Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pushing Out Of The Comfort Zone

A colleague working with me since some time says adios to her job tomorrow. Before she moved here in a consulting role, she worked with another company for 20 years. She, my boss and I happened to bump into each other at the coffee machine / water cooler few days ago. When asked by my boss where she was headed to, she replied with a "Nowhere". While working here, she started her own thing from home. And now, a few years from its conception the business is doing well and she is heading into it full time. The first question she got was - "Doesnt it scare you? To give up the security of a job and start something?"

"Till you dont push yourself out of your comfort zone you'll never know what you can achieve. For 20 years I stayed at the same job and didnt move, because of the security. The comfort. I finally decided to move here so I could be closer to home and give more time to my business. Now I wish I had done this 10 years ago. You have to get out of your comfort zone. Initially its hell, but in the end its worth it"

I couldnt agree more. Stronger muscles are built by tearing them down and pushing them to their limits and a little more. Its simple. You wont know if you can do it, unless you try it.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Theplas - An Entrepreneurial Idea

Despite being in Baltimore for over 2 years, this was the first time I was flying into the city as my port of entry. BWI being a huge domestic hub, but a not so huge international hub, my hopes were high of getting past immigration and security in quick time. All was good till security. Immigrations was a breeze, getting my bag was even easier but as we approached security, the nightmare began.

On flight, I had become pretty pally with this Italian guy and Indian girl. And as we walked towards security any example of racial profiling became very evident. The officer pulls the Indian girl and me aside, asks us to go left. Mr. Italiano happily walks through and is scott-free. As I look around, I find myself in a queue which contains Nigerians, Chinese and Indians. All waiting for their bags to be scanned, opened up, examined. Not a single European/American in that queue. The algorithm was simple. Indian, Chinese, Middle-Eastern, African - go left. Others, go home.

And so I stand in the line, a little annoyed. However in such times I can count on my Gujju tribesmen to provide some relief. In front of me was a pure blood Gujarati, probably flying first time into USA and he was being grilled by the security officer. First, he was asked to open his bag and every item examined. Halfway through this examination, this is how the conversation went.

Security: What plant is this?
Gujju: Its a broom.

Security officer wears latex gloves and picks up what in India we call a broom, made of long wooden twigs most commonly used to clean up toilets. Its used to scrub away dirt with water and many a time used by the Assam guys working at roadside Chinese food stalls to clean their frying pans.

Security (holding broom upright, wearing latex gloves): This is a broom?
Gujju: Yes. Special broom.

The officer took the broom aside, sprayed it with something. Then he carried it into a room, came out after a while and put it back in the bag. While he was gone, the Gujju turns around and says to his clan, "Gaanda chhe baddha.", a mild interpretation of which would be - "All these guys are stupid"

And while Mr. Gujju was being examined, I got pulled into an aisle parallel to his by another officer who ripped open my bags, asked me how much money I was carrying and why the hell was I coming to Baltimore. When I return from India, usually I am in no mood to cook for a few weeks, so my Mom always packs some food for me. This time I was in no mood to cook for a month, so I went overboard and asked for a 100 theplas to be packed. So our cook toiled for a day and we had 100 theplas
(recipe) all packed in my bag. So when the officer opens my bag, he finds theplas all over.

Officer: Whats this?
Me: Indian bread. (for those unaware of theplas, they do not look like bread in any manner whatsoever, but are an awesome gujju dish)
Officer: Indian bread?
Me: Well, its called theplas (at this moment the Gujju man turned around and bared all his teeth), its not bread, its more like.... ummm....
Officer: Whats it made of?
Me: (I had no idea) Potatoes and ummm.... lettuce(?)
Officer: Does it have any meat?
(Gujju man gave a look of shock, another Gaanda chhe baddha look)
Me: Nope. This is a traditional dish. Pure vegetarian.
Office: Why are you carrying so many?
Me: The doctor has asked me to stay on a high carb diet for a month.

Somehow he seemed to buy it and let me go with a "Thank You for your patience".

However, this guy has given me a new entrepreneurial idea. Chicken theplas. Shrimp theplas. Lamb Theplas. Scallop Theplas. Boston Clam Chowder Theplas. Why not? When we can have chicken dosas? All the convert gujjus (I mean, gujjus who converted to non-veg) would love it. So do I have someone ready to go in for a partnership? You have my email address.

On a slightly different note, anyone come across any sort of profiling at US airports? I've flown into this country five times and this is the first time I was given a hard time. Or was it because I was flying British Airways?

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Trip To Amotherland

- I had mentioned it last year, I'll repeat it again. Mumbai is growing vertically with absolutely no planning. 3 storey apartments are being broken down and built again into seven storey ones. This is fine since the population coming into the city seems to do so at an exponential rate, however the infrastructure has not been developed to accomodate all this. And the city planning in-charge either has no idea how to go about doing his/her job or doesnt have absolute power to make decisions. However, when you break down a small house on one of the most traffic congested roads and build a mall... it shows how well the city is being planned. But, I still have great respect for us Mumbaikars. Pack an equal number of Americans or Europeans into Mumbai and am sure we'll fare a thousand times better than them.

- Few things make you feel pretty awkward, specially after spending a good part of your 20's in the USA. I was at this lounge and after too much of liquid intake had to visit the restroom. As I went about doing my job, one of the staff comes and stands behind me. He runs to the wash-basin before I could and opens the water tap for me. Next, he hits his hands on the soap dispenser while I hold my hands underneath it. Then he rushes and gets me paper towels to wipe my hands off. Perhaps I was supposed to feel like a king, but I felt very disturbed. However, the exponential fashion in which India's population is growing, at least the guy was getting paid. He wouldnt listen to my "I am ok, you dont need to do it", so I let him go about his job.

- I like the way some people try to convince you on arranged marriages. You meet a girl at a bar, or u meet her through your Mom, how does it matter? In the bar, you do the hard work, here your Mom has all the details from height, weight, age to whether she is Manglik. I like that reasoning. It throws a whole new perspective. Instead of me buying her a Bloody Mary, she gets me chai! You can find this logic only in India.

- I am disgusted of all tabloids, news channels and gossip aunties carrying Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan discussions. Going about on a temple tour and getting married to a Peepal tree all for Mr. Hairband wearing Abhishek, Ms. Rai could have had it simpler.

- My routine in USA for the last 6 months or so has been work 9-5 followed by book reading at Barnes and Nobles from 6-11. The only conversation I have is with the girl at Starbucks. After a few months even knew how I like my coffee so the little conversation I had was lost. I think my lifestyle has made me anti-social. Make that anti-conversant. I'll just sit amidst a group of people and listen to their conversation and nod. After a while I will keep nodding religiously while my mind will be in tristate. Reminds me of my undergrad lectures and most meetings at work. Anyways, I realized its high time I start getting back to social interaction and to the good old days when I could hold a conversation for hours.

- While in India, I managed to meet a few bloggers, which included Medha (who is a lot of fun to have around, has an awesome appetite and for someone who is not adept at travelling Mumbai roads did an Andheri to Kandivali alone - commendable!), Menagerie (who is another awesome person. She eats nothing and pays half the bill amount - worked fine for me!), Ideasmith (
This kinda sums up the meet) with Sensorcaine (who footed my coffee bill). In the end I did myself proud by ending up looking like a cheapskate in front of all the women!

- I did my bit of travelling by the local trains, buses and autos. I decided to hop onto a train in the afternoon, hoping to beat the rush hour. However, it seems rush hour lasts 24X7.

- I am however shocked at Abhi (my neighbour, not Bachchan) making demands for Chocolate Cake at 2 AM (We were returning from a bar, which might explain it). That really is demanding. I was even more shocked when he found a place which served chocolate cake at 2 AM. Which is one of the reasons Mumbai rocks. Any time of the day or night, the place is happening.

Next post: Non-Veg Theplas!

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