When I stopped believing in dragons

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It was a long time ago when I read all the Russian folk tales , my father used to get. It was a yearning for the next book, and the next book, and the next. There was a small exhibition that used to get organised in my city, diligently every year. And for me it was a delight, piles of books, with their hardcovers, beautifully illustrated competing for my attention.

I was drawn to the lucidity of the stories, the simplicity of the imagination and the strong voices of the protagonists. Or was it my state of mind as a kid which made me believe , everything is possible. The dragons breathing fire, flying through the vastness of the sky and the feeling of getting transported to this world, effortlessly,sans television, sans video games.

To me , the illustration of the dragon, was killer. I still remember their faces , those jaw lines, those fierce eyes which had a kind twinkle and the tail that was resplendent and magnificent. Today, when I go through my daily humdrum , challenges and struggles, reliving those reading moments give me a kick. It still makes me believe in dragons, in lands beyond our realm, in adventures inexplicable and I realise again ,it’s my state of mind.

What is that we lose when we grow up? We lose the innocence to believe in stories, we lose the confidence to read another one next time, we lose the openness to understand imagination and above all we lose the importance of our minds.

It is the greatest place we can rush to when we are feeling ‘not so good about it.’ It is the greatest beach we can relax on when we are in troubled waters. It is the most refreshing drink that we can have when we want to soothe our nerves.

For me, the dragons never left my mind, they are still living in it,telling the stories they first narrated to me through those Russian folklores. In the hectic pace of life, most times it helps to revisit those dragons , fairies and pixies you left behind.

They are not just memories, they are tales of our growing up in a world that ‘could’ and not a world that ‘couldn’t’ .

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Ladies,line up in a circle!

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Hanging in the corners, humming my tune,
Fancy the things, me always do.
I stand in a line, that starts and ends,
I believe in a circle that just blends.

Building a dream from cakes to cream,
Chatting on music or just about anything that ‘sheens’.
Telling stories,climbing hills or just about anything that gels
I stand in a line, that feels like an end
I believe in a circle that twists and bends

Going back to what I dreamt of doing,
Or just about anything that I felt like creating,
Giving back or taking in.
I stand in a line, that breaks and melts
I believe in a circle that rests and connects.

Photo credit: From the internet

AMBITIOUS WOMAN

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It is the wind that blows me in all directions,
It is the noise that honks for my attention,
It is the warmth that numbs my senses ,
It is the chill that evokes my emotions.

I am complicated,
I am innate,
I am a person, very intricate.

I have a chain of thoughts that tend to disappear,
I dream , I aspire , I dare , I acquire.

I know the line that crosses my garden,
I know the rainbow that shines over my window,
I know the chirps that tweet for the longest hours,
I know the sparkles that fill the glares.

It is the moment I have been waiting for,
It is the feeling I have been craving for,
It is the freedom I have been hoping for,
It is the strength I have been saving for.

Could I be any more  better?
Could I be any more confident?
Could I be any more clever?
Could I be any more radiant?

Yes, Yes, Yes

I need many more like me,
I need many more for me,
I need to create many more like me,
I need to be for many more, ME.

LOVE.SENSE.DRAMA

So it did start by smelling right. It indeed was, too grand an entrance to be remembered. The hotel looked like a building whose backyard and courtyard were both eaten up by the nasty, beastly structures recognized as super five stars. When I walked through an okay lobby and past some very okay staff, I almost felt like this was more like a self- service place. So, I did not bother checking where the “Mash Up” was and realised that discovery did not take too long.

Down a winding staircase and a few steps later, I walked into the buzz that was quite sober. I was hungry and as my eyes started a “soul” search, I quickly found someone who became my breakfast partner. If not for that half fried, abandoned , stolen omelette, me and Pramod would have literally devoured the sessions – they were so good.

Okay, before my mean critical side takes over, I have to lay down some good points too. And I would like to, as obvious , do it my way. It was mashed up actually and I must say that’s the success of curating. The audience experiencing the event should never get into ” what I came for?” And ” what I got? ” analysis. They should get out with at least “hmm interesting”.

I will like to breakdown my understanding into 4 zones. The Classroom, The Party, The Dozers, The Thinkers. It is not in chronological order and if you don’t enjoy it, “just love it”, it will make your pain tolerable.

The Classroom

Quite a few interactions qualify for this type and it started with introductions. The new teams introduced themselves. The new fathers, the new mothers, the engaged yet to be married and the married who were yet to be harassed – sorry I mean ” mums yet to be mums”.

Priyanka got up and shared with us the wonderful news that she is very happy and it evoked genuine emotions on how awesome it feels till – ” it all starts.” Sarita too offline mentioned that she was missing her 14 months old baby boy and I had a nagging urge to silently agree to her silent satisfaction – ” phew I got a break.”

So babies, marriages and team mergers all boils down to love. Love is a chemical reaction and most of us know it is explosive. It was an ” idle” start( I misspelt it and realised only after I published this blog). Love Guru meets the lowest scum of banking – marketers.

It was surely Love at first sight for Karthi. The latter was talking about this speaker’s neon pink/red shoes. Love Guru for the day was aka Amit Sarda CEO for the company SoulFlower that makes handmade spa products. Yes, they should know about love but love that could sell me a little more soap bars – why not listen too?

We hate this word. It is oft abused and used most in genuinely. However, two things that he conveyed – ” Love your product ” and “Believe in it” made me think that how often I know what products that my opposite desk markets or how often I have bothered to master marketing the entire suite that my bank sells. Very often not.

He also gushed about the word ” trust”. And raised an important question : If my brand is not being reviewed , then maybe it is not even being considered. Reviews are powerful specially when you come to know someone is reading them. According to Love Guru, discovery of a product rightfully starts by analysing data. Data is like mining gold and he dropped quite a few examples of category innovations like Puja Oil and Mustache and Beard Oil.

It evoked a few feelings in people who sported one and secretly wished Amit could have sampled some bottles for the good of all. Well, whether they eventually subscribed to his products , we will never come to know after all.

Passion was evident and so much so that when Manish asked the question on sales ( he actually couldn’t finish asking it) he got a loving response on why selling is important. Yes, Amit believed in his product and loving it unconditionally is what he preached. Demonstrations are also critical to a business and he emphasized that one minute demo videos may work miraculously as product reviews.

Tejal raised a point that in an era where reviews, appreciations and practically all ego-sensical things can be bought, how trustworthy are reviews from a new consumer’s perspective. I can’t remember the response because I think , I dozed off here. So will feed this on,later.

You have to have guts to buy and then show off pink shoes. This is not criticism and it is purely a point he drove which made me really think out of the box. What if Linda Goodman wrote on “Businomics of Star Signs“. Amit dwelt on this new way of looking at data. Analyse the star signs of your customers and use them in segmentation. To think of it, date of birth is one data point that is almost always compulsory. Instead of asking so many fields, if I could identify personality of my customer just by knowing his star sign, all our up sell, cross-sell and never -sell, all business challenges resolved in a jifi. Worth a try. I can go on like Amit went on but I will like to talk about more sessions. One great line that I remember he said which echoes logic and sums up his session, crisply ” Every customer is an Influencer.”

By the way, I found some similar shoes online – order if you have the heart for them.

image Moving on, the next session was the internet of something. Characteristic of passion and energy that was infectious. Harish Shankaran from MetalWorks pulled quite a few rabbits out of the hat. The one that stood out was the activity for UltraBook. Here the basic formula was to get somebody really excited and let him win a new,cool device. He also eventually became the next candidate for a Roast.

Well, what they did was married psychological emotions with aspirations – marketing sells material aspirations and they just built it in a very tech savvy manner. This activation campaign titled – ” Temptations” rightly connected the emotion to the will to earn and that hook is big enough to sell. Technology is the ultimate gimmick. We are using it to sell, prospect, underwrite, collect, upgrade, dispense, transfer and all things so why not market. Why cannot it be looked at for reinventing the process of marketing ? An SR system for all our briefs and whoever is least excited gets the output 2 days before TAT.

Bring it on Harish, 4th floor , Goregaon has many restless souls to check out the psychological impact of a possession. Seriously, I am joking.

The Dozers

This is an extraordinary league. The body takes eight hours to reach this state. Some particular experiences accelerate it. We can measure the efficacy by how much degree of sleepiness you achieved after going through this category of event.Two sessions qualified for this.

I liked the perky, pretty,plainspoken Priyanka. I liked her for two reasons – she decided to share her interactions on which senior marketers stood out as professionally sound leaders. The second reason being that she had actually connected with each and every interviewee.

The session was repetitive but she had crisp answers for every question. So we may all end up to be CEOs, CMOs, COOs one day and I think that day we need to remember what Priyanka said – ” know your facts yourself ( don’t rely on assisted help) ,  relate a challenge to a solution and take a ” we” position rather than an “I” stand. By the way these are good tips for a job interview as well.

Though this was a dozer, only according to me , I am still taking an out of the box way of preferring this session over others. The second exercise was a rare type but good it happened. An HR exercise that gave us a useful lesson in networking and knowing others better. The clincher was the doll making contest. We were simply executing. Does it depict the way we normally work or the way we are expected to ?

It was one girl people went crazy about. She looked like a discovery , a new product to be launched and yet remarkably “crappy” as put across by Jebin. True to the core, we have stopped asking questions – not from each other but from the consumer. We somehow only emphasize on one question ROI.

Return on Ignorance is what I term it considering we never ask the poor consumer what is a better way to be fleeced – increasing the price for more value or restricting a benefit for a lesser price.

Yawn, yawn,ZZZZ, ouch I slept on you , with you etc.etc. are reactions which you cannot control. Post this session, I was tired by the amount of learning I had. I learnt Lubaina had climbed a hill, Amol had fought a bear, Swati killed an ant, Harita bought a palace and Deepak lived in a tent. Did I cover everybody’s achievements ?

This account doesn’t get any more innovative than this. Name the doll and win a prize,  sponsored by Alliances Team. Some guys already swooning or sleeping so they are disqualified.

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The Party

This one had rave reviews and Nilkanth emerged as the Kotak Rajnikant. He can do everything – research, raag, rock and rise. It was an entertaining evening with Paushali’s soulful voice accompanied by Nilkanth’s guitar. You both have really inspired a lot of us to pursuit our passions to the fullest. “Do more with your life” as Karthi spelt it for us. M.O.R.E. – Motivating Offenders to Rethink Everything*.

This is a post with a lot of masala and the Bollywood Night tried to evoke all feelings and cravings in a filmy style. So some danced, some were sober, some were missing and some were cribbing. Overall, all but one dragged all to the dance floor or so I heard. It was a dance night and we did decently well on the jumping quotient.

Here is a group of some Bollywood Extras that managed a media byte.

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The Thinkers

Amish Tripathi, Author of The Shiva Trilogy and the chocolate boy as Prashant said in his introduction for him captured quite a few bytes of imagination. His insight into ” I know this English only and I will write what I know ” got me thinking that we always want to dress up our actions and hence ingenuity is lost. He visualised the stories (millions read and are reading) in a parallel universe with the ” humility of a witness”.Truth or no truth, it gives you courage and conviction to take it to the last mile.

He is a starter kit on ideas. First self published sample chapter, first self published sample book, first book trailer and my first crush on a book author.

Well, “unka aik autograph hi kaafi hai“.

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As a speaker, very articulate and honest. Doesn’t shy away from his transition from being an atheist to a devout Shiva follower.  A usual story of a banker turned author with an unusual success.

When I was a kid, I had seen a Disney cartoon ” Peace on Earth” which depicted that humans have fought over everything but were still hell bent on finding another reason to fight. So the remaining homo sapiens decided to fight over vegetarianism and non vegetarianism. Finally, when the war got over nobody was alive and animals took charge.

Anand Siva, an animal welfare activist,a copywriter and also a self motivated vegan, put across the same perspective in a different way. He chose to be a vegan because he was pained to realise that how far we can go to harvest animals for our food. This is no discovery and we all know the half truths. We are afraid to ask questions because we know asking them will make us feel guilty and it is difficult to change. The fundamentals were the same. We have,  as humans contaminated everything, as consequence is the last thing we deal with. If the end is deadly or hurtful, we have learnt to accept it as a consequence rather than as a warning to change or bring about change.

( I hate to add but we did salivate for the home made chaas. He was trying to convey to us that we can be better human beings, in the end we all displayed one trait – ” Greed for that which tastes good.”)

He was candid, emphatic and forthright . All he said , if we look at how we eat, what we eat and why we eat, it is enough reason to survive. Putting animals to risk, danger and extreme torture gets us no where. It harms us, our children. This was a thinker and he shared his thoughts. The best part – he gave us enough reasons to make a choice. No controls, no dictacts, no circulars and no policies. Pure logic.

Watch this cartoon. It effortlessly conveys what animals think of us. Hope they could blog.

Imagine being Blogged by an Angry Cow – ” The Man who stole my Milk”

Writing this , I hope I have managed to steer away from controversies. Actually, I would be lucky to get some free, considering that they are bought to publicize every damn thing.

The Marketing Mash Up 2015 was a refresher course on everything (including the housekeeping announcements) we know but rarely implement or ponder about. Whatever food for thought it gave me, I have blogged and I hope you can add to this misery by reading it. Even if I get one “hmmmm”, I will turn a vegan.

The “why” question

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Little La has grown up and so has her curiosity.

When every question is a “Why”, there is lots of room to try.

“Why” is it night?
“Why” do matches light?

“Why” do I like pink?
“Why” is the circle called a ring?

“Why” should I drink water?
“Why” do you call me your daughter?

“Why” does everybody say Hi?
“Why” can’t I fly?

“Why” is it go on green?
“Why” is the floor not clean?

“Why” does the puppy look sad?
“Why” is screaming bad?

“Why” is the earth blue?
“Why” is this book new?

“Why” do you wear spectacles?
“Why” is the forest magical?

“Why” should I wear slippers?
“Why” do I like my sipper?

“Why” doesn’t he wear nail paint?
“Why” is the lizard on the window pane?

“Why” do I have to sleep?
“Why” can’t I play hide and seek?

“Why” do you go to office?
“Why” should I keep a promise?

“Why” is the moon white?
“Why” can I see it in daylight ?

“Why” is coconut cream so tasty?
“Why” are there no pink daisies ?

It goes crazier than this. I will keep adding to this list.

Till then , keep listening and answering if you have your Little La pondering.

Kitne Aadmi Thay Kaliya..25 Sardaar!

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Fridays are “done days” for some of us privileged few. Who work all six days are simply unfortunate. There is nothing much can be done except to empathize with these species.

However, so remarkable is our capacity to crib that if we had to give one more detail on a bill or say an altogether another bill or take one more approval, then our “workload” suddenly increases.

Friday, the 27th March was suddenly to change the way we go about our lives or so to say it tried quite hard to force us to take our current situations in the right stride.

Some 25 odd looking persons were to embark on a journey which they had no clue about. A so called gentleman and to give you all a hint – his name starts with “P” quite boldly announced that he has been quite useful in this mission thrice. We did not know the sadist pleasure with which he remarked. As an afterthought, quite wicked after all !

So we had the namesake “GOD” for company. And it was indeed the divine presence that we quite landed where we were supposed to in True Destiny style. The acts of charity had started by one tiny step and I saw a pretty hassled lady ( who actually looked like she was from the NGO ) trying to make sure all “mazdoors” had boarded. While yet another made sure that we did not waste any morsel and handed over a box full of unutilized breakfast to the needy.

Yes, I can definitely make this account a little bit too funny when I mention that a certain “P” lady worked very hard to catch the bus itself. She travelled half the distance that we covered, in an auto looking for the bus. It was a remarkable feat and I must say she emerged as the “most powerful woman”. I shall discuss the specifics of this a little while later !

As the bus bumped along, so did we and reached the village in Karjat. We were greeted by the family of the villager whose houses we had come to build. I don’t think I have ever received such a warm welcome in a long,long time. A welcome that has long being forgotten and features only in movies and those endless Hindi soaps.

It was a feeling of coming home. I personally felt whether I could do what I thought I could. I looked at a couple others and I think none of us realised that the part we were about to play will be one of the toughest of our lives.

In a humble tent , we were led and seated and told to collect our gloves and our badges. Our instructor looked at us amused but hiding his grin behind his ears , he very enthusiastically told us two tasks that we had to choose from – building and painting. He asked people to volunteer as leaders and we immediately knew who wouldn’t be able to contribute. ( This is a pun and if it hurts the hardworking types, the humour is well taken!)

Up shot hands of a few ladies who wanted to take up painting , me being one of them and rest all landed up in the building team. So I don’t really believe in the latest Vogue choice ad but the choices women make may have nothing to do with their physical strength. It may just be their aptitude most of the time that they want to do a job which though looks simple, it still needs a skill. Doing the most tough job is never a criteria of physical capabilities.

If it was,we would have had many stories where the strongest villains would have stolen the plot. So cutting a long story short, some women were mocked at for opting for an easier task. Well , it was a comment well taken and all agreed that we shall in true labour spirit do shifts – Painting batch paints till noon and builds thereafter and vice a versa.

Heading to our walls ( literally they were to break this blazing afternoon !), guided by an efficient but rather amused local staff ,we started the job. Mixed in a huge container was a serene green paint that we were to collect in our mini buckets and embark on an adrenalin rush I never felt before.

Tan or no tan girls , this was the ultimate in any adventure I have ever had. Biting sun, flying insects, sweating tees, thirsty throats, giggling children, amused village women, a lone photographer, a few goats, some cows and us – the 25 explorers who knew this was not a joke and unless we got our feet , hands,Tommy’s,Levis’,
Wranglers’,Nikes’,Reeboks’ dirty or coloured, we hadn’t done our job.

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Painting Batch begins

For me it was love at first sight – okay so it got your imagination. The Wall – already white, calling out to me – “colour me baby”! Whether it was my speed or my incompetence , a rather experienced painter whose “V” for valour got the “girls” at the adjoining wall gushing , remarked at me ” I think you are striving for perfection”. I instantly knew this was a PR failure. Thankfully, Mr “V” very graciously offered to honour the wall with his painting skill acquired some time back. I knew the wall looked quite Victorian when finished.

While the juices were done and had, we saw bricks team often passing us and remarking – “is raat ki subah nahi”. The area was shielded and rightly so, dangers lurking in the unknown are better than known fears. When you least expect , courage surfaces and that’s exactly what happened when the shift changed.

Best part of the whole show , the most delicious lunch seemed to be the most worthy meal of our lives. It left me wanting for more . For a four course preparation like this, yes Sir I could work for a few more days like this. (Did I speak too soon!)

Not at all ! Nothing prepares one better for adversity than adversity itself. And once the food went in , we realised we were the fat pigs who had gorged too much for one day. When the masons arrived for us to partner, we were guided to the showstopper task – pick, pass and return.

Three simple words if acted upon, over and over at least 200 times with a kg full of wet concrete paste, by 50 legs and 50 arms, are bound to tire you to the core. There were some glucose moments, dizzy souls, panting spirits but the goal was fixed – party had to go on.

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Passing the parcel

More so , when the rain gods were pleased. There was dancing and no more looking at the watches as suddenly everything felt purposeful. Kabbadi with the local boys rejuvenated the whole group. With renewed vigour and “can do attitude”, the human chain accomplished a task which nobody believed was possible when this day began.

Brick by brick and brush by brush we tried to finish two homes. Two homes, which will hopefully house many aspirations and dreams of two humble families.

Seizing a big opportunity like this has been a greatest wisdom that all in this social group displayed. Gabbar can shout out loud and say ” kitne aadmi thay kaliyaa” and we may just have been 25.

Nevertheless , we emerged from this experience empathetic of millions who build for others. In 90% of the cases, they have no place to call their own home. It was a one day activity but to me it seemed like I tried to move one step towards giving back, to people who most deserve to stay,  under their own roofs.

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The "25" aadmi and aurat

I am a (wo)MAN

I am a (wo)MAN
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Are women professionals behaving more and more like men in corporate space? I feel we are living in an age where everything is influenced by everybody. Whether you call it the Karmic influence or the Kramer influence, it is becoming very evident that a woman professional has to behave like a man professional to succeed.

Let me substantiate it by some womanly examples. In a so called group of women, who were incidentally invited to contribute ideas for women’s day celebration, a certain woman was asked, “Why did you rejoin this organisation?” The woman candidly merited the understanding that HR had shown and said flexibility was the main reason. Another woman quipped and added I am sure with no innocence, “so do you mean that HR said you could come at any time!”

It is a level playing field and we are all in the same game of rushing ahead of each other but I am baffled when women treat other women as instant competition. I have come across young energetic women who have the empathy, intrigue and the passion to drive, execute and implement whatever comes their way with collaboration. But once they ride up the ladder, there is a giant ego that develops and they deride the same gender. The argument – we faced it and so should you.

When I point out like men, I don’t absolutely mean indifference, apathy or ignorance. Women play multiple roles and need organisational support to nourish their personal and professional goals. It has been established that women first of all bring diversity to the workforce but also create a differentiation.

However corporate worlds , let’s face it were always designed for men. We have over the years recognized that for genders to coexist in a workspace, we need to accommodate needs so that balance is not a myth. Young women need grooming from senior women and at any stage of their life , they can be inspired to accept it with pride and stride.

I have seen women transform from very amiable personalities to very harsh and terrifying superiors. Their submission- “you have to be strong to survive here”.I am aghast we always were born strong emotionally and mentally  and need not have a metal exterior to prove it.

A desire to succeed with patience, being cognizant of the growth paths of others and moreover having a tending approach is characterised as being prominent traits of women professionals. But few are able to retain these as there is always a comparison of “how many hours in office” (surprisingly few offices provide for such facilities), “how many holidays for a sick child”, “don’t speak up as you are aggressive” and ” have to pick up child from day care” vis a vis a male colleague.

I remember the time when my father was working and my mother as a housewife use to do all chores, drive and drop me to my dance school, pick my brother from his music class, pick up groceries, pay bills and still come back and get our home works done. She was at that time behaving like the man of the house but her exterior was still tending, warm and always cheerful.

It is not a fault of the times but a mistake of our generation of young professionals. We see and expect too much to happen in too little time. Everything comes to a full circle and so does success and fame. It is only a matter of time . Sacrificing what innately makes us a better professional is our ignorance of our strength.

What makes us (wo)MAN can be a weakness if we do not recognize this strength in other younger women. If we can become role models for younger women amongst us, we can proudly display our gender labels without being insecure.

When this strength multiplies, there will no longer be a necessity to wear a garb. It is an equal world, women just need to feel it more naturally and accept that they are successful for what they are – not for what they are not.

(Photo from Google – originally from I stock as mentioned online)