Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Slam those Social Marketers!

It has just been over a year since I landed in the United States. A lot has changed w.r.t the way I react when I meet an amiable ‘Desi’ stranger, since the first time I met one. Read on, let me tell you why..

The first few meeting i had with stranger desi(s) were uneventful. Generally they fall into three catagories 1. the ones who give you that nice sweet smile  and 2. the ones who give u that doubtful look and when they are sure you are gonna smile, would look away... and 3. the ones who dont care.. it took me a while to meet the fourth category.. the “I can invite myself to your home” kinds.

Saying ‘No’ does not come naturally to many of us. It should be willingly learnt and this category taught us that in a matter of few months.

I had this pre conceived notion that desi(s) in US are self content, rich, happy folks who respect their fellow Indians. Well many of them are except for the so called Amw** social marketers who think that human relations are made for a purpose…. To sell their products!

To give you an example of a typical desi social marketer:

We were at a supermarket the other day, and were met by this guy named ‘Ravi’ (Name changed). He threw himself on us, showing us his daughter’s pics and how much she resembled mine. As we all know kids are any parent’s weakness and for the same reason is a sure shot target. He invited himself with family to our house. We doubted his intentions and happened to talk about this with our neighbour who to our surprise had also by then met the same guy, around the same aisle, at the same store! He had told the same dialogue and even said how their daughter resembled his! How low can people go to sell their products! We picked up the phone, hurt to the core about how someone could feign friendship just to up his sales target. We told him that if he intended to do any social marketing or talk about it he better not waste his time. Though his sky high ego got him to bring his family in, we made sure we do not encourage him any further.

At two occasions after that we were stopped by a doctor couple and then by another guy. We made sure to store their numbers as “Amw** Don’t Pick 1 & 2”. We had to handle relentless calling for about 2 months. Had to avoid eye contact at two places.. it is a hard lesson learnt.

I trust the products I buy off the shelf, not some product which is sold to me for double the price by an irksome stranger!

Please people, acquire some sense... Don’t misuse your social relations for the worth you get out of selling a tooth paste!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Niagara Falls - A Travelogue

My visit to Niagara Falls deserves a mention here since it was a life changing experience for me.

For people who are unfamiliar with the rides offered to visitors, for starters ‘Maid of the Mist’ is the world famous boat ride which takes one as close as possible to the Niagara Falls. When I say ‘as close’, I mean ‘AsClose’.  Once in, everyone wore their blue raincoats with “Maid of the Mist’ logos on them and secured locations from where each one thought they could get the best glimpse of Niagara Falls. A brief history of ‘The Niagara’ was imparted to us while we were aboard and chugging.

First came the ‘American Falls’ on the left which was easily by far, the biggest falls I have ever seen. With the wind blowing against our direction, we were all wet in a few minutes.

I reassured myself based on facts from what was earlier announced in the history of the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat rides, that none of the boats have ever sunk…

Did I not mention that I am freaked out about water and boat rides? Yes I am coz I will drown in 30sec after touch-down ;)... This is by far the 2nd greatest water adventure I have done in my life, first being white water rafting (!!!)... So as the boat moved toward the falls we could feel the strength of the currents from the falling waters of the Niagara.. as we watched, (I was scared and almost pulled off some skin from my cousin’s hand, whom I was holding tight) we went closer and closer.... we were shaking more and more and M O R E.. It felt like we were in the middle of a storm!

Till now I was closely observing the currents, the boat’s engine turning off, making sure that the camera does nt get wet, balancing myself in the shaky boat etc. etc. when my cousin brother  reminded me to look up..

The next few seconds were the most unforgettable moments of my life... As I looked up, I began to think that I was no longer standing on the floor (also influenced by the shifting floor of the boat, I guess!). What I saw had a strong resemblance with my perceived vision of heaven. It was just misty everywhere and from nowhere you could get glimpses of the Niagara’s waters, in all her strength thundering down…

As it turned out, the day had more in store for me... Like say a walk through the rainbows! Yes… that’s because I went up the flight of stairs called ‘Crow’s nest’ beside ‘American Falls’. After enjoying the breeze and the splashing water carried with it, I started descending the stairs when I saw something yet again that I have never seen before.. Well, I don’t think I ever will, elsewhere... There were umpteen numbers of rainbows down below me, and I got to walk through them!

We spent the day walking all around the place and then going to “Goat Island’ which is the top of the falls.

At the end of the day I felt content in having witnessed one of the world’s natural wonders, in person. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Single strand of white hair

I have always had that single white strand of hair right in the middle of my head. I have paraded it with pride calling it ‘lady luck’(courtesy: my well informed friends).

Well lately I have this strange anxiety of finding more ‘lady lucks’ on my head… Gosh! I ve approx 20 months left to hit the turbulent 30s which is the strong reason for all my fashion adventures lately.

My mom’s words echo in my head.. This is sort of a normal conversation that used to happen at my home 10 years back:

Mom: “Yet again you are wearing your favorite green cotton churidar!? The cloth has started coming off the way you wash and wear it again and again!”

Me: ”Mom this is what I like.”

Mom: ”why don’t you wear your earrings with danglers?”

Me: “Mom keeping things subtle is in. I like these studs.”

Mom: “I cant even see your bindi. Whats the point in wearing something so tiny?”

Me: …silence….

Mom: “You wear something nice and visible and stop repeating this dress of yours! Am tired of seeing you in this!”

Me: ….silence….

Mom: “ I know you have no intention of listening to your mother…! Wait I will be around when u hit your 30s, I ll show u how you would walk around in skirts, dangling earrings, loud bindis etc.. Mark my word..”

Me: Sighs loud enough to irritate mom more…

Gosh! That was then and now am kind of desperate trying everything new in terms of dress/ earring (believe me its danglers, loud too!)/sandals/ skirts…. Mom you gotta be a super hero to ve told me all those things so long ago!

But as they say its better late than never!

So my dear lucky ‘single strand of white hair’, I choose to age with élan...

Bring it on, I can handle this J

By destiny do we meet…

We might be headed to a local supermarket and just 2 miles before reaching the destination, an afterthought might drive us instead to a small grocery shop nearby; where we might end up smiling at complete strangers or passing complements at a lil baby whose path might or might not cross ours’ later. What I meant is that it is those twists and turns, the last minute deviations that get us to meet people whom we do on the streets/shops/malls etc. etc. Why should we miss a chance to greet and smile at them? Maybe it’s our last chance to catch up with them.

I was thrilled when initially everybody around the streets of NY would shoot the question “How are you doing today?” at me.. Initially I used to stop, turn, answer and even asked the question back only to see that the person has already gone 15 yards away from me or has picked up the cell phone and is chatting away to glory. So now, I just answer ‘Thank you’ and move on and have learned to feel contended with the fact that someone cared to ask!

I just think about it as an opportunity to having been able to strike a brief conversation with a complete stranger whose path crossed mine during that fateful moment; that I call destiny. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Against all odds (A True life Story)

Soon after marriage, I moved into one of the apartments in the suburbs of Bangalore, in a place called Banashankari. In the first week itself the truth struck me that I would need a domestic help to be able to manage my spacious apartment. So off I went on a hunt for a maid servant.

Vanajakshi was introduced to me by the watchman of the apartment complex.

I opened the door in response to the bell and there she was standing sari clad, a tat pungent smelling from the overdose of powder she put, probably to give a good impression. “Hi Didi”… … I mumbled back a “Hi” since I was caught quite unexpected.. I foolishly said “Welcome!”. She was so frail and thin, that I immediately made her chai with lots of milk in it. I don’t know why, but I continued to do this through the 2.5 yrs she was with me thinking that the milk I gave her could make some difference!

 She enquired, “aap Kannada jantee hain?”. (Do you know Kannada?)

I said, “ nahin, mein Kerala se hoon, Kannada samach mein athi hein, lekin bol nahin sakte. Hindi mein bath karti hoon, theek hein?” (No, I am a Keralite. I understand Kannada, but cant speak. Let’s speak in Hindi. Alright?)

Vanaja: “Theek hein didi” (“Alright”)

I enquired: “ghar mein kaun kaun hein? Husband kya kaam kar raha hein?” (“Who are all there at home? What does your husband do?”)

Vanaja: “mere husband nahin hein didi. Wo 5 saal pehle apne aapko jalakar mar gaye”(“My husband is no more. He set himself ablaze 5 years back”)

What?!! I did not know how to react.

She continued in her typical hindi accent, “paise ke vaste kiya thhaa…tab se mein mere bachhe keliye chh naukri karte hoon… mere 3 bachhe hein.. mera ek beta bhee hein..vo mujhe bahut pyar karta hein.. aur patha hein didi, mere do ladkiyon ke shaadi keliye mein sona bhee ikattha karke rakhaan hein..apne aap” (“We had financial problems. From then, I ve been living just for my kids. I have 3 children. I have a son too! He loves me very much. Do u know Didi, I ve made Gold for the marriage of my two daughters…. All by myself!”)

I said, “acchaa kiya..” .. (“Good!..”)

Vanaja spoke 3 languages Kannada, Tamil and Hindi and did manage a few English words. She never saw the inside of a school but, she had an undying spirit to learn, live and a thirst to be loved. She used to get up everyday at 4:00 AM and finish off her cooking and washing so that she can start off with the house maid’s job. She used to go to 5 houses!

Here was a proud mother, a woman of substance, the one to whom the “Mrs. World” crown truly belongs!!!

The biggest tension in her life was her son’s 10th std exam. She used to send her two older kids for tuition and the teacher used to say they were doing good until her son failed for the 10th exam. I still remember the tears she had in her eyes when she came the day after the results were announced.  Her son’s failure to meet her expectations really weighed her down.

She used to tell me, “kaam karne ke liye mann echh nahin lagti didi” (“I don’t feel like working didi..! “)

Maybe its all these that made her look for something that would make her happier. She took credit to buy 2 autos and kept 2 drivers for it. Thus she became a business woman and at the same time a house maid.

She used to be so proud of the fact that inspite of starting a business, she still did not have to touch the gold which she had kept away for the marriage of her 2 daughters.

Fate again intervened in the form of the driver of one of her autos.

She used to tell me, “didi wo mera beta jaisa hein.. mujhe wo etna pyar karta hein didi.. mera beta bhi mujhe etna echh pyar nahin karte…uske ghar mein bhi ek sister hein, uski bhee shadi nahin huin hein abhi tak..” (“Didi he is like my son. He loves me so much, even more than my own son! He too has an unmarried sister u know…”)

Everyday she used to be so much more happier. She grew out of her once withdrawn self and began to enjoy life better in her new company.

One day she told me, “didi meine mere betee log keliye jo sona rakha dhaa vo sahib ke paas rakh ke wo auto vale ko paise de diyaa.. usko bahut problem hua thaa.. uske sister ke shaadi ke liye” (“ Didi I pawned the jewellery I had saved for my daughters, and gave that money to the driver. He had a lot of problems, he has to marry off his sister..”)

“kyon de diya vanaja? Ab kya karega? Wo kahan hein?” (“Why did you give that off Vanaja? What will you do?  Where is he then?”)

“pataa nahin didi.. wo call karegaa mujhe. Wo aisa wala  nahin hein.” (“Don’t know Didi. He will call. He is not that kind of a guy! “)

But I immediately could feel that though in a moment’s spur she extended her life’s savings to a guy not so well known to her, she repented it afterwards.

Vanaja’s woes were just starting.

The guy never called back. She would come and try from my land line and my cell phone to reach him. He picked up the first time she called but cut it as soon as he realised  its her. She cried and cried and cried.

The once happy face that came to my door every morning now turned into a very gloomy one. She stopped even looking at our faces, so withdrawn. Her life’s savings, her self respect, her whole courage to live was gone.

I increased her salary to bring cheer, just a “thank you didi” was all she said and a faint smile that vanished before it came.

She filed a complaint in court against the guy whom she once loved more than her son. Her own son started to trouble her asking to give him more of her hard earned money. I remember the day she came to my house and broke down because her son called her ‘selfish’. This woman who lived her life for her 3 kids doesn’t deserve this! I wanted to hug her and say, things will be fine, I don’t know, what held me back… I could just pat her shoulders and say “Sab theek ho jayegaa..” (“Everything will be fine..”)

Her integrity never wavered even while she was going through the worst.

Vanaja never came out of her sadness…. I left Bangalore a year back.

I hope and pray that Vanajakshi would rise from her ashes like a phoenix and fly high just the way she was when I first met her!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


This thought hits me hard on my face while am out searching for steel plates and glasses (the ones we use in India) in all possible Indian stores and retail stores nearby. When in India I tell my mom I would love to eat in one of those imported ‘Corelle’ plates. When in US, I am looking for the same old steel plate!

After coming here to US, I try and keep my house as Indian as possible. Desi party wear is the ‘in thing’ anytime! I hold on hard to all the clothes and vessels (have nt made the slightest effort to discard a broken Indian tea pot yet!) that I brought from India. My food is mostly kept Indian and buying veggies from the Indian store, though is not the cheapest option, is still given an upper hand, just to feel Indian.  We try and have a Samosa/ chaat atleast twice a month. Maggi Noodles is still a fall back option. No day passes without a mention of Dosa/ Idli. On special occasions I add coconut oil to food to get the taste of Kerala. Dishwasher is a secondary option. ‘Nivea’ cream still works!

I believe all NRIs who are in US will agree with me on more than one point I ve mentioned in the earlier paragraph; if they choose to tell the truth.

Still when the so called NRI shifts base to India for good, he takes utmost care in redesigning his house to feel like his ‘old house in US’. The bathroom will definitely have a bath tub and yes the floor will be carpeted/ wood. There should be a chandelier to give the western feeling. ‘Tropicana juice will get a safe corner space in the fridge. Imported Dishwasher and kitchen unit is a must (because one gets ‘used to this’ in US). The sofa and bed should be soft enough to dig one in! … and hey they are accustomed to western food and cannot take the dust on the roads.  The car should have AC and driving around with glasses rolled up is the only option.  Always on the look out for US made creams and lotions coz that’s what they are used to.

When will we be all happy and content with what we have NOW?

You might counter argue that we are looking for best of both the worlds… well that way too it is hypocrisy!!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Whacking the cupid good bye.. Possible?

Well I guess this blog is gonna be a pretty bold one.

I was at the mall in NY yesterday enjoying some healthy fruit smoothie and turkey roll in a corner food shop which was at a not-so-bustling part of the building. In the 1 hr we spent in the café (mainly to make sure that our baby gets her afternoon nap while we have our time together) I noticed many families, Singles, lovers, health freaks etc etc shop their treats. That’s when I noticed a young couple walk in with love in the air. They took a seat just outside the shop, ordered their drink and started off on a kissing spree.... Seeing this, I was left thinking about all that I have jotted down here.

My mind wandered to the very conservative country India where such open kissing in front of any shop would mean media attention and a possible Shiv Sena ‘thrashing’. So does that mean that they are successful in stopping people from expressing their emotions? Hell NO! Indians emote behind closed doors and take every chance to point fingers at the “western culture” which is taking their youngsters by storm. I feel they just make the place a little more dangerous for women to live in because they make a multitude of ‘women-craving-men’ who are on the look out for some way to entice any heeding (rape the un heeding!) female. The streets and buses of most Indian cities are filled with men who wait for a chance to “hit” on any female who is in “range”. I do not mean to say that all men are so, but a considerable no: are. I myself have been prey to eve teasing/ substandard behaviour/ lurid remarks from men. Girls are so scared to even speak out because mostly we caution them to cover themselves up to avoid such incidents in future (I wish just covering up could stop such useless flesh cravers!) and to zip up their mouths regarding whatever has happened so that the family and the girl can keep their respect in the society.

In US, eve teasing is so sparse and I ve not come across anything of that sort and nor my friends. People here are to themselves, if they kiss on the roads why bother? That’s their life! And I personally feel its better to let people be themselves in open rather than create untoward cravings and let that all break loose on some innocent lil girl.

We have been hearing stories of the rapes of so many lil girls who are only a few months old in many cases.  I hope and pray for those victims to be able to lead a normal life. Once scarred, that too so young, leading a normal life would be next to impossible. I feel such men should be hanged to death.

Someone might say statistically India is not so high on ‘rapes’. Stop before you start; it is just because Indian women fear to report the sexual offences for fear of being ostracized by near and dear and causing shame to the family.  Especially so in a country where the woman of the house is considered to be ‘Lakshmi’ (Goddess).

My fellow Indians let me say that, right now, the so called western culture does not look so bad because of what a few obnoxious souls have successfully twisted our culture to feel like. 

This has nothing to do with our beautiful country India and the true Indian culture.  Both are still beautiful and pure.