Driftwood?!

“Well one thing I realised I have had my share of ups and downs like most people in life but I have always found myself bobbing along happily just like driftwood,” I said with great emphasis on the word driftwood to a colleague who asked me how I had coped with a lay off (more on that in another post).

And no sooner had this confession slipped out, well what with us sitting in a corner conference room with no windows it did feel like a confessional sans the ‘bless me father I have sinned routine’, I startled myself.

For here I was, all along believing I was this super hero survivor who went through catatonic events without so much as a flushed brow (and point out where I get my metaphors mixed my dear reader. At moments of great excitement I screw them all up)

But mark this, my subconscious just thought I was a lowly drift wood!!

now how low can that be!

i thought I thrived despite my oscillating fortune including heart breaks and near penury and my sub conscious thought I am driftwood!

DRIFTWOOD!

 

The Equation of Loneliness

“I hate this city,” he said. I looked aghast at him. “How can you when everybody who comes here never wants to go anywhere else?” I asked.

He got up, gave me a fierce look and walked away.

Had I done anything wrong?

I was new to the place and just trying to make polite conversation, perhaps trying to get to know him better. After all he would be my family too.

I turned around to find a neighbour look at me knowingly, come over and sit down at the just-vacated space.

“What do you expect?”

“He has no one here. No family. No friends.”

He gestured, “he has built a cocoon around himself.”

“He is a prisoner of his own making,” I said.

Why doesn’t he open up? Why doesn’t he talk to people instead of snarling at them ferociously, ready to bite their heads at innocuous remarks just as he had done.

 

Reach Out

The results are out. The games have ended. It is Abki baar Modi sarkaar (the war cry of the Baajpaa). A self-proclaimed chaiwalla (tea vendor) has led his party to a thumping victory – the first in 25 years- and is the star of the moment. While the reasons for the party’s victory and more importantly, Narendra Modi’s ascendancy to success is obvious ( the erstwhile ruling party’s bumbling blunders/corruption notwithstanding/nonchalance to public opinion/weak strategy/etc..etc…) what is interesting is the way Modi has reached out to the masses. A mass that was skeptical and disillusioned in the face of never-ending & never-fulfiled promises, nay rhetorics. A man who till five years back had never registered itself on the collective consciousness of a nation whose subconscious was filled with dynastic rule & the politics thereof. A man smeared with accusations of conducting a pogrom(s) in  the state he ruled. Yet such a man reached out to the masses, the aam aadmi ( the mango people?!) and the business community not only touting the development card but showing the human touch. And today, Modi the challenger has become Modi the conqueror.

***********

A dear friend is a huge Madhuri Dixit fan so much so that he fills his Facebook wall with pics of the Bollywood actress, tweets and blogs about the icon.  And no, he isn’t a stalker but for sure he is a walking wiki on Ms. Dixit. He  regularly gets cited in news articles on the actress. Well, what do you know! Last year, he was one among a handful who were chosen to interact with Ms. Dixit in person at her dancing show. He truly reached out to live his dream. You can read all about it here….

******

” When I studied at the university Girish Karnad, you know the famous playwright and actor, visited our campus. Everyone went after him but I didn’t. Really, who cares and what’s the big deal,”  thus spake a scathing BB when I went chasing my favourite HOMP guys for a selfie this past week.

Undeterred, I beamed and cornered Rocky, the pony-tailed,  crack-a-minute host near the wash basin and gushed, “I’m a big fan of your show.  Neither my family nor I have ever missed a single episode of HOMP. You mind if I take a picture of us together.” He looks at the gushing, starry eyed woman and smiles, “No, it would be my pleasure.”  Before I could swoon overwrought with emotion I got my family to click a few snaps, dragged them out of the eatery for a few more and then introduced my 95-year old grandpa to Mayur and Rocky.

Well, blow me down. They took a soundbite from my beloved gentleman, declared he was their oldest fan to date and even went on to tweet it. For some time that day, my grandpa was trending on NDTV newsfeed. Now how cool is that?!

Nana_HOMP_May 12 2014

 

 

For those who wondered where all this took place it was at Vidyarthi Bhavan, Bangalore’s iconic dosa joint located in Basavanagudi. And for those who don’t know who these guys are, it is Rocky and Mayur from NDTV’s Highway On My Plate, one of the leading cookery travel shows playing on the telly these days.

******

My lessons learnt:

 

Reach Out and Seize the Day.

 

Keep your misplaced sense of self importance aside and cast out your net to reel in opportunities.

 

Never be afraid to dream the unthinkable, do the impossible. 

 

If only I knew

So this was my first managerial job and I got selected after a heated discussion in which I lost my cool, being the hothead I was. First day on the job I realised I had two senior people to manage along with a fresher and two peers – all of them new to the company just like I was. Intimidating since I knew some of them by reputation and felt these guys probably knew more about the job than I did. A series of high level meetings with managers from other regions and the top honchos left me with a complete understanding of the company’s vision, mission and future road map.

Back at base I called my team together and passed on my company’s mission statement and what our goals were. I made a huge poster and slapped it on the wall for everyone to remember it. I had one-on-one meetings with each team member to understand why they took on their role, what really interested them and tried understanding their motivation. I insisted on the following:

a)Daily brainstorming meetings before we began the day’s work so each member of the team knew what the other was up to

b)The team had to be reachable on phone

c) Work would wind up by 5 every evening

d)I would deal with the top management while the team focused on getting their work done

First month into the job and we were already battle scarred! Two of the team members could barely get along and wanted the same roles & responsibilities. I was busy trying to resolve their conflicts and ensuring the team was on the ball I never got around to interacting with managers and team members from other regions. I was busy ensuring my team had a solid rep that I fought their battles with top management slowly ingraining a Us vs Them culture. I wanted to be their friend resulting in people taking leave quite often and lower productivity. I did not want to get involved in office politics so I seldom met with the administrative or sales staff.

Eight months later I was up to my neck with conflicts within the team; senior members directly interacted with top management and I was given the impression during a review meeting that I did not run a tight ship and a junior team member resigned since the conflicts demotivated her. I quit shortly afterwards, miserable and low on confidence.

Of course, I had several managerial stints later during my career but they were riddled with challenges such as these. Now I only wish I had found a mentor much earlier in my career who would have warned me of the pitfalls of getting too close, too soon; of not interacting with peers in other departments; of not looking for developmental mentors; etc, etc…

Recently, I read Lineback and Hillman’s Being A Boss and it was an eye opener. The book is filled with valuable insights on tips and tricks for first-time managers to practice avoiding the snake pits of a corporate life. The authors recognize the role of the Boss in shaping the outcome of teams and organisations through their power to influence others and using the power of the network to grow.

According to the authors, the three imperatives of Being a Boss:

  • Manage Yourself
  • Manage Your Network
  • Manage Your Team

Hill and Lineback’s model of managing self, network and team is a great way for new managers to break the overwhelming task of management. The purpose of this book is to help a manager understand how to be an instrument to get work done and contribute to the organization. At the core, this book seeks to answer one crucial question: How to Exert Influence?

Influence is at the key of persuading your team to work towards organizational goals or achieving a business outcome. Many managers think their lack of knowledge, experience or skill especially ability to manage time becomes a hindrance to becoming an effective manager.

Imperative One: Learn that management isn’t about getting things done yourself. It’s about accomplishing things through others.

Imperative Two: Understand how power and influence work in your organization and build a network of mutually beneficial relationships to navigate your company’s complex political environment.

Imperative Three: Build a high-performing team out of all the individuals who report to you.

If you are serious about evolving into a good manager from a greenhorn and becoming a great manager who leads through example this is just the book for you.

I only wish I had read this much earlier……

 

Getting More

I’m the one you find having long, intimate chats at parties instead of being the life of the party. You will find me snuggled on the couch with a book or two, music playing in the background and a puppy/Bambhubhai for lively company. You will find me experimenting around the house or in the kitchen before dashing off to finish that long-taken on project. You will probably find me in the same coffee shop, sipping the same coffee if you caught me there two times or more in a row. I have my favourite haunts that I haunt till they won’t let me haunt no more; my bookshops where I can get lost infinitely in its musty, dank corners or strolling through old parts of my city where I can still breathe air and not smoke.

In short, what you will realise is I easily get into my comfort zone and barely slip out of it just as I hold on to that tattered, moth-holed Tee. I’m comfortable in my skin, happily piling on and losing the pounds, laughing my way to the last paise in my account and holding random conversations with whoever is willing.

So does it make me get the most out of life or more even?

Hell, yea living in my comfort zone has kept me happy and insulated from a tumultous world that has changed from breezy, easy to a stress-ridden rollercoaster.

IMG_2277[1]

 

This weekend I decided to expand my comfort zone a lil, well just a wee bit to try and find out how the super active hyper others live. Well, guess what they do book readings and theatre shows and meet up with friends and have long-winded dinners without breaking into a sweat. I was feeling burnt out by the time I was done with two of the above.

Well, one step at a time I say. In the meanwhile, here is what my comfort zone looks like at present :-)

The Momo Curse

Originally posted on The Fallen:

Image

A few days ago I went on a momo-eating trip to Flavors (a trying-to-be-a-restaurant-but-still-a-stand for all your chaats and evening snacks opposite Hindustan Club.) We had only just sat down in a cab and adjusted ourselves to our now filled stomachs and the smell of paan that my mama brought with himself, when the driver declared that there was a tire puncture. Alright. New cab then. As I was opening the door of the new cab, a realization dawned on me. I had left my phone in the former cab. After hurriedly ruffling through my pockets we launched ourselves inside the cab and established that the driver was on a following a cab mission (which is as common a phenomena in Bollywood as forgetfulness is to me). The cab raced through Hungerford Street, Theatre Road and then to Chowringhee with all of us scrutinizing every cab that passed by for…

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Summer Fruits

I wouldn’t want to be born anywhere but here, my India. And every time I rant about bad roads, crass people, crummy politicians, and frequent power outages I find nature’s bounty smile at me as a gentle reminder why this is mine own country.  Fiery reds fight with burnished yellow as tree lined avenues of bright yellow Copper Pod Trees and Flames of the Forest and bounganvillas of all colors (red, white, orange, magenta, yellow and pale pinks)  shine brighter and more cheerful as summer peaks.

But for me summer truly gets here when I see trees laden with mangoes tempting the kleptomaniac buried deep inside. I can’t resist the green fruit, its headily tempting aroma and its tangy taste. Ripe mangoes are good too but nothing like the tangy taste of a raw mango best eaten simply with salt and red chilli powder.

If you are heading out of the city be sure to check out the mango vendors near the toll gates who make cut mangoes seem a work of art. Thotapuri mangoes slit into ten but still held together at the base.

I thought of sharing a few of my favourite mango recipes and those of you who can steal or buy a mango or two should definitely try these out.

Aamodka

This is my version of a mango-laced vodka cocktail.

You need: a slice or two of raw mango (I prefer the Thotapuri variety since it isn’t too sour) cut into small cubes; 30-60 ml of vodka (depends on how strong you want your drink to be); 1 tbsp of mango slush (I prefer Maala’s mango slush); soda; 1 tsp of honey (increase it if you want more sweetness); ice cubes; mint leaves; 1 chilli slit; chaat masala

Method: Mix honey, vokda, mango slush, ice cubes, mint, slit chilli in a cocktail shaker. Shake. Shake. Shake. Transfer  all but 1/4 of the concoction to a high ball glass.  Now add soda and chaat masala to the cocktail shaker along with the 1/4 concoction and shake. Transfer to the glass and stir with a spoon. Add the cut mango cubes and serve chilled.

Caution: The raw mango with the chilli will give a pleasant buzz

 

Aam Chutney

You will need 2 Thotapuri mangoes; Mustard Oil – 3 tbsp; Salt to taste; Chilli powder (1-2 tsp depending on pungency level); Asafoetida/Hing (a pinch of two);  Methi/Fenugreek seeds (1/4 tsp); Mustard seeds (1/4 tsp); Turmeric (1/4 tsp)

Method: Grate Thotapuri mangoes. Heat oil in Kadhai (wok) to smoking point. Add mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Once it crackles, add hing and the masalas. Either reduce heat or remove from stove before adding masalas else it may burn. Then add the grated mango and salt. Mix well.

Note: Chutney can be refrigerated. If storing outside increase quantity of oil by another spoonful or two. Goes great with rice.

 

Aam Soare (Mango curry)

You will need  Thotapuri mango (1 or 2 slices cut into large cubes); 2 tomatoes finely chopped; 1 big onion coarsely chopped; curry leaves; fenugreek/methi seeds; mustard seeds; garlic pods – 4; turmeric powder (1/4 tsp); Chilli powder (1-3 tsp depending on pungency); salt to taste; Cooking Oil (2 tbsp)  to temper

Method: Heat oil in kadhai.  Add mustard, fenugreek seed and after it crackles add garlic pods and curry leaves. Then add chopped onions and fry till brown (not burnt brown but light brown). Add chopped tomatoes and roast till oil seperates. Now add turmeric powder and mango cubes. Pour 1.5 glasses of water and simmer till mango cooks. Add chilli powder and salt according to taste. Simmer for a few more minutes till the raw smell of chilli powder gives way to the fragrance of the curry.

Serve hot with rice or idlis or dosas.

Aam rasam

You will need  Thotapuri mango (1/2 mango cut into medium-sized cubes); curry leaves; tomatoes -2 big; mustard seeds; hing/asafoetida; red chillis-whole; garlic-6 pods; a small ball of tamarind soaked in water (extract pulp); jeera/cumin seeds (1/2 tsp); peppercorns (1 1/2 tsp); salt to taste; 1 spoon ghee (clarified butter); Eastern rasam powder (or MTR or Aachis or any brand of rasam powder)

Method: Pulp tomatoes, garlic and 1/4 piece mango together in mixer or food processor; grind jeera and peppercorns together; Heat  khadai to smoking point. Add mustard and curry leaves. Once it crackles add ghee. After ghee heats slightly add red chillis and hing. Stir in tomato puree  mix and tamarind pulp. Add 2 glasses of water, jeera/pepper mix, rasam powder and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and finish it off with garnish of coriander leaves.

Can drink hot since it is a great remedy to counteract summer cold else serve with hot rice and ghee with papads (poppadums) on the side.

 

Note: Unless mentioned chilli powder refers to red chilli powder; Mustard seeds for tempering can be either 1/4-1/2 tsp ; hing is a pinch; salt is to taste since it depends on individual

Bon Appetit, and enjoy the Indian summer :D

 

Live In the Moment

Election fervor has overtaken most of India, in fact all of it. I hear random strangers discuss the ultimate outcome. I hear housewives discuss the pros of electing Modi and the cons of having a third term of the Congress. In the midst of this are radio ads that say Carpe Diem since it’s IPL season too. So that’s another frenzy that’s fast catching on.

For this is India, where we are quick to embrace the new, cast out the old, encompass the good and discard the bad. I love my country, or can’t you tell.

So Carpe Diem it was…

Bambubhai and I decided to do a quickie road trip seeing it was a long Easter weekend. He had forgotten the hunter’s blood (his camera has been gathering fungii now for over six months) while I had to answer nature’s call (my last trip to coastal Karnataka was refreshing and I was still spinning images in Hi-Def color in my head).

We set off at 7 in the morning in spite of firm resolves & alarm clocks to get out of the house by 5. You see the city is blistering hot right now. A few kilometers on any of the highways or expressways and you will start seeing mirages (which I thought till last year was only a phenomenon in the desert).

Thankfully the crores of rupees spent by central and state governments have made the intertwining National & State Highways a joy to drive on for most part. Nearly 45 kms out of the city and we started to see drongos, sparrows nestling in tiled roofs, kids playing with gay abandon, men gathered in the chowk reading papers, women working in the fields or washing clothes (yes, even here it is the woman who bears the brunt), cows grazing, goats and hens cutting across roads, riot of colors every few kilometers as women spread fresh tomatoes, onions, potatoes, ladyfingers (okra), brinjal, doodhi (louki/bottle gourd), coriander, mint, curry leaves, cucumbers and fields of grapes, bottle gourds, marigolds, mangoes….Ahhhhh, mangoes.

If only Bambubhai wasn’t such a stickler for rules!! Green trees with their branches invitingly bent towards the road laden with mangoes, big green mangoes…Wild mangoes, Baiganpalli and Totapuri. The delicious fragrance of mangoes, the sight of those beautiful green fruits was just too much to resist but the only problem Bambubhai insisted on revving up the car the minute he saw the King of Fruits for he knew he had a kleptomaniac as company.

The last time I stole mangoes it turned out as yummy, enticing chutneys on my dining table loaded with the goodness of asafoetida, turmeric, chillis and salts. Hot rice and the mango chutney mom cooked..I was in heaven.

Onwards we went past the mango fields to travel slow on roads that were half completed. Huge boards proclaimed a 27 lakh/32 lakh/43 lakh/etc…. project that the government in its senses saw fit to leave incomplete. So a tar road beckons you invitingly to explore it farther and when you do you are betrayed on to mud roads.

This is what we the electorate vote for every 5 years. Betrayal.

At least nature kept/keeps its promise.

Summer brings the bloom to indigeneous trees on Indian roads. While the eucalyptus looked unadventurous and boring we saw Flames of The forest all red and home to zillions of parakeets, koels and crows (alright the number is a mirage in my highly-imaginative mind, and well numbers have never been my strong point).

We lost our way and kept to the meandering roads to be greeted by a temple in the middle of nowhere. That is the beauty of India, you are never alone. God is around to (mis)guide you but then this is probably when man takes on God’s role. Every village has its own deity that adds a mystical beauty to the place. We came across old wrecks of what must have been beautiful temples once ravaged by time and neglect. We came across brightly festooned temples with color papers and strings of flowers draping the courtyard, where sweet vendors plied their over-colored sugar candies and puffed rice and farsaan.

We saw even saw a grey francolin dancing across the road and nearly ran over it. We braked the car to see the rum bird doing a rummy dance across the fields and then all we heard was the rustle of dry leaves. A hilarious sight worth capturing, only problem neither of us had taken our camera.

The meandering road led us to a marsh. A MARSH where trees where half buried in water and looked lost, like it was meant to be in a Harry Potter movie but was transplanted to this spot on the highway where vehicles (trucks, canters, bikes and cars) sped at high speed and never-a-one stopped to admire this lil spot of tranquility. What we saw shocked us more. There were egrets, cormorants, herons, grey herons, coots, wild ducks and more happy nestling. (No, this wasn’t the famous Ranganthittu bird sanctuary and it made this sight so much more amazing). We stayed here rivetted till the hot sun started pelting us with sweat down our brows and making our clothes unbearably sticky. We reluctantly moved onward.

We came across stores that sold farm fresh mushrooms. We came across rabbit farms. We saw poultry farms and hatcheries.

To think forgoing sleep meant so much more than a bad headache.

To think Living in the Moment had such untold joys.

Get out there you and see the world in all its glory. Carpe Diem!

 

Note: All Bird IDs courtesy Bambubhai. I’m but a disciple of the great one..

Staying Afloat or Learning to Thrive not merely survive

Nina, 42, worked as a HR manager in a globalised corporate entity for over 14 years steadily climbing the ladder from being a fresh minion in the HR department to managing the human resources need for the company’s Asia-Pacific rim. She was touted for a promotion and a rewarding bonus in the next review cycle. 

Ravi, 35, worked in the sales team for the newly-opened foods division within a software to sanitary pad conglomerate. He had already made several trips overseas, was his boss’ blue-eyed boy and much-sought after in social events. His boss had given him a challenging target for the first quarter and he was confident of surpassing the numbers. 

Both Nina and Ravi found themselves scouring wanted ads in the next review cycle. While Nina was passed over for promotion over a younger colleague and quit her job feeling slighted, Ravi was rendered unemployed due to ‘a structured downsizing.’

Six months later, Nina had reinvented herself as a life skills coach and opened a training academy that helped companies strategise and implement better HR policies, provide soft skills and life skills training to employees and make the workplace ‘a place to live’.  She had three steady clients and several prospective leads. 

Ravi had switched two jobs and was busy figuring out where his next pay check would come from? Though he wanted to continue working for another corporate he was unsure of facing the bleak prospect of a lay off. 

How do you think this should play out?

In the real world, unless Nina had good, paying clients, minimal commitments and a nifty nest egg set aside she would have  had to fold up and look for another job. Ravi would have had to take whatever came his way till he found his feet. 

Nina, indeed, held on to her new-found entrepreneurial zeal and today has several happy clients in her kitty. She is a much-sought after speaker in management colleges, conducts training programmes for aspiring HR professionals, mentors youngsters in communication skills and helps senior managers enhance their life skills and perform better at the workplace. 

Ravi decided against working for yet another corporate. He banded with four of his friends to set up a business consultancy that offers virtual sales leads and business support services. He has a handful of clients and is busy developing a mobile app that will help companies schedule meetings in different time zones and geographies. 

So what differentiates people like Nina and Ravi who learn to thrive in crippling circumstances and the rest who go into survival mode?

For starters, both Nina and Ravi were consummate networkers. Chance meeting in the corridors were not reserved for gossip but used as a chance to cultivate relationships. Social networking platforms and office events were fertile ground to nurture relationships based on commonalities, collaboration and bonding.

Upgrading Skills. Nina and Ravi were always willing to expand their sphere of influence meaning they helped on projects and functions where their expertise besides the functional one furthered the need of the organisation. Nina, for instance, had a knack for project management and ended up volunteering on projects that were not related to her core area of expertise – HR. She was not shy of speaking about her accomplishments or taking on additional work. Nina had also enrolled herself in weekend classes on project management to get certified.

Ravi  represented his organisation at industry -level meetings and trade lobbies. Though an introvert by nature he was starting to enjoy participating in these events, networking and even speaking at smaller, focus groups. He was slowly shaping himself into an influencer who always stayed abreast of industry trends and standards. He wrote articles and papers on his areas of expertise – food processing and agro sector.

Life did not begin and end at the workplace for either Ravi or Nina. Ravi was an adventure junkie and had initiated a Adventurers Unlimited club in his organization. The club had grown in popularity by the time he moved out of his organisation. He ran a language club and also volunteered for social causes run by the CSR department including teaching slum children maths and english. He had met several interesting people through these volunteer projects. Nina had initiated a Buddy Programme as part of the new employee orientation. She made it a point to meet up with group heads and mid-level managers to understand issues and concerns. She held random lunch table meetings with new employees. On weekends she was a lecturer at a management institute mentoring management graduates.

Big Picture for these two was not a seat on the directors’ board but living a more meaningful life. For Nina this meant having time to spend with her family, her garden and two dogs while continuing to volunteer at the old age home and lecture. Through her business venture, she roped in experienced veterans to teach life skills at her sessions for corporate clients and academic institutions. Ravi enhanced the scope of his work at the NGO that provided learning to children living in slums. He used his contacts to get stationary, books and used computers for these children increasing their confidence. He was able to build a proper school and enroll more volunteers for the programme.

Both these people are thriving in the environment they have created. Though both are stressed at finding clients and managing their full calendars, they are enjoying every single minute. They have learnt to be the Boss of their life by managing themselves, their network and their team more effectively.

 

Be the Boss:

Always look at the Big Picture. Your life does not end and begin with the Organisation

Have Life Skills. Volunteer. Enjoy Activities that are only for your (inner) growth

Build Your Credibility. Communicate.

Network. Professionally and Personally.

Mentor.