Monday, December 28, 2009
one more birthday. one almost wedding.3 terrorists. one aniversary. moving homes. brother beginning junior college. two haircuts. a million bruises and scrapes. one new watch. two exams. 3 more inches of hair. one boyfriend. 3 married friends. 2 pregnant ones. photo in paper. the beginning of Indiahelps. my first 'own' saree. 3 injections, a million spasmobars. one friend lost forever. Learning. Yearning. Earning. one dance class. 9 months in the new home. wasted gym membership. one dent 0n car. a million hours of studying, another million applying. 8 new books. my first stocks. one painful wart treatment. one bad fight. one sorry.
2010 here I come. I hope its happy. For all of us.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Title derived from Shashi Tharoors - The Elephant, the tiger and the cellphone. (Currently reading)
I'm in an enamored phase - with my country. India. Call it the rub off effect of the two back to back books I just read - 'We are like that only' - Rama Bijapurkar and 'The elephant the tiger and the cellphone'. While the former turned out to be a light read given the industry I work in, the latter was a wonderful experience with its sophisticated language, insightful details and substantiated opinions. Shashi Tharoor is an intelligent man, one Ive grown to respect through the years.
Ive begun understanding Why we are like that only! from a few culturally rooted customs in India which our parents pass down to us. Surely we are a confusing lot, the really rich and the not so rich, the middle class and its upper and lower, the have some's and the have not's. But one things for certain -- India is represented in its plurality, its heterogeneity and the intertwining of cultures, religions, languages and the juxtaposition of classes. Tharoor says The Spanish speak Spanish, French speak French and Indians speak Marathi, Bengali, Gujarathi, Parsi, Sindhi and so on. So what defines brand India?
We know that the purpose of a brand remains the ability to spontaneously associate values, images and differentiators to a product offering. Say Life Insurance, and your likely to say LIC or say LIC and your likely to think trust, stability and security. Either way, your associating a brand with a category or vice versa. Unfortunately, think of brand India and we're likely to come up with myriad answers - foreigners are likely to conjure images of people squatting on public places, poverty drizzled all over the cityscape while Indians are likely to think of a more westernized answer - the IT/BPO rise of a new generation, Slumdog Millionaire etc.
India's getting richer -- but where is it going? We're certainly not investing in stocks or mutual funds. They're too risky a proposition for our conservative liking. The number of billionaires in India nearly doubled to 52 in 2009 and their combined net worth reached $276 billion, or a quarter of the country's GDP, the India Rich List published by Forbes magazine revealed. Not much of this money's going out of India though, most are settled within the country itself.
As we move into another year -- this one hopeful of a recovering economy, hesitant to exult much too early until results are backed up with a tremendous final quarter. Things do look good on the financial front though - the GDP forcecast exceeded expectations and stocks have slowly begun giving positive returns as well. Retail Investors had many opportunities of rallies and short term gains with a see-sawing index. A very senior person at a Broking firm I once presented to once told me "We guy get scared when the sensex plateaus - its when there are ups and downs that we're really geared up" Well, he sure had plenty opportunities this year.
I want to see reform in 2010. Delivery of promises. Burial of Ajmal Kasab. Burning to death actually. I want to see the end of the Trial and want my city to finally have its peace.
I want my country not to back down at Copenhagen in the future -- maintain its resolve on issues that are important. I want India to rise to the questions that surround its very existence - the success or failure of democracy, the globalization of its civilization and the threats to Indians from within India itself. I want this bird of gold*, to take flight.
(*bird of gold - name borrowed from Mc. Kinsey Global Institute report 2008)
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
I just got back from Pune recently. Had gone to take a test to prove my proficiency in English. Could I not have sent them my blog link I wondered? But then that’s as good as wanting to send a link to your facebook profile to demonstrate personality facets. Come to think of it, it does seem rather efficient to do no?
Pune gave me what Mumbai hasn’t in many years... A cold winter morning. To think that I was dropped to the station in the biting cold in a two wheeler that only served to intensify the chattering of teeth, is strangely a delicious thought. It was great fun. Of course, being a typical low immunity Mumbaikar I was wrapped in ONLY about 4 layers of clothes and socks. The plurality of weather in the same day – the chilly wind meets mid afternoon sun makes one want to dance between shadows and sun. And this is only Pune, a few hundred kilometres from Mumbai. I remember my Delhi stint as a child – thats where the real winters are.
I have relatives in Pune, the closest to Mumbai. My folks are not from this city, and we moved here on dads posting and have been here ever since. Relatives interaction was restricted to vacations and there has little or no influence of extended family in my life. No societal pressure, no obligations whatsoever. Its strange then, that I envy friends who envy me. Friends who have large circles of family scattered around them in the city they live, often in the same buildings. Friends whose families all gather on occasions for gregarious parties, whose cousins are roughly the same age and who keep each other’s secrets, whose extended families are a wonderful, secure safety net, whose presence is redolent of a nourishing growing up and a symbiotic life.
Sometimes I don’t envy my privacy, the distance from family you meet once in 2-3 years, the family who doesn’t know your life and your formative years. I find myself in an extremely difficult conundrum – my parents, and therefore me have extremely modest backgrounds, as do most children of the post liberalization era. My life and identity with my extended family I feel, is another side of me, a mask I don when I’m around them. From not going out partying to when my granny’s visiting to not being vocal about how much time I exactly spend outside my house, how much money Id spend on apparel or a cocktail I like (or that I like cocktails, for that matter)its all a careful composition of the Serendipity that they’d expect from a branch of the family tree. Not to sound as though I have a very flashy lifestyle or that Im a social butterfly with her daily dose of cosmo’s, but I am a Mumbai girl after all – who likes her coffee shops, shoes, clothes, bags and shades. I almost fear that If I were to completely be me in my natural avatar, they wouldn’t associate with the external me. The congruence in core values among us, however is never an act or an enhancement, the fruit never falls far from the tree after all.
A lot of people my age in today’s day and age have grown up in an India of the free economy and are the post liberalisation generation (well almost, Im not THAT old), we have a multitude of opportunities for education, career, we have brands spoiling us silly, companies paying us more at a younger age, we’re not afraid of consumption – in fact we live by it. In short, we’ve not seen the frugal, thrifty side of India. The one our parents grew up in. The one my parents and relatives still live in. Luckily my parents have found a wonderful middle ground of modernity and traditionalism and embraced and imbibed it into our lives. They grew out of their small town roots and suffused all restricting thoughts and beliefs and have grown to be parents of the new India, striking a harmonious balance between luxuries accorded to us and other do’s and dont’s.
A major metro and small(er) town upbringing also plays its part in augmenting in dissimilar backdrops and hence differing attitudes. Again, not to say that I have differences with my EF, we get along just fine, its the feeling of not being as integrated into one another’s lives that I refer to here.
When we were planning my wedding a thought of how my metro crowd and my relatives would gel together would keep cropping up. A distinct difference between can be noticed even by the most ignorant of people – the affluence of the metro-folk and the modesty of the smaller-town folk. How the confluence of the two would play out at my wedding would play on my mind. Both would, in their right would enjoy the wedding I know, but how would cousins who’re used to speaking the native tongue most often gel with my friends with their articulate English? Minor inconsistencies and major ranting, I realize. But what’s on my mind is on my mind right?