Wednesday 31 July 2013

Women's Footwear Salesmen - Respect!

Having been a salesman at the beginning of my career, I used to believe in: (a) a salesman can sell anything and (b) once a salesman, always a salesman! Obviously I was still naive and more importantly a, I most definitely do not believe in (a) at all. My belief changed over a course of time. Having seen closely how women shop for shows, I put women's footwear salesmen quite at top of salesmanship.

The difficulty for women's footwear salesman is hardly in the fact that there are a lot more options available in women's footwear (than available for men) - colour, heel size, style...rather it is in closing a sale with probably the most indecisive customer one ever has to deal with. Their customers are not sure if they want something at all, leave alone what they want. There is simply an interest in customers' mind to see if something 'talks' to them...if they find something new...something interesting...something different...something no one else has...something that being a mere footwear becomes a source of "lift-me-up".

To feel this salesman's woes, please try to understand the simplicity of their customers' thoughts, just as the customer is entering a shoe store. Now complicate things with the sea of options in front of the customer who came in with a simple idea, thus starting a massive tsunami of mental work-out..."purpose it's for (office / comfort / general...) / which dress will it 'go' with / how often can it be worn / is it needed / do I have something similar already / does 'she' have something similar / I saw something similar at half the price there / oh God! I want to buy the entire store" - customers are now deep in thought (a.k.a. confused).

Furthering the salesman's misery is his customers' best understood solution to all their unresolved thoughts (a.k.a. confusion)...try-out more and more, look in the mirror...walk wearing each pair...walk with different styles on both feet...more one tries, more clarity one achieves! Tired after each of his customers have tried out a dozen options...there is no way for the salesman to be sure (still!) if he has managed to close a sale in that entire time (not to mention effort).

I don't know why, but invariably, there are only men I have seen in this role and that further increases my respect for the role of women's footwear salesman - primarily because I couldn't survive a day doing what they do day-in-day-out!

Tuesday 30 July 2013

The Ultimate Gift: Gift of Gratitude

Recently, I was gifted a book by my father - The Ultimate Gift. It is not a piece of entertaining fiction - it is rather a book full of life messages that are wrapped in a fictional story. Though I have almost reached a level where I don't want to read anymore about life messages (gyaan), but initially I found this one interesting - not because of the messages it had to share, but because of the fictional story these messages were wrapped in. The book definitely seemed to be an easy-read, it didn't push me to think too much, it didn't push me to read it too quickly (as in it wasn't un-put-down-able) and to me, it made sense in simple words!

The core of the book is: the life messages are listed as gifts that every person has been given (in varying degree), but very few actually realise the existence of these gifts - leave alone how to make use of them. There are 12 gifts:

The Gift of Work
The Gift of Money
The Gift of Friends
The Gift of Learning
The Gift of Problems
The Gift of Family
The Gift of Laughter
The Gift of Dreams
The Gift of Giving
The Gift of Gratitude
The Gift of a Day
The Gift of Love

Honestly, I started reading the book because it had been gifted by my dad and it was an easy read - the first few gifts that I read about were okay to read about, but there was nothing that was moving me - nothing that was making me think deeper into the association of each 'gift' with my own life...until I reached and read about "Gift of Gratitude".

Reading that chapter and absorbing it got me thinking just how thankless I have become...not just to God, but probably to everyone and everything around me. This simple book's simple chapter on gratitude was now pushing me to think and have a hard look at my life. All that the author wants to convey was "be thankful" - that's it! But, the deeper aspect I thought was - be thankful for everyone, everything, all the time...and say it sometimes as well. As an exercise, the author suggested - list down all the things that you are thankful for and just take a minute during the day and just say "thank you God, for ..."".

I kept the book down, not for the first time, but probably for the first time to reflect on what I had just read and to see how I could incorporate this gift of gratitude in my life.

I decided to start with easiest thing first: making a list of all that I was thankful for - irrespective of where that gift came from. I started with the usual...parents, family, on & so forth. While I was making this list, it struck me that gift of good health supersedes all others - without which, I couldn't have used / enjoyed all other gifts in same measure that I am using / enjoying now. Not that I am the healthiest I can be - at least I have an absolutely normally functioning machinery.

It is with this gift of gratitude that I now understand how much I have neglected / paid less attention than that was required on my part - to most of the people and things that are dearest to me (my health being one such thing). With this gift of gratitude, I am now beginning to understand how easy my life becomes (stress-free) because I start to look at every situation as a gift and can be thankful, for I will come out richer in experience and hopefully stronger for what future holds for me.

I think this book's greatest strength is its easy-to-read story line. The author hasn't attempted to get deep into any of the gifts and thus left it on his readers' ability to absorb from his story - which leaves less scope for the story to become stretched and boring. Personally, I think I have benefited from reading this book - it has humbled me (showing gratitude in itself is a humbling act) and has made me be at peace with a few issues that I was otherwise grappling with. I recommend this book to anyone who feels he / she hasn't got his / her due in life and is open to receiving some 'gifts'!

Monday 29 July 2013

Tattoos & Me

My interest in getting tattooed grew about 4 years back (2009). Tattoos were still not as popular a concept in India (as it has become in last 4 years) and you had to look hard to find a tattoo artist, then look harder to find one that you could trust.

I started researching tattoos in general and specifically about tattoo artists in India. A bit of research and one guy caught my attention, Mike, in C.R. Park, New Delhi - who was said to be not only good but also one of the first few tattoo artists in India. After mulling over it for a while, I finally decided to get my first tattoo from Mike.

At Mike's studio, I met an extremely helpful assistant of his - who understood my requirement, gave me solid advice regarding where to get tattooed (on my body that is) and which design to get done. With her help, I decided to get a Lion-head tattooed - since I am a Leo and I was at Mike's studio on my b'day!

Things become easier if one just wants it badly enough - by the time I landed at Mike's studio and had decided on the design I wanted, I was absolutely clear in my mind about getting a tattoo and any apprehensions about it had been thrown out of my mind. I wasn't bothered about how would it feel - the pin pricking my skin, the pain that goes along with it, or about being the first in my family to get a tattoo (and my family is pretty big) and not even about what will my mum+dad think about it (I was there without their knowledge).

After I got the first tattoo, I was back at Mike's studio within 6 months (in Jan 2010) - this time sure of the design I wanted for my second tattoo. 

Tina and I were to celebrate our 12th anniversary (of togetherness) and I wanted to gift her something more than the usual gifts. I went up to Mike and he helped me select the heart (there are oh-so-many designs with him, just for a heart) and then a font, in which Tina was to be written. I also got 'XII' scribbled at one end of the banner - as part of our 12th anniversary.

It's inexplicable - I can't put words to how good I feel about my decision to get tattooed. I believe that my tattoos express & describe some part of who I am. Though I haven't got another tattoo done since, but I have a clear idea of what I want (as a concept) to get. There is more-than-normal-resistance from both my parents and incidentally from Tina as well - but I think I will still go ahead and get another tattoo...soon!

Sunday 28 July 2013

Closest I have come to flying - Finally!

It took nearly 2.5 years for Tina and I to get an opportunity to jump from an aircraft at 13000ft. above sea level. And I must emphasise that getting to this point wasn't easy - from plans not working out on one occasion to potential heart break the second time due to health reasons - there has been drama attached to the build up of this jump!

It was a video of a friend skydiving, on Facebook, which made me take notice of this adventure activity (in 2010). At that time it was nothing more than an observation that skydiving can be done by not-so-adventurous people as well (= people like me). One thing that definitely seeped in my subconscious though - I had to skydive! I had duly noted details of the group that provided this service from my friend's video - this group's based in Thailand (Thai Sky Adventures).

In 2011, Tina and I started planning our holiday and after some look around decided to know more about skydiving. A quick look at TSA's website and after few e-mail exchanges with TSA - we were sure to do make skydiving as the primary objective of that year's holiday. We booked a combined package with TSA, which offered skydiving and bungy jumping (60mts. - highest bungy in Thailand). Even bungy jumping hadn't been tried by either of us - we decided to take the adventure head-on!

All bookings were done and we were already feeling on top of the world with the thought that we would come back having done things not many had tried - activities that needed some amount of courage and required us to 'jump' outside our comfort-zone. In excitement, we told one and all about our plans and how much we were looking forward to experiencing the rush...

BUT - excess of anything is not recommended. We learnt this the hard way - a week before we were scheduled to leave for Thailand, we received an e-mail from TSA - informing us that due to some 'technical' issues, skydiving won't be possible. That e-mail put us in state of confusion - neither did we feel like going to Thailand now (because the primary reason was removed) nor could we cancel bookings (airlines / hotels) without losing money. The thought of losing money was strong enough for us to decide to go - at least we could still try out bungy jumping.

The week we spent in Thailand (2 nights @ Pattaya - home for TSA and 4 nights @ Phuket) was definitely the BEST holiday that we have had - despite missing out on skydiving!

In 2013 now, Tina and I were back to planning our next holiday - but we had a shorter time window available with us (4 days). Both of us were quick to look for other skydiving options and this time zeroed on Skydive Dubai. We booked tickets and hotel for our holiday in Dubai, but left skydiving bookings for a date closer to our travel dates - learning from our previous experience (with TSA). Another learning we took from past experience was not to share our plans with anyone, until we had done it - superstition one could say.

This time we were looking at a different potential road block in our way to skydive. I got down with a severe case of pneumonia and had to be hospitalised for a week - all this just 6 weeks before our travel dates. Not only this brought everyone around to a state of panic about my well being, but also reduced my energy levels - both these aspects together put doubts in our minds...whether I will be fit enough in time to go...whether doctors will allow me to take a holiday...whether our parents would approve of our plans!

Both of us hoped and prayed - not just for a fast & complete recovery for me, but also for all of the above doubts to be turned into approvals. I was finally given an all-clear from doctors a little more than 2 weeks from our travel dates...but parents had to be convinced still, which we knew was still a challenge despite doctor's 'all clear'. A false promise won me an approval from dad for this holiday.

Finally - we were in Dubai...finally we were at the location of skydiving in Dubai...finally we were booked to skydive..finally we were strapped in a harness...finally we were sitting in the aircraft to take us 13000ft. above sea level...finally, I was scared and excited at the same time...finally I was at the door, ready to jump, looking at beauty of sea, land and desert (unique combination in Dubai)...finally I was airborne, free falling, free of any thought in my mind, unaware of anything else but the adrenaline rush...finally I experienced flying in open skies...FINALLY!

Saturday 27 July 2013

Indian Cinema Lacks Heroes

As I grew fonder of watching movies - I also became almost rigid in my choice of movies, which I wanted to watch. I began to understand what I liked and disliked - I began to form opinions on story type, duration, entertainment value, impact (on me) etc. This post is about movies that are inspired by true events and are based on true heroes and their potential impact!

Any piece of entertainment that claims to be true to the core will either be lying or be extremely boring (whether its a book or a movie). Thus the coined term here - "inspired by true incidents". Every author / story-teller / director has a creative licence to fudge some facts, add some spice and make the truth seem presentable (at times even making it more heroic).

There are a plenty of movies that fall in this genre that have been made - mostly abroad than here in India. There is a big difference in these two - movies inspired by true incidents, made in Hollywood and such movies made in Bollywood. I wouldn't get in to the difference of movie making, or the inclusion of typical song & dance routines or even the duration of movies - but a simple fact: in India, we don't treat normal people as heroes, despite some heroic acts!

Look at the big bunch of movies of this genre that have come about from Bollywood - now remove those movies that have Indian independence struggle as central will observe that the number of movies dwindles down. Now remove war movies (1962 was against China to 1999 war against Pakistan in Kargil) - and we start scratching our head to think of Bollywood movies of this genre. Even if we do come about with names, they will surely be counted easily on the fingers of one hand.

Is it that in India we do not have enough people who have led by example and can inspire others to do something more than the normal? Is it that we do not respect anything other than our past heroes - who have fought for India's independence or in war time? Why is there just one sportsperson whose story has been told? As luck would have it, even his story is 50 years old! 

In a country where the young are battling to identify themselves with their roots, where the old continue to talk of past and where there seems to be a general lack of patriotism - how does one infuse love for this country amongst the general public? If people don't feel positive about their present, if people don't love where they are, if people don't get inspired - what chance do we have as a country?

I believe movies as a medium have that strenght, have that reach and have that impact to resolve some of these issues. There is a complete lack of priority on anyone's checklist to amend this scenario and for once I can't seem to put any blame on the 'system' (a.k.a. the Government) for this. Someone, somewhere just needs to take the first step in taking a normal person's heroic story and share it with the world!

My romance with late nights

I guess the world is well split in these two groups - early risers and late night-ers. If you have a bit of human nature reading skill - you can actually make an intelligent guess about which of the two groups a person belongs to. Each group believes their lifestyle is better - needless to say that I support late night-ers! I have temporarily been an early riser as well (working in sales & distribution of newspapers) - but I never got any joy in that!

I was asked why I turned out to be a late night-er and that got me thinking - I think I do have an answer. When I was in the VI grade, my elder sis was in IX grade and she got dad's permission to read Sidney Sheldon novels. I was specifically told that I am not to touch these - and that's where late nights started. I used sit, pretending to study, until everyone had gone off to sleep and once everyone was in dreamland, I would pick up the novels and read. I found this arrangement to be the best - parents thought I was studying (scoring myself some brownie points - no marks in exams though) and reading stuff that was obviously not meant for a VI grader.

The most important impact on this habit came in XI grade - I was studying Sciences - things were tough because the level of difficulty had drastically increased from X grade. There was one Mr. Mukesh Chand Anand, my Chemistry teacher, who had one simple philosophy on the subject at hand: "raat kaali kiya karo" - roughly one could translate this as "burn the midnight oil". He explained his philosophy as: "raat tumhari hai, kal ka pata nahi" (the night is yours, who knows what happens tomorrow). This got into my head loud & clear. I may not remember anything about Chemistry, or any other subject for that matter, but I clearly remember the life lessons that I picked from my academic days.

I wouldn't say that I am a night bird to the extent of being a party animal. Far from it actually - I like late nights because I am alone. I find these few hours to be the perfect me-time, I become king of my time - I decide what to do, or not to do with it. I actually believe that my productivity is better during these late night hours. There's a reason for that - I am all alone, with nothing else to do than focus on what I have set myself to do. There are no phone calls, no meetings, nobody needs you, no fires to fight - it is just ME!

It is my love of these few hours in a day that made me try and revive my dormant blog. Time right now is well beyond 0200hrs...and I finally am satisfied with my time well spent.