Desi habit of Jugaad

Is the Indian way of thinking, a unique contributor to our success? YES! As Indians we are all aware of how “jugaad” works. For those who are still not aware of what this term implies – it is basically a means to innovate or find a low cost yet quick and effective solution to any problem. This is a very Indian thing. Sometimes the stuff that people come up with is really admirable and they should probably patent and market it. There are innumerable situations where “jugaad” has come to my rescue but in this post, I Am going to highlight a particular situation where jugaad was really helpful when I was outside India and needed to use my Indian skills.This incident is from 2002 when I was in Japan for 2 months, on site , as part of my IT industry life. The very opportunity for going on site to Tokyo had come my way due to the fact that no one, yes NO ONE, in general wanted to go to Tokyo. There were a lot of issues with such a  long stint at Tokyo. Apart from the usual cultural difficulties, most outsiders in Japan face (or at least faced in that “era”) two particular problems the most. The first was the language barrier. There were barely any people who spoke English. And if at all, all of them happened to be working with us. So if we actually needed some help outside of office, it was nearly impossible to communicate anything and one had to be really good at “dumb charades” to attempt communicating anything. The second issue was food. It was really really really difficult to find something palatable, let alone vegetarian. For the Japanese – chicken, egg, pork etc counted as Vegetarian fare and seafood was what was considered Non-vegetarian. Thus even if you would confirm from someone if the thing you were buying was vegetarian, there actually was no guarantee that it really was. So the only way to get through was to cook oneself.

Now comes the interesting part. Most of the time, we used to get by on things like sandwiches & salads or the Japanese versions of “curry”. Trust me you don’t enjoy it especially with sticky rice. So an Indian meal was a luxury and very tough to find. For my own food supplies, I had taken Atta (whole wheat flour) with me from India , since I knew it would be really tough to find there. And I had taken a pressure cooker along. I had been provided accommodation arranged  by the Japanese organisation I was working for and it was available to me till 31st december 2002. Before leaving for new year celebrations, I wanted to exhaust my food supplies and also have a celebratory new year meal. In other words, I had to use ALL the atta I had and also make something really nice. So I invited some of my Indian colleagues over for Aloo ke paranthe. It took them NO time to say yes, because none of us had had a proper Indian meal in months.

The issues started cropping up when I had to actually make them. Not only does the entire world use electric stoves which take painfully slow to heat up, but they also obviously don’t have the usual utensils Indians use. In this case – those were Tawa (flat pan), chakla & belna (Indian style circular board & rolling pin ). So after boiling potatoes, I kneaded the atta in my precious cooker. In lieu of a tawa, I used a shallow pan. And to replace the Chakla, I used a thin chopping board. For belna usage, I needed something evenly cylindrical and at that point all I had was a glass bottle. So I used the glass bottle to roll out the paranthas.

As a result of all these jugaad items, a “lavish” (by our Japanese standards then) Indian meal was prepared for new year celebrations. My colleagues really appreciated the Aloo paranthe they had in Tokyo, and till this date they remember them fondly thanks to this!

Jugaad is certainly one skill that all Indians inherently possess. When the situation comes up, thinking out of the box is all it needs. We are more Indian than we think. Just like this TVC for Lufthansa shows how our Indian values are now being recognised at a global level.


** This post is part of a #MoreIndianThanYouThink contest being run by Lufthansa Airlines


2008 roundup – part une 9

I am back with a long awaited attempt at getting back to the “Drid Nishchaya” of being regular at the blog (though I am sufficiently active on the photoblog, the microblog and to some extent the Delhi Bloggers‘ Blog). Here’s a roundup of the salient features of the 2008 chapter of my life, most of which was intended to appear on this blog but did not turn up for various reasons.

The year 2008 started on quite a bad note. Right after the 12am gong struck 1st Jan 2008, and I was holidaying at Sonapani, I discovered a “virtual” can of worms in my online social circle and had to perform the virtual equivalent of chemotherapy on a virtual entity I had started. All that done, it was surely a relief. I was very glad and also pleasantly surprised to see the support this ‘act’ garnered for me. It was one of the times where one could clearly differentiate between friends and foes, commitment and shallow words, sincerity and selfish, plain greed. On the whole though it was unpleasant, it was also a great learning. Human nature has many a fascinating avenue to explore and observe. And realise.

On 13th Jan 2008, the Delhi Bloggers group celebrated its 4th anniversary in Blues, CP. We all had great fun. It was a simple fun affair. For a change we had no agenda, sponsors or planning. Just a night with online friends who have been together since 4 years and liked to be together.  The common thread tying them РDelhi & blogging.

In late february last year, 23rd Feb to be precise, we bade farewell to our dearest doggie, as he left for the doggie heaven above, after giving us a glorious 17 years & 2 months of his affectionate company. I had planned to write about it on the blog to express the pain and I even put some other posts on hold because of that. But I never could. The loss of a pet may not be understood by those who have never owned one. But believe me, it’s like the loss of any family member or rather that of a child. 17 is teenage in human years and abt a 120 in doggie years. My sister and I have spent the bigger part of our lives in his company than without it, so it’s a loss that is unforgettable for life alright. The pain of the separation apart, it was a most unfortunate time we had, while looking for a decent burial spot (crematoriums have been stopped by the govt). It would have been better if we had thought out the horrendous details earlier, even though painful. I continue to miss him every single moment that I breathe. God bless him for the unconditional love he gave us.

In early March, I organised Delhi’s first tweetup (Twitter meet) along with @mojosanjay. It was great fun and we had a huge attendance even though organised in a jiffy. There were out station members as well and I even shot a video of most members. Got to still work on that to share it :P. It was a meet in a cafe, we explained twitter to those who didnt know it and also explained some mashups to those who did.

In late March, I “aged” another year. The least said the better :).

In April, we helped organise Blogathon India and had a partner meet in Delhi for that. This meet was sponsored by Alootechie. It was a nice cosy affair at “The Attic” in CP – a place to fall in love with. The participation in blogathon was good and had a great potential if done regularly. The sponsorship was based on verbal commitment. It was just 4K to cover the rent & snacks charges. However, getting a reimbursement of that money probably cost me at least 1/4th the amount in just persuing them for it and took 5 months of continuous pressure. A harassing experience, but I made sure I at least got my money back. I am told (via other bloggers) that this isn’t a one off thing, it’s a consistent one with this organisation.

In April again, Dinesh Khanna (who I co-administer “Delhi Photographers” with) drew my attention to the fact that my picture was there all over in Canon’s brochures in every camera box! Well, it still is. And unfortunately there’s not much I can do about it. It had been clicked by photographer friend¬†Sanjay when he & I were trying out our brand new Canon 400D’s and the various features of our new “toys”. This pic as it turned out, suited a particular contest of Canon very well. We discussed the pros/cons of participation & Sanjay decided to send it in hoping to win the first prize – a cool camera lense (which we were quite sure of winning given the quality of the picture demonstrating every aspect of a camera). Later he got a notification that his pic would be used for some Canon related stuff. No news about the competition. Till date. In return he got nothing but a silly camera manual. The modified picture that is there in every Canon Camera’s box now, is so botched up that it literally looks mutilated. The worst treatment to subject someone’s creation to. The contest fine print allows them to publish the picture, however the whole episode reeks of unethical practices on Canon’s part. If the picture was that good that it can go out as part of a brochure of every single Canon EOS series camera now (and has been so since past 1 year plus), then it definitely deserved first prize. What better certification was required than the very fact that Canon decided to save on agency costs & used a picture clicked by a Canon user! However we never heard anything from Canon till date. Bad Canon.

Soon in May, I got an article published in Hindustan Times. It was on blogging and the community of Delhi Bloggers that exists – their meets, the events, the fervour. Felt great :). I have had many interviews (print/visual/audio) taken earlier, but in terms of writing something (not creative work that incidentally got published too) specifically for publishing in a leading publication, this was a first.

In late May, I left my organisation of 8.5 years to join another for the kind of role I wanted. It was a moment I expected to be “impacting” me in a very large way. Surprisingly it didn’t. Not quite. A smooth transition emotionally I guess is due to the disillusionment of many years. It was a long journey with many nuggets worth sharing here. I got a short break of 3 weeks in between both jobs. I tried to get a longer one but the IT industry is just not kind to people who want to take a sabbatical.

Just after I left my prev orgn, 104.8 Meow FM interviewed me in their studio. I had a great time with Ginnie Mahajan who was the host of the show – Tu Tu Meow Meow. It was supposed to be a live chat show where callers call and asked me questions about blogging and then there were random songs that played as well. During the songs part I got to know Ginnie and during the chat part, the callers got to know me. There were some rather hilarious moments where I just could NOT control my laughter while we were live and Ginnie had a lot of fun at my expense in a LIVE show! My family, extended family, some friends & ex-colleagues were all tuned in. Couple of bloggers who knew me called in and some others called me after the show because they had happened to hear me on air! All in all it was a great experience. I had been interviewed by BBC radio in Apr 2006, but a live show in a studio is a different ball game altogether. I had asked a friend to record the show on my mp3 player so I have some sort of a recording but it has a lot of noise in various places. Unfortunately when Meow FM sent me a much needed recording of my show it turned out to be someone elses. Probably someone, somewhere else is laughing off at the chat show that we all are supposed to laugh at! I am yet to edit the recording I have and share it for your hilarious listening pleasure.

On June 7th, I happened to organise India’s first social media camp. Note – there may have been many blogcamps earlier, but there were no camps at all which catered to social media or the various commercial uses of it or social media marketing. I realised this when I tried planning for this particular camp. I could not find any precedent for any sort of guideline. Eventually I shortlisted some areas where social media is used in todays Web2.0 world and tried to invite speakers from that very domain to talk about how they used social media. In the end we had speakers from the Print media, Travel industry, Corporate blogging arena, Social media marketing, a leading newschannel, developers who create social networks, a humour blogger talking abt his social media experience, a blogger presenting a debatable topic – “protecting” social media, a session on our evergreen twitter, social media in the mobile network and a lawyer talking on the much needed legal aspect of social media and of course monetisation. It was a very interesting affair. Our prime sponsor was Indiatimes and we were also assisted by IBM, WordPress and Tyroo. The event was very well appreciated. We got great feedback and accolades. It could not have been possible without Sanjay and Garima. The perfect team to work with. Thanks Guys!

On 16th June, I joined my new organisation, with a new role – the kind that I wanted for long but could not get in the ex-orgn. Later, within 6 months I would get an award at excellence in work and I would wonder why I did not leave my ex-organisation earlier.

I’ll follow up the next 6 months (part deux) in a separate post. Since it’s already been 6 months into 2009 too, perhaps those 6 months (part trois) in another post as well :\.

Anniversary! 2

It’s the first anniversary of the lovely association with my “gentleman”. Those who may feel disinclined to clicking the embedded link, here’s how I feel about the gentleman (taken from my first post about the same).

“My hands taper gently and effortlessly. My feet come into motion ever so lightly as if things work on feather touch. I glide as we dance to the symphony of the magical music that we make together. I get intoxicated with the handsome facade and the smoothness of noiseless movement. The gibbous moon stares at us from above as we waltz together, the waltz turning allegro at times. But stopping gracefully was never a problem. Not a sweat on my brow, not a hair out of place. The litheness is remarkable. My head is still giddy with the vitality. There’s a jig in my step and a song in my heart.

If I can nestle comfortably in the lap after a long day, get wisps of my hair blown out of my eyes, get mesmerized by the dazzle of lights when we are together – why would I even agree with a darling friend of mine who insists that a brand new car should be treated like a newly wedded bride? My brand new car oozes gentlemanliness.”

With my gentleman I have indulged in many a “bondgiri” sessions and whisked across many a highway. I have also been aided a lot in my latest obsession – photography. A lot of sessions would never have been possible without the gentleman in tow. Needless to say it has been a smooooooth ride so far and I look forward to many other such times to come.

One last look

Stop right there.
Let me picture you in my mind for the last time.
Soon you’ll be walking out of my life.
Let me gaze upon you for the last time.

I need something to hold on to.
Something to carry me through.
All I need is one last look before you go.
So I’ll have memories where ever I go.
One last look before you’re gone.
So in my heart you’ll live on and on.

Just one last look before we part.
So memories of you will fill my heart.
Let me remember my whole life through.
‘Cause my happiest days, I’ve spent with you.

—– JUST ONE LAST LOOK – The temptations

The lyrics indicate enough. Though they indicate farewell to a sweetheart, in my case it’s not that. In my case it’s not someone walking out of my life. It’s more of the reverse. In my case, it’s not a person but an inanimate object that I am associating all these feelings with. It’s more of a farewell to a house. A house in which I have spent a lot of my moments, in all these years. A house that I have always associated with my childhood as well as my mom’s. A house which was old and antiquated. A house with an architecture which is now defunct. A big open verandah in between with the house “around” it. All kind of plants planted in a small bed of earth around the verandah. A house which had a “well” inside for a large part of its life. It also had a handpump for quite some time. A house which had been surrounded by “tabelas” of buffaloes for many years, for it was built in the non-glitzy Gurgaon of yesteryears. A house which in its prime was the only cemented, double storied structure around. A house which had those huge metallic “kundee” type bolts which could not be locked. And there was a phase when people never needed to. The almost gigantic wooden doors with that typical arch, would have huge metallic hoops as knockers because there were no door bells then. The house which had these huge, heavy chick curtains to block out a bright sun. The house with the high ceilings and with those huge fans. The house where a lot of tales of partition were retold and recounted.

The house where I played unlimited Ludo, hide and seek, hopscotch and some more imagined games. A house, from the open verandah of which, my sister and I would squint under the sun to wave at every passing airplane (thanks to the proximity to IGI airport) because it was a fun thing to do. The house where we actually made paper boats and then “sailed” them in puddles formed after rains. The house in which we always had one or two kites floating around when it would be kite flying season. The house where my mom had her engagement photos taken. The house where she got ready when she was to get married. People never indulged in beauty parlours then. The house where we had all the table cloths, cushion covers and armrests made by my nani. The house where my sister and I would fight over a particular spoon because it was too round and too cute. The house where we knew we were always welcome. The house which we reached after an arduous journey across a stony path (no road) on a two wheeler! The distances were big in those days and the only things that were the landmarks in Gurgaon were the factories. The house which had pictures of a cute kid who was supposed to be our grown up mother. The house which had a lot of wall hangings made by my maasis. The house which was a typical human nest where the kids had taken off and came visiting now and then. The house where my maternal grandparents spent about 40 years. That house is being sold off after my nani’s death. Soon it would be time to take one last look before we part. So that memories of it will fill my heart.

A heart full

Wo Naani Kee Baaton Mein Pariyon Ka Dera
Wo Chehre Ke Jhuriyon Mein Sadiyon Ka Phera
Bhulaaye Nahin Bhool Saqta Hai Koi
Wo Choti See Raaten Wo Lambi Kahaani

Although my nani never narrated stories to us, (not that I remember), she definitely did regale us with real life incidents. She was a brave woman who along with her husband and brothers made it to this side during the partition. My maternal grandparents had also, like my paternal granparents, left every single thing behind in what is now Pakistan. They witnessed butchering and massacre which is enough to scar a person for a lifetime. But they also carried with them memories of happy times, when the money and jewellery would be just lying about, cupboards full of it. There were personal godowns of dry fruits and grains. These were part of palatial houses with infinite rooms, marble flooring and plush interiors. Those “facts” were so difficult to digest they seemed like made up stories for they were being told to children who heard of such things only in their Amar Chitra Kathas and Tinkles. My grandparents would talk to each other in Pashto even now.

Nani ke ghar jaaoge to motte ho ke aaoge” is what my nani and mom always used to say. It was true also. It was almost as if the visit’s sole purpose was indeed to fatten up the children. We had delicious food with loads of butter – the home made white butter that I so love. We also had an angeethi – the actual thing made of clay and it used to take ages to get heated up and then to cool down, but the result was fabulous tandoori rottis. Their cutlery and tableware included a lot of brass. I distinctly remember that my sister and I used to fight over who would get to drink in the heavy brass glass. It used to take enormous effort to just hold it.

Being the first grandchild on my maternal side, I was always treated somewhat specially. As a kid I used to hate the regular stuff that all kids hate – veggies like Karela, toree, parmal, kaddu, tinde etc. but when my nani made it (using shudh desi ghee) the end results were so delectable that one could live on those forever. My maternal grandparents stay in Gurgaon – the actual gurgaon which existed much before the glitzy Gurgaon came into picture, much before there was life on the other side of the highway, much before there was any inhabitation on either side of it. In those days it was practically a village, for all the neighbours had buffaloes and tabelas! Almost all the houses were made of mud instead of cement (like my nani’s) decorated with the dung cakes that were so characteristic of a village then. Thankfully my nani’s house wasn’t a buffalo barn, but we sure got amused everytime we would go from Delhi to Gurgaon (the distances were so much more inspite of being the same physically).

I met her about a month back after she had recovered from some brief illness. She seemed to have recovered just fine and was attentive, alert, taking meals andMy grandparents medicines properly. That was the last time I saw her. Just when I was beginning to think that maybe my mother’s mother and I do look a lot more similar from a particular angle (seeing the B&W pic that hung on their wall), her sudden death took her away from us. She suffered from pneumonia and it resulted in multiple organ failure. She had been through much more serious medical situations and had always made it. We had not even thought that some minor illness would result in catastrophic consequences. Such situations are so pathetic. When the doctors tell you that there’s nothing else you can do except wait for the person’s death, it is the worst feeling in this world. A maternal cousin’s marriage was scheduled for a week later. My nani had gotten new dresses made and would have seen the first grandchild wedding. Unfortunately it never happened that way.

My mom took it bravely and so did the whole family. After the cremation we all tried to concentrate on remembering the good times instead of weeping inconsolably. We even laughed. That was something I could not even imagine doing, given the situation. My grandfather lost his mate of about 60 years. Life will never be the same for him ever again. It is very disheartening to see how someone who was alive and well could turn into a “body” and then soon into a “picture”. I can never forget the way my mom looked at her mom when seeing her for the last time. It forced me to think in a particular direction myself and I knew that even though I don’t even want to think about it, it’s a grim reality of life. When I look around I realise, we do have our hearts full. But full of the memories and of the love that she gave.