LFG #2: Shopping at Law Garden, Ahmedabad

Here’s the thing. I dislike hate shopping. For makeup, shoes, bags, dresses – especially dresses! You know that moment…that instant when your fingers curl round the handles of a shiny, uncreased bag — and all the gorgeous new things inside it become yours?¹ Well, I don’t. And I swear to God that I-WILL-KILL-YOU if you give me that puzzled look and say “But I thought girls loved shopping!”

So anyway, my shop-o-phobia is quite well known to all my friends back home. They “claim” that I am the worst shopping companion ever. And I must admit, they do have a point. Take me shopping with you and chances are that once the initial fascination with a shop wears off, I may sulk, pout, throw tantrums and generally behave like a 3 year old in a theatre.

Now the thing is my friends here are blissfully unaware of all this drama I am capable of unleashing without a moment’s notice. You see, we’re still in that honeymoon phase where we ask ‘May I?’ before dipping into the other person’s ice-creams and say ‘You look good’ when what you are really thinking is “REALLY??” So when this idea of going shopping in the evening came up, I didn’t wanna be a party pooper and say no. And thus I went shopping.

Considering that Ahmedabad is famous for clothes and its unique styles of handcrafted silver jewellery, we (read they) decided to head to Law Garden at Ahmedabad. One of my friends had heard from one of her friends’ friend that the place had an amazing collection of traditional wears. And so, off we went.

Law Garden is a public garden in the city of Ahmedabad. During day it is like any other street. But at night the place comes alive with hoards of makeshift shops that boast of exquisite handicraft goods sold by local people. Also, the road at the side of the garden is filled with street hawkers selling all kinds of food items. So while the wife-y darling is off burning a hole in her pocket, the husband baba can go gaga over the delicious, if slightly unhygienic, street food and burn a hole in his too. Combined hole-burning opportunities – what an idea sirji!

So we spent a good chunk of night going gaga over gorgeous chaniya cholis, and dazzling silver jewellery. Sure, it was hectic, we were worried we wouldn’t get back to the hostel in time, my friends were complaining that “There just wasn’t enough time” and I was like “I know!” (While chanting “Jai Mata Di” in my head for ending it quite soon) and we couldn’t have dinner ‘coz by the time we reached the hostel, we were way past curfew.

And yet, I enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to, but I did. I even ended up buying a few kurtis and a lovely silver earring! Is it too soon to call up my mommy and claim that my shop-o-phobia is cured??

And that's a peek of how it looked in the streetlight.
And that’s a peek of how it looked in the streetlight.
This lovely babe is mine. I saw it, loved it, bought it. For 40 bucks :-D
This lovely babe is mine. I saw it, loved it, bought it. For 40 bucks 😀
An exquisite chain I fell in love with. Didn't buy it though. Darn! I should've na?
An exquisite chain I fell in love with. Didn’t buy it though. Darn! I should’ve na?

In case you’d like to get a better feel of Law Garden at night, I suggest you go through wander collection’s post titled ‘Law Garden Night Market.’ It has some lovely photographs as opposed to my amateur ones. 🙂


[1]Quoted from ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ by Sophie Kinsella

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#Inspire – Sparks by Chetan Bhagat

Speech given at the orientation program for the new batch of MBA students
Symbiosis, Pune, July 24, 2008 © Chetan Bhagat

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Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated.  The first day in college is one of them.  When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost.   So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp’s flame. The first aspect is nurturing – to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn’t any external measure – a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn’t the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won’t be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature’s design. Are you? Goals will help you do that. I must add, don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes – Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark – don’t take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said – don’t be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I’ve told you three things – reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don’t go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it’s life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember – if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that’s where you want to be.

Disappointment’ s cousin is  Frustration, the second storm.  Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don’t know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to  a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life – friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness – this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards. Let’s be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don’t. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don’t get literary praise. It’s ok. I don’t look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It’s ok. Don’t let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is Isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I’ve told you the four thunderstorms – disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful  years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying – I come from the land of a billion sparks.

Thank You

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#Inspire series comprise of speeches/quotes that I, personally, have found exceedingly inspiring. They’ve often had me wondering about the power of words, so if you find it as inspiring as I do, please pass it on. 🙂

Aligning the present-day-you with the ‘dream-you’

Of late, there is this one thing that has been bugging me. Relentlessly. It is always there in the back of my mind, this thought that I’m trudging through today so that I can live tomorrow.

Just close your eyes and think for a moment. In college, our aim was to get a job. ASAP. We sailed through the college days, had the time of our lives, downed a couple of celebratory Cokes when we got placed and waited for our lives to begin. Awesome job, money in the pocket, independence – life set ho gaya.

And then we started to work. Now here, some of us got the jackpot. Some of us knew exactly what we wanted and worked for it. Hard. But most of us didn’t. We were not clueless, no sire. We had/have a pretty good idea of what it is that we want to do. Or be. For instance, we know that we want to earn a fat paycheck every year (How many of you will admit it, that is a discussion for another day). We know that we want to be respected. We know that our parents should be proud of us, that we should be able to provide for them if need be. But how? We don’t really know. And we don’t want to either.

And why should we think about it actively? So far, everything has gone pretty well for us. Everyone told us to study regularly. We didn’t. We mugged up some stuff day before the exams, slept for 2-3 hours and contrary to our parents’ prediction, were able to recollect quite well during exams. We got pretty good grades and without toiling too much, got into reasonably good companies with a reasonably good pay-packet. This ain’t the first time that we’ve been told how important it is to plan your future. And it’s definitely not going to be the last.

These are some of the thoughts that have been swirling through my mind for the past few weeks. Disturbingly recurring thoughts. You see, I have a pattern. Every morning I get up, go off to work, survive through it and look forward to the evenings when I’ll finally get to do some ‘quality work’. Now the evenings, of course, rush off in the blink of an eye and before I know it, a new day has dawned. Every single day at work, when confronted with something that is beyond my immediate understanding, I vow to myself “Today I’ll go and try and get to the bottom of this.” And then I remind myself that I’m not here to stay. This job is just one of the many, many steps I have to climb so that one day, I can drink from the ‘Dragon Well’ upon which my life will miraculously be perfect.

My life was starting to piss me off.

Today, I had a very interesting session at work. The speaker, a wonderfully articulate JNU-bred business skill specialist shared some thought-provoking ideas. To be fair, there was nothing new in what he spoke. It was just something that had come to me at the right time in the right mood. He told us that ‘goals are dreams with a deadline’. Goals are tangible, not abstract – they are not something that you want to do at some point of your life. Also, there should be certain expectations behind your goal, something that you expect to gain once you attain that goal. He went on to ask a few of my colleagues about their goals. Not one could articulate what she/he wanted to be. And those who tried were stumped when he asked them what they expect to gain out of it.

Now this got me thinking. And once I started to think, I couldn’t wait to get home to try sketching out my path in life. And, as is apparent, I couldn’t. As sure as I am of what my future should be like, I couldn’t translate it to a piece of paper to lend a bit of clarity to it.

Which is why I’m bugging you with this long-drawn solipsism. Plus, there is something that I’d like you to do. Sit down in front of your lap or take a paper and jot down what you want to be few years down the lane. And then, jot down how what you are doing now is helping you get there. I recognize how unlike my usual self this particular post is, but please, just go with me on this one. And yes, I buy your argument that every single thing in life can’t (and shouldn’t) be planned. I agree with you. I’m not telling you to prepare a chart for life. I’m just requesting you to make an attempt to align present-day-you with the ‘dream-you’.

Sleep on it. When you wake up, you’ll realize that you’ve peeled off another layer of the mystery that is you.

To Elsie Teacher…

It is common knowledge that teenage is a rather difficult period in life. From parents to the teenagers themselves, the thirteen-going-on-thirty age is that of rebellion and poor grades and what-nots. But I beg to differ. My teens are some of the best years of my life. It was the time I learned to live, to have fun, to be a reasonably confident human being with dreams and aspirations and the will to work for them.

A trip to your past is always a tad bit painful, especially if you aren’t all that proud of who you were back then. But there are some episodes and a few guest actors who made the journey seem a lot easier than it was. Like Elsie teacher.

She taught me Geography in High School, Elsie teacher did. Now how do I describe her? Hmm…remember Molly Weasley? Well Elsie teacher was the desi-version of Mrs.Weasley – the mommy-bear with that uncanny ability to know, just KNOW, whenever you were about to do something that you shouldn’t. It is common knowledge that Elsie teacher has eyes on the back of her head (nope, I’m not kidding. Ask anyone!). Add in the fact that her English was impeccable enough to give actual English teachers a run for their money and has a disposition that made mugging up ‘Which crop was harvested where’ fun, Elsie teacher was truly everyone’s ‘El favorito’.

Which is why I feel compelled to jot all of this down when I read that Elsie teacher was retiring this year. Frankly I’m a bit shocked. Elsie teacher is to Bhavans what Sachin is to India, and I don’t say that lightly. This woman has single-handedly reduced six-foot-tall, tiny-moustache-spouting, offensively-argumentative boys that reek of unauthorised-football-matches into teen-boys who double up with laughter at her razor-sharp wit and good-natured digs at the excuses they come up. And no, no one bunks Elsie teacher’s Geography class. As if…!

I can go on and on about her. Truly, I can. But there is no way that I can put into words the gratitude I have towards her for helping me decide who I want to be – and I don’t mean professionally. My definition of “me” goes beyond the “engineer” that I am to the pretty decent (Ahem…:D) human being that I have grown up to be.

To Elsie teacher who told me that I “speak well”, which lead to a slew of Extempore-participations that ended up with me blubbering on like an idiot. But no regrets!

To Elsie teacher who was my class teacher in 9th and Geography teacher in 10th, to the lady who taught me to be comfortable in my skin, to stick to your beliefs when you are right as long as you don’t get your ass on fire (and no, she wouldn’t mind me using that language. Told ya she’s cool B-)

Now I realise that there is a very good chance that she don’t remember me and an even better chance that she has no idea how important her role has been in grooming not just me, but at least 49 others like me, and yet I have to write this down, if not for me, then for the hundreds of kindred spirits who had been blessed enough to be touched by the Elsie-magic.

Dear Elsie teacher,

               It is pointless, wishing you all the good in the world, for no bad can befall you when you have the prayers of hundreds/thousands of students who adore the ground you walk on. For all that you said and did, and for all that you didn’t. For never EVER yelling at us, for teaching us it’s okay to lose a game or two as long as you enjoyed playing it. For that lovely, if slightly naughty, smile that you always ALWAYS had, muah!!

You were, are and will always be one of the BEST teachers we ever had. And we freaking love ya to death 🙂

Inspired by Usha teacher’s (another one of those cool teacher’s from school. Told ya we have quite a few of them!) post titled “Elsie Abraham, Teacher Extraordinaire!”

Falling for ‘What Young India Wants’

There are a lot of things that you don’t do in life – for various reasons. Some things you don’t do because you don’t want to do it. Like getting drunk. Or eating curd rice. Or eat curd rice when you are getting drunk – you get the gist. Then there are some things that you don’t do because you KNOW it’ll get you killed – like check if you are, by some stroke of fate, a long-lost third cousin of Spiderman, or put up a Facebook status that goes “Mohanlal is fat”. And then there are things that you really want to do/say but don’t because you know that it’ll make you seem – there is no poetic way to say this – LAME to the world.

Where are you going with this, you ask?

Well the point is there is something that I really want to say but is hesitant due to Reason No.3. But I really want to say it so I’m gonna just blurt it out fast so that I can try to pretend I didn’t say it, okay?

Here goes. *Deep breathe*

I’mKindaStartingToFindChetanBhagatReallyREALLYCool.

There. I said it.

You know that guy who writes predominantly crappy novels that get turned into rather crappy movies that people love? Yup, I’m talking about him. Correction – only two of the movies turned out to be total crap – 3 Idiots and Hello. The rest of them, the movies that is, were pretty good. *And this is where it dawns on me that there is only one other book that has been adapted onscreen. Good going Navmi, good going*

So where was I? Haan…Chetan Bhagat. As someone who has read every single one of his unbelievably ridiculous books that somehow turns out to be bestsellers (I can personally justify the popularity of 2 States. That one, you gotta admit, was pretty cool), I think it’s safe to say that I’ve always had a certain amount of scorn for people who find his books “awesome!” Imagine the look on the face of someone who has watched a Leonardo DiCaprio movie if you tell him Nargis Fakri is your favourite actor. That’s how I’ve felt every time I heard “Chetan Bhagat is my favourite author”.

Around 2 weeks back, I came across one of his books, “What Young India Wants”. Expecting the usual potpourri of the girl-who-kisses-the-poor-timid-guy, sex scenes that have nothing whatsoever to do with the plot and a storyline that makes as much sense as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, boy, was I surprised to find myself hooked – like dream-about-reading-the-book hooked – to it. So much that I dashed off to Flipkart and bought that babe home. And lemme tell ya…it has been a hell of a long time since I’ve done THAT.

Hey, before you dash off to check out ‘What Young India Wants’, a word of caution. The book, is by no means, an awesome piece of literature. The content is, to be frank, nothing new. It is a seeda-saada Chetan Bhagat book.

And yet I was (and am) totally smitten. The entire book, a collection of selected essays and columns CB has penned over the last few years, is very well put-together. The issues CB brings up have been discussed about at length and with varying degrees of seriousness and expertise. So nothing new there. The real pull of the book for me was how it spoke about various issues in India like an average Indian who is so in love with the country, despite all that is wrong with her. An Indian who dreams of India growing up to make a name for Herself not unlike how our parents dream for us. A tad bit silly, I guess. But you and I, my friend, are in our hearts, subscribers of that silliness. Often, it is the only thing between us and insanity in this amazing country which is, many a time, an increasingly frustrating place to live.