Monday, 25 March 2013

Style tips from a 6 year old fashionista

Bouncy frilly frocks, o no, they are so last season,

Do dump them now before you commit fashion treason.

Shorts and spaghetti tops, now that’s cool to beat the summer heat,

For the winter - a strappy jacket, stockings and long boots for your tiny feet.

Pink is o so boring now, orange - now that’s definitely in,

Hey, do I see some pink Barbie and Chotta Bheem tops there? Send them off to the bin…

Stock up on smart, printed jumpsuits then in colors bright and bold,

Wear what you like, not what you are told...

Is your wardrobe quite empty by now?

Quick, take Mummy out shopping; she’ll be too shocked to even scold.

Jumpsuit, boots and jacket style - stylish way to brave the slight chill in the air
denim shorts with white jacket style - phew, so much to learn:)
shorts and spaghetti tops - did i mention that they are also great for monkeying around?

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Corporate Gibberish

Gibberish sounds cute and funny, when we hear it from our children - 2-3 year old toddlers, who are just learning how to talk and experiment with sounds and words in their hurry to express themselves and make themselves heard.

On the other hand, 'corporate gibberish' in my definition is the long list of useless and important sounding words that we throw around in the corporate sector. Words such as 'value addition', 'paradigm shift', 'transformation of business', 'positioning and USP', 'table stakes' and many more. One can probably create a dictionary of such words which would run to thousands of pages.

And it is not remotely cute or funny.

What's more, each company even has their own versions of acronyms of the corporate gibberish, the ones which are unique in that specific company and which, employees of that company, are expected to learn and get exposed to from the very first day when they attend induction.

What do they really mean? Beyond the dictionary meaning of the words, in what context do we use them? Do we use them as armor to hide the lack of real progress, the absence of real numbers, the issues that no one wants to raise or nobody wants to hear about?

And what if we try to apply these words on our own selves? Will we like the answers we get then?

Do we personally add any value? Are we causing a paradigm shift? Are we any way responsible for transformation of our business? What is our positioning and USP? Do we have table stakes in what is really key for our business?

Or do we feel like the soldiers in the Crimean War that Tennyson spoke about in his 'Charge of the Light Brigade'

"Ours is not to reason why,
Ours is but to do and die"

Point to ponder. I am all for gibberish from children as they learn to speak. Hopefully, in the corporate world, it is time now to finally speak up loud without the customary 'corporate gibberish'.

Food choices in Boston, for those not 'on the go'

At first glance, Boston seems to be a city ‘on the go’. On a working day, as you stand in front of a subway station, you can see a steady of stream of people emerging from the station with their daily caffeine fix in one hand and burgers, sandwiches and doughnuts in the other.

It’s a picture of life and breakfast on the go!

But while the city of Boston is literally dotted with Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, Pizzerias, Dunkin Doughnuts and range of fast food options to cater to the quick food fix needs; it also equally boasts of a wide choice of dining options and cuisine from countries across the world. 5 of my best picks are mentioned below. And the best part is, most of these are quite affordable, given the large student population in the city.

1. Regina Pizzeria

Boston's famous North end is one of its well-known historical neighbourhoods that boasts of a host of Italian restaurants and cafes, narrow streets and old houses including the house of Paul Revere (famous for his midnight ride to warn people against the onset of the British troops in 1775).

Regina Pizzeria, one of Boston's original brick oven pizza restaurants can be spotted miles away due to the snaking queues in front of it on a weekend.

Once you finally enter the premises, you immediately feel a part of the crowded, happy atmosphere with the posters on the wall that talk about its history dating back to 1926. You realize that you are here not just for the food. The pizza is of course great, the portions are huge, but the warm ambience is probably what keeps bringing people back. After all, one can have more exotic thin crust pizzas in road side cafes of Italy.

Outside Regina Pizzeria

The last slice, anyone?

2. Mike’s Pastry

Still at North End after the pizza lunch, if you are in the mood for a sweet treat, one can head to Mike’s Pastry. Long lines can be seen here again as people pick and choose from an awe inspiring array of desserts from the local favourite Boston Cream Pie to Biscotti, Cakes, Fruit Squares, Marzipan, Cookies, Gelato and the works. There is something sweet here for everyone’s tastes and we found people packing huge boxes and children standing patiently with their parents and choosing their own picks. Another Boston tradition this one.

Entering Mike's Pastry

3. Penang, China Town

In quite a different corner of Boston, the ubiquitous China Town beckons foodies and shoppers alike. While one can feast on a range of dumplings here, we tried our luck at a Malaysian restaurant called Penang.

On a Sunday afternoon, it was packed to capacity with busy waiters running around the tables carrying orders and wearing warm, welcoming smiles.
While in Penang, I would definitely recommend the Roti Telur, a dish which a friend of mine introduced me to.
Bengalis, who might be missing the ‘Mughlai Porota’ of our old Calcutta days, would find Roti Telur quite close to it and quite delicious too.

Roti Telur in Penang

4. P.F. Changs

If you are in the mood for Chinese, but not close to Chinatown, PF Chang’s might be a good choice. The richly decorated interiors usher you inside to an inviting aura of subtle aromas and attentive service.
Food here is vibrant, bold and tasty, with plenty of choices, quite a sure hit for Chinese food lovers.
Inside P.F. Chang

Quick, a photograph before, we finish the last yummy piece of chicken

5. Legal Sea Food

When in Boston, of course, you cannot escape seafood. And the flagship restaurant of Legal Seafood with its majestic view of the Boston Waterfront is a perfect way to experience seafood in Boston. This one is not very cheap, but for sea food lovers, it is worth the splurge. From Clam Chowder, to Crab Cakes to Fisherman’s Platter, this restaurant has an amazing variety of fresh sea food on offer.

the view of the waterfront from Legal Seafood

So, if you have a leisurely weekend in Boston where life need not be on the go, hopefully you can experience the amazing variety of food that Boston has to offer, rather than settling for another sandwich or burger. The list is just a sample, there is much more to discover from Mexican to Korean to ‘so called’ Indian food that foodies in Boston can enjoy.

Happy eating!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Does social media help us 'like' people more?

I am not talking about the 'likes' on the Facebook wall; where you can like someone's philosophic status update or like someone's vacation pictures or even like some new link some one has shared on his wall about a boutique in Bangalore or an online furniture company.

'Like' on Facebook is an easy way of showing your friendship, your support to some cause or agreement with some point of view without making an effort to call or show up physically or even spend a lot of time.

I am not talking about that 'like'.

My question is, does social media help us really like people more?

Let me take an example to explain my point.

Suppose you meet someone under circumstances where you do not meet as friends but as two people with their own agenda and points to prove which may not be in synch with each other.

For example, what if you are battling with weight loss and you meet this really strict gym instructor who seems to be an epitome of fitness and healthy cooking that you so abhor?

Or what if a new person joins your office and you both end up vying for the same project? He is not only great at his work, but also seems to be great at building relationships and quickly becomes Mr Popular with not just the boss but also the team.

Or suppose you drop off your child at the bus stop, hurriedly brushing her hair at the last minute and checking if her socks match and you meet another mother, not a hair out of her place, with her child perfectly groomed and always on time.

Would you like these people at first? Probably not.

But what if you find out more about these people, not by what they say and do in person but by their social presence?

What if you discover through Facebook that your gym trainer was once grossly overweight but lost his weight and found a new way of life with the gym which he now tries to teach other people?

What if you find that the 'perfect' mother has a blog where she writes funny articles about her 'not so perfect' motherhood moments?

What if you realize through LinkedIn that your new colleague is actually a talented singer and has performed in a rock band, just like you did?

Would you treat them differently after knowing these 'social' traits of these new people in your lives?

Would you be more open and less judgemental about them?

So I ask again, does social media help us 'like' people more?

And at the end of the day, would you have 3 new friends because of social media?

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Of Beastly Tales from here and there

Vikram Seth has written many literary masterpieces - from the Golden Gate to the Suitable Boy. 

However, one book, which he published earlier in his career, I feel, hardly got the recognition that it deserved. The book, titled 'Beastly Tales from here and there' is a book of poetry - 10 animal fables from countries such as India, Greece, Ukraine etc. 

The book is a sparkling display of wit, imagination, humor and lucid language, all through words that literally flow from his pen, match beautifully in couplets and leave one with a sense of awe and wonder at the ease at which he has penned down these tales.

His characters are brilliantly etched out; the animals are humanized and endowed with the virtues and vices of ordinary humans - vanity, foolishness, jealousy and the like.

Just as a sample, I'll talk about 2 of the poems here:

1. Hare and the Tortoise:

Everybody knows the old fable about the hare and the tortoise which preaches the moral of 'slow but steady wins the race'. In Vikram Seth's poem, his hare is a flighty, charming, luxury loving, empty-headed, attention-seeking lady while the tortoise is slow, calculative, hard-working and measured in his approach towards everything in life. 

He brings out the difference in the characters of the two protagonists beautifully in the following two verses:

He introduces the hare thus:

When at noon the hare awoke
She would tell herself a joke
Squeal with laughter, roll about
Eat her egg and sauerkraut,
Then pick up the phone and babble
-'Gibble-gabble, gibble-gabble'-

As for the tortoise, he says:

But the tortoise, when he rose,
Daily counted all his toes
Twice or three times, to ensure
They were neither less or more.
Next he'd tally the account
In his savings bank account.
Then he'd very carefully
Count his grandsons: one, two, three

As in the fable, they challenge each other in the race. What happens in the race is not the key point. The Tortoise wins the race as he did in the original fable. But it’s the end of the poem where Vikram Seth shows his mastery with an ironical twist. In a brilliant satire aimed at the modern life, that often gives more importance to style than substance and makes celebrities out of people who may not have achieved much in life, he says,

...the hare
Suddenly was everywhere
Stories of her quotes and capers
Made front page in all the papers-
Soon she saw her name in lights,
Sold a book and movie rights,
While a travel magazine 
Bought the story, sight unseen,
Of her three hour expedition 
To the wood called Mushroom Mission

2. The crocodile and the monkey:

In the Crocodile and the Monkey, a tale about betrayal of friendship which is as applicable today as it was ages ago, the crocodile and the monkey are good friends. It starts thus:

On the Ganga’s greenest isle,
Lived Kuroop, the Crocodile,
Greeny-brown with gentle grin,
Stubby legs and scaly skin,

The crocodile is used to fulfil every whim of his beloved wife. And his monkey friend keeps throwing mangoes from the river-bank for him to take to his wife:

All along the river-bank
Mango trees stood rank on rank,
And his monkey friend would throw
To him as he swam below
Mangoes gold and ripe and sweet
As a special summer treat
“Crocodile, your wife I know
Hungers after mangoes so
That she’d pine and weep and swoon,
Mango-less in burning June,”

But that's not enough for the wicked wife who suddenly fancies a taste for the monkey heart and says to her husband, Kuroop.

"Scalykins, since we've been wed,
You've fulfilled my every wish
Dolphins, turtles, mangoes, fish
But now I desire to eat
As an anniversary treat,
Something sweeter still than fruit,
Sugar-cane or sugar-root;
I must eat that monkey's heart."

But unlike an usual Hindi film where one friend sacrifices everything, even his life, for his friend, Vikram Seth's monkey is in no mood to sacrifice anything. So, in the end, after leaning of his friend's betrayal, he says:

"Tell your scaly wife to try
Eating her own wicked heart
If she has one for a start
Here's my parting gift" He threw
Mangoes squishy, rotten, dead
Down upon the reptile's head,
Who, with a regretful smile,
Sat and eyed him for a while.

Note how in the end he calls Kuroop just the reptile and talks about his regretful smile which leaves no room for any more words with the friend he had tried to betray.

Now, this is one book, I would love 6 year old daughter to read, and I would love to read again myself and lose myself in the world of Vikram Seth's imagination.