June 30, 2001

i miss the friendship that girls share.

some days ago swapna opened up to me. she’d read a post on my journal, and as she went on to read a few more other blogs, she was surprised to see how the web can just open up a person’s secrets for everyone to see….
so she came and talked to me…shared with me something that was on her mind for some time.

as she talked, i realised how much i’d been missing quality time with a (girl)friend. i’ve had a few very close friends since school…surprisingly, it’s always been one-person-at-a-time…




June 28, 2001

ugh!

NEVER believe commercials that say ‘apple juice’, especially when they mix it with aerated water.

yechchch!!

rumour is that they’re also going to introduce mirinda watermelon soon!
no thank you, i like my fruit juice plain.




June 26, 2001

so, you want to be a copywriter huh?

it was early january, 1996. i had quit impulse advertising, the place i hated so much.

…i was given ‘special treatment’ there just because i was my father’s daughter, and my father was one of their ‘top clients’ and ‘friend’. it was the worst period of my life, and the toughest lesson i learnt.

i have never been the kind to fight back or argue about what is fair or unfair, and when i walked into my boss’s cabin to give in my resignation letter that day, i smiled as i left. and silently vowed to make my career, without any “kind uncle’s” help. although, with no background or advertising course to back me, i had no idea how i was going to do it.

i was still keen to get into advertising, i always wanted to be part of the ad world. so i applied to a company called strings advertising. two exceptionally long days later, i was called for an interview. the office was at dadar.

for someone who was never allowed to go (alone) beyond 12 kms of her comfortable house, it really was a big journey. the destination was unforgettable. old, spooky, dingy lanes with dim zero-watt bulbs lighting some of the houses (even at 3:00 in the afternoon), threatening piles of garbage and plastic covers flying about, pungent odours strangling my throat…all that apart from my nervousness about the interview i was going to face.

faraway i could hear a few kids playing cricket on one of the streets, the sound of their cries seemed to come from all around and when i looked above at one of the buildings, i saw an old woman scrutinising my entire being. was it with relief to see a human soul finally, or was it out of fear… i dont know, but i smiled at her. after a rather obvious mini-dilemma she seemed to face, she smiled back reluctantly. but as my gaze shifted back to the road, i felt a shiver go down my spine.

i was standing in a lane which was home to prostitutes, delinquents and small time bhais. i felt as if all their eyes were on me, and i still had a few lanes to cross before i reached the strings office!

or so i thought. just a five-minute-walk later, i located the building i had to enter. the feeling that someone was watching me hadnt left me yet; i pretended to be brave…looking around for a phone booth or shop to confirm i was in the right place. there was nothing, except three young boys who stared right through me as though i had no clothes on, and who seemed to have realised that i wasnt really brave. i turned around and entered the first building (or rather, chawl) i could see, and rushed up the wooden creaky stairs.

amid the thump-thump-thump of my feet on the stairs and the clackety-clack of the typewriters in the little offices on every floor that i crossed, i caught glimpses of the gaudily-dressed women standing at their doors, either combing their hair or picking lice off their friend’s, some chewing and spitting paan, smoking cheap beedi, or simply screaming their lungs away at someone inside the four walls of their house…they all seemed so resigned to their fate, i was more pained than afraid anymore.

finally a little black slate said “STRINGS ADVERTISING –> THIS WAY” and i entered, thinking…how in the world did they manage to splash a half-page ad in the mid-day??

the director (i forget now his designation) introduced himself to me as krishna mukhopadhyay, and began the interview:

KM: was it difficult finding this place
me: er…no, not really
i wasnt lying. but he dint ask me what i went through before locating the place
KM: so tell me radhika, how long have you been in this field?
me: six months.
KM: so why did you get into advertising? and why did you quit impulse?
i knew that was coming, and told him the truth, as always…
KM: hmmm, and you said you’ve been assistant to the copywriter there?
me: yes (drawing out some of the photocopies i had with me)
KM: you said you also handled two accounts…
me: yes, but that’s not what i want to do…
KM: hmmm, so you want to be a copywriter huh?

i’ll never forget the tone of that last question. i hated the way he prefixed his questions with so…. looking back, i feel it was only fair on his part not to hire a rebel who seemed less experienced and more bitter about her previous ‘job’. was it my fault? i was really very willing to learn, but i had to start somewhere right?

he said he’d call me later that week, but i knew deep inside he wouldn’t. at that time, i needed that job desperately…not for the money, but to prove to myself that i was not a failure. a little hurt (though i put on a brave face) about the interview, and afraid to walk back through the now-really-dark lanes to go home, i left, pushing it deep inside my memory, never to think of it again.

till today.

they say what goes round, comes round…full circle. perhaps i did make it, at least half-way. today i was reminded of that promise i’d made to myself.

just look at the synchronicity…on a tuesday when no one was likely to find me at my thane home, i received a phone call from a person i just *had* to complete the circle with. i was home because i was unwell, watching a re-run of f.r.i.e.n.d.s and switching between commercials when the phone rang…

me: hello?
caller: am i talking to ms radhika nair?
me: yes…
caller: hi, you might not remember me, but i’d interviewed you a few years back. are you working somewhere now?
me: yes (puzzled), i’m with zdnet india.
caller: isn’t that part of the jasubhai group, chip?
me: yes, you’re right. only, chip is digit now.
caller: so…aren’t you in the advertising field anymore?
me: er…your voice is familiar but i’m sorry i don’t recognise you. who’s this?
caller: this is krishna mukhopadhyay from strings advertising. i was just going through some of the old resumes and i thought i’d check on you again…
would you like to work for us as a copywriter?

could this really be happening?? i was instantly reminded of that nasty tone that refused me a job few years ago, the horrible journey to his office that disturbed my sleep for many more nights to come…i know and believe that everything happens for the best, but i can also never forget that it was the people at impulse and strings who tarnished my opinion about advertising agencies, and compelled me to look at another option, journalism. i guess i was grateful about the latter part though…

caller (KM): well?
me: no mr mukhopadhyay, i changed my line.
KM: no? you wanted so much to be a copywriter! ok, so tell me, what have you been doing all these years?
me: I’m into journalism now. i started as a trainee with the express group, then with chip, i was in bangalore for a while and now i’m with zdnetindia. i’m the copy editor here.
KM: hmmm, that’s good, that’s some experience you’ve got…
me: yes i have.

(it was my turn now, and i simply couldnt resist…)
so mr mukhopadhyay, you tell me, havent managed to find a copywriter yet huh?

ps: i did get my complete 15-seconds-of-advertising-experience though, with umesh chavan, our visualiser at chip :-)




June 22, 2001

psst, christy! you just made my day :-)

i spoke with christy this evening.

christy and i havent spent much time with each other. but we both know this: we’re really close to each other.

today, i spoke to her on the phone after almost four years, and we saw that things still havent changed. i was filling her with details about my marriage and how mahesh was the final matchmaker between praveen and me…and what she said really touched something inside…

you know radhika, you’re really so lucky. women all over the world just have two wishes to get them through life. a good husband, and a ‘best’ friend. and look at you! you’ve taken away both for yourself!

thank you christy! that was the most beautiful thing i ever heard :’-)




June 13, 2001

Sshhhhh……..

10:30 am, office. It’s raining heavily outside, most of us in the office are already drenched. just then…

CARRRrrrruuunnch!

what was that!
carrunch!

what was that again? wrapper? papad? CHIPS?!

crunch! mmmmmmmmmmm…. CARRUnch!

Grrr what’s going on! it’s all over the office!

crunch! crunch!

(AAAAAAAAARRRRRRHHHHHHHH!!)

just then i felt a gentle tap on my shoulder…
rupali was smiling, and she was holding a giant bag of mexican tacos

:-D

my hand needed no instruction from my brain. next moment, i too was adding to the noise.
CAAARRRUNCHHH!!!

mmmm… rainy season, such a perfect time for noisy munchies, hot chocolate (or tomato juice, if you prefer), a cosy mattress to sink in, and calvin and hobbes!




June 6, 2001

rain, sunshine, wind, life…nothing lasts forever

i woke up 30 minutes earlier than i usually do.

it was a bright wednesday morning. and while i sleepily trudged towards my toothpaste, i saw daniela leaving the house to buy milk. i walked to the door, and what we saw the next moment made my hair stand on end.

it was very very small, ugly, perhaps the size of my thumb…and flesh pink. it took us a few seconds to realise that we were both staring at a newborn sparrow. the next realisation that dawned on us made us wince even more. the little helpless creature had fallen out of its nest. we first had to make sure whether it was alive at all. it was!

no words exchanged between us, we knew what had to be done. the sparrow’s house was nested above a huge red box against the wall. i scooped the little bird onto a piece of paper, managed to climb over the railing so i could barely reach the top of the box. what if i’d drop it halfway? what if it fell on me! surprisingly, my hands were steady enough and i managed to transport it safely.

as daniela and i ran up a couple of stairs for a better view of the nest, i saw that i’d been wrong again. the ‘entrance’ of the rather huge nest, was on the other side! there was no way i would reach that without a stool or a little ladder, and there was no way the blind baby would reach there on its own either. we watched, helpless as it cried0and wriggled, and slid on the smooth straws. there was no one to answer its cries though. the sparrow-family had flown away. daniela said perhaps it deliberately did not want an injured member in the family, and left it behind to die. she was right, even as we discussed, it slid right out of the nest, down to its death.




June 3, 2001

it’s official…

i got ‘formally’ engaged to praveen today.

i was introduced to my in-laws for the first time. not that we havent seen each other before…but this meeting was so very different…

new clothes (sari, of course), excitement all around, mehandi and lots of relatives, friends, flowers and blessings. just one thing was wrong with the picture. the engagement was in my house at thane, and praveen was in the uk.

that’s right, it was a ‘remote’ engagement ;-)




June 2, 2001

writing freely…spring comes and the grass grows by itself

i got interested when mahesh told me about troy brophy’s blog, where for 45 minutes each day, he writes whatever comes to his mind. i like to experiment, so i’m going to do just that…type whatever comes to my mind…er, no, i’m not timing myself. i’ll stop where i feel is a logical end.

hmmm…

i’m actually not in a mood for such an experiment. i’ve been keeping to myself these days and i don’t really have a reason for why i’m upset, NOR do i have a reason for why i’m suddenly very happy sometimes. i have been observing my roller coaster mood swings for a while now. some say its because i’m going to get married very soon. for others it doesnt matter.

i guess what works best with me, is to ‘be’ in the moment. when i’m happy (which is very strangely connected to the rains ;-), i don’t hold myself back…i can never resist (and i haven’t tried either) running up to the terrace to get drenched in the cold rain, even if i have to freeze in the cold office for the rest of the day.

when i’m feeling a little low, i dont fight it, and simply wait to let it pass. sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes, a day or two. over the past three months though, this period has been stretching itself…and i’m beginning to wonder what could be causing these.

i cannot pretend. i think i’m someone who’s too practical to dismiss my highs and lows entirely as pre-marriage blues. that’s not what vipassana taught me. it taught me to observe my thoughts, my reactions…even though i might lose practise, i’ll never forget its teachings. maybe i’ll attend another course again; again, maybe i won’t.

[reminds me of a story in tinkle where two kingdoms have just decided to wage a war, and everybody get ready for battle. i’m not sure of the exact dialogue that transpires between the ammunition vendor and a common soldier below, but here it is anyway…
soldier: i need a sword that can really slice the enemy
seller: my swords are so sharp, no enemy can escape its blow
soldier: hmm, i also need a shield…one that will halp me fight till the very end
seller: buy the shields you see here sir, no sword or spear can ever get past this
soldier: (amused) how do i make a decision what to buy from you swordseller?
seller: why?? what’s on your mind?
soldier: what if your sword meets your shield??]

i cannot forget this little story. and i’m reminded of it everytime i think of zen, vipassana, or buddhism. when buddha teaches you to be detached, what makes one go back to the same teaching then?

aren’t we supposed to soak in the essence of these teachings and then move ahead?




June 1, 2001

point a finger at someone; three are pointing back at you

i fought with two, not one, but TWO auto guys, right at the centre of a main road, at vashi.

the autowallahs here can be very helpful, if you’re unlucky, they could also be the snobbiest person you’d ever meet that day. sometimes you can see that when you enter the auto, sometimes you realise it when you get out.

here’s what happened:

i had to go to vashi. since i did not want to subject my fragile little spine to two bus rides, i decided to take an auto one-way… got into an auto waiting outside our office, and asked him to take me to vashi.

driver1: saatth rupaye honge (that’ll be rs 60)

i’d anticipated this, and sternly told him i’d pay by the metre-card only, which would roughly come up to rs 45 or so. he agreed, and just as he started the auto, his friend got in too. now this guy was stone-drunk.

after a nail-biting ride along the highway (the two friends kept exchanging the driver’s seats, right on the middle of the road!), two narrow escapes with a speeding bus and another with a tanker, i decided i’d had enough of excitement for the day and asked him to stop. i hadnt reached my destination yet (HDFC bank) but it was a five-minute-walk from where we stopped.

i saw the metre-reading just in time before he turned it down with a quick move…turned back to me and said: saatth rupaya

me: but the metre read just 3:40! show me your card
driver1: i don’t have a card
drunk driver: its rs 60, you’ll have to pay up
me: no i don’t need to, show me your card or i’ll call the police
drunk driver: o yeah, so you’ll call the police hanh, you’ll walk off without paying?

i could sense that this is going to grow into an ugly scene, but i’d decided to fight if i had to. so i picked up my bag, and got off the auto. my idea was not to walk away without paying them, but there was an auto a few yards ahead and i wanted to get the right rates from him.

the drunkard guessed what i was up to and followed me close, rambling all the while. i’d reached the other auto and found out that the charge actually came up to rs 43. lest i have to fight to get back money from the two jokers, i fished out exact change from my purse and handed it to the more sober driver, who by now had probably realised the futility of the entire fight. he also saw that the drink was doing its bit to make his friend yell and ask for money from me.

meanwhile, a little crowd was beginning to gather, and in that little crowd were three little women. i wouldnt have noticed them, had one of them not tapped on my shoulder to ask what was wrong.

they were very dark-skinned, all three of them. the bright coloured yet weather-beaten sarees, cheap and gaudy-looking bangles on their hands, and the garish and glossy lipstick on their face reminded me of the girls who always line the streets of d n road at bombay, even during the day time. were these little women prostitutes too? what could they be doing here? would they extort money from me too?

a second question from the same woman reminded me that i was supposed to be fighting with the autodrivers. perhaps i was happy to have more people on my side…i gave them a quick summary of what it was about and before i could complete, the women verbally pounced on them…with the choicest hindi (and kannada) gaalis i’d probably heard only in the movie satya. this scared the lights out of the sober autodriver, who’d already begun to drag his drunk and ego-battered friend back into his auto.

while the rest of the tamasha-watchers dispersed, the women began to question me about where i wanted to go, and whether i’d be ok. but i suddenly felt threatened in their presence. the thought that they’re going to make me pay for their help just wouldnt leave my head.

maybe i really had too much of adventure for a day. because i was very wrong.

even if the women were prostitutes, for that moment i didnt see that they were the only ones who helped me, when none of the so-called “educated” lot stood around enjoying the scene. the realisation was very humbling. while i gave a piece of my mind to the drunk autodriver, three strangers left me with a lesson i’ll never forget.

a) that i can stand on my feet when needed and even fight when i have to, alone.

b) that i too can make mistakes.