November 29, 2013

It happens only in India

Lately the series of 'Atithi Devo Bhava' ads have been on a roll across all TV channels. Amir Khan telling Indians what sort of a negative image do they portray by simple day to day activities.

Ever wondered what common people like us abroad think about when they first hear 'India'? Just like when I think America, I think of a typical day from the beloved American sitcoms we watch. When I think Australia, I am reminded of Masterchef Australia :P

Anyway, here are a few interesting (rather peculiar) reactions I got from people in Europe and South Africa when they first came to know I was from India:
  • Grocery Store Owner near Eketragaten, Gothenburg
    My younger brother and I enter into this little grocery shop to be greeted by its Swedish owner. He promptly recognized our origin without us uttering a single word. He asks, "Do you watch Bollywood?"
    Dumbstruck, we say Of course yes!
    He starts addressing my brother as Shahrukh and calls himself Salman Khan. Furthermore, he tells us that he regularly watches our bollywood masala movies. He defines regular as once a week! (Wait what? Even I don't watch bollywood once a week!) His love for bollywood was mainly for the mindless songs that pop in out of nowhere and the dance steps we choreograph. He mentioned a few favorites here and there.
    While I was leaving the store, I casually asked him, "How well do you comprehend the dialogues?"
    He says, "Well I don't understand, I just watch them for that."
  • Church Priest at Varvaderstorget, Gothenburg
    It can take me an entire blog post to describe this wonderful human being we met in our journey. The moment we enter the really tiny church, the Priest welcomed us with a warm smile. After learning of our Indian nationality, all he wanted to talk about was food! He wanted a pinch to digest the fact that some of us are vegetarians, have never tasted egg/chicken/pork or any other sort of meat.
    According to him, we survived on chocolates and salad only! :P
    We invited him on lunch thrice during our stay and finally he accepted that a vegan diet can be delicious too! He totally fell in love with our puris, parathas and laddoos ("really very sweet candies" as he would call them.)
  • Random lady next door in JohannesburgSouth Africa, thanks to their British rule boasts of a large population of people from Indian origins. Their great grand parents were shipped to SA as slaves during the British rule. As a result, these people today consider themselves to be of Indian culture. Our next house neighbor was one such lady. For the first 10 minutes she went on and on about how much she appreciated the culture we hold. The festivals we celebrate, the rituals, the sanskaar we instill in our children, the superstitions etc. We were ecstatic to hear about her enthusiasm towards our culture.
    In the end when we were about to leave, she asked my mum why she wasn't wearing a bindi and pointed out to the red dot on her forehead instead! She wore it as a mark of having an attachment to our land, to our culture, truly mesmerizing.
  • A fellow female passenger in the tram, Gothenburg
    The Swedish are really fond of their music. So much so that this passenger in the tram after finishing the detailed inquiry about us, she sang us a song in Swedish. Till date I never across that song again. She wasn't even ashamed singing aloud in front of the other passengers. In fact she sang it merrily and announced dedicating it to us!
  • A traveler in the train, ZurichWe were travelling from Lucerne to Zurich, a long distance via train. It was almost lunch time and our stomachs were growling of hunger. We Indians have this knack of carrying small packets of snacks along with us, wherever we go! We searched our bags and found our packets of namkeen and farsaan. This lady on the opposite side of the aisle asks me, "Do you have some bhujiya?" It took me seconds to understand that she was actually asking for bhujiya. I nodded in affirmation and handed over a handful. She ate it with delight as she recalled tasting it the first time she had been to India.
  • Owner of the hotel in Lucerne
    I was in contact with the hotel owner in Lucerne since I made the booking. He would give me weather tips, holiday destinations and helped me out with some sightseeing. During our departure, my mum casually asked him to visit India sometime. Instantaneously, he says NO.
    Whaaat? Why!?
    From his hallway, he removed a particular painting form the wall. He opened the frame to remove another photograph kept behind it. He looked at the photograph and said, I am scared of experiencing this, I will not be able to handle it at all. I myself was left shocked after seeing the picture:
    We explained that such scenarios don't exist now and besides, he needn't travel by train at all. But he refused to listen. The photograph indeed had a deep impression about the population explosion in his head.
  • Cute guy we asked the directions to some place in Paris
    Okay it is not very rare to find cute guys in Paris, but this one was weird. Paris actually is not a tourist friendly city. People generally refuse to communicate in English and when you ask them for directions, they ask you for the map. :\
    Okay, so to this guy we asked our destination, with a little bit of 'tout droit' and '√† gauch√©' he gave us the right directions. Then he moved on to ask the nationality. I said 'indienne' in his accent (I was up for a lot of fun :P ) and he said, "Oh Pakistan?"
    I resented, "No. India. "
    He repeats, "India - Pakistan, it's all the same right?"
    I was thinking really hard what to say. India and Pakistan have not been well known for their relation and this crazy guy thinks they're the same country. Would it be good to tell him?
    I smiled and said, "Is France and Switzerland same? No, right? The same way India and Pakistan are not" and left rather unhappy with his general knowledge.
  • Cab driver in Johannesburg
    This cab driver was the first person we met after we touched the South African land. Since he was the driver all my dad's colleagues called, he already had been with Indians for the past many years. After we reached home, out of desperation from the 12 hour flight travel she stormed into the kitchen to make tea. Before she could even offer, Frank says, "I would love some masala chai. It's the best part of people form India. Nobody here can make that way." Consecutively for the next month, whenever he came by, my mum made tea for him specially.
  • Bakery Shop in Paris
    I could not overcome the temptation of eating that soft, creamy and shining mousse in this Bakery Shop near the Eiffel Tower. I asked him the price for three pieces, multiplied it by 70 (Euro was 70 INR back then) and agreed to shell that out. He asked me if I were from India. And I said yes. Without any thought, he turned to his fellow baker and said something in rapid french (I tired hard translating but in vain). The other baker went to the computer, did some clicking and in no time was Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge playing. I really couldn't resist smiling. He boasted of having a lot of hindi song collection in his computer and mentioned how happy he was to see me! :D
  • Random lady in a mall at Cape Town
    Cape Town is full of posh malls and shopping areas. Each particular area would always have a Nelson Mandela Square. The South Africans are very proud of this great leader who fought for their country. But at the same time, there are an equal number of Gandhi Squares!
    We had taken a break from shopping and took some rest near one such Mandela Square. A lady, out of nowhere came and asked us our nationality. We were used to this and told her that we're from India. She sat down besides us, and started thanking us. Thanking for what? She was a total Gandhian, a person who follows Gandhi's principles to the core. It made no sense in her thanking us, because we are in no way connected to Gandhi. But it was her respect and love for that country Gandhi belonged to. As a memoir, maximum I could do was handover a 10 rupee Indian note I had with Gandhi's picture on it.
  • Passerby in Norway
    This was the funniest perception of India I ever came across. This fellow, asks my father, "You're from India?"
    "Yes" my father says.
    "Your wedding must have cost you a fortune! You cannot even divorce your wife ever."
    Apparently he had come across documentaries in which he saw the big fat Indian weddings we have! He really needed to confirm if we actually spend that much amount on our weddings. With that nod my father gave, and the comments he passed, we still laugh on his idea of being an Indian!
We never really realize, how little things affect. But yes, small incidents also embed deep and lead us to form perceptions about everything - even a vast country like India.

November 21, 2013

Jack of all trades

I was in the fifth grade when my teacher after reading through a lesson in BalBharti mentions, "Don't be like him, he was a jack of all trades but sadly a master of none" thus introducing us to the new idiom. It was put up as the thought for the day for the rest of the week high up on the blackboard.

I'd read it every morning, trying to figure out which master was I going to be when I grew up. I definitely didn't want to end up a loser like the fellow in the lesson. Confused, yet determined, I knew I would be great at 'something' one day.

Look at me today. I boast of having my own blog, I love playing violin, I am so happy I end up coding well, I can cook decent ( while most of the other girls of my age suck at it), I get above average marks, I sketch portraits, etc.
For people who are acquainted with me, often compliment "You're multi talented!" "Wow! You can do that too!" As I speak of this, I bet you can think of atleast 3 people of similar traits you think are good at everything, all-rounders as they say.

It is only I who knows how brilliant some bloggers exist out there, I play the violin only when I am alone at home to avoid the unbearable tune that follows, I absolutely suck at algorithmic coding (read: actual coding), cooking is something I definitely don't wanna do the rest of my life, I was way better at academics when I was in school, I cannot sketch a female portrait (yes, all attempts in vain).

Left me what? Something I didn't want to be - Jack of all trades, master of none.

For peers, its complex giving only for a while. Its tough for people like me to win in competitions of a particular skill. There are always 10 people who are masters of that art, bagging away the prize rightfully. All we are left with is the so-called great essence of participation everywhere. The metaphor applies to bigger things like coming across an interview too!

It is interesting to note how this phrase was not meant to be a derogatory term at all. Earlier it was the very positive context that a Jack of all Trades was refereed to. I don't even see the reason why:

  • Variety is the spice of life, isn't it? Why stick to a particular area and keep exploiting it till you get bored? And when you feel you're done, its too late to step out.
  • Steve Jobs was definitely not a better programmer than his Engineering Head. But what made him Steve Jobs was the overall knowledge from programming, designing and marketing fields.
  • Jacks of all trades are up for a show anytime. They are far more sporty than a master of one because I bet he would have tried at that performance sometime before in his life.
Well often these are just reasons I keep giving myself owing to the category I belong. The truth is, the world is too specialized to see that. The blinders of their area of mastery allows them to think only in One Direction (No! Not that band!).

In fact, it is not only me or that teacher of mine who sees this as a bad trait. The world today demands a 'specialized' person in every field. Tremendous respect and fat salaries await individuals with a specialization. Practically jacks of all trades are more or less treated as average mediocre crowd with no distinguishing factor at all. They have no reason in the word to be famous as things they do are ordinary.

What is it like BeingAJackOfAllTrades?
Honestly, when its showtime, we know we rule. But when it comes to making decisions, that's where we falter. If we knew what held more importance in our lives, we would left trying to do everything at once and set ourselves on the path to master that 'something'.
Precisely that is what happened when I was supposed to select a 'stream of study' after 10th grade. I could have managed with any field I could have taken. That is what is happening now, I fail to figure out if MBA or MS or No Masters would be the best choice for me. While its so easy for the others to pinpoint their line of action, its with considerable envy I say its too tough for me to decide. And then in the end, our choices, it doesn't even matter. Because whatever we choose, at the same time, somewhere we are polishing ourselves to improvise on the other choice too.

While it sucks to be stuck in such shoes, I cannot help convince myself that the reason why "Generals" in a Military force are called so because they see the bigger picture, innovate, plan, predict and ultimately climb to power the fastest.

November 17, 2013

Doing what we love

I had a very productive day filled with work, social media, studies, games and sitcoms at the same time!

The chances of a Mumbai University student saying that is as good as the odds my mum will thread the needle in one go.
Because honestly when its a regular day at college, we attend the office hours 9-5 followed by an event of some sort and by the time we are home, hardly anything but the bed will attract. Its not even that the syllabus is offering anything close to productivity. And if its a day in the Preparatory Leave, don't even ask! The guilt of not studying doesn't allow you to do anything and the fact that there's plenty time doesn't allow you to study either.

Anyway! For a change, my day was perfect today. And I started with this new post, ditching the 40 pending drafts because I realized something. This realization made a hell lot of a difference on a very delicate part of me - my emotions.

It is not rare that I criticize the social media and whatsapp groups for making me feel so isolated and shut to the "fun" world out there followed by those crappy lonely feelings and why I need to have people constantly asking me 'How are you doing?' or 'What's up?'

But you know what? There's a stop to that, there's a way to not let yourself enter that horribly tangled maze of thoughts which result in nothing but convincing you of how meaningless your life is - Do what you want.

Productivity as a third person sees, would be the amount fruitful material one is able to produce. Fruitful to? Fruitful to (of course) him. Simple as that, it'd mean how much of use you are to him. So when, you as the first person measures productivity, why do you look at how yielding you are to that third person who sees you as some sort of a manufacturing machine!

Productivity is and should defined by us. We define what value a particular activity holds. So when we are doing what we want, what we like, we are naturally doing something that is more useful to us.

Do what you want - with complete dedication, with all your focus, put in all your efforts
I don't need to say that, do I? Because doing what you love generates passion and passion is the key to those elements of success striked above.

Coding a dream project or simply reading a short story that boosted your morale or just scribbling down a few random thoughts in your head or trying out a new combination of mayonnaise and garlic in the kitchen is WORK. Work is not assignments. Work is not an upcoming deadline. It is not what our teachers or our bosses ask us to do. It is not just material things.

Once we realize what is the worth of the work we do, we tend to feel productive. Because we manage to define 'productive' on our terms. And then that amazing feeling of your ass being on fire, just aggravates the passion even more! We stop caring about how many followers we have on Twitter. We don't give a shit if the phone's on silent. It hardly matters if we have had food for the last 8 hours. It is all a continuous cycle!

What a toll on emotions. That same sulking old fellow who cribbed for attention now lives a life. He is carefree. Fun and work mean no different to him. He loves being called a workaholic because it exactly rhymes with awesome. The deadlines now seem as the challenging competitor rather than a dreadful burden.

If there's one quality that I could pick up from Hank Rearden (Atlas Shrugged) it would be his attitude of loving every bit of one's work. The feeling of not giving a damn to anything propelled in naturally. No regrets for his unkind behavior to the social protocols at all. It is actually living that "Like a Boss" life.

People, I have often read say that its not easy to do what we love always. But trust me they lie. They say that to excuse themselves for the guilt of not having had that courage to select the right kind of work. And who the hell says you can't fill your stomach by doing what you love? In today's world, everything sells. Products, services, talent, ideas, everything. Like magic? Be a magician! If you believe in it enough, things will make their way out. You won't need to deliberately show your audience how good a worker you are, it will be automatically visible. Meager hassles like a cunning competitor (blah) or politics at appraisal will shoot their way out of your life.

Doing what we love and not loving what we do is what differentiates between an uplifted mood and a pessimistic mood. Our emotions indeed are puppets to the choices we make in life. Our emotions are a complete reflection of how proud we are on making those choices and living a life we always only dreamed of.

As Confucius rightly said,
Choose a job you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life.

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