Men love shopping too

Men love shopping too

Would you agree with the comment – Men buy, women shop?

When I say “buy”, I refer to the precise act of paying money in exchange of a particular product or service. Shopping expands to the vast experience associated with the act of buying.

In a study titled, “Men Buy, Women Shop,” researchers at Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm, found that women react more strongly than men to personal interaction with sales associates. Men are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the experience — such as the availability of parking, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line.

This trend still applies to approximately 85% of men, who do buying or shopping in one form or another. What then happens to the remaining 15% of the male community?

With the plethora of choices that modern age marketing has thrown up, even our “Men” get confused if they should pick a brand-loyal product or try something new. Online shopping, seasonal offers have emerged as strong points of consideration, when a man is buying or shopping.

There is a retail joke, which is in context and worth sharing. So, it goes like this – 6% of women shoppers are estimated to get lost in a shop if there is no sales associate to help. Whereas, the reason for men folks to get lost in a shop is, only when the product is out of stock! We can clearly imagine a man pick up his car keys, drive to the nearby supermarket to pick up his after-shave. He reaches the exact shelf where all the after-shaves are neatly arranged. He spends 15-20 minutes rotating his eye-balls from one after-shave to another, wondering where his product is, till a sales associate approaches to help him out.

But are all men cast in the same mold? Well, not really !

Ladies, step back….the new league of men shoppers have arrived. These men, sometimes look for an excuse for shopping and not necessarily out of need. With this, I would like to introduce the two protagonists of today’s story – Ballu and Chari.

Balwinder Singh Dhillon aka Ballu was a Sardar. I wouldn’t be lying if I said he looked exactly like Ranbir Kapoor in the movie, Rocket Singh. Ballu was trying to uplift his colleagues’ mood.

“C’mon Charu, forget it! You know boss rants after every appraisal.”

“Look Ballu, don’t call me Charu. I am not some Charulata that you keep calling me Charu. My name is Charitra….atleast call me Chari!”

“See this.” And Ballu looked around to see if there was any curious onlooker.

He quietly rolled up his sleeve and flaunted a Rolex.

“Have you gone mad? With no bonus and a measly increment, you dared buy a Rolex?”

“Hey, buddy! Look ( pause)…life has to go on. I was very demotivated after boss’s speech and the salary that we received. I needed an outlet. As usual, after I reached home, I picked up the phone while simultaneously warming my dinner. It was a steal deal.”

“Hmm….you are lucky. You are a bachelor.”

“No, I am Ballu!” Sardarji winked trying to lighten his colleague up.” Ok, bro! Do you want one too?It’s Black Friday!”

“You are mad or what? I have a wife and daughter to take care of too.” an agitated Charitra responded.

When Charitra got angry or agitated, Ballu teased him by calling him “Rakht Charitra”.

At the end of working hours, Ballu and Chari said good-bye to each other and left for home.

As soon as Charitra entered home, his wife informed him about the online sale on a popular shopping portal.

He did not have the heart to tell his wife that there was no bonus this time.

And increments? Well, enough to buy a paper-cone of peanuts sold at traffic signals, he thought.

Well, if its peanuts that I am getting, I ought to become a monkey.

He leapt up on the sofa and asked his wife to get her phone.

His wife was pleasantly taken aback by his behavior.

The next half an hour was spent in some needed and some indulgent and over-indulgent shopping. Charitra breathed deeply after he checked out from the shopping portal. He looked happy and felt happy too. No wonder they call it retail therapy, he thought.

Next day, he shared his experience with Ballu and both of them had a good laugh.

“See, bro! It’s a human instinct. If a person has the money, he will like to spend. It’s a thrill. Why should only women enjoy that thrill?”Ballu whispered to Chari.

“Ssh….people may not perceive what we did as normal.”

“Everyone knows women gossip, so they can do it openly. We too love to gossip, but are scared to be labeled so we do it in a hush manner. Just like that, the world jokes about women and shopping, so they even unabashedly use that pretext to check out a product, even if they don’t have any immediate plans of buying it. But what happens to men, who love and want to shop. I am sure there would be many like us.”

“Phew….Ballu, that is a million-dollar point you made today.”

Mobile indicates a message notification.

“Oh wow, it seems my toolkit is on the way. The courier guy should reach any moment.”

“Toolkit?”

“Screwdriver, hammer, spanner,….”

Ballu cuts his friend short.

“Hey listen, don’t do that. You may get accused of attempt to murder.”

“What?”

“On boss right?” Said a worried Ballu.

“Good lord, no! Well, on seconds thought, not a bad idea! In you, I have a perfect alibi.” Charitra winked in the usual Ballu style.

The two men –  two friends now bonded yet again, this time through a journey of discovering happiness through retail.

 

 

Monkey Business

Monkey Business

When monkeys get down to business, it can be really serious stuff. So, monkey business ain’t any tomfoolery any more. It can be a very serious and calculated way of doing things.

It seems, this incident only happened recently, in Mumbai. My mother-in-law was watching television in the living room and totally oblivious that a monkey had entered one of the bedrooms through the window. And before you start thinking, yes! the window had a grill. We live on the 3rd floor, above a level of parking, so that essentially makes it a height equivalent of four floors. Added to this, no trees in the immediate vicinity.

The monkey felt at home and helped himself to a couple of packets of dry fruits, which it found in that room. Only when the doorbell rang, and the watchman rushed in, was my mother-in-law alarmed of the uninvited visitor.

Those living in Mumbai can agree or disagree – a local newspaper had published that 3 monkeys had been ably trained to conduct theft and burglary, and their area of operations is Dahisar. They know how to cut through grills or squeeze themselves in.

This reminds me of my friend’s experience with a monkey when she was in Hyderabad. There, the monkeys are a step ahead in terms of capabilities. A monkey used to sneak into her kitchen and open the fridge and help herself. If she sampled a food which did not appeal to her taste buds, she would bang the bowl or dish on the floor. So, my friend made sure she double locked her kitchen and fridge before she left home.

During my hostel days at Varanasi, our hostels were also frequented by the monkeys. We attributed it to the vicinity of the Sankat Mochan temple. I lived in an all-girls hostel and the only men who were allowed in the hostel were, if I remember correctly, the electrician( bhaiya) and the mess waale( bhaiyas).

It was a routine for us to wash our clothes and put them to dry in the lobby outside our rooms.

And if you think, what I am about to share is a joke….it is not!

We were relaxing outside our rooms when a senior came and warned us about a group of monkeys who are visiting on and off and stealing essential clothing. We thought it was a prank by the senior, part of ragging. But we became a victim to the monkey menace who were stealing our necessities. Gosh! And it was only that segment of clothing that they targeted…God knows why, though!

So, now do you agree that Monkey Business can be a serious and well calculated way of doing things?

With that begins my short story.

The first set of aliens have arrived to build up their establishment on earth. They are in discussion with the CEO of Monkey Business Corp.

Monkey CEO: “Where did you hear about us?”

Alien CEO: “When we were doing the rounds around Earth during Super moon, the transmission of our UFO detected a conflict. We realized that it was your billboard which had a sound device, that was the source of the conflict. We disembarked our UFO and the rest is history.”

Monkey CEO: “Clever huh! You knew that the humans would be busy taking photos of the super moon that they would not notice you!”

Alien CEO:” Precisely!”

Monkey CEO:” So, where would you like to build your establishment?”

Alien CEO: “How about Uncle Sam’s land? Heard it’s the most advanced and sought after.”

Monkey CEO:” Wouldn’t recommend that…they are just recovering from an unexpected election result. The humans themselves are not so sure if they want to continue living there or migrate to Canada.”

Alien CEO:” Oh I see! Is it that bad?”

Monkey CEO: “Yes, Bro!”

Alien CEO:” How about the Queen’s land?”

Monkey CEO:” Oh don’t even think about it. If you visit them for a week, they will tax you. So, all your friends and relatives visiting you will hate you for all the tax they might end up paying.”

Alien CEO: “ Ohh….how about India?”

Monkey CEO:” India is a country we can never understand. Recently, the monkey para military forces had trained the forces to sneak into people’s houses and get all the cash they hide under their mattresses and jars. Our monkeys did an excellent operation in getting 90% of that cash. But, what a blow it was when their head of Government demonetized the Rs.1000 and Rs.500 currency. We had to abandon all the efforts and dumped the cash near Thane. That was covered in the local newspaper. Thank God, they did not realize that we had done it. Hee!hee!”

Alien CEO: “Now what? Which is the best place for us? How about China”

Monkey CEO: “That country is not within our area of operations….we have heard of rumors of monkey brains being consumed there. So, my employees refused to travel there for research and consulting for your prestigious project!”

Alien CEO:” Then do we have no chance at all to create our very own establishment on Earth? We wanted to collaborate with humans and create something big.”

Monkey CEO:” Ha..ha…you must be joking! Our greatest hero of all times, “Hanuman” helped the humans so much, but what did his descendents get? Till today, we get peanuts from them. When we demand equal treatment by entering their houses, they shoo us away. That human race….they forget they evolved from us. Now by holding long selfie sticks they spend most of the times in clicking photos and uploading their profile pics and DPs as they call it. You want to collaborate with such a species?”

Alien CEO:” Err…looks like it’s a bad idea. Well, then…we dissolve the project here itself.”

Alien CEO takes leave and the UFO zooms away from the earth.

Monkey CEO laughs and concluded….” Everything is a monkey business afterall!”

Of meanings, interpretations and synonyms

Of meanings, interpretations and synonyms

I could not think of a more relevant title for this blog, one after a hiatus of more than a month. A month is a long gap in between blogs for a blogger.

Just as November was about to begin, my daughter asked me, “Mamma do you know that November and December are the happy months of the year?”

“Who told you? Your teacher? Did you see something on TV?

She smiled with a look of educating me.

“The weather is at its best in those months. When our environment gives us the most conducive conditions to be happy, these 2 months definitely have to be the happy months of the year.”

As adults, we often complicate our thoughts and try to find a reason behind everything. I assumed December = Christmas = Gift from Santa Claus = Happy Child, hence probably the conclusion of happy month.

Thus, my mind discarded her “happy month”, but my heart probably bought in.

Synonym of November and December = Happy months

November on a global scale, saw a lot of surprises – the US elections, demonetization in India, the launch of Dubai Canal…yes, it is big for us, residents of UAE!

Synonym of surprises = Hopefully good!!

If we were to give a thought to how synonyms are presented, there are clearly 3 manifestations – a.) Dictionary/ Thesaurus/ Lexicon, b.) Implied c.) Assumed

Category a.) is simple, so I shall move on to the other two.

Implied. Also, fairly simple.

Examples, a tortoise = slowness, a midnight rush to ice-cream parlor = pregnancy cravings, potholes on Western Express Highway (Mumbai) every monsoon = money making and corruption, people mis-judging you = their truth, your lie…and the list can go on.

Assumed is the most interesting category of all.

If you are overweight, people will assume you don’t exercise. Even if you vouched, they will give you a look…. how is it even possible!

If you are listening to music on ear phones and someone tries to talk to you, you will invariably end up answering back loudly.

If you see a glass containing white liquid, you will assume it is milk.

And with that begins my story.

It was a November morning. Samira called for a taxi from the RTA in Dubai. She had recently relocated from India and did not yet have her driving license.

“Can I please request a big Hala Taxi (Innova Car)? I need to drop my kids to school.” She spoke on her mobile.

(Pause)

“Ok. In case it is not available, a regular taxi will do.” She concluded her taxi request.

Within 5 minutes, Samira received a call that the taxi driver was waiting at the entrance of her building.

She picker her purse, followed by the school bags and called out to her kids, who were busy in the adjacent room.

The taxi driver gave a blank look at his approaching customer, he was expecting more.

Nevertheless, he started the taxi but started grumbling.

“Madam, why did you request for big taxi? Big taxi is for people who go to the airport with lots of luggage.”

“Why? Is there a problem?”

“If people like you book big taxi, then the big taxis will not be available for the people who really need them.”

“There is no dearth of taxis here. I am aware of private taxis like Uber, Careem, also providing service.”

“I don’t like driving in these small areas like Bur Dubai. I usually ply in Jumeirah and Marina. In future, I will not take passengers in these areas”

“Are you Indian? What is your name?” (Samira almost made up her mind to lodge a complaint).

The driver got a whiff of her intention.

“No name Madam.”

“If I am paying the fare, what is your problem? ……..Well then, you should only focus on servicing your passengers with utmost safety. I don’t need a name, a complaint can be done without that, also. In Hindi, “Aap munh mat chalaiye, sirf gaadi chalaiye!””

Pin drop silence followed till they reached the destination.

The driver picked up a Malayali newspaper and did not utter a word. Samira paid 20 dirhams and left 1 dirham change.

Samira did not complain, she never would, she told herself. She did not want to punish that driver’s family for his attitude problem.

The taxi driver left from there. He received the notification for his next passenger pick-up. It was Burjuman Shopping Center, Bur Dubai.

Both Samira and the taxi drivers had their set of notions and assumed synonyms. For example,

Big Taxi = Only for airport transfers.

Big Taxi = Relatively more comfortable ride for kids to school.

Taxi Driver’s service expectation (Key Performance Indicator as perceived by customer) = Meet customer’s requirements with safety.

Taxi Driver’s service expectation (Key Result Area as perceived by Taxi Driver) = Target areas where the Western Expats live, for more fare with lesser number of rides per passenger and less Khich-khich (Nagging).

A taxi ride of only 20 minutes threw up different understandings of the same thing. The same thing meant differently to the taxi driver and his customer. It resulted in conflict too! But then the beauty of conflict is that sometimes we see more sense in adapting to the point we opposed and fought against.

The next day, Samira requested for a regular taxi.

And would you like to know what happened to that taxi driver? He literally followed Samira’s advice.

He stopped giving his opinions and advice. He almost felt that he would have lost his job the other day. His daughter’s wedding was only a month away.

Guest Blog : Reading and Knowing More by Soham

Guest Blog : Reading and Knowing More by Soham

Soham is a 10-year-old boy who lives with his parents and grandmother in Sinhagad, Pune. His father, Ajit Vaishampayan and I have been colleagues and friends from my first employment.

Soham is a keen observer and has an opinion about everything. And why not? If you are well-read, you deserve to have that, isn’t it? His writing below tells you more about that.

While going from pre-primary school to primary school, I was very much excited about the new things I have to learn.

Then I asked my father, “Baba, there are many new things and new topics to learn in higher classes, isn’t it?”

He said ,”Of course yes  but for that you have to study and read a lot.”

So the next day my mother and I tried to read newspaper.

But oh! It was just boring n dull!
Slowly n steadily I started to read various topics such as headlines, jokes and even tried some of the puzzles.

During that period my mother used to bring the periodical ‘Magic Pot’.

It was very colorful n interesting having short stories, puzzles, information about science and nature.

I liked to read them and was waiting for every alternate Wednesday for the new Magic Pot to come.

Aaji also encouraged me to read Marathi Balmitra to enhance my Marathi vocabulary.

Due to studies, extracurricular activities ,TV n net, we are so occupied that reading newspapers and books is very less.

But because of my Baba I want the TOI newspaper after I brush my teeth daily.
It is becoming my habit now and I know it is going to benefit me lifelong for my studies and in my development.

I enjoy it thoroughly. I read sports page regularly and other pages. Sometimes I get full information of EPL and football details.

Now I got lot of details about intricacies of US elections.
As I went on reading the newspaper, I started to know about US President elections and came to know about Donald Trump n Hillary Clinton who were the nominees.

I also got to know about the electoral college system and how it works.For example, Florida has many seats. So, winning Florida is like winning the half of the election. Every state has a particular number of seats and when you win that state you get a certain number of seats. When you get 270 seats you will win. As I was watching the live updates on TV, when Trump won Florida it was almost clear victory for him. I really enjoyed reading about elections.

The sports page of The Times of India newspaper is my favorite. My football coach used to call me Wikipedia as I almost know many things about sports like football, cricket, kabaddi, etc.

Of course, because of reading, my vocabulary is increasing. My confidence, my contribution in discussions on various topics in school as well as at home also. My general knowledge is increasing and I know it is going to have good long term effect on me.

I know in Marathi is rightly said,
“वाचाल तर वाचाल.”

Guest Blog : Positive Disciplining by Aayushi

Guest Blog : Positive Disciplining by Aayushi

Aayushi is a 10-year-old girl from Mumbai. Her mother, Amita Mishra and I have been friends from our University days.

What I liked most about Aayushi’s writing was that it had a unique style. I re-read some lines and was surprised at some of the poignant points she raised. Well done Aayushi! Keep writing and am sure your parents are already proud of you. And, I would definitely like to meet you some day.

And here is what Aayushi wrote:

Children do mistakes, everyone does;

Elders wonder what children ponder with rage, after they do a mistake.

So I’m here to reveal that secret, so think, think, think

What I’m going to say

You shall be surprised what I ponder all day!

I do make mistakes, but do not think if I’m a silly girl

You’re not a parent, nor am I

What do your parents do when reach a pitch and you wail?

Do they smile, they scold or hit you with a stick?

My parents do not do such a thing at all.

They ground me that means they give me punishment such as no games, no play and what is left is study all day.

If I were a parent, my grounding rules would be study moderate, eat moderate, play all day and… MANNERS?

Well that too not be a goody- two-shoes at all

So, this is my History, Civics, Geography, and I’m in a hurry to know about yours!

Mis taek

Mis taek

It happened with me for the second time . Today afternoon.

“Ding, dong, ding, dong! (3 times)”

Followed by the sound of someone trying to open our front door by turning the handle vehemently.

Right at that very moment, I was busy placing a pillow on one side of my kid, as he lay fast asleep.

Couldn’t be my husband, I thought as I turned to look at the clock.

3 pm.

“Ding, dong, ding, dong… (6 times)”

I quickly rushed to the door. As soon as I opened, an Arabic lady hurried to enter my apartment very spontaneously….

Then she sprang back as I firmly stood with no intention of budging. She became very apologetic and then went away.

Last week, it was an Arabic gentleman who mistook our apartment to be his.

Let me give you the reason behind all the confusion and chaos. Our building management had recently established it as one of the many rules and regulations for the tenants. We could not hang anything near or on our front doors anymore. So everyone had to do away with name plates, the blue eyes, torans( Indian style decorations) and any other door accessory which previously distinguished every home from another.

Just got reminded of the Ali Baba and 40 thieves story! In the story, the thieves were left confused because Morgiana had marked all the houses in the neighborhood in the same manner. In my real life, tenants like me, if in a hurry, went to a wrong floor or even otherwise, were getting confused by the identical looking doors.

“Ok Appa. No…. I am going to go home now. (Pause)……Ok. But I am not going to start unpacking all the cartons right away. Weekend starts tomorrow, so I guess just waiting for a day won’t make much of a difference. (Pause). No, Amma need not come. (Pause) It’s ok, Appa. Right then. Will call you over the weekend.”

Dhruv Iyer had just moved to Thane from Bengaluru. He was 27 years old and looked like Ranbir Kapoor with a moustache.

Once when he woke up from sleep and realized that he was late for an important office meeting, he was so sleepy eyed that he shaved off almost half of his moustache on the right side. And then he was compelled to shave off the remaining much to his dislike.

When he reached office, he entered tiptoe, with his fingers trying to cleverly conceal the new look. But he could not do it for long. And then came the volley of comments…” Aila! ditto Ranbir Kapoor, same face cut to cut” and jokes associated with having the same face as that of a Bollywood celebrity began.

Dhruv was considered a high potential high performer in his Company. As a part of the succession planning that Human Resource had included him in, he had to take up stints in the Company’s various office locations. That’s how he landed in Thane.

His Company had provided him accommodation in Hiranandani Estate, Thane. Dhruv was quite impressed with the community living which had sprawled up from one end of the Ghodbunder Road and reached up to almost near the Ulhas river.

His car had not yet arrived, so he took an auto rickshaw to reach home in Goldcrest building.

It was 8 pm and Dhruv felt a tad famished. Amma had packed some South Indian sweetmeats for him. He decided to have a couple of them while he steamed some idlis in the microwave. Dhruv used to plan every small thing in his life. It helped him to save time. It helped him to act faster.

Dhruv exited the elevator and walked up to the door at the end of the corridor. Took out the key and opened the door, when he realized that his apartment looked different. A big Raja Ravi Varma painting adorned the wall facing the door and there was furniture in the living room. He was confused. So err…did my Company arrange for all this…difficult to believe with all the cost cutting measures that it’s been up to, he thought. He stood for a moment with his palm cupping his lips, an indication of being thoroughly lost. He looked at his keys…. the keys did open the door.

“Kon (Who in Marathi)?” came a voice from inside.

Dhruv made an about turn to leave. Clearly this could not be his apartment.

“Excuse me.” The voice called him from behind.

Dhruv turned around and found himself standing in front of a very beautiful lady.

“Wow!” he exclaimed in his mind.

“Err…I am extremely sorry…I thought I had opened the door of my apartment.”

“Funnily enough, doors of some apartments in this building can be opened with the same key. Hi, I am Geetanjali “she replied.

Geetanjali seemed to be 5 feet 7 inches tall. She was dressed in a sleeveless white top and a handloom printed blue cotton pajamas. Her hair was long and a few tresses from the left concealed her left shoulder and left arm. She was fair and as she spoke, Dhruv could not help but  notice the cute dimple on her left cheek.

“Would you like to have some coffee?” she offered.

“Err…no thanks. I need to rush home…to the right apartment.  (A silly grin) …I am hungry, need to catch up on something to eat.”

“Don’t worry, I can offer you some biscuits with the coffee,” she said with an impish smile.

And then we know what possibly happened. Before long, Dhruv Iyer was having an impromptu coffee date with a beautiful lady in his building.

“Your apartment is very tastefully done. Are you an artist or painter yourself?”

“No.” she smiled.

“Architect?

“No.”

“Interior Decorator?”

“No.”

“Then?”

“I am a curator.”

“Wow. Did not expect that.”

“Why?” she asked with a smile.

“Well, for a curator, one would expect to visualize an elderly man with thick lensed glasses walking slowly across an old museum….” He laughed as he made that comment.

“Stereotype.” She replied.

“Honestly!” He said in defense.

“But tell me, what is this funda (colloquial for fundamental) about same keys for different doors? I mean how do you know?”

“One day, when I had just returned from my parents’ place at Aurangabad, I realized I had left my keys back at Baba and Aai’s place. It was quite late in the night. The neighbor aunty was kind enough to offer me to stay over the night at their place till I found a locksmith in the morning. Then she remembered how she had the same tryst with destiny a couple of years ago, though in another building. So we tried her keys for my door. And it clicked.”

“But…mmm, isn’t that unsafe…it could lead to theft, burglary.”

“Guess no one shares this secret with them, I mean the robbers and thieves…. but only to help neighbors on the floor or in the same building.” She said with a smile.

Dhruv realized he had finished drinking the coffee.

His eyes went to the potpourri on the center table. It was all black. All along he knew that they were a dried collection of fragrant plant parts…but black?

He looked at his watch. 9.30 pm.

“Err…Geetanjali, it was a pleasure meeting you.” He offered his right hand for a handshake.

“Same here, Dhruv. Do drop by whenever you feel like.”

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

Instead of going to the 7th floor, Dhruv had pressed the no.8 floor button. That’s how he met Geetanjali. Surprisingly the apartment number plates were obscurely small and placed above the door hinge. Visitors had to hunt for the apartment numbers because of this peculiarity.

Before he went back to his apartment, he decided to see the watchman and tell him that the flush in his washroom was not working.

“Bro, where is Bhatkhande?” Dhruv asked the man sitting on the watchman’s chair.

“He is day shift, Sir and I am night…my name is Prakash…you can call me Pakya.”

Dhruv asked the watchman to send the plumber over the weekend, when he was at home.

But it seemed the plumber did not work over the weekend.

“Sir, you leave the keys with me…. I will get it done.”

Dhruv was a bit hesitant. But then he decided that the problem had to be addressed urgently.

“But, bro…make sure you don’t open some other apartment.”

“What are you saying Sir? Every apartment has a unique key…so what you are saying is not possible!”

“Doesn’t 701 and 801 open with the same key?”

“Sir, I have been working in this locality for 10 years now…. not to my knowledge, at least.”

Dhruv got curious.

“Ok tell me something…who stays in 801?”

“That apartment is vacant Sir. Vacant since the last one month.”

“801! Are you sure?”

“Yes Sir, last month, a lady committed suicide from that apartment. No tenant has yet occupied it.”

“What was her name?”

“Geeta Madam…she was a very nice lady. Could not fathom why she took such a drastic step.”

A chill ran through his spine. Dhruv could not believe what had happened.

He quietly went back to his apartment. That night, he slept with the lights on. Fear still loomed of the same key opening multiple doors of multiple apartments.

Next day morning, Dhruv decided to meet the watchman again and see if some alternate plumber could be arranged to get his flush repaired immediately.

“Good morning, Sir” Bhatkhande greeted him with a smile.

“Bro, I need a plumber urgently. Pakya told me that the plumber does not come on weekends, but….”

“Pakya, who?” Bhatkhande gave a surprised look.

“My friend, your counterpart…. the night watchman, Prakash.”

“He is Hiroo. “

“But he said his name was Pakya. I met him sitting on your chair at night and he introduced himself as the night watchman. Small statured guy with a moustache?”

“Sir, Hiroo is 6 feet tall…he is known as Lambu in this complex. He sits in that little shed near the entrance and takes rounds once in every hour to see if everything is fine.”

“You are not joking, right?”

“Sir, maybe you saw some dream and you imagined that you came down and…”

“Wait a minute, I gave him a post it on which he had jotted the plumber’s name. I did not give him my keys, instead took the plumber’s number to speak and convince him to come home over the weekend.” Dhruv pulled out a tattered piece of paper form his shorts’ pocket.

He handed over the post it slip to Bhatkhande.

“Where Sir?? It is blank…” said Bhatkhande with a blank look on his face.

“Tell me about 801….is it vacant?”

“Why Sir? You want to take that too? Many people take apartments above or below them and convert them into duplex, so if you…”

Dhruv cut him short.

“A suicide case?”

“Yes, Sir.”

A few hours later. Dhruv decided to run for relief…. he decided to go to office.

All kinds of thoughts were running through his mind. Did it really happen? Who was not real? Geetanjali or Pakya? Or both? Obviously Bhatkhande was real…nothing could deceive his eyes and senses in the daylight.

“Good morning Dhruv, what are you doing here on a weekend?”

Dhruv moved his gaze from his laptop. It was Seema, the Human Resources Manager.

“You should be enjoying this well-earned break from work. Employees like you earn us an ill reputation …no balance between work and personal life.” She said with a smile.

“Hmm…. I wish I could. Err a quick question….my apartment keys are unique, right? No other apartment keys can be used to open them, right?”

“Most certainly they are unique, Dhruv. By the way, you had asked me to help you with a name plate for your apartment. Geetanjali has done a good job. Your nameplate is very artistic and unique. It is in my office. Would you like to pick it now?”

“Geetanjali???”

“Yeah, my sister-in law, Geetanjali… she designs name-plates.”

“Thank God!” he said out loud.

Seema looked puzzled.

Dhruv shared his experience with her.

Seema looked up in her system and said, “Wait a minute, will you like to shift to another accommodation. There was one in Waldorf, which I guess got vacated by another employee. Let me check with my assistant.”

She reached for her smartphone, “Hello Geetanjali? 801, Waldorf available?”

Durga – a celebration of good over our own evils

Durga – a celebration of good over our own evils

With the commencement of Navratri, how could my next blog not be dedicated to “Durga, the celebration of good over our own evils”?

I dedicate this blog to the “Durga-ness” and the “Durga-ism” in all.

Durga-ness like righteous-ness, firm-ness, sharp-ness, courageous-ness, resolute-ness, etc. and “Durgaism” like hero-ism, dynam(ic)-ism, etc.

Must admit that I was quite tempted to write this blog from a feminist’s perspective…after all there is so much one can write. I had worded around 20 lines to that effect, which I later backspaced. And am I delighted to have done that? Why, yes of course.

So, when I thought about what evil could imply in today’s world, I came up with a whole lot of descriptions – pettiness, selfishness, ego, basically any impediment whether in the shape of a thought or an action.

So let’s look at Durga as our own little triumphs over challenging situations that we face in our lives. And celebrating that triumph could be in any form, literally!

In my journey of life, I often meet people who inspire me. They knowingly and sometimes unknowingly become my “heroes” and sometimes the protagonists of my stories.

The Real Durga

She was more popular as XL (yes, Extra Large) … right from the neighbors in her chawl to her office colleagues, everyone called her XL. They had given her this peculiar nickname because she was tall and obese. Anyone who was introduced to her would be intimidated by her boisterous nature.

I almost fell off from my chair, when she introduced herself as Shanti…I could have easily accepted any other name for that face and body…. but “Shanti”?

In today’s modern world, that name had lost its previous popularity amidst Shwetas, Praachis, Nehas and many more such names.

And there was hardly anything “Shant” i about her. She gauged my expression and decided to explain.

“You see I was a total cry-baby as a baby and when I cried, all my neighbors in the chawl used to close their doors and kept it closed till I stopped. I was a total ‘Ashanti’. So during my naming ceremony, one of the old ladies in the chawl, poured in the advice to my parents that if they name me Shanti, maybe the name would have a calming effect on me. My parents had even done Putri Shanti Pooja when they did a Griha Shanti Pooja…can you believe it? The priest had concluded that there was some fault in my horoscope and only a Pooja could relieve their daughter of all the associated pains. You can call me XL…I am more used to it.” She said with a smile.

I was introduced to her through my sister. My sister shared that XL was married to Hemant who worked in a small jewelry shop. He suffered from epilepsy and whenever he got the attacks, he almost got bedridden for days together. It seemed Hemant used to work in an IT firm, but with the frequent health issue, he was asked to look elsewhere. Hemant was the only child of his parents just as XL was the only child of her parents. Both sets of parents were aged and had their own sets of medical problems. XL was like the breadwinner of both families.

“So what kind of work does she do?” I asked.

“Sales.”

I smiled.

“XL has reconstructed her house…I mean it’s a MHADA house, which was a single-storied house, she has added one more level to it. She has asked me to get you along for a Satya Narayan Pooja which she has organized at her place.”

“But…”

“No, buts…I will pick you up after I return from work, “said my sister.

I was unsure if I should be going at all. We had briefly met only once. But I was in India after 2 years and decided to give in to my sister’s request.

It was 7.30 pm and we left for XL’s house.

“They have been married for 15 years and are planning to adopt a child.” My sister shared.

When we reached the place, there were a lot of people dancing to a band party at the entrance.

“Must be XL’s!” joked my sister. “Everything about her is king-size and loud.”

I smiled and wondered if XL was also among them dancing.

We pushed through the crowd and entered a small house with some chairs kept near the door.

The door opened into a small living room space which had the most beautiful marble temple I had ever seen.

My sister shared, “Do you know she spent almost 10 lakhs of Indian Rupees for the interior decoration work.”

Just then someone patted her on the shoulder.

My sister turned around and I turned my gaze.

There stood a beautiful lady with an orchid flower behind her ear adorning long straight hair, so perfectly matching with the purple paithani sari she had worn. Our jaws opened and stayed in that state for at least 2 minutes.

There stood a very beautiful XL, who could give all the veteran Bollywood heroines like Asha Parekh a run for their money.

“Shanti” a voice called from inside.

She politely excused herself and went in. There was a Durga changing roles to suit the environment and situation.

I later complimented her and said she was looking very beautiful.

“Ask your sister. We spent 4 hours to get this particular shade of sari and the matching accessories.” There was a childlike excitement in her at that moment.

“This is the first time, I spent something on myself.” Her eyes got moist.

“We all deserve our own moments of happiness.” I hugged her as I said.

“In today’s world, where we are often in search of some respite while struggling with our every day’s madness, sometimes vanity becomes the much sought sanity.” She concluded.

One Two Cha Cha Cha

One Two Cha Cha Cha

Happiness is warming your hands with a hot cup of tea. Then gently place them on your closed eyelids. Do you sense the warmth? I say it’s good for your eyes, too! Try it and do let me know how you felt….

Oh no…that is not something that a tea-drinking yoga guru taught me…. it’s my own little ‘getting to know each other game’ with tea. It is capable of warming you internally and calming you externally.

As per Chinese legend, the Emperor of China was drinking a bowl of hot water while he sat in the royal garden. The wind blew a few leaves, and a couple of them fell into his cup and changed the color of water. The Emperor took a sip of the colored water and was thus introduced to the aroma and taste of tea.

On a rough estimate there are 1500 varieties of tea…though if you ask a normal tea drinker in India…they know that there are only typically three types of tea

  • Chai – Powdered Tea boiled with milk, water and sugar
  • Adrak (Ginger) Waali Chai – Same as above with the flavor of ginger
  • Masala Chai – Normal Chai with concoction of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon etc.….

Again the first category can be further categorized into “Ek Cup Chai” usually offered to guests in Indian homes or the ‘Cutting Chai” which finds more reach into commercial establishments. They are like elixir to most people as they start their day with their “Cutting” …. it’s as regular to them as the sun rise, opening the shutters of their shops and anything that forms part of their daily routine.

The second category or the Adrak Waali Chai is supposedly considered to have medicinal properties…it soothes you if you have a sore throat.

The third category is the most popular of all! Not only in India but also overseas…you can see them being offered in most desi joints. Probably they are as popular as our Bollywood stars overseas, but with far more reach!

Then there are combinations and variants of the three too.

Well, if you go the south, they have the Nilgiri tea…a type of black tea which boasts of great medicinal benefits.

If you move towards the east, the Chai loses the i and becomes ‘Cha’. There are two very popular types of tea – Darjeeling Tea and Assam Tea. The flavors and appearance are distinctively different and loyalties are dramatically divided between the two. Darjeeling Tea is a hot favorite with the intellectuals while Assam Tea has a wider reach. A hardcore fan of Darjeeling tea casually remarked that Assam tea is good for washing your hands after an oily meal, you should try it!

I should not forget to mention that there is a roasted category which supposedly gives a stronger caffeine impact…. not for the weak, they say!

Then again with teas like Darjeeling, you can moderate the brew to your liking…. make it light by straining the tea leaves quickly or let it settle down at the bottom, if you like the slightly bitter taste. Not to forget the permutation and combination with and without sugar and or milk.

For the occasional tea drinkers, you can also settle down with some lime tea, peach and other fruit flavored tea…cold with some teasing by ice cubes. Perfect when you just want a cold sip.

It was in the month of April, 2008. My husband informed me that he would pick me up from near my office. I started walking towards the circle in Hiranandani Powai…. the circle was encircled by the Arcadia which housed a food court and some quaint eateries and shops, then.  It has been 8 long years since, so I wonder if time stood still or if things have remained unchanged.

I decided to step in to a small cafeteria for a cup of tea while I waited for my better half.

“Aaaanchooooo…Aaaanchooooo…. Aaaanchooooo…. Aaaanchooooo…7 times!”

This sounds familiar, I thought. I turned around and saw the source of those loud sneezes.

Vitthalrao Ghode (name changed) was more popular in our office for his sneezes than for anything else. When he started sneezing, his colleagues who sat near him would start counting aloud…for they were sure he would not stop till he reached the magical number 7. Ghodeji was a very pleasant natured man who always sported a smile on his face…even when we declared a no increment year in lieu of the slump of oil and gas industry and resulting no business.

“Ghodeji!” I called out and waived to him. All the other tables were occupied, and I did not mind his company.

Without ordering, a veg thali promptly arrived before him.

I was curious, but did not probe.

“Chai?” I offered.

“No thanks, a quick dinner for me. Actually err…I come here for dinner every day…have a monthly deal with these guys. My wife is very busy and I don’t think I should trouble her further.”

“So your wife is working too?”

“Yeah…she works after I return. She gives tuition to Class X students in Maths and Science subjects. So I eat here and go home every day so that she doesn’t have to bother about my dinner. We hardly talk to each other too.”

“Wow…. she must be a very intelligent lady…. I was never good in those subjects.”

Ghodeji smiles in acceptance of my compliment to his wife.

“I have two children… a son and a daughter…the son is in Class X. His teachers say that he is brilliant in his studies. Don’t know when he studies and how.”

“And your daughter?”

“She is 8 years old….and suffers from cerebral palsy.”

I realized how much pain and struggle this colleague was concealing behind his ever smiling face.

He continued, “Ever since she was born, my wife and I have never gone out together. Life has changed. She doesn’t look like me…(pause)…nor like her mother…her face is so different (pause)…. I have read and heard about how daughters share a special bond with their fathers….and(pause)…my daughter does not recognize me. She does not smile at me when I return home everyday.”

For the first time, I saw him crying.

I tried to look around for some tissue to offer, but there wasn’t any in the cafeteria. They expected the customers to walk up to the wash basin after a meal.

“Sorry for bothering you with my worries.”

I felt awkward doing it…and I reached out for his hands to say I understand. But the awkwardness took the better out of both of us…and we leapt back in opposite directions and looked elsewhere to just shrug it off.

I began, “I can never feel what you are going through…. since I don’t even have a child. But I sense deep pain in what you have just shared……being blessed with a special child, makes the parents special too…. (pause)…can I advise you something? (Pause)Sometimes a husband and wife start leading lives separately even though they live together. I was not very happy to hear that you hardly talk to each other. Please…if you can…sit down over a cup of tea every day.”

Weeks passed away with office workload at its peak…. but not a day went when we were not an audience to the “7 loud sneezes” and the smiling Ghodeji as he shuttled between deadlines and his family commitments.

Knock. knock.

I looked up to see who was knocking at the door of my office.

“Aaaanchooooo…” it started.

I smiled and waited till it reached the magical no.7!

Ghodeji walked in with a box of Indian sweets.

“Wanted to share my happiness with you. My son has topped in his board exams at State level.” He was beaming with pride.

“That’s great news. You must celebrate.” I said.

“I had tea with my wife after 8 years (tears rolled down his cheeks) …. never before did it taste so good…thank you!”

“ ??”

“Sometimes God sends an angel to remind us of the good things in life.” He said.

“And some good tea to celebrate it too, “I replied with a smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doppelganger

Doppelganger

Have you ever heard someone comment, “Oh…I know someone who looks so much like you or you look just like ‘so and so’!” especially if they are meeting you for the first time? And the people they draw your similarity to, could be totally unknown to you.

It is fun to momentarily believe that we have not one, or two but 7 doppelgangers around the world. Scientific research says that the odds of it happening are flipping a coin 64 million times and getting the tail always.

So could cloning have been experimented long long ago? Well, maybe!

There are various contexts available for doppelgangers. In most places, it means a lookalike or a double of a living person, though in some places it is linked to paranormal phenomenon and a forewarning of bad luck. History shares that Abraham Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth I, Poet Shelly and writer, Guy De Maupassant had found their doppelgangers.

Story has it that Maupassant’s doppelganger sat down beside him and dictated a short story, which the writer admits was ghostwritten – written by his very own ghost!

Another interesting anecdote has it that on the night of his first election, Abraham Lincoln looked at a mirror and his reflection had two faces.

Oh no…. this is not one of those scary blogs…my blog will be all about doppelgangers with their humorous angles.

During my vacation to Kolkata this summer, my husband insisted that we both go and treat ourselves to some “Phuchkas” (the Kolkata cousins of Paani-puris, Gol Guppeys and Paani Pataasheys). The Phuchka waale bhaiya as we refer to the vendor, who strategically stood at the crossing of major roads of the Southern Avenue, got very agitated seeing me. I guessed that could have been a result of a bad day, poor sales.

He could not contain his anger and after a minute or so blurted out in a very Bihari tone, “why do you nowadays go to my cousin at Lake Market for Phuchkas?”

Oh I see…. feel of loss of customer loyalty, was the reason…I thought. Hmmm….

I was zapped initially and then politely explained that was not possible since I had just landed in Kolkata and did not live in the city anymore.

He would not believe me and insisted that he had seen me regularly going there to eat Phuchkas from his cousin.

“The same face, the same mannerisms…I know I am not making a mistake,” he justified himself.

Fact was I was feasting on his products after more than 5 years.

Till the end he did not believe….and I just let that incident pass with a sigh.

Though my husband teased me and asked if I was indeed going to Lake Market to eat Phuchkas !

My doppelganger had seriously upset the Phuchka Man.

Last week, I went to the nearest shopping mall to pick up some shirts that my kids needed at school. And I saw two women walking in front of me. One of them had long hair which was light colored. She was wearing an electric pink dress which contrasted with the color of her hair. With her was a lady, whose hair was golden and short. She was casually dressed in jeans and a white top. I was walking behind them and a general assumption was probably they are from Europe, one a Dutch and the other possibly anywhere from Europe.

I heard them giggle as they headed for the elevator.

Then what I heard took me by surprise.

The supposedly Dutch lady asked “Jyare Navratri Che (When is Navratri)?

Her friend answered, “October 1 – 9.”

I paced my steps and took a turn. They were both very fair.

Did I actually hear them conversing in Gujarati or was it only an imagination? Maybe they are Europeans who have picked up the Indian language. Why not? If Tom Alter can deliver dialogues in Hindi movies with so much of proficiency, then this could also be a reality.

Or maybe, their mothers are Indian and possible Gujarati.…. I shall explain this comment.

Once a friend of mine narrated this incident…her cousin Rajesh Nair went for an interview. The interviewer was a Nair himself, so he started the discussion in Malayalam. Rajesh excused himself saying his mother was from Assam and hence his mother tongue was Assamese…. he could only converse in English, Hindi and Assamese fluently.

All kinds of theories started buzzing in my mind ……I decided to approach them.

I started off, “Hi…I hope you don’t mind. But you speak Gujarati fluently…. have you been living in India for some time or……?”

“We are Gujaratis from Ahmadabad.” Answered the blonde lady.

I looked at their hair and then at their faces as if I was not able to connect the two.

The light haired lady covered her mouth and chuckled.

The blonde lady spoke up again, “My name is Sejal Ben and she is my sister Hetal Ben. We both work in the nearby bank. After a hectic day, we decided to go to the salon to color our hair. There were two more customers with the same requirement at the salon that day. We did not realize that we would become victims of errors that day…after all we were their regular customers. But that had to be the day of “Comedy of Errors” and we now look as Europeans…ha! ha!”

We exchanged some pleasantries and parted ways.

I had to go to the supermarket to buy some flour and when I returned to my building, I spotted Sejal Ben and Hetal Ben near the lift.

Wow! Small world…I thought…. never knew that they lived in the same building or probably they are here to visit someone.

I walked up to them and said, “Hi…we meet again, Sejal Ben and Hetal Ben. So, do you live here?”

“Zorry Habibi…err.do I know you?” said the light haired lady.

I shook my head in disbelief and then realized they were wearing different clothes, yet the facial features bore an uncanny resemblance……a clear case of mistaken identity.

A Lebanese doppelganger!! And what a coincidence they were a pair… a pair of doppelgangers together!What are the odds of finding them in pairs?? Seriously!! Was I dreaming?? I pinched myself and realized I was not.

Have you met your doppelganger yet?

If not, maybe you will someday………it could be fun and eerie too!

Man Maid

Man Maid

Having a domestic help overseas is a semi-luxury that only a few privileged ones are able to avail. Being in “Land of Sun and Sand” only makes it somewhat easier compared to our NRI counterparts in USA or Europe, or for that matter anywhere in the western hemisphere.

The process of recruitment typically starts with receiving a CV, shortlisting, Skype interview, background check through Facebook…. I am serious!!

When we were contemplating hiring a full time live-in maid, our friends advised us to do a check on Facebook and seeing how many posts were posted by our prospective maid…. if she was regular with posts and comments, chances of her spending time at doing your household chores would be replaced by more time on the mobile.

Other aspects to look at were if she had an ailing family member or a small child back in her country….it could imply that the maid would be always be bogged down with worries of her family back home.

If that was not enough, there is a nationality aspect to it. Filipino maids are considered the most courteous and hardworking, but please don’t take me otherwise, my Dil is totally Hindustani. Indian maids are not so courteous and are averse to doing work as per your instructions…. they come with a mind of their own. Also they seem to have an opinion of everything, rather they feel themselves competent enough to coach you…and I am not joking! It is an experience that most Indian women in “Land of sun and sand” have shared with me.

So it got me to do some research….in Philippines, the Government trains its people before they send them overseas…. this has been vouched by all my Filipino maids. They are trained on etiquette as well as laws of the country where they are expected to take up employment.

And what do their Indian, Bangladeshi counterparts get? If you mention the word “training” …they will ask you what is that, madam? They seemed to have drawn their immense experience on-the-job.

Typically, my Indian maids interviewed me more than I did them. Their first question would typically be…which part of India are you from? They know how to market themselves well…. if I say, Mumbai, they start referring to their previous employment in a Maharashtrian family’s house and their expertise with Varan-Bhaat, Poli. I have had my share of fun sometimes, when I changed my stance and said, “Also Kolkata” …you should see the expression on their faces. Boomeranged! I have done it vice-versa also.

You might be wondering if I hired a maid for every month of my 8 years stay in “Land of sun and sand” …ha-ha!

Not really…. but how I wish, I had one consistent maid. But that has been as much a myth for me as those of you struggling with your “Bais” in Mumbai and “Kaajer Log” in Kolkata.

Some of the live-in maids here, for want of more money and not being able to take the stress of work run away. Here we call them “Khalli-Balli” …. this category of domestic help is always playing hide and seek with the Police and recruiting them can invite heavy fines and even imprisonment.

But you would be surprised at their emerging population. They say, “No problem, madam, if caught, they will put us in jail, where we will stay in AC rooms and get biriyani and when they deport us, it means free air ticket.”

When I shifted to a new neighborhood recently, I had to bid farewell to a Sri Lankan maid, who was very efficient but would not shift near my new house. Her reason…she had a bus pick-up for her Church service every Friday from near our old house. She was divorced and had been working in Saudi for a long time. Her only interest and aim in life was to be religious and not miss her Church services, she had shared. I believed her and let her go. She cried profusely as she had got emotionally attached to my children. My children too loved her…. but alas, they were also learning that people will come and go in their lives and nothing is permanent.

Entry of the Protagonist. A 40+ Indian man maid from Andhra Pradesh.  He introduced himself as Aaryan…which I believe is an assumed name.I was expecting him to be a “Srinivasa or a Bala or a Raju “. I hope I don’t sound stereo-typically parochial, but even today asking a person named Aaryan to do mopping for instance, doesn’t come easily to me.

My neighbor recommended him….” Hire him…. man maids are stronger and capable of cleaning better, they are more regular and they don’t indulge in any gossip. They only have an ego, which we need to pamper to get work out of them, like I make him a cup of tea everyday…so he works Fridays also for me.”

Now that my children have started going to school and I did not need a full-time live-in maid, he almost fit the bill. And a good recommendation from my neighbor, at least prompted me to hire him.

My encounter with Aaryan was when I returned from my vacation in India.

The moment he entered my house, he started rattling off with his terms and conditions of service.

“Madam, you cannot interrupt me in my work and assign another chore to me. I don’t like nagging and once you have hired me, you cannot terminate my services with immediate effect. You cannot tell me anything. You have to be just like the next-door madam. Do you know they are Brahmins that is why they are very good people?” I was amazed at the expression on his face when he mentioned the last line…there was a look of being blessed for getting that opportunity.

“Whoa!” I thought.

He started doing his work and then after sometime gauging the silence I had held up till then, he asked…” So Madam, is it ok?”

I replied, “I am scared of saying anything after the heavy-loaded dialogue you blurted on just entering my home.”

As we say, in any relationship there is norming, storming, forming and performing. Norms have been laid, the storm blew in before the norms, now there is an overlap between forming and performing.

I don’t make him “a cup of tea” while my Brahmin neighbor enjoys the luxury of his cleaning services on Friday.

He is a Man Friday for her but for me he is my Man Maid.