New beginnings. They smell of fresh paint...and the first rains. Today is a lovely day for two reasons. Both new beginnings. But in very different ways.
The first is that I reconnected with an old friend after almost 18 years. The border-less world of the internet and Google makes connecting easier in so many ways. A simple google search can help you find friends you thought you had left behind for good. There is something so refreshing in revisiting your childhood. In finding people who knew you when you were a gangly teenager and in realising that neither of you have changed too much. It's wonderful how easily conversation flows between two people who knew each other long back, even though they've grown up now. A burst of fresh air. A whiff of jasmine. A smile on my face.
The second is that my sister will meet my little nephew today. A little golu that we have only known through a photograph will today become our reality. A tiny little jewel hidden in the folds of a far away land called Kazakhstan. He will wake up tomorrow and he will have a family. A family who will love him more than he can ever imagine possible. A crazy mother, a doting father, a masi who will spoil him rotten, grandparents who will sing him to sleep. So much happiness awaits him, and today he is unaware of it. Sleep well little one. For tomorrow, all our lives will change.
Kuala Lumpur, a place I spent an entire week doing nothing but shopping and eating. And I don't even like to shop. So there must be something in the city that compels you to.
I had the good fortune of having friends who are locals there, some born and brought up there and some expats. They whispered secrets of the city in my ears, secrets that it would take a tourist forever to uncover.
In good faith, here I am sharing their tips for the goodness of mankind.
Kuala Lumpur, a shopper's paradise. My latest article on Rediff. Read it here.
My latest article on Rediff is all about the amazing city of Singapore. Warned that it is a mere concrete jungle, I was in for a surprise. The city is beautifully planned, green and a tourist's delight.
I'm not a friendly person. No really, I'm not. I am told I'm a good friend but its the process of making one that I find tedious. As my best friend says, I just don't like people (well most of them anyways). My ex boss went to the extent of admitting that I often scared people away. And I agree with all of them. I'm happy to be who I am.
Which is why its weird that wherever I have gone in life, people (the important ones) have searched me out and found me interesting enough to be friends with me. And most of the times, whether it was college or the British Council course, the friends I made in the first week are the friends I still have around.
I would love to believe its my magnetic personality or my unparalleled charm. But chances are, I just have always been very lucky.
Its heartening that there are people earnest enough to try to peel back your layers and still stick around after they find what's underneath.
It’s ironic when you think of it, that a brand marketer constantly questions the value of a brand. On paper I understand that the exclusivity associated with a brand allows it to charge the customer a mark up on the logical price of the product. But the rationalist in me has issues when this mark up goes beyond a certain limit.
Yes, I do buy clothes of certain brands. But I usually do that because of the quality of the product and the styling. When the mark up is upto around 50%, I can find myself justifying it. The problem arises when the brand charges a price in multiples of what the product should be worth.
Let me illustrate. Whoever knows me, knows I am not a bag person. For the life of me, I can not carry a bag, fancy brand or not. You will always see me with my wallet in hand, phone and car keys in my pocket. Yet, I find it strange when the bags people carry around me cost close to what a small car does! When I was growing up, owning a pair of Nike or Reebok shoes was the epitome of cool in school. So when I started earning, I made sure that the shoes I bought always had a fancy enough brand name. But now when I walk into a store and see the sport shoes costing upwards of Rs.6000, I find myself questioning whether the world of Bata and Liberty really is that bad. Just because I can afford it, does it justify spending this amount if I can find a better alternative?
The crux of the issue came to light with mobile phones. In college, I and my best friend shared a phone. My first phone was the candybar Nokia entry level. Once I started earning, I realised that like haircuts, I loved the concept of an interesting phone. Thus, I would experiment with the wackiest phones. I mean it. I am the only person I know who actually owned a Phillips phone (though it was this awesome flip model in indigo blue). I’ve used phones made by Alcatel, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Phillips and Sony Ericson (it was orange and had to be twisted to be opened).
But fancier phones came in the market, the price range also expanded. And I found myself the owner of a Samsung Galaxy S. It may have cost me half of what the Husband’s iPhone cost him, yet for a phone the price just seemed outrageous. What was worse was that I had trouble with the phone from the day I bought it. Yet I kept justifying it to myself and kept trying to make it last longer, because of what I had spent on it.
But this is where it ends. The world of mobile phones has to wake up to the reality that there are players in the market who are making products as good as the market leaders for a fraction of the price. As of yesterday, I am the proud owner of an iball Andi 4.5. You have to see the phone to believe it. 1gb RAM, 8MP camera, Android 4.0, 3G, Dual sim and more. The interface is smooth and clean and voice quality is fantastic. I have my fingers crossed to see how it lasts me but for now, I’m glad I got out of the vicious circle.