Oct 24, 2012

Sum total of being myself


“No man's life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and to try to find one's way to the heart of the man”.

These opening lines from the Oscar winning movie Gandhi sum up my feelings as I put pen to paper and try to share my experiences so far. As part of a motley group of MBA recruits who converged into Infosys Mysore campus on May 7th 2007 I have savored all aspects of this journey so far.
At times, I have often doubted the roaring pace at which life was unfolding. I have been asking too many questions, more often to myself--- starting from philosophical/elevated questions like-
  • What it is that I want from life? 
  • What if I don’t realize anything out of it?
  • What if I am after the wrong goals? 
  • Wasn’t life all about the journey and not about a sense of arrival?

… to more serious questions like- 
  • How does one get ON THE SPOT AWARDs in Infosys?

I wish I had a few clever lines to say about my experience so far in Infosys. Wish I had my own Ten Commandments or 7 Habits to share. This will make me look right and wise alright. But then I’m not too good at this, never was. Yet, I will try to pen down my thoughts; what-ever inferences you want to make out of it would be the takeaway, the sum total of my being.

They say that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can change the course of history. It can choose to nibble on nectar, or can unleash a storm by just flapping its wings. Life has always been defined by the choices that we make- some makes us stronger, some turn out to be very anti-climactic and some remain banal yet vital to a greater cause. One part seeks the wisdom- other part is swayed by the jazz and the show. Is there a go-between? The need to be part of a clan, to be the Collective Souls - is so ingrained in our social DNA that we have an invisible bond invariably preventing us from moving away from the herd. As they say, the nowhere man, the John Galts don’t exist for long… they fade away soon enough! I jumped, I tried to fly, and I stumbled while climbing ladders. Thankfully, somewhere along the way I realized that I was actually a fish and I was born to swim rather than jump ladders.

Cognitive dissonance has played a great role in the choices that I have made. More often than not it has been a gut feel, a call based more on intuition rather than cold facts. From playing the bumbling Bertie Wooster to the wise Jeeves, I have burnt my fingers as well as mid-night candles trying to find my space and prove my worth. Sometimes things work out better than expected and it feels nice to know that there are people out there who appreciate your hard work even though it might just be a part of your Job description. When you feel wel-comed and valued, the long hours and stretch don’t feel like a job. You walk the extra mile. Period.

And to set the record straight I have worked as a product consultant, handled requirement workshops, ran after clients for sign offs, created and executed testing, worked for the client as their Production Manager and so on. Each one of these have made me what I’m today- the bad experiences have made me stronger while the good experiences have made me to dream bigger.
There is no mantra that can guarantee endless success. There are no exalted sermons that I can give which you don’t know already. More often than not it’s a result of many small things done the right way which lead to enduring success. Here are a few things that I have tried to follow in my own idiosyncratic way over the course of my Infosys journey-
  • Knowledge Sharing
  • Extend. Explore. Excel
  • Learn on the job; learn something new
  •  Network with peer group and team members
  • Learn from the experts
  • Enjoy what you are doing

Knowing that I’m here for the long run, and belonging to a part of India where being laid back is just a way of life- I am not too swayed to join the rat race and bandwagon. Over these years, I have grown and have learnt a lot- from my peers, from a job well done and also from the challenges. From working with clients in freezing Norway to the corporate HQ of the world’s largest CPG company, to working on innovative product/solution ideas in the vibrant retail, CPG space - it has been an interesting journey. Given a chance, I would perhaps keep the story so far as it is--- with just a few commas and dots interweaved in the story.

I don’t have a one-stop-fix-it-all mantra to succeed in my job. The closest continuous improvement philosophy that I try to imbibe would be Kaizen which amongst other things means "change for the better". We all make mistakes; I perhaps make them more than others. I have to try extra hard to keep pace with the others. But the name of the game is to keep on trying.

I hope I have made my point without saying much! I would like to sign off with these immortal lines from ‘IF’ by R Kipling-

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same

Jun 1, 2012

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!


Is big-box electronics retailing a thing of the past? - This question gets me all wired up as I see the electronics brick and mortar stores struggle to maintain their grip on the consumers pulse as well as their bottom-line numbers.

As we move further into 2012, we can see that the pressure from the online-only retailers on specialty brick and mortar electronics retailers have increased considerably over the years. Do they press the alarm bells yet? Well, the analysts and investors already have. The farsightedness and the tenacity to look into the future, asking some hard questions and doing course correction is a virtue most of the retailers could use at this juncture. There has not been a greater threat to their existence than Amazon-the 800 pound gorilla in the room, which is breaking down all previously held sacrosanct tenets of retailing and every electronics retailers are running helter-skelter not really knowing how to fight it. 

The online retail boom has, in a way, revolutionized the industry as well as the buying behavior of people. The game, rules and the playing field have changed. If current trends are to be extrapolated, the time is not far when the existing big box electronics stores would struggle to stay profitable and ultimately would serve no other purpose other than being glorified showrooms for online retailers. One thing that hits you, as you enter any retail store, especially the big box electronics retailer is that they have decent footfalls but the conversion rates have consistently been on the southern side. The root cause lies in the heady mix of higher prices, online deals, and customers coming to check-out the products and compare prices in their mobile apps and then buying it from the vendor offering the best deals. If we add together the Inventory carrying cost, Opportunity cost of capital as well as the margin pressures, there is no logical way they can sell their products at a lower price than online-only retailers. This might look like doomsday prophecy but we cannot ignore the tectonic shifts happening in this industry where online shopping is becoming big, real big. It has attained critical mass which is leading to a new and irreversible development in the retail space and is increasingly bringing consumers from the traditional retailers into its fold. 

So how does the Best Buys, Staples, Fry’s, Radioshacks and HH Greggs of the world fight back? – Do they sit back and look hapless at the rate at which software and virtual stores are eating away a quintessentially traditional business? Do they even realize that the Tipping Point has been reached and in the aftermath they have to find a strong raison d' etre to remain in business? Study of Consumer behavior tries to explain the when, why, how, where people buy or do not buy a product and the entire decision making process. It is as much a psychological decision as an economic one. Price will, ceteris paribus, be the most dominant of the marketing metrics in the post-apocalyptic scenario (for big box retailers at-least!) where online retailers will call the shots. How are they going to fight with the likes of Amazon, other e-commerce sites, daily deal and auction sites as well as the physical discount retailers like Wal-Mart and Target eating into their market share? Too many questions, answers… not many! 

If specialty retailers like Best Buy, Radioshack continues to focus on their brick and mortar stores and don’t go all out on their online business that would be the utmost dis-service they can do to themselves. The one most important metric of any brick-and-mortar retail business is Sales per Square Foot and after the economic downturn this is not going up anytime soon. Simplistically put, there are no USPs of note which can shoot up sales; no amount of customer service, pick up at store, experience centers can make a customer to pay higher dollars for the same product which is available online at a lesser price, coupled with good customer service and faster delivery. The number of substitute products also means that one cannot charge a premium for a product which is also available online at a reasonable price. Best Buy, once the blue-eyed boy amongst the American specialty retailer of consumer electronics, accounting for 19% share faces the same uncertain future as many of its competitors. If it cannot bring the customers to their doorsteps it should make its product available where the customers are heading i.e. online. When it comes to online sales, Best Buy remains a laggard, which will continue to be so as long as they don’t address the central issue of Pricing vis-à-vis the competition. 

Remember the times when buying a camera meant visiting the electronics store and buying one after a few minutes of deliberation and consultation. Nowadays, it is a far more complex process- as consumer electronic sales begin with comparison shopping/browsing on the internet, extensive product research, visiting physical stores to check out the product, do an in-store price comparison using smartphones and then buying it from the vendor (both online/offline) which offers the best deal. The growth of m-commerce due to greater smartphone usage and the fact that consumer electronic sales start on the internet and more often than not end on the internet provides a sliver of opportunity for these traditional retailers to join the online bandwagon with a newer zeal. According to a Branding Brand study, in 2014, 26.4 billion in sales, or 53.2%, will stem from smart-phones. Moreover, more than 80% of shoppers access online product reviews before they buy electronics goods. All these points to the fact that sales of electronics goods, m-commerce and online sales share a close synergy. 

The winds of change have also shown up during Black Friday sales as well. Traditionally, this has been a day where major retailers open up their doors with promotional sales to kick off the shopping season but now people have increasingly warmed up to the idea of visiting online retail sites on Black Friday. Although not yet a huge number, yet all trends indicate that the fortress has been breached. Black Friday sales boast of $816 Million in U.S. Online holiday spending. This might look like small change as compared to the $11.4bn in sales reported by traditional retailers but they only grew 6.6% YoY as compared to the 26% Percent growth YoY witnessed by online sales. During 2011 traditional retailers did ramp up their online efforts to compete with the usual suspects like Amazon and other online retailers. 

The future of the big box electronics retailing doesn't lie in the big box anymore. As per the changing trends, their marketing mix should focus on the 2 Ps of Price and Place. Lower Price can happen if they cut costs and be more efficient, Place- Isn’t online the most frequented place by consumers for electronics goods? What will happen to their brick and mortar stores? Well, the emphasis should be on opening smaller concept stores to showcase big ticketed and popular items, complete with experience zones and carrying minimal inventory and facilitating instant/deferred delivery of items purchased at the store. They should let go of the big box stores (or at-least some if it) and adopt a lean(er) strategy and then pass on the cost savings to the customers in the form of price reduction and focus more on engaging with the online customers. Sounds too simple, ain’t it? 

Will they still be able to out-fight and out-box Amazon’s clout? Well, let that be a story for another day!

Apr 27, 2012

Deal or No Deal?


I saw this Groupon kiosk at Navy Pier, Chicago. Catering mostly to the 'touristy' crowd I presume, who could explore and buy location/time specific deals.

What got me thinking was that it serves two very important stimulus to buy-
  • Instant Gratification- providing buyers what they want right 'now'; not later and not making them to wait. 
  • Deals, Discounts!! 
Will it be a success? I'm not quite sure... I just browsed the kiosk to see if the interface worked properly! :-)

But the realist in me find it quite hard to believe in the business model of a daily deal site (like Groupon). Afterall, the business of business remains the same i.e. to make money. As long as it doesn't lead to customer retention where is the return on the investments made in the form of deep discounts? Without any stable customer relationship there cannot be any Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) to start with, isn't it? 
All I can see is a bunch of 'deal hunters' moving from one deal to another. Neither Groupon is winning nor the advertisers.

Mar 30, 2012

Day-Accomplished: Folder of Dreams

Day-Accomplished: Folder of Dreams: There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.  ~Nelson Mandela...

Nice post by Asmita!

Mar 23, 2012

Agent Vinod- The original movie :)


Synopsis:
The kidnapping of a prominent scientist, Ajay Saxena (Nazir Hussain) prompts the Chief of Secret Services (K.N. Singh) to assign flamboyant Agent Vinod (Mahendra Sandhu) to this case. While on this assignment, Vinod meets with Anju Saxena (Asha Sachdev). Together they confront the abductors of her dad, Madanlal (Iftekhar), with the help of Chandu alias James Bond (Jagdeep) and his gypsy girlfriend (Jayshree T.)

Amazon.com deals


Just enrolled for an Amazon Prime membership which gives the following benefits-

1. Free Two-day Shipping
2. Instant Streaming of movies/TV shows
3. Instant access to '000s of Kindle Books

While still under the no-obligation period I tested it out by ordering some car accessories for my Honda Accord. The package arrived in 1 day flat! Can there be anything closer to that? Awesome is the word!! :)

Being regular shoppers in Amazon, I try to look at various coupon sites to get the best deals. Some of the websites that I trust are-
These sites aggregate all the deals the net has to offer and frankly speaking it saves me time, money and gives me the information that I need without any gimmicks.
With revenues topping $48 billion in 2011, and constant innovation to stay top of the competition curve it seems  Amazon will continue to remain as World's Biggest Online Marketplace!

Mar 15, 2012

Intelligent Analytics- Beyond the form factor

As someone who works on Business reporting along with the whole continuum of metrics and reports catering to multiple business functions, we are not immune to the paradigm shift happening in the BI and Analytics space. A shift brought about by two fairly recent developments- the phenomenal growth of iPads and tablet PCs usage over the last couple of years and the renewed business emphasis on making quicker business decisions- based on seamless data discovery in a convenient, easy-to-use format. Mobility and convergence are the key themes; the advent of tablets and iPads are incidental yet vital to its cause.


Video: Apple iPad TV ad

Read more at- Link

Feb 23, 2012

Luxury retailing in India- it's haute!


"Do you wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing."
--this iconic line by a certain teenager named Brooke Shields catapulted her into instant fame and, in a way underlined the influence of brands in defining our social fabric.

DLF Emporio Mall, New Delhi
A gentle breeze swept across my face as I entered the DLF Emporio Mall in New Delhi. For one moment it felt like I was in another world- someplace like Milan's Via Monte Napoleone, London's Bond Street, or the venerable Fifth Avenue in New York... a smorgasbord of everything fashionable and haute! Emporio is India's answer to other International fashion capitals-- concierge service, 5-star ambience, presence of revered brands like Dior, Gucci, Armani and Louis Vuitton and a shopping experience that is purely world class. Having said that, Emporio Mall is targeting only the creamy layer of people in the Wealth pyramid, but it serves as a shining example of the good things happening with Indian Luxury retailing at present.
Every brand has a story to tell... and the aura of exclusivity coupled with high income elasticity of demand takes care of the economics for premium goods. Gone are the days when the typical well-heeled Indian had to travel overseas to buy their favorite designer labels or ask their non-resident friends to grab the stuffs from Duty-Free stores. Almost all major Indian metros are now warming up to premium and ultra premium retail experience although retail space still remains a prime concern. Due to prohibitive real estate prices, many of the premium labels are increasingly looking at operating from luxury malls than from 5-star hotels.

Key Challenges:
  • Lack of dedicated retail Space; fashion high street
  • Expensive real estate; which significantly hits the bottom-line
  • Increasing the client base; target the high income population
  • Improve service offering
  • Establishing 'Luxury' as a need among Indian customers
  • Focus on affordable luxury for Indian customers
Read the full article at:

Feb 18, 2012

FDI in Indian Retail- Lost in translation!

Victor Hugo once famously wrote- ‘One cannot resist an idea whose time has come’. 
FDI in retail in India would have been one such idea. As India is eager to make the transition into a developed nation with a robust economy and infrastructure to sustain the growth, opening up the markets in the retail sector would have been the next logical step. But then history has its way of scripting a twist in the tale.

India as a concept of nationhood is quite paradoxical- we have some of the poorest people in the world surviving on zilch and some of the richest people in the world who feature prominently in the FORBES billionaire’s list. Just like we cannot translate western ethos into an Indian setting and hope that it will work every other time, similarly we cannot afford the type of Western influenced Pareto efficiencies in India where the competitive forces will work their way to some sort of efficiency equilibrium without intervention or supervision or guidance. For a nation of billion people what we really need is an all-inclusive equitable growth keeping in mind the needs of the bottom-of-the-pyramid socio-economic groups amongst others; this is not a matter of choice or convenience or dogmatic one-upmanship but a matter of polity based on our socialist moorings.

TIME magazine named 'The Protester' as the Person of the Year for 2011. India also had its share of protests with the common people getting together to voice their anguish and resentments. Some of those protests were bonafide, some were ill-timed and some were utterly uncalled for. The protest against FDI in retail by a vested section of the population was one such rare aberration. There has been a deluge of arguments and counterarguments from all the estates of the realm; everybody worth their value in salt is debating the introduction of FDI in the retail sector in India. If we were to believe the top brass of India Inc. then 51% FDI in multi-brand retail sector was meant to be a boon and would have provided maximum benefits to the farmers and the consumers (the set of people whose welfare should be of paramount importance). Alas! For now, we will continue to see pesticides being used by the farmers for all the wrong reasons going by the statistics in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and a host of other states!!

The Indian retail market, which is pegged at $450billion, figures prominently in the boardroom discussions of all major retailers and CPG manufacturers. The burgeoning middle class population and increase in disposable income has made India a strategically important and a lucrative market for the foreign retailers to join in. Moreover, it is still a monumental challenge to address the supply chain dynamics in the agriculture/aquaculture sector in India. Some of the pain-points are-
  • Under-developed infrastructure
  • Over dependence on weather Gods
  • Numerous intermediaries without much value addition
  • Colossal losses due to lack of storing facilities
According to conservative estimates, close to 30-40 percent of India’s fruits/vegetables perish before they reach the end-consumers because of insufficient cold-storage facilities and poor transport infrastructure. These losses in turn, are passed on to the consumers who end up paying more than they bargained for. The wheel that can set the whole efficiency thing into motion is healthy competition- domestic or int’l. Foreign retailers would have brought their proven and effective supply chain methods, efficient inventory control, economies of scale and backward integration to the Indian retail scene. The homegrown retailers would have scaled up their operations to match the competition or risk being marginalized. The retail pie would have increased and positively impacted the food inflation rate, created countless jobs and resulted in the expansion of the realty sector in India with the creation of shopping districts and malls.

Contrary to what the anti-FDI lobby wants us to believe, the small retailers have always thrived in all other geographies where they already have modern format retailers. They are irreplaceable for the kind of service, inventory, unique credit system (salaried people could buy throughout a month and pay during salary day at zero % interest), free home delivery, and most of all- convenience!! Nothing can beat the neighborhood kirana store for those quick shopping needs. Realistically speaking, the small sundry retailers will survive, but we will definitely see some traction in the fledgling Indian large retail chains. Either they will be up for grabs or will have to constantly innovate to stay in business. By conservative estimates modern format retail stores would require a catchment of at-least a million people to make their venture profitable. This leaves out 72% of India which lives in the rural areas and smaller towns and they would continue to shop from the neighborhood retail shops.

The policy makers, through means of legislations can ensure that the legitimate rights of the 175 million farmers for better prices doesn’t get lost in the chaos. These agricultural producers are waiting to get a better deal for their yield- a gap that the organized retailer can fulfill through means of technology and economies of scale. Hence, throwing the FDI baby along with the bath water of opportunistic, myopic policies isn’t something that is advisable. Vested lobby groups representing the ill-informed group of wholesalers, retailers, middle-men and the lack of a political might put us back by eons. FDI would have given real benefits to the Consumers and the farmers and would have removed the unproductive, money wasting bottle-necks. Consumers would have saved money while shopping; farmers’ would have got a better price for their produces, jobs would have been created in the retail sector, Government would have got back millions in taxes which are evaded by the sundry retailers. Can we ask for more?

I’m not entirely sold out on the idea of FDI as a cure-all remedy for all thing retail in India. They must be regulated, controlled in such a way that the SMEs are not marginalized by means of cheaper imports alone. Level playing field is what is required so that we give consumers the choice- to buy better, cheaper, quality products. Having said that, I don’t prophesize the Wal-Marts and TESCOs of the world coming to India and closing down the neighborhood kirana store, the hole in the wall Mom and Pops, the mithaiwallah, the standalone saree shop. I am pretty confident that they will improvise, innovate, provide better service and continue to thrive. The existing distribution system is archaic yet it provides life’s essentials to places where there are no roads, no means of travel. That is India- we always have a jugaad way of managing things.

Change is not always bad or for that matter good- and more often than not there will be resistance against change- maintaining the status quo is part of our Indian-ness and in a queer way defines us. We need to look at things from a neutral frame of reference- the greatest good for the greatest numbers most of the times. FDI in retail is not a zero sum game between the foreign retailers and the home grown retail/wholesale businesses; it was never meant to be that way. Obviously as with every change there will be a bit of collateral damage and we will all have to live with. Let us give consumers the choice- the flexibility to make their choice- with whom they want to do business with.

I have high hopes for India and surely it deserves better in the coming days.

Feb 17, 2012

Soap-makers of the world, unite!


Recently I have written a blog on SKU Optimization which I would like to share.

Henry Ford once famously quipped about the Model T car in 1909- Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black. As I hurriedly move around the aisle of the local Kroger Grocery store looking for a particular brand of I-forgot-what; I couldn't help but think that this was perhaps the best instance of SKU optimization ever done!

But this is 2011, and things have become a tad more complex ever since. CPG companies are looking to hold on to their market share- at the added cost of increasing their SKU portfolio; retailers are looking to streamline their aisles, lessening clutter and increasing their efficiency; and above all- customers are looking for simplicity in the choices they have once they enter the retail stores rather than the overwhelming assortment of confetti colored, similar looking products that craves for attention across the aisles.
Read more at-
http://www.infosysblogs.com/retail-cpg/2011/11/soap-makers_of_the_world_unite.html

Oct 14, 2010

 Rendezvous with Oslo
















Lively dew drops, brought to a standstill by frost...
hurried morning walks and the child-like fascination with cold breaths...
surreal yet real imageries...of a city unfolding bit by bit...
A city that whispers- about the land and its people...
A shadowy stranger, listening to those...
and then like some sudden wave of cold...
nothing was left to be said- but the stillness of frost!!

Jun 18, 2010

The Spirit of the traveler


Taj Mahal, Agra, India




















In the dusty lanes of Haridwar
Rumbling with the echoes of the Om
The smeared vermillion- ash and the karmic cycle of life and death
All these I see; I being the spirit of the traveler


In the sunshine land of Goa
The feni and the swaying palm leaves, blonde hippies and youthful rave
Dancing to the tune of Galiyan Saakli Sonachi
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


Hindustan ka Dil- or call it Lutyen’s Delhi
The stroke of the midnight hour, the unfurled tricolor in the Lal Qil'ah
The days of the Raj, of Firangi Paani and Paranthe wali galiyas
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


In the land of the Rajas; bounded by the Thar
Brave people long gone; but their legends still holding strong
The azure of Jodhpur, the balletic poise of the Ghoomar
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


In the land of the mighty Hoogly
The early morning daaks and the festivities of DurgaPujo
Enthralled by the Bauls and the ektaras; and the crescendo beat of Tagore’s ekla chalo re
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


In the misty fog of the Lake Umiam
Meghalaya- they call, the abode of the clouds
The Strummin’ of the guitar and the alluring Miss Monalisa Lingdo
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


The birthplace of our Father, Gujarat it is- On the western front
The salty desolateness of the Rann of Kutch, the holy Jyotirling of Somnath Temple
The Dhoklas and the Theplas and the youthful beats of the Garba
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


Aamchi Mumbai- the Sapno ki Nagri-Of Stardust and Greasepaint
The City that gives everything but takes some part of the soul in trade
The Taj of Apollo Bunder and the teeming millions of the Churchgate station
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


Kashmir- the jannat on Earth, bounded by the Himalayas
The boat ride on the Dal Lake, the coveted invite to the Wazwan feast
Of Rogan Josh, saffron flavored Kahwah and the comfort of the shawl Cashmere
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


Karnataka- Of boiled beans and the Sword of Tippo Sultan
The ruins of Hampi and the Vijayanagar Empire
The mridangam, tambura and the kanjira and the divine gāyaki of Carnatic music
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


Assam- The land of the Red River and Blue Hills
Of the Rhinos and the slopped beauty of the tea gardens
The enchanting spirit of Rongali Bihu, bringing distant hearts together
All these I see, I being the spirit of the traveler


I am- the spirit of the traveler
I wander, I search, I seek; I tread the path unknown- far and wide
Nameless; yet a chronicler of the living history
I am alive within all, I am- the spirit of the traveler- unbound!

Mar 22, 2009

Brahmaputra - Incredible River in Incredible India

A video that I made from pics that I took with my Nikon D40.
India's largest river Brahmaputra which flows through my native city Guwahati is the subject of my romance!! :-)


Mar 9, 2009

Sweet Dream Shillong









 
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Mysterious evenings
and the distant strumming of the guitar.
People huddled together over glowing embers
the freshness in the dew soaked air
filling up my heart's innards.
The tall snow covered pine trees
and Jesus looking intently from the church
Children in bright woolens
and young lovers and their sweet nothings.
The intoxicated nowhere man lying in the dark, wet street
Oblivious to the slow life around
And the Kongs with blood red lips chewing kwai
the taxis crammed with comrades
ferrying them to never never land.
The abode of the clouds it’s called
and its crowning glory being Shi-llong.
The long winding roads
and the breathtaking view from Shillong peak.
The sails of the leisurely boats
In the silent waters of the lake Umiam.
The Scottish cottages in its wooden antiquity  
Remnants of the bygone days.
The beautiful damsels in Police Bazaar
dressed up for life’s carnival
their laughter fills the air...
and many a young hearts flutter.
Lazy Sunday morning
Sunbeam piercing through the clouds
cheerful birds and their fanciful flights
in the blue blue sky.
Beatles and ABBA joining hands with Dylan
music wafting from the antique radio in the porch.
People dressed and queuing up
to sing paeans to the Lord.
Old gents in tartan coats
with their smoking pipes akin to Sherlock
wrinkled, wizened and the signs of a good, relaxed life
ol' world charm and heart full of memories to hold onto.
The young widow with two tiny tots
Deserted by the guy whose promises meant so much once.
Bitter sweet is life's song
the crescendo intertwined with the low tunes.
Shillong gives so much to you
but it takes back some part of you too
some part of your heart…  will forever belong
and roam around in the winding lanes of Shillong.
Shillong- mysterious, mesmerizing, enticing and a cloud capped dream.

-------------------------------

Kwai= betel nut in Khasi language
Kong=Sister (mostly used as a dignified salutation for any unacquainted lady)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My tribute to the beautiful hill-station called Shillong (Capital of Meghalaya) where I’ve spent some of the best years of my life. Have tried to narrate some of the most enduring images of Shillong that I still hold close to my heart...

Feb 5, 2009

Do you still remember?



Do you still remember?
Those sweet nothings that we shared
Sitting in the dew kissed evenings

The fragrance of the night jasmine
That enticed our minds to wander
Do you still remember?

A cerulean sky full of Hope…
And the spirit’s eternal shore…
Do you still remember? 




#Translated from a poem that I wrote in Assamese language.

Jan 8, 2009

A special journey called life

Another candle added
To the journey called life
Flickering in the winds
Reminding me of the years gone by
Memories of a lifetime—bitter and sweet
Ethereal and sometimes clinging to the heart
Trying to find some meaning
That was lost somewhere in mire
When the journey will end at the road’s bend
When Time will also lose its meaning…
Giving life a shy grin…
I’ll beat a slow retreat
Staying long but just enough
Bringing stray tears to someone perhaps
In some dusty photographs
Life’s unfulfilled promises will be met…
On the shore where spirits unite
It’s Faith that has kept me going on…
Coz one day I know it will triumph!


One birthday pic: Pizza Hut, Forum Mall, 7th January 2009

 



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Dec 23, 2008

My first horror movie!!

The Evil Dead, 1981
I was chatting with my friend online about some must-watch horror flicks and the usual suspects’ name came rolling… The Blair Witch Project, The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Rosemary’s baby etc etc. I recollected my first brush with cinematic horror… I was perhaps in Class 4-5 then… and we used to hire VCR player and cassettes during our summer vacations and such other times. The movie in question was The Evil Dead, which was highly ‘recommended’ by the movie rental person. We brought the movie along with 3-4 other movies from many genres like ‘action’, ‘adventure’, kids (Famous Five series). Even now my brothers make fun of me when they recollect that once I asked them to bring the Amitabh-in-aluminum movie named Ajooba (some Russian collaboration period drama)!! But the case in point is that we brought the Evil Dead VHS tape and started watching it around 830pm (late start to get the feel of horror more!!). In the movie… the hero, heroine and friends rents a secluded house which the previous owner has sold off at throwaway price… and from then onwards things got creepy… the death by numbers continued and in turn the dead friends turn into zombies and starts attacking the remaining ones… which started to give us goosebumps… 

The childhood bravado was the only thing that prevented me from going hyper although my big bro closed his ears at the slightest hint of zombie action… his philosophy was perhaps NO HEAR, NO FEAR!!

In the later part of the movie, something happened that could not be described merely in words. The movie was a Hindi dub and hence many of the dialogues were lost in translation. One of the female leads was killed and became a zombie and was locked inside a cellar by the guy… she manages to break open the lock and starts singing a song… “Haal kaisa haie janaab ka.. kya khayal haie aapka…” in all her bloody elegance!! It was a piece of cinematic brilliance (!) and we all started laughing out loud… it was so hilarious… and for a moment we forgot that we were watching a horror flick!! So much so for my first experience of a horror movie!

Dec 13, 2008

Romancing life!!

As I was going through some of my childhood pics I remembered one incident that took place perhaps 13-14 years back... It was a windy winter afternoon and most of the neighborhood kids were busy making kites for the late afternoon showdown in the vast barren paddy fields in the other side of the locality across the forest. Suddenly a crazy brainwave struck my younger self then... why not make the biggest kite among all of the peer group... what I lacked in skill in making kites was more than made up by reams of colored paper, thin bamboo sticks and dollops of glue made from rice and starch!! 

After various attempts at making a contraption that vaguely resembled an apology of a kite I finally succeeded and hold aloft my green colored kite that was atleast 1.5ft on all sides with a 1 meter long tail to add to the effect. I left it to dry in the Sun for sometime so that the glue sticks fast and then I could go to the battle ground where other warriors would display their stuffs and try hard to rule the skies with their confetti colored colorful kites.
Just then my cousin came home... he was a known semi-pro at kite flying and I offered him to have a first go at flying my kite. His eyes goggled out of the sockets when he saw the big kite... had it not been for the windy conditions it would have needed an engine to fly that heavy monster!!

After much coaxing and emotional blackmail he told that he will give it a shot. He told me to get the strings ready and then off we went with the green monster... after 10-15 mins across the forest and taking the short cut through the lake we entered the vast vast paddy fields where the yellowish cut stems of the harvested crops hinted at the imminent community feast and also that my birthday was not far off either!!

The wind almost pulled my woolen cap off as I ran backwards holding the kite as my cousin got ready to pull the strings (literally!!). The half-cut paddy stems made whitish scratch marks on my knees and below... but it was no way going to dampen my flying spirits. The cerulean sky was like a giant polka dot skirt... being dotted with tiny colorful kites of all hues and shapes and sizes and feverishly excited kids shouting and egging on their respective flight commanders. 

My cousin struggled initially to launch the kite but as the wind grew stronger it was propelled into the orbit with much further ado... but since the other kites were the usual variety being light and small they became increasingly difficult to control and maneuver and most of the players tried to pull down their kites to save them from being torn apart. But my 'green-eyed monster' with the long pinkish tail was gaining height and was the monarch of all it surveyed. My cousin was shouting that the kite was so un-worthy that only an insane gust of wind could have lifted it up... I gave a sheepish grin and admired my creation flying majestically!! Just then my cousin gave me an offer that I couldn't refuse... he handed me the strings and told me to control the kite for sometime. O God I was so happy... it felt like I was flying along with the kite... in the open open sky!!

Just like any Bollywood potboiler there was a twist in the tale... a monster appeared... with fangs of fury and violence in its mind... the eagle zeroed down on my kite and in a cruel twist of fate it cut the string and off went my kite in a random tangent... and then the entire world passed into a blurred existence as I dropped my the string-box and ran after the kite... as fast as my small legs would carry me. My cousin took a while to get a grip on what's was happening amidst the cries of the other kids who kept on shouting that the big kite was cut off by the big bad bird. I ran past the silent stream, the forest and entered into our lane and then across the street to the other locality... and at the same time keeping an eye on the 'lost' kite being swept away by unfriendly winds. I could vaguely make out that my cousin was also running behind me... his concern was entirely on recovering me from my madness and not the kite... bt nevertheless he was there. I crossed the busy road and then into the narrow lane that leads to another barren field that closely resembled the paddy field where we were flying our kites. I looked around but somehow I lost track of the kite and it was nowhere to be seen... still wondering what might have happened to my dear kite. Dejected and drenched in a cold sweat I turned back to return home and could see my cousin huffing and puffing and swearing at me at my madness. But I was oblivious to his admonishments and my eyes were just searching for any signs of the kite. As we turned back to take the long walk home we could hear a group of kids shouting lustily and when we went near we could see a large green kite hanging from one of the branches of the tall tree. It was still trying to fly... more of a symbolic gesture but how I wanted my kite back. My cousin told all the kids that it was my kite and the entire story... they reluctantly agreed to buy the story and my cousin climbed the tree and got back the kite... 'my' kite!!

That night I kept on looking back at the kite and then fell asleep smiling. That was the last time the 'gentle giant' ever flew in the skies but the memory lingers on. I was the 'kite runner' for a day and I got my kite back... even an ill mannered eagle couldn't take away from me what was mine… ‘my kite’!!

Dec 2, 2008

Something like Love

  
When I looked at you across the crowded room
And my eyes met yours
I coerced time to come to a stall
Baby at that moment... I lost myself!!

When under the moonlit night
Amidst the sea and the palm grooves
My fingers searched for and found yours
baby at that moment I found myself!!

Your princess tresses and sweet sweet smile
Ah! that heady feeling of your presence in my life
You mean everything to me, perhaps I mean something to you too
In that feeling baby let's lose ourselves for eternity!!

Nov 25, 2008

P.S I Love You






Words mayn’t be able to do justice to what I feel for you baby!!- Fonseca said

I mean I can say I LOVE YOU a thousand times but O good Lord how can I make you aware of that love even once.

Monica- Remember our dream darling? Many years down the line both of us will get old and gray… in the winters of our lives… still walking hand in hand… and the crimson Sun setting against the backdrop of the serene beach, not speaking a word yet having the most fulfilling discussions of our lives. When you are in love the whole universe shows us the signs… 


Yeah I do believe- Fonseca gave her a soft hug and they clutched their hands together… in such a manner that they fitted into the gap of their fingers perfectly. 

Remember our first flight together dear? Up above the sky… a trifle bit nearer to heaven we were… and after talking non-stop for a long time we just gazed at each other… eye to eye, heart to heart, soul to soul… as if time ceased to exist. Your eyes told me something very ethereal although it was incomprehensible to me at that moment.

When I reached home after that journey… in the stillness of the night, in my cozy room… I stared blankly at the darkness, listening to the queer sound that the autumn night brings alongwith it. I went back to those moments of our journey… the slow walk in Juhu beach, the heady feeling of your existence in my life, our dreams together et al. My thoughts stopped at the precise moment when we looked into each other’s eyes and everything else plunged into nothingness. What’s that feeling called, how can I describe the sensation? I couldn’t find an answer but then I thought… ‘Maybe she completes me’. And then I fell into a scrumptious slumber!!

Fonseca saw tears swelling in Monica’s eyes… he took out his kerchief and wiped her tears… and then they bought smiled, knowing in their hearts the true meaning of love… which cannot be fully described but can be felt between hearts!

‘I love you’—Fonseca whispered to Monica.
‘I love you too and you are perfect for me’—Monica’s lips quivered.

They came near to each other and in an instant spell of magic they became one with the universe in embrace.