Takeaways from "Temple Run": Tips for new-age parenting

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I watch at the iPad screen as my 4-yr old points me to a score of 137,298. He cannot read yet, but knows it’s a big number judging by the long sequence of digits. This is his personal new-high in Temple Run – the mobile video game where you as a treasure hunter, have to outrun demon monkeys, deadly traps, and other obstacles, while collecting gold coins on the way. 
Running is all that matters!
The score has intrigued me. Especially since that kind of number never ever flashed up during my casual-yet-competitive video-gaming endeavors to-date. I decide to watch him. I want to know how he does it.
But the next few tries does not prove to be that lucky for him. He has not hit the 100K mark. Though the mom in me is happy, the spectator in me is losing interest. I walk away thinking this would be the end of his playing session. But five minutes later, he’s back with a happy squeal. “Great. How did you do it?” me, trying to show enthusiasm. “If you keep trying, you can reach bigger score also”. 
“Ah, keep trying, is it?!”  
So I challenge him to beat his last score. I notice this time around he doesn’t bother to pick up the gold coins on his left or right. I’m naturally curious. “If you move to the side, the monkeys attack you, Mumma!”  <Note to self:  He does understand the concept of “watch and learn”, just refrains from applying it when I’m teaching him alphabet tracing.>
In fact, I get inkling that he’s learnt his first lesson in risk-taking. Evaluate your options. You need to forgo gold coins at times, especially when they come at a higher cost.
But I can’t help myself prompting him whenever I see a long sequence of gold coins, just waiting to be picked up. “You win by running, Mumma” he tells me, with an almost exasperated expression. Hmm…so you mean gold coins are not that important after all? Well, Did he just preach me the essence of life, a la Dalai Lama style, in his game lingo? Profound!
Now I’m not a big proponent of video games or anything (And trust me, Temple Run is not paying me any commission either), but I find myself reflecting on this experience, and realizing, Didn’t he just learn about not giving up, taking calculated risks, and focusing on what’s truly important? I wonder if it would have been possible to teach him all this, if it had not been for the stimulating environment of the video game.
More importantly, what chance do my sermonizing nags have against these entertaining mediums he’s learning from!
So here’s my tip #1 for all the new-age parents: Teaching cannot be banal anymore. Either be entertaining, or be forgotten. I say, start looking for animation and speech modulation workshops, if you remotely aspire to impart any of your life learning to your children.
Consequently, new-age parenting tip # 2 is: Make peace with the fact that your children are learning some good positive things from their environment and the resources at their disposal, however eerie they may seem to you.  (And if you cannot figure out what these good positive things are, you’re not thinking hard enough!)
By the way, energized by his valor, I decided to try my hand at Temple Running.I gave up after 12,455. I guess it requires focus and commitment. Wish I’d learnt that from him!
Here’s my last tip on new-age parenting:  Ask not what you’ve taught your children. Ask instead what have you learnt from your children!

My French (Hair) Affair

“Need an appointment for a haircut,” said I. “With whom? M’am,” bounced back the alluring voice. “Well, Who do you have available?” “You are in luck today, M’am. Our French Hairstyle Director, Laurent is available, if you can make it at noon.”

Hmm…a French Stylist! 
Just like a French kiss, the thought of a French hairstyle conjured up images of passion, style, romance and…Eiffel tower (There goes my Indian stereotyping self. Anything French = Eiffel tower!). But then came the fear of the unknown. No doubt, the risk (of going with a new hairstylist) was significant.  I’m past that age where a hair style could be treated as a fleeting crush. Well, it is a serious affair! A hair style is a matter of personal identity or crisis (if it goes wrong. i.e.).  Now it may be hard for men to understand this mental turmoil. So let me put it this way: For a woman, her hair style is as grave a matter as a man deciding what company to work for. 
 Also, it would mean breaking the loyalty with my old hair stylist, the chummy, effervescent, and always reliable, Ansar.  What had he done to deserve this?  Finally, an epiphany to break out of the nested loop (You knew I was a software engineer, right?!). A timely recollection of the lecture I had received on risk-taking from my husband the other day. And I thought, What is life without a little risk? For what its worth, my husband would be proud that I started somewhere. And with a name like Laurent, chances are that he could be related to the YSL fashion family.  
So mustering up all the courage, I retorted back with a meek okay to the receptionist.
An hour later, I’m in the salon trying to look for a gora face in the huddle of the posh but popular salon. What is it about the fair skin, and the extra credibility it gets entitled to! But instead, I got escorted by an oriental-looking female. Could it be that she’s Laurent? You never know in France. She could be an immigrant with an adopted unisex name.  Luckily she was just the hair-washer! 
Finally, my eyes lay sight on him, as I get seated in my hair-cutting chair.  A meticulous dressing style with a matching demeanor! Every bit like the French man I had imagined him to be. Enough to get me all excited about the possibilities of a French transformation. But my heart skipped a beat when I saw his client. A model-like woman to whom he was giving an uber-cropped-cut…a la Madhu Sapre style. What if he proved to be too haute couturish for me?!
With hope in my heart and Hanuman Chalisa on my lips, I waited for him to turn to me. He just looked at me. Felt my hair. “I don’t need a very short cut. You see, my hair is very limp. A short cut won’t look good. All I need is layers, just to add volume. You see!” I burst out like an accused defending herself in court. But I got no indication or acknowledgement out of him. All he did was, take out his scissors, pulled my hair and started chopping them at a 45-degree angle. Could it be the mark of a true craftsman? Maybe. Or maybe he does not understand English! I didn’t know whether to feel lucky or doomed.  Then for the next 20 minutes, he looked very much like a man on a mission; cutting my hair at every possible angle.  He was at it with same dexterity and commitment, as a French composer orchestrating his first ballet performance.  For a while, it was just the snipping of his scissors and the uncomfortable silence between us. 
I decided to break the ice. “So where are you from?” “From Paris,” he said. Hmm, that Eiffel Tower association was not too far off.  “So what brings you to India?” me trying hard to engage him. “My wife. She’s from India. She’s studied here and wants to live here.” Oh good, feeling happy that I hit his talking button. “What does she do?” “Oh, she’s an engineer but has her own company now.”  Ah an Engineer, you say? Pouncing on the chance I’ve been waiting for. “I’m an engineer too,” I said, with the hope that he’ll take the cue. He should know that as an engineer I’d have a certain geeky reputation to protect. That a hanky-panky hairstyle just won’t work. And that his conventional wisdom should be overruling any creative liberties he’s been taking. But to my surprise, he retorted with, “Blow dry, please!”. What? Are we done here? I thought bemusedly, but dare not say it. Even after a good shuffle and a puff, I was not seeing it. What kind of a hairstyle was this? It felt like an un-hairstyle to me. I was about to get up, when he said, “I want to see how your hair looks before I cut.”  Are you kidding me?! What was the last 20 minutes all about?  But what option did I really have? Go underground with my current hairdo or succumb to this man’s wishes.  
And for the next 20 minutes, his scissors seemed more daunting than a surgeon’s knife. My heart sank with every snip, rose back up at each swizzle. I got the impression that my hair was posing a challenge that was bringing out the fighting spirit in him.
And finally, the golden words, “There you are, pretty lady!”
I grudgingly turned up to see my own reflection. Hmm, my hair was certainly shorter than what I wanted it to be, but it did look cute in a non-conventional yet conventional sort of a way.  I could learn to live with it. In fact, even flaunt it without being flamboyant.
All and all, a surprise happy ending to an emotionally-charged roller-coaster of an affair!
For the next time though, I’d go for a French manicure before I think of a French coiffure. Nothing against Laurent, but I don’t think I have the stomach for so many butterflies!
ps. A smart risk is a dumb risk with a lot of thinking!

Amit Somani – 40 years of ideas and advices

What does a man leave behind? A pertinent question that creeps up, esp. around milestone birthdays.
As echoed in one of Amit’s favorite songs, “Ek din bik jayenge mati ke mol, jag me rah jayenge pyaar tere bol” , I believe his legacy are his thoughts and words, translated into ideas and advices.
The man needs no inspiration  His ability to create viable business ideas out of any little conversation, piece of information, observation, is unparalleled.  There have been many recipients of his ideas over the years. But most of what I reflect here are an outcome of our daily bathroom ritual.  i.e. Me standing outside his bathroom door, listening, while he is showering away his ideas.
His days in the Silcon Valley, esp. during the advent of the internet boom spurred many ideas. Some of the early ones I recollect are:
Global Buying, Local Delivery: Every year we used to be challenged when it came to sending gifts to our parents in India around their birthdays. So he thought why not use the internet to allow folks like us to purchase gifts globally but have them delivered locally to their home cities. There were lot of variants of this idea, over cups of tea with our friends, Kaushal and Krishna. But sure enough, while we talked, there were others who started successful sites with the same concept.
Local Buying, Global Delivery: So he came up with a reverse idea. He told me, that there are lot of folks living outside of India, who miss those bhakarwadis from Pune, sandesh from Kolkutta or Kurtis from FabIndia. How about sourcing these items from local  markets and figuring out a global delivery mechanism?  A survey followed around the most popular regional items people miss. But of course, the logistics marred this one.
Way before the shaadi.com and the “Band Baja Baraat ” era, Amit had come up with the idea of a complete wedding portal (from online match-making to planning to execution). He wanted his mom to run it, given her expertise and knack in that area.
The mobile and the social networking era, along with the move to India, brought its own share of ideas. The furore in his voice, the twinkle in his eyes and you know there’s another one coming at you soon. A born problem-solver. Though I think most of his ideas are due to his ability to co-relate trends, technology, and human behavior. 
A Daydreaming Amit
  • A search engine optimized for SMS searching.
  • A mobile-app discovery tool to search for applications based on relevance and popularity.
  • A methodology to gauge effectiveness of ad campaigns using social networking tactics.
  • A career guidance program for Indian schools aided by online assessments/aptitude testing.
  • A college discovery portal to help Indian students select the right college based on specific criteria.
  • A blog/service to curate experiences (basically allow folks to share their unique experiences about a city, its public transport, things to do, etc.).
     With some whacky ones, like:

    • A service that delivers your own self-written letters to you after 5 or 10 years. Would be cool to see how your thinking has changed over a period of time.
  • GPS tagged car keys/mobile phones(to eliminate the daily ritual of looking for these items).
  • A fluid-filled, yet wearable bodysuit which can control body temperature via hydrodynamics principles. Image the energy cost-savings across the globe!
  • A women run men’s shaving salon (just to get that daily dose of feel-good factor 🙂)
Btw, being a foodie, his creative juices presented themselves on our plates from time to time. Some of his successful culinary innovations include:
  • Basmati Burrito – burrito with basmati pulav, grilled paneer/veggies, and salsa.
  • Masala Margerita – margarita with mint, ginger and masala.
  • Mango rasmalai – Rosgulla (sweet cheese-balls) in mango and saffron puree.
  • Uttapam-pav- thick rice crepe sprinkled with chilis and veggies and stuffed in a sandwich.
  • Oats Side up: Spicy pan-fried sandwich spread of oats, besan and yogurt.
Well, needless to say, lots of “What an idea, Sirji! 🙂” moments in our household.
But his idea-crunching abilities are only paralleled by his uncanny ability to give gyan. (Could be a side-effect of having many mentors as well as mentees in his life, coupled with the weekend rendezvous with the TED talkers and those self-help books.)
Laying down some of his pearls of wisdom:
So, What’s your goal in life?
Though this was passed on to him by a bade bhaiya , this can be called Amit’s signature question.  This question has irkingly served as a wake-up call to a lot of the younger somani clan. (His younger brother, Abhishek, can swear to that. Well, at least the irking bit.:)). But it’s his way of imbibing focus and alignment of energies towards one’s priorities in life.
Good enough is better than perfect.
Amit doesn’t believe in perfect. Like a true baniya, he thinks instead of maximizing returns. Back in his college days, when everyone used to spend days studying for exams, he said he’d still excel with half that effort by focusing on just the right topics. 
You don’t have to be the first, you just have to be better.
But in life, he says coming first is not key. You have to be a better person, a better businessman, a better employee, a better son and father. You have to constantly improve yourself to be better.
Visualize success.
Most of folks who know Amit will say he’s a visionary. But on a trip to Pune and a car-ride with a friend, he figured out that that’s not enough. You have to visualize, even daydream about how success would feel like. That is the most powerful way to get over your own inhibitions and go for what you want.
Learn from others mistakes.
The old-school theory that men should learn from their own mistakes is too time-consuming, he says. Smart men learn from others mistakes.
Don’t tell me 10 things why it wont work, tell me 10 things how you’d make it work.
A self-proclaimed optimist, he always uses this line on me. (And I’m sure, his team also hears this occasionally.)
Connect with people when you don’t need them, not when you need them.
Relationships are your most important assets, so make your sincerest efforts to cultivate them and keep them buzzing.
Surround yourself with smart people.
He says the biggest opportunity he’s got in his life is to be able to hang out with so many smart people. Most of his life learning has come by watching them or listening to them.
Golf is a mind-game. Its actually like life. The calmer you are, the better your chances of winning.

His favorite game for years, golf has taught a lot to him. And he’s taught golf to a lot many.

And finally, Life is too short.  
Very true, esp. for the kind of vision he has and the kind of things he wants to do. But I just want to remind him that “Life begins at 40”. 🙂
So here’s a Heartfelt Happy Birthday to the greatest problem-solver and advisor in my life.
ps. I had once told Amit that I could write a book if I could get my head around all the ideas and advices he’s shared. So, how about gifting him back one of the ideas or advices (or even moments) you’ve received/shared with him?

A parody of paradoxes

I had resisted it. Even ignored it. But the new year kept peeping at me; the ostentatious display of the date by the calendar nudging me for days now.

Finally, I give in. Time for some reflection, some new resolutions.

So I ponder. Something new, something unique. But what?

As I reflect more, I can’t but get more confused.
I have tried them all before: Follow your heart, Live in the present, Balance your life, Manage your time, Be Healthy, Make New Friends, Be good, Be fair, Spread Joy…

Very apt goals. Just why haven’t they worked?

Some more thinking.

How can you follow your own heart, when you’re expected to meet expectations of all around you?
How do you always live in the present, while striving for a future goal?
How do you balance your life, when you set yourself up for multiple priorities?
How can you think of time management, while spending hours on Facebook? 🙂
How can you be healthy, when you’re always stressed about being healthy?
How do you make new friends, when you can’t keep up with your old ones?
How can you be good and fair, when good and fair are not accepted?
How can you keep spreading joy, when you’re fighting your own glooms?

Such is our world. Very complex, a little paradoxical. 

And our life: A  parody of paradoxes, I say.

Confessions of a shopaholic (in-making)

Ahh..the welcoming warmth of the mall! The eye-candy of fresh stock flaunting from the window panes! The first taste of the fury winter collection. And the shop attendants all wearing their showiest smiles and calling me by name. I hear a familiar, sweet voice, “Ma’am, I have your tea ready, one spoon sugar with a dash of milk, just the way you like it.” I’m in the mood of something else though.  As I trod further, another voice beckons me, “Today’s special just for you: You only have to buy 10,000 Rs. worth of goods to be eligible for another shopping extravaganza.” And then, yet another voice, “But I have a section in my shop that just has clothes you’ve tried.” But quickly realizing that distress wont do it,  “And guess what, there’s a 10% discount waiting for you, as soon as you reach your 100th item purchase.” Enough I say to myself, this dream is getting out of hand. Make it stop. So I pinch myself, but the ‘ouch’ from my mouth reveals otherwise.

And then it dawns on me..maybe I’m turning into a shopaholic. Is this about the x-chromosomes taking over me or something? Maybe a deep psychological disorder manifesting?! Or, or, or, maybe its the holiday season. Yes..that seems right and simple enough. Must be the holiday season.

This year, the holiday season has had an early start, esp. for the Indians. From Navratri to New Years, its been one celebration after other. And celebrations translates to parties which translates to new clothes which translates to shopping. You have to be perennially shopping for new clothes if you live in the NCR region and dare to have a social existence, where an outfit has to be donated if you are seen in it once (or been profiled with it on Facebook.). And then there are the traps of the neo-Indo womanism that further complicates dressing decisions. (It used to be so simple for our moms..the only choice they had was to wear sarees; but now we have to stock up on those as well as the entire range of options, including western wear, fusion wear, office wear, casual wear, party wear, lounge wear, summer wear, winter wear…) And if that’s not enough, the Vogues and the ELLEs introduced us to accessories. I’ve seen women at work skip lunches just so they can keep up with the shopping. I don’t blame them. What option do we have? 

But back to square one. Celebrations in modern India also translates to gift-giving. While some gift-giving is memorable, most of it is an exchange of  excessively unneeded stuff  where the only party that benefits is the retailer. How else would he be able to sell Swarovski crystal statues or Bath and Body Works fragrance oils?! About half the times, these gifts get rotated within parallel social circles. But if you apply the rule of six-degrees of separation, you should have about 1/6th chances of getting back your original gift. Hmm..I wonder whether a gift-exchange clearing house would make more sense!  Well, until such a program comes to fruition, we all need to shop for gifts. For there’s no better way to express our love for each other than to give gifts. As for me, I like to start with myself, as a token of self-appreciation.

Btw, one thing I’m thankful of, in the Indian context, is that the shopkeepers here don’t believe in return policies. Had they followed the Western retailers in this aspect,  you could never be certain how many times your newly purchased off the rack dress would have been “on-and-off the rack”. Hey, if you dare to have a return policy in India, it could only translate to: Once you buy it, its yours until you return it. So why would you return it unless you’ve worn it once, maybe to a party, where it could have been fitted onto sweating underarms, eaten upon, smeared with..just use your imagination>. So let the western world gloat on the liberal return policies. Let us use bargaining to offset that advantage. Like true blue Indians, we reserve our right to bargain. And about 90% of the times it works. And the remaining 10% of times you are hoi polloied for having asked esp, if you happen to be at the branded shops of the SouthEx markets. But let me tell you, the embarrassment of the 10% cases has not deterred me from asking for discounts at spas, restaurants, and what the heck, even with cabs. The baniya blood in me turns a shade more red, having sealed a good bargain.

Which actually brings me to my final saga in shopping. How can I write about shopping and forget about the sales? Sales are like bargain on a platter. Like having your cake and eating it too. Sales are in themselves a celebration of sorts. Tell me, has anyone complained of depression or suicidal tendencies on a ‘Black Friday’? Why die when you can buy..sort of a thing. Ok, enough morosity. Let me tell you about the funny things that happen during sales. Like I dont understand why a sales tagline “The more you buy, the more you get” is such a crowd-puller? Generally, if you buy more stuff, you’ll get more stuff, sale or otherwise. My hypothesis is that the bold and red fonts make the crowds go ga-ga. I’m pretty sure if a shop has “Reduced Inventory” and “50% Less Merchandise” in red and bold cutouts, the innocuous crowd would still flock to it. Just like every year, my gullible-self gets hypnotized by the “70% Discount” hoardings. The asterisked small fonts “on select items only” dawns on me only at the checkout counter, when I’ve been in line for 45 minutes.

Anyway I can keep going on and on, but whats the point?  With the holiday season over soon, will the dream of turning into a full-fledged shopaholic fade away into obscurity? Or will the mind find another excuse to revive the obsession? Or will the credit card company play culprit?

Only time will tell. Until then, Happy Holiday (Season).

The buzz begins: from iPhone5 to Ra.one!

The proof is not in the pudding anymore..its in the marketing of the pudding.
That’s the reason, the most anticipated releases of all-time; iPhone5 is making half the globe sleepless and Ra.one is making the other half daydream.

So, what the secret? Are they as revolutionary as sliced bread ?!
Well, I’ll reserve my judgement on that, but what I can tell you is that both of them are products of the most well-planned, clever, psychographic marketing campaigns ever, with a bit of law of economics applied in as well. Apple with its supply control (whether it be of its products or press releases) and Shah Rukh Khan with its demand generation tactics. 

You’d have to agree that the hoopla around iPhone5 is its most sought-after feature. Just look at the success of the “lost in the bar” gimmick that Apple has managed to recreate. And its secretive feature set and release date giving the needed fodder for the gossipmongers that it doesn’t even need to spend any more dollars on press events. Agreed its a smartphone that works and even wows occasionally, but the hype quotient is what drives its global domination.

 Actually, thanks to Apple’s marketing genius, not just their products, certain alphabets and numbers are enjoying an alter-ego. For example, you can put an “i” in front of anything these days and it will instantly sell. My son’s school is called iBambini and their books are iBooks. Needless to say, both are a great success.  And his best friend remembers her numbers as “2 for ipad, 4 for iphone”.

On the other side of the equation is Shah Rukh Khan (SRK as they call him). They say Hollywood used to be about hype, until SRK started producing movies. Now imagine Ra.one (the most expensive project of SRK productions) that too conceptualized by his children. Now, now, A man got to do that much for his kids! So SRK starts marketing the movie even before its shot, nine months ago to be precise.  Much like talking about baby names before you are pregnant. (Works for some though.)

Every media known to mankind got to play its role in marketing the Ra.one phenomenon. The Ra.one music release became a TV show. Its website featured a graphic novel to commerate the origins of Ra.one. Its exclusive Youtube channel has SRK with roger rabbit effects.  Its song got sung by a Hollywood singer. And its promotions endorsed by Hollywood celebrities. And of course, as a tribute to the Ra.one fanmanship, you get the opportunity of availing Ra.one action figures, video games, Mac Happy Meals, Facebook pages, you name it.

They say it will be hard to remember Ravan with 10 heads..since the one with black and blue suit will be invading your memory (or should I say RAM) soon. I agree. After all, how long can mythology survive the onslaught of marketing dollars! And they say if you’re praying to God these days, it should be “God, pls. dont let me die before Oct 26th (the official release date of Ra.one).”

You can see that Apple and Shah Rukh Khan are not leaving a lot to luck. But God, if their upcoming products do end up living up to all the hype, I do wish them some. Because if they draw their hype graphs on the standard trajectory, they would realize that the next generation of iphone can only be marketed as a communication device that would eliminate the need for communication whereas the next Ra.one avataar has to go beyond the final frontier, where no man has ever gone before.

And for the rest of us mortals, just a humble request, “Can we rise above the predictability of our psychographism?”

Note: Written by a Blackberry user and an Aamir Khan fan. 😉

Vision of Life

As part of a school’s nursery admission process, I was required to imagine a vision for my child’s life. How beautiful an exercise, I thought.

And from the crevices of my soul, came this poetry. 


May experiences be your teacher and learning be your tool;
May faith make you grow and love make you bloom.

May fun be your friend and happiness your goal;
May inspiration be your guide and truth your heart’s shoal.

May confidence bring you balance and courage only peace;
May action be your strength and result only a tease.

May wisdom be your might and knowledge be your glory;
May vision be your sight and success be your story.

 May you succumb to the causes dear and pick the right fights.
And may your dreams be a lullaby while you sleep sound at nights.

I wish this for my son and for every little child out there.

I am Salman Khan – My version of the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom

The sight of my 3 year-old son sing and dance to the tunes of the “Debanng” song hit me like an epiphany. It was as if the actor in him is tearing his shirt and dying to come out. And the deal got sealed when I started noticing his eye rolls, spreading of his hands (a la SRK style), and the projection of his voice. (Have you seen him scream?! How handy could that be when he’s looking out for his heroine in the woods!).

From that day on, I set on a mission. He will be the next Salman Khan.
Like a typical Indian mom, food is the first thing that was put into consideration. His daily diet plan which now includes (carbs, proteins, calcium, vitamin A to Z, and the right kinds of muscle-building fats) went into strict enforcement. The Bournvita jar got thrown in the bin, my munna (Note to myself: I better start calling him “muns”; Munna could just land him into “Bhojpuri” movies.) deserves Pediasure. (C’mon, the premium price must not be for nothing. Maybe they put better quality DHA in it.). Also contemplating whether I should go organic for him. After all, more the investment, better the ROI.
I’m also looking for a baby cream that will retain his fair complexion. Gone are the days of tall, dark and handsome. All the macho actors are gaining confidence through their fairness creams these days. And outdoor playtime will have to be squeezed to fit in power yoga (coz Kareena and Saif swear by it). Oh, so many things to worry about. But glad that posing for the camera will not be one of them. Thanks to those digital cameras, he’s so used to extended photo sessions that he can pose in his sleep now. Well, but the best thing is that part of the weekend will now have to be spared for frequenting the designer label malls. We’ll need that regular dosage of latest fashion and style into our lives.
And rest is all contacts. But not to worry, I’m already on the lookout for those filmi-types circles I can hangout with. If push comes to shove, we’ll need move to Mumbai..eesh Bombay.
(And If all else fails, there will be some reality show where he can beg, borrow or bribe his way into. And even if he’s not good at dancing, singing or whatever it is that he’s supposed to do, I’ll make sure he cries beautifully and looks good while doing so. I’m pretty sure that one of the movie celebrity judges will open her arms for him. Shh..but that’s a trade secret!)
But lately I’ve started noticing that my husband is unduly disciplined about playing cricket with him every night. Could it be that my husband is harboring a secret dream of making him a cricketer?!
Oh Lord, that could be THE CONFLICT of interest, I worry. After a lot of turmoiled thinking, I reconcile. Luckily for me, I do know a few cricketers who came to their senses and entered Bollywood eventually. Plus dont all cricketers end up acting anyway (for their advertising contracts)?! And btw, we’ll also need to keep that MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad as a 2nd backup career option for him. (His grandparents would be heart-broken otherwise.) Well, he can study for his CAT between the shoots/practice sessions if it comes to that.
So I’m scouting for his school admissions these days. Its frustrating that you have so many options,  but none for parents like me i.e. a school that would focus on overall personality development, along with equal emphasis on academics, sports, performing arts, social skills, and of course where he can make the right contacts for future. The only respite may be the after-school trainings and classes that he’ll be attending, as soon as he turns 4. Didn’t I see just a picture of Sachin Tendulkar with a cricket bat at the age of 3? He may already be late.
But I don’t understand why he keeps obsessing about airplanes and animals. What has that got to do with acting or cricket?
And for a fleeting second, a thought crosses my mind. ‘Am I living my dream through my son’s life?’ 
‘Well, maybe!..’ I say to myself, ‘but that’s what star moms do, right?!” 

Tales of two cities: Bangalore vs. Gurgaon

On a recent visit back to Bangalore that happened after one and half years of living in Gurgaon, most of my friends wanted to find out, “How is it living in Gurgaon?, How is it different from Bangalore?”. Now this may seem like an odd question to some, esp. non-Indians living with a perception of a stereotypical India as a single entity. But within India, its a perfectly reasonable question. Because every city here has its own story that is created by its history, cultured by its people and shaped by its governments. So here’s my analysis of the two cities, if nothing else, for the benefit of my expat brethren, who want to flock to them like bees to honey, as well as for the fact that there’s much to talk about, by the way of compare and contrast.

Full meal: Because life is more than a box of chocolates in Bengalooru

A disclaimer before describing Bangalore (aka Bengalooru) is that it was almost a retirement colony until the world discovered its prowess as an IT mecca. Therefore, today Bangalore is the confluence of the extremes…young and old, modern and traditional, pubs and temples, yet surprisingly its intermingling has not resulted in a confused state of affairs, except for certain cases where city-politics and localism is involved. The city even has its own slogan: “Namma Bengalooru” (i.e. Our Bangalore) to inject harmony amongst its contrasting populace. Yet the hypocrisy somewhere creeps in when it is cited as Bangalore to the outside world, while being referred to as Bengalooru, in front of localities. The city is used by money-minting, pub-going, eternally young IT professionals while ruled by vermilion-dotted, kannad-speaking, old conservatives; each group sticking to its designated roles to avoid conflict. The old-school men and women here focus on real-estate and gold jewellery respectively and swear by their “full meal”: a conglomeration of South Indian delicacies which when coalesced and devoured sequentially with rice provides for a complete gastronomic experience, while the neo-Bangaloreans talk about start-ups and organic-living as a means of asserting their identity. And on a special mention for the local autowallahs (rickshaw drivers) and cabbies, it would be surprising if they don’t take you for a ride if you are fair-skinned and only speak in Hindi. Old prejudices die hard. But whatever little Bangalore loses on these grounds, it gains in terms of its weather. Have you ever experienced “weather paradise” in this world? Well, its either here or Hawaii. Only of course, the good weather when combined with pollutants create an allergen abode..but then what good is “Allegra” for?

Gurgaon, on the other hand, is a haven for the new and the hip. From the metro to the malls, its as if its residents want to escape anything that is old and past. Unlike Bangalore, which is intertwined with its old roots, Gurgaon has barricaded its old city into oblivion. People here have no qualms about shedding inhibitions and traditions. Mother-in-laws shed their sarees to don designer salwar-kameez, and daughter-in-laws shed their designer salwar-kameez for branded jeans and shorts. (Needless to say, the word “designer” has a new meaning and place in your life here. For if you don’t oblige to “designer devta”, you’ll be an outcast.). Just like their lifestyle is designer, their food is “tandoori”, everything from rotis to chicken. You can even get “tandoori tadka” on Chinese, if required and much to the chef’s delight.  People do work hard here, but they “play” harder. Golf clubs and imported cars cater to men’s fancies while salons and solitaires offer respite to women’s existentialism. And while Bangaloreans can think like Americans, Gurgaonites can talk like them; no wonder Bangalore got IT, whereas Gurgaon picked up the call center business during the outsourcing boom. Compared to Bangalore though, you get the perception that the systems (and their workarounds such as 100% power backup) are more efficient here, infrastructure more sufficient, and education more accessible. But weather wise, if Bangalore weather is to die for, Gurgaon weather would make you die (well, at least cry). And you might run into trouble with the autowallahs/cabbies over here as well, if you are fair-skinned (of a  fairer sex variety) but cannot speak in Hindi. Not for any racial bias this time, but for your own safety.

Topographically as well, both the cities have interesting facets of their own. Gurgaon is on a mission to mark its territory vertically, while Bangalore wants to expand its reach horizontally. If one were to spatially relate the cities, Gurgaon could be extrapolated as “Dubai in a village”, while Bangalore would be “a Mumbai done sunny-side up”.  Which brings me to the only common denominator across the two cities: Traffic (here again, while the effect is the same, the cause quite different)..one jams due to narrow roads and the other because of high-rises. 

So whats my take? Well, if you want the best of both worlds(err..cities in this case), then move to Ahmedabad.

ps. If its not apparent to some, the unwarranted bias could be a result of the writer being originally from Ahmedabad.