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Living knowledge vs. dead knowledge

Stream of consciousness so bear with me…

I was at lunch with a dear friend of mine earlier this week. At 27, Clara is a highly accomplished business leader. Not only does she run and manage an amazing not for profit institution but is also currently enrolled at Stanford Business School. Over steaming aloo parathas, we caught up with each other and then our discussion moved to what we had learned.

Clara shared with me a very curious phrase and I’ve googled the heck out of it but cannot find much. She described to be the concept of living knowledge vs. dead knowledge that was recently discussed in one of our business classes. The notion being that living knowledge is the type that is still being argued upon and talked about and opinions are still nascent.

It reminded me of Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates philosophies. I just finished reading Job’s autobiography. It is a fantastic look into his life but offers broad strokes over the key philosophies that defined and nurtured the last fifty years of the digital age. One of them was the argument about closed integrated systems vs. open syndicated systems. (Jobs vs. Bill camps) I think we’ve seen how both models can work (with caveats, of course) but to me, it is one of those issues that is piece of “living knowledge.” Still being argued hotly and worked upon by members of both camps. Got me thinking, what other examples of living knowledge do we have from our digital history?

Digital in 2012: The web will make us smarter

The last decade or so were the august years of the Digital web. A sort of industrial revolution that created entirely new types of economies, skill-sets, companies and most importantly behaviors. Led by programmers and tinkerers and computer scientists, this industrial age has been crucial in helping us write our generational history. One of the biggest outputs though of this age has been the birth of a culture were our need for visibility has overtaken our need for privacy. What this has done is created a digital world that is not designed for developing original thought.

There’s nothing wrong with that and ofcourse the onus does not lie on the web. But I believe that anything in excess hurts the society. And all this talk about connectivity has left a few other equally important values for humanity at bay. It’s time to address this excess.

The good news is that a new slew of characters have emerge to balance out the equation. I believe, we are on the fringes of entering a new wave. I’m calling it the age of enlightenment in our digital history. And this age is being lead by a new class of people. These are thinkers, artists and storytellers not programmers and geeks. These are people driven by a vision that’s a bit more individualistic, centers more around exploring the tapestry of human opinions and feelings instead of connecting the world into one large immutable being.

The problem

Sharing has become a thoughtless act: Sharing used to carry weight – it used to be hold more meaning. Now, it’s passive, robot-like. And does not persuade or evoke response. Yet brands and marketers continue to tout the one-to-many function that social networks (and the Internet) has enabled. The web systems we have designed unfortunately haven’t focused on curating for the self but for the echo chamber that each of us is a part of. Some may argue we have become mindless drones, quick to react and retweet, but not *think*

I refuse to buy that a meaningful conversation can happen on channels we currently use: Facebook and Twitter predominantly. Even sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr who I’m a huge fan of, often symbolize nothing more than “inspiration fetishism” (a word coined by Stefan Boublil) What this has resulted into is a culture of people that backslap each other, think like one another and as a result, even act like one another. (I cannot tell you how many times I have heard about checking-in and scoreboards in a boardroom for new products. Which brings me to my next point..)

Value exchange is quantified in terms of likes, friends and followers: Web has become too much of a game. With gamifying the web and making instant gratification an expectation, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  I’ll give that the conversations around gaming are evolving and becoming more substantial but we have been trained to respond to flash sales, group buying and other forms of commercial game-induced behaviors. Gaming will have a larger role to play in the age of enlightenment, but perhaps not so overt. It’s job will and should become about elevating the meaning and importance associated with a like, number of friends and followers etc.

As our social quotient goes up, our intellectual quotient is coming down: The web is not going to disappear – if anything, it will continue to become more important in the next few years and become the entity that our kids will play with and even learn from. But if the growth of the web continues to perpetuate in such a manner – what kind of original thought will our kids will capable of producing?

The Solution?

The web, if designed and engineered differently,  has incredible power to induce substance back into our lives. To teach us how to think and encourage behaviors that aren’t simply reactive or celebratory. Our natural instincts are to shut technology or cut ourselves from it for a few days, to take a sabbatical or a thinking break. But why does it have to be this way? Why aren’t we or why haven’t we discussed the possibility of desgining technology and the Internet to make us smarter? Why don’t we make systems that:

1. Are designed for constructive debate and dialogue by exposing us to different points of views
2. Are designed for quality – not quantity. Where there is less immediate gratification.

In our capacity as marketers and brand stewards, our work is also indirectly shaping the future of education, humanity and intellectual thought. What roles can we play to encourage the evolution of the Web in a direction that’s not stunting our growth, but making us smarter individuals everyday?

The good news is, that I’ve already been seeing whispers of a movement in this direction. As I mentioned earlier, artists and thinkers are the one’s the forefront of this movement right now. Raghava KK, my fellow TED nominator and artist, has recently announced the launch of Shaken Media Collective.

Shaken Media Collective is an initiative brought about by the talents of creative individuals dedicated to forging a new direction of storytelling that raises empathy in readers by shaking up perspectives, and bringing stories to life through a fusion of play, art and technology.

You can see a glimpse of what this means (and its current incarnation) by downloading Raghava’s perspective-shifting PopIT application for the iPad where one shake of the story reveals a completely new perspective.

Another such attempt to bring more substance to the web and to our behaviors on the web is Cowbird. I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the early storytellers on the site. Cowbird, like most of other Jonathan Harris projects furthers how technology can offer new ways Screen shot 2011-12-21 at 6.54.01 PMof looking at the world, and telling stories. A tightly controlled and curated environment, Cowbird, is (in its own words)

trying to preserve and evolve the dying art of storytelling, using technology as friend instead of foe. We believe all people deserve equal access to the best storytelling tools, so the communication of ideas cannot be monopolized. We support the broad empowerment of individuals to voice their honest ideas about life, and we believe they deserve a clean, ad-free, uncluttered environment for sharing personal experience.By encouraging self-reflection and deeper connection, we hope to foster a feeling of empathy among people all over the world, so we can start to see our species — and indeed our planet — as a single living organism.

Regarding it’s whimsical name, it says, “Cowbird combines these two extremes to form a new kind of storytelling medium — mixing the slow, deeply rooted, contemplative idea of a cow with the fast, efficient, playful idea of a bird.”

I don’t know how successful these two initiatives will be, but we’ve entered the age of enlightenment and as the collective consciousness around this grows, more entrepreneurs, artists and thinkers will veer in this direction and build upon each other’s work to create a digital world that balanced. A world that can teach us to think as well as it as taught us to respond. Marketers as a rule respond to the current zeitgeist, and once we create a new habits and behaviors, marketers too, will play their part in accentuating and intensifying them.

This is my sincere hope for the coming year and I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this.

Facebook profiles for new-borns

I suppose I’m at at age now where a lot of folks around me are having babies. An interesting (disturbing?) trend that I’ve noticed is the eagerness with which this set of excited new parents build Facebook profiles for their new-born’s and invite friends and families to the fold. I’m particularly torn because on one hand, it’s a fantastic idea to stay in touch with family and share pictures of the baby as he/she grows up. On the other hand, I wonder about the implications of this digital trail that the new parents are creating for their new-borns. As these children grow up and pursue careers across the board, will these digital trails hurt their prospects? Or does this trend mean that agencies such as the government, secret services and even politics need to develop a tolerance (and solutions!) for these possibilities? I’m just thinking out loud. I don’t know the answer and I don’t think there is a right or wrong. Curious to hear your thoughts.

The New Princesses

Picture 10It’s interesting how the damsel-in-distress and prince charming saves the day theme is the essence of most fairy-tales. What kind of conditioning do these tales provide little girls ?

There’s one set of stories: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White that may condition girls to think of their partners as their ultimate saviors. And then there’s another set of stories: Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog etc: that give the impression that love can and does change ugliness into beauty and beasts into princes.

Research has shown that girls that over-identify with fairy-tales are more likely to fall victim to abusive relationships because sub-consciously, they take on the role of the submissive, passive female role model, expecting love and patience to change their partners’ behavior. This quote in particular struck me, “Small children may interpret the story-book submissive roles as a template of how society expects them to develop.” That is disturbing.

When I see movies like “Shrek,” there’s hope that our perception of princesses is changing. “Shrek” to be will always be seminal work of art and cultural reform. It took everything we know and believe about fairytales and princesses and turned it on its head.

Yes, princesses can be fat and stinky. They can and do burp. They know karate and are capable of taking care of themselves. And they are extremely capable of falling in love with the ugly – of seeing beyond. So there’s hope. I know the kind of media I’ll be feeding my kids when they arrive.

Even the new version of “The Princess and the Frog” is quite encouraging. She’s no princess but an ordinary waitress who dreams of owning her own restaurant someday. She’s drive, ambitious and diligent. Then she kisses a frog out of desperation and becomes a frog herself. I love how new writers and thinkers are taking what we know about fairytales and princesses and flipping it around.

Yes, princesses have dreams. And they don’t all want to live in a castle. And they are good at other things besides looking pretty.

I want to see how technology and storytelling come together to create empowering learning experiences for little girls. I want little girls to dream about themselves, the possibilities, their own potential and all the various things they could enjoy about life. I want them to be surrounded by media and cultural artifacts that work as critical thinking tools that will allow girls to think for themselves.

Have you come across such digital tools? I wish I had more kids around me or was friends with more forward-thinking parents. I’d love to learn what’s on their mind and what kind of education they dream of giving their girls.

Things I learn

I have a new perspective on my job and what I do: I’m a problem-solver and thanks to a strong team and a terrific boss who never shies from giving me feedback, I’m a good problem-solver. The thrill of working on the agency side is you never know what type of challenge will come your way. Every once in a while, I like to look back and take stock of things I’ve learned and become good at and new weaknesses I’ve identified in myself. Perhaps because it is spring and the weather is getting warmer, I’m in more introspective mood… or perhaps it’s because I’m at a roadblock regarding a current challenge I’m working on! But I wanted to capture these thoughts before losing them.

1. I’ve noticed I’ve become better and I continue to become better at presenting my case, argument and disagreements. It sounds so peculiar. But as responsibilities increase and my work touches more people, I have had to sometimes fight harder to protect it or to simply make sure its message doesn’t get diluted. And I suppose after trying every sort of communication skill, I’ve come to realize that data is the best way to win my case. It’s not about I like or I think. It’s about, this will work for three reasons, 1) 2) 3)

2. I’ve also become very good at identifying the problem and framing the right question. Client assignments are sometimes, very specific but most times they are very broad. The onus then is on us to put smart and intelligent thinking to the issue at hand and before even crafting a solution, frame the right question.

3. Constraints make my work better. Budget constraint? Speed-to-market? Timing? Resources? Tight boundaries around a project result into a smarter output.

4. Tell a story. Tell a story. Tell a story!! Solutions to a problem don’t mean anything when they are not framed in the right manner. And after 5 years of creating decks and presenting “solutions,” the most effective way to present it is in form of a story.

5. Visuals make an idea or a solution ten thousand times more effective. I am not a designer, but I’ve learned how to become resourceful. Powerpoint and a MAC are my best friends.

6. My most successful meetings happen when everyone in the group know exactly what is to be achieved out of the meeting. I am not an expert yet – but am getting better everyday at running very effective meetings. Also, something I learned from Behance (make things happen!) and I put to use everyday is: action steps. Once the meeting is drawing to a close, I make it a point to recap the responsibilities and duties assigned and make sure everyone is on the same page about next steps before leaving the meeting.

7. Details matter. I’ve learned this from my boss. He must have been a journalist or a teacher in his previous life. He’s a stickler when it comes to grammar, typos, alignments and using the “right” word to convey an idea. It a very frustrating process to go through a deck with him and have him point out numerous seemingly minor mistakes in wordings everytime. But I’m glad I’ve taken them to heart – because the resulting end product is impeccable. Brilliant. Stellar. When I am managing my own teams, I know I’m going to demand perfection of the details.

8. My personality is such that I get bored easily. The ebb and flow of work life means that you aren’t always working on the funnest or the most interesting problems. To deal with this, I’ve resorted to teaching myself new skills. Here’s what I mean by this – taking a class or reading a book about design is not going to make me a designer. But it’s going to give me a different perspective on problem-solving. It’s giving me a new lens to approach a problem and that excites me. My current obsession is with web usability and user experience. Why are certain things the way they are on the Internet?

I am indulging my obsession and I’m realizing that I’d be good at developing digital products and experiences. Not the best – but better than I am now. And as long as I’m learning – even if what I’m learning is just a new way to think, I’M LOVING MY JOB!

9. The most important skills I have learned however is to believe in myself. And to not lose conviction. I’ve learned to be assertive in situations that required me to step up to the game and demand due credit or attention. Being assertive has actually made me respect myself more and made me enjoy my job more and I cannot thank my boss and my work environment enough for helping me indirectly develop this skill.

I suppose neither of this is rocket science. If I’d taken notes of everything I’d learned from business books, I’m sure these five things would top the list. But I’ve learned these things by doing and making mistakes and I think they are now indelibly imprinted in my head.

I’m sure there are other areas I need to get better at and constantly improve. One of them is to better manage a client. I’m getting there… but would love to hear some feedback. What are some of things you have learned and what are some things you are hoping to get better at ?

How do you decide whether an MBA is for you?

The last few months were torturous in terms of the internal conflict I battled regarding the next eveutal question people my age consider: grad school/ MBA. The best advice I recieved was that I should consider MBA only if: 1) I wanted to change industries 2) If I felt that I had reached a glass ceiling in terms of promotion/ pay raise.

In my case it is niether. I love the digital domain and thankfully, the last few years of agency/ consulting experience has given me the ability to transfer the skill-set to any other industry. Regarding promotion/ pay raise, I don’t beleive that I have reached a glass ceiling in terms of that and from my understanding of the digial industry, I don’t think I will be there anytime soon.

So based on that filter, I should have easily been able to weed out MBA. But the other benefits of an MBA niggled me. Most important, the high-worth business network that I’d have an opportunity to cultivate (considering I got into a top B-school) On the other hand, a $120K debt + 2 years of no money coming in is a huge set-back. Back to square one.

I spoke to a dozen incredibly smart and successful MBA’s and non-MBA friends and the feedback was always mixed. MBA’s highly valued the network and the credibility the label lent them. Most of them however maintained that their learning was limited. But almost all of them considered that their MBA was a good decision. The non-MBA’s I spoke to were not faring far behind in terms of jobs, salaries or credibility.

My mentor (mid to late 30s)  offered me an interesting insight as well. He said that most likely people his age or just a little bit older is the generation that is going to move up to becoming my generation’s boss’s. And his generation, doesn’t care about an MBA. The way they evaluate a candidate is very different. They still respect and look for a mix of creative and analytical skills, but what they value more is the ability to think unconventionally.

After taking into account all these conversations and ‘research,’ – I was able to decide a few things for myself.

1. I do value the network and credibility an MBA from a top school brings you. But I haven’t yet been denied or lost an opportunity because of either.

2. I am still learning and growing tremendously as a professional from my job, my mentors and the people I surround myself with. There is a new learning curve to overcome (whether in strategy, operations or leadership) every few months that I thrive on. Also, as a personality – I grow and learn better by doing.

3. Financially and in my personal life (my wedding, my fiance’s grad. school etc), I have a few other things that need to be a top priority right now. The incurred debt from an MBA is not a problem as I am confident that I can get rid of it in a few months. But right now, we need  (me) to have a stable salary to be able to support us. This, I realize, is an important factor. With all the research I did, I was also sure to ask talk about how grad school can impact a new marriage. This is largely a personal choice but for me, it was a no-brainer.

So what’s the verdict? I haven’t dismissed the possibility of an MBA. I am certain though, that I am not ready for it right now and probably need another year or two. And lastly, I may have to consider exploring evening-MBA option simply because I cannot imagine being out of the workforce for two years. I love working wayy too much to do that.

Seems so simple! But it took me six months to decide upon this. Whew.

So what’s the verdict?

Spring Awakening

Last night, before falling asleep I asked myself, when did writing become a chore? These days, I’ve been spending my evenings and down-time just consuming. Consuming content, ideas, thoughts, words, images – without processing, sharing or even commenting about them. Working in the digital industry sometimes robs me of my appreciation of it. So many voices, so many ideas – why bother sharing mine only to have it drown out? Thus, I become a victim of my own creation.

Let me share with you what I’ve been doing the last few weeks. On a recent visit to Target, I stumbled upon a book called, “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” in the Young Adults section. Over the next five nights, I lost myself in Trenton Lee Stewart world.

The story is of four unusually talented children who embark upon mysterious and super-secretive adventures. The storytelling, aided with the help of puzzles, is different and unlike something I’ve read in a long time. When I’m so entrenched in a world created by a book, it disappoints me when it ends. I find myself continuing to savor the moods, colors and the feel of that world for a few days after. As a marketer, I wonder why content producers and publishers don’t make an effort to cash in on this afterglow. The Mysterious Benedict Society though, did create a lovely website.

Another YA book that reminiscent of Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes) is ‘The Diary of A Wimpy Kid.” It’s a quick, wholesome read and I laughed through most of the book. The book is written in the voice of a over-exuberant 11 year old kid (who knows exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are!) His pithy comments and observations about his family, school and friends are remarkably and brutally honest. It doesn’t matter if you are a kid or an adult, I promise you will enjoy this book series.

Why my interest in YA books, you may ask. Well, for one, its summer and my brain takes a vacation. So right now, while my physical self is on a loft on Bond Street furiously typing away and doing some very important life-changing work, my brain, is actually happily romping through the tulip fields of Amsterdam and gorging on brownies. And I really, should not disturb it.

On a more serious note, I prefer YA books because I admire authors who can create interesting worlds, characters and stories for children. Children’s books are so blessedly free of complex emotions. They are simple, often innocent, make you laugh and how can you not like that?

If my choices in books and movies finds you questioning my IQ, let me assure that I also watched the Oscar-nominated ‘In Bruges’ with the delicious Colin Farrel. (who plays a dumb hit-man in the movie!) Loved it. I’m quite fond of movies that mock morality and fate. I swear, I’ve laughed, cried, been amused and even cringed while watching this movie. When a movie can make you feel all those emotions – it bloody well be nominated for an Oscar.
:)

I promise to now update more regularly. Not just my musings about the digital cultures, branding and marketing. My life, I guess, is more interesting that I give myself credit :)

Planning for the future

My strongest struggle with myself is staying one step ahead of myself. It may sound weird, but I feel like I’m constantly in a race with myself – jumping time and space, making sure that my future self is taken care of. Does that even make sense?

Anyways, today I was chatting with one my closest friends online and he asked me, ‘What does the future look like to you.” My answer was prompt. “my future is vibrant, happy, colorful and content. it involves lots of travel, considerable wealth and lots of time with family and friends.” After I had typed it, I realized what a cliche I had become. All my life, I tried to let my ambition outshine my own brillaince. But when it came down to it, I do not want an extraordinary life – or I do, but I think that normal is extraordinary.

On Monday, I think I took a big step towards my career. I’ve applied for an evening program at a local school that I beleive will be instrumental in helping me shape my future. I am in a state of anxiety. Its like waiting for judgement day. But inshallah – I’ve done my best, overextended myself and am now hoping for the very best.

As anxious I am about our current economy, I’m excited to see what will come out of it. I know a lot of talented young people who have lost their jobs in this downturn – but I’m consistently impressed with their efforts to take control of the situation and continue to innovate themselves and their careers.

What do you think? What does your future look like to you?

A different kind of dsplacement

Today my co-conspirator Mansi broke the news that she is back on the market looking for a new job. The tough Detriot advertising/marketing market finally took toll on her company and in a major exodus, majority of her department are jobless now. Classy, that she is – she’s taken it in her stride and as we were chatting online, she said to me, “I’ve never felt more dsplaced before.”

This week has been especially bitter-sweet. A few friends at work are leaving for better opportunities while a few friends at other places have been asked to leave because of the bleak markets. This has got me wondering about an entire new facet to dsplacement.

What we do, defines us. Makes us who we are. Without a job, a title – I am a nobody. Personality-less, color-less. As dear the idea of home and moving around is – in some respects, the idea of a job is far more grounding. Job, work, dream – they are different words but symbolic for what they represent. We leave home, undergo one form of dsplacement, for a better job, to follow our dreams or just to get work. No?

Trading one for another.

I’ve been amazed at some of the stories that have been coming in on Dsplaced. I’m so glad that this project has touched a chord with most of us who have been through this Dsplacement. I want to reach out and say – keep them coming. Don’t hesitate. Write in. Whether you’ve lost homes, jobs or significant others – let Dsplaced become your home for your story. We are eagerly waiting for the next story.

As for Mansi, she’s spirited and smart. I’m confident she’ll find her new home soon – but in the meantime, if you have a lead for her or know anyone’s who looking for a kickass account planner – she’s your girl.

Dsplaced – An online storytelling experiment

Picture 1

There is something about digital narratives. I spend countless hours on facebook everyday and marvel at the dazzling digiscape of human emotions, dreams and aspirations that paints and re-paints itself in form of text, visuals and videos within the Facebook confines each day. If the emotions expressed on facebook were visualized, it would quite beautifully capture a facet of humanity. Also, projects like a A thousand journals, PostSecret and We Feel Fine have inspired me tremendously to imagine further and think about how to capture and create a mosaic of human emotions online. And so, what better emotion to explore than Dsplacement?

Dsplacement is a word I associate with people who out of choice or force keep their concept of home fluid. I have been in love with the idea of exploring our relationships with cities, countries and the very idea of home. Personally for me, all three have changed several times and I expect them to continue changing for the next several years. I feel like, all this dsplacement has defined my sense of self and my identity. But I am curious to know how, if at all, it has impacted other people. And so, dsplaced.com

It is in a way an experiment in storytelling. The brevity and the levity of messages on Twitter and stories in 6-words amaze me and I wanted to bring  in a similar element to dsplaced.com. Because sometimes, less is more. Especially in this case.

So I teamed up with Mansi, a kindred soul like me, who I have never met in person yet and together, we launched Dsplaced. Thankfully for me, she shared the same frustrations and curiosities of being a digitally connected yet dsplaced.

I urge you to spread the word, to visit the site and submit your own story. I don’ t know how it will shape or how long it will stay alive on the web – but its almost meditative and healing to do this. To catalog these digital snippets of people’s minds that ultimately, in different words, tell teh same story.

To Bombay we will go!

Wheeeee!!!! I am coming home after a long 3.5 years. I just booked my tickets to Bombay from Dec 20th – Dec 30th. Yes, its ten days only but even then I’m psyched and it just means that I’m going to be doing very little sleeping. :D

I’d love to meet and make some new friends while I’m there and if you of you fancy a coffee or a drink with me, I’d be much obliged :D

Also, as I mentioned -I haven’t been home in a long time, so I have to re-introduce myself to this city and get to know it again. So any recommendations on things to do, places to visit, people to meet and places to eat at will be very much appreciated.

This year was a double whammy – I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in Mexico with my closest girl friends and then Christmas in India with family, old friends and new friends. :D

Musings

I just realized that I am incredibly envious of people who figure out their place in the system. By this I mean, getting the education, the masters, the job and climbing up from there – never once questioning the other possibilities or lives. There are so many “jobs,” “vocations” and “work” in this world that I am discovering them everyday, and as I learn more – I wonder how is it that people find their place and stick to it – without veering too far off-course. I envy them for their blissful ignorance and their unquestioning minds.

Thankfully, I know what I want to do with my life, but what hampers me is that there are too many things I want to do and achieve in this one lifetime. And I am often confused about where to begin, whether to begin…

For those who have begun – hats off to you. You are my hero.

My mometous year!

My prized belongings!

2008 is my momentous year!

Look what I received in the mail!! My voter registration card and my passport.

Applying for a a passport was such an easy process. All I had to do was take my Citizenship Certificate and my Drivers License to the nearest post-office that processed passports. I got my passport photos taken at the postoffice itself for an extra $15. The nice clerk, put all the paperwork and checks together, asked me to sign in two places and that was it! She said it would take up to 6 weeks for my passport to arrive and lo behold – it was in my mailbox as a sweet surprise from the United States Government in less than 2 weeks!!

I will embark on my first trip outside USA with my American passport this Thanksgiving and boy, I can hardly wait.

Now to get the Indian visas….

Thoughts on the current economic climate

Warning: I’m about to sound incredibly naive.

The current economic climate is a definite damper on the mood of the country. When I talk to people, friends, colleagues .. I wait to hear them say, it’s all going to get better. But they shake their heads in dismay and shurg. And then I wonder – are they, like me, waiting for others to say and give hope that things will turn?

I’m young and resilient and don’t have kids, a house or any loans. I kept wondering – how is this economy affecting me? My job is fine – we are all still busy at work.  I don’t cook much and I eat outside most of the time so an extra buck here and there doesn’t impact me much. My teeny stock portfolio is down 30% but I only started investing last year so I have to act like that money doesn’t exist and just wait for it to go up, which it will eventually.

So in short, I am fine. But people around me, perhaps not so much. Especially some family members who were ready to retire only to realize their retirement has dwindled overnight without them having tocuhed it. Thats sad. My father’s investments have plunged as well but he assures me that he is only 52 years old and hence fit as a horse and ready for the markets to move up when they do. Thank god for that old soul is ever the optimistic man.

My roommate, who happens to be a trader on the almost non-existant Wall Street, tells me that we haven’t hit rock bottom yet. That we are holding off in the hopes of this election. That perhaps, that might put the faith back in the market.

I read the WSJ, watch the news and make intelligent conversations with people about the economy. Or atleast try to. But I have no fucking clue what is going on or when things will begin to look up because its not even the economy anymore, its those soddin’ emotions. And who was ever able to predict them?

I have no advice or wise words to give out or solicit. But I’m doing all I can – which is, not losing faith.

Advise me on your organization/ project management skills

My job mostly involves thinking/ consulting and being held accountable for it. Knowing my client’s problems, understanding the landscape and offering possible solutions that will meet the clients objectives. Of late, I’ve been tasked with work that involves a teensy bit of project management/ execution: problem solving on the go. And not million dollar client-related problems, but more simpler, where do I order bevrages and snacks from (food services or wholesale!)? Should we purchase the product first or the storage/ containers first? Should I invoice first or order first?  Little things like those that left me flustered!

In the workforce, I’m used to feeling on top of my game or at the very least in control of situations assigned to me. In my personal life however, my sister and my fiance will attest to me being quite a disaster in the kitchen and the wardrobe. I organize and then re-organize stuff in my wardrobe a million times trying to out-do myself and get better – only to get flustered and end up with a result that does not please me. Sometimes, even giving up half-way. Not a particularly proud moment, but I’ve been trying very hard to address this.

And this really really confuses me. I’m not boasting, but I think I’m good at my job with a ridiculous desire to continue to get better at it. Why is it that then I’m not so good or so confident about the little tasks? I get flummoxed and boom! My self-esteem plummets.

I am certain this is a weakness and I’ve decided to mend it. I tried a little technique today and it seems to be working for me. Upon being assigned a task that is outside my comfort zone, I first write it down. And then I think and list out the steps that need to be done to achieve the given task. Once that is done, I then think through each step and try to imagine the most efficient and productive method to get it done. Wrting helps me. Listing helps me. Once I see the entire task broken down like that, I feel much more confident and in control. Now, I know people who do all this in their head and get on with the job without a worry. But this process is helping me overcome my weakness right now and try to stay more oganized.

The major drawback is that I end up wasting a lot of time. But maybe that’s a part of the process?

I wanted to ask you – any tips/ tools you would recommend to help a rightbrained slight scatter-brain like me overcome this weakness? How do you stay organized? And how would you advise me? What has/ has not worked for you?

Palin reminds me of Dolores Umbridge

This stormy weather outside is inspiring dark thoughts inside my head today…

For those of you unfamiliar with Umbridge, she was the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. It is unanmious opinion that Umbridge’s era at Hogwarts is ‘characterized by cruelty and abusive punishments against students.’ Stephen King called her the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.

She scared me. Really, she did. By the end of the book, I hated her and was mighty pleased when she suffered the consequences.

And ever since I saw Sarah Palin get up on that podium and accept her nomination, I’ve felt the exact same way I felt about Dolored Umbridge when I was reading the book. These women are completely different: real vs. fictional, Ex Ms pagent vs. ugly toad, etc etc- but the feeling they inspire in me is eerily and disgustingly similar.

I am an American citizen now and I pray, pray that our fate is unlike those of Hogwarts children under Palin. I get a feeling like she will strip us of our dignity by acting like a blubbering fool – I fear that she will make us utterly powerless if she steps into the President’s role. Argh. I respected McCain and thought of him as a smart, stable dude. But his pick of Palin makes me question his judgement.

I am going to vote and by god that one vote will make a difference!!

Onwards to becoming an American!

I just feel like I should write something today. In exactly 12 hours, I will have taken my oath of allegiance to United States of America and will officially become an American citizen. The idea of not requiring a visa to visit majority of countries is something I’m looking forward to getting used to. I’m not sad to lose my Indian citizenship because I never understood what it meant to me. I left India when I had just turned 18, so I’ve never even voted before. (Ah-ha and to think I will be able to vote this historic election!!) Neither have I taken an interest in Indian politics. The only thing that makes me a teeny bit sad is that now I will require a visa to enter my own country :( but its a price worth paying :)

I am a realist and this citizenship isn’t just presenting me with a passport to the world, but also opening up doors for my significant other who I have seen struggle for the last four years with his H1-B visa situation. Not being able to leave USA for the last 4 years for the fear of not being able to come back, being stuck in an insipid job that sucked the life out of his dreams and just the misery of not being able to believe that ‘anything is possible.’….. I will never know what its like to be in that situation, but boy, am I glad it will change!

It is ridiculous and immature to question my allegiance to either India or USA or ask me what I feel like. I feel ecstatic, stupid. And incredibly proud to have India in my heart and America on my mind (and my passport!)
But just tonight, I will indulge my irrational-self and go to bed with my Indian passport in hand. Tomorrow, it will become a relic, a thing of past, of no intrinsic value but still priceless to me.

Welcome to America, BabEy!

All we can do is keep breathing

This post was inspired by the Ingrid Michaelson song that I’m listening to right now, Keep Breathing.
I recently exchanged my mac desktop for a ibook (laptop) with my boyfriend (so the computer is still in the family) But something went wrong as we were trying to transfer our belongings into our new homes and as it happened, I end up losing all my music which like an idiot, I hadn’t backed up. Not even on my I-pod because I use a nano and it doesn’t save all my music on it obviously.
Sigh.

Anyways, Apple was generous enough to let me download all my itunes songs that I had paid for from itunes store. I’m so very thankful! The rest I will steal from my boyfriend’s collection however, its those songs that I cannot remember I had in my library that have now slipped into the abyss that bug me. :(
I did have some pure gems that were mine alone…

But, I guess like Ingrid beautifully says, all we can do is keep breathing… and the music will come :D
But really, thank you Apple. I heart you. Even more.

An aside – I watched Hellboy this weekend and Barry Manilow’s ‘Can’t Smile without you’ is stuckk in my head :)

25 gifts for myself

Tomorrow is my 25th birthday, (28th june)

This whole week was a little weird. I haven’t been feeling too talkative and was just a teensy bit disenchanted with life. Existential crisis of sorts, I guess. I was also very depressed because I couldn’t find the right sort of gift for myself. There’s something about turning 25 – I feel like it should be commemorated or celebrated or something like that. My better-half wants to buy me something special but he is as frustrated with me as I am with myself because I just don’t know what I want.

So, I’m trying to be a little creative here. And from this June until next, I am going to give myself 25 beautiful gifts. I don’t know what all of them are yet – sometimes you just have to live in the moment.

But here’s are two gifts that I know I will give myself:
1. Nikon D40. – My first Digital SLR.
2. A week in Tokyo.
3. (Update) Visit Greece

The weird thing about growing old (for me) is that my fascination with material things has waned and I’m more interested in fulfilling my creative needs and pursuits – like traveling on my own, learning new things and seeking my spiritual journey. Ahh – happy birthday to me :D

Tim Walker Inspiration

Picture_1Imagine my delight when I saw Tim Walker’s 3 Limited Edition prints are for sale at the Design Musuem UK! It was really hard for me to not go beserk and buy all three, instead I picked this one.

This photo-essay with Lilly Allen was shot in India. I remember because I have still saved that September 2006 issue of Vogue magazine where this photograph appeared. For a while, this picture – torn from my Vogue, graced my walls until my friends convinced me that I was too old to have ripped-off photos from magazines on my walls.

There are a few other photos from that photo essay that left a lasting impression on my mind. 

But I’m just giddy that my print will arrive soon. Yay!

(PS – The print wasn’t expensive, infact, it’s a really good deal at about $25. But the shipping from UK added another $20. argh)

Eat. Pray. Love (and have sex)

I’m sorry – I usually dress up, polish my stilettos, straighten my hair and iron my shirt before I write here.  So excuse the unlike-me title of this post.

I picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray. Love. on Sunday at BJs. Yes BJs- it was $9.39 – it even beats the Barnes & Noble member discount. (I tried to convince my boy to buy swim-trunks at BJs but my idea was dismissed even before it fully materialized)
Anyways.

I bought the book because I was SICK of watching Wall Street banker-type women crushed against cold steel of the 8am PATH trains – precarioulsy balancing their fat pocketbooks and Eat.Pray.Love. I got sick of seeing the hipster-y, creative, my-kind-of-girls reading that book at rando cafes on the LES. I got sick of watching college girls on the summer break sprawled on their sheets on Rittenhouse Square park reading this book. So when I went to BJ’s to stock up on my supply of Mac’n'cheese and Scooby Doo Fruit Snacks — the book, was just glaring at me from the vast sea of other cheaply priced books, almost guilting me into buying the book. It’s almost like I couldn’t continue to be the all-knowing culture=vulture until I had immersed myself in this eating/praying/loving movement. I absolutely stop myself from reading books that have suddenly swept have the nation because its just my stupid rebellion against conformity :P

Anyways.
I succumbed. Yes! I gave into the societal, cultural and whatever other pressures there are that make you feel dumb if you haven’t succumbed to.

I haven’t read the whole damn thing yet – but whatever I read (some 100 pages?) – I think the author didn’t fully think through the name of the book. The sex part is important because even if she’s denying it to herself, she wants it! And also, if you think about it on a philosophical level – eating, praying, loving and having sex go hand in hand, phrase in phrase.

Excuse my little diatribe, but I just you know.. wanted to point out that the title is sort of incomplete. Atleast i thought so. Maybe I won’t once I finish the book – but even after, I’ll think that had the title included my little phrase, it would have been a much more interesting book and less new agey.

Just thought I’d let you know incase anyone’s listening :P

PS – The writing of the book is fantastic though. Really.

Summertime in new york

This has been one busy summer – a few weeks back, three of my friends who I haven’t seen in almost 3 years landed up in New York. It was Serendipity! I made a cute little pdf of fun things to do during their 4 day visit here. Now bear in mind, the little pdf I made was meant for my friends who had never been to NYC before. If you are from NY, you will probably laugh at it but nonetheless, I want to make it available for everyone who might want to use it!

We had a terrific time – now mind you some of the places recommend/suggested in my little pdf weren’t spectacular but they were an amazing experience for sure. The thing is, I thought social tecnologies and the internet was putting everything into a constant state of beta but I think I’m going to have to re-visit my definitions because, I’m realizing.. as someone who works in and almost lives in new york, my life has become a constant state of beta!

I was at the Adour bar at St. Regis last week with a client. Apart from the fact that it was St. Regis, Adour is known for it’s interactive wine-bar. There, Picture_1
I fell into conversation with two very interesting men who have lived like 5 lifetimes in their one life!  One of them, a furniture designer, has been commissioend by the Ambani’s for their 27-storey residential building project.
"Do you know of the 27 storey residence building in Bombay?" he asked,
"The Ambani’s residence?" I said.
"You know about it?"
"Every Indian knows about it." I exclaimed.

We got into a lengthy discussion about entitlement, legacy and access – the three advantages born and bred New Yorkers have over others and how immigrants like me will always have to strive harder for access in this country/ city. It was by far one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had at a bar with a stranger :D

After bidding goodbye and promising to stay in touch with my new friend, we tropped off to The Modern for dinner. I personally, wasn’t very impressed with the food there but the service, decor and ambience is well worth a mention. (The Modern is the restaurant owned and operated by MOMA)  I was at dinner with two executives from a luxury-car company and two others from the agency. I won’t bore you with our dinner-table conversations but what always surprises me when I meet new people is how I end up changing my opinion of them in the span of 2 hours. Towards the end of our dinner, I learned that one executive from the client was also a personal trainer and tried to manage a small health/ personal training business on the side. Now that insight completely changed the way I percieved him — it’s just, I didn’t expect someone at such a high post at a luxury goods company to feel so passionately and pursue a parellel profession.

Of late, I’ve also been missing writing. I’m going to start seeking freelance writing gigs again and perhaps start writing more about my life here than about my opinions about the internet. Because for now, my life is more interesting to me than the internet :D

Ahh – can’t say I’m not having a good time in NYC.

ahh and here you go – the promised guide!
Download nyc_for_vistors.pdf

Leave me a comment if you like it :D and if you’d like me to share more such tips.

Life journey

One of my favorite pass-times (apart from stalking people on facebook) is going through random people’s profiles on linkedin.com – to see where they started and what they are doing now. I do that constantly because it bolsters faith in myself and the path I am creating for myself in my life. (well, atleast attempting to)

Some people have a calling, they know they were meant to be a doctor or a designer or a scientist. I don’t know, have never known what I wanted to be. I am turning 25 in two months and I have ideas about what I’d like to do for the next 5 years but beyond that – if you ask me, I’ll draw a blank. And unfortunately, I haven’t met many people like me. Sometimes it is scary to be different in that regard. Because it makes you question whether you are on the wrong path.

But linkedin.com provides me respite – I like knowing and seeing how people’s career paths have traveled and where their careers have taken them. Life is too short to spend it not learning new skills, not discovering new interests and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. And life also has a way of working itself out.Atleast, it has for all those folks on linkedin :)

So perhaps it will, for me too.

Something pretty

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Working at a design studio has given me a new appreciation for all things beautiful. I found this photograph while browsing on flickr.com. I loved the composition of colors, light and textures here – it brings me a smile :) It’s like happiness that you can taste. Just wanted to share it with you : D 

Original Work

Was my response right?

A couple months ago, I approached a Web2.0 company to interview their founders. They put me in touch with one of their investors and although the interview never quite happened, our conversation took a different turn and I ended up sending in my resume for a potential job opportunity that the investor mentioned to me. When he didn’t get back to me for a few weeks, I sent him a note of inquiry to which he responded by asking me to re-send my resume. I dutifully did – and then nothing happened.
We spoke briefly once or twice and again, there was no communication from their end and often, prolonged pauses with no responses to my emails. After I received a third request for my resume, I lost interest in the possibility of this ever working out and went about my business.

Last week I received an email from this gentleman informing me that the company had shut down and asking me for a favor – to offer advice to his daughter who was looking to move to NYC. I was, in all honesty, a little startled by this random piece of communication. But I am a nice girl and I try to make nice and because I am older now, I am also more mature. So I responded asking more questions about his daughters interest and how I could help.

Today I received an email with him giving me his phone number and asking me to call him to catch up. And yet another email – a one-liner about his daughter’s career aspirations ending with, ‘I will tell you more later.’

This really. really. really. irked me. Because the etiquette I was taught and work by is that when you need someone, you play per their convenience. I don’t have qualms about them not offering me a job – believe me, as smart as I’d like to think I am, there have been plenty of employers who have rejected me in worse fashion. But the point is – usually when you are giving someone a bad experience, you kinda know it. And you don’t return to them for personal favors. And if you do – you are courteous and just.. nice.

This guy’s email really annoyed me and I felt like he needed to know it. I do want to help his daughter – It is a competitive world and an even more competitive industry so if I can offer some insights. I am happy to but I just don’t want to deal with the guy again. So here’s the response I sent him and I need a sanity check – was this response right?

I’m sorry but I have to mention that your correspondence with me has been very erratic. I remember you asked for my resume 3 times and never really got back to me or answered my emails. I didn’t even know about [redacted] closing down – not that it matters to me but your communication seems off and preemptive. I am happy to help but I felt that I had to address this and I hope that in the future your communication with me is lucid and not one-way.

Please have your daughter email me directly or schedule some time to talk with me.

My intention was not to come off bitchy but the guy had to realize that his behavior was plain insolent.
I understand that we are ambling through these new communication modes and learning to take pleasure in the joys it offers, but why do we forget that even though we are building these relationships online – we are building them with real human beings.

Building online relationships is no different than building offline relationships. Well, unless ofcourse you are the kind of guy who would call up a rudely rejected freelancer to advice your child. In that case, you missed the boat way too soon.

Update 2/21: The gentleman in question here replied to my email and apologized. He mentioned that he was very stressed as an investor in the company and that it was not indicative of his character in general. I believe him but don’t really expect any major interaction. My offer to help his daughter stands.

Books binge

I know I need to stop – and I know I need to finish the books currently on my shelf. But today I bought two more books that I simply have to read. Of late, I’ve been gravitating towards books with a more academic flavor. So in case these interest you,

Fans, Bloggers and Gamers – Understanding participatory culture by Henry Jenkins

The Hidden Sense – Synthesia in art and science by Cretien Van Campen

I’ve resolved to finish reading these books before the year’s end. I’d love to discuss if any of you have read them before or are interested in reading with me.

Recap

Attributing my silence on my blog to work and life is becoming a common excuse, I notice :) Without making much fuss, here are some things I’ve been doing or are on my mind today!

  • Exploring NYC stores and restaurants. Spending way too much time at the MOMA Design store. The place where I work gave us (thank you!) gift-cards to the store and I have yet to decide what to spend my monnies on!
  • Spent a few hours yesterday at Kinokuniya at the Rockefellar Center. Kinokuniya is an all-Japanese bookstore – they also have cool stationary and a few English books. If you are a Japanphile like me, you will LOVE this store. It’s a pity I can’t read or write Japanese yet but the store is a absolute sensory delight.
  • Browsed through Librairie De France, collection of classic French children’s books
  • Watched the entire Season 2 of Heroes  back-to-back on hulu.com.
  • Reading (previously unread) books my my favorite author Haruki Murakami – Currently reading, UnderGround.
  • Shuttling between Philly and NY, hanging out with friends, cooking meals and simply relishing this break.
  • Tweeting is yet to come naturally to me.
  • Bhutto’s murder shook me – pushed me to wonder, am I doing something important enough with my life. Such a bubble we live in sometimes.
  • When I was younger, I’d want to hold on to one day of the ending year — just one day for me to live whenever I chose to. Now, 1st Jan is just another day :) Doesn’t mean we don’t bring it in with a bang though

So that’ it for today!

Learning everyday

A profession like marketing, advertising and even writing are just a tad bit more challenging for foreigners like me who severely lack the cultural literacy required to stay on top of the trends, motifs and metaphors that come in everyday conversations with colleagues, clients and other marketers.
New things to learn everyday….

Hello NewYork!

Almost overnight, I packed up my bags and moved to New York. (Technically, Jersey City until I find a kickass place in NYC) but yes, I’m in back on this side. Also, I am bored with my blog. Atleast with the way it looks, feels and just comes across. I also don’t like that it’s still called StyleStation — when that name, is in all honesty, a little crappy. So tell me, what do you think of this new name that I’m thinking of: Constant Beta.
(It was inspired from a quote by Bruce Nussbuam, Innovation Editor at Business Week)

I’m doing a bunch of fun branding/ advertising/ digital media related things in NYC. Mostly, my time is now spent on a lovely couch at POKE. (www.pokenewyork.com) I’ve joined this digital think-tank as a Strategist and am working with some very smart people on some very fun projects. You should check out our website and if you keep checking it often, you may see me on the couch. ;) (Go to the site to see what I mean)

I was listing things that I want to do and I havent done yet and I figured that moving to NY was a step in the right direction. For your benefit, here are the other things that I want to do in the coming years:
1) Work in Asia. (In particular, India and Japan)
2) Go to grad school to study economics and social media.

That a good goal for now, what say!?

my bookshelf – part 1

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Img_3138

Img_3139i buy books – i read magazines :)
i wanted to share my bookshelf with you – i’ve read *some* books, most are half-read and yes, a few are untouched. my plan is to aim on finishing atleast 2 unread books every month – anyone want to start a virtual bookclub with me? or at the least share their book shelves with me? Img_3120

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Constant Beta

There are moments in history when the pace of change is so fast and the shape of the future so fuzzy that we live in a constant state of beta. – Bruce Nussbaum in a speech at the Royal College of Art, London

Read the full speech here.

There is no such thing is writer’s block. But there is laziness, and then there are excuses that have no real grounds. Often when there are too many boundaries drawn around a piece of creative work, it loses it’s appeal and instead of becoming something to look forward to, it becomes a cumbersome chore. That’s what my blog became for me for the last few weeks. When I couldn’t find something intelligent to report on, I despaired. But I suppose, this blog doesn’t have to be extraordinary. It could, well… just be me. An ordinary person with (if I may say so myself) an unusual perspective.

I welcome myself back.

living on a prayer

My heart knows no words today.I don’t know why things happen. I don’t understand why someone would shoot innocent people before taking their own life. I don’t understand why it is so easy to acquire weapons. And today, I admit, I don’t and perhaps, never will understand the human pyshce.

It breaks my heart to think about the families and friends who lost their loved ones yesterday. It breaks my heart to think, if only those kids hadn’t gone to class that day. If only, they knew.. If only, the university had better security… if only…

Why has it become a fashion statement to go out with a bang and a dozen other lives? Did Cho Seung-Hui even realize that he was taking real lives? Killing, real, breathing people?  He came loaded with ammunition. Why and how can a 23 year old have access to it? I’m helpless and puzzled — I just need to understand, how is this possible. 

There are no words, and yet words are my only escape. My prayers are with the victim’s families and friends and also Cho Seung-Hui’s family who I hope will be mericfully forgiven for not knowing what was to come. And I also pray for those of us struggling to understand why things happen — I pray that we never understand that.

Continue Reading →

Happy 2007!

Wish you a very happy new year! Hope the rains didn’t drench your new year plans last night. A few of my friends were moving apartments (yes, talk about timing!) so we stayed in and chose to bring in the new year with wine and cheesecake. It was perfect.

 So, in addition to learning Italian, traveling outside USA and visiting home (Bombay), I’ve also resolved to post here every single day. And a bunch of exciting interviews in the Being My Boss series will continue. Perhaps, even video interviews later this year.

Yay for 2007!

the inevitable reality

As most of my readers know by now, I was born and raised in Bombay, India. I grew up in a quaint colony of cottage-styled houses that shared walls. It was quite common for us to walk into our neighbours houses at odd times of the day and demand food if we were hungry or a place to hide if our moms were angry. And ofcourse with shared walls, everyone knew everyone’s business. We heard our neighbours when they fought, we heard the shriek when they discovered their father had died in sleep, we heard everything. They heard my mother’s frustrations with raising two difficult, teenage daughters, they probably heard my mother and father fighting and who knows, what else they heard.

My childhood was uneventful except for a few scrapes and a stitched finger that was slit and bloody when it got jammed into the bathroom door at a cousins wedding. But what I remember the most about my childhood are my neighbours. More than my extended family and friends, it is my neighbours that were witness to every minute detail of my family’s history as we were to theirs. As kids, the grandmothers and grandfathers of the colony were our gaurdians when our parents weren’t around. They’d keep a stern eye on us but unlike our parents, they let us play out in the fields without our shoes on.

It was my friend’s grandmother that fished me out of the nasty dry gutter I had fallen into once. And my grandmother who proved to be much cooler than anyone else’s for ordering ice-cream for us one day. And ofcourse, every colony has it’s share of villians. Our villian was the grandmother and grandfather in house number 3. Imagine, five saucer-eyed kids being yelled at every say for being too racacous and loud. We took our revenge every afternoon when they napped : we’d ring the house bell a hundred times and scurry away.

The big news in teh colony was when a little kitten dropped into house number 2 out of the ceiling. She’d been hiding there from the monsoons and I guess she must have fallen through the roof or something. Because most fathers were at work, and most mothers were napping, the grandmothers huddled around the whimpering kitten and inspected it, attempting to decide its fate.

These grandmothers were the backbone of our colony. They’d sit together on the parapets in the evvenings, gossiping, cutting vegetables and stitching buttons to old shirts. Always, keeping a strict watch on us, making sure were were within sight.

It was when I turned 16 or was it 17? that the exodus began. It’s as though they had all come with a limied time warranty, I couldn’t understand. Old age and frail health, started taking them one by one and it wasn’t until last year when my grandmother died of a minor fall, that the mortality of the eight strong women who contributed in raising me and who form such a solid basis of my childhood memory, hit me hard. And then this week, two of the last three died a few day apart of each other. It was like reeling from one shock to bang straight into another.

An entire generation of women I grew up with will cease to exsist in a few years. The thought is terrifying because it reminds me, I’m not a kid or a girl anymore. I am a full-grown up adult whether I like to admit it or not. What remains are the few precious memories, no last chances, no last goodbyes…if I’d known that when I met them last year would be the last time I’d be seeing them….what would I have done differently? I don’t know, perhaps — would have clung to them a little bit longer.

This is the way of life, I know. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

A personal victory

This blog has achieved its purpose. :)

I started StyleStation last year in August to enhance my job-hunting. I thought having a blog that displayed my (assumed) knowledge of youth culture would help. And it did!

I have recently accepted the role of Director of InSights and Strategy with Buzz Marketing Group and I am super psyched. My blog didn’t bring me the job, but it definitely helped to have my boss to look at something before she hired me. So there! Mission accomplished.

Now, this blog can relax! I can relax and allow my thoughts to relax.

Yay for me! Yay for this blog and yay for the new avatar of this blog!

Note

Dear Readers,

If you have stumbled upon my blog from this article, please note that this is NOT a fashion blog as the article proclaims. I am a trendspotter/ reporter who happens to work in fashion.

This blog is mostly about culture, youth and consumerism, or atleast I think so! But you are welcome to your own conclusions.

Thanks!

Jinal Shah

Calling all Carrie Bradshaw fans

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All you shoe-addicts, so badly want to be in my shoes right now. Ask me why.

I will be interviewing the outrageously famous red head, Patricia Field. The lady who gave Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik’s it’s rarified status’s. The lady, who presented Sarah Jessica Parker aka Carrie Bradshaw, in sometimes achingly beautiful to the disturbingly horrendous outfits on Sex and the City. And the lady, who gave so many fledgling designers the right platform for their talents.

I’d love your input. What would you ask her if you had the chance to? Is there something you’ve been dying to find out about the show or its clothes? Or just the designer? Share it with me and I’ll ask Pat.

This deserves an applause

Hi!

My name is xxxx xxxx and I am a student at Swarthmore College. My
friends and
I eat at your place all the time.
We are having an israeli speaker come and I was wondering if you did
catering.
t would be falafel, Israeli salad, etc. for about 70 ppl.
Let me know-either email or call 610-xxx-xxxx
Thanks, xxxx

I understand mistaking a customer to work at a store, but how can you mistaken a journalist to own/work at a restaurant she reviwed aeons ago?

Maoz Review

Housekeeping

A friend’s suggestion made me re-think the value of the numerous categories on my blog esp. when a majority of my posts either belong to World Culture, Youth and Consumerism. I have severely diluted the categories to make it easier to navigate my site. I am still in the process of reassigning my posts to these categories, so bear with me.

Jaipur, the colored gemstone of India

Time Magazine’s Style and Design issue carries a brilliant piece about Jaipur’s rise as a haven for jewelry designers. Jewel conisseurs from Paris to Los Angeles make their way down the crowded, bustling street of Jaipur in search of those illusive gemstone traders. Like the frenzied runaways that sell plastic balloons and channa(savoray snack) on Juhu beach, deft young traders hound the Jaipur streets peddling their wares to unsuspect and bewildered customers.

The journalist makes an amusing observation that I agree is quite baffling to an outsider – ” Why is there no security? Everyone appears to have his pockets stuffed with stones but there is only the occasional camera, some paddlocks here and there and a few gaurds.” :-) The mystique of India and its people can be so unsettling and endearing at the same time…

I have a shameless confession to make – I’ve learnt more about India since I’ve been away from it. My non-Bombay friends refer to it as a big-city syndrome. You know, the kind you get used to if you grow up in NY and begin to think there is no America beyond NY? Bombay was where everything was “happening” … and it never occured to me to look beyond its facade. The more I learn about India now — the stronger I feel about taking a couple months off and exploring, JUST so I can truly say that I know my country.

.. there is really no point to this article apart from the one that I wanted to share it with you. The issue will be available online soon and I’ll post a link up here.

Winter journals.

Everytime I think spring is here, it snows over my expectations. I’m getting a little tired of the darkness that greets me everytime I get off work. And its too slushy and chilly to enjoy my lunch time outside office. And I’d rather not talk about my mood swings. And here- for someone who’s never grumbled on her blog, this should make it a first.

Two friends of mine are seriously considering moving to California and are preaching to whoever will listen, “why we should all move to California.” The buyoant weather, green spaces and long sunny days are very tempting. I remember the most stress-free time in my life was the 2 months I spent at UC Berkeley, (not) attending summer classes. I still remember that stoned chick who played John Lenon songs on her guitar near the subway. Infront of her was an upturned cap with a sign, “Half of this money will go on making calls to Mom.” The streets were buzzed, like they were still hungover from the rock-n-roll stupor of the 60s. Ooh, how I loved it. Just last week, my friend saw a hobo sitting near a bookstore in SF with a large cardboard that read, “Brad and Angie are having a baby. I need money to buy them a gift.

Even the homeless come up with creative ways to run their business in Calif! Sigh.

But seriously, research shows that workers in Calif. are more productive than their counterparts on the east coast. Also, west-coast people are more cherry and have an optmistic attitude. I probably didn’t need to spell this out, but a thought worth considering, na? The more I think about that liquid sunshine drenched roads and vast airy spaces, the more it alluring Calif. becomes…

Maybe next stop will be SF. I only just got to NY! Besides, I won’t get to wear my pretty winter coats in Calif.

Lonely places of the head

On my way to work, I usually listen to a shuffled playlist from the Devotional Genre on my Ipod. I am not religious and do not believe in religion but the cleansing vocals of devotional songs is very refreshing in the mornings. Listening to Ik Onkar (from Rang De Basanti) is like watching the dawn break on the marble foot-steps of a temple, feeling a heaviness that is inexplicable and reveling in the wafting fragrance of sandalwood frankincense burning closeby. Similarly, Shri Ventakesha Suprabhatam, reminds me of a cool stone floor, the smell of ghee mingled with marigolds permeating the air of Guruvayoor temple in Kerala. A place I’ve never been to, but heard about and seen in photographs.

Ave Maria and Amazing Grace take me to that lonely place in my head where its past midnight and I’m standing alone, a little scared, a little in awe, in the vast emptiness of the Vatican City grounds. The glowing statues that adorn the church, stare solemnly in space. The only sounds are those of the gurgling water fountain two feet away from me. Sometimes when the wind blows, I hear murmurs and whispers from the past. The thousand year old cobble-stones I stand on, are so smooth and rounded by now that it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins….

There is a marathi song that I love, Airanichya deva tula and the Ganesh Aarti, Jaydeva Jaydev. Listening to these songs take me back to the safe place I know from my childhood. I grew up around Maharashtraians, my mother studied in Marathi medium (she is Gujju) We watched Marathi movies, sung marathi songs and ate marathi food. (my favorite kind!) Once Dad bought this tape of mix songs and we played ,i> Airanichya deva on a loop – the coarse voice, the shrill bells and the upbeat tap-tap-tap sound was not only addictive, but it managed to lift our spirits everytime.

The list of my beloved gujarti songs in never-ending. I even coached a my class group in 10th grade for the recital of Dada Aadishwarji for our Moral Science class. (remember moral science?!!) But the one song I identify with and began appreciating after I left India is a Navratri hymn called, Vishwanbhari I think we all have our own derivations of music and why we love it. There is one line in this song that goes, Aa zindagi ma tuj vina nathi koi maru translated as, In my life, there is no one except you and every- time I hear it, I’m moved to tears. The simplicity of this sentence, the fearsome truth it conceals and the poignant acceptance of it …..

I believe in God. Or atleast I believe in a greater, more divine energy that takes care of this universe. Hymns and bhajans, evoking the goodness of this energy, the blessings of this potency or in mere adulation of its impossibility, bring me peace. Sooth my fluttering, restless soul. I don’t understand Punjabi or Malayalam or Latin… but I listen to these songs irrespective of the meanings they hold. I listen to them because of the feelings they inspire. It doesn’t matter what language it is then.

Jamies Barrie, someone I deeply admire said, “You can visit neverland anytime you want.” All those lonely little places in our head ? They are probably more beautiful than the ones on our To-Go list. I know mine are. For me, music is my ticket to those places in my head, but it doesn’t really matter what evokes them. As long as they exist.

This morning I found out the company I work for can’t afford to pay me so instead of 160hr/month that I work right now, they are cutting down my hours to 40hr/month. Losing my computer and than three-fourths of my job would have given me an anxiety attack in another lifetime. But thank god for those places in my head. Where the ponds are green, the trees purple and flowers grow cup-cakes.

Thank God for music.

Loss.

My hard-drive crashed. And I lost all my data. :(

I’m sending my hard-drive to India, maybe my dad’s technician can retrieve at-least some of my data. It is very painful but I’m trying to stay positive about it. This loss has given me an opportunity to hold back and simply exhale. I’ve been juggling many responsibilities and trying to stay ahead of myself. I am very ambitious and the mere thought of being idle and allowing life to take its course tests my patience. I prefer to take charge and make my life happen and work for me the way I want it to. And my laptop was my lifeline to this: to my work, my rising career and my sanity. To have lost it, even if it is for a couple weeks, has suddenly given me too much time. (That also means I have no excuse to avoid my relatives phone calls)

StyleStation so far, has been a reporters blog. Written under pressure, without any drafts or further editing. I’ve been trained to save my opinions, get to the point- cut out the crap and get rid of excess fat (from words) And thats exactly what poured out here.

I started this blog as a tool to help me with my job-search. I didn’t really get a job because of this blog but I met some amazing people and discovered more about my interests. But now I have a job that I’m happy with, so, I figured I can relax here.
No! I’m not going to talk about what I ate for dinner (but if it’s somewhere really great, I promise I will!) or discuss my love life. Why would I want to talk about that? (esp. why would I want to PAY to talk about that! yes, typepad.com is a paid service) But maybe I’ll write a little bit more about what moves me, what inspires me and what matters to me.

I could sit back and brood over my loss. Or I could forget about it for a while, keep my fingers crossed and allow this time for myself and my writing to breathe.
And if I’m very lucky, I might not only get all my data back but emerge wiser, (atleast a little patient) and happier out of this experience.

L.A Dreams

Los Angeles : People have always been attracted to the city for its balmy weather, its vibrant lifestyle, its unique, high-velocity energy, and the opportunity to realize the "American Dream."

When you type Los Angeles and do a Google search for it, this is what you get first. And this is what I had in my head when I packed my bags and left my home in Mumbai city and came here. Just another desi. And yes, I’m doing my Masters in Computer Science too J. And I’m a south indian. Could I be more stereotype ?

Los angeles is an aweosme place. The glitz, the glamour, the clubs, the bars..and most importantly ..the people. The beautiful, beautiful people.

Everyone in Los Angeles is either super-hot. Or super-rich. Or both. Otherwise, you’re pretty fucked. Heh.

My school of choice is USC (Go Trojans!), located in downtown Los Angeles.Downtown Los Angeles is awesome. When I cross the tall buildings of Ernst and Young, SBC Yahoo, Goldman Sachs and KPMG, I feel small. You know how a child looks up at a hot air balloon for the first time? Stretching his or her neck as backwards as it can go with dream-filled eyes ? That’s how I always look at these buildings. I feel revived and I always, always think – That’s the dream. That’s why I’m here. Away from my home. Away from my family. Away from my friends and everything familiar to me.

downtown losangeles2

Downtown Los Angeles

 

Once I cross downtown with the glitz and glamor, I enter a whole new part of Los Angeles. Here, you won’t find Paris Hilton look alikes. The men aren’t perfect tens with bleached blonde hair and washboard abs. I watch a eighteen year old African American put up his sweatshirt hood. Next I hear a cop car siren and as expecetd the next day, we all check our e-mails for the new Crime Alert mail. Someone got mugged. Someone got robbed. Blah Blah. We’re so used to it now. Along with morning cup of tea and newspaper, the sound of cop car sirens is usual. As I cross Burger King, I watch kids of all ages rollerblading in the hot California sun and I hear the usual Hola,Tipo? and Que pasa?

ghettoLA

Ghetto L.A

This is the part of Los Angeles that reminds me the most about Mumbai city. The fact that there are two completely different worlds, existing like a parallel universe. And how both worlds are completely oblivious of each other.

mumbaiskyline

Mumbai City



amchimumbai



Aamchi Mumbai

 

And as for feeling homesick, I can say this about anyone from Mumbai city : You can take the girl out of Mumbai, but you cannot take Mumbai outta the girl. J . So as I start another day of school filled with work, class, homework, endless hours at the library coding something in some god-forsaken language, I feel slightly less homesick as I enter the tram and hear Tujhe Dekha to yeh jaana sanam playing on the stereo and the tram driver saying “Kaise ho, dost ?” !

 

Welcoming Madhu

Mads I have been thinking of including new voices on my blog for some time now. There are only a few things that interest me that I can write about — new voices bring new interests, new opinions and definitely new readers :) I’m very happy to introduce ione of my closest and oldest friends, Madhu Iyengar who is enroute to finishing her masters degree from USC, California.

Expect sarcastic, creative, cynical observations from her about Los Angeles, culture and life in general. Welcome to StyleStation, Madhu!

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