Ho ho ho… Merry Men and Season’s Greetings!

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I subscribe to an online thought-for-the day kind of site, and a few weeks ago there was this article which featured angels amidst us.

This article started with a question, ‘Have you ever found timely help from a total stranger? Or experienced a happy coincidence when the right person was there just at the moment you needed some help?’ It went on to explain that there are angels around us and the universe watches over us and sends them when we need them.

It went even a bit further by saying you could be angel without realising it. Maybe what you said very casually to somebody has changed their life profoundly… Well, you get the drift.

Anyway, this post is not about the mysterious ways of  the universe. But about one such person who could have been an angel in my life.

I’d just completed my graduation and a course in visual communication and I was ready to storm the world of advertising.

I really don’t know how it works now, but back then, I didn’t have many contacts in the ad world. So my plan was to look up the ad agencies in the city from the Yellow Pages,  divide them by their location and assign an area for each day.

One September morning, I lugged my heavy portfolio bag and started for the assigned locale of the day.

My first stop was one of the top agencies in the nation with a reception area so swank, like it was right out of an interiors magazine.

My eyes as round as saucers, I sat in the plush sofa, waiting for the receptionist to see if the creative director had the time to see me.

When I was finally ushered in, I was asked to sit in front of a grumpy man about 35, who asked to see my portfolio.

I waited with bated breath while he flicked through it nonchalantly and handed it back without a word.

“Well.. What do you think of my work, Sir?” I asked politely.

“What was the name of your college, again?” He asked.

After hearing my reply, he cleared his throat and went on to abuse my alma mater for about ten minutes and said, “There’s definitely something lacking in teaching there. Every single student passing out from there has something missing.” he concluded.

“Like?” I prompted.

“Don’t know!” He shrugged. “In any case, the slot for trainees this year is full up, so you can come back next year.” He said as he got up to leave the room.

Crushed and crestfallen, I found my way out and walked to the road.

The previous rejection still stinging, I walked into the next office on the list. It was a small one, nothing compared to the pomp and glory I’d just walked out of.

I waited in the sofa, after stating the purpose of my visit to the kind receptionist.

I couldn’t help comparing both the offices.

Soon I was ushered into an old fashioned room with a huge wooden desk. On the other side sat a twinkly-eyed  old man who called out cheerfully, “Hello there! What can I do for you?”

“Hello sir,” I stammered. “I just wanted to check if you have an opening for a trainee visualiser.”

“Sit down, sit down,” he waved to the chair in front of his desk.

I sat down nervously and handed him my portfolio.

“I really don’t know if I should be looking at this”, he told me smiling. “I’m not a creative person. I’m more into handling clients and that sort of a thing. They just call me the Vice president…” He trailed off, almost apologising.

Vice President! I gulped and felt even more foolish.

He flicked through with genuine interest.

“I like your work!” he announced after flicking through the first few pages and asked me questions about each one.

“What’s your all-time favourite ad?” He asked, leaning back in his chair and looking up.

“Hmm… Let me think…” I said nervously and my mind drew a total blank. I couldn’t think of a single ad.

Seeing my discomfort, he said, “Hey, no worries.. this is not a formal job interview. I can see you’re really nervous. Just relax!”

He flipped pages again.

He came to a TV script I’d done for a hypothetical face cream as a  classroom project. “Interesting.” he smiled as he looked at the storyboard I’d painstakingly done.

“What’s this soft music in the background?” He asked.

“Its just a soft music which plays when the girl is getting ready for a party, sir” I answered.

“Like?” he asked. “Any particular music you have in mind for that?”

“Hmm… something like Lionel Richie’s Hello…”

“Can you sing it for me as I flip through your storyboard?”

“What?!! I mean, I can’t sir…”

“Why not? I’ll understand your commercial better. Come on”, he said, with a smile.

After some persuation from him, I actually hummed the lines.

“Louder!” He said.

So I actually sang the song for full 5 minutes as he looked at my TV script.

“Good!” He beamed at me as he closed my portfolio shut. “I like your ideas. I like your sense of colour. I can see promise here” He thumped my portfolio. I beamed.

“But unfortunately we get our creatives from Bangalore. We don’t have a team here.”

“If you want, I can send you to Bangalore. They’ll love to have you there. Go and have some fun!”

“No Sir,” I said. “I prefer working here.”

“Hmmm… So you have a boyfriend here whom you cannot leave..” he teased.

Thoroughly scandalised, I said,  “No no no..” (Of course I had a boyfriend!)

“Its ok… Don’t get so hassled..” He twinkled. “Of course you have one!”

“Let me see what I can do for you. I’m sure there are so many agencies right here who can do with some fresh talent.”

He buzzed his secretary for a copy of yellow pages and looked at agencies close by.

He zeroed in on one five minutes away.

“Meet them right away,” He instructed me.  “Go get them!”

I walked out of his office with a grin plastered on my face.

Sure enough I did get a job in the agency he’d recommended. And later when I tried to ask people about the twinkly old man, all I got was mixed responses.

“He’s God!” said one.

“Oh, he’s a total alcoholic!’ said another. “He used to head top agencies here, but because of his drinking problem, he had to leave each one of them.”

“He still carries a hip-flask all the time.” said another. “That would explain his cheerfulness when you met him!”

I sat in my desk brooding about the whole thing. At that point I didn’t care if he was drunk or irresponsible or anything. All I could remember was a kind old man, who’ d made me feel good about myself and gave me what I needed most at that time – self esteem.

He needn’t have done that. The previous person who’d interviewed me had totally killed my confidence. He needn’t have done that either. He could have just said “Sorry, we’re full up at the moment”.

I toyed with the idea of dropping by Mr. Twinkle just to say I took his advice and I did land a job. But somehow I could never bring myself to. What if he doesn’t remember me?

And after a few years I read his obituary and felt a pang of regret. I should have at least tried.

And when it was my turn to interview people fresh out of college, I made sure I paid them a lot of attention, even when I couldn’t offer them the job. Though I could never be merry with them, I made sure I didn’t suck out the hopes and dreams they had within…

But now, after reading that particular article, I’m sure Mr. Twinkle was one of my angels. When I look up at the sky, I almost see him on a cloud, raising his hip-flask to me with his trade-mark twinkle!

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Why mothers are women?

“I think motherhood is sooo over-rated,” I told a friend who’d dropped in for an impromptu dinner.

“No way,” said the father of two. “I certainly don’t think so.” His wife looked up with interest.  My husband was too busy fiddling with the music system to hear what we were saying. The kids in the other room were playing noisily, charged after a meal of pizza and fizzy drinks.

“Hmm.. let me put it this way.” I said. “Both men and women  have nurturing sides to them. What I mean is whoever is left to care for an infant 24×7, develop a natural bond with the baby. Haven’t you seen single fathers taking such good care of their kids?”

“That’s in extreme cases,” pointed out my friend. “When there are totally no other options. Even then, there’s always his mother or some other female lending moral support.”

“Let me tell you this. The bond I share with my son is only because I took care of him from day one, all the time. If someone now tells me, ‘Hey, there was a mix up in the hospital. This is not the baby you carried to term. Here’s the original.’ I certainly will not have the same feeling towards that baby. I’m more tuned to my son. That baby will be a total stranger, inspite of me carrying him to full term.”

“Your point is?” asked my husband, totally uncomfortable with the thought that someone could say the child is not ours.

“My point is, me being a female is only incidental. A man can easily develop a bond with a baby as strong as any woman. A man just has to start caring for a baby and he’ll discover he has a maternal instinct too”

“Listen,” said my friend. “You gave up a full time career to stay home and take care of your baby. No man would ever do that, even if he has all the money in the world.”

“Forget giving up a career,” said his wife sharply. “Last week I had to go off air abruptly to rush to school to pick up my daughter who was ill. He could not even reschedule his meeting.”

“Excuse me… that was a meeting with my chairman” He said, defensively.

“And I was on air, live, doing my show,” she hissed.

“Look. We men are just not wired for that, ok?” he told me. “When was the last time your husband took off from work when you or the kid was ill?”

I thought hard. I could not recall a single time. Last time I was down with a viral, my husband faithfully went to work after dropping the kid off at his parents, while I was in bed all alone. And my father had brought me food everyday.

“Never.” I said. 

“See?” said my friend.

“But wait. All I ‘m saying is you men can do it too. Its not like motherhood and sacrifices belong only to women.”

“Let me repeat. We’re not wired for it,” he siad his voice raising a bit.

“Rubbish!” I screamed. “Its because you guys never try”

“We’ve tired,” butted in my husband. “But we cannot do the thing you women can do”

“Why?” we women shrieked. “If we can do it, so can you. Don’t give us the BS about women being more selfless and more nurturing by birth.”

“You are!” said both the men in one voice.

“Really? Before I got married, I used to wake up only at 8.45 am, never did any housework, went for all the movies, hung out with my friends and was so focussed in my career. Now that I’m married I’m stuck at home, hang out with friends with kids, house keep and take care of a million things. Tell me if anything has changed for you men? You still have your beer evenings, still focussed in work and to top it all have the gall to yell at us women if any of your needs are not met!” I fumed.

“Like we told you, we’re just not made for adjusting or adapting ourselves to any situation like you women!” chimed my husband.

“You mean you don’t want to!” I screamed.

“Hmmm.. yes…” they said, smirking at each other.

“You mean all men are basically selfish  a******s?” I sputtered.

“Absolutely!” they chorused.

Then they both collapsed, laughing. 

“What was all the heated arguement about, man?!” as they back-slapped each other. “We were in total agreement with her from the beginning! Men are selfish!! Women!!” They dissolved into another fit off giggles.

My husband looked at me kindly. “Now be a good girl and see about dinner. Run along!” he patted me patronisingly.

At that moment my son screamed from his room, “Amma! Can you get us all some dessert?”

I stormed out showing all of them my finger.

Rabne Bana De Jodi – Movie Review

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This movie is actually a cliche’d, regular love story. A bit of Mouna Ragam, if you ask me.  The story can be summed up in a single line.

Wife realises that her boring, average, middle-class husband is the man of her dreams.

But what makes the movie so watchable to me, is Shah Rukh Khan. His sheer screen presence creates magic. 

Shah Rukh as Raj is a bit over the top, yes, but he creates a powerful contrast to the boring Surinder. 

Anoushka Sharma is perfect for the role. Simple, beautiful and at the same time, has a girl-next-door look. Lovely clothes too.

The third most important character in this movie is the city of Amritsar itself. Its almost like the city has a life of its own. Ravi K Chandran’s work  is just brilliant.

The downside is the movie drags in parts. Especially the Sumo wrestler scene was so unnecessary.

And Shah Rukh’s efforts to look the part of an average man-on-the-street is a bit overdone.  Instead of blending in, he stands out, more like a fancy dress. And the grotesque close-ups don’t help either.

But I walked out of the theater with a smile. A feel good movie from the king of Bollywood.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Like snuggling with a favourite book with a hot cup of tea on a rainy afternoon…

Lessons in motherhood – 2

The recent non-stop rains in Chennai had just started that evening. I was heading home after a relaxed Sunday family visit with my four year old. Despite my hurry to get home before the downpour started in earnest, I had to stop over at a local super market to pick up some last minute supplies. I dashed through the aisles searching for stuff and kept an eye on my son who was energetically searching for the things that interest him.
By the time I reached the check out counter, my son was howling.
Why?
He could not find his lollipop with an apple on top.
Through gritted teeth I asked the store assistant to help him find it.
But no stock.
He offered the usual chocolate lollipop instead.
“No!” said my stubborn devil.
“Appa got it for me last time here.” He told me with his arms folded across his chest.

“Look, they don’t have it here.” I tried to explain as patiently as I could. “Its raining outside, and we have to get home asap. So stop this nonsense and lets go home.”

With that I walked out with all my bags. 

He followed me and got in the car. But when I started the car he started crying in earnest.

“I want my lollipop!”

So I called his father and told him to buy a big lollipop with an apple on top on his way home.

By now it had started to rain in sheets.

When I started the car, he screamed, “Amma, Stop!”

“What now?!!” I growled.

“Ok, I’ll take the chocolate lollipop.”

I was so mad that I didn’t bother to reply.

“I want two. ” He said as I opened the car door.

I ran out in the rain, raced to the store again while he waited in the car, (I know, I know… Should not leave kids unattended in the car, but I had no choice…)  Picked up the damn lollipops and ran out.

I thrust both at him angrily and gave him a piece of my mind about how he drives me nuts and I’m looking for a nanny for him first thing in the morning, cannot take it anymore, etc, etc and started the car.

“Amma.. One is for you. That’s why I asked you to get two.” He said, totally not ruffled by my angry outburst.

 

I’m sure my son has some Karan Johar movie DVDs hidden among his collection of Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine…