Santa, requires one for sure. I would sit by the window, looking out for Santa and his reindeers, and invariably fall asleep while waiting.

In the morning, the first thing would be to check for gifts under the pillow, and wow there would always be one. Then I would badger my Aunt, as to why wasn’t I woken up when Santa paid me a visit. Then the gift would be taken and displayed to each member of the household, and I would have a great Christmas.

So when I was 12 and this tradition was stopped unceremoniously (as my parents thought I was too old to get gifts) I moped for a couple of years, as I could not digest the fact that Santa has abandoned me. Till date,  I think it was really not a cool thing to do.

Another ritual was our Club’s Christmas Party. Dalhousie Institute (DI) was a club we have been members of since I was 7 years old. And attendance at the annual Children’s Christmas Part and Carol Singing Nights were a must. The Nativity play was done at the latter event. And the party was something I looked forward to the entire year.

So at the party we would get a goodies box (generally from Nahoums) for Xmas, then there would be a khoi bag for each age group, unlimited candy floss and joy rides, a magic show and the grand finale – Santa with gifts for us all!!!!Oh what a party it used to be!

On Christmas day, Jean Aunty would visit us with Rose Cookies and Plum Cake. I would finish off the Cookies, as they were my favourite. In my teen years, my friends and I would get invited for lunch either at Manesh’s or Donald’s place. And Christmas lunches would be all about Plum cakes yet again.

In school, we would sing carols and have the Nativity Play yet again. Sometimes we would have a Santa to visit us too. As we went to become seniors, we decided to have a tradition of sharing Christmas Gifts. So each of us would get a gift, and there would be a lucky draw, where we would pick up a chit. There would be a puzzle on the chit, which one would have to solve go guess the name of the person who would be our Christmas friend! I remember in 1995 I was coded as DDLJ fan as I would go on and on about hoe awesome the movie was and how much I was in love with SRK!

When I came to Delhi – I missed the spirit with which Christmas was celebrated in Calcutta (something I still do). At that time of the year the city transformed. You could smell bonhomie and good cheer in the air. I don’t think any other city in India reflects this spirit during Xmas time. Everyone is relaxed and all shops are selling Christmas goodies. Park Street is decorated – I can’t describe it, but one can smell Christmas in the air. No other festival comes close to what December evokes in Calcutta.

This Christmas, I think it will be a quiet dinner for me and A. We might celebrate the way Delhi celebrates – go shopping and follow it up with lunch. Or maybe we will throw a party and have some friends over.

And this year maybe, just maybe, Santa will visit me again!

The Dove Onslaught Campaign

Recently I came across the Dove Onslaught Ad Campaign that had been created to promote the Dove Self-esteem Fund drive. Pretty well thought through and being consistent with the previous messages of the brand, the Ad captured a little girl before the frame panned out to show the deluge of images of scantily clad women promoting the perfect body, the perfect skin and the lengths we go to, to achieve it – pills, surgery and even bulimia. The advertisement ended with the statement ‘Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does’.

Now what took this creative output to the next step and caught my fancy was, how this basic ad was parodied to create awareness and send a message – sometime to the public in general and sometimes to Dove itself.

Here is a link of the video where the concept was to make children aware of art and its meaning rather than misinterpret it.

A very surprising clip showing how Dove, despite all its messaging as a conscientious brand at some level, still exploits the Indonesian rainforests for palm oil extracts that are extensively used in its products.

And my personal favourite – a clip showing how Unilever as the umbrella corporation having Dove as well as Axe, has chosen messaging for both brands that lies completely on opposite ends of the spectrum. So while Dove reaffirms that each woman is beautiful, Axe just goes on to portray women in the stereotypical poster pin-up style.

Bon Viewing!!

Learning To Be Less Selfish

One of the lessons that I have learnt this year, is how to be less selfish. Rather I have not yet started behaving completely unselfishly, but yes, I have started realizing when I am acting it.

Over the years, living in a new city, constantly trying to survive all alone, did at some point of time make me become less compassionate and really self-centered. I stopped looking around and thinking for the other person. It all became about me, and how I could get by.

I started evaluating new friendships in terms of money spent instead of the importance. I started interacting with people in a very distant manner all the time. It was as if  once the job was done, there was no need to keep interacting. Anything outside the purview of the bare minimum that has been taught in the moral science classes, was not my problem. Somewhere I think that I was slowly losing touch with my humanity.

Well it wasn’t as bad as I have made it sound like, but I was getting there. And the funny part was that, I did all this without consciously realizing that I was becoming a harder person.

I would mentally calculate that friend #1 is not a miser so it’s ok to be free with him/her and not think about money. But friend #2 really counts and pinches pennies, so there I would divide everything to the last penny. Which is really not my style.

I would pass people by, who I realise could have done with my help, but I didn’t want to offer unsolicited aid. Hey they didn’t ask so they didn’t get, and anyways it was none of my business.

And for a while it was liberating, being independent, keeping accounts, living the New York Minute to the fullest, but then all that multiplication and division and being neutral got to me. Really got to me.

I got mad and took affront for the silliest reasons. I always had a cynical approach. And I always blamed others even for things that were in my control. I never made efforts to talk things out or bridge the gap, or understand the reason for differences. It was me vs. them and I was always the aggrieved party.

Looking back objectively, I cannot but think of how I could have been so weird. How I could have just simply stopped making the small gestures that make a difference. My strange transformation did cost me a few friends (who at that point I thought that I was better off without). I willingly did not keep in touch with some acquaintances thinking with a ‘What’s the point’ philosophy.

I now realise that the whole approach was flawed (to put it mildly). It doesn’t hurt or cost to occasionally say a ‘Hi’. It certainly isn’t very painful to reconnect. It’s a wonder that I did still end up with some amazing friends, even after I wasn’t very polite to them at occasions.

It’s taken me a lot of introspection to realise this. And some vague remarks in passing which for some strange reason struck home and got me thinking on the introspection lines.

It will be a long time, I think, before I might start being the person I was. It will definitely take time start thinking like that.

But I intend to tread that path and I will start by making a few phone calls tonight.

Difficult Colleagues aka DC’s

I suppose all of us have suffered this category, and more than our fair share of it. You go to office, you are chugging along peacefully on your work station, minding your business, when out pops a such person or communication from such a person from nowhere, and things spiral downwards thereafter.

Well in most cases it’s not as I have illustrated, but these pests are there, crawling on the façade of every lobby, bay and cafeteria, making the work-life more stressful than it already is. And they have the multiplying effect.

Nothing works with them. No reasoning, no objectivity, simply nothing. They are simply there to be the bane of your existence. And the most riling part is that, most of the times, they have no reason to do so. Absolutely none.

As with most pandemics, there are categories to this one too. I will try and list out the ones I have come across in my office. You will be surprised at how many I have faced in such a short time. I am.

Let me begin with the Mediocre Pains and then move on to the Major ones. (To be noted – there are no Minor Ones) 

  

MEDIOCRE PAINS

 

Irritants

Mostly they are affable and one can get along with them, but not for more than 10 minutes at a stretch. Then you need to go out and blow some steam and come back and pray to God to give you the strength. I mean really. Typical characteristics – they ask too many questions, poke their noses, probe too much, offer unsolicited advice and are basically lazybones, who given a chance, will shovel their work to you. It is a short time before they graduate into the ‘Major Pain’ sub-division.

Arguers

Difficult for the sake being difficult, arguers love to have the last word. They will question everything from your work to the flavour of your drink. Agreeing with anyone, goes against the grain of their very nature. It’s as if they will be struck by lightning if they become agreeable. With these specimens, subtle hints don’t work. Direct confrontations don’t work. Probably dropping a bucket on their head will work. I haven’t tried that yet.

Nosey

A version of the irritant category, they poke their nose whether needed or not. ‘I want to know all’ best describes their state of being. It can be really really annoying, when a simple question is succeeded but a volley of unrelated ones followed by some totally unneeded advice, as is how Noseys usually proceed. Sometimes Noseys are also ‘I know it all and best at that’s, and the resultant feeling you get is nettling at the mildest and murderous at the most intense.

  

MAJOR PAINS

 

Backstabbers

This breed will pretend to be a friend, will lend you a shoulder to de-stress on and then merrily play snitch. Another by-product (at times), is that they not only offload their work to you, but also harp about what wonderful managers they are and how much they have worked their ass off to get this particular piece of job done. In short they are lethal. And if they are your boss – you are better off in another department.

‘Everyone Listen to Me’ syndrome

This is another widespread variant. They are stubborn and usually accompanied with the mindset of ‘My work is perfect’, ‘I know it all’ and ‘My opinion is the best’, they are at best insufferable. A stuffed peacock, their surroundings are generally populated by rolling eyes, tightened lips, inaudible ‘there s/he comes’ sighs and an undeniable air of dread. Nobody wants to be a part of their team, unless forced or there is a killer project involved. This co-worker, actually believes that s/he is invaluable. Sadly they are not. More sadly, they never realise it.

Me Firsts

When their work is to be done, everything else should be at the bottom on your priority list. Else they will throw names, and escalate mails till kingdom comes. Bulldozers are what I call them. The indicative symptoms are, they generally boast how efficient and good they are, how they make the wheels turn and how when they are around they always make the sun shine. Troublemakers, with zero consideration of any genuine constraints, they think they are being Hollywood corporate tough. They are just being obnoxious assholes.

Critics

As a rule, this colleague works with the attitude of ‘Have spanner. Will throw at your work’. Without any ceremony, they will strive to make people around them look bad, except the top brass. Oh they are psycophants in that sphere. With the rest, they will find fault with everything from the way you dot your i’s and cross your t’s to your nail shade. And they will not hesitate to bring it up at the most public forum. The most infuriating bit is that they perform their act with the air of doing the organisation and you (a co-worker) a service – ‘See by pointing this out, I have helped avoid such a major catastrophe and taught you a valuable lesson on how to do things better (which evidently you haven’t been doing)’. Anyone want a hatchet?

 

THEORIES ON HOW TO DEAL WITH THE DC’S

 

There are only theories of dealing with difficult people. I am listing some of them below.

In the event that someone does stumble across this blog and then pause to read it (a rarity) I hope that it will help you cope with these needlers. 

  • Talk, talk and talk to sort out the problems and collaborate (if only life were so simple!!)
  • Ignore (Easiest way out but not the most advisable. Usually eggs DC’s on)
  • Acknowledge the issues and try to find out if you may be the problem (Can prove to be fatal in some cases)
  • Set the boundary (Easier said than done – but it’s feasible)
  • Have a no holds barred fight (Therapeutic. Needs courage. Known to have pitfalls)
  • Become the Yes man (Easy. Not conducive)
  • Compromise (and be a pushover)
  • Tit-for-tat camaraderie (at least the DC will what they are up against)

Going by the exhaustive list I have charted out, it’s a wonder I haven’t turned into a serial killer yet. Since I have just a 4 year old career, I don’t think that this miracle is going to last long. But I do have a long way to go till nirvana.

I am at the end of my tether. Stuck in a job that is going nowhere, coupled with a husband who lives 300 kms away on some days and double the distance on most days, I think I am way well into one of the most frustrating periods of my life.

 So here I am thinking of how to keep myself going and bang it comes to me. Another epiphany – in the long list of epiphanies that I keep having on a regular basis. That I should probably revive this long dormant blog and resuscitate my writing habit.

 My ambition is to blog at least 40 articles in the next 6 months – this is a very conservative limit that I have set for myself. Only time will tell if I can pursue this goal doggedly or not.

 In all previous instances, I have written, when I felt like it or when some topic struck my fancy. This time around, I will try this more as a discipline rather than an act of randomness. And that is going to be extremely difficult, keeping in mind my propensity to procrastinate.

 Another hurdle is, given now that I have to actively think of topics to write about, I am definitely going to crib and complain about a fictitious writer’s block.

 But all these must be overcome, if I am to get any sort of decent start to disciplined and religious writing. So the answer to this lies in writing shorter and more coherent prose, and restricting long rants to topics I feel passionately about.

 Thus begins the second…wait third…duh, I don’t know which leg of this blog. But I hope this will last longer than the previous runs.