Thursday, April 26, 2012

Karmic Puzzle

Someone very dear to me adopted a baby girl a few days ago. Arms yearning for a baby for years are finally holding one. And a baby girl, born in difficult, almost impossible, circumstances, has a set of doting parents and a home.

Two jagged pieces of a jigsaw puzzle coming together to make a flawless picture! Lifetimes of pending "give and take"s handled by one skillful master brushstroke!

I watch this Karmic drama in awe and amazement. 

Monday, April 23, 2012


When our determination changes, everything will begin to move in the direction we desire. The moment we resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fiber in our being will immediately orient itself toward our success. On the other hand, if we think, 'This is never going to work out,' then at that instant, every cell in our being will be deflated and give up the fight.
-Daisaku Ikeda

Today, I resolve to move things in the direction I desire. Today, I resolve to squeeze out the minutest disbelief and doubt that I might harbor deep inside. Today, I resolve to shine and polish my life till no darkness is left. Today, I resolve to be absolutely happy and show others that it is possible. 

Today, I resolve to win.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Lifeblood

I close the doors behind me
and lock them.
then flinging the key away in the dark
run far and fast...
I build walls skillfully
tall, thick, impervious
then hide behind them, breathing deeply, but quietly
stifling any sounds of pain...
I have nearly perfected the art of running away from you.
The secret, if you must know, is in killing the dreams.

Then one weak easterly wind
brings the walls, so painstakingly built
come crashing down behind me.
The vast distances vanish
The doors swing open
And I stand exposed
Transformed into who I really am,
Afraid of who you really are.

I tell you, without much hesitation
(though no longer as carelessly as before)
Of the pain I feel
And of the love I hide
And watch you wade through the clever swamp
Of my words
You dare not read too much into my words, lest they mean something.
I dare not look too deeply into your eyes, lest I see nothing. 

You and I, 
We are caught in a fake relationship
A relationship 
that protects you from the truth
A relationship
that gags me and makes me ashamed of the truth
That you are my lifeblood...
That you are my life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Being Free

One day during a Class-XII Chemistry practical lesson, I looked outside and saw beautiful dark grey clouds hanging low in the sky. I nudged my best friend Shubhra and without any words exchanged, the decision to skip the practical class was made. Five minutes later, having given some lame excuse to the lab teacher, both of us were running out in the school football field, stopping only when we reached the far end- giggling, swirling round and round, light as butterflies in the wind. Can't describe the sheer joy I felt- it was perhaps my first taste of breaking rules and being 16.

Today, from the office window, I saw the clouds coming in and lo and behold, they hung low like that day almost thirty years ago. I gave a disdainful look to my laptop, picked up my bag and went for a long walk, getting drenched a bit on the way back as the clouds finally gave up on just hanging low and decided to let go of the rain. Even though the heart is no longer as light and simple as it used to be, I can't describe the joy I felt. Nothing beats breaking rules and being free...even at 46. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

As Cool as the Moon! And as Loony too!

Every time I write something, it is like gathering ideas and thoughts scattered all over, bunching them together and shaping them to somehow makes sense. But this process also brings a sort of finality to the ideas. Once they are captured, they stop being the very things that inspired me to write in the first place. 

Maybe that's the reason I can't write about my mother. I do write about incidents involving her, but I can't write generically about her. The thoughts I have about are too many and scattered too randomly over 46 years of my life - gathering them is nearly impossible. They are hard to capture also because they are evolving, changing, growing every day. Also, gathering them will mean there will be a finality to these thoughts, and I can't allow that. She is a constant source of inspiration and self-knowledge and I need it to be like that. 

Today is her 74th birthday. She is in her favorite Dharamshala, alone. I wish I was with her right now but can't be, so writing this as a birthday gift. The thoughts I have tried to capture here are bits and pieces about what I have learned from her. But no finality or boundaries here- there is lots more that I haven't even figured as yet.  

From her, I learned to be the best in anything and everything I do. And this was purely by example- we never discussed it. I just had a mother who was great at her work. She was the star. How can you be her daughter and accept mediocrity for yourself. You just don't.

From her, I learned the meaning of being truly happy. I have never seen my mother being moody or depressed, despite whatever was happening around her. I have always wondered how that is possible but because she is a living example, I know it's possible and can hope to achieve that life-state one day. 

From her, I learned to be brave. I have never seen her scared of any challenge that life throws in her way. She took up a WHO fellowship in her early thirties and lived in the US alone for a year. It was her first trip abroad, working with absolute strangers and getting used to a totally different lifestyle. If that didn't require bravery, I wonder what did. Once when she was the Principal of LHMC and there were student demonstrations clamoring  for her dismissal, I was shaking but she was unafraid. She was not even afraid at 60 of  moving with my dad (who needed a lot of care) to a small town and starting a new life. And now, she is not afraid of living her life alone on her own terms despite what everyone tells her.

From her, I have learned how to have fun. When I was six, she blew my little mind by playing a trick on all of us- she returned from her year-long trip abroad with short hair. This was early 1970's and decent Indian women were not supposed to cut their hair. Her short hair caused so much turmoil in the family- my brother refused to hug her, my grandfather, her father, called her a "Par-kati kabootri (wingless pigeon)" and the elders on my father's side found it scandalous. Then a couple of hours later, she took of her wig and exposed her still long lovely hair! She created a memory that hasn't faded in 40 years and triggered a certain mad streak in all of her kids.

From her, I learned to love travel. My earliest fondest memories are of our travels together to hill stations, where she made us walk crazy distances, sing songs and eat express no-nonsense meals that she would cook. Later, she filled our heads with exciting stories (coupled with slide shows) of all the cities and country she had visited in the one-year fellowship. I grew up believing that the purpose in life was to travel and live in exotic places, meet new people and then talk about these experiences forever! I still believe it. 

From her, I have learned to embrace change and go with the times. My beautiful mother, who for over thirty years, wore the best sarees in the whole of Delhi, and nothing but sarees (even a Salwar Kameez was too casual for her), now wears pants and t-shirts that she buys from the trendy stores in Singapore and Delhi. My super popular mother, who was once the life of parties in Delhi, now spends her time walking the mountains, playing computer games and painting. My smart mother, who once surrounded by intellectuals and professionals and spoke in an impeccable polished accent, now finds joy in talking to simple village people, using their language and sharing their concerns.

Happy birthday Chandrama, my cool as the moon Mommy, and quite as loony. May you have a great great day today, with your butterflies and flowers and mountains and the khudd and the sunset. May you live fully in health for at least another 20 years so I can learn more from you and get a chance to do your "seva". 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Consume' my Resume'

In the last few weeks, I have spent a lot of time reviewing candidate resumes for a few roles. One thing that struck me was how difficult it was to quickly get the essence of the resume. Some resumes were too detailed, some didn't have enough and some were just too complicated. In either case, I ended up spending significant time extracting the relevant information by myself. There was also a high chance that I missed seeing important information because it as hidden in huge amounts of text. Finally, I couldn't help but think how identity-less these resumes made the candidates rows of gray suit-clad professionals lined up.

Yesterday, I read an article that showed how recruiters scanned resumes. Very interesting. And proves that my frustration with resumes is quite common. Read it here.
(Ironically, this article discourages use of visuals!)

Based on my own experience of drafting my resume, which I did several times last year, I understand why resume writing is such a problematic task. There are no standards that one can follow and the advice you get online is varied and too generic. Finally, most people don't spend too much time crafting their resumes. It's a task to be completed (usually at the last minute), and once done, it doesn't get any major overhauls, only tweaks.

While searching for good resume formats last year, I came across a few that were really exciting, designed like infographics. Imagine receiving a resume like the first two shown in the article below. It will stop the recruiter in his/her tracks!

(Note: The first time I had seen a visual resume was when Ananda Gupta had sent in his a couple of years ago. It was not as complex as some in the article, but it was mindblowing in its message. In one shot, it told me what he had done in the last few years, and in that one shot, it also told me that he and his creative work were not separate entities.)

This makes sense from an ID perspective as well. Don't we spend hours visualizing complex concepts because a well-designed visual can aid understanding and learning...and what pray is more complex than a person's professional journey? The similarity continues. Just like when visualizing concepts, there is a danger of overdoing and missing the point (some of the resumes in the article above are too complex for me). And just like while designing instruction for complex concepts, the audience must be the centerpiece- content must be designed so that it speaks to the audience. My son just commented that the worst would be to have to explain your infographic to the recruiter!

I really wanted a fancy infographic like in the article above, but didn't have access to the tools and resources required. However, the idea of simplifying and visually representing one's journey was something I was committed to implementing. So, I went for a regular Word resume, but added a single visual showing my career progress over the years, companies I worked with, roles I held and the countries I lived in. No fancy tools used, no help from anyone, just me and my favorite "tables" in MS Word.

(Click to expand)

I have no doubt that this representation can be improved drastically with just a little bit of effort...after all, this was also done last minute! But I also have no doubt that people reviewing my longish resume would have found this visual representation, like an advanced organizer, a relief and an aid. And no doubt that it injected a bit of my colorful personality into the drab black and white document!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Morocco Ahoy!

Plan is set for Morocco in July for Swati's 50th. Super excited!

In keeping with the theme, I made Moroccan spicy meatballs on a bed of buttered cous-cous, served with beef shashlik kababs for lunch today. It was super super tasty, pardon the self praise. Wiped off between Atta and me (too spicy for Aloka's palate).

This is the third or fourth time I have made it, but the first time it turned out so good, the way its supposed to be. And without cross-checking the recipe even once!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


What is it about children as they transition into adulthood...

1. You can't enter their rooms without knocking, but they can barge into yours without warning any time of the day and night.

2. You can't touch their laptops, but they can watch full length movies on yours at their convenience.

3. You have to tiptoe around their rooms when they are sleeping, but they can wake you up in the middle of the night to talk about what's bothering them without a second thought.

4. You can't venture near them when they are on the phone (with a fellow nerd discussing the most banal physics equation), but they can loll around on your bed overhearing every bit of the deeply personal conversation you are having with your best friend.

5. Oh and how can I forget...they can devour in 10 minutes the meal you painstakingly cooked for over two hours and just as you start feeling proud of yourself, make you feel like the cruel stepmother by saying "What, no dessert?"!

What is it about children as they transition into adulthood that they do all of the above and still continue to be loved by their mommies!

10 Stories (At Least)

Today while talking to a colleague, the conversation drifted towards what we really want to achieve in life. Out of the blue, I articulated something that I have been trying to capture for so long in vain, until now.

I want to deeply impact the lives of 10 childeren. Not superficially, but deeply. By love, presence and example.

That's what I want to do. 10 stories. At least.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nothing but Stories

In the end, nothing is left but stories. Your stories.

They say live your life imagining what it will be like on the day of your funeral. To that I say who cares how many people came and how much they cried and what they said?

What matters are the stories, the finest of which are imprinted on the lives of those you affected. And once you are gone, they are no longer your stories but their's.

In the end, nothing is left but stories. Their stories.