Thursday, March 5, 2015

A lesson in branding

A Branding Lesson Learnt from my child’s school

I learnt a lesson yesterday. I will be fair; it did not hit me right away. I listened because I had to and liked what I heard, but it was only after I got home and got some quite time to ruminate (which is in the shower), that it struck me and I smiled.
It was my child’s parent teachers meeting. My daughter is in kindergarten. She joined a week late and hence had completed only 10 days in school till yesterday. The teachers spoke about the school’s value that they incorporate in their students right from K to Grade 6.
Respect, Responsibility and Personal Best.
I smiled when I heard this. Teaching values already? I thought.
Values – I explain to my 5 year old is what differentiates her from the crowd. No matter what she becomes, her value is what she is and what everyone will know her as.
Rewinding to a few years back when I was in the Brand development team for my company. It was my first job and I loved it. The team I was in was to help 8000 employees buy and live the company’s newly designed brand values. We ran workshops; we created hype and had celebrations but deep down not much changed. The employees, who were well into their late 30s then, felt little or no connection to the brand values. It was the company’s values.
Fast-forward to today and my daughter who is only ten days old in the school – proudly comes and asks me when she keeps her belongings back in their place, whether this is the ‘Waitara Way’ (her school’s name). I was shocked. The teachers told me yesterday that they keep incorporating the values. They actually ‘Walk the Talk’. Everything the school does and ask the children to do is incorporated within the value framework. In a discussion with the class, the teachers ask their children their understanding of these terms and they decide what it would mean for the class. So, if showing respect meant no pushing other children – so be it – they will be conscious not to push other kids.
So what is it that we missed at the corporate level? Was it trying to incorporate the value in individuals who already had their own set of values that failed us or was it lack of continuous demonstrations of the values from the management? I would like to see how a new joiner in Grade 5 or 6 would respond to the values of the school. If the results are the same as the magic I see in the kindy kids – then there is certainly a huge role for us parents in inculcating the right values in our children. Values that will not only help them be their personal best but will also help them as Global citizens. After all, it’s only when individuals do well, do companies do well and economies do well.
As Indians we place a lot of value on values. Or so we are taught. India is always known as a country of culture and values. But let’s be truthful do we really learn to live our values. India now is caught in its own mix. We neither want to retain the values held by our forefathers – that of complete respect to elders, discipline and fear of a supreme power nor want to let go of it altogether. We have not been able to create our own identity – our values. We are in transition, but this transition (like our roadworks) is taking much too long. We have been basking in the false glory of India’s value system. The rise in intolerance to freedom of speech and action combined with the nonchalant attitude while hurting others physically and mentally, arises mainly from this lack of identity. The culture of ‘whatever’ and ‘I don’t care’ has seeped in and unfortunately for any questions for which we don’t have answers we have these two terms. The need to really know ourselves is lost. We are one with the crowd.
To this day, I can proudly say, my parents never ever lifted their hand on any one of their three children and never cheated anyone. Those were their values and this will remain unchanged till time infinity.
That is the power of values and that is something we need to cultivate for ourselves to help our children understand the power of it. It is the passion for a belief – a belief you will stick by no matter what. And that is your defining moment.
Values, my dear friends, have more value than what we know. Live well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The XX and XY and their X and Ys

Roshini Sharma - the gutsy young lady who rode her bike 5453 kms from Kanyakumari to Leh by herself proving in her own words "But, there is no difference between a man and woman. If a man can do it, then there is nothing stopping from me from doing it". You are an inspiration.
And then there is the women councillor and head of the kangaroo court in West Bengal who ordered a 15 year old to lick spit because her father had not paid for a power tiller he had rented. The girl, who stood up for her father and defied the orders of this court was found dead on the railway tracks with no clothes on a few hours later. Auntyji – you are beyond any word in my dictionary. In simple words you are a shame to humankind.
What defines you is You. But what also defines you is what your parents have taught you.
There is a story, I remember having heard, of a young boy who was never stopped by his parents when he stole petty things from his neighbour's home. Once when was caught and punished – he told the judge – why do you punish me for I was never told this is wrong. Punish the hand that did not stop me from doing the wrong in the first place.

If it is ok with parents that their sons have just stripped the dignity of some women because they have the money to bribe the police to close the case – they are the main hand in the crime. If rape and abuse are to be punished - punish the parents who think that their sons are born to uphold the powers these parents have by unleashing themselves on women. As a lady in the Muzzafarnager rape case recounted - the boys who raped me were as young as my own sons. To think that a mother and a father actually allowed their sons to go out there and perform such an inhuman act and with such casualness is appalling.

And to think that these parents are as young or old as you and me - my friends - is even scarier. We are not talking about someone else or some other generation or era - we are talking of parents of the 21st century who still 'USE' their sons as the ultimate ammunition to wield power.
If you are a parent - be a responsible one. Teach your children to respect the dignity of the other sex. If you are a parent - reach out to any parent who believes that men will be men and it is in their blood to protect or harm women as is their mood on that particular day and that a woman is and will always be ultimately dependent on men. Teach them that we don’t want those genes anymore. We want a generation of sane young men and women who want to live together - respecting each other.
And if you are a parent know that you have a voice. Do not accept abuse. Teach your children – boys and girls to never be an abuser and teach them never to be a silent spectator to violence too. If you speak out today – there is still a chance that your grand-daughter can safely go to school, chase her dreams and live her life just as well as your grandson can. It is as simple as that.

Monday, September 2, 2013


My hands are free, so is my mind,
but I choose to be tied down and die.
I speak, I sigh, I lament all day
I twitter, I chatter, I cry all day,
I see my world crashing
Slowly one by one
But I don’t get up and get the change done
I accept, I bow, I buckle to the world
I conform to the so called ‘norms of the world’.
I want the change , I want the change
I want the change NOW
But no – I will not get up from my couch
Till this change is done.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Adios Facebook

I am allergic to Facebook. I have never been allergic to anything till date but I realized I am a obsolete - of a bygone era - an extinct species as far as FB is concerned. My friends – the few of them left, ask me as to why I don’t come on FB? Well, to start - I don’t have pictures to post of my recent company trip to some place far-away nor I have Saturday party nights to boast about. I don’t have status updates claiming about how excited I am that it’s Friday night. For me every day and every night remains the same. I am a stay-at-home mom whose day starts at 5am irrespective of the day of the week and ends at 11pm – not in some disc or fancy restaurant or pub but in my children’s bedroom after picking up the clothes, toys and books that have been left on the floor after the two of them have decided to call it a day. Well, that’s nothing to tweet about or be complimented for in FB, right? I chose to be a stay-at-home mom not because I did not have the caliber to work but because I don’t have the help to take care of my kids. I am not sure of leaving the kids behind in someone else’s care to go to work. But does that mean I work less or enjoy lesser? Not a chance. It's just that my day is filled with baby stuff and nobody in FB surely wants to hear to that. I can’t bitch about bosses or tweet on the state of traffic or about the work clothes I purchased from the new store in town or how its promotion time to a swanky new office. In my world my kids are my boss, jams are stains left on the white linen, clothes are still nappies purchased and promotion is moving from feeding the little one in one place to running around because she has learnt to use her feet and oh! boy is she fast! I realized I also don’t have pictures of my recently done pedicure. I saw a picture of an acquaintance in FB showing off her beautiful feet thanks to the pedicure done on a relaxing Saturday after a hectic week at work. She got over sixty likes and an equal number of flattering comments. I realized I am not made for FB when just before retiring to bed I remarked to my husband almost half sleepily – ‘I want to post pictures and get likes too - I think I will get a PediaSURE done’!!!... Goodbye FB. Adios. P.S – Pediasure is the drink for kids below 2 years.
Just saw the song Badtameez Dil!!! Liked the connotation to the word Badtameez. The 1980s Hindi movie scene saw a lot of use of the word Badtameez. The word was often followed by a high octave background sound then silence and then tears rolling down. Thankfully, 21st century mostly cut down on the tears part. Here was the young generation which was more confident. Badtameez, a slap and walk away. So this song was a fresh take. I dint understand the lyrics of the song.....oh! love - 'paan mein pudina' and 'Thaali mein katora leke' is actually not lyrics - a lot of us can write such lyrics - but what I did like about this is the energy of the song. Life has its own complications and limitations but steal those little moments and allow your heart to be a 'Badtameez' to you and laugh along with it. Enjoy!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The cook in me...

I am not a great cook, infact; I am rarely an ordinary cook. I have more bad days than good ones. I started cooking only to fill a stomach -to go on with the day and its many exciting things. Food was not exciting for me. I liked good food. But most food was good for me. And hence life was good. Even as a child, I was not greatly bothered about what was for lunch – what was the ‘dabba’. Food plays an important role not only to satiate our stomachs but also in our early social development. What is for the next day’s dabba is every parent’s dread. Something that’s tasty, not sticky, nutritional, fast to cook and good to eat – the criterion is just too much to accomplish on a daily basis. There are then three types of dabbas brought – one which is always nutritional or traditional. Like a typical south Indian would not think twice about bringing curd rice and vegetables for lunch – but for a north Indian that would be a complete no-no. Something more ‘masaledar’ is a must. The second type of dabba will have its emphasis on the ‘looks’. Corriander leaves neatly sprinkled on the top and a slice of lemon by the side. Tissue paper and a side ‘dessert’ dish is a must. This dabba was everyone’s envy. Who does not want their dabba to look good? I remember a classmate who used to bring sandwiches to class. There were four loaves of white bread, the edges trimmed off, a slice of cheese and two pieces of neatly cut tomato in between and a drop of ketchup on the top. All this neatly wrapped in a fresh wrap. Neat, yummy, non – sticky, it fulfilled the entire criterion in the presentation front but fell short on one factor – minimizing hunger. Then the third type was the mixed category. Good days – good dabba – bad days – bad dabba – great days – special treat for the entire group – horrible days – you would not want to go there. Most of us fell into this group. The dabba the day after the result came out usually gave away the parents opinion of the result got! The dabba also played a huge role on those days when unexpectedly and unfortunately the teacher decides to ‘bond’ with her class and share her lunch with them. Maybe, it was her best days and she really wanted to show off her dabba – but for the class – each one of us secretly prayed that today mamma should have packed something really really nice. And in this regard, I noticed that a well made aloo paratha always won in front of a well made idli or dosa. So for a south Indian - making the dabba presentable, delectable and shareable (quantity wise) was a able task in itself. And hence the fact that food was not so important to me – was good. But not all good things in life stay forever and it was the same here. Tragedy struck. I now started dreaming food. Pav bhajis and Chinese. Italian and Desserts. I would get up in the middle of the night – hungry. But I was not just hungry for food. I was hungry for a specific food. I knew the exact taste and feel of the food in my tongue. The cheese melting down the hot food, the dessert spilling from the sides of the bowl, the sizzling of a hot sizzler and the spiciness of the chilli in the jumbo vada pav, the extra sweet in a dripping hot jilebi, the tanginess of the pani in the panipuri – I knew it all. Oh! food. I did not like anything that I cooked. It was the same before. I did not care for my food to taste like the Chefs of Masterchef Australila. If it had the salt, spice and tanginess required – it was good. If it was delectable – it was among my great days. But now – I was craving for all that I dreamt. I know not how this started – I first thought it was pregnancy blues – the ‘want’ for a specific food and all - but the dreams and craving never went way after delivery. That is why I say – life turned upside down. I dedicate this blog to those places that have haunted my dreams – restaurants which have created food so special that it has turned me – a complete non-foodie for all these years into a complete foodie. And not just a foodie – but one who wants to make the food I dream of. Till I get there – wish me luck.:) Try the ginger masala chai at Shimla, the fresh oven bread in Pondicherry (plain bread melts in your mouth but bread with cheese is something else here! – it disappears!!!), the pizza in Johannesburg, the perfect omelet at Fresco and bread and baked beans at Benmore Gardens, my mom’s vettai koyumbu (tamarind and only tamarind sambar) and Mysore Pak, Pavbhaji at Canon food stall, Mumbai, Sugarcane juice below the Kingcircle station bridge, Mumbai, Strawberry icecream with double cream at Bachelors, Mumbai, Masala puri at nandidurg road, Bangalore, fresh handpicked strawberries from the farm at Brisbane, sizzlers at Kobe’s Mumbai and Caesar’s, Bangalore, dal bhatthi churma my friend Sonu's mom makes, the sambar Karthik makes (that’s husband – though the sambar has been made only twice to show-off to kids) and finally the homemade digestive kadduka podi’ my dad makes specially for me to digest all that I indulge in. It is made of ‘kadaka’ - bitter tasting fruit whose powder is used for digestion, mixed with cumin powder, a pinch of salt and sugar and a dash of lemon. You will first taste the bitter of the fruit followed by the sweet of the sugar and finally the tanginess of the lemon. It hits you like no tequila might ever do. You have to gulp it down and jump around a few times. There is no other way to have this. But I love having this coz – like all the yummy delicious food that melts in your mouth, this mix has so much love that it melts your heart!!! Dad – I think I will need more of this concoction.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lets act now.

I recently read a write-up about child labour and the state of children who live in the street. I have a child of my own and it pains me to see children begging on the street. I feel ashamed to walk past them. If I give them money I don’t know if that would encourage them to beg more. What if they use it for drugs or does this money even go to them or does it go to the CEO of the begging scam? If I walk past them – I shudder to think of what I will go through if my child was, god-forbid, ever in that situation even for a minute. But what do I do. There are thousands of children begging on the street. Where do I take them? Are shelter homes any good. Don’t they exploit these children? And how will these shelter homes accommodate them? I do not have the space to house these kids – but I want to help.

The author in the write-up spoke of the govt having the funds to help these kids. But, my question, as is all our question- are they really bothered? Have they set up any information to say the least in place to direct funds and resources to help these children? How come in the past oh-so-many-years there has been no single govt. or politician who has ever ever been nominated for “Hero of the year” or any such award that’s been handed out to people helping and reaching out. This despite the fact that they have the power, money and all the resources. Politicians ride on the fact and courage that the common man – individuals who care and want to make a difference don’t have much time in their hands. You and I can go and ask for action but how many days will we stand and demand. Our own work and pressures pulls us back.

Spreading awareness constantly and consistently, educating children and adults on the plight of these children and ways in which they can help and sorry to say but glamourizing the whole 'reach out' act could be the way out. If it is fashionable to be seen as someone who cares and someone who makes a positive difference in a child's life – then you will have half the politicians working on this. For the rest - individuals with no money but all the heart – will take care.

p.s – Can we start a “Save our children” week where NGOs and volunteers can set up stalls in the most prominent places and educate people on how to help. Right from street plays to raise awareness, to campaigns to education – lets do it all. Lets dedicate one week to give these kids a better life – a reason to smile. If anyone can advise me or offer help please contact me at
Lets make a difference – NOW.