Monday, December 29, 2008

Been nice knowing you, 2008

Well, it wouldnt have come a moment sooner- the end of this year. I wont be too unhappy to see it go, and I'm sure that sentiment will be shared by many.
I think the economic slowdown and the terror strikes have created an overall uncertainty about things. So today's small joy is to say an official goodbye to 2008 and heave a sigh of relief.

But wait. Who says 2009 will be any better? I do think its totally upto us to make ourselves happier. I feel that identifying small joys over the past few months has helped me tremendously, and for those of you who have been reading my posts, I hope I have shared some of the joy with you.

I know I havent been very active blog wise in the past few weeks, work was too hectic.. but I promise to share more small joys with everyone in the coming year.

See you around soon!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Simply Sachin

What a game we had - three cheers to England for coming back, playing out of their skins and actually dominating us for three whole days. Three cheers to Chennai's public, supporting the Indian team in a time of terror.
And a loud whoop of joy for Sachin. For being who he is, and winning the game for us. And then for saying that this was for Mumbai, and cricket is just a game.

But what a game, especially when your hero makes a century, wins the match from an improbable situation. Faith and Joy have been restored somewhat. Now for some peace.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Monkey Business

I'd gone for a long walk on the weekend on my favourite route- the "upgraded" canal between Prabhat and Bhandarkar road. To the uninitiated, this is the very heart of the city.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a really huge monkey bounding about and scaring the poor watchman out of his wits! And no, it wasn't the usual escaped pet-type coming from a "madari". It was a genuine wild beast. God knows where it came from, but seeing a wild animal in the heart of Pune does make your heart skip a beat or two.

But then I stopped and saw the monkey again, and the way it leaped across. The sheer speed and grace with which the animal moved was totally amazing. Something primal about this surprise packet!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Ordinary Moment

I'd forgotten the joy of an ordinary moment for quite some time. After terror struck Mumbai, it seemed to me that all of my desires and wants were suddenly quite irrelevant.

Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to realise where we are going in life. It may not be a tragedy that impacts you, but something like what happened does make you freeze. I have just been frozen like this for the past few days, contemplating the meaninglessness of it all. I didn't write too much because small joys are also rare to notice when something like this happens. We have a curious fascination for reading bad news in the papers.

But today, when I was driving to work, I saw the city around me, and realised that I was appreciating the sheer ordinariness of it all- the buses, shops opening up, the rain washed trees, kids going to school, the usual scenes that we take for granted.

And I thanked the one above for giving me an ordinary moment, something that many do not have the luxury of. If you are anyone like me, I'd say that you are very lucky.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the fine print

Well, I was trying to get my life back to normal, so I visited Swagat- the watering hole that I have spoken highly of before- on the weekend. Normally, Swagat is a rabble rousing place, but the patrons were quite subdued, following the terrorost attacks. So subdued, that my friends and I were the ones who were overheard :)

Well, What I like about Swagat is that strangers can talk without really feeling awkward about anything. A gentleman on the next table, who was overhearing our conversation, said that he wanted to share something with us. He'd written something on a paper napkin. It said:

Life is Beautiful
* conditions apply

Isnt that a really cool one? That's what life is: beautiful, but dont forget the fine print. It can be unfair at times.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


May the battle that's going on be the last one in this war.
May all those who kill really understand what they are going to do before they do it.
May all those who suffered get strength from unaffected but concerned others.
May this madness cease.

I wonder if the terrorist has ever experienced the small joy of looking into a child's eyes?
I wish any person who is contemplating going down this path experiences this joy once. I dare him to be a terrorist then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pune in Winter

Thank god it is beginning to get chilly in Pune. With the Andhra cyclone, was wondering if we are going to miss the entire season!

What a place Pune is in winter. Beautiful migratory birds sun themselves on telephone wires. It never is hot and humid. Shekotis (thats a marathi word for a bonfire) is still a nice sight, though rare nowadays. The sky is a different, brilliant blue. The grass is yellow and yet the trees remain green. Its never very cold, except at night.

I love a tapri (street side)chai and a pattice from Santosh bakery when its this weather. Mmmm!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Perfect Riposte

Have you seen the Meg Ryan movie- "You've got Mail?" - she talks about how she never is able to hold her own and give the " perfect riposte" to the smart-alecs all around her. In the movie, if someone said something rude, hurtful, or calculated to make her fearful, she couldn't really hold her own in that moment- she was too taken aback and tongue tied.

Maybe you know what she went through. There are some people- they may be relatives, family friends or work colleagues- who have a very uneasy, edgy aura around them. It may be their ultra competitive personalities, or just something they ate. Whichever way, they make you nervous, and their biting comments typically catch you off guard and make you wish that you wish you'd said something really clever back to them- but usually its after they have gone far far away.

But on those rare occasions when you can catch these sort of blights off their guard, well- there in lies a small joy. Needless to say, I had one of these rare ones this morning, with someone who typically makes me uneasy- and man that feeling was good!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just a Minute

It takes just a minute to:

appreciate a beautiful thing

smell some nice food maybe

take a few deep breaths and relax yourself

look around you with the eyes of a child

and access many more small joys when you are between things..

The trick is to be ever present, to catch such butterflies. (thats what small joys are, arent they?) We seldom do it, since we think we dont have the time for such frivolity. But it takes just a minute!

Grace at Work

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting someone who I was mentoring/coaching in the past towards becoming a better professional in his chosen field. Why pleasure? It was because he had remembered me in his time of triumph, of personal success and had come over to invite me to be a part of it.

I found that very touching. This guy (no names please!) has come from very humble beginnings. He has fought his way up in both his personal and professional life. Only people in the know would understand how he has prevailed over adversity.

Mostly, mentors or coaches are remembered when you need them- when times are bad. Its a small and rare joy to come across someone who remembers a coach in good times. Cheers to such people.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Dog's life

I've got the biggest respect for Labradors. I should know, I have one at home. At a time when the world seems to be in tremendous recession- cost cutting, job layoffs, companies sinking, a dog's life seems so uncomplicated.

Candy (my Labrador) is never foul tempered. Very good with kids. Holds her own when Diwali crackers upset her. Takes the odd injection well. Looks huge enough to scare a few "irritatos" (that's human mosquitos who annoy you- a coined word) And boy, is she someone who can change your crabby mood for the better! Just rubbing her tummy and she growling friendly- like makes me feel relaxed.

I wish all of you who have a pet just take a second look once. We take so much for granted. A small joy just waiting...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Amulet of SamarKand

.... is a seriously entertaining novel. I've been reading it for the past two weeks. Yes, it is as good as the Harry Potter series, and yes, the writer (Jonathan) has a really vivid imagination.

Have you been to one of those movies or read those books that you dont want to ever end?
Its a weird small joy, since you want the story to move ahead, of course, but yet want to enjoy the book so much that it never stops entertaining you.

This is one of those books to savor. Learn all about Djinns and Magic, about Amulets and Talismans(do you know the difference? Read to find out... )What I also love is those footnotes(yes, footnotes to a novel, great idea, doesnt distract from the story, but adds to the flavor)

And no, you can't borrow my copy- I haven't finished reading it yet :)

Answer in the Dream

I woke up to a small joy today. I was trying to remember where I had kept a really important document all of yesterday. It had really bothered me, and after searching high and low, still couldn't place it.

Needless to say, I slept a fitful sleep. And then I had a really weird dream. I'd heard of something like this happening to someone else but never me before. In the dream, I was talking to a small boy who kept asking me to look under my bed.

I woke up, looked under the damn bed, and wasn't disappointed. There it was. It was the perfect small joy to begin the day. Have you had any surreal experience like this? I'd sure like to find out!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Perfect Script

Yesterday's day for Indian cricket ran on a perfect script. And yes, winning 2-0 against the aussies isnt a small joy, its an exceptionally big one. (btw- read my earlier blog Told ya! for amateur predictions coming true, gloat gloat).

In this beautiful end to Ganguly and Kumble's careers, there were two moments of small joy. I'm sure every cricket lover spotted them. Both showed Dhoni's heart shown to anyone who wasn't convinced that he was a special one, indeed.

Dhoni relinquished his captaincy for Gangs, for 5 odd overs, and gave him the thrill that he'd always wanted: captaining India again and beating Australia once more. He called Anil Kumble to the podium and shared the trophy presentation with him: something that the old soldier had always coveted.

Head full of dreams, but feet on the ground. That's our new captain.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Game of Patience

Have you tried playing this age old card game? You know, the one where you have to try and get rid of all your cards by getting two of them to add upto ten?(sorry, if you dont, I dont think I'll be good enough to tell you how to play it)

But if you know, try one today. And if you dont know, try finding out about it(am sure wikipedia has it). I sure enjoyed playing the game for the past few days.. it takes the edge of you.. and makes you realise what a weird life it is in any case. (Not kidding. Once you try to get a perfect game in and dont succeed, you will get philosophical!)

When life is dull make daal. I'm no haiku poet though!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Common Wealth

Hey, the Youth Games in Pune are done and dusted for some time now. And while everyone's a Punekar- Critic of all the things that have gone wrong :), I thought that Pune's roads have become somewhat better (especially the ones that lead to the stadium) and some "Common Wealth" has found its way to where it is needed.

So I think there's some good coming outta all that- just makes me wonder why we need a Youth Games festival to spruce up our roads in extra quick time.

The lord must be working in strange and wonderful ways.

Funny thing I've noticed

Its been more than two months. Two months of identifying small joys whenever they happen and sharing the fun I have with you. I've noticed that when I started to look out for small joys, I've received more of 'em. Or is it just that I've being cognizant of what I used to earlier take for granted?

Sure, my themes so far are around cricket, food, nature,personalities, films and whatever else my life revolves around currently. Of course, there are some small joys yet to find expression, but here is where I can use a little help from you. What small joys do you think I'm missing out on? What do you think is a small joy waiting to be written about?

Let me know!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Starring Kumble as Amitabh Bacchan

Didn't Anil Kumble remind you of an Angry Young Bacchan , hands on hips, steely glare at some unfortunate fielder and making batsmen quake in the process? Well, that show just got over and a I shed a little tear that those 619 small joys(the wickets he took) isnt going to increase anymore.

Hmm. Another one bites the dust. The way I'd like to remember Anil Kumble is the way he told us disarmingly, when he was quitting the game that he's still trying to bowl legspin properly. But Kumble's wickets were always a small joy. No big turn, no theatrics, but... a quick lbw or caught and bowled.

All those small joys, however, added up to him being India's biggest matchwinner. Not bad for a spinner who couldn't spin it at all!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Go(a) when its Diwali

This year, we thought we'll do something different. True, the joy of Diwali at home is something else, but for a change, even if its for a year, I recommend going to Goa.

Not because it has a tradition to celebrate Diwali, I guess that would be Christmas. But its a very good time since everyone else stays at home! (less tourists!)
You dont put on those extra pounds eating all those Kaju katlis and chaklis.(You put them on drinking beer and eating fish, but who's complaining?!)

And here's the clincher- no pollution, just the clean ocean and green surroundings. Very relaxed and peaceful. Its when you start getting poetic about the sea and compare it with the brew in your hand is when it becomes totally worth it..

Friday, October 24, 2008


This is my favourite Diwali story. Years ago, I used to work in Mumbai, and travel to Pune for each weekend. I used to dread going back to Mumbai by train. The dread started when the train used to hit those ungainly, ugly and squalid suburbs. It had many terrible sights, and the fact that it was kind of dark helped me a little since I saw less of the filth.

That year, Diwali was on a weekend, and after a nice round of festivities, I was headed back to where my dread was. But this time it was different. As soon as I reached those suburbs, they had all miraculously transformed. Each hut, each small chawl room had a bright Akashkandil sparkling away. Instead of the normal bad view, it was spectacular lighting- one room at a time.

There is something about an Akashkandil that makes you calm. Try staring at one today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Told ya!

Hah! I'm no soothsayer, but I did predict that we are going to thrash them Aussies soon. And a lil gloating becomes a small joy(atleast till they come back for the next test and try to thrash us!)
It was wonderful cricket from our side, although it was a no-contest. Ideally, in an exciting test match, there should be some tension, some palpable twist in the tale, but here, Dhoni, Ganguly, Tendulkar, Ishant and every body else ensured that there was none.

Not that I'm complaining. I hope that all Indian fans remember this when they criticise our team next. It is a fickle sport, and small joys like these should be remembered...

I guess thats why all those cricket reruns showing India winning are so popular!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Water from the Sky

A few days earlier, I'd gone to the Gordon House rooftop hotel, where wok was had and wine was drunk. While this was the normal course of events to be expected in a fine dining place, what was really different was the peace that I felt as soon as I entered the place.

I tried to understand why I felt so peaceful. Was it the natural light(it has a glass covered roof, open to the sky) or was it great food and company?

While all the ingredients were indeed there, it was one thing that stood out. They'd let water flow from the rooftop and it was a beautiful spectacle. It was also the noise of the water as it came down from the glass roof. That is the most soothing sound ever!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kojagiri night

Kojagiri night is a perfect little small joy. Not much of a festival, it comes between two biggies- Dassehra, and Diwali. But the full moon that the Kojagiri night holds is beautiful, isnt it? Thankfully, this time around, even the late rains let up and we had beautiful moonshine, a slightly chilly atmosphere in Pune.

As a kid, growing up in a small city, Kojagiri was a fun night for many reasons: your parents actually let you stay awake a little more than usual. They took you out to either a park nearby, sometimes a hill, or the university gardens, or sometimes your own terrace. They gave you either Basundi or masala milk to drink. Sometimes, old hindi numbers were sung, and as a child, you'd always feel special, knowing your vacation is coming soon, with the promise of firecrackers and holidays out of town.

Life remembered backwards. Always a paradise!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oh Captain my Captain

Sourav Ganguly will always, forever, remain to me as India's captain. He's just made me sad by announcing his retirement, but paradoxically, I'm happy to see him go on his own terms. He's brought joy to my life by his off side play, and ecstacy and pride when he took off his shirt after we won that Famous Natwest Final.

He will undoubtedly be followed by the others, but for now, let's just celebrate the Prince for who he is. He's going to play a few more tests, he will still wear his heart on his sleeve, he'll still irritate the opposing team, and ensure that he stays in our souls.

He'll still run in to bowl like he was really fast, he'll still run his runs harder than his partners(without possibly realising it) and despite all of his obvious failings, he'll still captivate thousands like me for a few more days.

I guess you can feel happy and sad at the same time!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Smoked out of Swagat

This new anti smoking law is a bit weird. While things are obviously better within restaurants and pubs, and stale smoky air doesnt hit you so hard, a night out with the boys at a typical drinking place like Swagat becomes a bit weird.

I'd gone there last Friday, and Swagat still remains superb- the fish, the drink, and the weird talk that only males can enjoy(a combination of boasts, fake stories and laments about how the world isnt the same anymore with sudden departures into the world of cricket and politics).
But the smoke wasn't there, and it felt a bit funny. Not that I'm much of a smoker, but the ambience felt a little wrong. So sue me.

By the way, has anyone wondered why, if India is truly serious about anti smoking, that it hasn't banned cigarettes but public smoking? Democracy works in strange and wonderful ways, but this ain't one of them:)

But as I stepped out, replenished with the queerest of male customs- the boys night out- I noticed something nice. My eyes werent burning because of smoke like they usually do, and it felt good.

Perhaps there was a little fire without a lot of smoke this time in good ol' Swagat.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Flannelled fool

Every time it's the end of the monsoon, I become a flanneled fool. At least in spirit. To any non-cricket lover, of course, you have no idea of what I am talking about. Its when I feel most patriotic towards the country;when my mood is completely dependant not on how well I am doing in life's challenges but how Sachin and Kumble are; when newspapers are read/not read depending upon how the Indian team is doing; when everything else becomes a blur as we await the new cricket season's delight and torture.

Wishing suddenly takes on a different meaning; lucky seats are alloted within the family and it is quickly ascertained who the "panwati"(unlucky omen) is. Life becomes uncomplicated. If India win, I dont snarl at anybody. Otherwise, even the most beautiful winter day gets a passing mark from my side.

Sometimes I wonder how I feel to be a slave to the emotions that arise in me when an international season is about to start. But I have a good feeling this time... I think we are going to thrash the Aussies...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunburnt Norwegians

Over this weekend, I had the pleasure of making friends with a Norwegian couple. Over dinner, I found out that they had played golf( they are just beginners, or so they said) and had a bad case of sunburn.

I realised that Norway is as different as it possibly can be from Pune. They either have day or they have night. Either its very cold or its very very cold :)

They have tons of social security, and a very individualistic, health conscious way of life. They have about half the people that Pune has and spread across their entire country. They have nuclear families, and they have a very different cuisine as well...

And yet, and yet, I found that I was able to speak about things and have a very decent conversation with them. I guess warm, interesting, decent and humour loving people are common wherever you may go, across the globe..

Thanks for the lovely time, Hanna and Arvin (I hope the spellings are right, if not, please forgive me!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Write Sense

It's funny to write about writing. A bit like the serpent that starts eating its own tail! But its so much fun, as I'm recently discovering, that I lose track of time.

I'll tell you what happens. An idea pops up into my head. And suddenly, its as if someone else has possessed me. Paolo Coelho has described this beautifully in his book- "The Zahir". It becomes an obsession of sorts, especially if you can't find a keyboard handy. Words flow, but more than the words, its the story that enslaves the writer.

I guess a novelist has to be a little schizophrenic, since he needs to live out his main characters and pit them against each other. I'm writing a book now, and I'm caught in exactly the same frenzy. The central premise is very clear to me, (thanks to my friend Prasad who caught me in time and asked me to take a step back) and so are the characters. The end I'm not so sure of. As for the actual story, it is writing itself through the main characters!

On a side note, I wonder how some authors write big books.and not key them in, by the way. Just yesterday, I tried to write something, and it was painful. I wonder if different thoughts would come to mind if I write instead of type? Have to try that out soon...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Exclusive and Inclusive

The recent trend in Pune is to own a really swanky apartment that has "amenities"- clubhouse, pool, gym, meditation centre, the works. I think it's a really cool idea for people who want a better lifestyle than what the general condition of the country provides us- as if you "swipe in" to a new country as soon as you get through your society's gate.

I just have one concern about this- if affluent guys like us choose this option, our government gets more blase about improving our standard of living inspite of us paying taxes through our nose. This sort of "growth" becomes exclusive as well- to guys who have access to the wealth that the new age economy has opened up for us.

Which is why I love what's happening with Pune's gardens. A thing of joy is the care and attention that's been paid to parks by our garden department- whether its the Pu. La. - Japanese garden, or the walking/cycling tracks that have sprung up, or the maintainence of old parks as well. This sort of thing includes all of us, doesnt it!

I especially like what they have done to the old canal between Prabhat and Bhandarkar road. This canal had a lot of old trees but also a lot of garbage dumped here and there. Now, its a full fledged garden- some sections are still work in progress, but you can have a lot of good walks/runs/cycling jaunts there.

They've kept the old trees; they've added new shrubs and grass. Perfect!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Bulldozer on Bhandarkar Road

A few days back, I went to a really happy eating place. This is a new place- on Bhandarkar road, right with all the really old kirana shops. The difference couldnt be starker. The crowd inside was very cosmo- almost as if someone had plucked a few German Bakery afficianados and planted them in a eatery on Bhandarkar Road (which is quite Maharashtrian, although not exactly like the Peths)

Anyway. its a nice little place( sorry, no beer) but the food is well presented and the place well lit. Service is more than just functional- the waiter actually told us to order less- which was a first- and was discreet. Its more important for waiters to be discreet in a small place. And yeah,you can actually see the chefs inside. But they dont do gross things like ask you to look at the food that they are cooking :)

And the food is very nice, the sizzling brownie was the best. It's eclectic cuisine, a mix without being the drab "multi cuisine". (I hate multicuisine. No character.)

But the best part was the happiness that was radiating out of that place. On a table, I spotted an African, an Indian, and a couple of Europeans eat and laugh together. Its as if someone bulldozed some happiness on staid ol' Bhandarkar road!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dont look now, I'm changing

And you can open your eyes now. Small Joys Unlimited has a new avatar. I hope you like it as much as I do... it reminds me of a playschool of sorts. An area where one can chill, have a cup of coffee and a biscuit and pick up life's sweeter moments as you go by. For any Punekar, it would be a chai at a tapri. Or seeing your favourite comic movie all over again. Or your favourite song, coming out of nowhere..

This design makes it more personal, more "the right mood" than ever. Of course, my designer friends Vishal and Tushar helped me here- I'm no good with writing HTML or cleaning up through photoshop :)

I wish I can change my mood as quickly as this design was done... but then as Calvin would say- nothing like spreading a bad mood around to make you feel better!

The joke's on me

I'm hopeless at using new gadgets. I really am. I never use many of the features, and I misuse features that I think I know. Just recently, my colleagues were laughing at me because I was snapping "pictures that moved" ( I thought it was a feature. They told me I'm videoshooting 2 second films. So sue me! )

I've never had a problem with people laughing at me- at most times. My friends, family and colleagues routinely criticise the clothes I wear, my ineptness with anything mechanical, my ability to give weird answers to straightforward questions, you name it... making an ass of myself is something that is very natural :)

I've never tried to analyse this before, but I guess I am very lucky for people to make fun of me.
It makes me feel that they are comfortable enough with me to laugh at me. Most times, I tend not to take things too seriously and laugh along.

Take what you do seriously, but never yourself, I guess.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Free and invaluable

As I read this morning's papers, doom and gloom made their appearance. In the form of terrorism, and in the form of big, established firms like Lehmann Brothers going down. I realised how much of an impact negative (but necessary to know and very real) news can screw up your mood.

You become pensive and worried, wonder what's going to happen. Its a nameless kind of dread, especially if you aren't impacted by it personally. I realised more than ever that the world works out of fear, out of greed and out of anxiety.

This mood persisted when I took a morning walk. Its funny how a bad mood thats general can impact you and how your mind can make it personal. Soon enough I started thinking about all the challenges I have at work.

Then I looked at the park around me. Trees were still growing, the sun was still warm and nice. It made me realise that some things dont change quite so often. Trees will continue to grow well(unless stupidly cut down) and the sun will be warming me (before it burns out, but thankfully its a long time later). We all talk of nature being fickle, but today, it was nature that gave me certainty and peace. It was man that made me circumspect.

Uninterrupted nature was free for me to enjoy, and it was also invaluable. It made me face up to the rest of my day with more peace and yes, hope as well.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Its all in the jeans

Dad celebrated his birthday over this weekend. He's always been a young father to me. When the rest of post independant India was wearing bush shirts and trousers, he wore jeans. He, along with Mom, were very modern in comparison to my friends's parents. We looked forward to celebrating his birthday with the usual spirits.

Dad is also a very very good surgeon. So when I saw him come up to the house from his clinic below, with a very serious face, when he should have been in party mode, it was unsettling. He told me that one of his patients had died just then. The dead man was a friend of ours, it was no ordinary faceless death for us as well.

We've always lived with the fact that Dad has to face death, even on good times, but I think this was possibly a first. It just showed me that a surgeon's life is very different. He has to face disease and death. Not just profitability and management B.S. like a lot of us in the corporate world. Its very real, and very raw. It gets him a lot of respect from all of our extended family. The fact that he has chosen to remain fiercely independant from "big hospital" culture endears him to me even more.

I had to run an errand and be back in a couple of hours. When I got back, the mood was different, and party like. Dad was chilling out with some family and friends. Death was accepted, but so was celebrating life.

Its all in the jeans. And no pun intended!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Nostalgia

Its a lazy sunday afternoon, and my favourite time of the year. Its that time when I fall in love with my city all over again. I think its something to do with walks that I can take in the afternoon (tell me another city that you can do this- in India- and I'll go there for a visit, surely.)

The months of August, September and October make me feel nostalgic about things. I encounter this nostalgia through flowers, usually. Pune is full of flowers around this time. Cork, cosmos and various other wildish strains that you like but can never name. This season reminds me of every earlier season that I have been similarly happy with, for no apparent reason.

This year was a bit different as far as this nostalgic trip is concerned. I was on one of my many trips to Mumbai to meet clients, and got caught in a traffic jam. The enterprising driver took us through a different route. He cut off the express highway and went on to the old Bombay-Poona one. It was as if I was meeting a childhood friend. Very familiar (the monkeys, the steep curves, the stunning views) but different(no hotels, no irritating vendors). I kinda fell for the whole thing.

It was new nostalgia- the only way I can describe the feeling in my stomach. Its a mixed thing- you look for old things but find new.

In a while, I rejoined the express highway and things were mundane again. Full of modern comfort, but no steep views...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blind man's bluff

I was in Mumbai yesterday, meeting up with a client, and was being introduced to a new team who would be looking after the project(the website we are building with them)

When we got to the meeting, the senior man over there looked at me strangely. I didn't understand the look too much, but things settled down quite quickly. The new team seemed friendly and intelligent. We had a very meaningful conversation about the way ahead. I thought it best to make the meeting more visual, so I took the liberty of scrawling some points on their whiteboard as well.

At the end of the meeting, the senior guy, who had looked at me strangely(am not disclosing his name) told me that the one problem he had with the current website was that it was not really good for the visually impaired.

And then he told me that he was blind. Partially blind, having some peripheral vision, but that's about it. He showed us his voice recognition software and how he was coping up with his blindness that came his way about a year back.

To say that my colleague and I were shocked was putting it mildly. He obviously had found a way to look at us as if he could see us! After I recovered, I asked him how he felt. He was quite nice about it and told me that he had cried for a few days, totally lost it, but then took on the job of living the rest of his life again. He said he still had a family to feed, and he owed it to them.

The whole experience was very humbling and made us understand the importance of making websites that were for the visually impaired. Of course, we know the theory, but now we just know we'll never forget this lesson.

Our meeting ended when he personally showed me the way to the restroom.( he had got me a coffee earlier!) I felt extremely comfortable being led by him. I think this comfort and courtesy that he has given me and his own team - of being himself inspite of the situation that he is facing-takes a lot of courage. I humbly salute this courage and am grateful for his brief presence in my life yesterday.

And yes, we will never ever make a website without looking at the website he had provided us for considering visually impaired standards!

Monday, September 8, 2008

An Off Day

Small joys are hard to come by on an awful day. Yesterday was typical of an awful day. Where almost everything that wasn't supposed to happen, happened. We had a major power shutdown in office. We needed to give work to unforgiving clients, and of course that wasn't happening well. Meetings were rescheduled and unscheduled interruptions were aplenty. I had to communicate some decisions that would make people within my company unhappy. This was compounded by the ill health of a near and dear one at home. To top it all, I wasn't feeling all that well myself. ( Malaise, for lack of a better word).

It's times like these that small joys are hard to identify and even harder to experience completely. But atleast this time, I was very aware of the reason why I was in a bad mood: I felt that I wasn't getting anywhere with my agenda and feeling hopelessly adrift. This led to me questioning whether my agenda was allright, in the first place!

But I did experience a small joy, inspite of all of this. This joy was about getting clarity on certain issues that this"mess of a day" was bringing forth. This joy was more like relief. Relief about understanding what my priorities were in life, and then for today. How I was spending my time, emotions and effort was, I realised, being governed by outside factors. The relief was in the sudden realisation was that the day wasn't so bad after all. It wasn't that big a deal.

The small joy was also this- I hadn't escaped what I was feeling, and was able to use it to reprioritise my life. It made me feel good- in a different way. A sudden burst of clarity shone through, and I felt OK again, and in charge. It felt good to face up to my demon of the day, stare at it and watch it dissolve.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Unseasonal Rain

This year hasnt been very happy as far as rains go, especially in Pune. Normally, the weather in August and September is champagne like- just the right amount of sunshine and cool breeze. This year, it has been noticeably warmer. All that talk about global warming and the like has been bandied about-without anyone really understanding anything much about it:)

I guess I am influenced overmuch by the weather. Hot days make me wish I'm someplace else, with a cool drink in hand. So needless to say,the months of August and September now have been a bit disappointing.

So it made what happened a couple of days ago very special. It rained elephants. No, dinosaurs.. and it kept pelting as if it was just a staged thing, not real rain at all. As luck would have it, I got caught in the rain. And it felt nice to run from where I was to my car.. laughing when big drops slapped on my back.

I saw complete strangers, being pelted away, smile at each other. That memory should last me for the rest of this season.

Fixing the right thing

I'd been trying to understand the lack of spark between the design work that my company creates and the stuff that was produced by (outside-consultant) digital designers of note. While all the usual suspected reasons are very much there (more experienced, more creative, more exposed to the right culture etc), I think I stumbled upon a little truth today.

What I found out was that the designs that my team produces(and they are a talented lot in their own right) smelled of wireframes. To the uninitiated, wireframes make up for the foundation that a good design rests on. Its an earlier step that is more analysis than art.

If I have to compare,its almost like being able to smell each individual ingredient's raw smell in a cooked dish. Who'd want to eat that? Ah, thats chicken, and oh, here's mushroom and hey, that's salt :)

The work from the outside consultants- well, thats a complete dish by itself, with no raw smell of individual elements coming across. I shared this feedback with my inhouse designer.

I think I could see the joy of discovering what was going wrong in his designs from his face. I could see hope- of his own designs improving and evolving.Of course, this dialogue could only work because he is an open enough person. A lot of designers aren't. We then talked of a possible process which he could try to not make it smell like a wireframe the next time round.

The Joy of discovering what's really not working- and fixing it- a very rare one indeed!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Alexander McCall-Smith

Alexander McCall Smith: heard of him? He writes some really nice books. Its a meandering, journey- more- important- than- the- main- theme type of read(people who want tight scripts avoid), but has real characters who connect with you.

Why do I think his books are a very nice "small joy"? Its because he writes so lovingly about the place that he cherishes- Edinburgh, Scotland. You can feel his enthusiasm for the place. It's as if he knows every nook and cranny, and in your mind's eye, you see Edinburgh. You smell the rain, you see the hills, and you salivate over the food descriptions.And you fall in love with the city yourself. I certainly did.

Of course, it is a romanticised view, and I'm sure in reality Edinburgh has its warts, but just hold on a second. I think its more likely that I will look out for whatever he has seen when I do see Edinburgh.

And to tell you the truth, I'm sure the place that I love the most- Pune- has its warts too. Its just that I dont see them too many of them when I have rose tinted my view already.

Cheers to rose tinted views of other places. In the safety of my own home!

Rock On, Farhan

Cheers for Farhan Akhtar. Cheers for getting out of his own comfort zone and allowing himself to be made a fool of. After all, which acclaimed director would take the risk for his reputation to be smudged just so that he can pursue a dream project?

And in doing so, he gives us a beautiful small joy. For the uninitiated, I’m talking about the film “Rock On”; a real, genuine film that celebrates the journey (and not just the pursuit) of what truly matters to you. The film made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me connect to my own self with all its frailties. It talked of compromise, and it talked of deep love. A love that supports and nourishes.

It’s wonderful to see a film that truly connects to your soul, without being burdensome. I’d call this film to be in that category. And while of course all films would have their critics, I feel that we should celebrate as well, when something does touch you. And this film does. It leaves you thinking, but also with a smile on your face.

I won’t waste any more words- go and see the film that has made it as my small joy for the weekend.

Rush Of Blood

I tried a funny thing today. I was in a state of affairs where I was waiting for something to happen- someone to come for a meeting, some mail to be received not received yet, some unexplained delay that was making me wait. I was alone and just about to get bored. Either that or anxious. That seems to be the favorite time pass for my mind. But instead of doing what I normally would do, I just flooded my body with attention.

And I mean really flood. I’d read it in “The power of Now”, but I experienced this consciously today. And let me tell you a little secret- I found out that even if I don’t need to chant anything, sit cross legged or in a sleeping position, blah blah blah, it helped me. I can do this anywhere, anytime. Perhaps it will helped that I was alone when I did this, but I’m not entirely sure of this.

It helped me because it made me feel lighter and more alive. I noticed how my heart pumps out blood. Strong, systematic and certain. How my heart has a rhythm that connects to what I think. How an intense emotion makes its way through my blood and infects every cell that I own. In both positive and negative ways. It was almost like getting real time feedback on what my body thought my mind was upto.

Will this cure cancer? Thats baloney. Will this make me more alive? Definately. As Charles Chaplin once said- "I hate the sight of blood, but it's in my veins".. so let me atleast be friendly with my body!

The idea is to be in a state of giving to my body what it needs the most from me- attention- and be curious enough to see the results of the attention that I am paying.

What I found was very interesting and funny. I found out that I actually didn’t like it when what I was waiting for actually happened- I was so busy enjoying this rush of blood.. I hope you have the same experience. And if you do, please drop me a note on what exactly happened. I'd love to know what your experience was.


Don’t you just love it when you really, really, need some help and a friend just comes in from nowhere and bails you out? No? Awww… everyone should have that experience once. Of course it’s not all fun. Actually, It has to start off quite badly for you. You need to be in a real jam of sorts. You know, the kind of jam that makes you sweat and wonder if you are going to lose something real big. Like you job. Your pride. Your reputation.

And then it happens. Someone, somewhere – a friend sent from heaven – comes in and cleans up for you. He/ She does it so effortlessly that you don’t even realize what has happened. Till of course, you go “whew. Saved” and feel an outpouring of love and gratitude… till the next time!

You know, kind of makes me wonder. Especially when we get help from friends whom we may cherish but don’t really expect to have helped us. And the really strange part is- you almost never get the kind of help you want from people who you expect help from. Why does this happen? Does the universe work this way to guide us about what real friendship is all about? Does the person who helps feel liberated himself in the same way? Or is it just one of those unexplained things? Whichever way, I am NOT complaining.

To that friend, Thank You!

Birthday Bump

It’s my birthday today. I am thirty six years old. And before you start feeling sorry for me, consider this:

The sun shone brighter today. The birds sounded just a little bit better. Even the grouch at office managed a smirk instead of a frown. I suddenly felt a lot better. Younger, too- and I’m not kidding myself. I felt younger because I remembered how I used to feel when birthdays had some meaning and felt magical.

And I’m so glad this finally happened. You see, I had lost that magical feeling that accompanies birthdays for quite a few years now. The same “all’s right with the world” type of feeling you have and the feeling of being special when you are a child. So I got my mojo back, and boy does it feel great! I just feel lighter and brighter, if you know what I mean. In fact, unless you are really unlucky, you know exactly what I mean- everyone has had that feeling and that day that I am talking about.

Then I started thinking about it more. Why can’t we have the same special feeling every day? Surely we are all old enough and mature enough to notice the good things in life and about ourselves every single day. But I stopped this over-thinking in time. Why did I stop?
Because while it’s good to have the ability to feel cherished and special on an ordinary day for no reason at all, there are some small joys like feelin’ like what I’m feelin’ on a birthday.

Let’s just call it a” birthday bump” that someone has created for me to make me realize , from time to time, to be selfish without guilt and have the whole world play along indulging you a bit. So I'd say: wherever you are, whoever you are, celebrate your own birthday like a preteen, and without guilt!