Month: August 2017

#30DaysofGratitude – Day 25

Yesterday was Friendship’s Day in India (is it Friendship Day or Friendship’s Day – grammar nazis, correct me please!). When we were children in school, this day held very very special significance, and entailed preparation from weeks in advance. Making sure all impending fights were sorted out, scouting the market for the latest trends in Friendship bands, allocating time to hand-make bands for the special few friends (the days when n >= 10). Because believe me, the anticipation as you approached school on the day-of, was even more intense than the look on Jamie’s face when he saw Drogon and Dany fly over Highgarden with the Dothrakis! I kid not.

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The goal at the end of the day was to walk away with the maximum number of bands on your wrists, hence being hailed the undisputed Friendship King/Queen. The competition began on the school bus itself. A few over-ambitious ones woke up early and got a headstart by covering friends in their neighborhood. The look of jealousy on kids’ faces when one boarded the bus with 20 bands on their wrists already, was worth sacrificing an hour of sleep for. Try explaining that to your ignorant parents! At the end of the day, the coolest kids always walked away with both their forearms covered with bands, till the elbows! Uggghhh how we hated them, but wouldn’t dare NOT tie them a friendship band!

For many, the day was an occasion to proclaim their “more-than-friendship” feelings to those special someone’s. As Bollywood movies of those years taught us – Love is Friendship. Pyaar dosti hai. Perfect marketing opportunity for Archies and Hallmark, to introduce aptly titled ribbons and bands too! So it was not uncommon to see the beginnings of new romantic relationships on the day, all of which were discussed to death, on the bus ride back home. The fact that those relationships didn’t last more than a week (if lucky), didn’t matter – just fodder for more gossip!

The advent of cell phones in college meant that the Friendship bands were replaced by sappy SMS-es and monochrome MMS-es to the many friends who had moved to other cities – despite the surcharge rates by telecom providers. We’re friends after all – what is Rs. 5 in comparison ?! Cut to 2017, where WhatsApp is free, but no special messages were exchanged among my friends (where n <=10) and I could not be happier !

I was thinking about how much time and effort I wasted on some of those meaningless friendships, the silly fights and arguments on everything from clothes to boys to grades.. If I had to give my 10-year-old self any advice, would I ask her to rethink her entire friendship strategy? Ask her to invest her time only on those people who stayed through those crazy teens and 20’s ? Probably not. These experiences are likes rites of passage, no? – I wouldn’t have the people I call my own today, if I had not met those many others who came and left. It was probably my fight with a “friend” who ridiculed my hair behind my back, that led me to this other curly-haired-girl who has stayed with me for 23 years. And had I not gone through this whole “I-hate-the-girls-in-my-group” phase, I would have never met my now best friend and the first guy I ever spoke to!

So while there will be no sappy messages and friendship bands any more, I cannot help but thank those crazies on my school bus who led me to the crazies I have with me today!

 

#30DaysofGratitude – Day 24

Last weekend, V and I took a trip to a hill station close by called Munnar. I had heard about the place being gorgeous, but the sights, sounds and smells we experienced there were truly out of this world, and beyond anything I expected! Acres of the greenest greens I had ever seen, clouds that would descend on the fields within minutes, changing the landscape entirely, the slightest hint of a persistent rain that felt like mist on your body and a quietness that was perfectly balanced between being calming and eerie at times! Imagine walking in the middle of these tea plantations all day ! No filters necessary!

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As is typical on most of our trips, the food was a major highlight and we didn’t shy away from trying out everything including the fish, which Kerala is very popular for. On Day 2, our friendly tour guide took us to this tiny restaurant that was famous for it’s authentic Kerala meals – basically a spread of massive amounts of fluffy rice, 4 kinds of vegetables, a fish curry, and an array of condiments that only the Kerala folk can do full justice to. Simplicity at it’s best, but an explosion of flavours in your mouth. The best part of the entire experience was the restaurant owner – now if you want to know customer service at it’s best, this guy was the epitome of it! Within minutes of us having chosen a table, he walked over and explained the entire concept of the Kerala meal to us in his endearing broken English – the different kinds of fish, their size, the amount of bones one might encounter, spice levels. On realizing we are rookies, he made his own suggestions and even threw in two varieties for the price of one – no one should leave Kerala before trying out the fish, he insisted! Before leaving the table, he assured us that if we didn’t like the food, we didn’t have to pay a dime. But of course, the food was delicious – one of the best meals ever, and it cost us less than $6 overall! He checked on us multiple times and even sent over little samples of some other curries,¬†“just to taste”! Now one might argue that he was being a shrewd business-owner – he was used to dealing with tourists and knew how to keep them happy. But in addition, what I also saw was a genuinely nice guy who knew that the only thing he needed for his business to succeed was the right product and the right attitude! The former might be easy to nail, but the latter takes a lifetime of practice and intention!

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Over the past few months, I’ve grown increasingly fascinated by small business owners. People who focus on niche products, creativity, resource-scarcity and true autonomy to make a dent in their corner of the world. And I have been trying to support them as much as possible, because it is truly admirable to run a one-man-show. Like my most recent acquisition from this guy in Bangalore who makes the cutest succulent¬†planters using unique objects like metal measuring cans! For someone who loves plants, but has a home without much direct sunlight, this was the perfect solution! Anyway, I digress… Coming back to my Munnar trip, one of the big highlights for me, beyond the gorgeousness of the place and food, was this friendly restaurant owner who showed me that with the brightest smile, and a fantastic product, you can win the hearts of two non-fish-non-rice eaters!

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