Sunday, September 27, 2009

Durga Puja @ Stockholm

Thats a pic taken yesterday at the Stockholm Durga Puja mandap. I would have found it tough to believe the presence of the Goddess in all her splendour in the middle of the Nordics. But such is life.
I will be singing today, right in front of Goddess Durga. I have never been overly religious. But I believe in the almighty. If you would have had the kind of crazy life I have had, you would believe in the almighty as well. Because there is no other way how I can explain the innumerable strange things that have happened in my life. Except that there is someone somewhere who is guiding me, in what so far has been the right direction. And I hope and wish, that the guidance shall always be there, and I shall be on the right path... and it doesnt matter where that path leads me, as long as I do not deter, wander and get lost.
It is so ironic, that after losing touch with Durga Puja for so long, since I moved out of Jamshedpur, I should rediscover it once again in Sweden, of all places. And have "bhog"... and fold my hands, bow my head and "give" pushpanjali... and watch all the women dressed in the brightest colored Sarees and Lehengas, the men trying to appear comfortable in Kurtas... watch kids sing old Bengali songs, and perform Bharatnatyam dance... and then me.. practicing to sing in front of the Goddess, in a language I am so scared of forgetting. All in Sweden. Reconnecting with the 50% of the bong me. Life is strange, and I think I should come to terms that at every step it will have new surprises for me.
I came to Sweden, craving to go back to a country I called my own. And discovered that in some ways, I could discover a part of my patriotism, my culture, my love for my homeland here more than I could discover it when living in my motherland. Would I be singing a bengali song in front of Durga ma, dressed in an embroidered bengali kurta after having an excess of delicious bhog if I was in Bangalore... or Delhi... or Nagpur... or Manipal? I doubt it. So once again. Life is strange :).

A comment from Shimp...

My blog does not entertain guest posts. Ususally. So this is the first one, and probably the last one. But I was so touched by a story Shimp put up as a comment to one of my posts, that I just had to put it up. Thank you Shimp for a touching story. Sometimes when I feel that my troubles have become so bad that I cannot take it anymore, I read such stories of struggles much greater than mine, and get inspired to achieve greater things in life. Because my troubles are miniscule compared to what other have had to go through, and I feel lucky and appreciative of all the good things that I have.

Here is Shimps comment:
"The nomadic life has its charms. "I'm not tied down. I never have to turn down an opportunity because my roots have grown too deep." Like you, every wanderer I've encountered comes to a point where they crave roots. I think, in part, because all of the places that they end up going, they are surrounded by, essentially, a root structure.

Just like when you were in India, and craved going elsewhere, eventually the difference of being settled is the difference that is craved. Being settled starts to become the "different" structure that appeals.

I'm sure there are particular concerns when living outside of your culture, and that informs your choices also.

We did know a man a little bit like you in terms of wandering, nothing more. He was Indian by way of Australia, then Canada, then four different places in the U.S. before he landed in the same company with my husband. He had a family, and when his kids got to be school age, he sent them to boarding school within India. He and his wife eventually made the decision to return to India to be closer to their children.

There were a lot of farewell parties for him, he was a very well liked man, but it did turn out he had a secret. As a young child he had strep, and it went untreated for a bit too long, not through neglect it was just one of those things that happened.

Twenty years later he found out that his heart and kidneys had been irreversibly weakened. Eventually there came a point where he knew his heart was failing. He didn't tell anyone that was part of the reason for going home, but he did die within a year of returning to India.

His wife still had affairs to settle here, and we saw her several times. She eventually told us that was the reason he had returned to India,

He was a lovely man, and much missed by all who knew him. I did find it fascinating and heart rending at the same time. He left India as a teenager but there was no question in his mind that he would return home.

There's no real point to my telling this story, nothing profoundly revealing or anything of that nature. I've known a fair number of people from different countries, and a fair number of people from India. The Indians I have known have, for the most part, tried to convey that there is a complexity to being from India that you don't necessarily find in people from other countries.

A sort of love, plus distance, and fond irritation. I'm absolutely terrified of misspelling this man's name, because it's been several years and I really only ever heard his name, vs. read it. Anyway, the reason I'm bringing it up, is that a huge part of Vinkata's (please forgive me if I'm butchering the heck out of that) decision to return home?

He wanted his son to be able to make an informed choice. He assumed his son would basically repeat the pattern.

I can't define this well, but that pinpointed the complex relationship to home better than anything anyone has tried to explain to me. Being there wasn't the goal, as much as having the love engendered, so it could be taken with his son (and he also had a daughter) wherever the journey ended up leading. "

Monday, September 21, 2009

Life is Strange...

Life is strange. You plan for it. You strategize to get the best out of it. You look ahead and base your current actions on how you want the future to be. You chalk out your career, your personal life, your retirement. And after all of it, life just happens. And you realize how little you are in control of it.

I am a meticulous planner. Very career centric. A control freak. I cannot accept not being in control of things. I have tried to strategize every bit of my life. I have tried to build a career that would fetch me the label of “successful”. That would make my parents proud. I have tried to manage my finances so that I can be secure, and can support my parents if ever they need it, and a future family. I have tried to prioritize things in my personal life to guarantee happiness for those I love and those who love me. I have tried to gain control of my health by making elaborate work out schedules and diet plans (don’t grin, I HAVE done this at one point of time). And inspite of it all, life has just happened. And nothing, absolutely nothing has happened according to how I planned it. Some things have happened for the better, some for the worse. But nothing has happened according to what I had planned.

I always say this. At any point of my life, if I was asked to take 3 guesses about where I would be 5 years down the line, none of those guesses would have included what actually happened 5 years hence. In high school I could have sworn I would be a journalist, or a media person. I turned out an engineer. In engineering college I could have sworn I would be in the electronics industry, I ended up in IT. In my first job, I could have told you I would stick around because I was good at what I did. I left at my peak point and joined business school. In business school I had it clear in my mind that I would be in a management position in IT Delivery in India. I ended up in consulting and business development position in Europe. When I landed in Europe the first time, I promised myself I will not stay beyond a few months, and here I am, in Europe for the past 2 years. On the personal front, I have forgotten the number of times I have been sure whom I am going to end up with. And am with the most improbable of them all. Someone whom I could have sworn was beyond my reach. I was sure that when I reached 30, I would never be thinking of settling down, I am so much of a vagabond. And here I am already craving for a city I can call my own and a more settled life even before I reach 30. I could not have imagined me being bored of booze, girls, clubs, dancing, I thought anyone who didn’t have one leg in the grave, would be interested in these. And here I am thinking that there are so many more ways of enjoying life and having fun than just clubbing. I never thought I would be a traveler. And here I am… having visited 11 countries and still going strong.

To all those who ask the question in interviews, “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now” can I please say that I have given up trying to see myself in the future? For all those who ask me how I am planning my personal life in the next 2-3 years, which country I will be in the future, which job I will be in, can I please say, I have absolutely no idea? Because I tried the planning.. and it doesn’t work, at least for me. I have to quit being a control freak, and start to believe in destiny. No I do not want to stop working smart, and doing the right things. I do not want to stop being dedicated, and honest, because these things will always fetch me positive results in the future. But I do not want to do meticulous planning anymore. I want to make sure I am ready for whatever life gives me. I want to make the right investments. I want to be nice to the people who care for me. And I want to give the right direction to my career. But I do not want to try to control it and plan so much when things anyway have to happen with a mind of their own.
The escalations still continue. I still get approached by multiple recruiting companies who see my profile on LinkedIN, now I have stopped feeling awkward about it. I am looking forward to Durga Puja, it has been ages since I was a part of an Indian festival or a cultural programme. I continue wondering where I will be 2 years down the line, which country, which job role, how close to India will I be…

More to come in this space… after all I promised to be regular with the posts. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Escalations! Sigh!!

Photo courtesy:

Things have been very very busy and hectic. There are multiple escalations at work, things have gone really bad.. the client is in pain.. and is screaming. All rescue missions till now have failed, and now drastic emergency services are being rendered. It is never pleasant when the customer gets hit, sometimes I feel it is worse than when your own company gets hit. But the escalation has now hit the highest echelons of management, on both sides. In big corporates, like in the firm I work for and the customer firm, that usually means trouble. When escalations happen, for a person who is caught in the middle of it, it can either be good news or bad news. Because escalations, especially the critical ones, get you a lot of attention from the big guys in the company. The VP level and above. And when that happens, you can either come out of the escalation an absolute star. Or an absolutely worthless manager. Statistics say that its more often the latter than the former. My Global VP has always thought that I am a star. That is why I am where I am. So I have more to lose than to gain. SIGH! The intricacies of professional life.

Today on the metro train, I was sitting alone and this 30 something girl got on. She had a huge suitcase with her, and a big bag. The train was empty but she just stood near the door. She had tears in her eyes... and a far away look. And suddenly she started crying. She was weeping, without any sound, without trying to wipe away the tears, without trying to hide it. Just standing there clutching her suitcase tight and weeping. My heart somehow went out to her. And I felt so helpless. If I was back in India, I would have gone and talked to her. If she had been an Indian, or even an Asian, I would have still gone. And known that she would have appreciated someone just talking to her. But there is a huge cultural difference between Asia and Europe regarding things like these. I know she would feel very awkward if I walked upto her. Hence I could just look at her and send a silent prayer to God to take care and to give her the strength to face whatever she was going through. Her face said that her world had fallen apart. And I wished that she would be able to pull it together and start a new life. Wherever she was going.

Strange how some incidents affect one so much. Some random incidents. I had friends sitting around me who were totally unaffected. They didn't even notice her crying. Everybody went about their lives as if this woman was not there. And I just cannot get her face out of my mind. I know there will always be sorrow in this world, and there will always be pain. But I wish God gave us the opportunity to help others going through the sorrow and the pain.

Durga Puja is coming up. I am singing on stage. In a group song, but still, I am singing. And that too a Bengali song. I am proud of how brave I am. I have always been a stage guy since I was in 3rd grade. Elocution, Debating, Compering, Quizzing, Dancing, Dramatics, Mimes, Paper presentations, JAMs... I have been up on the stage on every opportunity there could be. Except when there was singing. I suck at singing, and I never could gather the courage to sing on stage. But I am now. And that too in a language which is not my first language and I am not very confident about it. But I am singing. :)

Will try to be more regular with the posts. Till then pray that the escalations go away!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Home is where the heart is...

Its been some time since I was here...
There are times, every crab shall go into his shell... but he will always emerge back out of his shell, when he has recovered, recuperated and feels secure and strong enough to face the world again.

I missed my blog therapy. Sometimes other kinds of therapies work better. But then, as always, there is a searing need to right, to express, to let the thoughts flow out. Without any restrictions, without any controls, without any reins. And so here I am back again :).


Home is where the heart is. I say this often. Because I have been pretty much the homeless wanderer for most of my life. I have enjoyed it in the beginning, but after a point it starts getting to you and you crave for geographic stability. But circumstances have kept me on the move through most of my life. Through 7 cities in a span of the last 10 years, out of "home" since the age of 17. And I crave to settle down now. Not like forever, though I would give anything to have a city I could call home forever. But, if that luxury shall not be granted to me, then at least give me a city for 5 years at a stretch. And for those of you whom I have heard talking about craving to be a wanderer and a gypsy of the world, well guys, let me tell you, try it for 10 years of your life, before you jump to conclusions. Because every other "senior wanderer" I have met, has told me the same story. That after 10 to 15 years there’s a craving to settle down. And beyond a point, wandering is not the best thing to do in life.

There are two parts of me, and they seem to be in conflict. The first part, craves for stability. Stability in relationships, in social circumstances, in finances, in geographic locations. I do not like changes in these things. I am a true cancerian. Dont groan if you do not believe in sun signs, I don’t either, but its just a coincidence that I am born under the sign of the crab and all the standard crabby definitions fit me perfectly. But there is another part of me. The ambitious, restless part. Which seeks change in what I do in my career... a constant recurring change. Any kind of stagnation in my professional life just won't do. Which does not let me languish and relax in a job, in a role, in a college, in university, until I keep getting newer challenges. This has made me switch roles nearly every year of my life, and has given me a diverse spectrum of work exposure, from HR Recruitment to BPO to Mortgage technology to Information Technology to Consulting to Sales to Business Development. And for some reason the latter part of me has governed my life, has dominated all the major decisions taken at the cross roads. But maybe its time I let the former part of me take more control. Maybe its time the wanderer settled down. Maybe its time to take out the gypsy hat, to wear the regular baseball cap and settle down to a more "regular" life.

Which brings me to an interesting discussion I had the other day. We were a group of consultants and managers from.. umm.. lets see... 3 companies. All of us "desis" and all of us abroad for approx 2 years or more. And the discussion was regarding the same old "do we settle down in India or abroad". So this one guy came up with this extremely interesting theory about which is the best country to settle in. For some (or should I say most) of the members of the group, India was out of the question, because there is no way they see themselves fitting back into that work culture. For me it still is the biggest option, but maybe I am an old fashioned desi crab. So the next country discussed was, yes you guessed it right, the US of A. Our dear old amreeka. Lot of pros and cons thrown in, distance from homeland too large, fewer number of home trips, weather conditions (you are living in the Nordics for heavens sake, anything in USA is better than this!), safety and security, financial condition etc etc on the negative side, and more desi population, ease of fitting in, no language problems, no cultural divide and more desi stores and restaurants (lol) on the positive side. But given the market situation, US of A today is certainly not one of the hottest destinations. So what are the other options? Elsewhere in Europe? Germany? France? UK? Everyone shook their heads together, Sweden is certainly one of the better places to be in. Even the UN says that it’s the 6th best country to live in (read about it HERE). So what are the other options?

So this guy comes up with this amazing idea. Singapore. Modern city. Excellent work culture, mostly derived from the west. Multi-cultural, but with no language issues, universally accepted language is English. 3 hours from most cities in India, which means you can almost fly back home every weekend!! And will never have to miss any wedding or festival back home (one of the major regrets of NRIs). Now our brain-stormer had everyones attention! Weather.. as good as any city in India, temperature ranges from 22 to 34 degrees (not bad if you come from Delhi or Kolkata). Humid... very humid, but then not worse than Kolkata or Chennai. Absolutely modern infrastructure, a paradise for shopping and generally considered a safe city (again, heaven as compared to any Indian city). And the best part is the taxation. It ranges from 0 to 20% and if you are middle or upper middle class you will end up paying 8.5% tax (more info HERE) Compare this to the 32% tax one pays in Sweden!! Or the 10-20-30% slab taxation in India!

I am sure a there were a lot of hits on Singapore job portals that night. Sometimes I wonder about us NRIs. What it is that we seek? I wonder about the restlessness that doesnt allow us to be happy anywhere, neither in our home country, nor outside. No I do not speak for the entire NRI community, I am certainly no spokesperson for them. I just speak on behalf of the NRIs I know of.. first generation and outside India for less than 10 years. SIGH! What will become of us?

Drop me a note if you know of an opening in Singapore. I know of some very talented ladies and gentlemen who might be interested in a shift :). Sometimes, just sometimes, job, career and profession is not everything in life. Even for corporate geeks. Sometimes, just sometimes, being at home matters. After all, home is where the heart is.


I had another one of my parties. And together with MBF, whipped up a great menu, thought you might be interested in the pics....

P.S. I do not want this blog to appear like a food blog. But it still remains the blog of a foodie, so it is inevitable that food related updates will be given :P. You might be interested to know that I have been accused as being the only male desi blogger in the world who blogs about cooking. I do not know whether to be flattered or to get offended ;).

Menu: Chicken Tikka Masala, Bengali Chhole, Dum Alu, Rice and Sewai Kheer (Payasam) and Gajar ka Halwa :)

And a closer look at the dersert for today: Sewai Kheer (Payasam) and Gajar ka Halwa :).
All credits for Gajar ka halwa goes to MBF.

Picture credit for title picture: