Thursday, December 18, 2008

Promises of a Jane Fonda body on a common man’s budget? Oh those sneaky...

We are less than two weeks shy of the New Year. Most people, with a reasonable emotional quotient, take out some time from their lives to reflect upon the past year. I call this period the “epiphany phase”. What went wrong or what worked for them? Are there ways they could alleviate the stress in their forthcoming year? Etc. etc. etc. This bedlam stage for a common man is a marketer’s dream come true moment.

The other day, a good friend of mine and I were chatting about our respective holiday plans when she casually enquired if I had worked on any New Year resolutions. I was like “What? Are you kidding me?” An obsessive-compulsive planner like me thrives on the opportunity to make a commitment for 365 days. Every 31st December, by midnight, I make a promise to myself, which I never reveal to anyone until the goal is achieved. Even then, a chosen few hear about my infamous New Year resolutions and their success and failure rate. As the year progresses, I diligently mentally check off “All achieved” and highlight “Here’s what’s pending,” and mourn over “Damn it! Need to carry it over to next year,” list. Of course, for the triumphant execution of my goals, I seek certain worldly assistance in terms of goods and services. For instance, if one of my goals was to work on my writing skills, the service I would seek would be a writing class or a workshop.

Up until last morning, I thought I was all alone in my fanaticism until I got a note from a friend. He has made a list of 101 things that he wants to achieve in 1001 days. The list involves a variety of to-do-list—right from exploring out vegetarianism for a defined period of time to trying out Indian cuisine to participating in a race to properly managing his money. I was intrigued. A lot of his resolutions resonated with mine (I am still not telling what my goals are for the New Year), and we have never talked about what each of us wants to achieve in 2009. Hmmm. This can’t be just a coincidence.

I personally believe that we humans share a common platform for core issues. Be it money, health, career, personal life etc., the foundation of existence is defined by a few items. Sure, it might take different shapes depending on individual needs and wants. For example, this is the time of the year when people lose amour-propre. Thanks to all the holiday parties and living-in-the-moment spirit, some gain obvious amounts of weight which triggers the feeling of guilt about abusing their system with unwarranted amounts of solids and liquid, so they make goals to improve/enhance something about their lives. Voila! This is where the successful marketer creeps in like Santa Claus and helps bridge the gap between the human desire/guilt/goal/New Year resolution—(give it whatever name you like) and the product/service that would ensure the execution of the wish. For instance, most health clubs in New York City have phenomenal sales in the month of January. Before you know it, people get suckered into the deal with dreamy eyes and a culpable conscience.

Another example: A lot of people I know have career-oriented goals for the New Year. So, do you remember seeing the “Oh so alluring” deals on laptops at the beginning of every year? Who do you think they cater to? How about the $0 down payment on a new home theatre system?

We humans are predictable to quite some extent and companies are getting better at targeted marketing. I have been receiving invites to free One-day writing workshops in the month of January. Gee, I wonder how that happened.

The marketers know enough people have some form of self enhancement as a goal and so prey onto the nucleus of human weaknesses. They know most would probably fall right into their trap as what the marketers are doing, is providing that connective tissue between the “desiree” and the “desired”. Maybe marketers do get a carte blanche around this time of the year. I wish I could say, “Watch out,” but I am one of those professionals myself trying to make a living in this tough world. C'est la vie

More until next time.

Copyright © 12.18.2008

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone elses opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” – Oscar wilde

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This Holiday Season

This holiday season, I see
solitude roam the streets
of New York instead of
awestruck, cackling tourists
sipping steaming cappuccino.

This holiday season, I hear
budgets, complaints, woes,
louder than any prayers
music, or wishes. Is sound
exploring its new destiny?

This holiday season, I sense
Santa and his elves will be
making fewer stops. The
wishes made and cookies
baked are incomprehensible.

This holiday season, stores
have more ghosts than
people. The rustling of the
clothes sound like harsh
trampling of holiday hopes.

This holiday season, I hear
families coming closer, hearts
healing, echo of true feelings
because holidays are about
cherishing what you have
and not what’s missing.

More until next time.

Copyright © 12.11.2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deciphering the rising emotions

I know. The heinous terrorist attacks on Mumbai happened a week ago, and maybe like the indifferent Indian politicians, I should let go. But I can’t. Not until I share what I have been thinking, hearing, and debating. The Indian world is upsurge with emotions: anger, depression, shock, frustration, resentment, and melancholy.

I see fingers being pointed and defensive arguments occupying our daily conversations. Most of the world, not privy to the historic religion-based chaos in South Asia, fails to understand the ongoing sentiments. I am a big believer in the political faux pas brought about by Gandhi (notice how I deliberately didn’t add “ji” to his name. In my eyes, he lost all respect the day I figured out the history of Indian independence), Nehru, and Jinnah. For their own ulterior, selfish motives, they divided the nation. They are dead, and look at what the rest of us are facing.

The next day after the attacks, a very dear Pakistani friend of mine called to check on me—to see if my family and I were alright and if everything was fine between him and I. He knows I am emotional and just wanted to make sure. I told him blatantly that I wish I was an Indian commando saving lives, and I suspect his government (if you heard the interview with one of the terrorist, you would too) but not every Pakistani citizen. He is a friend first. His faith and nation don’t make a difference to me. I am no God’s gift to mankind, and I am definitely not trying to toot my own horn, but I wonder if everyone thought my way—just for that day. I doubt it. Few of my Muslim friends, Indian and Pakistani alike, have faced prejudice after every terrorist attacks. These are moderate, peace-loving (like the rest of us) Muslims, who are adorned with suspicious looks just because of the extremists from their realm of faith. Mumbai Muslims have refused to bury the body of the terrorists in their cemetery. How much more they need to prove?

Having said all of the above, but I also understand that in times of calamity, we humans look for an anchor. Someone to pass on the blame on to. Education, sensibility, reasoning, and rationale break all humane boundaries. Sikhs were targeted after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Hindus were targeted after Babri Masjid havoc, Arabs and Arab looking men were targeted in the US after 9/11. Were these hate crimes justified? I personally denounce them. The entire community shouldn’t have to pay for the few miscreants.

The other day, someone asked me, “Why does the Indian government denounce Pakistan?” I said, “Why did the American government mispronounce Iraq as Eye-rack and blame it for trouble everywhere?” It is my belief that India doesn’t refer to Pakistani citizens when it holds Pakistan accountable for these crimes; it condemns the Pakistani government’s support of terrorism or harboring of terrorists. It is similar to the American government’s stance on Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t think the US holds every Afghanistani or Iraqi responsible for mayhem in the world; just the government’s supporting it.

So, where am I going with this blog? I don’t know. I want answers from the Indian politicians. The CM of Maharsthra then, Vilasrao Deshmukh, never once consoled the people of Mumbai, but soon after things calmed down, he was seen entering the Taj along with his actor son, Ritesh Deshmukh and producer/director, Ram Gopal Varma. That’s when I get angry and shocked. I am frustrated with the Indian media’s unprofessional portrayal of India and their insolent coverage. Amazing, TAJ hotel got maximum reporting because the rich and the famous hangout there while CST was conveniently ignored. Poor lives don’t matter as much as the socialites of Mumbai? The Indian commandos who died in the line of duty, I salute them, and I truly believe India is honored by their martyrdom. But I feel melancholic that the few Indian officials, who cared, are now deceased.

It makes me proud that New Yorkers haven’t forgotten or forgiven 9/11 or the lives lost that day. Our desi “It’s okay,” attitude and tendency to forget isn’t acceptable anymore. Resilience is one thing; callousness towards human life is another. Just because you didn’t lose a dear one in the Mumbai attacks, doesn’t give you the right to accept and move on. Every single day of our lives, we should remember what happened to Mumbai and to the brave hearts that died saving it. This would honor the lives lost and perhaps make us stronger and less vulnerable as a nation.

Without killing, it’s time we Indian citizens took matters in our own hands and showed some solidarity. We should focus on the bigger picture—the safety and security of our future because clearly our incompetent government won’t do anything about it. You’d think the parliament bombing in 2001 and 2002 would have taught them something. But has it?

More until next time.

Copyright © 12.04.2008

"The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Buddha