• Recipe Remembrances
    EYE - June 3 - 2012

    Finding Light at the End of the Culinary Tunnel

    In the TV serial Kuch Tho Log Kahenge, Dr Nidhi is cooking her first meal in her sasuraal. She has arranged the cooking implements precisely, as if in an operation theatre and has definitively dismissed Ramu kaka, the elderly family retainer's offers to assist. Suddenly she has a doubt. What should the exact temperature of the oil be for bhajiyas? Ramu kaka looks bewildered and says "bitiya, taapmaan to hum ne kabhi nahin dekha" (My dear, I've never checked the temperature). Of course the bhajiyas were a disaster. It was reassuring to know that times haven't changed all that much and new brides, even if otherwise capable, still can't cook; but it was heartening to note that they now guiltlessly find smart solutions and escape the annoying lifelong jokes about their early attempts at cooking. Dr Nidhi quietly ordered food in, from her father's house.

    When I got married, I had an MBA but was cooking illiterate. My mother panicked and put together a notebook, with a step-by-step survival guide to cooking. The first page had an article titled, "How to make a perfect cup of tea", cut from Femina. Subsequent pages had more complex recipes, carefully graded so that the learning curve would be gradual. There were handwritten recipes of her everyday home food and magazine cuttings with what she hoped I would graduate to. She made comments in the margin like the no-nonsense "since you have eaten this so often, you can surely get the taste right", or the know-your-place "if you graduate to this stage then you can grind fresh sambar powder, till then use mine", or even the hopeful "if you ever are cooking for a party, try this", with a picture of a very artistic salad of cucumbers and tomatoes that I have never tried. The end of the book had a big glossary of cooking terms like colander, blanche and sauté.

    Soon I became a good enough cook to start creating my own recipe books. Mine had Hindi translations of recipes tailored to IQ levels of whichever maid I had at that time, and because I sometimes couldn't understand my own Hindi had to cross reference each with the original English version. Clearly I suffered from a lot of super womanitis.

    But reading through the books in chronological order reveals far more than a record of the capability variations of my maids. It is also a record of my daughter's growing up. There was the cheese sauce phase, the tomato puree phase, the return-to-roots South Indian phase. Then the "I miss grandma's cooking" phase containing her favourite grandma's recipes, the phase when she thought all her friends ate better food than she did and so we had a lot of other mothers' recipes. Then there is her handwriting in mom's book when in her early teens she copied her aunt's chocolate cake and burrito recipes to nudge mom into doing more fussy complex stuff. Now, alas, my recipe collection has ended, and the books are only opened on rare occasions when she is eating at my dining table. And the word "yum" still makes all this effort worth it.

    A few years after she left home, I made a recipe book for her titled "Smart Cooking for Intelligent Women". It featured Rice 101 (plain rice), Rice 201 (jeera rice), Value added rice (pulao), and some of her favourites from over the years. And lots of advice like "turn down the gas when boiling starts, remember latent heat?" and "grease the edges to prevent it from boiling over — it's all about surface tension". "I shudder whenever I open it", she says, having gratefully left her mom's physics tuition long behind; and she says she makes a mean pasta and stir fry and I am thinking jealously, "I never wrote that down, how come it's your favourite"?

    But now I have earned my reprieve. At last, I don't have to prove like Dr Nidhi that despite education, I am kitchen competent; I don't have to compete with Rhea's mother or with grandma; I don't have to find my way to anyone's heart through his stomach. My neighbour, a gracious old world lady, once told me how she kept a book for 50 years in which she recorded who came to dinner and what they were served, so that they would never get the same food repeated. How do you manage, she asked me. Then, I hemmed and hawed. Today, I can tell her that we figure out what the maid of the day knows how to make really well, and insist that the same be made every single time we have guests for dinner. So there is light at the end of the housewife tunnel.

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  • When the tables turn
    The Indian Express - April 22, 2012

    The bittersweet moments of role reversals in mother-daughter ties

    Please remember to switch off the lights as you leave, otherwise my electricity bill shoots up… and please don't lose my house keys", the just-started-working young lady said to her mother. The mother was indignant. She thought, "What about all the lights and fans you left on, all those growing up years; and all the milk you poured down the sink when you thought nobody was looking? And all those expensive tuition teachers you persuaded to leave early even though we were paying them by the hour?"

    But after she got the indignation out of her system, she thought with a gleam in her eye, "ab meri baari". She had known early on in motherhood, that every 10 years or so, who embarrasses whom changes and power shifts. When her daughter was two, they took her with them to a fancy restaurant. As the waiter came to light the candle at the table, to her mother's chagrin, the little girl climbed on to her chair and sang "happy birthday", at the top of her voice, attracting more disapproving than amused glances. Her mom wished she could slide under the table and hide forever. A few years later, on an Indian Airlines flight, the happy child warbled, "Why don't you give me such nice food at home?". The entire posse of passengers turned to see who the woman was, who made food more inedible than IA did. Eight years later, the family went to a Mexican restaurant for the daughter's birthday lunch. As musicians in sombreros came to sing the birthday song, her mother joined in. This time it was the daughter who wished that she could slide under the table and hide. The next decade was the daughter's turn to embarrass her parents with best-not-volunteered opinions delivered at awkward moments to the wrong people. And then it was the mother's turn to return the favour, and add baby pictures or stories of childhood malapropisms to complete the torment.

    A friend of my mother's tells the story of how she upturned some milk on her four-year-old grandson's head, who promptly went and complained to his mom. "I can't believe you did this", said her daughter in horror. The grandma explained that the kid was behaving exactly as his mother used to. When shown a half-drunk glass of milk the child said with wide-eyed innocence, "but there's nothing in it". After all these years, the grandma found the perfect occasion to say, "If there's nothing, it's safe to upturn the glass over your head".

    The workplace is my favourite leveller. When my daughter is up at 6 am, on a cold Delhi winter morning, for a Skype con-call while I keep sleeping under a warm razai, I do catch myself sighing contentedly, "there is justice in this world"! I feel the same way, when she is frazzled that her domestic help didn't show up, and I could potentially wear a Zen expression, reach for my iPod earphones and say, "Oh, don't worry, she will come tomorrow, I am sure."

    The role reversals also have their bittersweet moments. Like when she asks me ten times before leaving for work, whether I will be ok alone in her flat, or gives me change for the tube, or when she says, "Just call me on the cell if you get lost or can't turn on the TV".

    "Ab meri baari" is sometimes scary too. I once told my niece to shoot me if I ever became like my mother. "But you already have," she said sadly. I once grumbled to my daughter that my mother was driving me up the wall about something and she said, "I know how that feels. Why don't you take me out to lunch so that we can discuss our mothers?"

    As a child, I was always chided for using my mother's sewing scissors because she said they got blunted. And I just got berated by my daughter for not putting the scissors back on the nail on the third shelf in the kitchen, "There is a system, you know, I wish you would put things back where you took them from," she said.

    The last word on this goes to my friend's sister who says she is patiently waiting for her turn. If, one day, her daughter calls her up at midnight, utterly frazzled, and says "baby doesn't stop crying, what should I do?", she says she will smile serenely and say, "relax, just take a chill pill"; or perhaps try some combinations of "and that is my problem because?"; or "yeah ok, I will do it next week, I promise."

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  • It's a Jungle Out There
    Indian Express - April 01, 2012

    The jungle is not a place of predator and prey, instead it's about collaborating and sharing the same waterhole.

    For so long, I have heard the phrase "it's a jungle out there" mentioned in the context of the cruel world of business , and understood it to mean that only the fittest will survive and it's each man to his own, constantly watching his back, in the fight for survival. There are various other metaphors used which underline this sentiment. At a top management conference of a large, politics ridden organisation, one of them pithily said "let's face it, either you are the road roller or the road - there is no third option". Either you are the hunter or the hunted, the predator or the prey. So, when I actually went into the jungle a few months ago, I realised pleasantly that "it's a jungle out there" isn't about a lonely, constant, back-watching, fight for survival. It is about collaborating to survive, fighting only when you need to, not hunting when your stomach is full, and sharing the same waterhole. If I sound annoyingly naïve, it's because I am what my army officer brother used to call a "concrete junglee", a multi-storey living Bombayite whose views of the wild are informed by hearsay, and visuals of speedy hunts and hapless prey, on Animal Planet.

    We set off in the jeep with a wonderful guide who said we would be tracking a leopard, and soon we were following the frantic calls of the deer signaling which way the leopard was going and the chattering of the langurs signaling from their vantage point, the leopard's presence. Our young guide, born in the jungle, told us that these were warning calls, telling everyone that danger was imminent, so please take care. Eventually we did see the leopard, a splendid creature, who was parading up and down a stretch, sometimes looking at us in the jeep disdainfully, and doing what I thought was a very good imitation of walking the ramp. When he disappeared for a while, the guide told us that this was not usual behaviour, but clearly he was not on the prowl to kill. He was perhaps marking territory because this stretch was usually the preserve of another leopard, recognisable from a prominent scar on his face, even if you were not a rosette identification expert.

    Across the road the deer were watching, worried and alert, but were not scuttling for safety. I commented that it was unusual (for me), why they were not panicking and running away given how close the arch enemy was. Our guide patiently explained that if the big cat was not in a killing mood, then where was the need to run for cover? Interestingly, it was the jeeps that were running for cover soon, as one of them spotted and signalled that the "very strict" forest officer was on the prowl, last spotted in the watchtower near one of the watering holes; many of the jeeps had deviated from the path allotted to them as news of the leopard sighting had spread, thanks to silent cell phone signals.

    I probably behaved in a way that friends of the wild would never forgive. I asked so many dumb questions, that in retrospect, I am reminded of a story that the venerable old chairman of a board told when taking a potshot at ignorant, but overly inquisitive, independent directors. A lady on a jungle tour harassed the guide with innumerable questions. Finally the poor man couldn't take it any more, and when she asked if the rhinoceros ahead was a male or female, he said "that madam, would be of interest only to another rhinoceros". As if that weren't enough, I also covered myself with embarrassment that I suspect I shall never recover from. "What a lovely bird", I said to the guide, who replied that it was a kingfisher. "Wow", I exclaimed, "a blue kingfisher"! A five-year-old traveling in the jeep with us, a formidable specimen of the age of information and of dedicated single child parenting, looked at me superciliously and said kingfishers are blue. I absent-mindedly replied, with the airport tarmac in my mind's eye, that I had always thought that they were red. No doubt, he discussed me in his school essay.

    The last word, as always, on this trip went to my husband. I paid good money to stay at an eco-friendly resort - tents, dim lights, thanks to solar power, boilers outside heating water so that you could luxuriate in a tepid bath, wooden strips hammered together with protruding nails to make the stairs that went up to our "deluxe" tent, with a view of brown thatched roofs of other tents below. He looked reflectively at it all, shook his head ruefully, and said "to think that we have slogged our butts off all these years so that we wouldn't have to live like this; and now you have paid good money to experience how it could have been".

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  • Ladies First
    EYE - March 11 - 2012

    Stories of successful women

    Almost all the "aha" thoughts I have had that helped me navigate through the self-inflicted pain of super-woman-itis, chip-on-the-shoulder gender bias, guilty motherhood, to be she-male or female dilemmas, came from women icons, celebrities, and regular people who were part of my life journey. Last week's Women's Day calls for sharing some of these stories.


    I tagged along with a bunch of senior journalists, on the campaign trail during the last Bihar assembly elections. That's when I met Rabri Devi. As I watched her impassive face and her placid, "homely" demeanour, I asked her how she managed to do all this chief minister stuff with such little training. Her answer, which I will use as a title if ever I write a book on Indian women, went something like "samay samay par adjust karna padta hai, so kar lete hain." My takeaway? Hey nothing is such a big deal, least of all your multitasking life, just think of it as a little adjustment, and it will get done, without you getting hyper.


    Over a decade ago, I attended a women's conference in Frankfurt, WEB (Women in European Business). Angela Merkel, the then leader of the opposition in Germany, was keynote speaker. At an informal tea break, I accidentally found myself next to her. While I vaguely remember my nervous, stammered comments about women needing to protest being offered positions because of tokenism, her comments stayed with me forever. She said that she started her political career in unified Germany, "in the middle", rather than at the bottom, because at the time, the party leadership wanted a woman and an East German, and she happened to be both. Her advice was, never mind why they want you, just get in there, and then do the job the way you want to. I later read on that "she was brought into government by Helmut Kohl after unification in 1990, as a token woman from the east." He called her "the girl" (das madchen).


    I have never met Indira Gandhi, but have been fascinated by how, as a power woman, she didn't fit any mould, but created her own. She was frail, delicate-looking, but exuded strength, including with her purposeful stride, obviously made time to get her hair done, and seamlessly straddled being grandma and "the only man in the cabinet". She appeared totally comfortable with her gender. Ravi Prasad writes in his blog about how she knew that his father was a strict vegetarian, and suffered when he accompanied her abroad. At a European banquet, on discovering that the vegetable entrée which she had just been served was cooked in meat broth, she interrupted her conversation with the host prime minister, to whisper to the waiter that he should not be served the entrée but served fruit salad and yoghurt instead. While no man is likely to have done this, sadly, there won't be too many power women who would so confidently and naturally do such things, thus exuding even more power.


    I was stressed out of my mind one day, telling Jyotiben, my doctor, how we needed to work so hard because we had to earn to make all these dreams we had for our daughter come true. She told me that she had read Amrita Pritam ask why her child should have the notional best of everything, the best of what someone else could give. A child should and would have the best of what his mother could give. In hindsight, that’s how all of us were raised, and life really is as simple as that.


    My other favourite story deals with two professor friends — one a man who incredibly values clarity, and will not negotiate, no matter what the pressure or the circumstances; and the other, a woman, who sees the shades of grey and the frailty of the human being, and is always experimenting with new ways to save the day and reform the world. One day, he harangued her over a decision she took, as the chairperson of an activity. Halfway through, she just looked at him and said, “I know what your problem is. You think I should be in the kitchen making chapattis, not here, taking decisions.” The poor, unprepared man, who had meant no such thing, beat a hasty retreat. Wasn’t that unfair tactics, I asked her. She said the trouble with you is that whenever they beckon, you jump into their turf and start fighting on their terms. Why should you?

    I suppose there is a point to it. Germaine Greer asks, why after so many years of being liberated, do women still starve themselves and squeeze their feet into extremely uncomfortable high heels, to fit into some notional idea of beauty. Who defined it?

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  • Yoganatomy
    Indian Express - January 15, 2012

    You might not understand it, but 'sabar' yoga might be a most useful life lesson.

    At the swanky T3 terminal of Delhi airport, I had a "we are like that only" moment. There was a large-ish crowd hanging around a huge mental sculpture, an upward sloping elliptical frame with larger than life human figures fixed on to it. They were going around it, aiming their cellphones, and furiously taking pictures. I used to be amused with Japanese tourists and their cameras, but we Indians have stolen a march over them when it comes to no-frills pragmatic consumption of even something as aesthetic as photography. It took a while to figure out that the sculpture was depicting the surya namaskar sequence and attracting more of middle-class India's attention than shops selling foreign brands. Maybe we should just chill a bit on the FDI and death-of-the-kirana panic attack. Yoga has made a comeback and is both cool and hot! Do not interpret it as the sexual liberation of India if you happen to overhear party conversations about positions and praise for the "chap who showed me how to do it properly". It's the yoga teacher being discussed.

    Mine walked in through the front door, recommended by a friend who forgot to tell me that nowadays yoga teachers don't come only in the pyjama-kurta-jhola variant. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and called himself a yoga trainer. I soon discovered that they taught one kind of anatomy in medical college and one to yoga teachers. "Breathe in from your nose to the top of your head, and then breather out," he would say. As I complied, I wondered about the lungs, but guess what? It felt pretty good to bypass them and breathe! Other instructions followed, which included asking me to "look" at the spot in the middle of my eyebrows, with every part of my body - "even from the soles of your feet". I am not sure I managed, but I did do better with making my eyes wander down the back of my head and spine while I focused on it.

    In addition to theories about how skin pores had to be a certain way for weight loss, he also had theories on circ-oo-lay-sun that left my doctor aghast. Friends said that losing weight wouldn't happen unless you put less food in your mouth and slogged it out in the gym. In contrast, my yoga teacher said it was wall about belly buttons being where they were supposed to be, and digestion being good, which needed abdominal muscles to be strong, and about being calm.

    Now after new research about games that brains play in response to dieting, I have a sneaking suspicion that he may just be right, though I am terrified to ask him just where, anatomically speaking, he thought digestion occurred. However, the results he produced were definitely paisa vasool. I started fitting back into my clothes and feeling a whole lot better about more inches going than kilos, but that there were different kinds of kilos - the good and the bad ones, etc.

    I told him my doctor would never approve of any of this, and about how Body Mass Index is calculated. He dismissed my doctor with the some disdain that my doctor dismissed him, and sniggered, "Go take a test for you cholesterol and thyroid." He does seem to know things, though I wish there could be a decoding device, which would translate what he says into a language that my doctor would understand.

    Now with the different school of yoga, many people ask, "What kind of yoga does he teach you?" Honestly, I don't know, except that it is yoga that works; but since it requires me to be patient and suspend my conventional wisdom, we both have agreed to call it sabar yoga. It includes class where I come in huffing and puffing, angry with the world, and ask "so what are we doing today?"; and he says "today, we just sit". Just sit? At so much money per class? But he is quick to reply that it is the toughest thing that I have probably done in my life. See how you sweet in two minutes, just sitting, not moving at all that's called working out. I do sit for half an hour, haplessly and helplessly doing sabar yoga, and, yes, after that I feel ready to face the world - even visit my mother or go to a contentious board meeting - with a smile!

    My Labrador puppy Zak is my new role model - he is the champion of contorted body postures, of stretching with abandon, and of just sitting. Recently, I was feeling unwell and a management professor friend recommended that I go see his Vaidji, who only checks you pulse and knows exactly what is wrong with you. No, thank you, I am not emotionally ready for one more thing that I cannot explain to my doctor. So I will just take a deep breath from my nose to the top of my head and breathe out from my toes, and contemplate why "just sitting" for half an hour is so hard.

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  • Sincerely Yours
    Reforms 2020, September 2011

    BIG BAZAAR is a brand that is a symbol of middle class abundance, aspiration for a better living curiosity and thirst for new consumption experiences, and in general of middle India modernity and sophistication–not westernisation but better Indian ways of doing things. If Infosys represents the journey of India abroad in the productivity and earning space, Big Bazaar represents the journey of India at home in the consumption and spending space. Big Bazaar brand's relationship with its customers is what makes it so special. An old brand health question used to be not "what do you think of the brand?" but "what do you think the brand thinks of you?".

    Big Bazaar thinks you are worth it even if you are not "hi-fi"; it doesn't expect you to speak good English, know how to read signs in straight aisles and work with checklists. It doesn't laugh at you because you are a first time buyer of melmoware or aprons or fancy mops or brooms. It is your partner in discovery of what you can have. It delights with you in the little joys of consumption.

    All are welcome to the Big Bazaar fraternity. The brand is quintessentially Indian, hard working and authentic. Consuming it is the logical next step up the ladder for the "aspirational class" who are pragmatic about their consumption and not easily swayed by seductive offers of what they don't think is good value for money.


    • Launched in 2001 by entrepreneur Kishore Biyani when modern or organized retail was still a niche concept
    • The same year, three Big Bazaar stores launched in Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad
    • Introduces several campaigns such as "The Great Exchange Offer" and "Sabse Sasta Din" to attract many more middle class households
    • Over the next four years, launches private brands in categories such as food, consumer electronics and fashion
    • The Big Bazaar franchise expands into Electronic Bazaar, Furniture Bazaar, and Mobile Bazaar by 2005
    • In 2008, 100th store is launched and this makes Big Bazaar the first hypermarket format to have expanded so fast
    • In 2010, launches products in key consumer products categories under the brand name Sach, co-created in partnership with cricketer Sachin Tendulkar



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  • Sari State of Affairs
    EYE - June 26 - 2011

    Craftsmen work in appalling conditions to weave that sari you pay a premium for at a plush store. Maybe some innovations could provide a win-win situation.

    I have always loved wearing handloom saris and have admired the efforts of all those who are committed to keeping the dying drafts alive. Until, I recently visited a weavers' colony on my own. The saris were beautiful but the circumstances in which they were made was a rude shock.

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  • Super Grooms for Super Brides
    EYE - May 22 - 2011

    Matrimonial hunts have got more complicated than ever

    A favourite question from foreigners is whether the institution of the arranged marriage is dying in new India. Their assumption is that such an archaic institution must be on its way out because, after all, we are getting more globalised and modern. However, judging from the number of requests I get from friends and family to do reference checks on prospective bridegrooms or brides that somebody who knows somebody had recommended to them, I think arranged marriages are alive and well. In fact, I am told by a lot of people that their children have come to them and said "okay parents, please can you find someone for me to marry?" and many of them don't know how to go about it.

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  • Bust Your Car
    EYE - April 24 - 2011

    Some lessons in problem solving

    When I was a student at IIM-Ahmedabad, my professors were obsessed with what they called "problem-solving skills". "Problem identification" was a pet theme that ran across all the courses, be it accounting, human resources, quantitative methods or a horrible one - WAC - "written analysis and communication", which gave everyone a C because they either did not know the problem or wrote like they did not know it. The professor teaching a marketing case about why popsicles were not selling would look at me with a mean glint, and say, "Miss Rao, what you just described is the apparent problem. What do you think the real problem could be?" I would look blankly at him and he would, through a painful process of Socratic inquiry, also known as pulling teeth, steer me degree by degree, from the apparent to the real problem. Then, he would turn to the poor idiot sitting behind me, and ask him how to analyse the identified problem

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  • Maid to Order
    EYE - March 27 - 2011

    Ladies, some HR management tips for your home

    This is a belated International Women's Day article. On her 45th birthday, my friend decided to thank the important people in her life who had helped her with her home-and-career juggling act all these years; so she took her cook and her housekeeper for a multiplex movie and a good dinner. Working mothers know that when it comes to the crunch, it is the quality of your maid and not the quality of your presentation that determines your career success. You have a major client presentation and your maid delays returning from her weekend off. You are literally left holding the vbaby.

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  • Maiden Over
    EYE - March 13 - 2011

    Why a self-confessed cricket atheist loves it when there's cricket all around

    I called my husband from a hotel in London and said to him that I was overlooking a large lawn with a funny spacecraft or a UFO-type thing sitting in the middle of it, and wondered who would inflict that on such a beautiful lawn. He suddenly sprang to life, departing from the usual monosyllables that mark his spousal conversation. He said I was definitely an uneducated idiot who was probably looking at Lord's the hallowed ground where all cricket worshippers one day hope to go for a darshan, And so I was, as I discovered.

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  • 19 X 19 =?
    The Sunday Express - EYE - January 16, 2011

    To my father, a kid not being able to add or subtract was blasphemy

    THIS STORY is for all those tortured Indian parents who don't know whether to push their kids or not. Every time I decided to be "modern" and reasonable" about my child's education, I thought about mine, and thought again!

    I was five years old when my father discovered that I couldn't add or subtract properly. To him, that was blasphemy. It wasn't as if he wanted me to have a career; he believed that a woman's place was in the kitchen, but that good mothers must be able to supervise coordinate geometry homework, even while cooking. To remedy my mathematical deficit, the family was marched off to Aruku valley (Andhra Pradesh), to an awful dak bungalow in the wilderness, for a mathematics boot camp. He was an army man, a stern disciplinarian, who believed that lack of creature comforts built character and was good for the soul.

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  • Freedom at Mid Life
    The Sunday Express - EYE - December 26, 2010

    Who wants to be a traumatized 30?

    IT WAS A two-day strategy off-site meeting, that corporate world ritual where senior management people take off to a scenic hotel, and lock themselves up in a room with no windows, wallowing in PowerPoint and endless arguments. The client group was mostly male, and from the consulting firm, there was a young lady, the project coordinator, and her two senior male colleagues. The meeting was to end on the first day at 6 pm, and start again at 8 am the next day. By 4 pm on day one, we had all hit a mental block, and as the CEO put it, we were all perfectly aligned in our confusion.

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  • Meet or Wed
    The Sunday Express - EYE - December 12, 2010

    The predictive text, T9, in your cellphone is indeed useful. But SMS junkies should be aware of its pitfalls

    MY HUSBAND looked at the SMS on his cellphone and broke into a wide smile. He said to my daughter, "I have some good news for you; your mother is going to wed someone else. But the bad news is that she needs the car, so you can't have it."

    His happiness was short-lived because it was the problem of predictive text, which has been the joy of my life and the bane of his. He complains that my messages are gibberish and asks me whether I read the messages I send him. Of course, I don't when I write to him, they are his messages, not mine and I think spouses should stay out of each other's inboxes. But here's what happened that day.

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  • Prince Gusting, RIP - EYE
    EYE - November 14, 2010

    To he who held us in thrall and in tyranny and taught us how to love unconditionally

    He was called "Hound of the House", "Mama's Baby Sweetie Pie", "Jungle Kutta Bad Boy". We suspect that he thought his name was "Biscuit" or "Khana" because those were the only words he promptly responded to, tail wagging. He was a handsome Dalmatian with an unpredictable nature. One minute you could be feeding him from his bowl, and he would eat out of you hand, and the next he'd go for your fingers with his sharp teeth. What ailed him from his bowl, and he would eat out of your hand, and the next he'd go for your fingers with his sharp teeth. What ailed him was exactly what my massage wali-bai said of her husband. "Who bahut achche hain, par kabhi kabhi, achanak unka sir phisal jaata hai aur pata nahin kya kar baithenge. (He is nice but sometimes he loses it and there's no saying what he will do.)"

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  • Ring in the New, Revel in the old
    EYE - October 31 - November 6, 2010

    Diwali shopping, and finding the mecca of the modern Indian shopper

    I went to the mecca of modern shopping, the new temples of modern India, this weekend to check out what Diwali shopping was like and what modern Indian shoppers and shops were doing. Here's my amateur anthropologist's report.

    There were two X-ray arches to enter the Phoenix Mills complex of malls in Mumbai one for the uber-fancy Palladium Mall, with its shops housing high-end (mostly foreign) brands and hip restaurants; the other was the entrance to the more janta malls, relatively speaking of course. Sort of diwan-e-aam and Diwan-e-khas, but diwan-e-something for sure. The queue to enter the high-end mall was non-existent, and all of us headed purposefully towards the other entrance.

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  • Iim All Yours
    The Indian Express - November 22, 2008

    The Bhargava Committee Report: A Leap Backwards (PART II)

    How the Bhargava Committee Report surrenders all significant control to the government

    After the emasculation of the IIMs through two tier board control and a careful process of selection of the "right" board members, comes the bit about the "co-ordination" that the pan IIM super board will do amongst the IIMs, bringing them all down to the lowest common denominator. The report preaches the doctrine of 'sameness' across all IIMs, ignoring the idea that strategically, differentiation is what makes the larger IIMs collectively more competitive. IIM C chose a more analytical, quantitative orientation while, IIM A, pursued a more generalist program, inspired by its original collaborator, Harvard Business School. IIM B has gone the functional and sector specialization route. In recent times, IIMA has chosen to launch a one year executive MBA and a one year program for policy makers and development sector folks; both are very successful, took a lot of effort to create, and happened because some of its faculty were passionate about it and took the initiative. That's how academic institutions produce good work - fiats and mandates from higher up never work without faculty passion and motivation.

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  • The Great Leap Backwards
    The Indian Express - November 21, 2008

    The Bhargava Committee Report: A Leap Backwards (PART I)

    The IIM review makes a case for tightening the government's tentacles

    The report of the IIM Review committee is finally out. If this were a student report it would get an A on "describing the current problems", a C on all the sections they call "our analysis" - a C and not a D because some of the arguments made in the analysis are brilliantly tautological. As we tell our IIM students, if the analysis gets a D, don't even bother to check your grade on 'quality of recommendations' - even if they make sense by some fluke, please go back and do your analysis - diagnosis again, with more rigour and depth. On integrity and intent, this report gets a straight F. The key thrust of the recommendation is that the boards governing the IIMs be configured in such a way that the government gets more control, and then be given greater decision making powers than they currently have. What is more, the report says, very early on, in a gratingly obsequious manner, "Government is to be congratulated for allowing IIMs absolute academic freedom. Admissions to the PGP programme are purely on merit and both Government and the IIMs are to be congratulated for this". Why should anyone have to congratulate the Government for not messing around in areas where they have no mandate (refer the MOA), and no expertise?

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  • Rama in Vietnam
    The Indian Express - September 15, 2007

    Another one bites the dust, walking shamelessly down Mr Karat's "pro - imperialist" path, and that is none other than Vietnam, run by his comrades. The latest emerging market that is being deluged with attention from America Inc is Vietnam. The Wall Street journal has frequent Vietnam stories; and in true American Inc. fashion, there is a rush to hold emerging market conferences and strategy sessions in Ho Chi Minh city, with well arranged tours of the hinterland, so that the American senior management team can understand what it takes to capture Vietnam, so to speak. And as a bright young man who works in the region was explaining to me on a flight back from Saigon, whenever there is an American business leader of Fortune 100 CEO rank visiting Vietnam, the visit carries all the courtesies extended to highly placed political figures, which includes the top brass from Hanoi descending and offering them goodies and wooing them to invest.

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  • Creating Active Citizenry
    The Indian Express - January 2006

    I am a great fan of Pavan K Varma. In a recent interview about his book "Being Indian: The Truth about why the 21st Century will be India's", he says that we Indians are a bundle of contradictions. "We are focused and will work towards a goal despite formidable obstacles. So we are resilient , ingenuous, ever hopeful". If you have trouble believing this, just look at the epic proportions to which we take the saga of standard 10, 12 and college admissions. Rich or modest in income, the drama is the same.

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  • Relaunching Brand Bihar
    The Indian Express - November 24, 2005

    I remember a discussion a few years ago at a strategic planning session of a multinational consumer goods company on how people of India were changing. A lot was said about the positive effects of liberalisation and all its spin-off effects, on the attitudes of the people of India. Until someone suddenly broke the spell by asking, "If all this is true, then why do millions of people vote for Laloo in Bihar? Do we even know for sure?"

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