Tuesday, February 6, 2018

What does money mean to you

A friend asked me this - What does money mean to you? I didn't have an immediate answer. Money - the great manipulative tool invented by mankind. What does it mean to me - NOW? Perhaps that would've been a more appropriate question. Our needs and wants change as we go through phases in life. Our experience teaches us a lot.

For some, money is a motivator - makes you do awesome things. It enables us to reach for the stars, to invent, innovate, to create. It makes us endure our struggles with a smile, enjoy that mundane job, keep us sane in the most insane environment. On the face, money is a tool to obtain what you want. Everything costs money. But deep within, it means more than a mere tool. For most of us money - it means many things. It means freedom, power, security, happiness, respect, reassurance and love.

When I was young, money for me was a way to obtain things my parents wouldn't buy for me. Simple! I wanted Diary Milk chocolate. It was a luxury those days. After months of nagging; my father would buy a slab and break it into half to be shared between my brother and I. I used to think that when I grew up and made money; I would buy lots of chocolates as and when I need. I need not have to depend on my dad. So, money then was a tool to gain freedom. It's another story that I don't like chocolates now :-)

These days, I work because I need money to pay my bills. Gone are the days when technology was passion. I think after having worked over a decade; it gets saturated. All that hoopla of learning and creating awesome stuff weans off. It could be due to various factors - opportunities that don't come easy, lack of support and the daily struggle of life. These days its about paying my mortgage and my bills. I have even reduced buying things for me - no more buying gadgets and footwear that I once so loved. I suppose most of us go through this phase, isn't? You want to acquire material comforts, car, house and then at one point it just does not make sense? Maybe not for all of us. There are folks who keep acquiring wealth, for their children and their children. Then there are some who see money as power and so keep hoarding money and properties.

I do think about future as well. How would I sustain if I didn't earn actively. How about my health? How long will I live? So the security part is something that I haven't got quite convinced. What if I save and save and then I die early? So this one is a bummer right? We still have to save for a rainy day.

Oh! I do indulge in my passion; that is traveling. Need a bit of money for that.  Nothing beyond that. I am glad that I have not been greedy. So when I actually think about what money means to me; it has been a tool for me to remain independent and to pursue my interests.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Over fridge magnets

All of us have that one trigger point that would get us into a conversation. That topic that breaks the ice and lets even the shyest person to get talking. For some, its the weather, for others football or movies or books. For me, its always travel. 

A friend knows that too well. When he gets his other friends and I go quiet and try to hide myself; he will casually mention to others "Ask her how many places she has traveled?" and there! i am now forced to talk and after few minutes, the conversation becomes so easy! Now! that is how you get me talking. It has happened at work as well. 

I got into the habit of collecting fridge magnets from wherever I visited. Earlier, it was one magnet per city; then as they grew exponentially, I limited them to a magnet per country. This is how my fridge at home looks now.

Not many yet, but it sure is eating up the real estate.  

Recently, I had to call in a maintenance service to fix my fridge. The guy who came in to look into the issue was particularly interested in the Cambodia fridge magnet. I am wary of strangers; especially if they are in the house attending to a service call. Yet, I was able to answer all his questions about Cambodia. He apparently watched a documentary about Angkor Wat and has been interested to visit it since then. He wanted to know the flight charges, visa, how long to fly and how many days would he need. He was also inquiring about how much it could cost him. Some of his comments were interesting. 

"Why did the Cholas had to go that far to build temples?"
"We should pay to see the temples built by our own people!. Ridiculous!" - when I mentioned him about Angkor Wat park entry fees. 

I also shared a little about how the country now is Buddhist and these Hindu temples are all Buddhist temples now. A perplexed look, a sigh! Meanwhile, the work was done and off he went. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Google Maps

The first time I ever saw a navigation device was during my first trip to the US back in 2006. I gaped at it in utter disbelief. How can these folks trust a small device to take them to their destination? Back in India, we relied on fellow people right? Either stop at a road side tea shop; sip a cutting chai while asking for directions. You'd get a "go straight, take left, take another right; you'll get a round about. Just stop there and ask someone; they will guide you further". That was the norm. Now! there is this pager like device mounted on the car dashboard that's speaking to you. One of my friend had named the lady of his GPS "Jill".

I got used to it; the way I got used to many other things. Anyway; what prompted me to write this post is this strange phenomenon of us Indians trusting an internet app. For someone who is tech-savvy; its a no-brainer. But for the tech-illiterates; the advent of Google maps to navigate has been a slow admission. Maps has been there for a while now; but I see the cabbies and others have embraced it only recently. Few months back; when a cabbie or an auto driver asked me where to go; I would truthfully admit I dont know the route and that I will switch on maps. My answer would be always met with disgust. "Computer? Madam - computer hege heluththe?" - Madam, how can you trust what a computer says? And then they'll set about asking passer-byes for the direction. 

The past few months though; I have seen a round about. Cabbies are relying on maps and dont trust the decision of a human being anymore. Few days back; a driver (mind you, a learned man who definitely knew how to use maps) at a traffic signal asked my cabbie the direction to a place. My cabbie's smart answer - "You have phone right? Use google maps. It shows the roads accurately. There is no need for you to ask anybody anymore". 

And today; I was chided by the cab driver for directing him on an alternate route and for my back luck; there was a traffic jam in the impossible of places! He told me "That's why, we should listen to what Google says. My fuel is getting wasted. We could've reached by now". I did not utter a word. 

This may seem nothing; but to gain trust of people who are stubborn to let of their old ways and who are suspicious of technology; it is a big deal. Google Maps has come up with ads with the tagline "LookBeforeYouLeave where it says how Google Maps can help you address traffic issue and how it can preempt your woes on the road by showing an alternative and fastest route. These ads are aptly made for Indian audience, drawing scenes from everyday life like how a wedding procession on the road or a cricket match can make roads unpredictable. This intelligence the app uses to make decisions is a boon for a frustrated Indian who already has a nightmare that is Indian road. The app now supports vernacular too. 

I have thus decided to not face the wrath of my cabbie hereafter and just let him trust his maps!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Indian outside India

Traveling to me is an excellent way to connect with people from around the world. I stay at hostels which offers a good platform to meet people. Interacting with others helps you learn about them and you develop your acumen. A harmless banter, a useless knowledge or even an important topic of discussion expands your view of the world. I did not know Guinness available in other parts of the world is not "Guinness enough" from an Irish man. How about the presence of Christianity in Jordan? You can of course read about it; but the interactive discussions and questions and more discussions with a local is so enriching. I can discuss sushi with a Japanese and then turn around and ask a Mayan descendant what does it mean to an actual descendant now while sharing hazelnut and chocolate cookies made by another hostel inmate from Israel.

The way I have questions for them, I as an Indian face lot of questions. Some of them are stereotypical, most common ones that I have been asked are the same questions wherever I go. First question is always about why am I without an accent? They have met Indians with thick accents! Indians dont know how to converse politely. Indians are generally not considerate. Why am I not like a typical Indian? Are you living out of India? That may explain your un-Indianness. These questions embarrass me and makes me sad. Yeah, what a bad reputation we have built for ourselves? Now apart from explaining why I am without accent, I now have the moral obligation to correct their misunderstandings. How do I tell not all Indians are rude? How do I convey Indians at heart are good but the society has made them run an never ending rat race? Why am I trying to sweep the truth under the carpet? I do get approving and appreciating comments "You are not like the other Indians I know. I thought all were the same." Should I take this as a compliment? I only cringe whenever I hear this and trust me! I have heard this many times in different parts of the world from different people.

The follow up question is always about safety in India. "I've heard that its not safe for girls in India, how bad is it?" or "How do you manage being a woman in India". "Dont you get scared walking on the streets?" "Is it true that you can get robbed and raped?" Imagine this! you are representing your country and someone is asking about the news they hear, how do you cope with it? Should I say - "You know, its not everyday and everywhere such incidents occur." If I try to play down an incident - even one incident, then I am being unfair. Yeah, maybe bad things travel faster in the wind than good ones. But hundred good things cannot make up for one bad incident. It doesn't end there. Those people who've traveled to other places want to visit India very bad. But they are unsure, they are scared. I feel sad as an Indian, perhaps ashamed too. I admit the facts but give them few tips on pockets of India which are gorgeous and are very safe to visit. That is the best I could do for my country.

Travel has taught me to make better judgement, to respect differences and make space for everyone. It has taught me to be inclusive and humble. Travel has taught me how frivolous we all are. It makes me to laugh at empty egos and irrelevant ideologies. Travel has taught me to be human.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sketches and Haikus

Been away for a while now. I have lots to say, write and throw my opinions on events happening around; but the moment I am about to write about it; I feel like I have only to complain. Growing older makes you wiser and more prone to taking things by your stride, isn't it?

To this day, I am not sure if its just too many bad things happening around in the world or that news and information is at our disposal that we are getting to know everything; which we normally wouldn't have earlier? Either way; what I am sure is our tolerance level has come down a lot. 

When I am not running around to office and back in this brutal Bangalore's traffic; I sketch and write Haikus. Sketching started off as a way to pass time and now it's growing on me. I think I have improved with each work; learning the techniques and the tools. Here are few. 

I have been able to give away a couple of these pieces and give the money got from it to help few charity organizations. I do my bit to give back to the society; why not encourage others as well through this? If any of you are interested in taking a look at all the works; please state it in the comment section, I'll share the link.

The other activity that keeps me occupied are writing Haikus. Its been a great learning and every month when I get an email from NHK World TV that my work has been accepted and would be published on their website; I just feel so happy. To have my work chosen among 1000's of haikus they get from 100+ countries each month is a great achievement. Here are few published ones.

What are your thoughts on these haikus?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


I am an observant lady. I tend to notice the trivial things that happen around me; that makes me feel connected to surroundings than just being aloof. I am a reserved person; but I won't let a chance go by if I were pulled in an interesting conversation. Here are few recent happenings.

Yesterday; while buying cilantro/coriander bunch from the old woman with her vegetable cart; I noticed for a split second a tiny worm 🐛 crawling in the bunch I picked. It made me so happy to see a living creature in that bunch. Vegetables are grown with synthetic manure, growth hormones and pesticides these days that finding a worm among them is like a diamond in the rough. I used to be annoyed as a kid when I would come across worms while cleaning/chopping vegetables without realizing they could thrive only because the veggies were grown organic. Now I yearn for a worm. 

I commute to office by Uber or OLA. The cabbies are an interesting lot. Some tend to mind their business with the radio on playing assorted songs; the ride is pretty quiet and dull. Others tend to start a conversation with you. Why not? I have quite few posts on my conversations with cabbies wherever I've traveled. The conversations are mostly about Bangalore's traffic, their struggle being a cab driver and such. Last week; while getting home from work, the cab I rode on had a talkative driver. He started with how he has been hearing about IT going down and not a lucrative career opportunity anymore. I responded with a "Nothing is easier these days". He agreed to it and continued to say how he has already decided for his daughter to prepare for Indian Administrative Service and get a "government" job. You see, working in a government/public sector is always deemed safe in India. The job security and the pension after retirement is a privilege not the private sector employees get. I lauded his decision while imagining in my mind his daughter should be finishing school and in the process of graduating college. The conversation steered away to other topics for few minutes and later got back to his daughter. He mentioned how his daughter can speak many languages when she was only in 3rd year of primary school. Whoa! and her career already decided!!

I recently learnt that there are different types of beer glasses. This one is called Tulip glass. These are designed to trap and maintain the foam head. This type helps enhance the flavor and aromatics of hoppy and malty brews and are generally used for stronger brews like double IPA or Belgian brews. The bulb like bowl allows to swirl the beer allowing it to release the full aromas. Some general knowledge here huh!

Do you remember the fruits of rain trees? You'll find rain trees in abundance in Bangalore. As a kid; I did not know that it was a rain tree of the fruit that I used to collect were from the rain trees. These fruits would be crushed, mashed and mixed with castor oil and made a ball to play cricket. It was left to dry for few days before used. It was called cork ball and was hard, painful when hit with it. This was an easy alternative to buying the expensive tennis ball. Only recently did I realize these were fruits of rain tree, falling off during spring. 

And finally - I love animals and have soft corner for dogs. Dogs - anywhere, any type and any time have my time and attention. It started raining when I was out at a pub over weekend. It was a sudden pour, the sight of rain made me walk out the door. As I was standing enjoying the aroma of the wet earth; a stray came by and stood beside. He wanted to protect himself from getting wet. He kind of nudged me and as I pet him; he gradually lied down and put his paw this way...it took me enough pain in my heart to ease away from him without him noticing. Dogs dont let anyone near their paws and this was an ultimate gesture of trust.